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The Education Agenda is a War Agenda: Sequel

Posted: 2009-12-04

The spark for this commentary is a bland article in the New York Times, Panel Criticizes Military's Use of Embedded Anthropologists, Dec. 4, 2009, reprinted below my commentary. This article brought the Rich Gibson & Wayne Ross article The Education Agenda is a War Agenda home to me, helped me see that the LEARN (sic) is indeed a war act. Clearly not all wars are fought on foreign soil. Many are fought right in our public school classrooms, where the corporate politicos have workers embedded to institutionalize their policies and programs. You can read AAA Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the
US Security and Intelligence Communities (CEAUSSIC)
Final Report on
The Army̢۪s Human Terrain System Proof of Concept Program
Submitted to the Executive Board of the
American Anthropological Association
October 14, 2009
(pdf) for yourself.

The current work of NCTE, IRA, and other organizations, once regarded as entities representing professionals in the field of education, has certain similarities to social scientists' working with the Pentagon. Certainly the NCTE's current determination to stay embedded with the LEARN (sic) legislation is unethical and unscholarly. It seeks to embed teachers even deeper in the coercive, fraudulent, kid-damaging, profession-destroying corporatization of public schools.

Here's the deal: Over the past few years the Pentagon has actively recruited academics to give advice on how to supplement its military policy. The Pentagon, always exhibiting a knack for language, calls this program Human Terrain System, a $40 million undertaking. The claim is that the anthropologists' work with military units in Iraq and Afghanistan results in "fewer hardships and civilian deaths."

Similarly, the U. S. Congress has lured members of professional organizations into thinking they should take a seat at the table, giving advice on how to supplement its corporate policy with regard to public schools. Lacking the Pentagon's knack for language, neither the professional organizations nor the U. S. Congress has come up with a name for what they do. NCTE officers just ramble on about that seat at the table. There's no talk of the poisoned food being served; they are silent on the student and teacher spiritual and academic death that will result.

According to the Human Terrain System website:

  • The HTS approach is to place the expertise and experience of social scientists and regional experts, coupled with reach-back, open-source research, directly in support of deployed units engaging in full-spectrum operations.

  • HTS informs decision making at the tactical, operational and strategic levels.

  • According to the New York Times:

    Scholars are supposed to refuse to hand over any data they suspect will be used for choosing targets.

    It is laughable to realize that NCTE leadership thinks they are "informing decision making at the tactical, operational and strategic levels," but that's that they keep telling us. Ohmygoodness! What if teachers refused to hand over any data they suspect will be used for choosing targets for Direct Instruction?

    Just a wild thought.

    Anthropologists in a War Zone: Scholars Debate Their Role in November 30, 2007 The Chronicle of Higher Ed was more specific about the downside of the HTS program:

    Critics of the Human Terrain System say that armed anthropologists in military uniforms cannot possibly be getting voluntary informed consent — a principle at the core of the discipline's code of practice — from their research subjects. They also worry that the program will directly or indirectly help the military select particular neighborhoods or people for attack.

    David H. Price, an associate professor of anthropology at Saint Martin's University who is one of the program's most visible critics, says he fears that the new program might someday help the Iraqi or Afghan government conduct immoral scorched-earth counterinsurgency campaigns. (In 1970 several American anthropologists were accused of assisting the government of Thailand with such campaigns.)

    Some critics go further, arguing that the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is illegitimate and that the Human Terrain Teams are helping prepare the countries for neocolonial rule, in an echo of the imperial-flavored anthropology of the early 20th century.

    What if we had professional organizations and unions insisting that the U. S. government presence in our classrooms is illegitimate, that their edicts on how to teach and what to teach, their edicts on data collection, are helping prepare students for a lifetime of misery, an echo of the factory model that dominated the early 20th century?

    Just a wild thought.

    The Human Terrain Website contains some memorials:

  • It is with great sadness that we inform you of the tragic death of Nicole Suveges, our social scientist team member assigned to the Iraq Human Terrain Team (HTT) IZ3, in support of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division based at FOB Prosperity, Baghdad, Iraq.

  • It is with tremendous sadness that we inform you of the death of Paula Loyd, who succumbed to injuries sustained in Afghanistan on 5 November 2008 when she was doused with a flammable liquid in a village outside the central bazaar in Maiwand district, Khandahar province. Paula, who had previously worked in Afghanistan with USAID, US Army Civil Affairs (Reserve) and a variety of NGOs, was a member of Human Terrain Team AF4, supporting Task Force 2-2, based in Khandahar. Paula and her team had been working for a number of months on an initial ethnographic research project to support decisions on humanitarian assistance and infrastructure repair for the battalion.

  • Part of the tribute to Nicole Suveges, a doctoral student in political science at the Johns Hopkins University contains this statement:

    Nicole enthusiastically embraced the challenges posed by working in a war zone, believing that social scientists could make the greatest contribution at the tactical level. She wrote, "HTS is the first effort to make social scientists and other HTT personnel available at the brigade - read local - level. This is where the war in Iraq is being fought, and it is about time that they are afforded the same capabilities that their higher echelons have. The burden that HTS has taken upon itself is to provide trained and knowledgeable personnel who can provide 'outside of the box' thinking, function as a team, and be a true asset to the brigades to which HTTs are assigned."

    It is sad that this young woman thought she was working "outside the box." The parallels with the current work of the Executive Director and Executive Committee of NCTE are numerous. Public Education in this country is currently a war zone, and NCTE has chosen to embed itself with the corporate-politico power that is determined to destroy it. Our unions took this path long ago but I've clung to the hope that my professional organization would stand taller.

    Are the people in power at NCTE really unaware that the destruction of public education is the goal and standardized testing is the weapon?

  • Read The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, And The Attack On America's Public Schools by David Berliner and Bruce Biddle

  • Read On the Death of Childhood and the Destruction of Public Schools by Gerald Bracey

  • Read Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?

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  • By supporting an expanded use of bogus and destructive testing and a degraded, factory/delivery model of instructional practices,with the tack-on of an expanded role for consultants, NCTE has signed on to a war agenda. This is a death policy for the students of poverty who will be targeted. What teachers are just beginning to realize is that it is also a death policy for their profession.

    For starters, NCTE should have called for a moratorium on standardized testing.

    This testing provision in the LEARN (sic) makes clear its relationship to the Human Terrain System Program.

  • using screening assessment, diagnostic assessment, formative assessment, and summative assessment to identify learning needs, inform instruction, and monitor student progress and the effects of instruction

  • And where are those assessments? The existing standardized tests are so incredibly bogus that it is the height of impropriety for NCTE and other so-called professional organizations to pretend that tests exist "to identify learning needs, inform instruction, and monitor student progress and the effects of instruction."

    Using the data from these bogus assessments, classroom teachers are supposed to adjust curriculum, instituting more explicit, direct instruction. In other words, send in the scripts from the corporate conglomerates. Based on corrupt data, a large segment of American schoolchildren are denied any access to a real education.

    Do we need any further proof that The Education Agenda is a War Agenda?

    Human Terrain System anthropologist Audrey Roberts was more blunt about it than are members of the NCTE power structure when she told the Dallas Morning News,

    "If [HTS is] going to inform how targeting is done – whether that targeting is bad guys, development or governance – how our information is used is how it's going to be used," she said. "All I'm concerned about is pushing our information to as many soldiers as possible. The reality is there are people out there who are looking for bad guys to kill," Roberts said. "I'd rather they did not operate in a vacuum."

    NCTE officials boast of their "seat at the table" in helping the drafters of LEARN (sic) figure out how targeting is done and what weapons are used. If they cared about kids living in poverty, they would launch an immediate campaign to Get the Lead Out. THIS would impact children's lives immediately and for the long term. It doesn't matter what tests you use or what reading method you employ if a child's brain is damaged by lead.

    NOTE: HUMAN TERRAIN: War Becomes Academic, is a new documentary film by James Der Derian at Brown University. According to the synopsis posted on the website for the film:

    'Human Terrain' is two stories in one. The first exposes the U.S. effort to enlist the best and the brightest of American universities in a struggle for the hearts and minds of its enemies. Facing long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military adopts a controversial new program, 'Human Terrain Systems', to make cultural awareness a key element of its counterinsurgency strategy. Designed to embed social scientists with combat troops, the program swiftly comes under attack by academic critics who consider it misguided and unethical to gather intelligence and target potential enemies for the military. Gaining rare access to wargames in the Mojave Desert and training exercises at Quantico and Fort Leavenworth, 'Human Terrain' takes the viewer into the heart of the war machine and the shadowy collaboration between American academics and the armed services.

    The other story is about a brilliant young scholar who leaves the university to join a Human Terrain team. After working as a humanitarian activist and winning a Marshall Scholarship to study at Oxford, Michael Bhatia returned to Brown University to conduct research on military cultural awareness. A year later, he left to embed as a Human Terrain member with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan. On May 7, 2008, en route to mediate an intertribal dispute, his humvee hit a roadside bomb and Bhatia was killed along with two other soldiers.

    Asking what happens when war becomes academic and academics go to war, the two stories merge in tragedy.

    It is past time for our professional organizations to consider what happens when teachers are used as tools of the war agenda. The tragedy is in front of us every day. Just look in the mirror. And then look at the children.

    We need to come up with a classroom teacher term like Human Terrain Project. Then we can nominate it for the next NCTE Doublespeak Award.

    And speaking of Doublespeak, as I read the I realize NCTE really should get to work on getting the school equivalants of these nifty acronyms. Nothing befuddles the public like a good acronym:

    AFRICOM (US African Command)

    AAA (American Anthropological Association)

    BAE (BAE Systems North America)

    CEAUSSIC (Ad Hoc Commission on Anthropology̢۪s Engagement with the Security

    and Intelligence Communities)

    CoE (Code of Ethics)

    CENTCOM (US Central Command)

    COCOM (any US Combat Command)

    COIN (Counterinsurgency Operations)

    DoD (Department of Defense)

    EB (Executive Board of the AAA)

    FAO (Foreign Area Officer)

    FOB (Forward Operating Base)

    GTRI (Georgia Tech Research Institute)

    GWOT (Global War on Terror)

    HTS (Human Terrain System)

    HTT (Human Terrain Team)

    HUMINT (Human Intelligence)

    IO (Information Operations)

    IRB (Institutional Review Board)

    JIEDDO (Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization)

    MEDCAP (Medical Civil Affairs Program)

    NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer)

    OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense)

    PRISP (Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program)

    PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team)

    PSYOP (Psychological Operations)

    RAND (The RAND Corporation)

    TRADOC (US Army Training and Doctrine Command

    By Patricia Cohen

    A two-year-old Pentagon program that assigns social scientists to work with military units in Iraq and Afghanistan has come under sharp criticism from a panel of anthropologists who argue that the undertaking is dangerous, unethical and unscholarly.

    The latest on the arts, coverage of live events, critical reviews, multimedia extravaganzas and much more. Join the discussion.

    The committee, which released the report on Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, the discipline̢۪s largest professional group, has been studying the program since its inception in 2007.

    The panel concluded that the Pentagon program, called the Human Terrain System, has two conflicting goals: counterinsurgency and research. Collecting data in the context of war, where coercion and offensive tactics are always potentially present, "can no longer be considered a legitimate professional exercise of anthropology," the report says.

    The idea that the military should have a deeper understanding of the cultures and societies in which it operates is one that both academics and Defense Department officials support. How to accomplish that goal is the question.

    Commanders in the field have reported that the advisers helped reduce the number of combat operations and enabled units to focus more on nonmilitary needs like local health care and education. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has said, "The net effect of these efforts is often less violence across the board and fewer hardships and civilian deaths."

    The panel's criticisms are not surprising; the association̢۪s executive board had previously expressed serious reservations about the program. Still, it assigned an internal committee to look at the Human Terrain System in more depth. Although political scientists, sociologists, area studies specialists and linguists are also involved in the program, the panel said it focused only on anthropologists.

    The report cited insufficient training to prepare scholars for work in the field, concern about confidentiality and obtaining informed consent from the local population, and the possibility that collected research could be used to select military targets. Scholars are supposed to refuse to hand over any data they suspect will be used for choosing targets.

    Many people who were interviewed for the report requested anonymity, so it is impossible to assess specific charges of unethical or flawed practices.

    Some criticism of the program has also come from inside the Defense Department, from those who produce similar types of sociological and cultural assessments. In the March-April issue of Military Review, published by the Army, Maj. Ben Connable of the Marines wrote that the Human Terrain System approach is a quick-fix policy that "is inconsistent with standing doctrine and ignores recent improvements in military cultural capabilities."

    Social scientists working for the Terrain System program have been asked, for example, to answer questions like: How do poor sanitation, health and educational services affect local support for insurgents? Why have young men been forced to leave the country to look for work? Why might children throw rocks at soldiers? How can jobs be created? Are people scared to vote in elections? And what projects should be financed?

    Over the past couple of years the Pentagon has actively recruited academics to give advice on how to supplement its military policy. One goal in Afghanistan, for example, has been to strengthen the central government and civilian institutions so that it can counter the Taliban's influence. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior allied commander in Afghanistan, said at the end of August that "our strategy cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces; our object "gaining their support will require a better understanding of the people's choices and needs."

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