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‘Occupy Education’ Debates the Gates Foundation (and Wins) | Common Dreams

19 Mar

‘Occupy Education’ Debates the Gates Foundation (and Wins) | Common Dreams.

by Jesse Hagopian

“Gates Foundation you will fail / Education is not for sale!”

The chants of some 150 teachers, students, parents and Occupy Seattle activists reverberated off the windows of the global headquarters of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – a leading promoter of a corporate brand of education reform—announcing we were ready for our scheduled debate about the schools as part of a national call to “Occupy Education” on March 1st.Advocates of public education outside the Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle, Washington this month. (Photo: Kristin Hutchinson)

From Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland, California, to the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., Occupy activists schooled the nation with experiential learning demonstrations with the instructional objective of making education a right for the 99 percent, not a privilege for the 1 percent. In Seattle, when our spirited march for education arrived at the Gates Foundation, many of the event organizers were as nervous as kids before a high-stakes test–not because they doubted the validity of challenging one of the biggest backers of charter schools and standardized testing – but because many expected a no show from the foundation that they would have to simply chalk up as an unexcused absence.

As it turned out, the wealthy foundation sent three poor souls to debate the Occupy movement. I should admit from the start that it wasn’t a fair competition—something akin to the Varsity taking on the JV team; in our corner we had people who have attended public schools, taught in public schools, and are parents of kids in public schools; all they had were policy analysts and public relations specialists.

The “throwdown” began with the Gates Foundation PR spokesperson declaring that he believes in the right of every students to receive a quality education and that some of the statements that were made during our rally mischaracterized the Foundation—without giving an example of what it would take to get a quality education for all students or explaining what Occupy got wrong.

Wayne Au, former high school teacher, editor for Rethinking Schools magazine, and education professor at the University of Washington, spoke next on behalf of the Occupy education delegation, challenging the foundation on its record of supporting charter schools even after a Stanford University study showed that they underperformed public schools. Professor Au then took on their support for standardized testing, which recently helped to push the Washington State Legislature to pass SB 5895 which mandates that test scores be used in teacher evalutations, and explained how such tests force teachers to narrow the curriculum to the tested items. Then he set the hook: “If all the students passed the tests you advocate, that test would immediately be judged an invalid metric, and any measure of students which mandates the failure of students is an invalid measure.”

“We believe that real education reform would equalize the resources of our schools, demand culturally relevant pedagogy and assessment, lower class size to provide the individualized attention that students deserve, and support the most effective form of assessment that has yet to be devised—one that can adjust to every child, evaluate results quickly, and make appropriate changes in instruction—the human educator.”

The reply from PR spokesman for the Gates foundation suffered from a common mistake of a rookie on his high school debate team—he failed to address any of the points the opposition raised. The spokesman retorted, “We think that testing should be part of multiple measures and not the only judge of student performance.”

At this point I couldn’t help but enter the debate. I grabbed the bullhorn and, taking notes from a certain smart aleck in my fifth period who has used the strategy against me, I asked a question that I knew he wouldn’t be able to answer to sully his image in front of everyone: “How did standardized testing enter the public schools originally?”

“I’m not the person to answer that question,” he replied.

It worked. So I moved on to phase two of the class-room know-it-all strategy: declare victory against authority.

“I consider this debate a victory for our side, if they do not know how and why standardized testing entered the public schools in the first place. As a history teacher I find it insulting to come to a debate about education and not know the history of how testing entered the public schools. I can break it down about it being part of the eugenics movement…”

As Wayne Au explains in his book, Unequal By Design, standardized testing entered the public schools in the early 1900s as a way to graft scientific management models used in assembly line production onto the classroom by Taylorists and eugenicists—the pseudo scientists that believed intelligence is genetic and that whites were biologically superior to other races or ethnic groups. Au writes,

“Looking back to its origins in the eugenics movement, Standardized testing provided the technological apparatus for the functioning of the production model of education….It is no coincidence that I.Q testing, eugenics and standardized testing all become prominent during the same period….”

The point I made to the Gates foundation policy wonks was this: While they claim to be part of a 21st century civil rights movement for education—advocating policies they insist are specifically designed to close the achievement gap—the standardized tests they demand were designed by racist pseudo-scientists of the early 20th century. As NAACP founder W.E.B. DuBois wrote,

“It was not until I was long out of school and indeed after the (first) World War that there came the hurried use of the new technique of psychological tests, which were quickly adjusted so as to put black folk absolutely beyond the possibility of civilization.”

The SAT exam, for example, was developed by Carl Bringham—the Army psychologist and racist eugenicist who used WWI data to declare that whites born inside the United States were the most intelligent of all peoples and that immigrants were genetically inferior. Contrary to the assertions of corporate education reformers who claim to be crusaders against the status quo in education, there is nothing innovative about advocacy for standardized testing; it is merely the repackaging of eugenics for the “post racial” era where it is passé to espouse racist ideas. Sadly, American society today—from the prisons to the schools—is dominated by institutional racism. The purpose of standardized tests are the same as they were then: to categorize, sort, and rank black students, students of color, and working class kids at the bottom, while demonstrating the intellectual superiority of the wealthy and white students who score better on the tests. However, that white students score better on the tests is not a comment on their superior aptitude to students of color and low-income students, but rather of their advantages—private tutoring, books in the home, parents with more time to read to their kids, coming to school healthy and more focused, and tests that are created to reflect the values and norms of an affluent, white society.(Photo: Kristin Hutchinson)

Today, the Gates foundations advocates for so-called value-added tests to pinpoint a teacher’s contribution in a given year by comparing current school-year test scores of their students to the scores of those same students in the previous school year or to the scores of other students in the same grade. But as Professor Au voiced into the bullhorn to the Gates policy analysts,

“One thing about value added is that there is plenty of evidence to show that it absolutely unstable as a measurement. If you use one year of test scores to evaluate a teacher you have a 35 percent error rate. That’s error rate—not even taking into account the validly of measurement. If you use three years of test scores there is 25 percent error rate to measure teacher effectiveness. That’s a one in four chance that you could be rated as poor instead of effective…High stakes testing is so volatile, from year-to-year teacher to teacher – as we see with the New York City case where you have in the same year many teachers who were rated good and then in the same year under a different metric, rated terribly. You can look at Bruce Baker’s study. This shows that when we use tests—even if its only part of the evaluation—it’s a real, real problem.”

The foundation that represents the richest man on earth had no response. Professor Au’s schooling left them speechless and you can be sure it wasn’t because they were the shy kids in back – they clearly had just not done their statistics homework on value-added testing.

Occupy Education made it clear that day that we will not allow billionaire flunkies to remake our schools in the image of a production line, where simple input-values are used to measure the workers’ (teachers) efficiency at producing commodities (students). Our vision for education reform advocates a holistic education that includes teaching skills of leadership and social responsibility and assess students’ ability to collaborate with peers, reevaluate assumptions based on new evidence, or defend well-reasoned positions on current events—all things that can’t be neatly quantified by standardized tests. We believe that real education reform would equalize the resources of our schools, demand culturally relevant pedagogy and assessment, lower class size to provide the individualized attention that students deserve, and support the most effective form of assessment that has yet to be devised—one that can adjust to every child, evaluate results quickly, and make appropriate changes in instruction—the human educator.

The most important point of the debate was made by one parent who locked eyes with the Gates Foundation representatives and demanded to know,

“Why should Bill Gates views matter to me as a public school parent? I actually have a B.S. in education. Does he have the qualifications to speak for me? I say no.”

When it comes to education, the popular occupy chant gets the math problem right: “Ninty-nine to one—they don’t stand a chance!”


Occupy Love film IndieGoGo fundraiser

2 Feb

$37,625 of $50,000 dollars has been raised so far.

There are 7 days left.

Click here to check it out and contribute!

School’s Out For Occupy

2 Feb

I found this article from The Occupied Wall Street Journal.  Which anyone who is interested in the occupy movement should go check out if you haven’t already looked at it.

Also if you want to keep up to date about new articles, and more from The OWSJ follow them on twitter and facebook.

This article is basically saying the Mayor Bloomberg of New York along with the Department of Education intend to close 25 schools between 2011-2012.

Of these schools it is found that a disproportionate amount of the schools which are being closed have a disproportional amount of black students to white students.

“Only 13% of black and Latino students are college ready,” said Justice Hatterson, 17, from the Bronx. “But it’s only schools of minorities that are getting shut down.”

Mayor Bloomberg thought they were going to just sit back and take it but the community and student’s are doing the opposite and standing up for their rights and their freedoms.

I strongly support their actions,

and stand in solidarity with them,

I faith in their courage, and power.

As I do with every single individual on this planet.

I stand in you unity with you all.


Occupy Next Step: Reinvesting our money!

1 Feb

Reposted from:

The Great Recession has shed a harsh light on American economic practices. Greg Palast, Matt TaibbiGlen Greenwald and other investigative reporters and analysts have repeatedly shown how large institutions’ financial practices undermined the national economy and impoverished local communities.

But one of the bright spots of last year was the return to progressive political action to hold financial institutions accountable. Not all of this action has been in the streets. Some of the most constructive attempts at change have taken place in local agencies where progressive political leaders have used their powers creatively.

One such local activist is Abel Guillen, a bright, energetic education leader in his second term as Trustee of California’s Peralta Community Colleges. These colleges — Laney, Merritt, Berkeley and Alameda Colleges — serve the large East Bay Alameda County working class population in the San Francisco East Bay (Alameda County). The schools are stepping stones for immigrant and blue collar families to achieve employment and improve their standards of living.

Guillen himself, the son of a baker and a cook, the first in his family to graduate from college, grew up in a neighborhood where few people even considered college. He persevered through University of California, Berkeley, to earn his bachelor’s degree, then a master’s degree in public administration. For the last 10 years he has used these skills to give back to his community. Working as the vice president of a public school finance firm, he has helped raise over 2.5 billion dollars to build and modernize public schools and community colleges.

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But as he worked on funding, he saw taxpayers dollars and student fees in the college system being railroaded out of the district into investment schemes that jeopardized the schools and enriched the few at the expense of the many.

So Abel Guillen fought back. On Nov. 25, he introduced — and the Peralta Community College District passed unanimously — a resolution for the local reinvestment of its student fees and community tax dollars that will move its funds from large, for-profit banks to community-based financial institutions. Guillen noted that these goals were in line with the most constructive aspects of the popular Occupy Movement, but removed from the destructive vandalism of fringe groups that trashed store fronts and disruptions that harassed workers.

“This practical action will redirect our college funds and spending power into community-based financial institutions and serve the interests of our students and the East Bay residents who make up the 99 percent,” said Guillen. The Peralta Colleges serve more than 45,000 students and have an annual budget of $140 million dollars.

Guillen’s resolution emulated the spirit of National Bank Transfer Day, the consumer action which paralleled and to some extent over-lapped Occupy Wall Street. For Transfer Day, consumers were urged to move their accounts from commercial banks to not-for-profit credit unions. Some in the Occupy movement did not think this action went far enough. But the Credit Union National Association reported that 650,000 people opened new accounts by the target date of Nov. 5. Some 80 percent of credit unions increased their new accounts as a result.

This movement gave concrete, constructive action to many who could not or would not join the movement in the streets and to those who wanted to take more than the symbolic act of demonstrating. Abel Guillen himself is seeking to take the next step… declaring himself a candidate for the California State Assembly. “There is much work to do,” promised Guillen. “We are the generation to carry this all forward!”

Occupy the New Hampshire Primary Granny D’s Last Speech

31 Jan

In this video we hear the final speech of Granny D read by a ninety(90) year old occupy supporter.
Granny D was an beloved New Hampshire proponent of campaign reform who started protesting at the age of ninety(90).

I found this video to be quite moving and inspiring. Much love to this old lady and all the occupiers. Even some of the oldest generations are in solidarity with this movement and other protest groups around the globe.

Occupy Vancouver’s Spokes Council Model

10 Jan

Occupy Vancouver Spokes Council Model
Passed by the General Assembly Dec 22nd 2011
(A Living Document)
Updated Jan 09th 2012

Brief History of the Spokes Council:
The spokes council model is a structure for democratic process that has been used for many years. It has been employed by many organizations and struggles including the Zapatistas, Chaipas, the Women’s Movement, Anti-Nuclear Movement, and Global Justice Movement. It is also currently being used by Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Portland.

How does the Spokes Council work?
The spokes council works like the spokes of a wheel. It is designed to allow for large group participation and small group discussion to work together with consensus. Each committee, caucus, or outside organization consenses on a representative, a rotating spokesperson or ‘spoke’ who meets in the middle with the other spokes for form the council. The committees, caucuses or outside organizations sit directly behind the spoke for direct consultation on decisions being made.

Committees are groups that contribute to Occupy Vancouver’s operations regularly. They are open to everyone and can only exclude people for constant disruption or violating General Assembly Agreements.

A Caucus is a self determined group of people who share a common experience of marginalization by society at large.

Outside Organization
Outside Organizations are organizations that have given public support to Occupy Vancouver and wish to collaborate with our efforts.

A spoke is a rotating, agreed-upon representative of a committee, caucus or outside organization. Spokes are considered a neutral spokes person, not the unilateral decision maker for the group. They should be thought of as a facilitator rather than temporary leaders.

General Assembly and the Spokes Council
The General Assembly will continue to happen with the Spokes Council operating with a mandate from the General Assembly. The Spokes Council will oversee committee work and logistical matters leaving the General Assembly open to more broad visioning, goal setting, and more open ended political discussion.

Open Access and Transparency
–          Anyone may attend the Spokes Council
–          Anyone can participate in the council by joining a committee or caucus. Also new and non-affiliated members can participate in the open caucus which has a voice but no say in the Spokes Council consensus process.
–          The Spokes Council will take place in a well publicized space.
–          Minutes will be taken at every Spokes Council and posted online.
–          The Spokes Council will be livestreamed whenever possible.
–          All decisions made by the Spokes Council will be reported back to the General Assembly for questions or concerns.

Proposed Schedule
The Spokes Council will meet on Tuesday at 7pm and Sunday at 1pm every week.

History of this proposal
This proposal is based on the work done at Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Portland. You can find their models here:

These models were used as templates to be built on. We held 5 work groups to gather information about problems people had with the model and work out mechanisms to correct the issues raised. The first work group had over 30 people attend and created a long list of potential issues to be worked out. The subsequent work groups tackled each problem on the list while opening the floor to new issues until there were no more foreseeable problems with the model. Like all documents in Occupy Vancouver, this is a living document, and as such, is open to the process of revision at any time.


Access: This model creates greater access for those outside of Occupy Vancouver and within. It has been difficult to find committees and caucuses within the General Assembly. This creates a central location for people to easily find a group they wish to participate in.
Transparency: The Spokes Council enables greater communication of committee work, roles, and responsibilities.
Process: With a clear mandate to make decisions over committee work and logistical matters and because of the efficiency of the model, the Spokes Council will greatly increase our ability to make decisions and follow through on them.
Marginalization: The General Assembly is currently not an empowering model for marginalized people. The ability for marginalized groups to create a caucus and have a spoke on the council will allow for greater participation from marginalized voices.
General Assembly: Taking the logistical and committee work into the Spokes Council frees up the General Assembly to talk more about broad visioning and goal setting while at the same time opening it up for more open ended political discussion. The General Assembly remains the highest decision making body.
Trust: The General Assembly does not give participants much time to interact with one another or build meaningful relationships. A more structured environment for the group members to interact creates even more time to communicate and build relationships through continued interaction. This will do a lot towards building trust within our movement.

Spokes Council Model in Detail

The Spokes Council and the General Assembly

The General Assembly will continue to operate in conjunction with the Spokes Council. The General Assembly will define the goals, vision, character, and spirit of Occupy Vancouver.

The Spokes Council operates with a mandate to oversee committee work and logistical decisions. The Spokes Council must report its actions to the General Assembly to allow for questions and concerns.

Sometimes there will be overlap in decisions made by the General Assembly and Spokes Council. In such a situation a decision made by the General Assembly that directly affects the logistical realm of the Spokes Council should be brought to the Spokes Council for consensus. Likewise decisions made by the Spokes Council that greatly affect the goals of Occupy Vancouver will be brought to the General Assembly for consensus.

Because of the General Assembly’s authority over the Spokes Council, if members of the General Assembly feel that a Spokes Council decision goes against the core values of Occupy Vancouver or General Assembly agreements they can form a work group to discuss the issue to create a veto proposal. The proposal is then brought to the General Assembly and put through the consensus process. If consensus is achieved on the veto, the Spokes Council must cease work on the decision and rework the idea for future General Assembly approval.

It is mandatory that a record keeper be established before the Spokes Council can begin. When the Spokes Council breaks to speak with their groups the spokes are responsible for making sure someone is a record keeper within their respective groups.

The Spokes Council will have a quorum of 50% + 1 of all registered voting spokes. This means that the Spokes Council cannot make any decisions unless at least half, plus one, of all registered Spokes that have say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council are in attendance of the Spokes Council.

Role of the Spokes

The Spokes Council is made up of rotating representatives from caucuses, committees, and outside organizations. Spokes are considered neutral spokes person not the decision maker for their groups; they must share the differing views and decisions that their groups have come to consensus on with the Spokes Council. The spoke is a facilitator rather than temporary leader of their group. The spokes must rotate and can be recalled by their group at any time.

The function of the council is not to unilaterally make decisions for the rest of Occupy Vancouver. Issues are brought to the Spokes Council, the council then breaks into their respective groups to discuss the issues and come to consensus. The council then reassembles and reports the diversity of opinion and consensuses reached. A committee or caucus must send a spoke and at least 2 other members to the Spokes Council.

Dissenting voices in a committee or caucus that feel their voice is not being represented by their spoke are encouraged by the Spokes Council that try and resolve the issue within their group. If differing or dissenting opinions are not being represented in the Spokes Council, the members of the spoke’s group can show a point of process and the Spokes Council is responsible for addressing the issue. If a group feels so strongly that the spoke is misrepresenting the group’s views, the group can ‘mic check’ to interrupt the spokes council and recall their spoke.

Note: It was recommended that a comment box be created for dissenting views to be recorded.

Definition of Groups in the Spokes Council

Committees are groups that contribute to the operations of Occupy Vancouver regularly. They are open to everyone and can only exclude people for constant disruption or violation of General Assembly agreements. Each committee is responsible for one aspect of Occupy Vancouver’s day to day logistical operations; for example, Media Committee, Direct Action Committee, Legal Committee etc… Committee’s spokes have a say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council.

Caucuses are self determined groups of people that share a common experience of marginalization from society at large. These caucuses have a say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council to create space for greater participation from marginalized voices in our decision making process.
Both committees and caucuses must have at least 4 members and be registered with the Spokes Council to be allowed a spoke on the council. There is no maximum to the number of people allowed on a committee or caucus.

Outside organizations are organizations that have given public support for Occupy Vancouver and wish to collaborate with Occupy Vancouver’s efforts. They do not have a say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council except in decisions that directly affect them. Their spoke does not have to rotate and they do not have to attend a Spokes Council if they do not wish to. They also have to register with the Spokes Council to have the right to a spoke.
Both committees and outside organizations must have a mandate approved by the Spokes Council or General Assembly.

Open caucus is a caucus that is always available for anyone to join and participate in. This caucus is primarily aimed at allowing non-affiliated and new members of occupy to see how the process works and allow their voices to be heard. This caucus has no say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council but has a spoke and the ability to have its opinions voiced.

Livestream spoke is a representative from the Livestream Committee that is charged with representing the views and ideas of those on the Occupy Vancouver Livestream ( This spoke will have no say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council until an appropriate mechanism is in place to allow for a fair consensus of the livestream to be reached. They are only there to give voice to the opinions of those on livestream.

Moderated seat of dissent is a seat on the spokes council that is reserved for a moderator whose sole purpose is to voice any dissenting views that feels their voice is not being represented by their spoke. Any member of a caucus or committee who feels their opinion is not being properly represented by their spoke can approach this moderator anytime during the Spokes Council. This moderator does not have a say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council.

All mandates brought to the Spokes Council for approval must be written, typed, or in digital form and be brought from a Committee meeting.

Basic Agenda
–          Open
–          Spokes’ rounds
–          Basis of Unity read un-mic checked
–          Role of spoke is explained
–          Registrations of new Caucuses, Committees, and Outside Organizations
–          Follow up on old proposals the Spokes Council came to consensus on at the last meeting.
–          Body of the meeting*
–          Close

*The body of the meeting was left open. This was to give the Spokes Council and the facilitation team the freedom to choose how to facilitate the meeting and how long to discuss specific agenda items.
An example of the body of the meeting would look like this:
–          Old proposal that was postponed at the last meeting open for discussion
–          First new proposal for discussion
–          Second new proposal
–          Committee announcements

Meeting times
The Spokes Council will meet on Tuesday at 7pm and Sunday at 1pm every week.  Once a month there will be a Spokes Council meeting that all registered committees must attend, or be required to submit a report explaining their nonattendance.

*************Modifications to the Spokes Council Model**************
All modifications to the spokes council model will be posted bellow as well as changed within the model in italics. This information will also be posted on the webpage under the committees tab under Spokes Council. (updated by Richard Porteous)

All mandates brought to the Spokes Council for approval must be written, typed, or in digital form and be brought from a Committee meeting.

Passed on Dec 8th 2012 by the Spokes Council (updated by Richard Porteous)
The Spokes Council will have a quorum of 50% + 1 of all registered voting spokes. This means that the Spokes Council cannot make any decisions unless at least half, plus one, of all registered Spokes that have say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council are in attendance of the Spokes Council.

*Passed on Dec 8th 2012 by the Spokes Council (updated by Richard Porteous)

Occupy Our Food

7 Jan

Published on Thursday, December 29, 2011 by The Nation

Text by Peter Rothberg / Video by Anthony Lappe

On this past December 4, food activists from across the country joined the Occupy Wall Street Farmers March for “a celebration of community power to regain control over the most basic element to human well-being: food.”

The rally began at La Plaza Cultural Community Gardens where urban and rural farmers talked about the growing problems with the industrial food system and the solutions based in organic, sustainable and community based agricultural production. This was followed by a three-mile march from the East Village of Manhattan to Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

This video by Anthony Lappe offers an inspiring glimpse into this new movement. Check it out and then go toFood Democracy Now, a grassroots community dedicated to building a sustainable food system, to find out how you can help.

Occupy Our Food

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