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Starry Messenger

Profile Information

Name: Decline to State
Gender: Female
Hometown: Bay Area, CA
Home country: USA
Current location: Left Coast
Member since: Sat Apr 9, 2005, 08:01 PM
Number of posts: 25,585

About Me

Artist, high school teacher and "hard-liner" (yet to be defined).

Journal Archives

The Endeavor flew over my school today!

This isn't strictly education news, but I wanted to share with my peeps in here.

It was incredibly moving! You'd think teenagers would be cynical about the space shuttle in this era of CGI, but they were excited too. I was out on the back patio on my prep when at around 10:30 we started to hear a WHOOOOOOSSHHHH high speed noise and I whipped out my phone to take a picture.

Kids came pouring out of the classrooms yelping in excitement too and took pictures (with the phones they are supposed to not have in class, lol). I'd love to see a collage of all of our photos. Everyone watched for a minute as the shuttle sped out of sight into the sun.

It was great and a little bittersweet sharing that moment at school together. Being a Gen-Xer, the Shuttle program was kind of "our" space program--seeing it end in my lifetime is rather sad. I hope the kids we are teaching now will go on to even greater ventures in outer space.
Posted by Starry Messenger | Fri Sep 21, 2012, 06:04 PM (6 replies)

Is poverty destiny? Ideology vs. evidence in school reform


At the center of the school reform debate is the role that poverty plays in student achievement, as explained well in the following post. It was written by Paul Thomas, an associate professor of education at Furman University in South Carolina. His newest book, “Ignoring Poverty in the U.S. — The Corporate Takeover of Public Education,” was recently published. A version of this post appeared on dailykos.com. This is long but worth the time.


The short answer, then, to whether or not poverty is destiny in the Unite States is “yes.” In fact, all categories of socioeconomic status in the United States are primarily static. In other words, the majority of people in the United States remain in the social class of their birth.

Poverty is destiny, and affluence is destiny in the United States. And these facts have almost nothing to do with the effort of anyone in those categories.


Why, then, do the ideological claims of “No Excuses” Reformers resonate with the public against the weight of evidence?

Sawhill and Morton show that the American public holds unique beliefs about equity that contrast significantly with most other countries. Americans disproportionately believe that the United States is a meritocracy (people are rewarded for intelligence, skill, and effort), but reject the notion that people need to start with privilege in order to succeed, that income inequity is too large, and that government should help alleviate opportunity inequities.

The whole article is long and fascinating but the bolded section (I bolded it) really caught my eye. Why, against all evidence, do Americans believe in magic merit dust? I've never felt like opportunity was just around the corner for me, but maybe I just grew up gloomy. And realistic...
Posted by Starry Messenger | Wed Sep 19, 2012, 07:27 PM (20 replies)

Fox Won't Disclose News Corp. Testing Contracts At Heart Of The Chicago Teachers' Strike

Not only are most of their commentators infomercial presenters for Romney, they are also hip deep in corporate edu-business. Read on!


In 89 segments between September 10 and 16, Fox News reported on the Chicago Teachers Union's strike without disclosing its financial ties to the educational technology company administering the standardized tests with which the union takes issue.

Fox News parent company News Corp. acquired a 90-percent stake in Wireless Generation in 2010. Last May, the company agreed to provide Early Mathematics Assessment Services and Early Literacy Assessment Services to Chicago Public Schools. These contracts total $4.7 million. A central reason the Chicago Teachers Union decided to strike is their objection to the school district's call for heavily weighing such standardized testing to ultimately determine teacher pay and layoffs.

But Fox News anchors and reporters never once disclosed its parent company's ties to Wireless Generation even as the network routinely criticized the strike and the Chicago Teachers Union.

The programs that covered the story most often:Fox & Friends (including the First, Saturday, and Sunday editions) with 31 segments over the entire week; America's News Headquarters aired 12 segments this last weekend alone; America Live was next with 7 segments; and Fox Report with Shepard Smith and Special Report followed with 6 segments each. Not one segment disclosed News Corp.'s business relationship with Wireless Generation despite repeated mentions and discussions of the teacher evaluations at the heart of the strike.

Well we knew they were shameless, but still. This is bottom-feeding the shameless-barrel.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Wed Sep 19, 2012, 06:31 PM (7 replies)

Standing up for teachers--Eugene Robinson



It has become fashionable to blame all of society’s manifold sins and wickedness on “teachers unions,” as if it were possible to separate these supposedly evil organizations from the dedicated public servants who belong to them. News flash: Collective bargaining is not the problem, and taking that right away from teachers will not fix the schools.


The fact is that teachers are being saddled with absurdly high expectations. Some studies have shown a correlation between student performance and teacher “effectiveness,” depending how this elusive quality is measured. But there is a whole body of academic literature proving the stronger correlation between student performance and a much more important variable: family income.

Yes, I’m talking about poverty. Sorry to be so gauche, but when teachers point out the relationship between income and achievement, they’re not shirking responsibility. They’re just stating an inconvenient truth.


The brie-and-chablis “reform” movement would have us believe that most of the teachers in low-income, low-performing schools are incompetent — and, by extension, that most of the teachers in upper-crust schools, where students perform well, are paragons of pedagogical virtue.


Posted by Starry Messenger | Mon Sep 17, 2012, 07:18 PM (7 replies)

Why people look down on teachers



It’s odd. Even if you’re the most toolish striver — i.e., many of the people I grew up with — teachers are your ticket to the Ivy League. And if you’re an intellectually ambitious academic type like me, they’re even more critical. Like I said, people move to Chappaqua for the schools, and if the graduation and post-graduate statistics are any indication—in my graduating class of 270, I’d guess about 50 of us went onto an Ivy League school — they’re getting their money’s worth. Yet many people I grew up with treated teachers as bumptious figures of ridicule — and not in your anarchist-critique-of-all-social-institutions kind of way.

It’s clear where the kids got it from: the parents. Every year there’d be a fight in the town over the school budget, and every year a vocal contingent would scream that the town was wasting money (and raising needless taxes) on its schools. Especially on the teachers (I never heard anyone criticize the sports teams). People hate paying taxes for any number of reasons — though financial hardship, in this case, was hardly one of them — but there was a special pique reserved for what the taxes were mostly going to: the teachers.

In my childhood world, grown ups basically saw teachers as failures. “Those who can’t do, teach” goes the old saw. But where that traditionally bespoke a suspicion of fancy ideas that didn’t produce anything concrete, in my fancy suburb, it meant something else. Teachers had opted out of the capitalist game; they weren’t in this world for money. There could be only one reason for that: they were losers. They were dimwitted, unambitious, complacent, unimaginative, and risk-averse. They were middle class.

No one, we were sure, became a teacher because she loved history or literature and wanted to pass that on to the next generation. All of them simply had no other choice. How did we know that? Because they weren’t lawyers or doctors or “businessmen”— one of those words, even in the post-Madmen era, still spoken with veneration and awe. It was a circular argument, to be sure, but its circularity merely reflected the closed universe of assumption in which we operated.


Posted by Starry Messenger | Fri Sep 14, 2012, 11:25 PM (24 replies)

The Big Business of Charter Schools



If you are wondering why you should add charter schools to your investment portfolios, here’s David Brain, head of a major investment concern called Entertainment Properties Trust, to tell you.


Anchor: Well let me ask you about potential risks, here, to your charter school portfolio, because I understand that three of your nine “Imagine” schools are scheduled to actually lose their charters for the next school year. Does this pose a risk to investors?

DB: Well, occasionally — we have Imagine arrangements on a master lease, so there’s no loss of rents to the company, although occasionally there are losses of charters in certain areas and they’re used to peculiar, ug, particular circumstances. In this case it’s a combination of relationship with the supervisory authorities and educational quality. Sometimes educational quality is very difficult to change in one, two, or three years. It’s a long-term proposition, so uh, there are some of these that occur, but we’ve structured our affairs so this is not going to impact our rent-roll and in fact we see this as uh maybe even a good experience as the industry thins out some of the less-performing schools and we move on to the best-performing schools.

There are two videos at the link that aren't the kind you can embed here at DU, so it is worth following the link, esp. for the Democracy Now interview on New Market Tax Credits.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Sat Aug 25, 2012, 01:18 PM (5 replies)

"Jobsy the Elephant haz a sad"-or My Adventures With the RNC Donation Survey!!

The RNC decided to send around a donation beg-notice in the form of an "Official Survey!!11" to my house. This thing was monstrously huge and must have cost a fortune to print and bulk mail. You'll notice later on that they grovel for a $15 "Survey tabulating" donation--classy. They also asked on the mail return envelope that you stick a stamp over the bulk mail return postage to save them money. Naturally, I declined.

Instead they will get some new artwork, courtesy of Starry Messenger from my empire here in Revolutionary Silicon Valley. I thought I'd share:

Posted by Starry Messenger | Wed Aug 1, 2012, 03:28 PM (94 replies)

July 30, 2012: Harry Bridges Day


“Labor cannot stand still. It must not retreat.
It must go on, or go under.”

– Harry Bridges
July 28, 1901–March 30, 1990


Harry Bridges and the ILWU From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks

The consistent progressive, anti-fascist policies of the ILWU, and its example of militant, democratic unionism under the leadership of Harry Bridges, aroused the fierce enmity and hatred of the ruling circles in the U.S. Beginning in 1940 there were four separate deportation trials of Bridges, all of which failed in their mission to remove Bridges as head of the ILWU and send him back to Australia.

After one of the unsuccessful trials, which had gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, the opinion of Justice Frank Murphy, speaking for the majority, said, “Seldom, if ever, in the history of this nation, has there been such a concentrated, relentless crusade to deport an individual simply because he dared to exercise the freedoms guaranteed to him by the Constitution.”

Despite the massive pressure to accommodate and make his peace with the system, Bridges never compromised his basic beliefs. “My thinking” said Bridges, “is Marxist. And the basic thing about this lousy capitalist system is that the workers create the wealth, but those who own it – the rich – keep getting richer and the poor get poorer.”

Posted by Starry Messenger | Mon Jul 30, 2012, 11:05 AM (1 replies)

California's Prop 32 on political funding is a bill of rights for billionaires


Californians are used to ballot initiatives that claim to do one thing, but in reality do exactly the opposite. However, even by the standards of misinformation now commonplace in our elections, November's most controversial ballot measure, Proposition 32 – which its supporters call "Stop Special Interest Money Now" – really "takes the giddy biscuit", as Bertie Wooster (or, for that matter, Mitt Romney) might say.


Its supporters claim that Prop 32 is a balanced measure that limits corporate and union influence on state elections, to the extent allowed by federal election law. Indeed, pro-Prop 32 ads focus on spending in Sacramento by AT&T and PG&E, rather than on spending by labour unions.

In reality, "Stop Special Interest Money Now" would do nothing of the sort. Though AT&T and PG&E (both unionised firms) are undoubtedly peeved at being singled out, Prop 32 would have almost no impact on the ability of corporate executives to contribute unlimited money to candidates or campaigns, but would have a devastating impact on the ability of unions to participate in state politics. Its restrictions on unions are so sweeping that it would prevent them from communicating with their own members on political issues. Worse still, Prop 32 would enhance the ability of super political action committees (PACs), and other wealthy groups that are exempt from the measure, to dominate elections.

This is not genuine campaign finance reform but a bill of rights for billionaires, which would be a game-changer in California politics. California voters have twice before rejected rightwing initiatives to destroy labour's political voice, in 1998 and 2005. Unable to win by honest means, conservative groups decided to come up with something more deceptive this time round.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Mon Jul 30, 2012, 10:56 AM (11 replies)

Claudia Jones--"Complete emancipation of women is possible only under Socialism."


My new blog entry is finally out, I hope you enjoy the writing of this remarkable woman as much as I do. A little preview here:

Failure to recognize the special social disabilities of women under capitalism is one of the chief manifestations of male supremacy. These special forms of oppression particularly affect the working women, the farm women and the triply oppressed Negro women,- but, in varying degrees, they help to determine the inferior status of women in all classes of society.


"Overcoming these male supremacist notions means to recognize moreover that our Party, as distinct from those who hold petty-bourgeois equalitarian notions, fights for the true equality of women. What does it mean? It means fighting for the right of women to enjoy every right and privilege enjoyed by men. Many shout equality in general, but in practice show lack of understanding of the special aspects of equality. The petty bourgeois equalitarian denies the special problems and needs of women. True recognition of the special aspects of equality for women means fighting to squeeze out every concession right here under capitalism relative to fighting women's numerous disabilities and inequalities in the home, on the job, in the community.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Sat Jun 30, 2012, 11:40 AM (19 replies)
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