By Doug Porter
I checked the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April Fools Day this morning after reading an editorial in UT-San Diego endorsing Lorena Gonzalez in the race for the 80th District Assembly seat.
There are, after all, only two Democrats, officially in the race and I fully expected the paper would pass up the opportunity to say anything encouraging about either of them. (There is, I’m told, also a write-in campaign by a Republican.)
Their endorsement was apparently triggered by Gonzalez’s positions on ‘job creation’. Rather than play into the conservative meme that ‘jobs’ and ‘the environment’ are mutually exclusive propositions, she told them during an extensive interview that policies respecting both are possible. Go figure.
As much as I hate to do this, I’m going to agree with the UT-San Diego’s choice of candidates in this race, although for different reasons. Lorena Gonzalez has done a terrific job of actually ‘leading’ labor in this town into areas way outside their traditional comfort zone.
I don’t know how the UT-SD missed this, but her efforts to get out the vote and involvement with grassroots organizing outside the walls of the Labor Council offices are a major reason why Democrats are an ascendant force in this town.
If she was smart enough to fool them, just think how good she’ll be with those dumbasses up in Sacramento.
Fighting Back Against ‘Teach to the Test’
In San Diego Schools, it’s time for the tests. Students are being herded into classrooms and told to fill in bubbles on test scoring sheets as part of a series of exams that are part of the Standardized Testing and Reporting program. California students take the California Standards Tests, the California Modified Assessment and the California Alternate Performance Assessment within 10 days or after a district reaches 85 percent of its academic calendar.
Today’s UT-San Diego has an article describing the challenges schools face in getting students motivated enough to take the tests seriously. While the exams have no potential impact on a students individual academic performance reports, they’re serious business for schools, the communities around the schools and the education industrial complex.
Here’s the lede from the UT-SD piece:
Principal Brian Martes stood outside a classroom, grabbed a microphone and let loose a thunderous greeting.
“Goooooooood morning, Beaumont!” he said at the elementary school in Vista last week.
As balloons swayed in the breeze around him, students cheered in response. Some were so excited that a few minutes later, their teacher asked them to burn off energy by running a lap before settling into class.
Yeah, baby – Good Times! I can almost taste the wood on those Number Two pencils.
Now, before I get to the meat of this item, let me state that nobody, with the possible exception of some very bored high school students (like my daughter), is suggesting that testing be eliminated.
There are, however, some very valid critiques of the value of No Child Left Behind (or successive incarnations) and the way standardized testing distorts and corrupts K-12 classrooms. Parents and students around the country are questioning the value of NCLB testing and exercising their right to ‘opt out’.
Students in Chicago simply walked out last week, rather than take standardized tests. Teachers in Seattle refused to administer tests earlier this year. And there’s a whole cottage industry of groups around the country that have sprung up around this issue.
Some of them are: United Opt Out National:, Opt Out of Standardized Tests: The International Movement, The Bartleby Project, Parents Across America, Save Our Schools. (This information comes from the National Center for Fair and Open Testing)
California State Superintendent of Instruction Tom Torlakson has called for a suspension of non-mandated state testing next year to give educators the opportunity to develop strategies for implementing the upcoming Common Core standards, which allow greater emphasis on creativity and innovation.
Today’s Washington Post has an article exploring Common Core and the difficulties arising from converting to a new system. It’s worth reading if you want more insight into what’s going on here, including the pushback underway from the Glen Beck types on the right. Here’s a good description of what Common Core is:
Several years ago, the National Governors Association began pushing a bipartisan idea of common standards in English and math. The Gates Foundation invested tens of millions of dollars in the effort to write them. And the initiative gained speed when the Obama administration required states to adopt the common standards — or an equivalent — to compete for Race to the Top grant funds or to receive a waiver from the requirements of No Child Left Behind.
By 2012, 45 states and the District had signed onto the math and English standards. Minnesota has adopted only the English standards; Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia have not adopted either.
The standards are designed to ensure that, for the first time, third-graders in Maine will acquire the same knowledge and skills as their peers in Hawaii. Once states begin testing against the new standards, it will be possible for the first time to compare test scores across communities and states.
For many states, the new standards will be tougher. When Kentucky became the first state to administer tests based on the new standards last year, the percentage of students in middle and elementary school deemed “proficient” or better in math and reading dropped by about one-third.
The Fight for Junior Seau’s Brain
PBS.org has posted an explosive new article stemming from research down as part of a joint project between ESPN’s Outside the Lines and PBS Frontline into events surrounding the autopsy of Junior Seau.
What emerges is essentially a scientific backroom brawl in which the NFL prevailed over a half-dozen researchers vying for Seau’s brain. To the league and the Seau family — and even some of the losers — this was the best possible outcome. The NFL ended an ugly free-for-all that brought added pain to Seau’s relatives, who received unsolicited calls from brain researchers, including [forensic scientist] Omalu, within hours of his death. With researchers unwilling to share tissue and bad-mouthing one another to Seau’s family, the intervention by league representatives led to a blind study by one of the most respected research institutions in the country. Five specialists consulted by the NIH found what Omalu himself suspected: Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the disease found in dozens of former players.
“Obviously, the NFL wants to be real careful as to not look as though they were inserting themselves in the middle of this, where they’re trying to cover something up,” said Kevin Guskiewicz, one of three members of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee who helped steer Seau’s brain to the NIH. “I can assure you that is not the case right now.”
But there’s a déjà vu quality to the NFL’s recent strategy. A federal lawsuit filed against the league by more than 4,000 retired players and their families (including Seau’s) revolves around the NFL’s previous scientific exploration. The players charge that the league’s original concussion committee, which was disbanded in 2009, conducted fraudulent research to hide the connection between football and brain damage. That 15 years of research has been largely discarded, even by the league. When Mitchel Berger, chairman of the department of neurological surgery at the University of California San Francisco, joined the NFL’s new concussion committee in 2010, he and his colleagues “essentially started from zero,” Berger said.
Is the NFL’s intervention with the autopsy on the up and up? I don’t know. There’s the matter of the $30 million donation to the NIH not so long after they assumed control of the research. Coincidence? Maybe. Read the article.
The House’s Rube Goldberg Immigration Solution
Members of the House Representatives are hard at work on their own bill on immigration reform and they’ve come up with a, er, rather unique approach to solving the ‘problem’ of undocumented people already residing in the US: put ‘em on probation.
From Think Progress:
The bipartisan House immigration bill taking shape may soon make all undocumented immigrants plead before a judge for breakingU.S. criminal law. In a move certain to appease Republican lawmakers but anger immigration advocates, House group members have proposed that legal status and an eventual pathway to citizenship can be conferred once a federal judge places undocumented immigrants on “probation.” In a joint proposal meant to assuage conservative critics of “amnesty,” undocumented immigrants would have to serve out a minimum five year probation sentence before they can get on a path to citizenship.
Being undocumented is a civil infraction, not a criminal one. But as one GOP congressional aide described the process to Roll Call, it would be “similar to how judges handle small drug crimes, in which offenders are sentenced to probation, rather than jail, because it forces them to acknowledge that they broke the law but saves taxpayers the expense of incarceration.”
Comparing a large spectrum of undocumented immigrants (including so-called Dreamers who were brought to this country as children) to drug dealers serves as a reminder of how steadfastly disconnected the House Republicans remain in their widely condemned approach to immigration reform. The latest Republican- backed poll indicates that Republican constituents strongly support comprehensive immigration reform. In attempting to quell extreme conservative voices against the citizenship provision, immigration reform opponents would stigmatize eleven million immigrants as legal criminals.
I have no doubt we’ll have to dig into Social Security and Medicare funds to pay for all this Republican planning.
May Day Marches for Immigration Reform
Immigrant rights activists will hold rallies in San Diego and cities around the country tomorrow (May 1st) calling upon Congress to pass meaningful reform legislation. Events here in San Diego and Vista will seek to acknowledge the contributions of immigrant workers to society, especially those “left behind by a broken immigration system.”
Many grass-roots immigration activists are unhappy with key elements of the Senate immigration bill, including a 13-year wait for potential citizenship for undocumented immigrants – which many activists view as excessive – and a trigger mechanism in the bill that makes a path to citizenship dependent on the implementation of stringent border-security measures.
A 2pm, rally is scheduled at the Civic Center Plaza, 202 C Street, followed by a march to Chicano Park in Barrio Logan. At 3 p.m. in Vista, a march will begin at Bobier Drive and South Santa Fe Avenue and end at the Vista Courthouse on South Melrose Drive.
On This Day: 1889 – George Washington’s inauguration became the first U.S. national holiday. 1960 – Fats Domino recorded “Walking to New Orleans.” 1970 – U.S. troops invaded Cambodia to disrupt North Vietnamese Army base areas. The announcement by President Nixon led to widespread protests.
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The newest GOP proposal on immigration is an excellent example of incremental thinking common with the GOP. Think guys – 11 million “cases” suddenly dumped on courts and probation systems that have been cut in recent years. California courts have taken severe cuts, reducing court days by 25% or more. Probation Departments, long the ignored second cousin to the Sheriff, cannot comply with the existing legal requirements for ‘supervision’ of cases they now have because of under-staffing. And now they propose flooding the system promising to make it even more dysfunctional. This incremental thinking is common policy within the GOP and it’s why they fail in governing and since they have shown themselves incapable of doing anything positive, they have resorted to being the destroyer, the Party of No.
Andy Cohen says
I think we have to be careful about insinuations regarding the NFL’s donation of money to the researchers, particularly when it comes to the NIH. I find it rather hypocritical when we accuse government entities like the NIH of bias, especially since those of us on the more liberal side of the political spectrum excoriate Republicans for wanting to defund entities like the NIH.
The PHS/ESPN story pretty clearly lays out why the NIH was the best way to go–the fact that they had multiple sources do their own independent tests in order to corroborate the results, instead of one group hoarding the studies for themselves. If the article is accurate–and I assume it is–then the NIH approach is the far more credible and scientific process. And just because the NFL provided funding does not mean that the process and the results are anything less than completely above board. It’s like saying that any company donating to the National Cancer Institute (an arm of the NIH) is looking to influence the outcome of the research. Like the story says, the government researchers are the most unbiased and independent sources.
We should take the NFL funding as a positive sign that the league is finally taking the issue of concussions seriously. $30 million is a significant amount of money, and the NIH will be able to spread that around to a number of researchers across the country who will then work collectively to find answers, rather than keep it within one entity whose results could then be suspect. In Seau’s case, it appears that the Boston University group was included in the NIH research, which can only be interpreted as a good thing with regards to any perceived bias of the results.
Doug Porter says
I’m not willing to concede on this point, i.e., the NFL’s role in dealing with concussions. Neither are 4200 of the leagues’ 12, 000 former players who have joined in litigation, suing the NFL over concussion-linked injuries.
They will provide (I believe) in their lawsuit evidence, according to attorney David Frederick, of:
“the league of concealing the emerging science about concussions over several decades, even after creating a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee in 1994.
“It set up a sham committee designed to get information about neurological risks, but in fact spread misinformation,” Frederick argued at a pivotal federal hearing to determine if the complaints will remain in court or be sent to arbitration. “
Given that a history of deceit exists, one certainly can have reasonable doubt (as in “maybe”, which is what I said) of the NFL’s good intentions. Time will tell.
Andy Cohen says
I’m not saying the lawsuits should be dismissed, or that the donation should be viewed as reparations for past transgressions. I am saying, though, that the research should not be discredited simply by means of the NFL donation, and that the current work of the NFL represents a step in the right direction.
As far as I’m concerned, the lawsuit can move forward. It seeks damages for past transgressions. Did the NFL conceal or conspire to hide facts from players and interested parties in the past? My guess is ‘no,’ but I’m comfortable that the lawsuits will properly vet that. Still, it’s indisputable that The League had not done nearly enough up until this point to look into head injuries and to find ways to help prevent them in the normal course of a football game.
Football is a dangerous sport, and players take a significant amount of risk onto themselves when they play, but The League does have a duty to make the game as safe as possible within reason, and with regards to head trauma not enough has been done. They certainly could have done more to ensure that the equipment was safer, and to ensure that proper hitting technique is being taught and employed (there is a sign in EVERY NFL locker room imploring players to “see what they hit” and to not lead with their heads). A lot of that must begin at the lower levels of football, though, because that’s where most bad habits are formed.
If the courts deem The League liable for former players’ head injuries through these suits, then the players and their families deserve some sort of restitution. Until that’s decided, though, at least The League is now acting as a better steward with regards to player health and safety. Better late than never, I suppose.
Brent Beltran says
Until The League and other professional leagues start paying taxes and pay for their own stadiums without taxpayer money I wouldn’t trust a thing they say or do. They are hiding behind their 501(c)(6) status.
Andy Cohen says
The NFL is, the teams are not. There is a difference.
Brent Beltran says
I didn’t say teams. I said leagues. Tax them.
Andy Cohen says
The League doesn’t make a profit. All revenues are used to pay league expenses (league office salaries, referees, NFL Films, and other league operations), and what’s leftover (a lot) is then distributed evenly amongst the teams. The teams then pay taxes on those revenues. It’s pretty simple. Your animosity toward The League is misguided.
The league itself does not earn a profit. It acts as a facilitator.
Brent Beltran says
My animosity against the league is based on them screwing cities and states out of taxpayer money. That sounds pretty guided to me. Your fawning over the league sounds misguided.
Andy Cohen says
If the cities got fleeced, then is it fair to put the entirety of the blame on the teams that negotiated the deal? Unless I’m mistaken, there were at least two parties involved in the negotiations. Shouldn’t the city officials shoulder their fair share of the blame for a bad deal? We did that here in SD: The City Council negotiated a ridiculous ticket guarantee. They proposed it, the team said “OK!” Should the team have turned down what was a pretty good offer from their perspective?
If the city negotiates a bad deal for themselves, then that’s on them. What the city of San Diego is doing right now is more or less the right thing: Support keeping the Chargers in town, but make sure it’s done in a manner that doesn’t put the city at a major disadvantage. No one knows quite how to do that yet, which is why we don’t yet see a new stadium in town.
Again, your animus is misguided, and it’s due to a lack of understanding of how the league actually operates.
Brent Beltran says
They both suck. I have complete and utter disdain for all Republiklans, the vast majority of Democratas (emphasis on ratas) and the billionaire, right wing owners of sports teams that fleece the communities they play in. Read Dave Zirin’s Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love or Brian Tuohy’s The Fix is In. That’ll give you some insight into what you think I don’t know. I’ve put in over 20 years of grassroots, community activism so I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two over those years. I’ve also been a sports fan (minus the atic) since the late 70’s as a preteen. But my love of the games does not trump my love of the community and its needs. The leagues and owners see us as a cash cow to line their offshore accounts and the politicians help them while the lower and middle classes suffer. If I had my druthers I’d nationalize all the sports leagues and have the profits go back into the surrounding communities.
That’s your prerogative to think that way but it won’t make things better. I’m not a “republikan” or republican but I do have some friends who don’t share the same political beliefs as I have. I still think they’re good people. All republicans are not fascist white supremacist scoundrels any more than all us liberals are Marxist commie scoundrels. Then there’s always the least heard about majority who are people regardless of how they identify themselves politically are liberal about some things (maybe most things) and conservative (again maybe most things) about others. At least in my life most people I’ve known are not 100% either way. No matter how polarized and divided we are getting, I refuse to fall into an us vs. them mentality. Republicans are not going away and to the dismay of some of them, neither are us Democrats. That’s my .02 cents worth.
Brent Beltran says
I’m neither Republiklan or Democrata. I lean left of liberal and come with an anti-imperialist/anti-colonial perspective. I have no friends that are Republiklans and very few that are Democrata. Both parties are bought out by corporate interests. As the late Chicano leader Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez explained, the Republican and Democratic parties are “one animal with two heads that feed from the same trough.” Unfortunately, due to the way the system is set up I have to vote for the lesser of two evils. There are rare instances where I actually vote for someone I like. I grudgingly voted for Filner (and Obama for that matter) due to my complete and utter disdain for the politics of DeMaio (and McCain and Rmoney). Surprisingly, I’m pleased with what Filner has done so far (less pleased with Obama) and the strides he’s made to reach out to underserved communities like the one I live in. All Republiklans may not be fascist white supremacist scoundrels but if they don’t stand up against those scoundrels then they are condoning their actions and that makes them complicit. As a Chicano whose community has been under attack by scoundrels since 1848 I believe it is an us vs them type paradigm. They’re kicking our ass and we need to defend ourselves from those attacks.
That’s a little more than two cents but you can keep the change ;-)
Again that’s your prerogative. I’m not Chicano so obviously I’m not going to see things from that perspective, but it’s fair to say that all Chicanos don’t think alike any more than all white people or all black people or all Asians or whatever. In other words, not all Chicanos share the same view as you, or at least not to the same extent as you. If you really have a disdain for everyone who doesn’t see things the way you do then I guess I don’t have much more to say on that.
Brent Beltran says
I have disdain for those that believe in and implement policies that are detrimental to the greater good of humanity. Most of them are Repuliklans and many, but not all, are Democratas. There are plenty of people that don’t agree with everything I say that I don’t have disdain for. That is why I put qualifiers like most or some. I actually know a Republiklan that is for gay and immigrant rights who isn’t half bad. Is he my friend? No. Is he doing enough to change his party? No.
Chicano is a term one must self identify themselves as. It’s not like Latino or the dreaded word Hispanic. Most, but of course not all, Chicanos would probably agree with most things that I say. And I don’t disdain them for doing so.