Monday, December 12, 2011

Empty Rhetoric, Inequality, Education and Heroes

¡Hola mi Gente!
I’m in pain! My back is killing me! Feel sorry for me! LOL
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To see the truth, contemplate all phenomena as a lie.
-- Thaganapa

Did you hear? The DNC and Charlotte, NC, the host city for the Democratic National Convention next year to renominate President Obama, has announced that it will actively repress planned Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. The city council has already enacted a series of restrictions on the allowed locations in which protesters can demonstrate and the outright ban on overnight stays.

Goes to show that the “two-party system” is in actuality a bad imitation of a wrestling match -- complete with bad guy/ good guy role plays -- in which the outcome has been decided.

Expect major fallout for the dems if this is allowed. As with the empty talk of hope, Dems want to exploit of the rhetoric of the #OccupyWallStreet movement without actually demonstrating a commitment to it.

I see one of two things happening: either we, the people, fight for real electoral reform, or we’re doomed.

In any case, the legality of these actions is being challenged by the Lawyer’s Guild and whatever the outcome, I don’t see this stopping the many activists who plan to be there.

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Speaking of OWS, the good people at Crooked Timber brought my attention to an excellent Times article on education and inequality. The authors draw from the work of Sean Reardon (here), who uncovers a substantial correlation between income inequality and educational achievement. They pull no punches:
The Occupy movement has catalyzed rising anxiety over income inequality; we desperately need a similar reminder of the relationship between economic advantage and student performance.
The correlation has been abundantly documented, notably by the famous Coleman Report in 1966. New research by Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University traces the achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families over the last 50 years and finds that it now far exceeds the gap between white and black students.

Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that more than 40 percent of the variation in average reading scores and 46 percent of the variation in average math scores across states is associated with variation in child poverty rates.
International research tells the same story. Results of the 2009 reading tests conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment show that, among 15-year-olds in the United States and the 13 countries whose students outperformed ours, students with lower economic and social status had far lower test scores than their more advantaged counterparts within every country. Can anyone credibly believe that the mediocre overall performance of American students on international tests is unrelated to the fact that one-fifth of American children live in poverty?

Full Times article here. More on the above topics later in the week... 

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And last, but not least, I was invited to, but (due to work) was unable to attend, an action against police abuse organized by the Parents for Occupy Wall Street. I have written on these pages before on education (here) and how true education is a liberating and transformative act. 

Unfortunately, what passes for education in the US these days is anything but liberating. By the time children pass into adolescence and adulthood, they have come to dread thinking. Those who have escaped the dread of thinking will instead fall prey to the assumption that thinking will not be necessary; that all is needed is to retain information and to regurgitate it at the appropriate moments. 

Those that enter higher education similarly find themselves confronted by a world where independent thinking isn’t encouraged. Fortunately, there are some classrooms in which individual professors work to educate as a practice of freedom. In these settings, thinking, and more importantly critical thinking, is what matters.

The following video illustrates what happens when children are encouraged to think for themselves, to ask for evidence, to question authority, and what is possible if they are encouraged and supported by their parents in their actions.The response by the officials, however, demonstrate that our social institutions are vehemently opposed to freedom:

Today, these children and their parents are my heroes. They should be yours, as well.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

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