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Education Reform in the Father-Knows-Best World of Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett

5:07 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

“The government has ceased to function…the corporations are the government.” Theodore Dreiser

If one applies cognitive and political linguist George Lakoff’s “Strict Father” model to Governor Mitch Daniels and Indiana superintendent of public instruction Tony Bennett, it’s obvious they see themselves as the be-all and end-all authorities on how teachers and students should be whipped into shape. Since their worldview is anti-women, anti-children, and pathologically corporate, all sane people must shout out against it.

As strict father types*, Daniels and Bennett assume that men must put female teachers (which make up 70% of Indiana teachers), like women in general, in their place. According to strict fathers, women teach because they can’t do; men do real work (like gamble in the stock market, lead the Chamber of Commerce, or kickbox each other to death), while their wives are left to babysit the kids with their McGraw-Hill textbooks. If men do enter the teaching profession, the strict father deems it best they come from the corporate world and become superintendents and principals who shove slave labor onto female teachers.

If the strict fathers get women to jump on their boys’ bandwagon (as some like Tina Bennett, Gwendolyn Adell, Claire Fiddian-Green, and Jo Blacketor have sadly done in Indiana), it convinces them that all women are capable of coming around to their way of seeing the world, which is not and should not ever be the case.

Students, according to the strict-father mindset, must sweat the “tough love” discipline Bennett ran on in his campaign for superintendent. No wonder then that the only support Bennett and Daniels have given to educators is immunity from lawsuits for enforcing this “tough love” punishment. In this James Dobson-spare-not-the-rod world, kids—incapable of being inspired to learn— must have facts, dates, and statistics beaten into them.

Of course, all this is sheer nonsense and more than a little dangerous.

As an opponent of standardized tests, linguist and political scholar Noam Chomsky once noted that “about ninety percent of the problem in teaching, or maybe ninety-eight percent, is just to help the students get interested.” In Indiana—and America in general—this is the Sisyphus challenge. Those who pass laws for merit-pay teacher evaulations are in bed with a corporate elite which bends over backwards to distract from learning to love learning, be it through their tween marketing gimmicks or championing standardized testing to bore all creativity out of both teachers and students.

Arguably, these mandated tests aren’t meant to measure knowledge anyway, for strict father types like Daniels and Bennett don’t care much about knowledge, unless it serves their own purposes. In this case, it does perfectly. By forcing teachers to teach by the test and worry about getting fired over what is out of their control, Daniels and Bennett hope to break teachers’ wills to the point that they change careers. Then the corporate oligarchy can replace them with minimum-waged and half qualified instructors, week-trained Teach for America fake superstars, and eventually virtual teachers in another state.

Although a disaster for teachers and students, standardized tests aid Daniels, Bennett, and other strict fathers in a less obvious way. Importantly, these politicians count on an uninformed public to vote them and future strict fathers into office, and there’s no better way to assure this than by administering these tests which seal off all critical thinking and questioning of authority. In fact, nothing is more frightening to the power elite than a living, breathing, and thinking body politic.

Even as neuroscientists and psychologists see empathy as fundamental to our evolutionary future, strict fathers like Daniels and Bennett proclaim public schools as the last frontier for hedge fund managers and other oligarchs to violate and conquer. They are giddy to give the final blow to any sense of kinship we still hold with our fellow humans. By churning out future Social Darwinists in kindergartens which teach playdough economics, these psychopaths wish to destroy what is left of Indiana, American, and the planet. This is dangerously about more than just education. It’s about whether we have a country and planet left when the plutocratic weapons stop falling.

If we don’t start seriously agitating the Big Daddies of the world and force them to grow up, we are all soon doomed to a fascist corporate state.


* Like many strict father types, Tony Bennett named his son after himself, and Mitch Daniels was named after his own father.

Insightfully, a while back, Biz Voices’ Tom Schuman relayed an interesting anecdote recalled by Tony Bennett. Schuman wrote:

“He [Bennett] tells the joke of how his Uncle Gene remarked that Elisabeth (Bennett’s sister, currently working in the field of educator preparation at the University of Central Florida) had never made a (grade as low as a) “B” in her life. Bennett’s father chimed in on the other end of the scale, ‘Neither has Tony’” (29).

Although I do not personally know Tony Bennett, it is safe to say that pain may lurch behind his humorous story. In the above account, Tony Bennett’s unsatisfactory school grades might not be as noteworthy as the father-son relationship the joke hints at. Of course, one incident is by no means a psychological case study, but given that the superintendent hates unions and promotes the take-no-hostage privatization of American education, one wonders if this is because he felt shafted by his father, an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers member. Did his real or perceived failure with his union member father lead him to search out psychopathic father models, as many men in our deranged society are encouraged to do?

Letter to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce: Hoosiers Say No to Charter School Scammers

12:36 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Dear Kevin Brinegar, CEO, Indiana Chamber of Commerce,

Not content that Citizens United Terre Haute lawyer James Bopp, Jr. and your lobbying against the Disclose Act made it legal for undisclosed corporations to endlessly fund the destruction of democracy, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce now has the nerve to call Vigo County School Corporation Superintendent Dan Tanoos a “bully” for exposing the charter school scam. Such hypocrisy sounds like a typical case of what psychologists call “projection” on your part. Isn’t being a “bully” a prerequisite for joining your brotherhood?

To anyone looking, last year’s award the Indiana Chamber of Commerce bestowed upon Tony Bennett, Indiana Superintendent of Public Education, sums up your quest to bulldoze education out of this state.  As an opportunist like his wife, Bennett selected two charter school cronies to his educational transition team in 2008: Mr. Derek Redelman, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s own pseudo-researcher who founded the Indiana Charter Schools Association and worked at the Koch-funded Hudson Institute; and Don Willis, the Mitch Daniels, Jr.-donor formerly of Imagine Charter Schools, who broke Indiana’s Open Door Law in Fort Wayne.

Last I heard, Imagine Schools illegally operates as both a for-profit and non-profit organization (if you could update me on this or clarify Imagine’s IRS status, it would be highly appreciated, since the government will not comment), and Dennis Bakke, their CEO, has a long history with your governor going back to 2001 with the AES-Indianapolis Power and Light Company merger, where IPALCO stockholders and workers lost millions, including their 401k packages, after Daniels, Jr. dumped his stocks

Sadly, you and Mr. Bennett wish to use “Play Dough Economics” to teach these same psychopathic tricks to Indiana kindergarteners, so they, too, can grow up to steal the pensions of their former teachers just like big Wall Street criminals do. The governor is your perfect orbitofrontal lobe damaged hero, in this regard; as recent neuroscience suggests, there is a fine line between the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world and the Republican leadership.

A policy brief to you and your MBA-friends-turned-fake-educators: we do not need a sociopathic society where schools become profit-making factories and kids gobble and throw up I-STEP test answers like Big Macs and boloney. And honestly, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has no right to tell teachers they should work as slave laborers in charter schools run by the rich who use rental schemes to rake in millions of taxpayers’ money.

After apologizing to Superintendent Tanoos and those working daily with the fine children of Vigo County, Indiana, you should pass along to Mr. Bopp, Jr. (and Counterfeit Christian, Dennis Bakke) the words Eugene V. Debs spoke from his prison cell to a reporter in 1919 on the real meaning of Christ:

            I told my friends of the cloth that I did not believe Christ was meek and lowly but a real living, vital agitator who went into the temple with a lash and a krout and whipped the oppressors of the poor, routed them out of the doors and spilled their blood and got silver on the floor. He told the robbed and misruled and exploited and driven people to disobey their plunderers, he denounced the profiteers, and it was for this that they nailed his quivering body to the cross and spiked it to the gates of Jerusalem, not because he told them to love one another.

I’m waiting for Redelman and your Republican friends to include that quotation in your private school and charter school curriculum.

 Dr. Doug Martin

Eugene V. Debs Day at the Indiana Statehouse: A History Lesson for Mitch Daniels

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Eugene V. Debbs, c. 1897 (source: Wikipedia)

With 4,800 jobs in Indiana’s 8th District (where I live) going to China in the last decade, and Hoosier taxpayers feeding J.P. Morgan close to $200,000 monthly to handle our food stamps, Governor Mitch Daniels’ attempt to turn non-union workers against the teachers and other union members isn’t working. Thousands of workers have descended on the Indiana Statehouse to show Daniels that what goes around comes around.

As in Indiana, Republicans across the land are swelling in their psychopathic ways, from Wisconsin to Ohio. In Missouri, in fact, Republicans are even attempting to overthrow child labor laws, laws first fought for by Indiana’s Albert J. Beveridge and Terre Haute’s Eugene V. Debs, the great Socialist and union leader, at the turn of the last century.  Is child slave labor the next path Republicans in Indiana will take? You’ve failed your I-STEP test, son.  Now it’s off to McDonald’s, 24/7.

Let’s be clear about all of this.  The hysteria over pensions bankrupting the states is just another sociopathic exaggeration by people like Daniels to destroy the unions. As economist Dean Baker has noted, the shortfalls that do exist can be easily overcome and are the fault of Wall Streets crooks who, during the housing bubble crimes, gambled away our money. Instead of rotting in the Terre Haute Federal Prison, these gamblers are making tax-funded million dollar bonuses or working for the Obama administration.

Maybe it’s time for a history lesson for Mr. Daniels. In January of 1922, after Indiana Governor Warren T. McCray tried to incite a group of American Legion members to hunt down and bruise up Eugene V. Debs at his home in Terre Haute and to thump unions members to “teach them a lesson,” Debs fired off a letter to the governor to bring them on.  The Terre Haute miners and workers were ready if the governor was going to make good on his promise. Beautifully, a few years later McCray ended up doing time for mail fraud in the same prison Debs a few years earlier was incarcerated in for protesting the First World War. . . . Read the rest of this entry →

No Politician Left Behind: Letter to the Maverick—Arizona Now Outlaws Hats

8:54 am in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

[This is the second installment of “No Politician Left Behind (NPLP),” a weekly letter and suggested reading list I will email to a targeted congressperson’s staff. My target for this week is Senator John McCain (Republican-AZ). I don’t expect McCain’s staff to care too much about my letter and suggested readings, of course. But, for a few moments, “NPLP” might distract them from cutting and pasting their lame form responses (rejection slips) which fail to answer any serious question raised by constituents.

I hope some of you will post other essential readings and links each week in the comment boxes, so I can tag them onto a compiled list and ship it Washington-bound.]


("McCain’s Phoenix, AZ Mansion" by Brave New Films, via Flickr, free to share with attribution)

Dear Senator McCain:

In these psychopathic times, with people now suffering through this oligarchy’s negligence, denials, and total antisocial disregard for human life and our only planet, I have decided to write to you, Senator McCain, to give my half-a-Lincoln’s worth of a few suggestions.

Firstly, you need to take a long hard stare at what is going on in your own state. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that National Socialist Movement members, armed with semi-automatic rifles at the Arizona border, are hunting down “presumed” illegals and helping detain them in privatized prisons. Mind you, these are neo-Nazi-Hitler-idolizing-white-supremacists, not good old fashion American Socialists like Robert Owen and Eugene V. Debs, or even the bugbear Socialists the Republican Party ridiculously invents, distorts, and pipes through the corporate media channels to bejesus-scare the American people. Is Arizona becoming so far-right that it has fallen off the “flat” world? Isn’t it about time we stop talking about giving “anchor babies” their crawling papers and start voting for Washington politicians to grab their documents and get out of Dodge?

Although the stimulus did not pump out the many and much needed jobs, your criticism— in the Summertime Blues Report —doesn’t mention how neurological research on cocaine-monkeys benefits many. Except for the safe use of marijuana—which does not make a person lose platelets and piss blood the way too much Anheuser-Busch and bourbon does—addiction of all fonts can destroy families, as you know. Not only are these stimulus-funded neuroscientists attempting to help cocaine addicts, but by studying the brain’s cortico-basal ganglia reward system/abnormalities, they are advancing the understanding of the dopaminergic and serotonergic pathways which play a role in OCD, Tourette syndrome, alcohol addiction, and Parkinson’s. As Doctor Coburn should be smart enough to know, this could lead to cures for many disorders, including the gambling and money-addiction afflicting the crooks on Wall Street, in corporations, and in our own government. One could rightfully argue that it is inhumane to use monkeys since they lack understanding and therefore free choice in these trails, but I don’t believe that was your message.

The plan you and Doctor Coburn should be legitimately criticizing is the USAID’s financing of millions of dollars to train Sri Lanka students in the English language so that U.S. companies can hire them to do IT jobs for pennies. Besides despicably buying “slave labor” and proving that Washington doesn’t care about creating jobs for Americans, this action reeks of the English Only movement’s resurgence in this country, now that the Inhofe-Coburn English Language Unity Act of 2009 is in the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. I would think wisely before I cave in to the likes of Larry Pratt, founder of English First who supports discriminatory laws and speaks at neo-Nazi and Christian Identity gatherings, as James Crawford from the Institute for Language and Education Policy has noted. Anti-Spanish (or French, for that matter) language laws or attempts advise our children that it is un-American to study a foreign language, even as neuroscientists, teachers, and scholars have begged for such learning for years as a means to enhance the growth, exercising, and connection of neurons. Then why, Mr. McCain, are teachers with foreign accents being removed from classrooms in Arizona? What type of hatred does this send to our youth? Instead of teaching English to IT workers in Sri Lanka and displaying this dangerous “alphabet-arrogance,” our government should be promoting second language learning in kindergarten and training people to intercept foreign language messages from would-be terrorists, since at least 56 Arabic language translators have been fired from the armed forces for being gay.

I’m not a big fan of letting killers and psychopaths go free, but I’m sure you’ve seen a few criminals go Geithner-free in your time. So, regardless of what both of us think about Dr. Henry C. Lee’s role in acquitting O.J. Simpson, the forensic scientist does donate much of his high-profile case profits to charity. Knowing that one can only be in one place at a time, Lee lives in one house. I’m sure a few homeless families living under overpasses near your six, seven, or eight empty houses could use a nice bed tonight. How about it, Senator?

And one more word of advice: if you are heading in the near future to Timothy McVeigh’s once-beloved Kingman, Arizona, don’t forget to take off your hat. I hear wearing hats is illegal in the county building there these days.

Further Suggested Readings:

Martha Rosenberg: “Pfizer: The Drug Giant That Makes Bank from Drugs That Can Kill You.”

Henry Giroux, Grace Pollock: “How Disney Magic and the Corporate Media Shape Youth Identity in the Digital Age.”

Environmental News Service: “Water Scarcity Facing 1/3 of US Counties.”

Peter Peterson’s Letter to Warren Buffett: Let Old People Eat Cat Food to Save the Unborn

5:25 am in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

Peter G. Peterson has crawled onto the Bill Gates-Warren Buffett bandwagon, The Giving Pledge, to pass on his money to “philanthropy.” He wants us “lesser people” to know that he is not one of those billionaire psychopaths but a loving, compassionate member of our society. The “charity” organizations of choice he highlights in his pledge-letter to Bill and Warren?* Brain research? The homeless? The worthy causes some of the other 40 on the pledge-list have named? No, no, no. His "charity" organizations are:

Peterson Institute for International Economics
The Council on Foreign Relations
The Concord Coalition
Peter G. Peterson Foundation

And what exactly does Peterson want these organizations to use his blood money for? You guessed right again. To slash and kill society’s evils, those “unfunded entitlement promises,” “ballooning debts to foreign lenders,” and America’s “mushrooming healthcare costs.”

In fact, he considers our “massive, hidden debts and unthinkable taxes” as “child abuse,” clubbing to death our future children and grandchildren. This domestic violence, Peterson claims, “is not only an economic issue but a national security issue and, above all, a moral issue.”

Remarkably, Peterson even calls on us to join in this “shared sacrifice," and he hopes to use his money to show us how to “educate” each other on how to better do this.

Thanks, Peter, for donating your pennies to the "unborn" and not to the ones we already have starving today in this country. I appreciate your "shared sacrifice." And tonight when you are sleeping like a baby in your Gilded bed, I’ll pray to whatever God I want to that there is a hell after all, so that one day “philanthropists” like you can rot in it.

*Note: In order to see Peterson’s original letter, readers need to scroll down to his name after clicking on this link to the Giving Pledge page. Then, click on his name and there is an another link which takes you to his letter.

"Country District School Wagon, Bain Collection, Library of Congress, via Flickr, No known restrictions on publication."