Fidel and censorship in Cuba

I have thought long and hard for a good many years about why it is that so many a revolution leads to suppression of free press, a vital aspect of any country with a sensible form of governance.  Democracy cannot exist without free press and full freedom of expression for a nation’s people.  That said, I have watched countries such as the United States and England, time and time again, use the force of their media power to misinform people of nations for which they have wholly undemocratic plans, confusing people into believing that what was good for them was what the big powers were planning to give them.  The tactic, as the article below points out, has worked time and again to undermine the stability of newly formed governments that defy the wishes of the big powers, Guatemala being one place,


Nicaragua another, and, yes, Cuba another.  Developmentalism in Latin America mid-20th century was indeed bringing about changes in government in the region that were succeeding in the development of economies that truly served the whole these nations’ people.  But these new economies were based in socialism (sometimes very mild forms that took from the rich and foreign and gave more of the nation’s wealth to back to those who had historically been exploited) and not capitalism, the economic approach by which they had been screwed.


A part of the developmentalist reform was to reclaim natural resources, turned over to American interests by corrupt and despotic leaders, and this got the corporations and individuals profiting to get those Dulles Brothers to do something about it, to show the people that they could be far better off by listening again to what the United States wanted them to hear, this strategy of manufacturing doubt in ancient governments just starting to push reform without much time to undo all that had been done to make these countries true “banana nations,” pushed boatloads of propaganda against these new governments into these sovereign countries, propaganda that anyone looking at it today with half a mind would recognized to be pure and unadulterated bullshit.


Any good and honest history of countries of the “southern cone” will tell of the deception and the results of people being manipulated to act against their own interests by the foreign powers that wished to colonize the land and steal the people’s labor.  I forgot to mention that one of the countries colonized, here by the British with a hefty assist from the United States and the Dulles, was Iran, a country that, in 1941, deposed the democratically elected leader of the country, Mohammad Mossadegh and replaced him with the Shah Mohammad Rezā Pahlavi‎ who was the main target of the modern Iranian revolution.


Such events in history are not often taught in the USA and when it is, the good side of the bad is often emphasized, the though not great, better off than otherwise, which, if one were to ask the people of the lands involved, good numbers (like most Cubans living in Cuba would say of their lives in their land) to be untrue.


So, and this is terrible to say, but necessary, thought I hate the idea, it does occur in my mind, far too often, that there is justification for censorship though acceptance of censorship as a viable tool for making humane change in exploited nations possible and sustained.  I really do not know of a comfortable way out of this entanglement and, perhaps, it comes with trying to get at the true meaning of things for one to be thrashed this way and that as contradictions push against the sane and comfortable state of mind.





The chunk extracted from the piece below helps to make understandable the tendency of those leading revolutions, even those with the best intentions of liberating their nations from true tyrants, often suppress free expression.  The question of how they can succeed and allow the infiltration of propaganda from the powers that support the tyrants is an important one to consider.



You’re Thinking About Fidel Castro All Wrong

He wasn’t operating in a vacuum.

Ryan Grim

Huffington Post November 29, 2016



Ernesto “Che” Guevara arrived in Guatemala City on Christmas Eve in 1953. An aimless radical who had yet to find his path in life, he had come to see firsthand the liberal reforms being carried out by Guatemala’s democratically elected leader, Jacobo Arbenz.


The most consequential of them, it would turn out, was his effort at land redistribution. Arbenz proposed seizing the uncultivated land held by the company United Fruit, and compensating the firm by paying it the full amount it had claimed the land was worth in its latest tax filings.


Unfortunately for Arbenz, then-Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother, Allen Dulles, the head of the CIA, were both effectively paid agents of United Fruit, which was represented by their law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell. They were also zealous Cold Warriors, and believed deeply that Arbenz was a communist, regardless of whether he admitted it.

The CIA launched a coup, led by several hundred U.S.-backed rebels, and backed by U.S. bombs and a substantial propaganda campaign both in print and on the radio.


Stephen Kinzer, in his dual biography of the Dulles brothers [must read], writes that the Eisenhower-approved coup left a lasting impression on the young man, Guevara, who happened to be in the capital as the coup was carried out:


Later he told Castro why it succeeded. He said Arbenz had foolishly tolerated an open society, which the CIA penetrated and subverted, and also preserved the existing army, which the CIA turned into its instrument. Castro agreed that a revolutionary regime in Cuba must avoid those mistakes. Upon taking power, he cracked down on dissent and purged the army.


None of this means the U.S. is directly responsible for the decisions Castro made, or for the path he took Cuba down. None of it justifies or excuses human rights abuses or the subjugation of an entire people. What Castro did is his own.


Policy wrangling on the far right

A piece of a note received from Frank Cannon at the American Principles Project.  I am wondering who is paying attention to what is going on in regard to the future of education policy in the United States of America.



President-elect Trump understands that America needs a massive overhaul of the education system, but his recent pick for Secretary of Education is cause for alarm. Betsy DeVos talks about Common Core just like Jeb Bush and other Republican Common Core supporters. By saying she supports “high standards,” DeVos has ignored the fact that Common Core standards inherently corrupt our education system.

Leftist radicals like Hillary Clinton have been working for years to restructure our schools, transforming them from places of education to factories of indoctrination. This movement has been driven by their push for new academic standards. The result is dumbed-down content and a curriculum that molds students to follow the marching orders of progressive authorities.

The Progressive establishment has infiltrated schools nationwide, but with Donald Trump as our President, we finally have the chance to go on offense. We will work with the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress — and fight them if they veer off course — to defeat the Common Core, end needless standardized testing, and stop government involvement in unnecessary data collection that violates student privacy.
Frank Cannon
American Principles Project

Repost: A jab and a response

Chemtchr was rather riled by the post reposted here yesterday.  I think there is something more to to the “no Stephen” than straight denial.  That kind of response I expect because so few who are and have been involved with education over the time of my career have been willing to ask why it is that there are so many failures and so many responses to failure that offer little in the way of success.  I know that I constantly play into the hands of those who want to rip public schools to shreds by offering criticism of those public schools.  This is impossible to avoid.  But it does bring up an important point concerning strategies for bringing about meaningful and necessary change, for building a public school system that is about helping students to grow smarter, more independent in their thinking, and more capable of making good judgments when confronted with the task of participating in the democratic decision making process.  That good numbers of students are denied this kind of education is, I think, rather evident in the way Americans conduct themselves in regard to self-governance.

That the schools are to blame should be a no-brainer.  If not for that, then for what and if not capable, then where besides the schools should they have gotten it?

So, yes, when I read that opening to the note, I wanted to hook Chemtchr and cast him aboard the ship of good reason and honesty.  Are Americans science literate?  Not from the data I have seen.  Are they able to tell their representatives what representatives need to hear in regard to policies affecting our health our the environment and sane human interaction with the environment?  Why is Imhoff tolerated and how can it be that in our congress there are so many others who would deny what good science tells them is true?

We really need to do something about those such as Chemtchr who stand in the way of meaningful change in order to protect their egos, fragile as they are.

He or she asks me if I am qualified to speak as I do and my response is rendered to serve that purpose.


February 11, 2013 at 6:23 pm

No, Stephen, I’m not on your hook, and neither is Ken, and nobody needs to let us off. Does “deschooling” mean just walking away from the children in the actual schools?

I didn’t do any of the things you want me to cop to, and neither did many other teachers. We’ve been in classrooms these past decades, teaching and learning with our students, against the tide.

There are some deep questions we could address, about the dialectical role of teachers in delivering the heritage of academic continuity as well as the intellectual strength to smash through it when needed. To frame the issue, though, I’d need to know more about your own perspective. Where have you been, yourself, for the past 20 years?


Reply by Stephen Lafer

February 11, 2013 at 6:43 pm

You ask a very good question concerning where I have been for the past 20 years. Nowhere good is my answer and not good in so many ways as to have kept me at the level of an associate when others were climbing past me toward full professorship. I don’t mean to present myself as having done only what was right and moral, but I must say that I did fight like hell with all the tools I had at my disposal and with more energy than I really had. I pushed real hard against the research paradigm that has been so instrumental in guiding (misguiding) educational “reform” and wrote articles that tried to argue for schools and classrooms that excited students as well as their teachers, integrated, interdisciplinary team taught schools with classrooms engaged in projects where students could see firsthand both the power and elegance of the tools the disciplines offer. I worked with a program here called the Image Classroom project that put three grade levels of students in a single interdisciplinary project based classroom before working to set up the first real middle school program in the region, a middle school where interdisciplinary, team based instruction helped students to want to be doing school at all hours and during all seasons. I tried to spread that model but hit up against NCLB and such and then, frustrated with the mainline schools tried to start a new kind of school using charter school moneys. That school, Rainshadow Community Charter High School is in its tenth year and about to close its doors.

I teach teachers in teacher education courses and I try my best to help them develop the kind of love for education that might prevent them from giving into the forces that wish them to be something other than they know they should be to serve kids well. I fail regularly because the classroom where my students go for internships and then for paying jobs look nothing like what they know schools and classrooms should be. My problem. I too miseducate! I publish, I teach, I write to blogs such as this and present at conferences. I am a bit of trouble to most and a lot of trouble to many.

Am I better than? I try damned hard to be true to what I have come to understand to be right and I work to encourage others to come to what they have studiously come to understand as being right for individuals and for the good of the whole that serves individuals.

If I seem scornful, I am, and not of real victims but only of those of US who want to place blame in places where nothing can come of doing so except placing the blame. Yes, I do believe that schools have taught to conformity and I have seen this as an eye witness to my own children’s education, education I insisted take place in public schools. Did the schools do right by them? I think not, but they did well enough with the counter balance we provided, the questions we asked of the right answers to the quizzes and tests they took. Yes, we got them ready for the vocabulary and spelling tests and the multiple choice tests in math and science and history.

Do i support public schools? As I do the American democracy. With a critical eye to deficiencies and a dedication to moving things toward perfection.

While on the most important subject…


Refers to claim by Jerry Falwell Jr. that he was offered Secretary of education position by Trump.

If this is true than the beyond the beyond comprehension notion of what Trump has in mind for the United States is even further beyond comprehension than any same human being could imagine.  A religious fanatic offered the post of Secretary of Education is an affront of an affront to the kind of democracy that is the democracy we inherited.


Reposting archived posts that I took down in a huff one day.  I am putting they up again with hope that they may encourage some down and dirty honest discussion of post-election reality and ways to reshape that reality so that humane treatment of all is the basic premise for all of our societal decision making.  Those who read the stuff will find that several of the posts are responses to what was posted on the Diane Ravitch blog site.  I felt compelled to respond because Dr. Ravitch’s is a very important voice in the educational community and beyond and one that, in the past few years has captivated those who identify themselves as liberal in their thinking.  While Dr. Ravitch defends teachers in a most vociferous fashion and, through her support of teachers has won many over to her thinking, her thinking is hardly different than the previous incarnation of Diane Ravitch, a person who was supportive of some of the most conservative ideas regarding instruction and some of the most vocal proponents of conservative approaches, including many who supported direct instruction methodologies and argued that teachers need not be very smart because, with programs of the direct instruction kind, the thinking teacher interfered with the efficient transfer of direct instruction right answers to students.  The role of the teacher, and you can find support for this idea at the direct instruction websites, is to deliver what the program commands, do as one is told without in anyway making determinations for oneself (as teacher or student) as to whether the program’s right answers were, really, in the broader scheme of things, actually right.  The ideas Ravitch supported were ideas of the right, those advocating for those ideas in no ways liberal in their thinking, that thinking of the authoritarian rather than the well studied authority willing to fully explain motives as well as the reasons for their promoting that which they were promoting.

Ms. Ravitch could say only good things about teachers and nothing good about the Common Core initiatives that were coming into play in 2013.  She argued that the CCSS were, indeed, anti-student and anti-intellectual freedom, this soon after she supposedly saw the light and became an advocate for teacher and curriculum autonomy, this after having served as a powerful force in the No Child Left Behind Movement, an educational juggernaut that took learning into the pits of intellectual hell and caused good numbers of students, and their teachers, to drop out of school, if not physically, certainly mentally.  It needs be noted that the architects of NCLB were University of Oregon education professors who were the foremost proponents of direct instruction and who did what they could to prevent those who found direct instruction far less than desirable from having any voice at all in educational policy discussion.

The work of these NCLB leaders was discredited by studies that took place long after a substantial amount of damage had been done.  Several article in such publications as the New York Times and Washington Post described the investigations and the findings, some of these cited in other articles from the archives that I will be posting soon.

More from Posts to Diane Ravitch Blog

Posted on February 22, 2013 | Leave a comment | Edit

Stephen Lafer

February 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Indeed, the NCLB miseducated are coming to me wanting to teach English and wanting to teach it as it was taught them, for test readiness and little else, as readers who read (some of the time) what is assigned to find the answers in text that they think the teacher cares to have them remember. Not their fault. And, I am hearing, not the fault of the teachers who taught them to be so passive in their learning that even the most provocative ideas cannot penetrate the aura of boredom. Not their fault and, as I am hearing, not the fault of the teachers! Paulo Freire says that oppression can only be lifted through the will and actions of the oppressed. I read that teachers are not at fault and that what they did under NCLB was the fault of others, of administrators (who would also say that they were the victims and not the perpetrators) to superintendents, to people who were influential in shaping government educational policy. So, really, no one was responsible for NCLB and the crap I had to take for 10 years of resistance and alleged mis-teaching of teachers because my teaching called upon them to be thoughtful and to demonstrate English language arts skills of value by using the tools of language to resist the mandates. Like too many of my colleagues, and the teachers with whom they were assigned to work in internships, my students wanted to fit in and not do the work of advocacy for sane practices. While they knew what they were doing was not what should be done, they did what they were told to do because that is what good boys and girls do, they capitulate to authorities no matter how odious or stupid those authorities may be.

To let teachers off the hook, to say they were not responsible is to degrade the already degraded stature of the teacher. Whereas the teacher should be the model of good citizenship, it is necessary for the teacher to understand the notion of good citizenship and good citizenship has nothing to do with passive acceptance of authority. It has much to do with advocacy and, for English teachers, this is particularly important because it is in the English class that students learn to fight the good fight with words, with the proper words, with effective strings of words that are of a mindfulness that NCLB seemed to be intent on undermining. One only has to look at the final reports on Reading First to see how anti-thoughtfulness, pro-banking (method) NCLB was. Any real patriot would have understood that the methodology and the means of assessment were not in the best interests of the more perfect union citizens were to strive for as participants in their society’s decision making processes.

It is true that teachers were mislead by many of those in a position to lead, people of stature in the world of American education who, for whatever reasons, bought into and sold with “research” the virtues of a virtueless agenda. Indeed, it shouldn’t be difficult for a thoughtful person to see that NCLB, or the methodologies receiving approval under the NCLB regime, were not intended to inspire individuals to think for them selves, to think critically and voice the results of that critical thought to have a say in how the institutions of the society were to operate. NCLB, tied as it was to the post 9-11 era of deceit shrouded in fear, was one part of a campaign to prove to people that they should not think for themselves because it was impossible for them to understand the nature of enemies lurking around ever corner. NCLB was about softening up an already softened public, a public already tuned out to nature of the world surrounding them, already susceptible to the lies of advertisers and politicians who employed the tools of the advertiser to sell deceitful policies.

The teachers? Even before 9-11 were probably not as critical and critically diligent as they should have been to teach in and for the evolving before their eyes. Too many were using the text provided them by school districts who bought from textbook publishers whose nature and prerogatives we rarely investigated even though the Texas textbook censors were doing their best to make sure that the nation would suffer no information that the Gablers (look them up) and their friends (evangelicals, right wingers, etc.) did not want them to have. How many teachers had their students do research into the biographies of textbook authors and how many had their students investigate the process by which textbooks were chosen and whose “truths” it was that those books were telling?

Come on! Please, let us let no one off the hook for the way students have been untaught thoughtfulness. Let us do such so that we may begin where the new beginning needs to start, with the mis-education of those who teach by the schools in which they were taught. This would be a first step in de-schooling, a necessary process to remove the clouds that obscure the real goals of education that is humane, that is truly humanizing. What we need after we cop to charges is to recharge ourselves, to find again our imaginations so that we can think beyond what we think to be the possible. We need to rethink the research, all of it in light of the fact that “research” served as the foundation for NCLB and many other rotten initiatives that took the light out of the educational process. We need new goals and goals of a truly humanistic type, goals that take into consideration the value of our individuality, of our potential as creative, innovative, thoughtful, and, yes, compassionate beings with the capacity to change the world and not simply live in a world foisted upon us by those who pretend to know who we should be and become. Truth be told, they don’t know shit about who I am or who you are.

And that is a very good thing, if you really think about it!



Democratic Education, Alternative Schools

Posted on February 25, 2013 | 5 Comments | Edit

(Response to another’s posting from which the quotations cited are extracted)


“Personally I’ve stopped using the term democratic education as some schools who call themselves democratic have sadly in my opinion turned to ‘soft coercion’ to push their agenda upon kids. Ultimately the question is this, can you have democracy without freedom? Personally I don’t see how that is possibly authentic, it reminds me of conventional schools’ student councils, ‘sure we’ve got democracy, we’ve got student council which decides the colors of the homecoming balloons.’


It seems to me that this problem, of the co-opting of terms and titles for application to causes and institutions that look little like those to which the terms were originally applied is a critical problem.  I do wonder, too, if those who “misuse” terms such as “democratic” really do not think must about the really meaning of something as complex as democracy.  I think they need help, as do great numbers of people in this democracy, particularly those who teach in institutions that are of a democratic society, that exist in a society that is, by mandate, (constitution) is a democracy, and are supposed to be helping students to understand what it means to be a citizen of a democracy.  So, perhaps, AERO is a good place to have the types of discussions that speak to issues and principles of democracy and propagate the proper definitions of democracy and democratic so that those who wish to teach have a sense of what their obligations really are if they work in a school that is sanctioned by the democratic society in which it exists.


While we talk about free schools and democratic schools and of right and wrong and good and not so good and bad, a clear definition of what we are really about, educating people for a free and democratic society (the latter limiting, in the most interesting of ways, the former—with the CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE—we  willingly and for good purposes give up some of our freedom) is needed and, interestingly, again, as with the perfect union that the founders could only promote but never achieve (a very interesting aspect of the philosophy of democracy) the more perfect school system is more of a dialectical notion than a true and concrete entity.  Democracy, after all, is about the people reinventing their destinies as well as the institutions that serve those destinies.


The problematic democratic schools are problematic in some instances because the relationship between free and democratic is not very well understood, the basic principle that is misunderstood being that democracy is about constraints that allow for the maximization of freedom for all who cannot be free unless there are constraints, those constraints agreed upon as necessary and worth the sacrifice because they allow for greater degrees of freedom for all than would freedom pure and unconstrained.


Within the context of this discussion, I would hope, would be talk of the necessity of a public education system that could serve all in a truly democratic manner and with the goal of helping people realize the meaning of freedom and its contribution to humanization and the obligations of free citizens to participate in the democratic process, in the dialect that leads to the creation and maintenance of public institutions in the true sense, institutions that serve freedom and democratic process, and that is honest in assessing both the value of and problems with schools that exist outside the domain of the public.  This issue is a major one and I am involved in troubling conversations on a daily basis with those who, in the name of democracy, hate charter schools and private options to the public schools.  Their arguments are good ones and need to be heard and those who operate schools outside the public school realm need to make clear that the schools they run exist because the public schools really do not serve well the public that is of a democratic society, that alternative schools exist to serve as models that their purveyors hope will someday be incorporated into the public school programs because these alternatives are intended to affect the norm.



Here is a question that I think properly educated people might ask after the news hit that Fidel Castro died and that, in dishonor of his death, people were celebrating in Miami, in response to the fact that even the most liberal cable news organizations hardly mentioned at all what it was that Castro had done in Cuba, what his regime had replaced and what a comparison of pre-revolution life with post-revolution life in Cuba really was.

I have studied Cuba and its revolution for years and, too, the force in American politics that is the “exiled” Cuban American community.  Who are these people and why do they tend to have the kind of political views they hold?  Too, who were these people and what were they about before the left Cuba?  Good politics,  bad politics, really for freedom for the people or really for a dictatorship that channelled the Cuban people’s wealth to them even if it meant supporting a government of savage methods of control over the people with a will to keep those people uneducated and subservient, even to the degree that they would accept the sale of their children into forms of slavery and prostitution?

I not only studied from afar but visited Cuba on three occasions.  What does one really find there today?  Is it a Cuba as described in the various American sources or is it something different.  Are people in Cuba better off today than they were when the United States had a Fulgencio Batista Zaldívar regime to support with money and guns?

I do know that the eyes can deceive and that it is possible for a government to cause people to see what is really not there and prevent them from seeing what is really there.  But I travelled freely in Cuba, from one end of the island to the other and I talked to a good many people, a number of whom were–and this may be hard for some American educated/American media saturated to believe–rather happy in what the revolution had allowed them, very good medical care and education, for example–all modern day Cubans exhibit health and high levels of literacy–along with sufficient food (hard place to farm but everyone eats enough and can have a healthy diet).  Culture abounds and one does not have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to see the talented of the island perform, the talents many and the exhibitions sublime.

It is lacking, the island of Cuba, the kind of commercialism the non-communist nations of the world offer and this does bother many Cubans on the island who long for access to the products that seduce.  Many want greater freedom of press and religion and better access to the free market of ideas that is available through open access to digital means of communication.  There are travel restrictions and so on and so forth making Cuba something far less than a paradise.

And so on and so forth, my jaded view of the place and my view against that view that most Americans have of Cuba and its leaders (who, I do think were some of the most intelligent and right minded people of the 20th century–really, despite the news reports, leadership did not take vast riches for themselves and live what could be called luxurious lives–which of them ever stayed at the world’s best hotels or bought for themselves the best vintages?

Perhaps I am the bullshiter.  But maybe I am not and maybe my perspective is on that deserves to be scrutinized and not dismissed out of hand?

Would you know to do this, have the will or the sense of responsibility to do this considering how you go about discovering what is true and what is not?  I know what I think and I think that we all deserved a much better education.