Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Corporate Dictatorship of PBS and NPR

By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

PBS is blowing it, and their decision not to air a documentary on the Koch brothers is pretty horrifying proof of it.

But it wasn't always this way. On November 7, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Public Broadcasting Act.

The act set up public broadcasting in the United States, by establishing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which led to the creation of the Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS, and National Public Radio.

After signing the act into law, Johnson said that, “It announces to the world that our Nation wants more than just material wealth; our Nation wants more than a 'chicken in every pot.' We in America have an appetite for excellence, too. While we work every day to produce new goods and to create new wealth, we want most of all to enrich man's spirit. That is the purpose of this act.”

The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 states that, “It is in the public interest to encourage the growth and development of public radio and television broadcasting, including the use of such media for instructional, educational, and cultural purposes… it is necessary and appropriate for the Federal Government to complement, assist, and support a national policy that will most effectively make public telecommunications services available to all citizens of the United States.”

When public broadcasting in America was first established, the intent was that Congress would provide funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which would in turn divide that funding up among the various public television and radio stations across the country.

This worked great for years.
The Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio brought educational programming, and independent news and political analysis to millions of Americans.
But, with the onset of “Reaganomics” 33 years ago, federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has been slashed.

As a result, public broadcasting institutions now rely more and more on corporate and billionaire cash to operate, which is probably why PBS and NPR now filter what they play on their airwaves, so that they don’t anger their wealthy backers.
This is where the documentary “Citizen Koch” comes in.

“Citizen Koch” is a documentary about money and politics, focusing heavily on the uprising that took place in Wisconsin in 2011 and 2012.

It talks about how the Citizens United decision paved the way for secretive political spending by major players, including the Koch Brothers.

As Brendan Fischer over at the Center for Media and Democracy’s PRWatch points out, the documentary was originally supposed to air on PBS stations nationwide, but its funding was abruptly cut off when, it appears, David Koch was offended.

But why would PBS care if David Koch didn’t like one of their documentaries?
Because, according to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, David Koch has donated upwards of $23 million to public television. And when you donate $23 million dollars to public television, you get more than just a tote bag or a coffee mug – you get to dictate the on-air programming.

This is the kind of influence and control that we see in mainstream media today too.
Thanks to the giant transnational corporations that own them, mainstream media outlets tailor their programming to appease their corporate backers.

We can't do anything about the big corporations that own our so-called “mainstream” media, but Public Broadcasting is still, at least in part, both legally and morally a part of our commons.

It’s time to take back our public airwaves, and cut-off the corporate and billionaire control over them, so that David Koch and his buddies don’t get to choose what you watch on TV.

And the only way to do that is to fully fund public radio and television.
Call your members of Congress, and tell them to protect funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, so that it can pick back up its work to “enrich man’s spirit.”

On Common Core: The Leading Groups Are Wrong Again

by Diane Ravitch

The joint statement issued by the National School Boards Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principles, and the American Association of School Administrators makes clear that public education in the United States is in deeper trouble than many thought. The problem, though, is not one of pedagogy or teaching personnel. It’s a serious lack of leadership.
The “leadership” groups’ statement on the Common Core standards shows that these “leaders” just don’t get it. They know no more about the Common Core than they did about No Child Left Behind.
Indeed, they say that the Common Core “tests are necessary” for “use in teacher and principal evaluation,” but those tests must be coupled with “sufficient, accurate, and timely data in addition to test scores.” Huh? Say what? After more than a decade of tests and “data-driven” instruction and evaluation, we need even MORE of it? Are they serious? This is like saying the economy needs more tax cuts for corporations and the rich to “stimulate” job creation. Or like a doctor saying he needs to bleed more “bad blood” from the patient in order to cure him.
The “leaders” state that “the prudent course is to avoid over-reliance on the assessments” UNTIL the Common Core standards “are fully implemented...” Then they add this nutty conclusion:
“Failure to consider this reality will result in the...the same disappointing results of NCLB-era accountability.”
Did these people never grasp that the “proficiency” requirements of No Child Left Behind were impossible to achieve? That the projections for 2014 were that 99 percent of California schools would be labeled as “failing,” with “failure” rates of 95 percent in the Great Lakes states and elsewhere?
A former assistant secretary of education in the Bush administration said that NCLB was really a “Trojan horse...a way to expose the failure of public blow it up a bit.” Is the Common Cre really so different?
Look at who supports the Common Core standards: Margaret Spellings, former Ed Secretary, who infamously called NCLB “99.9 percent pure;” Jeb Bush, who is pushing charter schools and vouchers across the country; Bill Gates, who funded the Common Core, and who wants more H1-B visas for his company despite the fact that American education churns out three times as many STEM graduates as there are jobs; and, the Business Roundtable and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who lobbied aggressively for unfunded corporate tax cuts that spawned huge deficits and debt, and for laissez-faire regulatory policies that aided and abetted massive fraud and corruption (especially on Wall Street) and that blew up the economy.
And now public school “leaders” are lending their support?
Public education in the United States is a foundational cornerstone of democratic governance. Both are in greater jeopardy than many of us thought."

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Influential National Network Calls for Elimination of School Boards

ALEC is still at it, Julie Underwood, dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, cautions in “School Boards Beware,” a commentary in the May issue of Wisconsin School News.

The model legislation disseminated by the pro-free market American Legislative Exchange Council’s national network of corporate members and conservative legislators seeks to privatize education and erode the local control, Underwood says.

“The ALEC goal to eliminate school districts and school boards is a bit shocking — but the idea is to make every school, public and private, independent through vouchers for all students. By providing all funding to parents rather than school districts, there is no need for local coordination, control or oversight,” she writes in the magazine of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.

Underwood, who says that Wisconsin public schools already face unprecedented change, last year co-authored a piece about ALEC’s grander plans, a “legislative contagion (that) seemed to sweep across the Midwest during the early months of 2011.”

In her recent piece, Underwood argues that a push to privatize education for the “free market” threatens the purpose of public education: to educate every child to “become an active citizen, capable of participating in our democratic process.”

School Boards Beware
Influential National Network Calls for Elimination of School Boards
An organization with nationwide influence is working hard to negate the decision-making and leadership authority of each school board in Wisconsin and across the country.
According to the Report Card on American Education, the education agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) calls for:
Reducing the influence of, or elimination of, local school districts and school boards.
Privatizing education through vouchers, charters and tax incentives.
Increasing student testing and reporting.
Introducing market factors into schools, particular the teaching profession.
In short, ALEC seeks to undo much of the work and power of school boards.
What is ALEC?
ALEC is a national network based in Washington, D.C., which has had strong impact on legislation in Wisconsin. ALEC describes itself as a membership organization for those who share a common belief in “limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberties.” Its goal is to create and enact model legislation, which they develop.
Although identified as nonpartisan, ALEC’s members skew to the conservative end of the political spectrum and include corporations, foundations, and “think tanks.” The corporations (profit and nonprofit) pay large annual fees and pay the additional costs of sponsoring meetings. Corporate members pay to serve on their taskforces, and provide the funds for the state legislators to attend ALEC meetings.
Model legislation is developed through the ALEC taskforces (e.g., health, safety, education), each co-chaired by a corporate and legislative member. In order to pass a model bill out of the ALEC task- force, both the public and elected sides of the committee must agree. The elected officials then submit these proposals to their own state legislatures.
Members of the taskforces have an interest in the topical area of the taskforce. For example, education taskforce members include representatives from the Friedman Foundation, the Charter School Association, the private school associations, and corporations providing education services.
The proposals cannot move out of the taskforce without the approval of the corporate interests. The corporations involved have an interest in the areas and thus typically stand to profit financially from the proposals.
For example, two large for-profit corporate providers of virtual education, Connections Academy and K-12 Inc., had heavy involvement in the development of the ALEC model Virtual Public Schools Act. At the time it was drafted by ALEC, the chair of the education committee was Mickey Revenaugh, a principal employee of Connections Academy. Connections Academy and K-12 have reaped huge financial benefits in the states where the Virtual Schools Act has been passed.
In Tennessee, K-12 Inc. received the state contract for virtual schools shortly after it passed their legislature as a no-bid contract. For this contract they received more than $5,000 per student from the state during the 2011- 2012 school year. Currently, the legislature is auditing this contract due to low student performance in the program.
ALEC in Wisconsin

ALEC’s effect in Wisconsin has been significant. The original Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, enacted in 1990, was championed by Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, an early ALEC member.
“Myself, I always loved to go to these [ALEC] meetings because I always found new ideas, and then I’d take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit and declare that it’s mine,” Thompson said in
a 2002 interview with National Public Radio.
True to Thompson’s word, the outline for the Milwaukee Choice Program can be found in ALEC’s 1985 Education Source Book. Also see sidebar “ALEC Legislation in Wisconsin.”
One of the key goals of ALEC is to privatize education through vouchers. Milton Friedman argued vouchers would foster competition and improve students’ learning. Experience has not borne this out.
The research indicates that voucher schools do not outperform their public school counterparts. The children in voucher programs should in fact be doing better because they represent the “easier” to educate segment of the public school population.
I say “easier” because, first, there are far fewer students with disabilities served in private voucher schools. Second, even though they receive public funding, private schools retain the right to select, reject, and expel students through admissions and disciplinary rules. Finally, children in voucher schools come from families who are engaged enough in their children’s education to have actively moved them to the private system. Education research is clear that children with actively engaged parental or home support will clearly outperform students who do not have that support in their lives. With “easier” student voucher schools should clearly outperform the publics. Doing almost as good can hardly be called success.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (AlEC) is working to, among other goals, reduce the role of school boards in education. here is a listing of bills (and enacted statutes) from the 2011-2012 Wisconsin legislative Session that mirrored AlEC model legislation (see for database of ALEC model legislation).
Voucher advocates argue that even if the academics are not up to par, at least the cost for the state is lower. Sad, and not true. First, if you are not attracting public school students to switch to private schools, the state just ends up paying tuition for those students already enrolled in the private school — this just shifts private costs to taxpayers. Second, the local schools district pays for more than the cost of the voucher; typically paying for transportation, special education and support services. Vouchers have neither shown success academically nor financially.
Reducing the Role of School Boards
The ALEC agenda in education is ambitious. Model bills seek to influence teacher certification, teacher evaluation, collective bargaining, curriculum, funding, special education, and student assessment.
Common throughout the bills are proposals to decrease local control of schools by local school boards while increasing control, influence, and profits of the companies in the education sector. Privatization is consistent with the interests of the corporate ALEC members.
The ALEC goal to eliminate school districts and school boards is a bit shocking — but the idea is to make every school, public and private, independent through vouchers for all students. By providing all funding to parents rather than school districts, there is no need for local coordination, control or oversight.
Personally, I believe there is a purpose for public schools and the local public oversight necessary to support and guide them. Public education was created to serve the needs of the public — ensuring that every child had access to an education that would help him/her become an active citizen, capable of participating in our democratic process.
What happens to our democracy when we return to an educational system where access is defined by corporate interest and divided by class, language, ability, race, and religion? In a push to a free market education do we lose the purpose of public education?
Underwood, J.D., Ph.D., is a professor and the dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Arbitrary Albatross: Standardized Testing and Teacher Evaluation

On Chicago's streets and Hollywood's silver screens, education reform has been cast as a false dilemma between students and teachers. Reputable actresses and liberal mayors have both fallen prey. At the center of this drama lie teacher evaluations. A linchpin of the debate, they weigh especially heavily around the necks of educators like me.

Think: Shaky Foundation

With the arrival of spring, testing season is now upon us: America's new national pastime. I believe student results from standardized tests should not be used to evaluate teachers because the data are imprecise and the effects are pernicious. Including such inaccurate measures is both unfair to teachers and detrimental to student learning.

As a large body of research suggests, standardized test data are imprecise for two main reasons. First, they do not account for individual and environmental factors affecting student performance, factors over which teachers have no control. (Think: commitment, social class, family.) Second, high-stakes, one-time tests increase the likelihood of random variation so that scores fluctuate in arbitrary ways not linked to teacher efficacy. (Think: sleep, allergies, the heartache of a recent breakup.)

High-stakes assessments are also ruinous to student learning. They encourage, at least, teaching to the test and, at most, outright cheating. This phenomenon is supported by Campbell's law, which states statistics are more likely to be corrupted when used in making decisions, which in turn corrupts the decision making process itself. (Think: presidential campaigns.)
As a teacher, if my livelihood is based on test results, then I will do everything possible to ensure high marks, including narrowing the curriculum and prepping fiercely for the test. The choice between an interesting project and a paycheck is no choice at all. These are amazing disincentives to student learning. Tying teachers' careers to standardized tests does not foster creative, passionate, skillful young adults. It does exactly the opposite.

Evaluation and Accountability

The Atlanta cheating scandal is a stark illustration. A dispositive result of the testing obsession, it's an outcome as predictable as it is tragic. When bonuses and continued employment are largely determined by a single test, there is a perverse incentive to manipulate the system. Teachers and administrators are charged as felons for doctoring answer booklets; educators face jail time. We don't just think high-stakes testing leads to cheating. We know it does.

Fortunately, this is not an issue in my district. It remains a wonderful place to teach. But over half the states and the District of Columbia now use high-stakes tests to evaluate teachers, and this national trend must be reversed.

Because standardized tests are an inexact estimate of a teacher's ability, they are also unfair. By focusing on a sliver of the curriculum -- often rote facts --standardized tests do not measure meaningful understanding. (Think: Who was the last French monarch? versus How much violence is justified in revolution?) And unless you believe bubbling the letter of the best answer is crucial in the 21st century, standardized tests exclude evidence of important skill development. Indeed, my students learn much more than can be measured on a Scantron, and I want to be held accountable for it all.

Instead, we should consider reforming the observation method of evaluation, preserving student input, and incorporating a range of student work. Ironically, a focus on observation in performance review aligns with many other professions. Nurses, lawyers, even investment bankers are judged in large part by what their peers and supervisors see them doing. Plus when results are used, they are the results themselves -- not contorted approximations. Consider how you yourself are evaluated at work. I bet it's most likely through feedback and observation.

So, occasionally videotape a lesson, observe my classes, evaluate my students' work. If peers and administrators find my performance less than effective, prescribe some additional training. But please don't judge me based on student scores on standardized tests. I'll suffer, and so will the students.

Beginning the Conversation

Rather than focusing on evaluations altogether, let's professionalize the profession. We should create a rigorous entrance exam, an educational bar, as a gateway to licensing. Once teachers demonstrate mastery, they should be allowed to instruct according to expert standards -- just like in medicine, law and finance. If teaching is seen as exclusive, with formidable barriers to entry, it will become a more respected career, and teachers will earn the right and the latitude to practice.

If this makes sense, or if you're slightly curious, there are a number of steps you can take. Check out Learning is More Than a Test Score, Opt Out National and FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

Best of all, begin a conversation. Talk with friends and neighbors about this important issue affecting our communities and our country. Education is a lifelong pursuit, and teaching is a beautiful career. Let's decouple high-stakes testing from teacher evaluations for the sake of students and teachers alike. 

Jeb Bush Talks Education At Mackinac, Pushes Michigan's Questionable Charter School Sector

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. -- Jeb Bush praised charter schools and slammed traditional public schools and teachers unions in a speech here Wednesday, saying that public education “dumbs down standards to make adults look better," a phrase often used by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

"We must expand [school] choice," said Bush, delivering a keynote speech at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference in northern Michigan. "Our governance model includes over 13,000 government-run monopolies run by unions."

Since he left office, the former Florida governor has become an evangelist for a certain strand of education reform; through his $19 million Foundation for Excellenge in Education, he advocates for online education, grading schools based on test scores and forcing students to repeat grades if they don't pass standardized exams.

At Mackinac Wednesday, Bush championed the growth of charter schools, the fastest-growing sector of public education across the country.

There are 274 such schools in Michigan, and Bush argued that the state leads others in charter school performance, with those schools also outperforming traditional public schools.

But it is difficult to concisely characterize charter school quality nationwide, and the study on Michigan's schools Bush touted is less definitive than he made it sound.

That study, released in January by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, found that while students in Michigan's charter schools are raising their test scores more quickly than their peers in public schools, they are still performing at much lower levels. Charter school students in the state gain about two months of reading and math knowledge over their peers each year -- but 80 percent of charter schools perform below the 50th percentile of achievement in reading, and 84 percent perform below that threshold in math.

Another study -- this one by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers -- found that about a quarter of Michigan's charters fell into the bottom 15 percent of the state's schools on eighth grade math and the bottom 21 percent in eighth grade reading.

That poor performance has disappointed education advocates like Amber Arellano, who directs the nonpartisan advocacy group EdTrust Midwest.

"A lot of people here ... had hoped that charters were really going to be the solution to urban children's lack of quality options," Arellano told The Huffington Post in a January interview. "They're not. There are not enough high-performing charters here [in Michigan] to really address the educational inequities that we have here in the state. Just letting the market decide isn't the answer."

According to an EdTrust Midwest study, the operators of new schools that opened up after Michigan lifted its cap on charters in 2011 have below-average academic track records.

But on Wednesday, Bush explicitly praised fellow Republicans state Sen. Phil Pavlov and Gov. Rick Snyder for their courage in working to lift the cap, even though the deregulating move has sometimes been credited with letting school quality lag.

Bush begged Michigan Republicans not to abandon support for Common Core, the standards for math, reading and science already adopted by 45 states and approved by Michigan’s Board of Education in 2010.

"What we have is not good," Bush said of current standards. "What we could have is a lot better."
But he may have been a day too late: On Tuesday, Michigan’s House of Representatives approved a budget-containing a measure that blocks any funding for Common Core.

Bush told reporters after his speech that education spending should not be the only metric used to measure school quality.

"We spend more per student than any other country in the world," he said. "What's important is where it's spent --where's the focus. Are you funding the beast, or are you funding classroom education? Are you funding your priorities as it relates to early childhood education or are you just sending money down without any reform at all?"

He went on to call for an overall gutting of the current public school system. "We can't just outsource public education to bureaucracies and public education unions and hope for the best," he said.

Learning First Alliance Honors Linda Darling Hammond with its 2013 Education Visionary Award

(Linda Darling Hammond is a member of the Board of the Horace Mann League.)

Dr. Darling Hammond heralded for leadership in teacher quality, educational equity and school reform
Washington, D.C.

Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of 16 leading education associations  with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America's public schools has named Linda Darling Hammond as its 2013 Education Visionary Award winner.

The Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University and an accomplished author Darling-Hammond’s  research, teaching and ongoing  policy work  make her an industry leader  in the areas of  teacher quality and educational equity and reform

Throughout her highly respected career, Linda Darling-Hammond has been truly dedicated to the betterment of public education,” said Cheryl S. Williams, executive director of the Learning First Alliance.

Our organization is committed to improving  public education and  student learning and is honored to recognize an individual who has  worked and continues to work so diligently to achieve this common goal.” In addition to serving as a professor, Darling-Hammond is the Co-Director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. She also launched the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute and the School Redesign Network and has served as faculty sponsor for the Stanford Teacher Education Program.

Darling-Hammond is the former president of the American Educational Research Association and a member of the National Academy of Education. From 1994 to 2001, she served as executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, whose 1996 report, What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future, led to sweeping policy changes affecting teaching and teacher education. In 2006, this report was named one of the most influential affecting U.S. education, and Darling-Hammond was named one of the nation’s ten most influential people affecting educational policy over the last decade. Darling

Hammond is also a well known author of more than 400 publications including:  The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity will Determine our Future (2010) and Powerful Teacher Education (2006).

Darling-Hammond holds a BA magna cum laude from Yale University and an EdD (Urban Education) from Temple University. She began her career as a public school teacher. Additional professional experience includes service as Director and Senior Social Scientist for the RAND Corporation and as William F. Russell Professor of Education and Co-Director
of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the National Council for Educating Black Children, the Alliance for Excellent Education, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and the Center for Teaching Quality, among others. She was also education adviser to President Obama during the 2008 election campaign and led his education policy transition team.
Honorees of the Learning First Alliance Education Visionary Award are individuals who exhibit:
· Exceptional leadership in bringing groups who have a variety of points of view together to work collaboratively
·Tenacity in focusing on the needs of children from all environmental and economic backgrounds
·Respect for professional educators and a belief that they too have the best interests of children as the focus of their work
·A demonstrated belief that public education is the cornerstone of our democratic way of life and should be nurtured for the benefit of every American.

Previous recipients of the Education Visionary Award includeformer U.S. Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley  (2011) and founder of the Center on Education Policy
Jack Jennings (2012)
To learn more about the Learning First Alliance and its Education Visionary Award, visit
About The Learning First Alliance
The Learning First Alliance is a partnership of 16 leading education associations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America's public schools. Alliance members include: the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Association of School Administrators, American Association of School Personnel Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American School Counselor Association,
Association for Middle Level Education (formerly National Middle School Association), International Society for Technology in Education, Learning Forward (formerly National Staff Development Council), National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Education Association, National School Public Relations Association, National PTA, National School Boards Association and Phi Delta Kappa International. The

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

'Greed Is Good': Top 7 Most Piggish Commencement Speeches

AlterNet / By Lynn Stuart Parramore

It’s that time of year. The sun is shining, the flowers are in bloom and all across America, graduating students are forced to endure that dreaded rite of passage, the commencement speech. Often boring, typically clich├ęd and frequently self-aggrandizing, commencement speeches form their own subgenre of fatuous prose.

Get out the barf bag! Here are a few choice orations from some of America’s most illustrious jerks.
1. Ivan Boesky at Berkeley, 1986

Ivan Boesky was a big-time stock trader who hustled his way to riches betting on corporate takeovers. On May 18, 1986 at the University of California, Berkeley, he shared these lustrous pearls of wisdom with business school students:
“Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”
Boesky clearly felt very good about himself at the time. But not for long. Several months after the address, Boesky was nabbed by the SEC when it found that his stock manipulations were often based on tips from corporate insiders which is –oopsie! – illegal. Mr. Greed soon found himself in possession of a nice prison cell.

Oliver Stone used Boesky’s speech as the inspiration for one given by the ethically challenged corporate raider Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film Wall Street. “Greed is good” became the catchphrase for Wall Street callousness and excess.

2. Jamie Dimon at Syracuse, 2010
Just two years after the Wall Street-driven crisis left many Americans itching to grab the nearest pitchfork, the JPMorgan Chase honcho was invited to speak to Syracuse students, despite a wave of protests. His speech pretty much alternates between insisting that he’s not like the rest of those banker a-holes and finding new ways to praise himself. He also makes a stab at humor:
“Graduating today means you are through with…the cold sweat of sleepless nights preparing to answer seemingly impossible questions. Well, that’s a feeling we banking executives know pretty well these days – we call it ‘testifying before Congress.’”
Haha! LOL! In 2012, Dimon demonstrated his coolness under pressure by calmly lying to Congress when questioned about the infamous London Whale fiasco in which billions of dollars went missing from his bank.  

Which is interesting when you consider how much lip service he gave to the subject of honesty in his speech, including this gem: “One must be honest with one’s self to be accountable. Shakespeare said it best: ‘To thine own self be true.’” (Dimon evidently skipped English 101 in college, or he would have known that Shakespeare was being sarcastic.) It must be said that Dimon honestly likes being really rich, so in that sense he has remained remarkably true to himself.

3. Lance Armstrong at Tufts, 2006
The cyclist and doper extraordinaire gave the commencement speech at Tufts in 2006, where he was also awarded an honorary doctorate (since rescinded). The subject of Armstrong’s oratory was the need for students to follow his shining example and become actively engaged citizens. At one point he describes his cancer doctor speaking to him of the need to fight for the cure:
“I, of course, loved the idea that he wanted to talk to me about something that even mentioned the word 'cure,' thinking he might want to tell me he snuck me the secret stuff that works every time.”
Turns out Armstrong knew all about the secret stuff that works every time. Too bad for the millions of kids, sports fans and cancer patients who looked up to him.

4. Glenn Beck at Liberty University, 2012
Liberty University teaches its students that the Earth is 5,000 years old and that dinosaur bones washed up in Noah’s flood. So it’s little wonder that the school would not only select the loony and fact-averse Glenn Beck to address its graduating seniors (which included his daughter), but award him an honorary doctorate, a gesture that gave Beck the weepies.

“We live in a time when it seems truth is on the run,” said Beck, an observation that no doubt stemmed from watching reruns of his Fox TV show (since canceled). The man who says what people who aren’t thinking are thinking, as Jon Stewart aptly described Beck, began with various meditations on the evilness of Barack Obama and then launched into a tidal wave of homilies, which included a mandate that students always ”shoot to kill.” This from a man who was constantly warning of the inherent violence of the left.

5. John Ashcroft at Bob Jones University, 1999
Attorney general-designate John Ashcroft delivered a speech-cum-sermon to graduating students of Bob Jones University, the great bastion of Christian fundamentalism, in 1999.
“You could quote the Declaration with me, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.' Unique among the nations, America recognized the source of our character as being godly and eternal, not being civic and temporal. And because we have understood that our source is eternal, America has been different. We have no king but Jesus.”
All righty then! Social studies teachers across America, take note that the country's founding document is actually a religious pronouncement.

But Ashcroft is just a godly sort of fellow. After having Clarence Thomas anoint him with oil, a ritual he insisted on before taking each office in his career (and which was once performed by his father with a dollop of Crisco), Attorney General Ashcroft expressed his unique vision of America’s holiness in his dedication to initiating secret detentions, thwarting gun control, and hounding physicians who help terminally ill patients commit suicide.

Ashcroft has also been famed for his Christian charity, evidenced in his reasons for vetoing funding for an AIDS care center when he was governor of Missouri: "Well, they're there because of their own misconduct, and it wasn't very reputable misconduct, either."

He is now a highly paid lobbyist in Washington. God works in mysterious ways.

6. Alan Greenspan, Basically Everywhere
Alan Greenspan, Ayn Rand acolyte and free-market fundamentalist, was a favorite commencement speaker at elite colleges for decades. As white-collar criminologist Bill Black put it, “his standard commencement speech while Fed Chairman was an ode to reputation as the characteristic that made possible trust and free markets.”

In his address to the 2005 class of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, the Master of Disaster goes to great lengths explaining how the markets magically regulate themselves and make themselves resistant to fraud without any need for oversight. Companies would not cheat or violate ethical standards, he assured, because they value their reputations and would quickly be driven out of business if they misbehaved. While acknowledging a few business scandals in the 1990s, Greenspan blithely asserted “We should not be surprised then to see a re-emergence of the value placed by markets on trust and personal reputation in business practice.” Bernie Madoff certainly hoped so.

Less than three years after Greenspan made that speech, the fraudulent and criminal behavior of large financial institutions nearly wrecked the global economy. And the crime wave continues, in part because of the widespread acceptance of Greenspan’s discredited economic theories.

7. Manny V. Pangilinan at Ateneo de Manila University, 2010
It’s so damn hard to think up what to say to graduating students. So why bother when you can just pinch someone else’s words? The great tradition of plagiarizing commencement speeches has been carried on by Ivy League valedictorians, law school students, politicians, deans, and school board chairmen.

Telecom mogul Manny V. Pangilinan, head of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Inc., made his mark in this fine tradition by admitting that his speech included portions lifted from commencement addresses given by Oprah Winfrey, Conan O’Brien, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, and President Obama. (Like a true corporate titan, he blamed it on his speechwriter.)

In addition to the old “I was born poor” story and a variety of platitudes, Pangilinan’s speech contains a section on the various types of bosses students were likely to encounter in their careers, including despots and narcissists. He neglected to include cheats, which are easily just as abundant.

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of 'Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.' She received her Ph.d in English and Cultural Theory from NYU, where she has taught essay writing and semiotics. She is the Director of AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.

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