Forgot Password?
Home arrow News & Community arrow GreeniacsNews
GreeniacsNews
MoJo Articles | Mother Jones


Mother Jones logo
  • Scott Walker's Office Just Confirmed it Was Part of a Sneaky Effort to Block Access to His Records [Updated]

    UPDATE, July 3, 2015, 5:20 p.m.: Gov. Scott Walker's office has confirmed in a statement that it was involved with the measure to change Wisconsin's open records law to block access to many currently available government documents. The statement was released after Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) acknowledged that Walker's office took part in discussions to slip the changes into a last-minute budget bill. Fitzgerald said the governor's office had specifically cited the volume of requests it receives as one reason for the measure. Another Wisconsin Republican lawmaker, Rep. Dale Kooyenga, the vice-chairman of the legislative committee that included the provision, apologized for his role in allowing it into the budget bill. According to Kooyenga, he had been led to believe the change would put Wisconsin's public records law in line with the rest of the country and federal law; since voting for the measure, he learned that it was actually much harsher.

    Late on Thursday night, before the start of the holiday weekend, Republican state legislators in Wisconsin slipped wording into a bill authorizing Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget that would have blocked access to many public records. This includes records the Walker administration is currently fighting to keep secret, which concern a controversial proposal to rewrite key parts of the Wisconsin University system's charter. Reporters and the governor's Democratic critics immediately suspected this legislative maneuver was an attempt to shield Walker, who is about to announce his presidential bid next week, from greater scrutiny. 

    On Friday, as the controversy over the provision escalated, Walker at first avoided discussing it. But soon Republican lawmakers who had not been part of the committee that approved the language joined the chorus of critics. Knowing that he didn't even have the support of fellow Republicans, Walker issued a joint statement with top GOP lawmakers Saturday morning stating that the language would be pulled from the budget, at least for now.

    Continue Reading »



  • These GOP Candidates Are Standing Behind Donald Trump

    Following Donald Trump's controversial comments suggesting that Mexican immigrants are "rapists" who bring drugs and crime to America, his fellow 2016 contenders have largely condemned his inflammatory remarks. But a handful of Republican hopefuls have either defended the real estate mogul or, in one case, fled a question on the subject to avoid going on the record.

    Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson are standing behind Trump. They have defended (even applauded) the billionaire, in what might be attempts to appeal to conservatives opposed to immigration reform.

    Continue Reading »



  • Here's What Happens When You Ask a Bunch of Hippie Kids to Act Like Correctional Officers

    It has taken Hollywood more than four decades to turn the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment into a feature film, but not for lack of trying. There have been numerous attempts, retired psychology professor Philip Zimbardo told me. One involved Leonardo DiCaprio, whose father, George, was one of his students. But they kept falling through, either due to the whims of Hollywood or because Zimbardo found the treatments "too grandiose."

    To use the university's name in The Stanford Prison Experiment movie, which hits theaters on July 17, producer Brent Emery had to agree that he would portray the events of 1971 largely as they actually happened. (Zimbardo, a consultant on the film, has only one critique of the portrayal of him by actor Billy Crudup: "I said, 'You're Italian! You've got to move your hands more.' And he couldn't do it!")

    The true story is dramatic enough, in any case. Zimbardo, then 38, was interested in the "situational" dynamics—first demonstrated eight years earlier by psychologist Stanley Milgram—that can lead good people to do bad things. His research team divided paid student volunteers into two groups and had them assume the roles of inmates and guards: "These kids were all anti-war activists, hippies, long hair," Zimbardo recalls. "They were against authority. Nobody wanted to be a guard."

    Drawing from Zimbardo's experimental footage, the film crew painstakingly re-created the mock prison his research team had constructed in the basement of Stanford's psych building. ("Everything is identical," he says.) The dialogue between guards and prisoners is also true to life, much of it from Zimbardo's 2007 book, The Lucifer Effect, which describes the proceedings in detail.

    Continue Reading »



  • What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?
    Nina D'Aran, Principal of Central School in South Berwick, Maine
    Nina D'Aran, the principal of Central School in South Berwick, Maine, has implemented many of Dr. Ross Greene's methods and philosophy along with her staff. Tristan Spinski/GRAIN
     

    Leigh Robinson was out for a lunchtime walk one brisk day during the spring of 2013 when a call came from the principal at her school. Will, a third-grader with a history of acting up in class, was flipping out on the playground. He'd taken off his belt and was flailing it around and grunting. The recess staff was worried he might hurt someone. Robinson, who was Will's educational aide, raced back to the schoolyard.

    Will was "that kid." Every school has a few of them: that kid who's always getting into trouble, if not causing it. That kid who can't stay in his seat and has angry outbursts and can make a teacher's life hell. That kid the other kids blame for a recess tussle. Will knew he was that kid too. Ever since first grade, he'd been coming to school anxious, defensive, and braced for the next confrontation with a classmate or teacher.

    The expression "school-to-prison pipeline" was coined to describe how America's public schools fail kids like Will. A first-grader whose unruly behavior goes uncorrected can become the fifth-grader with multiple suspensions, the eighth-grader who self-medicates, the high school dropout, and the 17-year-old convict. Yet even though today's teachers are trained to be sensitive to "social-emotional development" and schools are committed to mainstreaming children with cognitive or developmental issues into regular classrooms, those advances in psychology often go out the window once a difficult kid starts acting out. Teachers and administrators still rely overwhelmingly on outdated systems of reward and punishment, using everything from red-yellow-green cards, behavior charts, and prizes to suspensions and expulsions.

    How we deal with the most challenging kids remains rooted in B.F. Skinner's mid-20th-century philosophy that human behavior is determined by consequences and bad behavior must be punished. (Pavlov figured it out first, with dogs.) During the 2011-12 school year, the US Department of Education counted 130,000 expulsions and roughly 7 million suspensions among 49 million K-12 students—one for every seven kids. The most recent estimates suggest there are also a quarter-million instances of corporal punishment in US schools every year.

    But consequences have consequences. Contemporary psychological studies suggest that, far from resolving children's behavior problems, these standard disciplinary methods often exacerbate them. They sacrifice long-term goals (student behavior improving for good) for short-term gain—momentary peace in the classroom.

    University of Rochester psychologist Ed Deci, for example, found that teachers who aim to control students' behavior—rather than helping them control it themselves—undermine the very elements that are essential for motivation: autonomy, a sense of competence, and a capacity to relate to others. This, in turn, means they have a harder time learning self-control, an essential skill for long-term success. Stanford University's Carol Dweck, a developmental and social psychologist, has demonstrated that even rewards—gold stars and the like—can erode children's motivation and performance by shifting the focus to what the teacher thinks, rather than the intrinsic rewards of learning.

    In a 2011 study that tracked nearly 1 million schoolchildren over six years, researchers at Texas A&M University found that kids suspended or expelled for minor offenses—from small-time scuffles to using phones or making out—were three times as likely as their peers to have contact with the juvenile justice system within a year of the punishment. (Black kids were 31 percent more likely than white or Latino kids to be punished for similar rule violations.) Kids with diagnosed behavior problems such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and reactive attachment disorder—in which very young children, often as a result of trauma, are unable to relate appropriately to others—were the most likely to be disciplined.

    Which begs the question: Does it make sense to impose the harshest treatments on the most challenging kids? And are we treating chronically misbehaving children as though they don't want to behave, when in many cases they simply can't?

    First day of school in South Berwich, Maine.
    D'Aran makes her rounds at the start of the first day of school. Tristan Spinski/GRAIN
     

    That might sound like the kind of question your mom dismissed as making excuses. But it's actually at the core of some remarkable research that is starting to revolutionize discipline from juvenile jails to elementary schools. Psychologist Ross Greene, who has taught at Harvard and Virginia Tech, has developed a near cult following among parents and educators who deal with challenging children. What Richard Ferber's sleep-training method meant to parents desperate for an easy bedtime, Greene's disciplinary method has been for parents of kids with behavior problems, who often pass around copies of his books, The Explosive Child and Lost at School, as though they were holy writ.

    His model was honed in children's psychiatric clinics and battle-tested in state juvenile facilities, and in 2006 it formally made its way into a smattering of public and private schools. The results thus far have been dramatic, with schools reporting drops as great as 80 percent in disciplinary referrals, suspensions, and incidents of peer aggression. "We know if we keep doing what isn't working for those kids, we lose them," Greene told me. "Eventually there's this whole population of kids we refer to as overcorrected, overdirected, and overpunished. Anyone who works with kids who are behaviorally challenging knows these kids: They've habituated to punishment."

    Under Greene's philosophy, you'd no more punish a child for yelling out in class or jumping out of his seat repeatedly than you would if he bombed a spelling test. You'd talk with the kid to figure out the reasons for the outburst (was he worried he would forget what he wanted to say?), then brainstorm alternative strategies for the next time he felt that way. The goal is to get to the root of the problem, not to discipline a kid for the way his brain is wired.

    "This approach really captures a couple of the main themes that are appearing in the literature with increasing frequency," says Russell Skiba, a psychology professor and director of the Equity Project at Indiana University. He explains that focusing on problem solving instead of punishment is now seen as key to successful discipline.

    If Greene's approach is correct, then the educators who continue to argue over the appropriate balance of incentives and consequences may be debating the wrong thing entirely. After all, what good does it do to punish a child who literally hasn't yet acquired the brain functions required to control his behavior?

     

    June Arbelo, a second-grade teacher at Central School, comforts a student who wants to go home during the first day of school. Tristan Spinski/GRAIN


    Will was still wielding the belt when Leigh Robinson arrived, winded, at the Central School playground. A tall, lean woman who keeps her long brown hair tied back in a ponytail, she conveys a sense of unhurried comfort. Central, which goes from pre-kindergarten through third grade, is one of a few hundred schools around the country giving Greene's approach a test run—in this case with help from a $10,000 state anti-delinquency grant.

    Will, who started first grade the year Central began implementing Greene's program (known as Collaborative and Proactive Solutions, or CPS), was an active kid, bright and articulate, who loved to play outside. But he also struggled, far more than the typical six-year-old, to stay in his seat—or in the room. When he couldn't find words for what was bothering him, he might swing his hands at classmates or resort to grunting and moaning and rolling on the floor. A psychologist diagnosed him with a nonverbal learning disorder, a condition that makes it hard to adapt to new situations, transition between settings, interpret social cues, and orient yourself in space and time. At the beginning of second grade, Central designated Robinson as his aide.

    Out on the playground, she approached the boy reassuringly, like a trained hostage negotiator. "Do whatever you need with the belt," she told him gently. "Just keep it away from people." Slowly, Will began to calm down. They walked over to some woods near the school, and she let him throw rocks into a stream, scream, and yell until, at last, he burst into tears in her arms. Then they talked and came up with a plan. The next time he felt frustrated or overwhelmed, Will would tell another staffer that he needed his helper. If Robinson were off campus, they would get her on the phone for him.

    A few years earlier, staffers at Central might have responded differently, sending Will to the office or docking his recess time. In a more typical school, a kid who seems to be threatening others might be physically restrained, segregated into a special-ed room, or sent home for the day. Children with learning and behavior disabilities are suspended at about twice the rate of their peers and incarcerated at nearly three times the rate of the overall youth population, government data shows. Will, like most of Central's student body, is white, but for black kids with disabilities the suspension rate is 25 percent—more than 1 in 4 African American boys and 1 in 5 African American girls with disabilities will be suspended in a given school year.

    Before Greene's program was put in place, conventional discipline at Central was the norm. During the 2009-10 school year, kids were referred to the principal's office for discipline 146 times, and two were suspended. Two years later, the number of referrals was down to 45, with zero suspensions, all thanks to focusing more on "meeting the child's needs and solving problems instead of controlling behavior," principal Nina D'Aran told me. "That's a big shift."

    The CPS method hinges on training school (or prison or psych clinic) staff to nurture strong relationships—especially with the most disruptive kids—and to give kids a central role in solving their own problems. For instance, a teacher might see a challenging child dawdling on a worksheet and assume he's being defiant, when in fact the kid is just hungry. A snack solves the problem. Before CPS, "we spent a lot of time trying to diagnose children by talking to each other," D'Aran says. "Now we're talking to the child and really believing the child when they say what the problems are."

    The next step is to identify each student's challenges—transitioning from recess to class, keeping his hands to himself, sitting with the group—and tackle them one at a time. For example, a child might act out because he felt that too many people were "looking at him in the circle." The solution? "He might come up with the idea of sitting in the back of the room and listening," D'Aran says. The teachers and the student would come up with a plan to slowly get him more involved.

    This all requires a dramatic change in mindset and workflow. Central School diverted building improvement funds to divide one classroom into two spaces. One side was called the "Learning Center"—a quiet spot for kids to take a break, maybe have a snack, and problem solve before going back into the classroom. The other area became a resource room. The school also committed to 20 weeks of teacher training, with an hour of coaching each week from Greene's trainer via Skype.

    Will's breakthrough session happened in first grade, after several failed attempts, when D'Aran, then a guidance counselor, and his teacher sat down with him. He'd been refusing to participate in writing lessons with his classmates. Over 45 minutes, they coaxed Will through the initial moans and "I don't knows" and finally landed on a solution: Will said if he could use lined paper that also had a space to draw a picture, it would be easier to get started writing. Before long, he was tackling writing assignments without a problem.

    Psychologist Ross Green offers a radically different approach to fixing kids' behavior. Tristan Spinski/GRAIN

    Greene, 57, has curly brown hair, glasses, and the habit of speaking in complete paragraphs, as though he's lecturing a psychology class instead of having a conversation. At the annual conference of Lives in the Balance, the nonprofit he founded to promote his method and advocate for behaviorally challenging kids, I watched him address a crowd of around 500 teachers, psychologists, and other professionals. His baby face and tweedy blazer called to mind a high school social-studies teacher, but he worked up a full head of steam as he spoke of millions of kids being medicated and punished for misbehavior.

    The children at risk of falling into the school-to-prison pipeline, Greene says, include not only the 5.2 million with ADHD, the 5 million with a learning disability, and the 2.2 million with anxiety disorders, but also the 16 million who have experienced repeated trauma or abuse, the 1.4 million with depression, the 1.2 million on the autism spectrum, and the 1.2 million who are homeless. "Behaviorally challenging kids are still poorly understood and are still being treated in ways that are adversarial, reactive, punitive, unilateral, ineffective, counterproductive," he told the audience. "Not only are we not helping, we are going about doing things in ways that make things worse. Then what you have to show for it is a whole lot of alienated, hopeless, sometimes aggressive, sometimes violent kids."

    Greene was trained in behavior modification techniques—a.k.a. the Skinner method—as are most people who work with families and children. But in his early clinical work as a Virginia Tech graduate student, he began to question the approach. He'd get parents to use consequences and rewards, but the families kept struggling mightily with the basics—from dressing to chores and bedtimes. To Greene, it felt like he was treating the symptoms while ignoring the disease.

    Around the same time, he learned about new brain research by neuroscientists who were looking at brain functions with powerful fMRI machines. They found that the prefrontal cortex of our brains was instrumental in managing what is called executive function—our capacity to control impulses, prioritize tasks, and organize plans. Other research suggested that the prefrontal cortexes of aggressive children actually hadn't developed, or were developing more slowly, so that they simply did not yet have brains capable of helping them regulate their behavior.

    But brains are changeable. Learning and repeated experiences can actually alter the physical structure of the brain, creating new neuronal pathways. Nobel laureate Eric Kandel found that memory may be stored in the synapses of our nervous system. He won the Nobel Prize in 2000 for studying the Aplysia, a very simple sea slug, and discovering that when it "learned" something, like fear, it created new neurons.

    The implications of this new wave of science for teachers are profound: Children can actually reshape their brains when they learn and practice skills. What's more, Dweck and other researchers demonstrated that when students are told this is so, both their motivation and achievement levels leap forward. "It was all sitting there waiting to be woven together," Greene says. He began coaching parents to focus on building up their children's problem-solving skills. It seemed to work.

    By the early 1990s, Greene had earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology. He moved to Massachusetts, where he began teaching at Harvard Medical School and directing the cognitive-behavioral psychology program at Massachusetts General Hospital. He also began testing his new approach in children's psychiatric clinics that had previously used Skinneresque methods. In 2001, Cambridge Health Alliance, a Boston-area hospital group, implemented CPS, and reports that within a year, its use of physical and chemical restraints (like clonidine, which is a powerful sedative) in young patients dropped from 20 cases per month to zero. A subsequent five-year clinical trial at Virginia Tech involving 134 children aged 7 to 14 validated the method as an effective way to treat kids with oppositional defiant disorder.

    By 2001, when The Explosive Child came out in paperback, Greene had become a sought-after speaker, even appearing on Oprah. The first peer-reviewed paper in a scientific journal validating the effectiveness of his model appeared in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, and that led to even more invitations to speak at teaching hospitals and other facilities.

    A child draws at Central School. Tristan Spinksi/GRAIN
     

    In 2004, a psychologist from Long Creek Youth Development Center, a correctional center in South Portland, Maine, attended one of Greene's workshops in Portland and got his bosses to let him try CPS. Rodney Bouffard, then superintendent at the facility, remembers that some guards resisted at first, complaining about "that G-D-hugs-and-kisses approach." It wasn't hard to see why: Instead of restraining and isolating a kid who, say, flipped over a desk, staffers were now expected to talk with him about his frustrations. The staff began to ignore curses dropped in a classroom and would speak to the kid later, in private, so as not to challenge him in front of his peers.

    But remarkably, the relationships changed. Kids began to see the staff as their allies, and the staff no longer felt like their adversaries. The violent outbursts waned. There were fewer disciplinary write-ups and fewer injuries to kids or staff. And once they got out, the kids were far better at not getting locked up again: Long Creek's one-year recidivism rate plummeted from 75 percent in 1999 to 33 percent in 2012. "The senior staff that resisted us the most," Bouffard told me, "would come back to me and say, 'I wish we had done this sooner. I don't have the bruises, my muscles aren't strained from wrestling, and I really feel I accomplished something.'"

    Maine's second juvenile detention facility, Mountain View, also adopted Greene's method, with similar results. Incidents that resulted in injury, confinement, or restraint dropped nearly two-thirds between April 2004 and April 2008.
     

    Like the Long creek guards, staffers at Central were skeptical at first. When an enraged second-grader threw a chair at educational technician Susan Forsley one day, her first instinct was to not let him "get away with it." But she swallowed her pride and left the room until the boy calmed down. Later, she sat down with him and Principal D'Aran, and they resolved that if he felt himself getting angry like that again, he would head for the guidance office, where he'd sit with stuffed animals or a favorite book to calm down. Forsley eventually learned to read his emotions and head off problems by suggesting he take a break. "Is giving him a consequence—suspending him, calling his grandparents—is that going to teach him not to throw chairs?" she asks. "When you start doing all these consequences, they're going to dig their heels in even deeper, and nobody is going to win."

    Will had graduated from Central and outgrown most of his baby fat when I arrived for breakfast at his home one Saturday morning. As he and his brothers helped prepare apple pancakes and fruit salad, he took a break to show me "Antlandia," a board game he created to showcase his knowledge of insects. Now in fifth grade, he'd made friends at his new school and was proudly riding the bus—something he couldn't handle before.

    Between bites, Will consented to describe his experiences with the teachers and staff at Central School. "When they notice a kid that's angry, they try to help. They ask what's bothering them," he said, spiky brown bangs covering his eyebrows as he looked down at his plate. His mom, Rachel Wakefield, told me later that CPS had trained Will to be able to talk about frustrating situations and advocate for himself. Now, she said, he actually had an easier time of it than his big brother. "It's a really important skill as they enter into adolescence," she said.

    From Greene's perspective, that's the big win—not just to fix kids' behavior problems, but to set them up for success on their own. Too many educators, he believes, fixate on a child's problems outside of school walls—a turbulent home, a violent neighborhood—rather than focus on the difference the school can make. "Whatever he's going home to, you can do the kid a heck of a lot of good six hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year," Greene says. "We tie our hands behind our backs when we focus primarily on things about which we can do nothing."



  • Teddy Roosevelt Was Obsessed With Making the Dollar Look Like the Greek Drachma

    After Sunday's decisive vote to reject a financial bailout offer, Greece may now be inching closer to leaving the eurozone—the collection of 19 countries that maintains the euro. If it does, it will need a new currency, of course, likely the drachma—the name of Greece's currency going back to ancient times.

    Ancient Greek drachma coins, as it happens, were famous for their artistry, especially the handcrafted, high-relief designs—three-dimensional and elaborate—that rose from the faces of the coins. Many coins from Athens featured an owl, the bird representing the goddess Athena, with her face on the flip side of the coin (the owl design was replicated for Greece's modern-day 1 euro coin). "Ancient Greek coins are undeniably some of the most beautiful coins ever produced in the ancient world," said Philip Kiernan, a professor of archeology at the University of Buffalo where he studies ancient money, a field known as numismatics. "They're little miniature works of art."

    The Athenian tetradrachm (worth four drachmas) was probably the most commonly used coin, starting around the 6th century B.C., and lasting until the 2nd century B.C., according to Kiernan. The Romans finally sacked Greece and installed their own currency, but at its peak, "Athens once produced what was essentially the US dollar of the ancient world," Kiernan said. "They were considered, remarkably, a very stable currency in the ancient world."

    Athenian tetradrachm coins, featuring Athena and an owl. Wikimedia Commons.

    "Would that our coins today were as pretty as that!" he bemoaned when I spoke to him.

    In fact, the enduring beauty of the ancient drachma has reached far into the modern world, even captivating, for several intense years, President Theodore Roosevelt.

    Roosevelt thought the designs of US coins at the time were lifeless and stale, unbecoming of a great nation. "I think our coinage is artistically of atrocious hideousness," he wrote to the treasury secretary in 1904. Roosevelt wanted new designs that harked back to the high-relief Hellenic masterpieces but also captured the spirit of a nation growing in stature around the world.

    At a White House dinner the following year, an obsessed Roosevelt located his kindred spirit: an Irish-born, New York-raised sculptor named Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who had already designed the president's inaugural medal and shared the president's love of drachma coins. Roosevelt—so moved to redesign the country's currency that he feared the treasury secretary thought him "a crack-brained lunatic on the subject"—commissioned the master sculptor to make designs for a new penny, $10, and $20 coin. "This is my pet crime," said the president, referring to his passion for the subject.

    Saint-Gaudens got to work. "You have hit the nail on the head with regard to the coinage," he wrote to the president. "Of course the great coins (and you might say the only coins) are the Greek ones you speak of."

    What emerged from his arduous commission, which was plagued by political, bureaucratic, and technological problems, was the famous 1907 $20 gold coin, a.k.a the double eagle, widely regarded as an artistic triumph.

    Saint-Gaudens' Lady Liberty powers toward the viewer of the coin, carrying an olive branch and a torch, with dawn light splintering behind her. The US Capitol building can be seen in the bottom left-hand corner. Law required the artist to use an eagle for the design on the flip side of the corn.

    Saint-Gaudens' design on the 1924 "double eagle." Wikimedia Commons

    But the coin was hard to make: It took nine strikes from a hydraulic press to fashion each one, making mass production impossible. Fewer than 24 were minted, in February and March 1907, according to the Smithsonian.

    "The minting process of the day was not conducive to high-relief coins," says the US Mint. "As a result, despite being considered one of the most beautiful gold pieces ever minted, Saint-Gaudens' full vision for the production of an ultra high relief coin was never realized."

    Roosevelt was nonetheless deeply impressed by Saint-Gauden's work. Writing about the sculptor's prototypes for a new $10 coin, Roosevelt wrote ecstatically: "Those models are simply immense—if such a slang way of talking is permissible in reference to giving a modern nation one coinage at least which shall be as good as that of the ancient Greeks… it is simply splendid. I suppose I shall be impeached for it in Congress; but I shall regard that as a very cheap payment!"

    The sculptor died of cancer in August 1907, amid mounting problems with manufacturing the new coins. His design, though, lasted in some form until 1933, though it was fundamentally altered from his dramatic, high-relief original.

    The fascinating, and quite personal, correspondence between Roosevelt and the sculptor was published in April 1920, in the Century, which editorialized enthusiastically about the project:

    The Century's article on Roosevelt's coin obsession, in 1920.

    "The President's share in the new issue of coins, the thought, the patience, the unflagging enthusiasm, and the insistence that he brought to bear is a vivid example of his high regard for the need of artistic development in our national life."

    In 2002, one of the only 1933 "double eagles" known to have survived sold for more than $7 million at auction.



  • "You Might Very Well Be the Cause of Cancer": Read Bernie Sanders' 1970s-Era Essays

    Last month Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent socialist seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, repudiated a 1972 essay he wrote for the Vermont Freeman, an alternative newspaper, which included depictions of a rape fantasy from male and female perspectives. On Meet the Press, he dismissed the article as a "piece of fiction" exploring gender stereotypes—"something like Fifty Shades of Grey."

    Yet as the New York Times recently reported, during his years as a contributor to the Freeman in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Sanders often wrote about sexual norms, as he presented a broader critique of repressive cultural forces that he believed were driving many Americans literally insane. His early writings reflect a political worldview rooted in the fad psychology and anti-capitalist rhetoric of the era and infused with a libertarianesque critique of state power. Sanders feared that the erosion of individual freedom—via compulsory education, sexual repression, and, yes, fluoridated water—began at birth. And, he postulated, authoritarianism might even cause cancer.

    Yet he insisted that individual acts of protests could turn things around—a belief that would give rise to his political career.

    Continue Reading »



  • How the GOP Candidates Are Flailing on Common Core

    When a team convened by the National Governors Association began developing the Common Core curriculum standards in 2009, politicians of both parties rallied behind them, with every governor but Rick Perry and Sarah Palin committing to crafting them. Since then, the initiative—aimed at remedying disparities among state educational standards and testing after George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind program failed to achieve its goals—has gotten caught in the political crossfire. Both Democrats and Republicans criticized Common Core for being hastily rolled out, unfair to teachers and students, and a handout to the testing and curriculum companies, but the Republican reaction has been particularly intense. Some Republican critiques have taken the usual form, equating the standards with a big-government takeover of America's education system. Others have been more creative: Florida state Rep. Charles Van Zant claimed the standards would turn kids gay.

    The rapid shift in opinion on Common Core has put the Republican presidential candidates in a tricky position, and they've responded in a variety of ways. Some GOP hopefuls' support for the standards has not wavered: Call them the True Believers. Others are Contortionists whose flexible opinions about the standards bend and twist like any fine circus performer. The Die-Hards have never supported Common Core. The Debutantes only recently entered—or, in former New York Gov. George Pataki's case, re-entered—public life as politicians, and may or may not have a track record of clear positions on the standards. The Conflicted rail against Common Core because it smacks of big government but were ardent supporters of the not-exactly-laissez-faire No Child Left Behind. Finally, one candidate is simply Out to Lunch, unaware until recently that there was even such a thing as Common Core. Below is the full taxonomy.

    Two GOP HOPEFULS remain staunch supporters of Common Core.

    • Jeb Bush is the ultimate True Believer. His nonprofit, Foundation for Excellence in Education, which crisscrosses the country touting the benefits of the Common Core, has bagged more than $4 million in Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grants. Bush says critics who float "conspiracy theories" about the standards are "comfortable with mediocrity." In May, while speaking at a Tennessee GOP dinner, Bush wondered, "Am I supposed to back away from something that I know works?" Recently, the former governor has been more tolerant of those who want to explore non-Common Core options. When Tennessee and New Jersey (home to newly announced opponent Chris Christie) revealed plans to consider new standards, Bush didn't try to sway them otherwise (as he has in the past), but rather urged them to maintain high benchmarks for their students.
    • Another True Believer is Ohio Gov. John Kasich, expected to announce his candidacy in late July. Kasich has been known to call out his fellow Republicans who have suddenly backed away from the standards. "I've asked the Republican governors who have complained about this to tell me where I'm wrong, and guess what? Silence," he said in an interview with Fox News in January. Ohio adopted the standards in June 2010, and Kasich was sworn in as governor of the state a little less than six months later. Even when Republican legislators in the state drafted Common Core repeal bills, Kasich maintained that he believes the standards are not only good for Ohio classrooms but that each state has much more control over them than his GOP opponents are letting on.



    these Four candidates were once Common Core supporters, but they are now twisting themselves into pretzels to demonstrate their consistent opposition.

    • In 2012, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the standards would "raise expectations for every child." Today he is determined not only to get rid of the standards in his home state but to nix them nationally as well. Last August, Jindal filed a federal lawsuit against the US Department of Education and Education Secretary Arne Duncan for "impermissibly" using grant initiatives like Race to the Top to "manipulate" states into adopting the standards. Attacking the standards he once supported with the fervor of a religious convert, Jindal signed three Common Core-related bills last Monday, which among other things calls for reviewing the standards and scrapping the Common Core-aligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam, created by the controversial testing and curriculum behemoth Pearson. The next step, according to Jindal? "Elect leaders in Louisiana who are committed to getting rid of the Common Core."
    • When former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee launched his official presidential campaign website this spring, he posted a page on education that didn't mince words: "I also oppose Common Core and believe we should abolish the federal department of education. We must kill Common Core and restore common sense." In late 2013, however, while speaking with the Council of Chief State School Officers, Huckabee gave the group some advice on how to deal with growing opposition to the standards: "Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat." When Oklahoma considered dropping the standards (it eventually did opt out), Huckabee even wrote to legislators, urging them to reconsider. "It’s disturbing to me there have been criticisms of these standards directed by other conservatives," he wrote. "They’re not something to be afraid of; indeed they are something to embrace."
    • Only two years ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie praised the standards, signing up New Jersey to use them as part of the state’s application for a federal Race to the Top grant. "We're doing Common Core in New Jersey and we're going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I've agreed more with the president than not," Christie said at a school summit in Las Vegas in 2013. A year later, he began distancing himself from the standards, saying he had "some real concerns about Common Core and how it's being rolled out." This May, he announced plans for New Jersey to develop new, non-Common Core standards. In June, when the Washington Post pressed Christie for details on why he felt Common Core was not working, he declined to comment.
    • In January 2014, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called for the standards to be replaced by ones "set by the people of Wisconsin," and he created a commission to reassess the benchmarks. However, Walker spent his early years as governor working to ensure that all aspects of the state's education plan were aligned with Common Core. In 2012, a state task force led by Walker and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers released a statement toasting Common Core as "a set of rigorous new standards that are benchmarked against the standards of high performing countries."



    Four candidates have been against Common Core from the get-go.

    • In 2011, Sen. Marco Rubio pushed back against Duncan's plea that Florida adopt a tougher core curriculum, such as Common Core, in order to get a No Child Left Behind waiver. "The executive branch does not possess the authority to force states into compliance with administration reforms," Rubio said at the time. While Florida has since adopted Common Core, Rubio has remained adamant in his disapproval of the standards, saying in April that they will lead to "a national school board."
    • In March, Sen. Ted Cruz announced, "We need to repeal every word of Common Core." The standards are voluntary and not a federal mandate, but Cruz could technically get rid of No Child Left Behind, the mandate that the Obama administration loosely tied to Common Core through waivers.
    • Rick Perry is one of just two governors who refused to participate in the process of drafting the Common Core standards. "I will not commit Texas taxpayers to unfunded federal obligations or to the adoption of unproven, cost-prohibitive national standards and tests," Perry wrote to Duncan in a January 2010 letter formally rejecting the benchmarks.
    • Sen. Rand Paul has always been opposed to Common Core. According to Bloomberg, in January he sent his supporters an email with the subject line "Rotten to the Core." In the email, he wrote that the standards contain "anti-American propaganda, revisionist history that ignores the faith of our Founders and data-tracking of students from kindergarten on."



    These THREE candidates have no recent national platform from which to discuss their position on education standards. But they still have opinions.

    • Ben Carson has come out of the gate against Common Core. In April, the neurosurgeon and motivational speaker wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times in which he said high academic standards are important, but that having the government responsible for both creating and enforcing them "is naive."
    • George Pataki served as New York's governor from 1995 to 2006, so he was out of the political spotlight during much of the Common Core hullabaloo. And even though he was in office during the introduction of No Child Left Behind, he did not speak publicly about the legislation; his education pet project was the expansion of charter schools. When announcing his run for the Republican nomination in May, Pataki vowed to repeal "oppressive laws like Obamacare and Common Core." In a January interview with NH1, Pataki said, "Education has always been the prerogative of the states and should continue to be that."
    • In January, Donald Trump used the Iowa Freedom Summit as an opportunity to dis both Common Core and Jeb Bush. "He’s totally in favor of Common Core," Trump said. "That's a disaster. It's bad. It should be local and all of that."



    These TWO candidates may have been consistently against Common Core, but they have been inconsistent in their opinions on federal oversight of education.

    • "Put parents back in charge, not the government," Rick Santorum said last February at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "Back in 2012, I wasn't for Common Core. And today, I'm still not for Common Core." While he may have never been for the Common Core, in 2001 he voted for No Child Left Behind, the apex of federal accountability in schools.
    • In May, Carly Fiorina said during an appearance on CNBC, "I think Common Core is a really bad idea." She added, "Giving more money to the Department of Education doesn’t improve learning in the classroom." In 2010, when running for the US Senate in California, Fiorina often spoke about her support for the federal Race to the Top program, which encouraged states to adopt Common Core. In an education policy brief on Fiorina’s Senate campaign page, she not only praised Race to the Top for "put[ting] into place some critically important accountability measures," but she commended No Child Left Behind for helping the "US set a high bar for our students."



    Sen. Lindsey Graham is anti-Common Core today. In February 2014, he even introduced a Senate resolution that "denounced the Obama Administration" for using federal funds to "coerce" states into adopting Common Core. But in September 2013—three years after his home state adopted Common Core—Graham had no clue about it. In this video, Graham, who at the time had been a South Carolina senator for 11 years, was asked what he thought about Common Core. His answer: "What’s Common Core?"



  • Music Review: "Up in the Pine" by Heather Woods

    TRACK 1

    "Up in the Pine"

    From Heather Woods Broderick's Glider

    WESTERN VINYL

    Liner notes: Prepare for liftoff (or vertigo) on this shimmering fusion of visceral, ethereal sounds, featuring acoustic guitars, murmuring synths, and swirling voices.

    Behind the music: A member of Sharon Van Etten's band, the Portland, Oregon, resident has cited everyone from Neil Young to William Faulkner as an influence.

    Check it out if you like: Sound manipulators like Juana Molina and Julianna Barwick.

    We couldn't find a video for "Up in the Pine" online, but that doesn't mean you can't get a feel for Woods Broderick. The above audio is of "A Call for Distrance" one of the other songs on Woods Broderick's new album Glider.



  • Tom Tomorrow Celebrates 25 Years of Cartooning With a Massive Retrospective
    Tom Tomorrow

    The average lifespan of an Antarctic emperor penguin is 15 to 20 years. The average lifespan of an American comic strip is probably far shorter. Both are reasons to celebrate the 25th anniversary of This Modern World, Tom Tomorrow's unconventional political comic strip starring the endearingly acerbic Sparky the penguin.

    Earlier this year, Tomorrow (AKA Dan Perkins) was nominated for a Pulitzer—not bad for an independent cartoonist who got his start in zines and alt-weeklies and survived the bumpy switch from newsprint to pixels, not to mention two Bush administrations. To commemorate this odds-defying accomplishment, Tomorrow has spent the past year tracking down just about everything he's drawn since 1990 and compiling it in a massive, two-volume set that he's self-publishing through a just-launched Kickstarter campaign. In addition to the awesome-looking collection, incentives for funding the project include a stuffed Sparky, swag from TMW pals Pearl Jam, and a chance to indelibly ink Tomorrow with an image of America's favorite flightless political observer.

    Mother Jones: Sorry to put a damper on things, but I heard that print is dead. What are you doing compiling a 1,000-page, 15-pound set of volumes for people to buy?

    Tom Tomorrow: The same people who say that print is dead are the same people who say that the future of print is artisanal. And I see this as a very artisanal project!

    MJ: Tell me how you got the idea to put together almost everything you've done over 25 years.

    this modern world
    A mockup of the 25-year This Modern World compendium Tom Tomorrow

    TT: A couple of years ago, I ran across this big Taschen two-volume set of midcentury advertising. As I was looking at this whole package, something just clicked because I realized that my 25th anniversary was coming up. I always mark 1990 as the real start of my career because that's when the strip started getting picked up; it's when it stared getting political. (It's a little bit of an arbitrary date; really if you wanted to mark an anniversary it would have to be when I turned five, because I always drew cartoons as a kid.) But 1990 effectively marks 25 years as a professional cartoonist, and that's a big chunk of my life. And I thought it shouldn't pass without marking the moment.

    MJ: Has going though 25 years of work been nostalgic?

    TT: I wouldn't say it's been nostalgic. Initially, it was horrifying! The very early work, it makes me cringe a little bit. And then it gets pretty good within a couple of years, and I was relieved to find I was actually proud of it. A lot of this stuff I hadn't read in 20, 25 years. I was kind of surprised how well it held up, honestly.

    MJ: Well, you've been hitting so many of the same themes throughout your career. Which topics or throughlines did you see as you went through your work?

    TT: Certainly gun control, on which we've made almost no progress in 25 years. Heath care is a very interesting one as a person who's been a freelancer for 25 years. For a country that celebrates entrepreneurship, the peculiar American linkage of health care to employment status is puzzling. Obviously we have made progress on that one.

    MJ: Some of the political figures, like the Clintons and Bushes, haven't changed.

    TT: Yeah, I'm looking at all these years I've spent writing about the Bush family and hoping I don't have to do that beyond this next election.

    sparky the penguin
    Sparky, always the optimist Tom Tomorrow

    MJ: How has your perspective on the strip changed?

    TT: In 1990 there was no internet, there were no blogs, there was no social media. In those days I really viewed the strip as a vehicle for conveying information that people might not have had access to elsewhere. I don't see it quite in that light anymore; I assume people know how to use search engines. I think it's gotten a little more playful and less didactic. It's still the wordiest strip out there, but less than it used to be.

    MJ: One of incentives for the stretch goals is that if you read your top goal, you will get a Sparky tattoo.

    TT: It would be my first tattoo of my own creation. It's crazy expensive to make this; all the money is going to printers and to everyone that I've been working with who deserve to be paid for their work. It's been a tremendous amount of work to get this stuff located and scanned and sequenced. It's a labor of love until we hit some stretch goals. If we reach them, I was just trying to think of some extravagant gesture to show how much that would mean to me. So I just threw in the tattoo. I honestly didn't think about it a lot. I may come to regret it!

    Make Tom Tomorrow's regrets—and dreams!—a reality at his Kickstarter page.

    sparky the penguin
    The world meets Sparky, 1991 Tom Tomorrow

     



  • Doctors Are Prescribing Amphetamines for Binge Eating

    You may have recently seen a TV ad about the "most common eating disorder in US adults": binge eating disorder. The spot features champion tennis player Monica Seles talking about her struggles with BED, which was classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a medical condition in 2013. "My binge eating episodes would usually happen in the evenings," Seles explains from a brightly lit kitchen. "I would be back home, by myself, after a long day at the tennis courts and would just eat large quantities of food."

    Seles encourages viewers to check out BingeEatingDisorder.com for more information; according to the website, core symptoms include "regularly eating far more food than most people would in a similar time period," bingeing "on at least a weekly basis for three months," and "feeling very upset by eating binges." The website urges potential sufferers of BED to see a doctor, "bring up BED early in the appointment" because time may be limited, and prepare the doctor by sending a Binge Eating Disorder Education Kit.

    The beginning of the symptom checklist at BingeEatingDisorder.com

    If these seem a little pointed for a friendly PSA, there's good reason: Both the website and the ad campaign are paid for by Shire, a pharmaceutical company that, in January, won approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market a drug called Vyvanse to treat BED. Vyvanse is a Schedule II federally controlled substance—meaning it's acceptable for medical use but has high potential for abuse—and it's the only drug that the FDA has approved for BED. Last year, Shire spent more than $2.5 million on raising awareness among doctors about BED; by 2020, the company expects Vyvanse prescribed for BED to bring in $200-300 million per year.

    While binge eating disorder is a new diagnosis, Vyvanse isn't exactly a new drug. An amphetamine, it was until this year marketed exclusively to treat ADHD. But its latest incarnation actually represents something of a return to its roots: Before they became ADHD drugs, amphetamines, of course, were diet drugs.

    Doctors began prescribing "rainbow pills," amphetamines named for their bright colors, in the 1940s and '50s to help people lose weight. Andy Warhol's drug of choice was Obetrol, a popular diet pill composed of amphetamine salts, including methamphetamine. By the late '60s, at the peak of the drugs' use, an estimated 1 in 10 American women were consuming amphetamines.

    The cartoon caption on this 1970 Obetrol ad reads, "Either lose 45 pounds or wait for 6 more inches of snow!" California Medicine

    After numerous exposes on "Mother's Little Helper"  and "speed freaks" in Ladies Home Journal and elsewhere—as well as a study finding that nearly half of the amphetamine users took the pills for nonmedical reasons—the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (the equivalent of today's Drug Enforcement Agency) stepped in. Amphetamine products were categorized as federally controlled substances with strict regulation of when and how they could be prescribed. The FDA prohibited doctors from selling the drugs for weight loss; the only approved usages were for narcolepsy and "hyperkinetic disorder of childhood"—today's ADHD. By the end of the '70s, production and use of amphetamines had plummeted.

    The amphetamines of the '60s and '70s were a different breed from the amphetamines of today. Drugs like Vyvanse and Adderall don't contain methamphetamine, which was responsible for making the pills particularly addictive and rush-inducing. In addition, Vyvanse doesn't take effect until it's digested, thus slowing down its onset and making it ineffective to snort.

    Yet despite all the changes, many see Vyvanse as a variation on a familiar theme of amphetamines. This is in part because Vyvanse draws its lineage to Obetrol: After pharmaceutical executives saw potential in Obetrol—without the methamphetamine—to treat ADD, it was rebranded as Adderall (short for "ADD for all"). The FDA approved the drug for ADD treatment in 1996; Shire bought the company producing it a year later. Vyvanse, in turn, was developed as a still less abusable version of a key Adderall ingredient and acquired by Shire in 2007.
     

    Binge eating Disorder was first described in 1990 by a psychiatrist named Robert Spitzer. At a meeting to discuss which diagnoses should be included in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of the mental health field that classifies each recognized mental illness and its symptoms, he noted that some patients regularly binged but didn't fall into the category of bulimia because they didn't purge. Over the next two years, Spitzer led a landmark study finding the practice of uncontrollable, distress-inducing binges to be a common, untreated problem among individuals participating in weight loss programs—one that some binge eaters likened to an addiction. The evidence led the DSM committee to include BED, defined as binges featuring "impaired control" at least twice a week for at least six months, as a disorder that was "not otherwise specified." Mental health practitioners were to be aware of its symptoms, but the disorder necessitated more study before it became a full-fledged diagnosis.

    This classification in 1994 served as a rallying call of sorts among eating disorder researchers; between the release of the DSM-IV and the DSM-5, in 2013, more than 1,000 studies were published on the prevalence, epidemiology, and treatments of BED. One frequently cited study by researchers at Columbia found BED prevalent in 2.8 percent of the general population, a rate far higher than anorexia or bulimia. Evelyn Attia, the director of the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders who served on the DSM-5 committee, remembers "very consistent support" from the field that patients were "coming, they were asking for help, and we needed to formally identify them."

    In 2011, Shire researchers began studying the company's top-selling drug, Vyvanse, as a treatment for BED. The first large trial showed promising results: At the end of about three months, those on high doses of Vyvanse binged about half as much as those on a placebo. By the time of the 2013 release of the DSM-5—which, with universal support from the DSM committee, included binge eating disorder—Shire had already laid the groundwork for its awareness campaign around the condition. Looking through the company's financial records, one sees a point, in mid-2013, when the bulk of its funding for educational purposes transitioned from teaching doctors how to recognize ADHD, a market that was slowly being eroded by generic drugs, to awareness of BED.

    In the year and a half before gaining FDA approval, the company spent about $4 million dollars on medical awareness of BED, including grants to the American Academy of Continuing Medical Education for a program called "the ABC's of BED" and to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, to teach doctors about "missed opportunities in the recognition of binge eating disorder." The company also donated to patient advocacy groups, including a total of $450,000 to the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) and the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to fund awareness activities.

    Slides from a Shire-funded continuing medical education class in 2013. Open CME

    In January of this year, Shire's application to the FDA went through an expedited approval process without the usual consultation from an outside advisory board; an FDA spokesman told me this was because Vyvanse had already been approved for ADHD and there was no existing treatment for BED. The application was based on two studies, both similar in content to the first, and both led by scientists who, between 2013 and 2014, received a combined $67,000 in consulting and travel fees from Shire. A company spokesperson told me that the studies were controlled and double blinded, and that Shire believes the studies were "conducted with the highest of ethical and regulatory standards and integrity."

    The FDA announced its approval of the drug on a Friday in January; by the following Tuesday, the company's marketing campaign to consumers was up and running, with Monika Seles speaking about her experience on Good Morning America, in People magazine, and in other media outlets.

    Two years after BED was added to the official diagnostic vocabulary, mental health experts have mixed reactions to how things are going. "Patients are feeling more confident that they'll be able to get the appropriate health care for a somewhat recognized diagnosis," says Attia.

    But Shire's gung-ho marketing has rubbed many practitioners the wrong way. "You can barely turn on the TV without seeing Monica Seles," groans Marsha Marcus, a University of Pittsburgh psychology professor.

    Some see Shire's BED education campaign as a cynical attempt to repackage a drug that's been around decades. Using Vyvanse for BED "takes us down the road of the much earlier use of [amphetamines]," says Keith Conners, a professor emeritus in medical psychology at Duke. Indeed, several psychiatrists told me that they consider Obetrol, Adderall, and Vyvanse to be essentially the "same drug."

    A Shire spokesperson told me that the company is clear about the fact that Vyvanse is for BED, not for weight loss, and that Vyvanse labeling and promotional material clearly spell out its risks, including addiction and cardiovascular problems.

    Yet even some former Shire employees who staunchly believe in Vyvanse's efficacy hinted that the awareness campaign wasn't exactly what they had in mind. "At the time, we assumed this would be focused on psychiatrists who were treating these more severely ill patients," says Jeff Jonas, who led the initial research. Michael Cola, a former Shire executive who oversaw the development of Vyvanse, was surprised to learn about the Monica Seles ads. "It started out with good intentions," he said. "I'm not sure where it is today."




SEARCH GREENIACS.COM