Why Public Education is in Shams

Despite months of protests and civil disobedience, Chicago’s board of education voted Wednesday, May 22 to close 50 Chicago public schools, the largest such wave of closings in U.S. history. The schools are almost all exclusively located in black and Latino low-income neighborhoods in Chicago’s South and West Side. The months-long efforts of parents, teachers, and students to convince the board to rethink the closures, and even prevent the vote from taking place, ultimately failed.

Some of the most outspoken critics of the school closings have been the members of their local school councils, or LSCs. Unique to Chicago, LSCs provide teachers, parents, and community members direct oversight in how their school is run.

In a piece posted to The Washington Post‘s Answer Sheet blog, Leslie T. Fenwick, dean of the Howard University School of Education writes that such policies are “really about exporting the urban poor, reclaiming inner city land, and using schools to recalculate urban land value. This kind of school reform is not about children, it’s about the business elite gaining access to the nearly $600 billion that supports the nation’s public schools. It’s about money.”

The irony here is that this really wasn’t about a lack of money. To add insult to the injury, Chicago is simultaneously transferring hundreds of millions in tax dollars meant for public education to the private sector, including $100 million for De Paul University, a private institution, to build a new sports stadium.

So many times I have written articles to expose this gross disenfranchisement of the poor, black, and Latino children that is systematically occurring in our nation. We will pay a huge price in the future, as a community, for this planned disregard for those that need our attention and care the most. Is this what we really are, as a society?  I choose to believe that is not the case.  What we are is lazy and indifferent to anything that does not directly affect us. However, I assure you this assault on public education in our most impoverished areas of our country and cities will affect you in ways you may not appreciate on the surface. Crime, the cost of public assistance, and the real danger of long term unemployment of those under 25 will rear its ugly head and we won’t like the results.

We must act and speak out for those without political clout. Yeah, I am talking to you, cozy middle class families. There are actions we can all take.

We need to change tactics, including pressuring union leadership to mobilize their members to demand the Democratic Party stop supporting school closures nationally. We need to support and encourage teachers and community members taking over their schools in order to save them. Yes, I mean we need to prepare to occupy the schools, just as the CIO did in organizing industry in the ’30s. They occupied the factories. And I think the difference is we need to occupy the schools and make them sites of educational liberation, so that we show that it is we who control education, not these elites who have hack politicians who do their work.  But to do that requires a phenomenal amount of mobilization and consciousness and radicalism on the part of parents and students and teachers and community activists.

But if not now, when? The United States places 17th in the developed world for education, according to a global report by education firm Pearson. A report recently published by Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance found that students in Latvia, Chile and Brazil are making gains in academics three times faster than American students, while those in Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia and Lithuania are improving at twice the rate.

Students in Shanghai who recently took international exams for the first time outscored every other school system in the world. In the same test, American students ranked 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading. A 2009 study found that U.S. students ranked 25th among 34 countries in math and science, behind nations like China, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Finland.

Just 6 percent of U.S. students performed at the advanced level on an international exam administered in 56 countries in 2006. That proportion is lower than those achieved by students in 30 other countries. American students’ low performance and slow progress in math could also threaten the country’s economic growth, experts have said.

There are no magic bullets: The small number of correlations found in the study shows the poverty of simplistic solutions. Throwing money at education by itself rarely produces results, and individual changes to education systems, however sensible, rarely do much on their own. Education requires long-term, coherent and focused system-wide attention to achieve improvement.

Respect teachers: Good teachers are essential to high-quality education. Finding and retaining them is not necessarily a question of high pay. Instead, teachers need to be treated as the valuable professionals they are, not as technicians in a huge, educational machine.

Culture can be changed: The cultural assumptions and values surrounding an education system do more to support or undermine it than the system can do on its own. Using the positive elements of this culture and, where necessary, seeking to change the negative ones, are important to promoting successful outcomes.

Parents are neither impediments to nor saviors of education: Parents want their children to have a good education; pressure from them for change should not be seen as a sign of hostility but as an indication of something possibly amiss in provision. On the other hand, parental input and choice do not constitute a panacea. Education systems should strive to keep parents informed and work with them.

Educate for the future, not just the present: Many of today’s job titles, and the skills needed to fill them, simply did not exist 20 years ago. Education systems need to consider what skills today’s students will need in future and teach accordingly.

Enough said, let’s get off our collective asses and do something that begs our immediate attention.

Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and CMEs – Status Orange-

Folks we are in a whole new territory! In the last 36 hours, we have had multiple large earthquakes, several 6.0, two 7.0, and a monster of 8.3 (thirteenth largest ever recorded!). Several Volcanoes have rumbled to life.  In addition, I am sure you all know by now of the major bridge collapse in Washington State over the Skagit River.

These events have rapidly filled the predictive language we have been seeing for the last few months.  This is fast becoming a critical period we hoped would not come to pass.  The next 72 hours may be even more significant.  If our models are correct, and so far they are scaring us a bit, we anticipate one more major quake that could generate a tsunami and it is possible for a large CME event that could cause severe power outages, including the internet going down.

Be sure you have checked those bug-out bags, you have a few weeks of water and food.  Get in touch with family and know what you would do to gather together. Let’s hope things will calm down, but also be prepared!

Solar Activity – Quick Update

Solar activity is continuing at active levels. Sunspot 1748 continues to flex it’s muscles.  Spawning an M-class flare and 4 X-class flares within the last 72 hours.  1748 is now more earth facing so we have to be even more diligent.  Forecasts are the highest since this solar cycle began.

flare risk 5_16_13

Continue to be alert.


Solar Flares and Earthquake Acitivity – Heads Up -Updated 2:28 AM UTC

Since our earlier post, things are heating up.  We have had our 3rd X-Class Flare today! It is strong enough to make the top 10 list all time!  The sunspot responsible is still moving onto the earth facing side so we have to elevate our concern.


In addition, since our earlier post, we have also had a 7.0 earthquake in Tonga.  The significance of this quake is it was 608 km in depth.  This is one of the deepest large quakes we have seen in our experience.  it simply means it occurred closer to the base of the plate, as opposed to the surface.  The dynamics of this quake are not apparent at this time, but it could be significant, especially to the areas of our concern, the west coast side of the pacific plate.  We haven’t elevated status yet, but really, please, pay close attention to these events over the next 24 hours.

Solar Flares and Earthquake Acitivity – Heads Up

As our regular readers know, we are constantly monitoring natural events that may pose hazards for us all.  We don’t make predictions, only report on events that raise the possibilities of future natural disasters or impacts.  We are raising our alert levels to yellow for the following 7-14 days.

The reasons are elevating solar activities that have resulted in several M-Class Flares and two X-class flares within the last 48 hours.  While the resulting CMEs so far have not been earth directed, the areas of the extreme activity are rotating into earth view and are showing no sign of weakening. There is a better than 50% chance of earth directed M-Class flares for the next 72 hours. In our estimation there is at least a 25% chance of an X-Class flare for the 72 hours. These of course could be accompanied by large to severe CMEs.




This combines with an increase of 4.7+ earthquake activity that we have been monitoring for the past few weeks.  Our concern is not so much where the earthquakes have been occurring as much as where they are NOT occurring.  A brief explanation  here: Plates are dynamic, so when one side is moving, the opposite and opposing side has to “adjust’ to that movement.  On occasion, the plates can “lock” and thereby resist this adjustment.  The bad news here is that the locked side of the plate usually builds a large amount of stress which can then be released with a sudden and violent “snap” if you will.  Such a situation now exists along the West Coast of the US, Canada, and Mexico.

plate locked 5_12_31

Combining these events, along with some anecdotal information such as the predictions of a global coastal event from places like FarSight.org and Half Past Human for an event around the 19-23 May is enough for us to issues this warning alert.  Make sure you pay attention, have your “Bug Out” bags ready to go, especially if yu are within 50 miles of a coast line and less than 500′ in elevation.

Heads Up!

Dealing with the World

If an optimist is someone who believes we live in the best of all possible worlds, and a pessimist is someone who fears that this is true– then clearly, if the world is the same regardless, the difference is purely in the point of view of the optimist or the pessimist.  Ultimately, it’s all in one’s perspective — a perspective each of us can choose.  The key to our dilemma is choosing our perspective wisely.

Finding our way in this new world with its rapidly changing paradigm shifts is our challenge.  Since our perceptions will dictate the reality we live in, then most certainly the knowledge we have of the “truth” behind these changes is the essential tool in helping us make the right decisions about the future we desire.

Education and communications are key to developing our understanding in a way that reflects the “reality” around us.  Education unfortunately, even in developed countries, is not going the right direction. Now, when we need understanding and knowledge more than ever, we are seeing a decline in the quality of the education our children, and even adults, are receiving.  This is occurring, in spite of the vast amount of resources being expended.  To give you an example of how distorted things have become say in the US, take a look at this; the average per capita expenditure for a child going to school in the poorest areas of LA, Lennox, is about $5,000/yr.  A student going to a private school in LA has about $32,000 a year spent for that education. But the really startling number is the cost to incarcerate a youth in LA, $125,000/yr. Can anyone tell me what’s wrong with picture? What is clear is that if this knowledge were “common” I believe we, as the community, would most definitely begin to re-prioritize our agenda and our public monies.

Our higher educational system has become nothing more than another “money-making” corporate endeavor, instead of a system to produce the business, professional, and political leaders we so desperately need now.  Here are some facts to consider. Young households are being hit particularly hard by student loan debt.  In America today, 40 percent of all households that are led by someone under the age of 35 are paying off student loan debt.  Back in 1989, that figure was below 20 percent.  According to the Federal Reserve, the total amount of student loan debt has increased by a whopping 275 percent since 2003. Since 1986, the cost of college tuition has risen by 498 percent.

 Yet with staggering numbers, the quality of that education is heading exactly in the opposite direction. At most U.S. colleges and universities, the quality of the education that you will receive is very poor.  Just check out some numbers about the quality of college education in the United States from an article that appeared in USA Today….

-”After two years in college, 45% of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36% showed little change.”

-”Students also spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago”

-”35% of students report spending five or fewer hours per week studying alone.”

-”50% said they never took a class in a typical semester where they wrote more than 20 pages”

-”32% never took a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”

What is more tragic is these impacts are not just an issue of our young people.  Consider this recent finding concerning the impacts of the unmitigated disaster on the elderly. According to government data, compiled by the Treasury Department at the request of SmartMoney.com, the federal government is withholding money from a rapidly growing number of Social Security recipients who have fallen behind on federal student loans. From January through August 6, the government reduced the size of roughly 115,000 retirees’ Social Security checks on those grounds. That’s nearly double the pace of the department’s enforcement in 2011; it’s up from around 60,000 cases in all of 2007 and just 6 cases in 2000.

If we have any hope for a future worth living, we must begin to make this knowledge a part of our daily dialogue.  Our priorities need to be re-aligned with what is important for our future, and education is the essential key to determining the nature of that future. Begin the discussions in your schools, homes, and PTA meetings.  The more we know, the more we can do to make our children’s future the legacy we wish it to be for them.

Something Strange is Happening in Syria

By this afternoon, Syria has disappeared from the internet!  Traffic has literally stopped! 

While there have been no new military attacks on Syria since Sunday morning, something more peculiar happened in the past few hours, when according to Akamai and various other Internet traffic trackers, Syria has literally gone “dark“, or, as Umbrella Security Labs describes it, as if “Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet.”

Syria Internet Traffic

At around 18:45 UTC OpenDNS resolvers saw a significant drop in traffic from Syria. On closer inspection it seems Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet. There have been numerous incidents where access to and from the Internet in Syria was shut down. Shutting down Internet access to and from Syria is achieved by withdrawing the BGP routes from Syrian prefixes. The graph below shows the sudden drop in visibility for Syrian network prefixes.

Routing on the Internet relies on the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). BGP distributes routing information and makes sure all routers on the Internet know how to get to a certain IP address. When an IP range becomes unreachable it will be withdrawn from BGP, this informs routers that the IP range is no longer reachable.

For example, one of the name servers for the DNS zone .SY is ns1.tld.sy with IP address

Normally our routers would expect a BGP route for

Currently that route has disappeared and we no longer have a way to reach the Nameservers for .SY that reside in Syria and in parallel news, we are hearing unconfirmed reports that mobile connections have been cut off as well.

This could very well be a preamble to a major offensive by forces aligned against Assad or more curiously could also impact the rebel forces more, as they rely more heavily on internet for command and control efforts.  We all should pay close attention over the next 48 hours.  Something ugly is coming Syria’s way, no doubt.