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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Secretary of Education displays arrogant, bigoted, anti-parent sentiment. Alas, he speaks for many

By Laurie H. Rogers

“It was we, the people, not we, the white male citizens, nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed this Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings or liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people—women as well as men.” -- Susan B. Anthony, who in 1873 was under indictment for voting in a presidential election

On Nov. 15, 2013, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told state school superintendents
he’s “fascinated” that “white suburban moms” are opposed to the Common Core initiatives.

Really? I’m "fascinated" that someone put Arne Duncan in charge of the nation’s public education system.

Duncan’s entire college education appears to consist of a bachelor’s degree in sociology. (This is a step up from community organizing, but not a very big step.) It’s bizarre that someone with a bachelor’s degree in sociology is the Secretary of Education, entrusted with 700 billion taxpayer dollars annually and now dictating education policy to all of us.

According to white suburban dad Duncan, the opposition of white suburban moms to the Common Core is because they’ve been blind up to now. He said: "It's fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who – all of a sudden – their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were, and that's pretty scary. You've bet your house and where you live and everything on, 'My child's going to be prepared.' That can be a punch in the gut."

Ah, yes: The 2013 version of “they’re just hysterical females.” Even if our children are stupid, it isn’t polite of Duncan to point it out. But that’s only the tip of what’s wrong with his comments.

Asked later to clarify, Duncan said he "didn't say it perfectly," but he declined to modify his central position that opponents of Common Core don’t get it, are opposed to higher standards, or might actually want “less” for students.

In a later email, Department of Education spokesman Massie Ritsch reportedly blamed extremists: "The far right and far left have made up their minds," Ritsch reportedly wrote. "But there's angst in the middle -- which includes many open-minded suburban parents -- that needs to be addressed."

And just like that, the legitimate concerns of Common Core opponents are again misrepresented, mislabeled and dismissed.

What actually needs to be addressed is the fact that many of those in charge of education (and so the future of our children and the country) seem uninformed, arrogant, anti-parent, out-of-touch, antagonistic, bigoted, elitist, chauvinistic, condescending, dismissive, divisive, snobbish, petty, obstructive, ignorant of what actually works in education, blind to the children's needs, and adept at saying things that obviously aren’t true.

In the echo chamber of education, Duncan’s comments exemplify the general attitude toward parents: You don’t get it. You’re the problem. We don’t need to listen to you because you have nothing to tell us. Stop being a pain. Vote for our levies if you don’t hate children, but please don’t talk unless you agree with us.

Indeed, if arrogance were water, it might have flooded the state superintendents’ Nov. 15 meeting and drowned them all.

Administrators frequently blame parents for not being involved. They also blame parents who are very involved. They accuse us of not knowing enough math, but most won’t listen to those of us who know a lot of math. Many have no problem calling us names, mocking our efforts, refusing to answer our questions, stepping between us and our children, and lying about their real intentions. To our face, they’re careful to produce acceptable language, but behind our back, in the echo chamber, Duncan has shown us exactly what many education administrators are: Arrogant, dismissive, bigoted and deceitful.

One must agree with Duncan on the public schools. Most are inadequate and most parents don’t realize it – because we are lied to constantly by the federal government, state education agencies, district administration, board directors, the media and some teachers. Duncan’s comments are a nice turn on the truth; a strategy that’s been his stock and trade pretty much since he took over as secretary.

Following a storm of outrage, Duncan blamed sound-bites, poor communication and a “fast-moving world” for the negative reaction. He said he “regrets” his
“clumsy phrasing”  – “particularly because it distracted” from the “important” conversation. He wants to return to the discussion of “implementing reform.”

Well, sure. He’s always welcome to join in as parents continue to question his “reform.” We anti-CC parents never left that conversation. We understand exactly how important it is, which is why we insist on and persist in having it. The CC initiatives are alarming – sloppy, expensive, unproved, poorly done, dictatorial, divisive and intrusive. Some parents call the initiatives “Obamacore.”

Whether or not you see Duncan’s attempt at damage control as an actual apology, it’s too late. He accidentally stated his inner thoughts, and there is no putting that nasty genie back in the bottle.

Being able to lie well used to be a sign of sociopathy, but it’s now a government norm. Consider the vast nationwide deceit that is public education. It must be that education agencies hire based on the abilities to lie well to children and parents; to turn away from the obvious needs of desperate children; and to deflect all parental doubt, worry and criticism as being the ravings of the deluded and uninformed.

In actuality, parental concerns about the CC initiatives are legitimate and worthy of media investigation.

The initiatives were supposed to be common standards in K-12 math and English, but are becoming national standards in all subjects, along with national tests, forced curricula and a creepy national data system on children and families. They’ve taken over the country, in preschools, K-12, colleges, public schools, charter schools, private schools, Christian schools, curricular materials, state and college testing, and public and private daycares. There is zero proof of their efficacy; this is a national experiment on children. Many CC-aligned curricular materials are already proving to be academically weak, with insufficient grammar, no cursive writing, heavy (and extreme) political bias, questionable literary content, and the same fuzzy math that devastated the last 30 years of K-12 math instruction.

The standards are both a “floor “ and a ceiling for students; there are mandated limitations on what can be taught, and the Common Core doesn’t provide for special types of learners. In addition, the cost of this national experiment could financially bury the country. It’s simple math. There are about 14,000 K-12 school districts. 14,000 districts x multi-millions of dollars each = billions of our tax dollars.

And yet, with all of this, Duncan says he’s “fascinated” that white suburban moms don’t get it. What those moms need is do, he said, is understand that education is global.

Right. Because that will fix it.

Journalist Michelle Malkin, who is not white, is anti-Common Core.
Last week, Malkin wrote about Duncan: “He pretends that minority parents and students in inner-city charter and magnet schools with rigorous locally crafted classical education missions simply don't exist. A textbook liberal racist, Duncan whitewashes all minority parents and educators who oppose Common Core out of the debate.”

On Nov. 18, Duncan
explained that he didn’t mean to pick on white suburban moms. “Every demographic has room for improvement,” he clarified.

Ah, that’s better. In his mind, we all suck.

Dear Mr. Duncan: Every government agency nowadays has room for improvement, but most show no sign of knowing what improvement looks like.  If you would stop mucking around in classrooms, insulting involved parents and capable teachers, wasting tax dollars on unproved initiatives, and secretively throwing your lightweight around – in violation of the U.S. Code and the Tenth Amendment – then We, the People could take care of making actual academic improvements.

Math advocates did that in Washington State in 2007-08 with better standards in math. Just two years later, Duncan, with his bachelor’s degree in sociology, caused those better math standards to be tossed in favor of the lesser and infinitely more expensive Common Core experiment. Clearly, the CC was never about academics or the children’s needs; it’s always been about money and control.

The solutions to problems in public education do not entail more government and more Arne Duncan; they entail less government and preferably no Arne Duncan at all.

Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is:
Rogers, L. (November 2013). "Secretary of Education displays arrogant, bigoted, anti-parent sentiment. Alas, he speaks for many." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Spokane print media failing all of us, but especially the children

By Laurie H. Rogers

"If they were forced to add the truth to what they already say about you, Laurie, it would look like this: [The truth:] 'Wow, that Laurie Rogers. She volunteers her time to advocate for proper math, help small children, and uncover the truth about how public schools spend our money. [What they say:] What a bitch.'"-- A friend and colleague

If the Spokane print media ever want to get rid of me and my reporting on Spokane Public Schools (SPS), all they have to do is publish a thorough, accurate and balanced article about me and my efforts to inform Spokane parents. I’m sure I would die of the shock. I’m not worried it will happen any time soon.
Their worst betrayal is of the children. I do not understand adults who can look away from children in need, who can persistently deny or ignore a child’s grim reality – even as they take steps to help their own children. Sadly, Spokane is filled with adults just like that.
After nearly seven years of advocacy, I wasn't surprised at The Spokesman-Review’s “coverage” of a lawsuit I filed against SPS over public records. The SR article was published Oct. 9, 2013, on the front page, above the fold. In the first sentence, it claims I have a "history of needling officials." The article contains several errors, including the date and the wording of my records request. The reporter and editors made no effort to contact me before publishing the article, and the opportunity to post comments online was shut down after just one day.
I’ve been a reporter and an editor. This article would never have been published “as is” at the newspapers I worked for. The article would have been fact-checked and corrected. Diligent efforts would have been made to contact the subject of the article, and those efforts would have been noted in the article. Any factual errors would have been corrected on subsequent days.
Despite multiple attempts, I’ve never actually had a conversation about education with anyone from the SR. I’ve been investigating the district since 2007, writing an education blog since 2008, and I published a book about education in 2011. I speak with students, teachers, parents and advocates from around the world. None of this seems to be of interest to the local daily, which has repeatedly trashed my name and reputation without speaking with me.
  • In early 2011, some colleagues and I held several public forums on math. After one in which administrators were rude and obstructive, the SR criticized our inability to restrain the administrators and called us district “antagonists.”  The editors didn't bother to speak with us or explain the objective of our forums.
  • In October 2011, during an election, I sent the SR a Letter to the Editor that described the Public Disclosure Commission complaint I had filed on the school district. The editor acknowledged my letter but didn’t publish it. Instead, he sent my letter to the SR’s education reporter. Two weeks later, when the paper finally published a brief note about the PDC complaint, the district had been allowed to respond, but not me.
  • In October 2011, the SR published a Letter to the Editor that contained unsubstantiated accusations about a local citizen and a local school board candidate. I asked an editor about it, and he said “that one got by us.” However, that letter was published three times – twice online and once in the paper. As of Nov. 11, 2013, it's still on the SR’s Web site.
  • In October 2011, I painstakingly transcribed an audio recording of a candidate forum. Compare my transcription with the SR’s version, which the paper published unattributed two months later. The hyphenation, punctuation, parentheses, word choice and spelling are the same.
  • In December 2011, without speaking with me, SR columnist Shawn Vestal wrote that a teacher and I had engaged in "vigorous bashing" of a board candidate prior to the teacher's hosting of a candidate forum. Asked for proof, Vestal cited one line from an email between the teacher and me. He said he wasn't "going to hunt down other examples in the e-mails again." (This is convenient; the email he quoted doesn’t represent “vigorous bashing” and there are no other examples.)
  • In 2012, Vestal emailed to ask for an interview about “the many records requests being filed with the school district.” Wary of his intentions, I did not grant the interview.
    • Vestal subsequently wrote that my efforts seem "less than fully hinged" and my complaint seemed “conspiracy-minded and poorly informed.”
    • He noted that my PDC complaint cited district employees for using school resources to promote a board candidate although I had emailed a teacher with praise for a candidate. He added sarcastically, "but that is doubtlessly different." (It is different. I'm not a public employee.)
    • Vestal implied that I might be lying about my relationship with local anti-levy advocates, and he said I'm part of the cause of school district's "administrative waste and bloat."
  • In 2013, in the online comments for a SR article about the district, a commenter called me a "crackpot," as in "Crackpot hits the jackpot." I emailed the SR about the comment, and it was removed (without a reply to me). This week, I noticed that a similar comment (from someone named “misjustice”) has appeared and was not removed.
The SR’s education reporter did call me once in 2011 – not to talk about math or education or my blog or my book. She called to complain about my comments about her reporting.

Then there’s the Inlander, a weekly entertainment paper in Spokane. Inlander staff members have spoken with me a couple of times about education, and there has been occasional reasonable coverage. However, the Inlander also has:
An Inlander reporter did call to ask for comments regarding the lawsuit. I asked Cheryl Mitchell, a Spokane lawyer, to speak with the Inlander reporter. Here is the Inlander’s “coverage.” The reporter did not quote Mrs. Mitchell, and his article falls under the Inlander heading “Friends and Enemies.”

“Enemies”?? Wow. That’s a new one on me. I’ve never in my life seen a newspaper call citizens “enemies.”

Do Inlander editors consider the school district to be a friend or an enemy? If the district is a "friend," does that make me an “enemy”? I’m just trying to speak truth to the people. The truth isn’t comfy to hear, but it is what it is. I didn’t build these problems. I also didn’t receive a “big payout” from the lawsuit, as the Inlander said I did. The District admitted to errors and made an “Offer of Judgment,” which included a settlement offer. Most of the settlement paid for my legal counsel.

Meanwhile, the district:
  • Didn’t abide by the requirements of the Public Records Act, and continues to employ people who didn’t abide by the PRA requirements. School board directors also keep trying to undermine the Public Records Act.
  • Has failed for decades to properly educate 27,000-28,000 children, and persistently refuses to give the general public an accurate accounting of student outcomes.
  • Wants ever-more taxpayer dollars for a failed system, and refuses to give citizens an accurate accounting of how our taxes are spent.
  • Is under investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission for election activities.
  • Used taxpayer dollars to help support a lawsuit against taxpayers to wrestle more taxpayer dollars from taxpayers (the McCleary lawsuit).
Is none of this worth an investigation? I’ve tried to hold the school district accountable for what it does with our children and our tax dollars. Is that what makes a citizen an “enemy” nowadays, or “less than fully hinged”?

Since 2006, I’ve always tried to take the high road with my education advocacy. I’ve tried to not engage in the petty ad hominem attacks I see so often from avid supporters of the public schools. Whereas backbiters tend to post anonymously or under a pseudonym, I post using my real name, and I support my comments with facts, statistics and hyperlinks.

I’m a frank person, but generally polite. I’m a learner, and I work hard to get my facts in order. I care about the children, and I’m a patriot who is deeply concerned about my community and my country. With training in proper journalism and argumentation, I know how to ask tough questions, how to write well and carefully, and how to put together a solid argument.

None of that matters to backbiters. It’s much easier to trash whistleblowers than to hold public agencies accountable. They don’t seem to know this, but education isn’t about them. Nor is it about me. Education is about the children. Everyone is supposed to be there for the children, to get the children the academics they need. It isn’t supposed to be a make-work project, a jobs program, a money trough, a social experiment, or a place for political advocacy.

I’m focused on the children’s academic needs and on district transparency and accountability. I haven’t had much help from those in Spokane city and county “leadership.” This school district boasts a heavy footprint in the city and the state, and has thrown its weight around with impunity and without apparent shame. Decision-making appears largely driven by selfish interests, big government salaries and a half-a-billion-dollars-per-year budget.

Building a coalition to hold the district accountable is an ongoing challenge. Adults would need to put the children’s needs ahead of their own interests, and few in leadership seem willing. Most appear to not want to risk upsetting this 10,000-pound government gorilla, its hefty capital budget, its horde of union voters, and its stable of taxpayer-funded lawyers. That isn’t a Democrat or Republican thing. It isn’t a left or right thing. It’s a “Just as long as I get mine” thing. When you see the damaging effect on the children, however, you come to realize how corrupted and perverse it’s become.

It’s appalling that these people are in charge of the well-being and future of children.

I’m not an enemy; I’m a messenger, and I try to be a good one. Every second of what I've done over the last seven years, in an effort to help 27,000+ children who aren't mine, was volunteered. I did it because someone must and because the newspapers refuse to do it. If they would step up, I would happily step down. They will not do it. Instead, they blame me, criticize me and call me names. They steadfastly refuse to properly investigate this public agency or to inform citizens.

Real leaders accept the blame and pass the credit. This school district and these media outlets have a habit of scrounging for credit while passing the blame – to teachers, parents and the children themselves. Trying to have it both ways, they also claim that no blame is warranted because students are doing as well as can be expected. In actuality, the district fails 27,000+ children in academics every year. As its leadership makes piles of money, their near-absolute focus is on gaining more taxpayer dollars and more power, while adroitly covering their tracks.

The print media in Spokane fail all of us, but especially the children. They refuse to do their job while frequently targeting citizens whom they think threaten their status quo. Now, one media outlet appears to have decided that some law-abiding, well-intentioned citizens are “enemies.”

It’s irresponsible and dangerous, and it's difficult for media to be more alarming than that.

Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is: Rogers, L. (November 2013). "Spokane print media failing all of us, but especially the children." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site: