Standardized testing and schools as factories: Louis CK versus Common Core

Louis CK is the latest high-profile voice to join the chorus against the US educational Common Core and the educational system's emphasis on standardized testing. A great New Yorker piece explores the movement against standardized testing and one-size-fits-all pedagogy.

I think it falls short of the mark, though. The rise of standardized testing, standardized curriculum, and "accountability" are part of the wider phenomenon of framing every question in business terms. In the modern world, the state is a kind of souped up business. That's why we're all "taxpayers" instead of "citizens." "Taxpayer" reframes policy outcomes as a kind of customer-loyalty perk. If your taxes are the locus of your relationship with the state, then people who don't pay taxes -- people too young, old, disabled, or unlucky to be working -- are not entitled to policy outcomes that reflect their needs.

"Taxpayers" are the shareholders in government. The government is the board of directors. School administrators are the management. Teachers are the assembly-line workers. Kids are the product. "Accountability" means that the product has to be quantified and reported on every quarter. The only readily quantifiable elements of education are attendance and test-scores, so the entire educational system is reorganized around maximizing these elements, even though they are only tangentially related to real educational outcomes and are trivial to game.

The vilification of teachers and teachers' unions go hand-in-hand with this idea. At the heart of teachers' unions' demands is the insistence that teaching is a craft that requires nonstandard, difficult-to-quantify approaches that are incompatible with factory-style "accountability." The emphasis on the outliers of teachers' unions -- the rare instances in which bad teachers are protected by their trade unions -- instead of the activity that constitutes the vast majority of union advocacy -- demanding an educational approach that is grounded in trust, respect, and individual tutelage -- the "taxpayer" types can make out teachers as lazy slobs who don't want to jog on the same brutal treadmill as the rest of us.

Read the rest

Ukrainian president Yanukovuych flees Kiev as opposition seize the palace

Ukrainian opposition protesters have taken control of the presidential palace and demanded that the president Viktor Yanukovuych resign. Yanukovuych has gone into hiding and his whereabouts are unknown. The opposition leaders who signed an earlier peace deal with Yanukovuych face repudiation from the crowd in Maidan, who accuse them of selling out. Yanukovuych took to television to deny a rumor that he is resigning. The release of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is said to be imminent. Opposition parliamentarians are attempting to establish legitimacy as the new parliament of Ukraine. Politicians from the ethnic-Russian-dominated south and east have denounced the new government and vowed to govern themselves independent of Kiev. Protesters in the region are demanding reunification with Russia.

The riot police are fleeing their barracks, wearing masks to hide their faces.

Lots more updates, in realtime, from the Guardian.

Read the rest

I am a Ukrainian: powerful, viral video about Euromaidan

A powerful video starring an anonymous protester called "I am a Ukrainian" has been viewed some five million times. The video was directed by Ben Moses, a documentary filmmaker who is working on a film about grassroots uprising. The video's narrator details the abuses and corruption of the ruling government, and calls on viewers to demand support for the protesters' cause. The comments for the video are filled with people claiming that it was produced by the US State Department as a political move to secure an oil pipeline and keep it out of Russian control.

It's clear that the US State Department has a long history of producing media -- propaganda, even -- aimed at swaying foreign politics, but the view that the protesters are aggressors here is laughable. For one thing, there is no question that the Kremlin has directly intervened in this affair, no question that the current government is happy to pass laws criminalizing all dissent, and no question that the police and government controlled militias are the aggressor, and have perpetrated a string of escalating, horrific acts of violence, including dozens of murders.

The Ukrainian opposition is, indeed, a weird and uneasy coalition of progressives, hooligans, everyday people and career activists. Its leadership is fragmented and ineffective. But it is also riddled with provoacteurs, its most effective leaders have been imprisoned, and it has been disrupted and undermined through a dirty tricks campaign worthy of Nixon or Putin.

The events depicted in the video did happen. The fight isn't "just about freedom" -- but it is about freedom, among other things: official corruption and incompetence, and escaping from the shadow of Russian political intervention and manipulation.

I Am a Ukrainian

Scenes from a hotel near #Euromaidan

Josip Saric from Croatian national television is in a Kiev hotel near Maidan, and has kindly provided us with some snapshots of the surreal and troubling scenes, which range from bodies under shrouds in the lobby to impenetrable smoke outside the windows and bullet-holes in the walls.

Thank you to Marko Rakar for introducing us to Josip's photos.

Read the rest

Ukraine security forces torch #euromaidan's IT tent, kill journalist, beat tech protester to near-death


Protesters in Kiev's #Euromaidan camp report that yesterday's horrific violence -- which saw at least 25 protesters killed by police -- has continued to escalate. The #IT_Namet tent -- a fixture in Euromaidan, offering nonviolent IT support to protesters and journalists -- was targeted by government security forces who burned it to the ground, beating Alexei Lymarenko, one of the tent's volunteers to a state of near death. A journalist, Veremei Vyacheslav, was killed by police.

Here is a statement released by IT_Namet, asking the international technology community to support their efforts:

“From the very beginning #IT_Namet was built with the aim of a peaceful protest. Members of the IT-community never had weapons, except for tablets and smartphones connected to the Internet. So, the real purpose of security forces actions was not anti-terrorism, as it was claimed, but the destruction of unarmed people. We regret that tonight IT professional Lymarenko Alexei suffered. He was together with Ukrainian journalist Vyacheslav Veremei. Vyacheslav was killed, and Alex, who was beaten nearly to death, has serious traumas of his face. Although # IT_Namet was destroyed tonight, our beliefs and our support for peaceful protest remained unchanged. The “IT spіlnota” (IT community), which united people representing the IT industry, is expanding its activity beyond # IT_Namet. “IT spіlnota” will set out to spot the violence of authorities, to save people’s lives. Now every member of the IT-community can itself make his/her choice on the tools to protect their rights and the rights of people who yesterday were violated by their summary execution. We highly appreciate any actual support of IT-community abroad.”

Tech Protester in Kiev Badly Beaten, Journalist Killed, As ‘IT Tent’ Is Burned By Police [Mike Butcher/Tech Crunch]

See also: EuroMaidan: a Facebook revolution in the streets of Kiev

Join Boing Boing, Reddit, and websites all over the world on the 11th to fight mass surveillance


In two days, the Internet will erupt in a protest to rival the uprising against SOPA: in Aaron Swartz's memory, websites everywhere will add code from TheDayWeFightBack.org to their templates, helping to flood Congress -- and the world's legislative bodies -- with calls for an end to mass surveillance.

In America, we're demanding that Congress pass The USA Freedom Act, restoring the Fourth Amendment protection that Americans have enjoyed for hundreds of years. If you have a website (a Tumblr, a blog) then you -- like us -- can add the code to your template today, and on the 11th, it will go live.

The Day We Fight Back - February 11th 2014

Social-engineering the FBI in 1971


In The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI, Betty Medsger reveals the long-secret details of the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, an activist group that raided the FBI's offices, retrieving evidence of J Edgar Hoover's criminal program of secret spying. The book is a rollicking history of the confluence of protest, locksport, activism and amateur spycraft. One of its most hilarious moments is the description of the group's social engineering hack on an unpickable lock that they needed to get past in order to get to their target:

Read the rest

#Euromaidan: Must-see photos and stories from the front lines


An amazing post on Livejournal from Ilya "Zyalt" Varlamov gives a glimpse of life behind the barricades at the #Euromaidan uprising in Kiev, Ukraine. Zyalt's photos and text convey the diversity of the rebel lines -- "from students to pensioners" -- and the ingenuity they display in everything from homebrewed catapaults to morale-boosting drumming ("When casual stone- and grenade-throwing takes place, the knock is monotonous, in order to set rhythm and keep the morale. When Berkut attacks, drumming becomes louder and everyone hears that – for some it is a signal to run away, for some, on the opposite – defend the barricades.") At the end, we see the moment when the smoke clears and the truce begins. This is nailbiting, engrossing, terrifying stuff.

Here's hoping that all our readers in Ukraine are safe, especially Daniel, who wrote our first post on #Euromaidan.

Read the rest

Ukrainian riot police strip protester naked in sub-zero weather

In this video, Ukrainian riot police have stripped a protester naked in subzero conditions and are parading him in public before putting him in a police van. The protester is stoic in the face of humiliation.

Daniel, who wrote our feature on #euromaidan, says that it's getting worse there: "Tires burning, police started shooting to kill, body count was at 7 this morning. Hard to say, lots of people disappear. I'm wearing bulletproof vest."

Of the protester in the video, he says, "look at his statue - what a spirit."

Stay safe, Daniel.

berkut, polonenuy

Ukraine government sends text to protesters: "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance"


Ukraine's dictatorship is revelling in its new, self-appointed dictatorial powers. The million-plus participants in the latest round of protests received a text-message from the government reading Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.

Read the rest

Help ORG fund a legal director!

Ed from the UK Open Rights Group writes, "In the next month Open Rights Group will be recruiting a Legal Director to help us intervene in crucial digital rights court cases and bring real legal expertise to our work. We can't let government and big web companies go unchallenged in the courts. We already have the funding to take on a part-time Legal Director. But to bring in a full-time experienced lawyer who can drive ambitious legal projects we're relying on lots of new supporters joining ORG."

Read the rest

Holding mirrors up to police lines at #Euromaidan


Ukrainian protesters from the #Euromaidan movement have faced brutal police violence. A moving demonstration on December 30th included a line of protesters who held up mirrors to the riot police who faced them across the barricades.

Read the rest

Coalition to fight mass Internet surveillance declares global day of action, Feb 11


A broad coalition of organizations -- including Boing Boing -- have joined forces to declare February 11 a day of action in memory of Aaron Swartz and against NSA Internet spying and mass surveillance. Just as we did with the SOPA fight, we're asking people who care about this to make their own personal expressions of resistance, and take the case for caring about this and fighting back to the people closest to them. Each of us knows the arguments that will convince our friends and loved ones.

The Day We Fight Back sets out a number of ways you can participate, small and large. This is a fight we can win.

Read the rest

Oklahoma City cops charge Keystone XL protesters with "terrorism hoax" because their banner shed some glitter


Two protesters who held up an anti-Keystone-XL-pipeline banner at the Oklahoma City headquarters of Devon Energy have been charged with perpetrating a "terrorism hoax" because some of the glitter on their banner fell on the floor and was characterized by OKC cops as a "hazardous substance."

The arrest is an extreme example, but it's not an isolated one. Indeed, leaked documents show that TransCanada has an army of spies assembling dossiers on protesters, and has been briefing the FBI and local law on techniques for prosecuting anti-pipeline protesters as terrorists.

Read the rest

Million Mask March: anons in the world's streets

"Million Mask Marches" were planned for 400 cities, through which people in Guy Fawkes masks took to the streets, in protest of many causes, "from corruption to fracking." Russell Brand attended the London rally: "Whatever party they claim to represent in the day, at night they show their true colours and all go to the same party." See more at #MillionMaskMarch.

Read the rest