Digital Bootstraps for Analog Problems — A Reply to Gene Marks’ “If I Were A Poor Black Kid”

Dec 22, 2011 by

A truly clueless if well-intentioned column by Gene Marks titled “If I Were A Poor Black Kid” in Forbes magazine is getting righteously ripped from journalists all around the web. They’re correctly pointing out how bereft Marks’ column is of history, research, practical awareness, racial sensitivity, or the sheer realities of hunger or even homelessness that low-income children face. Marks seems to suggest that kids from impoverished backgrounds – all too many of whom are African American – can simply access computers and lift themselves up by their digital bootstraps to use free websites and enter elite prep schools or colleges. Maybe a handful of motivated kids will manage a heroic feat like that despite all the odds, but is this going to work for the majority of poor kids?

–> Read the rest of this post here, at

Cynthia Liu is founder of the grassroots education news site, which empowers parents, educators, and students to report on important events at their local neighborhood schools and provides tools for maximum civic engagement in support of public education. This piece originally appeared in Technorati.

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MOMocrats MOMochat: The Battle in Seattle — Which Way “Ed Reform”?

Sep 27, 2011 by

The morning of Wednesday, September 28, 2011, join Cynematic, Karoli and Donna Schwartz Mills for a lively Blog Talk Radio podcast with four women running for school board in Bill Gates' backyard up in Seattle. Sharon Peaslee, Michelle Buetow, Kate Martin and Marty McLaren have a vision for education in their district, and we'll hear why it doesn't completely mesh with that of Gates and the Broad Foundation's plans for education reform in America. What's the difference between what these candidates have to offer and "ed reform" (or as some say, "ed Rheeform")?

How did the Seattle Public Schools end up with a School Superintendent, Dr. Marie Goodloe-Johnson, who badly mismanaged school district finances? (Read more about graduates of the Broad Superintendent School in the Parents' Guide to the Broad Foundation. They're awfully high-flying but seem to run into trouble no matter where they're posted around the country.)

What needs to be done to get SPS finances on the right track going forward? And what, if any shadow, does the Gates Foundation cast on public schools in its own back yard?

These issues may seem local to Seattle but they're national in impact. Schools across the country are grappling with the same problems — and it's no wonder. Gates Foundation money is everywhere, as are Broad Foundation school superintendents.

All four candidates will also appear at The Stranger's School Board Candidates' Debate the same evening, Wednesday, September 28, 2011, at the Town Hall in downtown Seattle starting at 7:30 pm PT.

Cynematic blogs at P i l l o w b o o k and education news at

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To President Obama on the Drawdown from Afghanistan: Put Veterans to Work Through ‘Troops to Teachers’

Jun 22, 2011 by

Tonight at 8 pm ET, President Obama will outline his plan to begin drawing down troops in Afghanistan.

Not only is this a fulfillment of his promise at his West Point 2010 speech to do so, it’s long past time we pivot away from battlefields and commit our precious people-power and national spending priorities to the many economic troubles we have at home. The American people favor, by large margins, a return of our troops and an end to the occupation of Afghanistan: 64% believe that troop levels should be decreased and 73% believe “substantial” numbers of troops should be withdrawn starting this summer.

It’s an undeniable fact that our veterans will be coming home to a weakened economy. How will we absorb them into a job market that can barely sustain the people here already searching for work? We’ve heard nothing but “austerity” talk from the GOP, and both tax cuts and job cuts — yes, government jobs are also jobs — from the Republican party. Clearly they have nothing to offer.

Bob Fertik over at the USA Jobs Party has a great suggestion: immediately hire 3 million teacher’s aides to help in the classroom, and give 99ers (those who have been out of work longer than the 99 weeks covered by unemployment benefits) and veterans first crack at work as teacher’s aides.

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Tea Party Summer Camp? Seriously?

Jun 14, 2011 by

Remember when President Obama was going to give an address to the nation's schoolchildren about terrible socialist themes like working hard, getting an education, and going to college? Remember the Tea Party outcry about how terrible that was and how their children were being indoctrinated like Nazi youth?

Dana Loesch was one of the leaders on that one, going so far as to create an organization to boycott the speech and declare the day National Truancy Day. In her words:

Meanwhile, the conservative radio host Dana Loesch has launched a campaign urging parents to keep their children home on the day of Obama's speech. In an email urging against the "Socialist Indoctrination of Americas children," [sic] Loesch explains that Americans must not "mind our Ps and Qs and blindly follow their directives":

I'm guessing she'd have no problem with the newly-launched Tea Party Summer Camp, however. That's right. You heard (read) me. Tea Party Summer Camp. Let's see what kinds of activities the children will be involved in. Well, there's this:

The organization, which falls under the tea party umbrella, hopes to introduce kids ages 8 to 12 to principles that include "America is good," "I believe in God," and "I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable."

And then there are the games, of course. What would summer camp be without games?

One example at Liberty: Children will win hard, wrapped candies to use as currency for a store, symbolizing the gold standard. On the second day, the "banker" will issue paper money instead. Over time, students will realize their paper money buys less and less, while the candies retain their value.

"Some of the kids will fall for it," Lukens said. "Others kids will wise up."

Another example: Starting in an austere room where they are made to sit quietly, symbolizing Europe, the children will pass through an obstacle course to arrive at a brightly decorated party room (the New World).

Red-white-and-blue confetti will be thrown. But afterward the kids will have to clean up the confetti, learning that with freedom comes responsibility.

Still another example: Children will blow bubbles from a single container of soapy solution, and then pop each other's bubbles with squirt guns in an arrangement that mimics socialism. They are to count how many bubbles they pop. Then they will work with individual bottles of solution and pop their own bubbles.

"What they will find out is that you can do a lot more with individual freedom," Lukens said.

This is not a joke. It's deadly serious. I wonder, will they play a game where one of them gets sick and the rest of them walk away, because the one who is sick can't afford a doctor? Or will they play a game where half the kids' cabins are wiped out, sparing the other half, leaving half the kids with nothing and the rest of them going on with life?

It isn't unreasonable to compare this kind of activity with Hitler Youth indoctrination

Board games and toys for children served as another way to spread racial and political propaganda to German youth. Toys were also used as propaganda vehicles to indoctrinate children into militarism.

In MOMocrat PunditMom's new book, Mothers of Intention, she talks about raising political children. Let me be clear: I have no objection to raising kids who are engaged politically. In fact, I think it's incumbent on us as parents to do so. What I don't agree with is indoctrinating them. I also believe we can raise political children who are political, but not haters. I married a Republican. (He's recovering, but it took 20-odd years). For me to say I hate Republicans would be like saying I hated their father. It is entirely possible to raise children with political opinions and ideas who also manage to have respect for others who differ with them. 

But in today's reality, they also have to understand that there are zealots out there, zealots who want them to fall into lockstep and return to a time before there were safety nets and a society of connected people. That isn't going to happen. PunditMom nails it:

No matter the resources in today's vitriolic political climate, it is a parenting challenge to strike the right balance between conveying the political values and ideas that are important in one's family while at the same time teaching our children that those with differing political views shouldn't be discounted.

It is for this reason that I will not be encouraging my children (nor have I in the past) to attend Socialist Camp, Liberty Camp, or any other kind of camp where politics is the central theme. They won't be making any oaths to organizations (I can still remember the Girl Scout Creed), and they won't be blindly indoctrinated. 

Is there irony in a group of people who claim to love liberty taking a group of children and indoctrinating them without giving them the liberty to explore other avenues of political thought? I think there is. I also see this as a dangerous path to walk down, one that falls in lockstep with the idea of sending them to private "liberty schools" for the rest of their education, where they are meticulously shielded from the ideas their parents see as dangerous. This spawns a generation of intolerant ideologues. It's cultish.

If you think I'm overreacting, pay attention to this:

If the school is successful, Jaroch and Lukens will look for ways to run more sessions, either during the summer or after school resumes. In fact, Jaroch said the group might try to bring its curriculum to the public schools during Constitution Week in September.

By the way, this is happening in…Florida, where Governor Rick Scott is busy implementing the DeVos/Koch plan to privatize schools nationwide.

I snark about this camp on Twitter, but I'll be honest. Between efforts like this and privatization of public schools, Texas curriculum twists and corporate domination, I really am worried about the next generation in a big way. 

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Blocking Governor Jerry Brown’s Budget for California: David Koch’s Americans For Prosperity, and Supermajority Rules

Mar 31, 2011 by

Support the MOMocrats! We get a small bonus when you click & sign the petition. Sign up to five times & you’ll help keep sharp, witty, and on-point political news and commentary from women front and center!



Governor Brown withdrew from discussions with the GOP Assembly and Senate members when it became clear that they delivered a list of 53 demands, many of which had nothing to do with the budget, at the very last minute.



Almost 50,000 58,000 citizens can use a petition to call for a vote that will let them keep taxes at the existing level for five years, and 55% of the state’s voters approve of raising corporate taxes, but only a handful of Republican legislators are required to block the vote and thwart the democratic process.

What’s wrong with this picture? California’s “supermajority” rule–with aid and comfort from the astroturf organization Americans for Prosperity, that’s what. This, from a state Republican party that was delivered a shellacking in 2010 with no wins in important state seats and LOSSES in the State Senate and Assembly.

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State Education Funding in Crisis: Missouri Risks Its Future

Mar 3, 2011 by

Kids_factory_Hine Even as Congress debates on whether to proceed with more than $4 billion in education funding cuts proposed this in year's federal budget bill, states across the U.S. continue to slash local education funding in the name of balancing struggling state budgets.

As mentioned in our latest MOMocrats MOMochat podcast on Blog Talk Radio, in Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon — a Democrat — recently proposed millions of dollars in cuts to state education funding, including $39 million in cuts to scholarships and financial aid for college students, a seven percent cut in general funding to state universities (which will result in the elimination of up to 116 degree programs), a $4 million cut to the Parents as Teachers early childhood education program, and a myriad of other cuts at every education level.

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