Comment of the Day: “we view education not in terms of developing intellect, but of producing graduates”

From this post over at Diane Ravitch’s blog: The Secret Strategy of Corporate School Reform?

Commenter David Lentini writes:

I think there is some truth to this, but when I reflect on the history of school “reform” I also think these reform efforts reflect a sincere (and insane) mindset. Unfortunately, especially in Anglo-American cultures, business has become the standard by which the values of all activities are measured. We view all activities, economic or not, in terms of production and consumption, and profit. Our culture exalts business leaders who extract the greatest profits from tightly controlled organizations, and whom we view like great military or political leaders. We relentlessly seek “efficiency” in terms of highest return for least investment, often looking at every activity in terms of dollars and cents. We are in every way the embodiment of R.H. Tawney’s “acquisitive society”. We no longer seek joy or mastery (or even competence) in our actions; we only care about cost, not value, Oscar Wilde’s definition of “cynic”.

And so we view education not in terms of developing intellect, but of producing graduates. And if we are in the business of production, then we also have to maximize the efficiency of that production.Efficiency requires tracking quantities using statistical measures, and tight operational controls on the process of production. So, the process of education requires tests to measure “quality”, and operational controls require close oversight of teachers–the means of production–who will must adhere to highly standardized procedures and practices in order to make the statistical measurements useful. Thus, teachers can’t be creative or spontaneous, because that will undermine the standardized operations needed to enable comparisons of teacher performance. Curriculums have to be standardized and designed to facilitate testing in order to gauge student performance. All of this is needed to maximize efficiency, i.e., the production of graduates at the lowest cost.

As I’ve written elsewhere on this ‘blog, none of this is new: This was the agenda of the original reformers at the turn of the 20th Century. Back then the goal was to “Taylorize” public education by adopting standardized textbooks and replacing the liberal arts curriculum with a synthesized and heavily scripted one that was designed to produce graduates who knew what they needed to know in order to function in society. The goal was to abandon intellectual development–that was needed only for the scions of the wealthy, who would attend the best private schools–in favor of a passive, programmed, and productive general population to work in the factories.

The only difference with our current situation is the use of computer technology to deliver the same stultifying content and replace as many teachers as possible. I always laugh at those who claim that some how we’re in a new world of technology that requires completely rebuilding our educational system. It’s the same old story told with bright new costumes.

The reformers don’t want the public to think; they want them to obey their betters, who are the Gateses, and Bushes, and Bloombergs, and Rhees, etc., as demonstrated by their wealth. They truly believe they are doing God’s work.

La plus ca change, la plus c’est le meme chose.

Remember this whenever you hear our “leaders” talk about how we must prepare our students for the “challenges” of our new technology.  This sentiment is so accepted that we don’t even notice it any more.

“And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.” – President Barack Obama, Second Inaugural Address, January 21, 2013

Do you hear any of them speak any more of the joy of learning? No.  They only speak of preparing our students to be  “workers for the 21st century.”

It’s not just the small business that gets hosed

I’m catching up with my email, and this post by Prairie2 is eleven days old, but it’s timeless. Go read.

The Colonel can sell cheaper if the chickens also pay the bills


Then there is the myth of low prices. The big advantage that the BBS has is that it can come into a town and sell goods cheaper than its competitors pay for them wholesale. This only lasts until competition is eliminated of course, but to make sure this always happens they dictate the wholesale price suppliers sell to “small” buyers. They do this simply by demanding that they always get the lowest wholesale price as they have “economy of scale“. Wholesalers can’t actually cut wholesale prices no matter how much you buy, but they can raise the price they charge to the small buyers. Same effect without violating the laws of physics. What did you think, it was a miracle?

Prairie2 has half the equation right, but let me tell you how everyone BUT the Big Box Chain gets screwed.

I used to work for an office supplies wholesaler.

In our case the Big Box Chains (the Big Three – you know who they are) would lock us into extended contracts that guaranteed the Big Box Chain a price list that very often got them the item at our cost or maybe just a percent or two above cost (maybe). By the way, this price list was only for the online portion of their businesses. For their brick and mortar stores they bought directly from the manufacturer. This is key to understanding the next part of the scam they run.

We supplied all stock for their online business, which meant we held it at our warehouse and shipped it out to their customers at no charge to the Big Box Chain. Got that? They got a heavily discounted price on the inventory, but we covered the costs to store it, box it, and ship it. No freight was charged to the Big Box Chain regardless of whether the customer was charged freight on their end.

How could we do that and still make a profit?

There was one more leg to the stool: Volume discounts from the manufacturer. That is, if their price to us for a box of toner was $100 and we sold over a certain number of them in a month, we got a rebate.  These programs generally ran a quarter at a time.

As long as all legs of the stool were in place, it all worked out. As the guy in the middle, however, we were really in a precarious position. First of all, the pricing negotiations with the Big Boys often took MONTHS to finalize, but they would hold us to the original price quoted them. By the time the price list was finalized, our costs often had changed (read: gone up), but we were still committed to selling it to the Big Boys at the original price quoted. In our case, our main business was inkjet and toner, which are particularly subject to the ups and downs of the cost of oil.You can see that by the time we paid the freight to ship to their individual customers, and taken it in the shorts on the cost we’d quoted to them, the only thing saving our bacon was the volume discount agreement with the manufacturer.

When the Big Name Manufacturer decided to end said program and instead extend rebates directly to the end-users, my old company was still locked in to its contract pricing with the Big Box Chains (the contracts were generally for a year). Needless to say, red ink ensued, the distribution center in Reno closed, and the only winner in this scenario was the Big Box Chain.

All the time I worked for said company and maintained all their pricing lists I never understood why we worked so hard to slit our own throats. It seemed to me that we should have been courting our small and mid-sized customers rather than chasing after the “big win,”  because Prairie’s got it right.  The mom-and-pops who were also our customers paid a quite a bit more for their merchandise.  I kept thinking that we could have told the Big Boys to go take a flying leap, offered some discounts to the smaller guys and earned their undying loyalty. Instead we chose to chase after the BMOC and lived in fear daily that he’d throw us over for a competitor.

I guess I just don’t understand business.

Chapter 11 – Just another name for union busting

It’s Hostess now.

Hostess Brands Inc., the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, is seeking bankruptcy protection, blaming its pension and medical benefits obligations, increased competition and tough economic conditions.

[ . . . ]

In its filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, Hostess disclosed that its biggest unsecured creditor is the Bakery & Confectionary Union & Industry International Pension Fund, which it owes approximately $944.2 million.

[ . . . ]

Hostess President and CEO Brian Driscoll said in a statement that the company is working to reach a consensual agreement with its unions to modify its collective bargaining agreements. The company said that its current cost structure is not competitive mostly because of legacy pension and medical benefit obligations and restrictive work rules.

But if they can’t get that “consensual agreement” (read: do it or we close the plant), they’ll force it on their workers any way they can.

In the meantime

Guess what?  Rich folks are making even more money and as a result, profitable corporations are paying even LESS in taxes because of a loophole (surprise!) in the tax law,

Thanks to a quirk in tax law, companies can claim a tax deduction in future years that is much bigger than the value of the stock options when they were granted to executives. This tax break will deprive the federal government of tens of billions of dollars in revenue over the next decade. And it is one of the many obscure provisions buried in the tax code that together enable most American companies to pay far less than the top corporate tax rate of 35 percent — in some cases, virtually nothing even in very profitable years.

In Washington, where executive pay and taxes are highly charged issues, some critics in Congress have long sought to eliminate this tax benefit, saying it is bad policy to let companies claim such large deductions for stock options without having to make any cash outlay. Moreover, they say, the policy essentially forces taxpayers to subsidize executive pay, which has soared in recent decades. Those drawbacks have been magnified, they say, now that executives — and companies — are reaping inordinate benefits by taking advantage of once depressed stock prices.

A stock option entitles its owner to buy a share of company stock at a set price over a specified period. The corporate tax savings stem from the fact that executives typically cash in stock options at a much higher price than the initial value that companies report to shareholders when they are granted.

But companies are then allowed a tax deduction for that higher price.

For example, in the dark days of June 2009, Mel Karmazin, chief executive of SiriusXM Radio, was granted options to buy the company stock at 43 cents a share. At today’s price of about $1.80 a share, the value of those options has risen to $165 million from the $35 million reported by the company as a compensation expense when they were issued.

Wait. What? The company gets to claim the expense TWICE? First when the stock option was issued and then again when it’s paid?

If he exercises and sells at that price, Mr. Karmazin would, of course, owe taxes on the $165 million as ordinary income. The company, meanwhile, would be entitled to deduct the $165 million as additional compensation on its tax return as if it had paid that amount in cash. That could reduce its federal tax bill by an estimated $57 million, at the top corporate tax rate.

I would bet that “ordinary income” will be taxed as “capital gains” at the nearly rock bottom rate of 15%.

In the meantime, all over the country cities are turning off the lights and in some cases literally ripping out the streetlights due to declining tax revenue.

Cities around the nation, grappling with what is expected to be a fifth consecutive year of declining revenues and having exhausted the predictable budget trims, are increasingly considering something that would once have been untouchable: the lights.

Highland Park’s circumstances are extreme; with financial woes so deep and long term, it has extinguished all but 500 streetlights in a city accustomed to 1,600, utility company officials say. But similar efforts have played out in dozens of towns and cities, like Myrtle Creek, Ore., Clintonville, Wis., Brainerd, Minn., Santa Rosa, Calif., and Rockford, Ill.

What distinguishes these latest austerity measures is how noticeable they are to ordinary residents. If health care cuts, pay cuts, layoffs and furloughs — and even limits on enforcing building codes or maintaining parks — are most apparent to the people inside city halls, everyone notices when his streetlights go dark (and some cities, like Colorado Springs, where the issue boiled over, have already resumed some lighting when revenues allowed).

But hey, no worries. We of the 99% are just expected to get used to it.  Oh, and turn on our own damned lights. How we’re supposed to pay for the extra electrical cost at half the pay we used to receive is our problem.

The shrunken pay scale for newcomers — $12 to $19 an hour versus $21 to $32 an hour for longtime workers — threatens to undo the middle-class status of even the best-paid blue-collar jobs still left in manufacturing. A similar contract limits the wages of new hires at a nearby Ford Motor Company stamping plant, but neither G.E.’s 2,000 hourly workers nor Ford’s 2,900, nor their unions nor the mayor, Greg Fischer, have objected.

Quite the contrary, all argue that job creation must take precedence over holding the line on wages, given that the unemployment rate in this Ohio River city is above 9 percent and several thousand people apply for every unfilled, $13-an-hour factory job. “The trade-off is absolutely worth it,” Mayor Fischer said, arguing that while the city is actively subsidizing G.E.’s expansion here, mainly through tax rebates, that is not enough. “You must have a globally competitive wage to create jobs,” the mayor insisted.

The generational setback implicit in a “globally competitive wage” is evident at G.E.’s Appliance Park, the complex of factories where G.E. makes refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers and other household appliances. Six years into the adoption of lower wages for new hires, half of the hourly workers are paid at the reduced scale.

In an earlier era, that would have been a source of friction, perhaps protest. Now it isn’t, and in an interview William Masden, 62, earning $31.78 an hour after 42 years at Appliance Park, attempted an explanation. The younger workers still get annual raises, he noted, and by the time they top out, he and his peers — the oldest baby boomers — “won’t be here any longer to remind them of what they are missing.”

Linda Thomas, 37, one of the first to be hired in 2005 under the new arrangement, amends that explanation. Her hourly wage, $18.19, has almost topped out, although it is nearly $14 an hour less than Mr. Masden’s. But she keeps silent. Too many unemployed people, she explained, would clamor for her job and her wage if she were to protest.

“You don’t want to rock the boat,” Ms. Thomas said. “You take a chance on losing everything you have if you do.”

Nope, don’t rock the boat baby. You’ll be out on your ear. And let’s talk about that  “globally competitive wage.”  Do we also get “globally competitive” expenses? Will they go down commensurate with our declining incomes? Not bloody likely.

Ah, the good old days!

What Newt Gingrich would have the U.S. return to

Forms of child labor, including indentured servitude and child slavery, have existed throughout American history. As industrialization moved workers from farms and home workshops into urban areas and factory work, children were often preferred, because factory owners viewed them as more manageable, cheaper, and less likely to strike. Growing opposition to child labor in the North caused many factories to move to the South. By 1900, states varied considerably in whether they had child labor standards and in their content and degree of enforcement. By then, American children worked in large numbers in mines, glass factories, textiles, agriculture, canneries, home industries, and as newsboys, messengers, bootblacks, and peddlers.

The fact that he is leading in all GOP primary polls right now tells me everything I need to know about today’s Republican party.

Gingrich won’t back off support for relaxed child labor laws

Disrupters and Provocateurs

Got this in my email today from a reader in response to my post below about the violence at the Occupy Oakland general strike. (Emphasis mine)

Dear Media: you missed this information regarding Oakland

Some important facts that you will not find in the mainstream (corporate) media today which (completely co-incidentally I’m sure) will be the total polar opposite message we’ll hear from the blowhards who only get their information from that corporate owned media bent on misrepresenting this movement:

None of the “violence” of yesterdays demonstration was planned by, condoned, or in any way sanctioned by the general assembly at Grant Plaza (the protest base and “organization” for lack of better word) or the New York general assembly at Freedom Plaza that the Oakland assembly had originally gathered in solidarity of (“the movement” for those still unsure of the who/what/where). So all claims that broken windows and burning dumpsters “represent” Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Whatever should be called out for what they are: transparent attempts to manipulate the masses that only get their “information” from corporate media.

– Do a Google search for “Oakland Liberation Front” right now. They are a self invented, radicalized, pseudo-anarchist group styled after Black Bloc that attempted to subvert the protests yesterday. They have not been involved in any way with holding space in Grant Park in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street to help raise awareness regarding corporate influence in governement, and have not participated in any way with any of the General Assemblies. They are not part of Occupy Oakland at all. Here, I’ll do the google search for you:

– This is the flyer they were handing out around Grant Park the day before the General Strike march to try to provoke, and undermine the movement and demonstration with violence and vandalism:

The Black Bloc (what the “Oakland Liberation Front” mimics) is an intentionally disruptive tactic which has infiltrated and radicalized protests world wide. The core principles and tactics are: Vandalism, rioting, and street fighting. The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, ongoing protests, and movement on the whole has defined itself in self stating principles at every assembly from the very beginning as “non violent”. Search Google for Black Bloc to find out what it is. Here, I’ll do it for you. It will probably look like the photos you’ll see all day on the sensationalist corporate owned media that is trying to divert the message away from corporate influence and corruption in government:,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&biw=1055&bih=974&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi

– This, I guarantee you will not see on any corporate owned media today or ever. When “Oakland Liberation Front” Black Bloc provocateurs acted against the principles of the actual movement by inciting vandalism during the march, the crowds turned against them:

When other windows were broken, Oakland assembly participants guarded the locations so they would not be damaged further or looted:

Please attempt to help others keep a rational head today. What is being blatantly demonstrated here is how the media will manipulate the message away from the facts, and why. Again, this is a protest and movement against the corporate influence and corruption of the government caused by the few, by reminding everyone of the resulting disaster it has wreaked on the economy and the effects of which the rest of us feel. When that same collection of corporate entities also own the media which ultimately creates the message for the masses, the most true aspects of everything to do with the movement will never be covered, and instead be misrepresented to influence public opinion away from the underlying facts.