Wednesday, November 14, 2018

“You have absolutely no business eating at Chick-fil-A. Ever. It’s really that straightforward” by Noah Michelson

“When I was growing up, there were few things as exciting to me as a trip to the Regency Mall in Racine, Wisconsin, for lunch at Chick-fil-A. My family didn’t have much money then so eating out was a rare treat. But when the trip included waffle fries ― an ingenious food so alien to southern Wisconsin in the early ’80s that they seemed like small, salty miracles to my tiny, still-soft mind ― it was almost too much for me to take.   
“Still, as delicious as the Georgia-based company’s fried foods were, they weren’t my only weakness as a kid. When I wasn’t fantasizing about grease, I was spending my young swishy days doing a really shitty job of hiding my insatiable hunger for other boys.
“I was the kind of gay that doesn’t go unnoticed. It wasn’t until I escaped to college that I finally began to accept who and what I was. Once I did, I vowed to never let anyone make me feel like I was less than them simply because I lusted after and loved other men.
“So you can imagine how upsetting it was for me when Chick-fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy, proudly came out as a homophobe in 2012 by claiming, ‘We are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage, and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.’
“Even worse, the company put its money where Cathy’s vile mouth was by donating millions of dollars each year to anti-LGBTQ organizations via its Winshape nonprofit organization.
“As disappointed as I was to learn the chain I had loved as a child was working to make my life and the lives of my fellow queers a living hell, I was heartened by the swift response from the queer community and its supporters. For several years, the only time you’d catch an LGBTQ person or an ally at Chick-fil-A was for a protest. And then ... something changed.
“For some strange reason I still don’t fully understand, some queer people and their friends and families began eating at Chick-fil-A again and are still eating there. I’d venture a guess that Cathy’s somewhat conciliatory yet ridiculously inadequate non-apology and the company’s (totally bogus) promise to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ groups (while it may have ceased funding some groups, it’s certainly still bankrolling others) may have made some people feel justified in returning to the chain. People can be disturbingly indignant and defiant when faced with giving up their beloved chicken sandwiches.
“When Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was called out earlier this week for tweeting about eating at Chick-fil-A during Pride Month, I was shocked to see how many queer people and their allies not only didn’t care but went out of their way to defend the fast food chain.
“Excuses I’ve heard for continuing to eat at Chick-fil-A range from a nonchalant dismissal of the issue (‘In the grand scheme of things, eating there isn’t really that big of a deal and we have bigger problems to worry about’) to an all-or-nothing paradigm (‘I can’t possibly avoid all of the problematic companies out there, so why should I worry about this one?’) to a simple admission that the siren song of the company’s kitchens has proven impossible to ignore (‘I know I shouldn’t eat there but it’s just too good not to!’).
“To all of these flimsy justifications, I say, ‘Bullshit.’ If you care about queer people ― or you yourself are queer ― you have absolutely no business eating at Chick-fil-A. Ever. It’s really that straightforward.

If you’re arguing there are other (arguably bigger) fish (or, in this case, chicken) to fry, you may not be wrong. However, I think you’re underestimating my (and probably your) ability to be angry about ― and take action against ― more than one target at once. Just because Chick-fil-A may not be as ‘bad’ (in your view) as the Trump administration (or countless other folks or corporations), that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge Chick-fil-A on its anti-queer stance while continuing to call out and work against other offensive and/or dangerous entities. 

“Any effort or energy you dedicate to not filling Chick-fil-A’s queer phobic coffers does not compromise your ability to simultaneously do the same with other opponents. Surely, like me, you have enough ― and are, sadly, constantly generating more ― outrage to spread around whenever and wherever it may be needed. 
“If you’re arguing that virtually every company doing business today is problematic in one way or another, you’re not wrong there either. (If you want to find other anti-queer culprits, check out the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.) But when a corporation is wafting its anti-queer stance directly under your nose, as Chick-fil-A has and continues to do, not giving them more money to use against us is a no-brainer. 
“I’m not saying that in order to be a ‘good’ person or ensure you don’t support despicable businesses, you have to hermetically seal yourself inside your home and only eat food you’ve hydroponically grown and only wear clothes you’ve woven on a loom built using recycled popsicle sticks and the stickier variety of bodily fluids you have handy.
“I’m saying that when you know a company is anti-queer ― and, what’s more, when a company like Chick-fil-A goes out of its way to tell you as much ― you shouldn’t support them no matter how delicious a reason you can order up.
“Yeah, I know, I know ― it sucks that we can’t have waffle fries. But you know what sucks even more? Not having equal rights and contributing to the profits of a company that wants to ensure you never do because it believes you’re fundamentally disordered or unnatural or sinful or some delightful combination of all three.
“Am I saying Chick-fil-A and everyone who works for it is evil? Of course not. The corporation has done a lot of good and even donated food to volunteers giving blood in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre (though, ironically, most gay men weren’t allowed to participate in that charitable effort).  But none of its generosity changes the fact that the chain has taken and continues to take an anti-queer stance and still donates large sums of money to anti-queer groups.
“Ultimately, if you’re going out of your way to find a reason to continue to patronize Chick-fil-A, you might want to examine why you need to expend so much energy to do so. No one likes to hear that they’re doing something wrong ― or that they can’t have something that brings them immense pleasure ― but that’s still exactly what I’m telling you.
“It’s time to choose where your loyalties lie ― with your community or with your stomach. I’m hoping you can find another restaurant to satiate your chicken sandwich cravings. If all else fails, there’s always this recipe to make a copycat version of the Chick-fil-A favorite at home. Sure, it won’t be exactly the same but it’s pretty damn close, and I promise it’ll go down a whole lot easier without all of that nasty queer phobia you’ve been ingesting” (If You Really Love LGBTQ People, You Just Can’t Keep Eating Chick-fil-A by Noah Michelson).

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Chicago Bears Cody Parkey missed the uprights four times because it was God's Master Plan by Hemant Mehta

“If you saw the Chicago Bears play the Detroit Lions [on Sunday November 11], you also saw Bears kicker Cody Parkey miss two extra points and two field goals. The story wasn’t that he missed out on eight points for the team. It was that he hit the uprights on every one of those kicks.
“What are the odds…? Parkey didn’t just chalk it up to bad luck, though. He’s saying this was just part of God’s Master Plan.
“Parkey said he heard from Bears coaches during the game. ‘Of course they’re frustrated with me, but who’s more frustrated than myself?’ he said. ‘I mean, this is my job, this is what I’m supposed to do, and I’m missing out there. I’ve got just to trust in what I’m doing and trust that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ makes no mistakes. For whatever reason, that was the day I was supposed to have.’
“Yes, Jesus was sitting there with his blueprint for Parkey’s life and figured the kicker would miss those points in the strangest possible way. Because that’s more of a pressing issue than people dying of starvation.
“Ultimately, his misses didn’t matter. The Bears won by 12 points and a victory was never really in doubt. Had Parkey made the kicks, it would’ve simply padded their victory. So the kicks were more a meaningless source of entertainment than a series of devastating misses.
“Though his inability to score what should have been relatively easy points may lead the coaches to trade him or have him sit out in the future. At one point later in the game on Sunday, the Bears opted for a two-point conversion attempt rather than let Parkey kick again” (Chicago Bears Kicker: Jesus is the Reason I Hitthe Uprights Four Times by Hemant Mehta).

Neuroscientist details 14 distinct cognitive flaws that lead people to become hard-core Trump supporters (by Bobby Azarian)

These people would follow Trump off a cliff.

While dozens of psychologists have analyzed Trump, to explain the man’s political invincibility, it is more important to understand the minds of his staunch supporters. While there have been various popular articles that have illuminated a multitude of reasons for his unwavering support, there appears to be no comprehensive analysis that contains all of them. Since there seems to be a real demand for this information, I have tried to provide that analysis below.
Some of the explanations come from a 2017 review paper published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology by the psychologist and UC Santa Cruz professor Thomas Pettigrew. Others have been put forth as far back as 2016 by myself, a cognitive neuroscience and psychology researcher, in various articles and blog posts for publications like Psychology Today. A number of these were inspired by insights from psychologists like Sheldon Solomon, who laid the groundwork for the influential Terror Management Theory, and David Dunning, who did the same for the Dunning-Kruger effect.
This list will begin with the more benign reasons for Trump’s intransigent support, and as the list goes on, the explanations become increasingly worrisome, and toward the end, border on the pathological. It should be strongly emphasized that not all Trump supporters are racist, mentally vulnerable, or fundamentally bad people. It can be detrimental to society when those with degrees and platforms try to demonize their political opponents or paint them as mentally ill when they are not. That being said, it is just as harmful to pretend that there are not clear psychological and neural factors that underlie much of Trump supporters’ unbridled allegiance.
The psychological phenomena described below mostly pertain to those supporters who would follow Trump off a cliff. These are the people who will stand by his side no matter what scandals come to light, or what sort of evidence for immoral and illegal behavior surfaces.
  1. Practicality Trumps Morality
For some wealthy people, it’s simply a financial matter. Trump offers tax cuts for the rich and wants to do away with government regulation that gets in the way of businessmen making money, even when that regulation exists for the purpose of protecting the environment. Others, like blue-collared workers, like the fact that the president is trying to bring jobs back to America from places like China. Some people who genuinely are not racist (those who are will be discussed later) simply want stronger immigration laws because they know that a country with open borders is not sustainable. These people have put their practical concerns above their moral ones. To them, it does not matter if he’s a vagina-grabber, or if his campaign team colluded with Russia to help him defeat his political opponent. It is unknown whether these people are eternally bound to Trump in the way others are, but we may soon find out if the Mueller investigation is allowed to come to completion.
  1. The Brain’s Attention System Is More Strongly Engaged by Trump
According to a study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged. While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long, Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didn’t necessarily agree with. His showmanship and simple language clearly resonate with some at a visceral level.
  1. America’s Obsession with Entertainment and Celebrities
Essentially, the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America’s addiction with entertainment and reality TV. To some, it doesn’t matter what Trump actually says because he’s so amusing to watch. With the Donald, you are always left wondering what outrageous thing he is going to say or do next. He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained.
  1. “Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn.”
Some intelligent people who know better are supporting Trump simply to be rebellious or to introduce chaos into the political system. They may have such distaste for the establishment and democrats like Hillary Clinton that their support for Trump is a symbolic middle finger directed at Washington. These people do not have their priorities straight, and perhaps have other issues, like an innate desire to troll others, or a deranged obsession with schadenfreude.
  1. The Fear-Factor: Conservatives Are More Sensitive to Threat
Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. A brain-imaging study published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala — a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 fMRI study found that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.
These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Hispanic immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety. And when you think you’ve found your protector, you become less concerned with offensive and divisive remarks.
  1. The Power of Mortality Reminders and Perceived Existential Threat
A well-supported theory from social psychology, known as Terror Management Theory, explains why Trump’s fear mongering is doubly effective. The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitably of one’s death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface. In order to manage this terror, humans adopt cultural worldviews — like religions, political ideologies, and national identities — that act as a buffer by instilling life with meaning and value.
Terror Management Theory predicts that when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis, and some have specifically shown that triggering thoughts of death tends to shift people towards the right.
Not only do death reminders increase nationalism, they influence actual voting habits in favor of more conservative presidential candidates. And more disturbingly, in a study with American students, scientists found that making mortality salient increased support for extreme military interventions by American forces that could kill thousands of civilians overseas. Interestingly, the effect was present only in conservatives, which can likely be attributed to their heightened fear response.
By constantly emphasizing existential threat, Trump creates a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric. Liberals and Independents who have been puzzled over why Trump hasn’t lost supporters after such highly offensive comments need look no further than Terror Management Theory.
  1. The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Humans Often Overestimate Their Political Expertise
Some support Donald Trump do so out of ignorance — basically they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it’s ever been, they simply take his word for it.
The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn’t just that they are misinformed; it’s that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed, which creates a double burden.
Studies have shown that people who lack expertise in some area of knowledge often have a cognitive bias that prevents them from realizing that they lack expertise. As psychologist David Dunning puts it in an op-ed for Politico, “The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment.” These people cannot be reached because they mistakenly believe they are the ones who should be reaching others.
  1. Relative Deprivation — A Misguided Sense of Entitlement
Relative deprivation refers to the experience of being deprived of something to which one believes they are entitled. It is the discontent felt when one compares their position in life to others who they feel are equal or inferior but have unfairly had more success than them.
Common explanations for Trump’s popularity among non-bigoted voters involve economics. There is no doubt that some Trump supporters are simply angry that American jobs are being lost to Mexico and China, which is certainly understandable, although these loyalists often ignore the fact that some of these careers are actually being lost due to the accelerating pace of automation.
These Trump supporters are experiencing relative deprivation, and are common among the swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. This kind of deprivation is specifically referred to as “relative,” as opposed to “absolute,” because the feeling is often based on a skewed perception of what one is entitled to.
  1. Lack of Exposure to Dissimilar Others
Intergroup contact refers to contact with members of groups that are outside one’s own, which has been experimentally shown to reduce prejudice. As such, it’s important to note that there is growing evidence that Trump’s white supporters have experienced significantly less contact with minorities than other Americans. For example, a 2016 study found that “…the racial and ethnic isolation of Whites at the zip-code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.” This correlation persisted while controlling for dozens of other variables. In agreement with this finding, the same researchers found that support for Trump increased with the voters’ physical distance from the Mexican border. These racial biases might be more implicit than explicit, the latter which is addressed in #12.
  1. Trump’s Conspiracy Theories Target the Mentally Vulnerable
While the conspiracy theory crowd — who predominantly support Donald Trump and crackpot allies like Alex Jones and the shadowy QAnon — may appear to just be an odd quirk of modern society, the truth is that many of them suffer from psychological illnesses that involve paranoia and delusions, such as schizophrenia, or are at least vulnerable to them, like those with schizotypy personalities.
The link between schizotypy and belief in conspiracy theories is well-established, and a recent study published in the journal Psychiatry Research has demonstrated that it is still very prevalent in the population. The researchers found that those who were more likely to believe in outlandish conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the U.S. government created the AIDs epidemic, consistently scored high on measures of “odd beliefs and magical thinking.” One feature of magical thinking is a tendency to make connections between things that are actually unrelated in reality.
Donald Trump and his media allies target these people directly. All one has to do is visit alt-right websites and discussion boards to see the evidence for such manipulation.
  1. Trump Taps into the Nation’s Collective Narcissism
Collective narcissism is an unrealistic shared belief in the greatness of one’s national group. It often occurs when a group who believes it represents the ‘true identity’ of a nation — the ‘ingroup,’ in this case White Americans — perceives itself as being disadvantaged compared to outgroups who are getting ahead of them ‘unrightfully.’ This psychological phenomenon is related to relative deprivation (#6).
study published last year in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found a direct link between national collective narcissism and support for Donald Trump. This correlation was discovered by researchers at the University of Warsaw, who surveyed over 400 Americans with a series of questionnaires about political and social beliefs. Where individual narcissism causes aggressiveness toward other individuals, collective narcissism involves negative attitudes and aggression toward ‘outsider’ groups (outgroups), who are perceived as threats.
Donald Trump exacerbates collective narcissism with his anti-immigrant, anti-elitist, and strongly nationalistic rhetoric. By referring to his supporters, an overwhelmingly white group, as being “true patriots” or “real Americans,” he promotes a brand of populism that is the epitome of “identity politics,” a term that is usually associated with the political left. Left-wing identity politics, as misguided as they may sometimes be, are generally aimed at achieving equality, while the right-wing brand is based on a belief that one nationality and race is superior or entitled to success and wealth for no other reason than identity.
  1. The Desire to Want to Dominate Others
Social dominance orientation (SDO) — which is distinct but related to authoritarian personality syndrome (#13) — refers to people who have a preference for the societal hierarchy of groups, specifically with a structure in which the high-status groups have dominance over the low-status ones. Those with SDO are typically dominant, tough-minded, and driven by self-interest.
In Trump’s speeches, he appeals to those with SDO by repeatedly making a clear distinction between groups that have a generally higher status in society (White), and those groups that are typically thought of as belonging to a lower status (immigrants and minorities). A 2016 survey study of 406 American adults published last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that those who scored high on both SDO and authoritarianism were those who intended to vote for Trump in the election.
  1. Authoritarian Personality Syndrome
Authoritarianism refers to the advocacy or enforcement of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom, and is commonly associated with a lack of concern for the opinions or needs of others. Authoritarian personality syndrome —  a well-studied and globally-prevalent condition — is a state of mind that is characterized by belief in total and complete obedience to one’s authority. Those with the syndrome often display aggression toward outgroup members, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences, and a rigid hierarchical view of society. The syndrome is often triggered by fear, making it easy for leaders who exaggerate threat or fear monger to gain their allegiance.
Although authoritarian personality is found among liberals, it is more common among the right-wing around the world. President Trump’s speeches, which are laced with absolutist terms like “losers” and “complete disasters,” are naturally appealing to those with the syndrome.
While research showed that Republican voters in the U.S. scored higher than Democrats on measures of authoritarianism before Trump emerged on the political scene, a 2016 Politico survey found that high authoritarians greatly favored then-candidate Trump, which led to a correct prediction that he would win the election, despite the polls saying otherwise
  1. Racism and Bigotry
It would be grossly unfair and inaccurate to say that every one of Trump’s supporters have prejudice against ethnic and religious minorities, but it would be equally inaccurate to say that many do not. It is a well-known fact that the Republican party, going at least as far back to Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy,” used tactics that appealed to bigotry, such as lacing speeches with “dog whistles” — code words that signaled prejudice toward minorities that were designed to be heard by racists but no one else.
While the dog whistles of the past were subtler, Trump’s signaling is sometimes shockingly direct. There’s no denying that he routinely appeals to racist and bigoted supporters when he calls Muslims “dangerous” and Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “murderers,” often in a blanketed fashion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a recent study has shown that support for Trump is correlated with a standard scale of modern racism.
Bobby Azarian is a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a freelance journalist. His research has been published in journals such as Cognition & Emotion and Human Brain Mapping, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Psychology Today, and Scientific American. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyAzarian. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Saving Public Education

“…Good teachers are leaving. States won’t fix the reasons why teachers are leaving. Good teachers are being replaced by inexperienced and/or underqualified teachers. And (eventually) our children will be taught by these teachers. We should all be very, very worried about this. In fact, I wanted to make the title of this article ‘Nine Things Teachers Need if We Don’t Want a Dystopian Future in Which America’s Children Are a Pack of Raging, Illiterate Wildlings,’ but my editor said it was too long. This is what teachers need if we want to save public education.
1. A living wage and competitive health care.
“Since so few people are willing to teach under the current conditions, every state in the US is currently experiencing a teacher shortage. States are responding to these shortages not by improving conditions for teachers but often by lowering the qualifications to become a teacher. I don’t know how I can say this any more clearly: We will no longer have talented teachers if we do not take steps to make teaching an attractive profession. Period. Read ‘How Close Are Teachers to Receiving Poverty Benefits?’

2. Smaller class sizes. 
“In addition to challenges with discipline, behavior, and building relationships, large classes force teachers to deliver less effective instruction. A student in a class of 35 will not receive the same quality of education as a student in a class of 20. However, it’s important to know that smaller class sizes cannot be a solution in itself. If we don’t take steps to make teaching an attractive profession, the educators coming in to teach those small classes won’t have the experience they need.

3. Shared accountability with parents and students.
“In the past several decades, what used to be a shared accountability between teachers, parents, and students has now shifted—largely thanks to education reform based on the whims of legislators instead of actual research—to an expectation that the teacher alone should deliver results. Borrowing wording from Professor Jason Read, teachers have become ‘the solution, scapegoat, and sacrificial lamb rolled into one.’ I’m not suggesting we head back to a time when teachers were the unquestionable authority. I’m saying that we can’t do this alone. We need parents to support us in and out of the classroom by following up with homework, discipline, and in modeling—especially in their conversations at home about school and teachers—that education matters.
4. Support and respect from the public. 
“There’s an old proverb I teach to my students every year: ‘A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.’ In the same way, we will only fix the problems in education if people decide to do what’s right for education even if:
§  They no longer have (or never had) kids in public schools.
§  They feel they aren’t connected to education (they are, but that’s another article).
§  For some reason they harbor a bizarre, decades-long resentment of teachers and troll Facebook posts about education with their misspelled outrage.
5. Lawmakers who treat education as seriously as security.
“Because in so many ways, education IS security. A country that cannot think is just as dangerous as a country that cannot defend itself.
6. For people in education reform to actually listen to teachers.

“Longer recess. More arts education. Play-based learning. All of these are better for kids and their academic and developmental growth. We know this from research. And yet those in positions of power continue to impose limits on them or cut them completely.
7. Highly qualified administrators.
“A school is only as good as its leadership. I once transferred to a school in a new district that was pretty much identical to the school I was leaving—Title I middle school, identical population breakdowns, similar facilities and resources—but the experience was like night and day. What was the difference? The leaders in my new school were really, really good at their jobs. We have to demand that our administrators have more than two years of experience teaching and a state license.

8. School facilities that reflect that the people within them actually matter. 
“School buildings are often outdated and full of hazards, including but not limited to: black mold, broken windows, entrances left unsecured, cracked tile and flooring, missing ceiling tiles, broken hand rails on stairs, classrooms designed for 20–25 students that house 35, plants growing out of the gutters on the roof, leaks bursting from paint bubbles in ceilings, etc. Note: This is a short, incomplete list.
9. Counselors.
Mental health is a topic that’s been in the news a lot in the past couple of years, particularly as it relates to school shootings. But very few public schools have enough counselors to meet their students’ needs. In fact, the average ratio of counselors to students in schools is 1 to 471 (the recommended is 1 to 250), and many states don’t even require that schools hire mental health professionals. The lack of access is even worse in high schools, where counselors have the added expectation of connecting students with college opportunities. We’ve known that education has been in trouble for years, but the solution is simple: Listen to teachers. Listen to research. Elect people who do so" (We Are Teachers).


10. A Defined-Benefit Pension Plan.

·         Teachers need a guaranteed pension plan. Most teachers do not pay into the Social Security System. A defined-benefit pension plan is more cost efficient than the defined-contribution savings plan (401(k), 403(b), 457).
           A defined-contribution savings plan does not have the pooled investments, professional asset managers, and shared administrative costs that a defined-benefit pension plan provides.

·         A defined-benefit pension plan offers the retiree predictability; it guarantees monthly benefits for life.
·         Funds are invested by professional asset managers in a diversified portfolio that follows long-term investment strategies; the large-pooled assets reduce asset management and miscellaneous fees.  

·         A defined-benefit pension plan provides spousal (survivor) financial benefits and disability benefits.
·         A defined-benefit pension plan is a more effective protection than the defined-contribution savings plan because it provides self-sufficiency in retirement; it is associated with far fewer households that experience food privation, shelter adversity and health care hardship.

·         With a defined-contribution savings plan only contributions are defined.
·         The benefit is based upon individual investment earnings; the employee assumes all funding, investment, inflationary and longevity risks.

Sources: the National Institute on Retirement Security, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

11. Fight Against Vouchers and Charter Schools.

·         Money intended for public schools go to private schools

·         This money is deposited in the bank accounts of private investors

·         Voucher proponents prefer selective admission policies that continue the inequality, stratification, and segregation of students (race, religion, and class or income)

·         Voucher proponents “represent the most reactionary elements of our society”

·         Vouchers are not about “saving children” or “improving education.” It is about destroying public education and making profits

·         Vouchers do not increase “Parental choice and control over tax dollars”

·         “Big money” is financing this campaign

·         Voucher advocates are often referred to as “nonpartisan”

·         Koch Brothers, Eli Broad Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and other corporate education reformers are proponents of vouchers (and charter schools)

·         Private schools have no accountability, especially for children with disabilities 

·         Privatizers do not acknowledge the role of poverty that creates educational disadvantages

·         There are no “reliable data” that prove vouchers and charter schools perform better than public schools; there is evidence to the contrary

·         "We Ask America" poll, commissioned by the Illinois Policy Institute (an organization deeply invested in charter school chains), is questionable

·         There is no separation of church and state in private schools

·         Vouchers have been “declared unconstitutional” in North Carolina; other legal debates continue

·         It has been noted there is “rampant fraud and abuse” in many for-profit voucher programs

·         The latest Gallup Poll (2013) found that “70 percent of Americans oppose the use of public funds for religious or private schools”

·         “The Milwaukee voucher schools have never outperformed the public schools on state tests: Read here and here. The only dispute about test scores is whether voucher students are doing the same or worse than their peers in public schools. Read hereabout some very low-performing schools in Milwaukee that have never been held accountable”

·         “Steve Hinnefeld analyzed Indiana’s growth scores and found that public schools usually showed greater gains than charters or religious schools”

·         “Public school students perform as well as or better than comparable children in private schools” (U.S. Department of Education) Diane Ravitch, Death and Life of the Great American School System)

·         Some charter operators are opened by “hedge-fund managers, for-profit firms, and get-rich-quick schemers” (Diane Ravitch)

·         Some charter schools (of choice) have been under “federal criminal investigation for nepotism, conflicts of interest, and financial mismanagement” (Ravitch)

·         “Enthusiasm for charter schools far outstripped research evidence for their efficacy… Too many promises that are only, at best, weakly supported by evidence” (Ravitch)

            "Rhetoric of many charter school advocates has come to sound uncannily similar to the rhetoric of voucher proponents and of the most rabid haters of public schooling. They often sound as though they want public schools to fail; they want to convert entire districts to charter schools, each with its own curriculum and methods, each with its own private management, all competing for students and public dollars” (Ravitch)

             “The charter movement is now part of the growing privatization of public education and Wall Street sees an emerging market.   Take a look at this piece published last fall on ‘…dozens of bankers, hedge fund types and private equity investors…’ gathered to discuss ‘…investing in for-profit education companies…’ There’s a potential gold rush here. Public education from kindergarten through high school pulls in more than $500 billion in taxpayer revenues every year, and crony capitalists and politicians alike are cashing in…” (Bill Moyers). 

12. Oppose Common Core and Other So-Called Education Reform.

·        Common Core was developed in the private sector with economic and political objectives: “Common Core State Standards will prepare all children to be successful in a competitive global economy”

·         It was imposed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; the Council of Chief State School Officers; and Achieve, Inc. without proper examination of consequences

·         It is not a grassroots movement

·         It is a proposed “Free Market” solution for problems in education

·         Its chief advocates favor privatization of public education through charter schools, online learning and vouchers

·         It is linked to federal funding

·         It is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

·         The Initiative is a bonanza for the education entrepreneurs

·         The Initiative assumes that national assessment and standards will raise achievement, despite the past failures of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top

·         It is an untested “same skills” or “one-size-fits-all” approach to curricula, with a focus on only those skills that can be “tested with pre-packaged tests”

·         It assumes that test scores are related to “earning capacity, productivity or other measures of success in life”

·         It ignores “non-cognitive” skills that are essential for “success in life”

·         It emphasizes “abstract” concepts and arbitrary ratios (for example, the emphasis on teaching “non-fiction”)

·         It assumes that informational texts will help students learn

·         It is a no-choice method, without sufficient research and experienced teachers’ input

·         It ignores the fact that students learn at different rates

·         It ignores the fact that students have different learning styles

·         It ignores the fact that effective classrooms often work in spontaneous and unpredictable situations

·         It undermines the way children learn

·         It de-emphasizes playtime for kindergarten children

·         It promises that prescribed standards will make students “college ready”

·         It creates wasted hours of test preparation in classrooms

·         It creates a punitive high-stakes testing methodology tied to teacher evaluation and without adequate preparation and professional development for teachers
·         It will set up students, teachers and schools for failure and blame; thus, it will promote the reform agenda for the privatization of public education 

·         Common Core does not address the significant societal problems such as poverty, dysfunctional families, parental unemployment, gangs and illicit drugs: the issues that cause “marginalized” students to fail continuously.

-Glen Brown