Wednesday, April 27, 2011

GOP Get Serious

Obama was born in America, the United States to be exact. Surprise. I really want to write a blog post about this, and I really want to comment on how ridiculous it is that a sitting President had to produce a birth certificate. I would like to write about how ridiculous the GOP has become, and how they’re more interested in fabricating lies than engaging progress. I would like this article to be about the shallow character displayed by Birthers. I could even engage the gross negligence of elected officials.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Michelle Rhee's Reform Movement Needs Reform

(Excerpt of my column in The Loop 21)

There are few cheerleaders for education reform who are as widely respected as Michelle Rhee, former schools “Chancellor” for Washington, D.C.’s troubled public school system. So one would think her record, when objectively viewed, is impeccable and above reproach. Oprah Winfrey seemed to think so when she blew her spot up on prime time; so did TIME magazine when they plastered her on aNovember 2008 cover holding a broom to underscore her ed reform street cred. But, Rhee has issues.

Rhee is in the news lately not because of the wonderful transformation of the schools she oversaw, but because of much misinformation her schools spewed upon a desperate D.C. public.
USA Today reviewed student tests that "showed a pattern of unusually high numbers of answers that had been changed from wrong to right" at 103 D.C. public schools. They noted that at one particular school the "number of erasures in one class was so high that the odds of winning the Powerball grand prize were better than the erasures occurring by chance.”

So, an apt analogy would be, either the students of Michelle Rhee's reforms were particularly indecisive in the most luckily accurate of ways or, more likely, her and her teachers made their own luck. Worse yet, Rhee isn't alone.

Gene Lyons, writing for Salon, notes that "similar testing scandals have taken place in New York, Texas, Georgia, California -- basically anywhere school funding and/or jobs have been linked directly to multiple-choice testing." What was Michelle Rhee's response to such disturbing allegations? Feigned shock. 

Read more here:

     About the Author
Connect with me: LinkedIn Facebook Twitter
john [at] soeducated [dot] com

A proud graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, John is currently a Master's of Public Health candidate at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University where he is studying health policy & management. He is also a weekly contributor to The Loop 21, frequent contributor to theGrio, and founder of Policy Diary, a leading blog on health policy, management and reform. 

Areas of interest include health care reform and education reform, particularly: access to health care, health care exchanges, and Medicare and Medicaid; in addition, charter schools, K-12 funding, and educational equality.

John is wholeheartedly determined to contribute to the rapidly changing dialogue in the health care and education communities. He has made continuous contributions by conducting research, publishing articles, interviewing practitioners and professors, and engaging students through on-campus organizations.

John's publishings have also appeared in fora such as: The Orlando Sentinel, The Daily Voice, Wiretap magazine, Black Web 2.0, The Daily Californian,, Club Relaford, and Policy Net.

Previously, he served as a legislative fellow in the offices of the Honorable David Englin (D) and David Bulova (D) of the Virginia House of Delegates, in the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions, respectively. John also interned in the office of the State Attorney General of Virginia, and completed a Governor's Fellowship in the Office of Gov. Bob McDonnell where he worked with the deputy secretary of health on projects regarding aging, HIT and disability. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

AIDS, Inc. and the Post-Capitalist World

In the past two weeks, I have seen clear evidence that the major challenge to ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic is that the current system of service (affectionately called "AIDS, Inc.") is following a capitalist model of organization, but new technologies are quickly (and often violently) moving us into a post-capitalist world.  HIV/AIDS organizations should perhaps take note.  First, the observations:

  • I was in on a conference call with some folks involved in developing and implementing HIV-testing and treatment strategies (my role is strictly as a member of a community advisory panel).  After one MD presented on some things happening on the national level with regards to funding and policy, I asked him if there were any discussions in his sphere about the prospect of FDA approval for over-the-counter sales of HIV-tests.  He stated that there is not, but acknowledged that this would definitely be a game-changer and they will need to include this in their next cycle of discussions and studies that will start up when the current cycle ends in two years.  
  • This past week, I saw a billboard on the DC Metro about the Team to End AIDS (T2EA) Training Program; it's a fund-raising/fitness regimen to provide training support for full- and half-marathons.  The beneficiary is AIDS United, a new nation-wide AIDS organization that seems to have good fundraising in place, but their first order of business, according to their website, is to develop a 3-year strategic plan.  No where on their website do they talk about new technologies for education and testing.  
  • Yesterday, there was an article released that shows that video-counseling for HIV increases both knowledge and rate of testing for teens and young adults (read an MD blogpost about it). 

To me, these highlight the major differences in the way old organizations are dependent on and limited by a systemic process, whereas the new, emerging world can be responsive to a vision that adapts more quickly to new realities. The old, capitalist way of organizing is to fund the development of a strategic plan, and then create a system of structures to follow the plan, and then seek new funding.  It is a system that is very slow to adapt to new innovations, ideas or technologies, and depends on the donations and funding of well-meaning people to be generous but not overly informed or inquisitive. In the first example above, it is acknowledged that self-testing will be a game-changer, so it will be included in the next cycle.  What I am hearing, however, is that self-testing could be approved within a year; now is the time to be considering it as part of the plan, not a year after it is released.  In the second example, getting money is the priority (money is the driving force of a capitalist-driven organization).  In the post-capitalist world, however, technology has made it that many things can happen without so much money, or at least a drastically different allocation of money. A post-capitalist organization is also much more responsive or sometimes reactive, and can do things without the lengthy studies, needs assessments and test-marketing.  This does not mean the programs are any less ethical.  Quite the contrary.  I would challenge that the incessant studies are unethical for their waste of resources.  A post-capitalist organization is more about implementation.  Facebook, twitter and youtube have already brought about the change.  People are more able to implement action without depending on institutions.  If a study shows that video-counseling for HIV results in a more informed population being more willing to get tested, and rapid tests are coming soon, shouldn't these be the bases of our actions now, not something we will consider in future planning?  It is the inability to respond to the game-changers in our present that has been the failure of AIDS, Inc. ever since Protease Inhibitors came along 15 years ago.

 About the Author

Connect: LinkedIn Facebook Twitter
Brad's articles on Policy Diary

Brad Ogilvie spent over a decade working on the "treatment" side of HIV as a clinician and program coordinator in a holistic clinic, and then running an AIDS housing program. During this time period – 1995 to 2005, he witnessed huge advances in the treatment of HIV. He also noticed that the institutions that had grown out of the early HIV/AIDS movement were slow and even resistant to change – often being competitive and divisive along demographic and geographic lines both nationally and internationally. He was increasingly convinced that the "business of AIDS" was big business that placed greater weight on keeping case loads and beds full, rather than stopping the spread of HIV. 

 As a person living with HIV, he also experienced the “spend-it-or-lose-it” policies that fostered a culture of dependency.  Armed with this knowledge and these experiences, he founded The Mosaic Initiative in 2005 to focus solely on stopping the spread of HIV through education and testing. He has worked in conservative and liberal communities in Illinois, Washington DC and rural Kenya.

As a gay man living with HIV, he has also found that by simply engaging people with open arms rather than closed fists, new alliances, friendships and community partnerships form that will, hopefully, bring a stronger grassroots voice to HIV from a place of common ground that influences better policy and action.  Brad lives in Washington, DC and works full-time for William Penn House developing programs for youth and young adults on social justice issues including HIV. His blog Mosaic Initiative is frequently updated and a wealth of information.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Congress & Balls

When you're reading this, the "Shutdown" has either happened or it hasn't. And if it hasn't well, wonderful! If it has, wonderful! I actually don't care either way. There – I said it. I don't care because I'm not surprised, and I'm not surprised because Congress knows how drop balls.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

GOP: Screen Door Politics

"It's about as useful as a submarine with a screen door."

I heard this saying in reference to people who did stupid things, and were consequently unhelpful. These include, but are not limited to the following:

1) Spitting into the wind.
2) Chopping down a tree with a dull axe.
3) Voting for a Democratic Presidential candidate in the Commonwealth of KY.