Sunday, November 20, 2016

why trump won

economic reality beats identity politics

The recognition that the economy hasn't recovered from the 2008 crisis and the Obamas / Clintons have protected Wall Street (no Banker gaoled; what new wealth there is has gone to the top 5%) has become a stronger social force than identity politics (you are female, black, Hispanic etc., we support you morally but not economically)

More detailed explanations here:
Break Up the Democratic Party
The Great Con: Political Correctness Has Marginalized the Working Class

update 4th December 2016:
Michael Moore picked it well before the election:
5 reasons why trump will win

update 14th December 2016:
If You Think This Is About Sexism and Racism, You’re Missing the Point by Eric Robert Morse
(the Michael Moore video within this article is very powerful, worth taking the time to watch IMHO)
As Moore puts it: “Donald Trump came to the Detroit Economic Club and stood there in front of Ford Motor executives and said ‘if you close these factories as you’re planning to do in Detroit and build them in Mexico, I’m going to put a 35% tariff on those cars when you send them back and nobody’s going to buy them.’ It was an amazing thing to see. No politician, Republican or Democrat, had ever said anything like that to these executives, and it was music to the ears of people in Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the ‘Brexit’ states.”
update 15th December 2016:
Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit by Glen Greenwald

The Trump victory provides us not just the opportunity but the necessity to dig deeper into what is really happening in America, not to mention the world since we have BrExit in England, the popularity of Pauline Hanson in Australia, etc. I found this Readers Review of a new book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, enlightening:
There is a lot to take in here, even for someone that's seen this life up close in many of its many guises.

While ostensibly about the particular culture of the West Virginia Scots-Irish underclass, anyone that has seen white poverty in America's flyover states will recognize much of what is written about here. It is a life on the very edge of plausibility, without the sense of extra-family community that serves as a stabilizing agent in many first-generation immigrant communities or communities of color. Drugs, crime, jail time, abusive interactions without any knowledge of other forms of interaction, children growing up in a wild mix of stoned mother care, foster care, and care by temporary "boyfriends," and in general, an image of life on the edge of survival where even the heroes are distinctly flawed for lack of knowledge and experience of any other way of living.

This is a story that many of the "upwardly mobile middle class" in the coastal areas, often so quick to judge the lifestyles and politics of "those people" in middle America, has no clue about. I speak from experience as someone that grew up in the heartland but has spent years in often elite circles on either coast.

Two things struck me most about this book.

First, the unflinching yet not judgmental portrayal of the circumstances and of the people involved. It is difficult to write on this subject without either glossing over the ugliness and making warm and fuzzy appeals to idealism and human nature, Hollywood style, or without on the other hand descending into attempts at political persuasion and calls to activism. This book manages to paint the picture, in deeply moving ways, without committing either sin, to my eye.

Second, the author's growing realization, fully present by the end of the work, that while individuals do not have total control over the shapes of their lives, their choices do in fact matter—that even if one can't direct one's life like a film, one does always have the at least the input into life that comes from being free to make choices, every day, and in every situation.

It is this latter point, combined with the general readability and writing skill in evidence here, that earns five stars from me. Despite appearances, I found this to be an inspiring book. I came away feeling empowered and edified, and almost wishing I'd become a Marine in my younger days as the author decided to do—something I've never thought or felt before.

I hate to fall into self-analysis and virtue-signaling behavior in a public review, but in this case I feel compelled to say that the author really did leave with me a renewed motivation to make more of my life every day, to respect and consider the choices that confront me much more carefully, and to seize moments of opportunity with aplomb when they present themselves. Given that a Hillbilly like the author can find his way and make good choices despite the obstacles he's encountered, many readers will find themselves stripped bare and exposed—undeniably ungrateful and just a bit self-absorbed for not making more of the hand we've been dealt every day.

I'm a big fan of edifying reads, and though given the subject matter one might imagine this book to be anything but, in fact this book left me significantly better than it found me in many ways. It also did much to renew my awareness of the differences that define us in this country, and of the many distinct kinds of suffering and heroism that exist.

Well worth your time.
update 21st December:
Both of these articles re-iterated the point that the fundamental reason for Trump's victory was economic.

J.D. Vance, the False Prophet of Blue America
This one argues that Hillbilly Elegy stresses the individual attitudes required to escape poverty too much, that it becomes a morality play. It's too hard to pull yourself up by the bootstraps if you don't have boots.

To Understand 2016’s Politics, Look at the Winners and Losers of Globalization: An interview with economist Branko Milanovic
The elephant chart shows that globalisation has not benefited the middle classes in the developed nations:
The biggest gains, (Milanovic) found, have gone to the very richest in the richest countries—the kinds of people that are overwhelmingly found in places like London or US coastal cities—as well as the “emerging global middle class,” people with much less wealth who are predominantly located in China. Both of these groups saw their real incomes skyrocket from their previous levels, though Chinese people on overage are still only one fourth as wealthy as Americans. The world’s poorest people didn’t do nearly as well, but they saw some improvements.

And the losers have been working people in rich countries. A large portion of the lower middle class in Western Europe and the US saw essentially no income gains since the Reagan administration, while almost everybody else in the world, including elites in their own countries, moved forward. Milanovic presented his data for these findings in the now famous “Elephant chart.” The graph, which looks like the outline of an elephant, shows how much incomes have increased for people at different levels of wealth. The dip between the elephant’s back and its trunk shows the comparatively small gains that working people in rich countries have seen

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Aurukun: it is the education department that is broken

Those who see a place for Direct Instruction in education are not so mechanically robotic as its critics imagine. As this testimony from Dennis reveals, an emotional advocacy of Direct Instruction from a dark place is just as likely to be the response to those who plan to tear it down.
I found it a deeply painful experience to leave school, after 12 years, not being able to spell, read my hand-writing or write correct sentences. I didn’t have a clue where the comma was supposed to go; and I avoided at all cost writing things on paper because I was embarrassed. But unlike most remote Indigenous children who finish their education almost completely illiterate, I was able to find work as a roustabout and later a shearer. It was in the shearing sheds that I met a lot of other bashed-up boys, courtesy of the clenched fist of the 1970s Education Department. I thought I was the only one, but I was far from alone. You will only find us in statistics, faceless and anonymous.

After more than fifty years and literally hundreds of billions of dollars of a failed state run education system for, among other children, remote Aboriginal children, it was disheartening to read the thoughtless boasting comments of Liberal Federal Member for Leichardt Warren Entsch and the insincere, cold hearted rhetoric of State Labour Education Minister, Kate Jones.

Both sides of politics have been united in their response to the demise of the Direct Instruction teaching method being used in Aurukun Aboriginal Community School in FNQ. The American prescriptive teaching method, Direct Instruction, was introduced by Noel Pearson through his Good to Great Schools five years ago. Entsch suggested after Pearson pulled out of the school that ‘…there’ll be dancing in the streets.’ I hardly think so. These streets are paved with despair, cultural depression and generational trauma. And Jones claimed her ‘focus was on improving educational outcomes for the community.’ Well, in fifty years they haven’t had one win, and they never will. The article posted on the ABC’s web site claimed a ‘mainstream curriculum will help solve some of the problems we’ve seen in recent times.’ That is a bare faced lie. The education department has produced far more Indigenous prisoners than students. I couldn’t get an education with a mainstream curriculum and I am white, had access to health care and lived in a working class suburb. But neither could most of my friends. The veiled attitude to our poor academic performances was that we came from a bad family. Not much had changed on that score, particularly with Aboriginal families. It is the education department that is broken. It is run by people who have never failed at school, never felt the shaming effects of their creation.

As is often the way, my big break in education came as a father in the most unfortunate of circumstances. My first born daughter was diagnosed with an acquired brain injury at twenty-three weeks of age. When she was about three and a half and didn’t speak we discovered an unusual program of exercises that stimulated her brain, specifically her cerebellum. Miraculously, she started to recover. The exercises were followed by flash cards and repetition, repetition and more repetition. Each phase of her learning had to be achieved with small increments to give adaptation the best chance. The smaller the learning loads the better chance the brain had in adapting to the stress. My daughter recovered and went on and received a degree in education, a Master’s degree and is now completing a law degree. If you like, we manually overrode the damaged part of her brain and built new pathways –just like Direct Instruction overrides the neurological effects of (generational) trauma and a lack of English in Indigenous students.

After my daughter become ill, I left shearing to be home more regularly and I worked digging a sewage tunnel. A few years after she had started school I was working on a night shift gang. After we had finished building some form work I was sitting on a drum. It was after three in the morning. I was eighty meters underground, two kilometres in from the shaft in a five metre diameter rock tunnel. I was covered in oil and sludge, water dripping all around me and I was bone tired. I was lamenting my lot in life. I felt I hadn’t achieved any of my potential and I had worked hard yet ended up in a sewage tunnel. I wondered why my daughter was able to get an education with a brain injury and I couldn’t get one with a normal brain? So I decided to copy what we had done with my daughter. In short, I started reading again and started patterning sentences. I looked at education much the same as sport. Learning to write was no different than learning to kick a ball. Get the technique right and practice until the skill is consolidated and it worked. The comma though, I had to be taught over and over.

That was in 1988. In 1999 I went to university and in 2014 I was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in Writing from the University of Adelaide. When I finished my studies I wanted to go back and put steps in place for those children, like me, who struggle to adapt to the standard curriculum in our standard education with its Standard English. While I was studying I worked in many remote Indigenous schools and it has been heart breaking seeing the abject failure of education in so many communities. At the same time I was observing the meteoric rise of Principals to senior administrative roles on the back of long term systemic failure of whole schools. Get the numbers up, subdue the students and get out quick is the modus operandi of most opportunistic careerists.

After working in over a dozen remote Indigenous schools, with site allowances, remote subsidies, free houses and no bills, the only people who benefit from the education system are the teachers. If they are young they are buying up houses and making long term investments. If they are older they are topping up their superannuation. The students are left with nothing. The education department is a career structure for teachers, not an education program for children. There are however, some great teachers and dedicated Principals. Some teachers don’t like D.I. because it takes away their creativity. Others though don’t like being made accountable and there is no accountability in remote schools. When I saw the Direct Instruction program and its systematic teaching method with its small, concise increments of learning, I knew, if it was delivered properly, it would work. This year I was invited to work at Djarragun College, an Aboriginal School in Cairns. The school is part of Pearson’s Cape York Program and Direct Instruction is the main teaching pedagogy. And it works—and works well. I was blown away when I saw grade one, two and three Indigenous students reading, writing and editing their mistakes. I saw grade four children writing in paragraphs. It was rolled gold education.

Is Direct Instruction the best teaching method for all children? No. Play based learning; investigative learning and visible learning have had extraordinary results for some students. But those more independent learning frameworks are a bridge too far for many students. What my white mates and I couldn’t do, and remote and urban Indigenous students can’t do, is intuit English. If I wasn’t taught what comes next, I couldn’t work it out. It wasn’t second nature to us.

Do I care about Direct Instruction, or Noel Pearson and the Cape York Academy? No. I care about seeing children find the joy in learning and embracing with courage and confidence the opportunities an education can provide. I don’t want to see another generation of bright, witty students end up at the bottom of a sewer.
- Dennis McIntosh
Background information: indigenous-leader-noel-pearson-withdraws-support-arukun-school

Update (22nd November): Dennis's article has been published by Eureka Street, with the title Mainstream mindset fails remote Aboriginal students

Update (16th November): Two of us: Nicole and Dennis McIntosh

I'm currently reading The Tunnel, about Dennis's work in the sewerage tunnel or rather that's the backdrop to his life story, it's very entertaining. His earlier book is called Beaten by a Blow, about his life as a shearer. See