Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Hermione School

Hermione is a character in the Harry Potter series. She is such an eager student that in The Prisoner of Azkaban, she pulls off the very clever trick of attending (at least) two sets of classes at the same time, with the assistance of some magic procured from Dumbledore, the school's headmaster.

The school systems of the world are multifarious, and feature a variety of virtues, some of them mutually inconsistent, but many potentially coordinable. Some of us would like to be able to help students like Hermione, by making as many of these attractive school features as possible available on a single campus. This summarizes what we have been trying to do at One World Secondary School.

The school has been in development for over four years now, originally as a kind of dream, almost fantastic school, but soon thereafter in total seriousness. It has evolved over that time, principally in response to my discovery of an ever increasing number of world class features. I have put together the best plan I can, and thank my friends for their assistance. But if the school is ever going to open to all classes of the general public, starting with a comprehensive seventh grade, now is the time for public officials in our school district and municipality to show their support; otherwise we may be just another addition to the ranks of independent schools serving those who can afford tuition, with the poorer families shut out ultimately by irresponsible charter office officials who insist on maintaining monopolistic control over the types of schools that can open in the communities they are entrusted to serve, and whose trust they have violated.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Our Achievement Gap Stems, in Part, From Our Fixation on the Achievement Gap

I just today read an excellent article in The Washington Post on Kosen, Japan's special polytechnical schools that accept students as early as 15, give them five years of vocationally oriented technical training during what would  be our high school and junior college years, and then watch them leave with an average of 20 job offers per new graduate; if they stay an extra two years and earn a diploma roughly equivalent to a master's degree, the ratio goes up to 30 job offers per graduate.

I also read today that the percentage of young Americans aged 20 to 24 who are employed has shrunk from 74 percent in 2000 to just 62 percent now, the lowest since the 1930s.

Our obsession with having our young people correctly fill in bubble sheets is severely underserving our youth. Some of them, like my own children, do pretty well on such tests, and generally still turn out all right; others, like the many I taught at Locke High School in Watts, have almost no good options available to them; and well-meaning educational leaders who moved to end (rather than modernize) their vocational programs because "each and every student is expected to go to college" have unwittingly promoted a disaster. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the Perils of Those Assailed by the Carnegie Unit

Okay, so a measure of time is not some hairy green monster calculated to frighten children. But the Carnegie unit should frighten the American public, if the latter realized how it, though well intended and once possibly useful, is a prime player in condemning our secondary schools to second-class productivity.

Once upon a time, secondary schooling was rare; fewer than ten percent of an American cohort went to high school in 1900. But between then and 1950, high schools popped up all over the country, and attending and completing education through them became more and more normal. The Carnegie Foundation wanted to encourage high school graduation, as well as college attendance for promising pupils, and spent millions pursuing these ends; but newly expanding colleges found themselves troubled when trying to evaluate applications from students whose schools and districts used every variety of transcript summarizing the most heterogeneous high school programs. The Carnegie Foundation, trying to impose order, establish standards, and assist comparability amid this chaos, decided that a good strategy would be to mandate a set minimum of time for high school students to be in class with a teacher in order to receive credit for their labors, and they bought assent to their proposal by funding retirement benefits to teachers who would back the standard. Thus the American system of "credits" for seat time, unknown in other parts of the world, was born; the Carnegie unit was the foundation of our system of credits. (An interesting parallel is that the European Union, confronting diversity in its higher education systems similar to what Americans had in secondary schools a hundred years earlier, has recently resorted to the same solution through its European Credit Transfer System.)

But how is this monstrous, you might ask? It forces our schools to offer a few subjects (English, mathematics, science, social studies, and to a lesser extent foreign languages) in roughly equal proportions in all four years of high school, in a dull, monotonous routine: "Period one I have algebra, period two science, period three English", and so on, an American student might say, regardless of the day of the week. By contrast, if you asked European or Asian students for their schedules, they would have to ask which day you were referring to, since it would change depending upon the day of the week; and particularly favored subjects, or those particularly necessary for a student's future, get more time than others, which appear in the schedule largely to ensure breadth, and at least a minimum attainment of some essentials in subjects which are likely undeserving of all the time necessary to earn a Carnegie unit (typically around 50 minutes five times a week for a school year): information technology is a good example of the latter.

Another problem is that our system grants credit for class attendance and teacher satisfaction (reflected in what we call "grades"), rather than for verifiable, public demonstrations of learning, such as external examinations.

Therefore a European or Asian student may well be studying ten or eleven subjects while our best are studying six; and their future mathematicians may be studying as many as 400 hours of mathematics, or fewer than 100, depending upon student desire and aptitude, in a year when our most and least enthusiastic, and everyone in between, will be studying (except at One World Secondary School) around 150, in all five or six subjects, unvaryingly, thanks to an innovation a bit over a hundred years old and a long way out of date.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A New Contract for Teachers

Bill and Melinda Gates yesterday had one of their editorials published in the Wall Street Journal. In it they call for a personnel system for teachers that would resemble those found in private industry, including that which was implemented at Microsoft. While raising the professional status of teachers is clearly an advisable goal, whether pursuing the business analogy in public education will prove productive can certainly be called into question. One reason is that private corporations do not have to evince the social consciences that public institutions are called on to have; they can cast off outdated equipment without complaint from many aside from environmentalists, and they cast off unsatisfactory employees with similar disregard, although the backlash against practices that regard human beings as disposable is clearly growing.

But wise educators of all persuasions know that any improvement in teachers' status is likely to require a new contract for teachers. What should the main features of such contracts be?

One main feature would surely be to define professional qualifications for the teachers. In this regard, recent moves to promote alternative certification, including especially those that only include a few weeks of summer training such as that offered by Teach For America (TFA), are clearly moves in the wrong direction. While I recruited and trained TFA teachers at Locke High School, and became and remain friends with several of them and admire them, that was in keeping with the exigencies originally envisioned for the programme, which was a stopgap for urban and rural schools desperate to recruit full-time teachers, even  from TFA, in preference to the succession of even shorter term substitutes then inhabiting many of our neediest classrooms. In short, it was a desperation move, and the graduates from such pitifully inadequate programmes should never replace fully licenced teachers, particularly under circumstances where thousands of the latter have been laid off due to reduced government resources.

A second main feature I advocate is pay for performance, rather than just for credentials plus seniority. While all teachers employed ought to be licenced professionals, it does not follow that they are all equally effective. Those that do the best job ought, in general, to be the best paid. While there are legitimate debates ongoing about how to decide who is doing the best job, the Gateses, who I should add do not call in their Journal editorial for reduced licencing standards, are correct in their desire to link better pay with better performance.

There are many more features to an ideal teachers' contract like that we have proposed at One World Secondary School, but let us hope that at least these, regarding the qualifications, performance, and compensation to be expected for professional teachers, will be remembered by those making tough decisions in the coming months.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How Congress Could Help All Children Get Ahead

Continuing this debate from where it left off yesterday, what we don't need is to remain fixated on the stale debate between the (mostly Democratic) backers of relatively recent initiatives that have produced some improvements but seem unlikely to help us reach President Obama's goal of a world-class education for all our children (enunciated at the MLK memorial opening ceremony last weekend) and those (mostly Republican) reactionaries who want to take us back to the states-rights policies of administrations in the 1990s and earlier, which identified a Nation At Risk but failed to do anything useful about it.

Instead, we should remember that ours is a federal (not a unitary national) system of government, look at what other successful federal systems of education are doing, and apply intelligent lessons to our own situation.

I have previously championed Norway's as perhaps the world's best educational system, but Norway's is a unitary national government ruling a country the size of one of our states. Instead I would direct Congress to look at the example of Australia, which has a federal system of government like ours and rules over a comparable extent of territory (though not of population).

The most important lesson we can learn from Australia's (limited) federal assistance to education, the lesson I'd most like Congress to copy, is its provision of federal funding for most of the 85-90% of the operating budget that privately managed schools, which in America would include chartered, free, and independent schools, receive from the government (Australian states kick in the rest of the government funding, while parents also contribute to private school tuition fees, the amount depending upon the families' socioeconomic status). This option has proved increasingly popular in Australia, where steadily more and more families (above one-third) choose private education for their children's secondary education, where the expected national educational attainment (that is, the number of years of schooling successfully completed) for today's generation of students leads the world, and where they host the fastest-rising, most serious competitor among tertiary education sectors to our dominance of the international universities market.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


This is a follow-up to my previous posts NCLB=NCGA, YCLB and on the world's best school systems.

Senator Harkin's draft for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (which was renamed No Child Left Behind after Mr. Bush's comprehensive transformation of the legislation in 2001) has reawakened debate over federal policy with regard to our schools, and that is to the good. Alexander Russo has recently warned that reformers had better weigh in on this issue or be left to rue the consequences of staying on the sidelines, and so I thought I might address the matter.

No Child Left Behind did not prevent millions of children from being left behind, and reduced and demeaned our public education system. Since this legislation represents our best opportunity for establishing a world-class education system in our country, we should have honest, fruitful discussions about it, and get the final product right.

I want my child to get ahead, and I am confident other parents feel the same way, so I almost titled this post "NCLB --> YCGA", the latter meaning "Your Child Gets Ahead". But this is public policy, and cannot restrict itself to private motivations; it has to provide for all children, including those whose parents do not participate in their children's educations, and it has to recognize that we all have to care for the young generation, whether we are parents or not (for surely adults will tend to be differently motivated towards education depending upon whether they are parents of current students, future students, former students who have left school, or are not parents at all).

Therefore No Child Left Behind (NCLB), a failure, needs to be transformed into a plan most likely to help All Children Get Ahead (ACGA). And I'll present a few founding principles for such a plan tomorrow.

Monday, October 17, 2011

On the Freedom to Advance in One's Studies

Joe Nathan seems like a good guy. Yesterday I got into a kind of spontaneous debate with him on Alexander Russo's Facebook page. The topic was selection in (chartered and magnet) school admissions. I recommended to him a paper I read about a year ago that was published by two professors working with the Sutton Trust in the United Kingdom.

The Sutton Trust has an overall social and educational agenda similar to WestEd and myriad similar groups in the United States, so when it published a report advocating selective admissions in secondary schools, I was intrigued. Crucially, the report, "Choice and Selection in School Admissions", demonstrates that, contrary to Andreas Schleicher's preferred narrative coming out of the OECD, countries that practice selective admissions have a larger achievement gap, but also produce more total knowledge throughout their student populations, than do countries like ours that generally (our exceptions are mostly in our eminent private sector) maintain open, non-competitive admissions all the way through secondary school.

Put baldly but briefly, our country faces a choice: we can have a narrow achievement gap among a generation of generally ignorant young people, or we can raise a generation of happy young people, much more fully and fulfillingly employed as well as more knowledgeable overall, who, not worried about being "left behind" in a single "race" to a single "top", have given up being measured by a single standard, that of the highly educated ruling class whose self-love impels them towards the mass reproduction of their own self-image.

Friday, October 14, 2011

On Charter School Admissions

I just read an interesting article in the LA Weekly about preferences for "founding parents" in schools chartered by the Los Angeles Unified School District. The article recounts parents who "found" schools several years after they have opened, which was in some cases before these "founders" had ever heard of the schools in question.

According to The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, which is what I use on a daily basis for defining standard English, to found means to "establish", which could be construed by the underhanded in an equally ambiguous way, or "to plan and begin the building of (a settlement)". In this latter, common sense, schools can't be founded again and again, year after year, by new groups of people.

But this raises the larger, more interesting question of how admissions to charter schools ought to be handled. UNICEF's Convention on the Rights of the Child offers a first principle: such rights "are founded on respect for the dignity and worth of each individual, regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability and therefore apply to every human being everywhere." Offering certain families preferential "founding" status as described in the article discriminates on the basis of wealth, and therefore violates the rights of children and should be forbidden.

But a deep irony is that, because of the obstructionism, dishonesty, and incompetence of charter offices like that of L.A. Unified, some schools with high ideals may be tempted to become private, and therefore need to charge tuition and engage in this very same discrimination they have tried so valiantly to avoid, in order to prove themselves and eventually establish the bargaining position necessary to achieve their original visions.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Of the Visit of the Secretary of Education

I went to Secretary Duncan's town hall in Pico Rivera last night. Politician after politician (the local superintendent, local congressional representatives, and so on) rose and gave one meaningless speech after another, each person claiming a spot at the podium as an attempt to advance her (coincidentally, they were mostly female) career while pretending to advance the public interest by proferring words and proposals that showed how clearly they just don't understand how badly out of touch with young people's needs they actually are. Eventually Secretary Duncan spoke, gave a brief version of an educational stump speech with some data estimates thrown in to support the American Jobs Act, which was going down to defeat as he spoke, then left after listening to a series of speeches masquerading as questions and having his picture taken while receiving some polite, meaningless gift from the host (he didn't bother to open it, nor did anyone ask him to); his assistants remained to answer the long series of speakers at the two microphones in the school's gym, but no one was really listening to anyone else, nor was there much reason why they should, the content was so pointless. The Secretary had a fund-raiser (I tried to find the link to this story, but it has expired, the world has moved on) to attend on the West Side with people who do matter after his 45 minutes with people in southeast Los Angeles who don't; and thus plutocracy masquerades as democracy, as Wall Street is occupied in its several dens around the country, as our capitalist press (whose links don't expire so readily) is reporting.

Monday, October 10, 2011

21st Century Schools

APEC, the awkwardly named Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, has established among its educational priorities developing "21st century competencies and skills". Disregarding the near redundancy in that term, the international group has done a good job in defining what those abilities are, building on the basis laid down by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. So we have a reasonably good idea of what these (learning and innovation, career and life, digital literacy) skills look like; what about the schools that will develop them?

My expertise is in secondary education, so I will confine myself to that level, rather than primary school, here (if you want to see 21st century universities and polytechnics, we already have those in abundance in America; it's the K-12 system that most needs attention). But a 21st century secondary school should build upon a firm foundation laid down during primary school, and might be considered an extension of it, like the middle school portion of a Nordic comprehensive school providing nine years of high quality basic education for everyone. But that middle school would be better transformed into a side-by-side pair of modern single sex middle schools, where boys and girls inhabit their own sections of a common campus and learn the same curricula under separated, optimally pedagogically adapted conditions, an ideal perhaps best executed in east Asia (I taught such students in South Korea). But these middle schools should connect in turn to a three-year coeducational upper secondary school, one providing a high quality general academic education preparing its students for university in the manner of a French-German lycee (Gymnasium) preparing its students for a qualification entitling them to a university education at public expense: let's call it an American baccalaureate certificate, or an international Matura. And such a publicly funded, privately managed school (each of these two factors as independent variables being associated with higher student achievement) might ideally conclude in a magnet school resembling a United World College.

Such a secondary school, operating under a federal charter on a state-of-the-art campus (part of the definition of "state-of-the-art" including the fact that it could be built and operated on ordinary, rather than extraordinary, capital funding levels for contemporary public school campuses), would be optimally designed as a flagship to make America's schools truly competitive and able to "win the future" in the present-day world. Its description also describes what I am trying to create now.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

On Steve Jobs, Arne Duncan, and a Vision for 21st Century Secondary Schools

Steve Jobs died this week, as did Al Davis. As a diehard Raiders fan, I should have been more affected by the latter's death than the former's; I've never bought an Apple product, for example, but I did watch every Raiders game for many years (and I watched today's exciting one). But reading obituaries and viewing retrospectives of their work has forced me to focus on a man with a passion for deeply meaningful work, rather than on one obsessed with what is in the long run a distraction.

Various aspects of the Steve Jobs story are intriguing; for example, I was one of many who reposted his Stanford commencement speech. But watching a Charlie Rose interview with three of his friends and competitors, I was struck by how his was a story of "Build it, and they will come" (from the great baseball film Field of Dreams). Jobs and Apple created demand for products people never realized they needed until they saw them and tried them.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (neither a football nor a baseball player, but a basketball one) will be visiting Southern California this week, and I will go to see him on Tuesday evening. I've been contemplating the question, "What advice would I give him, if I had the chance, based on my seven-year teaching career in Korea and my experience with converting Locke High School into a chartered school, about how to make American education really competitive for the 21st century?" And I think I may have found an answer in our ruminations on Steve Jobs: "Build it, and they will come."

What we need is a vision for what world-class schools for the 21st century would really look like, and then we need to build and test a replicable model school to see if it will really work in practice as we envision it; and if so, we need to replicate such truly competitive schools across this land of ours.

So in my next post, I will try to describe what a school that might truly help us win the future might look like.

Friday, October 7, 2011

On Parents and School Governance

In recent blog posts, Diane Ravitch wrote to Deborah Meier in opposition to the Parent Trigger legislation and movement in California and other states, to which the Parent Revolution responded very tartly. I will forgo the opportunity to engage in any mudslinging and, in the spirit in which this blog was founded (see my first post or three for my opinions about how to manage education controversies), simply address the root issue these spirited education controversialists have joined: what should the proper role for public school parents be with respect to the governance of their children's schools?

The existence of choice and school quality come immediately to mind in approaching this issue. If I don't like the food or service in my local coffee shop, I can go to another; there is no public issue. Similarly, if we might imagine a large district featuring many different kinds of schools, one where all parents had complete freedom to enrol their children wherever they wished, or one with similar diversity of options where all parents were rich or possessed vouchers, this again would be unlikely to be a public issue. Or if schools were a local monopoly but all of them were of high quality (right now I'm waiting for my son to come home from his public elementary school; every school in Irvine is a 10 on a scale of 1-10, according to the Great Schools website, so my wife and I have never considered sending him or his older brother to any other than the school right next to our home), this would again remain likely uncontroversial (in spite of this, I am considering offering our school design to the public here in Irvine, something I have not yet previously attempted). But what should one do when one's children are locked into a local school that is terrible, where there are no alternatives due to local poverty eliminating any conceivable market for private education, and where the local board refuses to countenance any possibility of a charter school opening in the neighborhood or any other vigorous reform of a situation they find tolerable?

If I interpret Professor Ravitch's column correctly, she would recommend parents politically agitate for reform within the system, through the public political process (i.e. school board elections), and not try other measures such as the Parent Trigger which she thinks should be illegal. Her column mentions other measures--"If a school is dysfunctional, those who are in charge of the district are obliged to find out why and to do whatever they can to fix the problems. If the principal is incompetent, he or she should be removed. If there are teachers who are incompetent, they should be removed. If the school is doing poorly because it lacks necessary resources, the district is obliged to do whatever it can to improve the school." But these suggestions are irrelevant to people in a position like we were in in Watts in 2007, since they had either already been tried (five principals in six years) or were impossible (iron-clad teachers' contract, deteriorating district finances), so we are left with our original question: What are the parents whose children are stuck in such awful schools to do?

We should assume they can't move and don't have any choices because of a local district monopoly and zoning policies. What are they to do? Let's also eliminate advocating illegal actions like the recently popular trend of lying to get one's children into a better (usually wealthier) school district or zone; advocating law breaking is bad public policy in any other than a temporary, desperate situation. Then what?

Regardless of disparaging aspersions  being cast on its originators' intentions ("whose true purpose is to undermine public education"), the Parent Trigger law (officially known as "The Parent Empowerment Act" in California, where it originated) was written, passed by a majority of legislators in two chambers, and signed by a governor from a party different from that of its authors certainly not with the intention of undermining public education, but of advancing equity. It specifically benefits those parents who are the least privileged, the most powerless in our country, whose children all too often suffer the most from our (I'm talking about us, we adults, not someone else) failure to establish educational equity. I certainly do not suppose Professor Ravitch is opposed to equity.

She contends that this leads to the parents involved acting like owners, which is improper, since such schools are community property and public goods belonging to all taxpayers, including the childless or those with grown-up children. If the changes ensuing from the Parent Trigger were permanent or resulted in a change of ultimate governance over the school and its property, this argument could be sustained; but the changes are not permanent (in the case of McKinley Elementary or Locke High School, the charters only last for five years and must be renewed), and ultimate governance and ownership of the public property involved remains with the school district, not the entering management; so what is involved is actually at best a radical change of management rather than ownership, and the argument is rendered invalid.

I believe parents should be involved in the governance of their schools, and not just through advisory councils like those supported (one would hope with sincerity) by the American Federation of Teachers; and therefore under the By-Laws of the school I am proposing, a position on our school's board has been reserved for an elected parent representative (along with a teacher representative, and a student representative, on our eight-person board). This is farther in the direction of parent empowerment than many educators, and some parents, are prepared to go; but I believe in representative democracy, and this policy is consistent with those of the European Schooling Helsinki, agreed to by a government whose educational administration both Professor Ravitch and I much admire, and is a best practice in other international schools around the world. We have so much to learn from the other 95% of humanity that do not live in the United States, if only we would stop squabbling and learn.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On Charter School Quality

I just read an editorial in New Jersey's Star-Ledger extolling Governor Christie's charter school authorization policy. In particular, the editorial refers to a new, "more rigorous review process, based on the best practices of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the gold standard in this field."

I have looked at these in the past, and am about to review them, since it appears they have been updated; but I retain a certain initial skepticism towards such. I am not saying that every charter school that applies deserves public funding; even in Sweden, whose charter (they call them friskolor, "free schools") school laws I admire, about half of all applications are rejected. But "rigor" and "quality" in charter school authorizing, while sounding unobjectionable, can be dangerous temptations, since behind this mindset is the assumption that the authorizers will know quality when they see it; and if that were the case, then the authorizing districts should already have a record of recognizing talent when selecting the principals of district-run schools and of successfully choosing and promulgating their own innovative plans; and if that were the case, the public wouldn't be clamoring for the opportunity to start charter schools in the first place, at least in large cities with dysfunctional education systems, like Los Angeles.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

How to Not Make a Difference for Poor Children

Today I will reprise a theme derived from my former career as a teacher of English rhetoric.

I have read that Aristotle invented logic because he tired of hearing invalid arguments made in the public assemblies in Athens.

I have in mind a fairly obscure blogger whom I am not going to name because he doesn't deserve more attention than that he's currently not getting. I have no reason to draw attention to ideas that are deservedly being ignored; instead, I want to draw attention to a style of argumentation that needs to be expunged from the public discourse to the greatest extent possible under our present conditions of open communications under what still resemble democratic governing institutions.

The blogger I am thinking of has been accused of actually stalking and harassing some of my friends in a way bordering on the illegal, but I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and therefore will assume that his objections to some of the political strategies and ends of the educational reform movement are sincere. I will only concentrate on style here, not substance or personal motivation. Therefore I will quote from a specimen of the vicious rhetoric employed, only changing proper names so as to spare his victims from further embarrassment; then, resurrecting my English teacher editorial skills, I will rewrite the paragraph in a manner I think ethical and possibly persuasive; and then I will close with a brief comment.  

There's a lot of ugliness to choose from in the latest blog post published, but I suppose I might as well start with the beginning, to illustrate how relentlessly assaulted the reader of such diatribes is made to feel right from the beginning. (Again, I am changing names so as to protect the victims of this train of insults from further injury, and so as to leave the investigation of any truths behind the claims being made for some other venue.)

"The scoundrels, scandal-mongers, and assorted criminals at the so-called Solidarity Insurrection have been very active lately. Meeting with other astroturf groups on a statewide privatization bus tour. Hosting meetings with their ideological counterparts of the extreme right-wing Midwestern Institute. Lying to Father Smith. Covering up the fact that their Executive Director, that foppish millionaire from Mount John Paul — Joe Houston, was illegally lobbying the New York City Board of Education. They've even taken to smearing actual grass-roots parent organizations like Guardians Throughout the United States in high profile venues like ABC's Miseducation Nation.

With all the poverty pimping and privatization pushing they've been up to, I wondered if" and so on. 

There is much to analyze in these eight lines (which turned brown when I copied them into my blogger program, and I left them such, as reminiscent of the material they amount to), but I will only highlight the writer's diction, in particular his dependence upon personal insult and his choice of predictably harsh, ugly, but also mechanical, stereotyped, imaginationless verbs. The focus is immediately placed on the human beings, whom the writer hardly knows, of the organization he opposes, rather than on their ideas or policy positions: we are told they are "scoundrels, scandal-mongers, and assorted criminals", all without evidence or even identifying the scandals they are selling or the crimes they are committing, unless trying to improve the lives of underprivileged children be one. If this were printed in a traditional publication, the publisher might be indicted for libel, but in the shadowy world of the blogosphere, cowards can use their avatars to publish all manner of defamation. Similarly, he starts off the description of the organization's activities with "meeting" and " hosting", but these apparently don't sound bad enough, so he moves on to "lying", "covering up", "illegally lobbying" and "smearing", before descending into the cheap, mechanical alliteration, probably borrowed, his only attempt at a stylistic flourish, of "poverty pimping and privatization pushing". There is no evidence presented in the text to support any of these accusations of nefarious activities--the writer depends instead on links to his own previous, similar, evidenceless, unread mud-fests on his own blog (there is precious little independent support for any of these accusations)--and the main question that arises is, Why wouldn't a sane reader with better ways to spend time not flee this site in horror?

Now let's return to the assumption (hard to believe at this point, but I've looked around at other things he's written, and some of his positions are actually ones I agree with) that this individual means well, even if his political indoctrination has led him into adopting some of the most unpopular and democratically ineffective tactics ever devised. Let's assume that he really wants to help poor children have a chance at getting an education equal to that of wealthier people, and believes that a unified, traditional public school system is the best way to achieve this. He could simply say so, without all of the personal invective that gets in the way of this message. He could reasonably comment on current affairs like public school choice, charter schools, or parental empowerment, supporting some initiatives and opposing others, without depicting his opponents as the minions of evil forces from whom the world needs to be saved.

With this in mind, I'll attempt a rewrite. 

"The organizers at the so-called Solidarity Insurrection have been very active lately. Meeting with other supposed grassroots groups on a statewide bus tour promoting the division of our public school system, hosting meetings with the conservative Midwestern Institute, prevaricating in Father Smith, and covering up the fact that their Executive Director, that millionaire from Mount John Paul, Joe Houston, was reprimanded for lobbying the New York City Board of Education, they've even taken to questioning the funding of  actual grass-roots parent organizations like Guardians Throughout the United States in high profile venues like ABC's Education Nation.

With all the privatization promotion they've been up to, I wondered if  and so on. This paragraph is still hostile to Solidarity Insurrection, but by my reducing or removing the extremes in the rhetoric, the writer sounds possibly credible, and readers may continue to the end of the piece. 

In my experience of public education controversy, I have come to believe that people on all sides of the debates show up to voice opinions in their free time because they care about the futures of the next generation; and even when people advocate policies I sincerely think are short-sighted or likely to prove ineffective, I do not forget this, and do not allow my own soul to descend to the depths where I become some fighting spirit determined to pull others down into the muck I inhabit. All education bloggers should take this same vow. 

Or some can continue as they are, and watch their blogs sink into the depths, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.