Wednesday, January 02, 2013

U.S. Schools becoming Fascist institutions?

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California, a bottomless fountain of foolishness, has proposed a measure that would permit governors to deploy National Guard troops to provide "security" at government-run schools.

"Is it not part of the national defense to make sure that your children are safe?" Boxer asked during a Capitol Hill press conference in the misguided belief that this content-free trope somehow constituted compelling wisdom.

She blithely stated that her proposal wouldn’t be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act (which was supposed to prevent the domestic use of the military for the purpose of law enforcement) because it would allow governors to re-purpose troops who are already being used for drug interdiction operations. That is to say, the militarization of schools wouldn’t constitute a new Posse Comitatus violation, but rather expand on an existing one.

Boxer’s proposal to militarize the schools could have been taken directly from "The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012," a terrifyingly prescient essay published twenty years ago in Parameters, the journal of the U.S. Army War College by military historian Charles J. Dunlap. This glimpse of a dystopian future takes the form of a long letter written by an officer awaiting execution as a traitor to the junta that has seized control over the United States in the wake of military disasters abroad and socio-economic turmoil at home.

"It wasn't any single cause that led us to this point," writes the condemned patriot to a friend. "It was instead a combination of several different developments, the beginnings of which were evident in 1992." Rather than de-mobilizing at the end of the Cold War, the ruling establishment expanded the military’s mission overseas and made it an even more pervasive presence at home.

Military personnel became "an adjunct to all police forces in the country," the officer recalls; social and economic problems were redefined as "national security" issues and brought under the military's area of responsibility. This is how uniformed military personnel became ubiquitous: People became accustomed to the sight of "uniformed military personnel patrolling their neighborhood.... Even the youngest citizens were co-opted.... [We have] an entire generation of young people who have grown up comfortable with the sight of military personnel patrolling their streets and teaching in their classrooms."

There is a sense in which Boxer’s proposal is redundant, since armed "warriors" are already deployed in countless schools nation-wide: They are called "resource officers," but they are taught to perceive themselves as front-line troops on a combat footing.

"You've got to be a one-man fighting force," self-styled counter-terrorism "expert" John Giduck exhorted police officers at the 2007 National Conference of School Resource Officers in Orlando, Florida. "You've got to have enough guns, and ammunition and body armor to stay alive.... You should be walking around in schools every day in complete tactical equipment, with semi-automatic weapons.... You can no longer afford to think of yourselves as peace officers.... You must think of yourself [sic] as soldiers in a war because we're going to ask you to act like soldiers." (Emphasis added.)

"Resource Officers" are not present for the protection of children; their mission is to intimidate them, and – with increasing frequency – make criminals out of them. A detailed story published by The Guardian of London points out that in 2010, police deployed in public schools issued roughly 300,000 "class C misdemeanor" citations to school children, most of them for trivial disruptive behavior, such as "inappropriate" dress and excessive use of perfume. Those infractions can result in fines, community service, or even time behind bars – and an arrest record that can ruin the student’s future educational and employment prospects. This is a splendid illustration of the "school-to-prison pipeline" in operation.

Although horrific mass shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School are vanishingly rare, "lock-down" drills in which SWAT teams conduct training exercises involving hostage or terrorism scenarios are increasingly commonplace. Many of those "hostage rescue" drills are better described as hostage-taking exercises, since they are used as pretexts for warrantless searches of lockers and student property.

Vista Grande High School in Casa Grande, Arizona, held a lock-down drug sweep on October 31. As had happened before in other schools across the country, the students were confined to their classrooms, then led in small groups to another room where they were forced to line up against a wall and be searched with the help of drug-sniffing dogs.

This exercise introduced a new element: Among the four law enforcement agencies involved in the search was a group of prison guards employed by the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest for-profit prison contractor.

Notes Caroline Isaacs of the Tucson office of the American Friends Service Committee: "To invite for-profit prison guards to conduct law enforcement actions in a high school is perhaps the most direct expression of the `schools-to-prison pipeline’ I’ve ever seen." Clearly, the similarities between government-run schools and prisons are not limited to architecture. Posting National Guard troops around government indoctrination centers, as Boxer proposes, would destroy any residual pretense that there is a material distinction between "schools" and "prisons" in what is becoming an undisguised garrison state.

Like most contemporary liberals, Boxer is a passionate militarist who swaddles her enthusiasm for lethal force in rhetoric about compassion and equality. She can call for armed troops to patrol "gun-free" school zones without perceiving any contradiction, because she simply assumes that the rest of us exist only to serve the interests of the political class and its enforcement arm. It is their privilege to compel, and our duty to submit to whatever they choose to inflict upon us. This is what Boxer and her comrades have in mind when they invoke "national security."


British school that spent £500,000 giving its pupils iPads admits that HALF are now broken

The old story:  What is "free" is not respected

A school which gave out iPads to every pupil in hope of improving their education has admitted that just a year later half the costly devices have been broken.

Honywood Community Science School dished out iPad2 tablets to its 1,200 pupils a year ago, at vast cost to the taxpayer.

Despite warnings that children would not be able to look after the fragile computer tablet, the school in Coggeshall, Essex, allowed children to take the device outside the classroom, playground and street and home at evenings and weekends.

It was hoped that the iPads would be a useful learning tool, as well as keep the school up to pace with international competitors embracing the technology in the classroom.

But after just one year, more than four in ten of the iPads had been sent off for repair, after being knocked, dropped or scratched. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal 489 had to be replaced after being found to be beyond repair.  About a fifth of those sent for repair – 112 – had to be sent back more than once.

Pupils said in some of the younger classes, around half the class had broken their tablet at least once, and some as many as three times.  Despite the threat of confiscation after three tablets, ultimately none were taken away from pupils.

The school argues that since introducing the devices, it has seen improvements in pupil discipline, attendance, and exam results.

Apple, the manufacturer of iPads, is said to be aggressively targeting the school market and at the time headteachers were accused of ‘falling for a gimmick’.

Honywood, which gained academy status last year, giving it greater control over its budget, gave out the tablets last September, at an estimated cost of £500,000, or  £400 per iPad.  Parents were asked only to pay £50 towards insuring  the device.

At the time headteacher Simon Mason said the investment represented 2.3 per cent of the school’s budget, and did not want to publicise the scheme for fear of putting the safety of pupils at risk.

On the latest figures, he said: ‘The breakage rate resulted from using a recommended case which was insufficiently robust. Since replacing cases this year, breakage has fallen to 1.2 per cent.’

He added: ‘Exam results at the end of our first year of using tablets were the highest in the school’s 48-year history.   ‘Attendance has risen and we’ve seen our lowest rate  of fixed-term exclusions for ten years.’

Peter Inson, a former school headmaster and a commentator on education, said the breakages were hardly surprising.  He said: ‘In my view you cannot expect children of 11 and 12 to be responsible for a delicate gadget.

‘They are still running around using jumpers for goal- posts and being generally rambunctious.’

Handing out equipment without expecting the parents to contribute financially only increases the likelihood of something being lost or damaged, he added.

Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Buying technology for schools has to be about educational results, not just trying to appear cutting edge for the sake of it.

‘Not many parents would trust their 11-year-old to look after such an expensive piece of kit so it is wrong for the school to do so just because taxpayers are picking up the bill.’


South Australia private school fees take a hike

But still booming

PARENTS will pay an extra $355 to send their child to a private school next year as fees rise by an average 5.5 per cent.

Across the state, fees at independent schools will rise by between 3 and 10.5 per cent, while more schools are charging over $20,000 - or more than $500 a week - for Year 12.

Schools say the fee increases are a result of the rising cost of providing education, driven by changes to federal and state education policies and programs, utilities and teacher salaries.

Association of Independent Schools of SA chief executive Garry Le Duff said the fee increases were consistent with past years and rising costs common to all schools.

He said a survey of member schools showed the significant cost drivers were teacher salaries and training, increasing water and electricity charges, the introduction of a new curriculum, compliance requirements and the replacement of outdated technology.

"Thoughtful and considered increases in fees ensure continuous improvement in education to meet parents' expectations and attract and retain the best available teaching talent," he said.

Mr Le Duff said the survey also showed the majority of independent schools expected to increase or maintain their enrolments next year and in the long-term. Many schools, he said, were at their enrolment capacity.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that over the 12 months to the September quarter 2012, inflation in the education sector rose 6.1 per cent. The main contributor to the rise was secondary education, up 7.7 per cent.

A spokeswoman for St Peter's College said the school was focused on reducing costs where possible - but the cost of education was continuing to rise faster than general inflation due to changes in federal and state education policies.

Catholic Education SA director Paul Sharkey said fee increases at Catholic schools had been kept to a minimum but would be similar to those at independent schools.

"People are conscious of the need to be quite careful to keep any increases to the absolute minimum at the moment," he said. "I haven't heard of any others freezing fees like Rostrevor."


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