Category Archives: Education

How Newark Refused to Be a Lab for Facebook-Funded Neoliberal School Reform: Interview with Dale Russakoff

‘Five years ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to fix the trouble-plagued schools of Newark, New Jersey. Joining forces with Republican Gov. Chris Christie and then-Democratic Mayor Cory Booker, the effort was billed as a model for education reform across the nation. But the story of what followed emerges as a cautionary tale. Tens of millions were spent on hiring outside consultants and expanding charter schools, leading to public school closures, teacher layoffs and an overall decline in student performance. Parents, students, teachers and community members pushed back in a grassroots uprising to save their schools. We are joined by Dale Russakoff, who tells the story in her book, “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?“‘ (Democracy Now!)

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four top teachers’ list of books that “every student should read before leaving secondary school”

Robert Kellaway reports for the Daily Express:

Pile of books George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is at the top of teachers’ list of books “every student should read before leaving secondary school”.

The 100 novels have been chosen by 500 teachers for the National Association for the Teaching of English and the TES magazine.

Second place goes to Harper Lee’s class To Kill A Mocking Bird, while Orwell again takes third spot with Animal Farm.

The Harry Potter series of books by JK Rowling was ranked in sixth place.

Orwell’s son Richard Blair, patron of the Orwell Society, said his father’s novels were “as fresh today as when they were written all those years ago”.


British Education Secretary says homophobia may be a sign of extremism, is she going to investigate herself?

Ian Dunt reports for

[…] When British Education Secretary Nicky Morgan was asked to give an example of the kind of behaviour from a pupil which would trigger an anti-extremism intervention, she struggled. And then, out of nowhere, she found an example: homophobia.

This was an interesting example, because Morgan herself voted against gay marriage twice. Is opposition to gay marriage always homophobic? No, not really, although you could make the case. But this isn’t about what’s really the case. It’s about what’s perceived to be the case.

School children are often fond of accusing each other of being ‘gay’. Is this going to be enough to call in the anti-extremism unit? Will Catholic or Jewish faith schools face daily visits from the inspectors? Will a socially conservative teacher find themselves under investigation?

Probably not. But we know the truth: when a Muslim kid calls his friend ‘gay’ it will be treated differently to when a white kid does it. The vague language and imprecise measures of the counter-extremism strategy will allow people’s prejudice free rein.’


Does Monitoring Kids for Terrorist Traits Mess with Their Heads?

Adam Forrest writes for VICE:

When is a child old enough to have their mobile phone examined for signs that they’re a potential terrorist? At what point does a teacher need to start listening out for phrases like “jihadi bride” and “war on Islam” in the playground?

These are the weird and difficult questions being asked in British schools today. The days when kids drawing dicks everywhere was the biggest worry are behind us. Today’s teachers are expected to be intelligence officers trained in the subtle business of susceptibility to religious and political fundamentalism.

Firms are selling “anti-radicalisation” software to education boards, with one company now piloting its system on school computers in 16 different locations across the UK. The software monitors pupils’ online antics for extremist-related language, flagging up keywords like “Kuffs” (a casual, insulting term for non-Muslims) or “YODO” (an acronym for “you only die once” which shows up in ISIS martyrdom material).

Under the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015, which comes into force next month, schools have a new duty to “have due regard to the need to prevent pupils being drawn into terrorism”.’


When the Student Movement Was a CIA Front

Aryeh Neier writes in a book review of Patriotic Betrayal for The American Prospect:

In its March 1967 issue,  Ramparts, a glossy West Coast muckraking periodical that expired in 1975, and that strongly opposed American involvement in the war in Vietnam, published an exposé of the close relationship between the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Student Association. This other NSA—not to be confused with the National Security Agency—was then the leading American organization representing college students, with branches on about 400 campuses. Its ties with the CIA were formed in the early years of both institutions following World War II, as the Cold War was getting under way.

According to  Ramparts, the CIA had been providing much of the funding for the NSA through various “conduits.” NSA officers, many of them wittingly, had served the interests of the CIA by participating actively in international youth and student movements. The NSA’s activities were financed by the Agency both to counter communist influence and also to provide information on people from other countries with whom they came in contact. The disclosures about the CIA’s ties to the NSA were the most sensational of a number of revelations in that era that exposed the Agency’s involvement in such institutions as the Congress for Cultural Freedom; the International Commission of Jurists; the AFL-CIO; Radio Free Europe; and various leading philanthropic foundations. Karen Paget’s new book, Patriotic Betrayal, is the most detailed account yet of the CIA’s use of the National Student Association as a vehicle for intelligence gathering and covert action.’


How the Rich Get Into Ivies: Behind the Scenes of Elite Admissions

Sam Biddle writes for Gawker:

How the Rich Get Into Ivies: Behind the Scenes of Elite AdmissionsA million-dollar full-ride scholarship endowment to an Ivy League school is a good deed. But it doesn’t just earn you karma—it nets you fawning emails from the school’s development officials, customized campus tours for your kids, and private meetings with the school’s president, leaked Sony emails show.

The dump of tens of thousands of emails from Sony Pictures’ upper ranks, now conveniently indexed on WikiLeaks, lays bare the inner workings of one of the world’s most powerful corporate properties. But it also shows how the rich, powerful, and connected navigate the world: with rolodexes and billfolds of equal thickness.

Newly surfaced emails from Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton provide a schematic for how millions of dollars in Adam Sandler grosses can yield immensely preferential treatment for your children, not only providing access to a college admissions process that’s out of reach for virtually all other Americans, but giving them better opportunities both in college and in internships and job opportunities afterward.’


When the C.I.A. Duped College Students

Louis Menand writes for The New Yorker:

[…] “Patriotic Betrayal” is an amazing piece of research. Karen Paget has industriously combed the archives and interviewed many of the surviving players, including former C.I.A. officials. And Paget herself is part of the story she tells. In 1965, her husband, a student-body president at the University of Colorado, became an officer in the N.S.A. [National Student Association], and, as a spouse, she was informed of the covert relationship by two former N.S.A. officials who had become C.I.A. agents.

She was sworn to secrecy. The penalty for violating the agreement was twenty years. Paget describes herself back then as “an apolitical twenty-year-old from a small town in Iowa,” and she says that she was terrified. Fifty years later, she is still angry. She has channelled her outrage into as scrupulous an investigation of the covert relationship as the circumstances allow.

One circumstance is the fact that a good deal of material is classified. Paget was able to fish up bits and pieces using the Freedom of Information Act. But most of the iceberg is still underwater, and will probably remain there. So there is sometimes an aura of vagueness around who was calling the tune and why.

The vagueness was also there by design. It was baked into the covert relationship. There was a lot of winking and nodding; that’s what helped people believe they were on the same page. But it means that much of the history of what passed between the C.I.A. and the N.S.A. is irrecoverable. Still, “Patriotic Betrayal” is a conscientious attempt to take the full measure of an iconic piece of Cold War subterfuge.’


Is Political Correctness Hampering ‘Free Speech’ In UK Universities?

Is Your Child a Terrorist? U.S. Government Questionnaire Rates Families at Risk for Extremism

Murtaza Hussain, Cora Currier, and Jana Winter report for The Intercept:

Are you, your family or your community at risk of turning to violent extremism? That’s the premise behind a rating system devised by the National Counterterrorism Center, according to a document marked For Official Use Only and obtained by The Intercept.

The document–and the rating system–is part of a wider strategy for Countering Violent Extremism, which calls for local community and religious leaders to work together with law enforcement and other government agencies. The White House has made this approach a centerpiece of its response to terrorist attacks around the world and in the wake of the Paris attacks, announced plans to host an international summit on Countering Violent Extremism on February 18th.’


Why We Need to Abolish Competition and Embrace Arguments: Interview with Margaret Heffernan

Abby Martin interviews Margaret Heffernan, author of ‘Willful Blindness’ and ‘A Bigger Prize’, about the destructive impact of competition and alternative models of incentivizing people to work together for the greater good.’ (Breaking the Set)

Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty

Lyndsey Layton reports for The Washington Post:

‘For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.

The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.’


UK government anti-terror plan to spy on toddlers ‘is heavy-handed’

Robert Mendick, and Robert Verkaik report for The Telegraph:

‘Nursery school staff and registered childminders must report toddlers at risk of becoming terrorists, under counter-terrorism measures proposed by the Government.

The directive is contained in a 39-page consultation document issued by the Home Office in a bid to bolster its Prevent anti-terrorism plan.

Critics said the idea was “unworkable” and “heavy-handed”, and accused the Government of treating teachers and carers as “spies”.

The document accompanies the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, currently before parliament. It identifies nurseries and early years childcare providers, along with schools and universities, as having a duty “to prevent people being drawn into terrorism”.’


China’s Xi calls for tighter ideological control in universities

Reuters reports:

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for greater “ideological guidance” in China’s universities and urged the study of Marxism, state media reported on Monday, as the country tightens control on Western ideology.

Xi’s comments are the latest sign of his politically conservative agenda and come amid a ratcheting up of controls over the media, dissidents and the internet.

China’s Communist Party has signaled that it will not embark on political reform, despite hopes that Xi, the son of a former liberal-minded vice premier, may loosen up.’


Irony 101: Study Ethics with Legal Ace Who Sanctioned NSA Wiretapping, CIA Torture

Ken Silverstein writes for The Intercept:

Waterboarding: Yes or no? It’s OK to selectively violate the Geneva Convention, right? Spying on Americans is illegal, but aren’t rules made to be broken?

The world is a confusing place and it’s hard for young people to answer complicated questions like these on their own. Fortunately, students at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, have Professor Robert Deitz to help them navigate the contemporary moral morass. “All of us are familiar with basic ethical notions,” he writes in the syllabus for his Spring 2015 course, Ethical Challenges in Public Policy. “We learn from childhood the idea that some conduct is right and other conduct is not right.”

How’d Deitz get so smart about ethics? He’s magna cum laude from Harvard (like President Obama) and then spent eights years as General Counsel at the National Security Agency, serving as the official Yes Man for General Michael Hayden, and after that three years as his Senior Councillor at the Central Intelligence Agency until 2009. At the former post Deitz rubber-stamped NSA surveillance. At the latter, he sought to derail an independent investigation by then-CIA Inspector General John Helgerson into the agency’s torture and rendition of terrorism suspects.’


The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (Documentary)

Why We Must Fight for Free Information: Aaron Swartz’s Legacy

Abby Martin discusses computer prodigy and activist, Aaron Swartz, and what his legacy means for everyone that uses the internet.’ (Breaking the Set)

Noam Chomsky: The Other Side of Technology

For More Teens, Arrests by Police Replace School Discipline

Gary Fields and John R. Emshwiller report for The Wall Street Journal:

‘[…] Over the past 20 years, prompted by changing police tactics and a zero-tolerance attitude toward small crimes, authorities have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates. Nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database.

This arrest wave, in many ways, starts at school. Concern by parents and school officials over drug use and a spate of shootings prompted a rapid buildup of police officers on campus and led to school administrators referring minor infractions to local authorities. That has turned traditional school discipline, memorialized in Hollywood coming-of-age movies such as “The Breakfast Club,” into something that looks more like the adult criminal-justice system.’


Building a super-prison for children is a terrible idea

Frances Crook writes for The Guardian:

‘The Ministry of Justice has come up with the idea of building a super-prison for children as young as 12, at the core of which will be a regime of punishment and physical restraint. The jail will house around 300 boys and a handful of girls, and includes a planned unit for babies in case the girls get pregnant.

No one, but no one, supports this bizarre proposal, except for the companies that would profit from building the £85m complex. The government has refused to publish the rules or any details about what it is euphemistically calling a “secure college”. Next week the House of Lords will scrutinise the legislation and consider an amendment suggesting the whole idea be put on hold until more details are published.’



How The NSA Plans To Recruit Your Teenagers

Andrew Jerell Jones reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - How The NSA Plans To Recruit Your Teenagers‘Kids across America no longer have to wait until college to plan on being a part of the National Security Agency. In fact, they could start preparing for their NSA careers as early as age 13.

The NSA has begun sponsoring cybersecurity camps for middle and high school students, agency recruiter Steven LaFountain told CNBC’s Eamon Javers in a recent interview. Six prototype camps launched this past summer, and the NSA hopes to eventually have a presence in schools in all 50 states.’


One in ten world leaders studied in the UK

Pan European Networks reports:

‘One in ten current world leaders have studied in the UK, according to research by the British Council.

The analysis found that of heads of state who have studied at universities abroad, the proportion of UK alumni rises even higher to 31% – a close second to those who’ve studied in the USA (34%). But when measured as a proportion of total students in each country, analysis suggests that the UK is ten times more likely to produce a world leader than the USA – UK universities produces one world leader per 50,000 graduates, whereas the US produces one per 500,000.’


Alabama high schools secretly monitoring students’ social media accounts ‘after tip-off from the NSA?

Annabel Grossman reports for The Daily Mail:

student1.jpg‘A secret surveillance program has been running in an Alabama high schools after a phone call from the National Security Agency alerted the district to a ‘violent threat’. School officials claim the system began monitoring students’ social media accounts in Huntsville City Schools 18 months ago, when the NSA tipped them off that a student was making violent threats on Facebook

The schools began scanning Facebook and other sites for signs of gang activity, watching for photos of guns, photos of gang signs and threats of violence, as part of a program called SAFe, or Students Against Fear. Internal documents explaining the program were obtained by, showing four different students – three males and one female – posing on Facebook with handguns.’


Rise of Islamic education system unnerves secular Turks

Dilay Gundogan and Emmanuelle Baillon report for AFP:

‘When Turkish pupils received their school entry exam results after the end of last term, textile worker and father Halil Ibrahim Beyhan received an unpleasant surprise His daughter had been assigned to a religious high school, like thousands of other students under a new system that caught many parents off guard.

Parents, educators and civil society groups have decried the move as another attack on Turkey’s secular principles by the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing the government of imposing religion on students.’


Plymouth University under fire for spending £150,000 on 7 designer chairs

Sarah Cassidy reports for The Independent:

‘A scandal-hit university which has already seen its vice chancellor suspended and its chairman of governors stand aside as part of a bitter boardroom feud, has spent £150,000 on seven designer chairs. Plymouth University has commissioned the award-winning furniture designer John Makepeace to make seven handcrafted chairs to be used at graduation ceremonies.

The news follows revelations earlier this month that the university had spent more than £24,000 on sending six members of staff to a conference in Miami earlier this year. This was despite threatened job losses which have prompted a series of protests by lecturers at the Plymouth University campus this summer.’


Occupy Movement Buys & Forgives $4 Million In Student Loan Debt

Koch foundation proposal to college: Teach our curriculum, get millions

Dave Levinthal reports for The Center for Public Integrity:

‘In 2007, when the Charles Koch Foundation considered giving millions of dollars to Florida State University’s economics department, the offer came with strings attached.

First, the curriculum it funded must align with the libertarian, deregulatory economic philosophy of Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican political bankroller.

Second, the Charles Koch Foundation would at least partially control which faculty members Florida State University hired.

And third, Bruce Benson, a prominent libertarian economic theorist and Florida State University economics department chairman, must stay on another three years as department chairman — even though he told his wife he’d step down in 2009 after one three-year term.’


U.S. Justice Department sides with 14-year-old girl raped while serving as ‘bait’ in middle school sting

Challen Stephens reports for

‘The federal government today sided with the guardian of a teenage girl who was raped during a botched sting operation in the boy’s bathroom, arguing the Madison County School system was liable under federal law to investigate harassment and protect female students.

“A school board cannot avoid summary judgment as a matter of law when a school administrator willfully ignores a plan to use a 14-year-old special needs student as bait to catch a student with a known history of sexual and violent misconduct, and as a result, the student is sodomized,” reads the federal brief filed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals late today.

The U.S. Department of Justice argues administrators at Sparkman Middle School near Huntsville knew the boy was dangerous and showed “deliberate indifference.”‘


Jerusalem teachers warn of increase in racism after Gaza war

Yarden Skop reports for Haaretz:

‘Teachers in Jerusalem say they are concerned about facing more racism than ever before in the capital’s schools, especially following Operation Protective Edge. As the school year opens, the Education Ministry has published lesson plans on racism to be taught during the first two weeks, but many teachers say that is not enough.’


In Bosnia’s schools, three different people learn three different histories

Kristen Chick reports for The Christian Science Monitor:

‘Two decades after Bosnia’s brutal civil war ended, reconciliation is still a dream, one the education system is pushing further away from reality. Bosnia Serbs, Bosniak Muslims and Croats typically study in schools with curricula tailored to their ethnic biases. World War II is hardly the only period that receives wildly different treatments depending on the school.


Study concludes that Britain is “deeply elitist” with a “closed shop at the top”

Andrew Sparrow reports for The Guardian:

An establishment acrostic‘Britain is “deeply elitist” because people educated at public school and Oxbridge have in effect created a “closed shop at the top”, according to a government report published on Thursday.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said its study of the social background of those “running Britain” was the most detailed of its kind ever undertaken and showed that elitism was so embedded in Britain “that it could be called ‘social engineering'”.

[…] The commission’s 76-page report mostly focuses on analysis, but it does include recommendations, saying government, schools, universities, employers and even parents all need to play their part in promoting social diversity.

Looking at the background of more than 4,000 people filling jobs at the top of government, the civil service, the judiciary, the media, business and the creative industries, the commission investigated where they went to school, on the grounds that going to a private school is reasonably indicative of a wealthy background.’