The Education Agenda is a War Agenda: Sequel
Publication Date: 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
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.
According to the New York Times:
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:
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:
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?
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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.
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 Ã¢€" whether that targeting is bad guys, development or governance Ã¢€" 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:
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 AnthropologyÃ¢€™s 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.
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The committee, which released the report on Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, the disciplineÃ¢€™s 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 associationÃ¢€™s 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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