Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable and inclusive public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.
Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
Among the many tributes paid on social media to Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, whose death was announced Tuesday, perhaps the most poignant are from women who read her works in school and found not only inspiration but also new ways to look at themselves and the world. Some teachers included Morrison’s works — among them, “Beloved,” “The Bluest Eye,” “Song of Solomon” and “Sula” — in their literature and reading classes from middle school through college. Other schools and politicians tried to ban her works, which told raw stories of slavery and of black life in America.
Researcher Gloria Ladson-Billings on Culturally Relevant Teaching, the Role of Teachers in Trump’s America & Lessons From Her Two Decades in Education Research [Interview]
Laura Fay, The 74
Gloria Ladson-Billings remembers that there was a difference between the black and white teachers she had growing up in Philadelphia. African American teachers could give the students “the talk,” she recalls, referring to a 2017 Procter & Gamble television advertisement that showed black parents talking to their kids about racism. The black teachers could speak to students honestly about what it means to be African American in a way their white counterparts never could, she remembered. Ladson-Billings speaks often about her fifth grade teacher, Ethel Benn, who first taught her about W.E.B. DuBois. She was amazed to learn a black person had graduated from Harvard University, she remembers; at the time it seemed impossible.
Linda Jacobson, Education Dive
Teacher strikes may put parents at an inconvenience, but that’s not stopping them from saying they would support teachers in their communities from going on strike over salaries, school funding and having more say in education issues, according to this year’s Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Eighty-four percent of K-12 public school parents say they would support teachers for striking over school funding issues, compared to 58% of teachers who say they would vote to strike for this reason.
Language, Culture, and Power
Stephen Sawchuk, Denisa R. Superville and Héctor Alejandro Arzate, EdWeek
Another wave of mass shootings. Thirty-five people killed in three separate gun rampages. And a resurgence in racist rhetoric that prompted the deadliest of the attacks, in El Paso, Texas. Now as school begins again in El Paso and nationwide, Latino parents and students alike are grappling with a new, awful possibility: If they can be targeted in public places like a Walmart—where many families from El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, just over the Mexican border, had gathered to do their back-to-school shopping on Aug. 3—could they also be targeted in schools?
Kurtis Lee and Sandhya Kambhampati, The Los Angeles Times
Jeanette Silva still hasn’t decided what she will do when a census packet arrives at her home a few miles from the banks of the Rio Grande. The 40-year-old pastor feels conflicted — torn between what she sees as the benefits it could offer her community, including her daughter, along with the potential risks for her undocumented husband. “My little girl will have more support,” said Silva of the couple’s 4-year-old, Deborah. “But there is always an uneasiness, a fear — especially right now — of federal officials.”
Vanessa Rancaño, KQED
Bay Area student activists who began organizing last year — after the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead — are preparing to seize on the series of mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio to jump-start their push for stronger gun laws. Some are starting to plan for a rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, and others are strategizing about how to expand the reach of the regionwide youth activist network they’ve built.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
David Greene, NPR
NPR’s David Greene talks with Dr. David Schonfeld, director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement about how to talk to children about mass shootings and trauma.
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
With school starting soon around the country, new attention is being focused on keeping kids safe after a spate of shootings over the past year. In 2018, there were 24 school shootings in which there were injuries or deaths. In February of that year, 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., but that was only one of the deadly shootings. Eight students were killed three months later at a school in Santa Fe, Texas. There have been calls for more armed guards in schools — and armed teachers, as well as pushback to the notion that more guns in schools will keep children safe.
Justyna Stasik, The Atlantic
At first glance, the classroom I was visiting at a high-poverty school in Washington, D.C., seemed like a model of industriousness. The teacher sat at a desk in the corner, going over student work, while the first graders quietly filled out a worksheet intended to develop their reading skills. As I looked around, I noticed a small girl drawing on a piece of paper. Ten minutes later, she had sketched a string of human figures, and was busy coloring them yellow.
I knelt next to her and asked, “What are you drawing?” “Clowns,” she answered confidently. “Why are you drawing clowns?” “Because it says right here, ‘Draw clowns,’ ” she explained.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Liz Simons, CalMatters
In Gavin Newsom, California finally has a governor who gets the need for high quality, accessible early childhood education and care. His budget makes a down payment of nearly $2 billion addressing the early years. And yet a recent poll conducted by the Policy Analysis for California Education and the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education shows that California voters rank early childhood spending below other educational priorities. Why the disconnect?
Matt Krupnick, Hechinger Report
Miguel Hernandez spoke neither Spanish nor English when he arrived in California from a small Mexican mountain village four years ago. Like many indigenous residents of remote towns in the state of Oaxaca, Hernandez grew up speaking a Zapotecan dialect rather than Spanish. That meant he had to overcome even more obstacles than other Mexican immigrants, unable to communicate with most of his classmates and teachers at North Hollywood High School. “I wanted to cry,” said Hernandez, 18. But he learned Spanish and then English, staying after school for tutoring and moving on to honors and Advanced Placement classes. Now he is about to become the first person in his family to go to college.
Megan Leonhardt, CNBC
When it comes to uncomfortable conversations, Americans would rather talk about pretty much anything else — politics, health issues, religion — than discuss their finances. Yet the money topic Americans voted as most thorny is one that’s constantly in the news: student loans. Over a third of Americans say they see student loan debt as the biggest financial taboo, according to a Harris Poll of over 1,000 U.S. adults commissioned by TD Ameritrade.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Linda Darling-Hammond, Forbes
This week, U.S. lawmakers will gather for the annual National Conference of State Legislators meeting to tackle a range of issues, including school funding, which they identified as their top priority earlier this year. Although there has been recent upsurge in school funding since 2015, it comes on the heels of years of budget cuts during the Great Recession that left nearly half the states spending less on schools in 2016 than they were spending in 2007.
Dylan Matthews, Vox
Most American cities have a stark racial divide. In Seattle, the divide runs north to south: North Seattle is largely white; South Seattle is largely not. And as is usually the case in the US, the racial divide is also an opportunity divide. The north is richer and has more expensive houses and higher-ranked schools than the south. Research released by a group of economists last year confirmed this impression in more detail. In some North Seattle neighborhoods (like Broadview), children who grew up there in the 1990s were earning average incomes of around $53,000 by their mid-30s. But if you went farther south, particularly to the Central District (the historic home of Seattle’s black community, pre-gentrification at least), you start to see averages more like $24,000, or $25,000, or $29,000.
Natalie Schwartz, Education Dive
Although many colleges have vowed to increase faculty diversity, little progress has been made in recent years. About 76% of faculty members in the U.S. were white in the fall of 2017, compared to 55% of undergraduate students. Hispanic students accounted for a large share of the increase in student diversity, doubling to 20% of undergraduates in 2017 from 9% in 1997. However, the share of Hispanic faculty grew only slightly during the period, to 5% from 3%. And while 14% of undergraduates were black in the fall of 2017, the share of black faculty was stagnant, inching up to from 5% to 6% over the prior two decades.
Public Schools and Private $
Diana Lambert and Daniel J. Willis, EdSource
California’s charter and private schools dramatically lag traditional public schools in the percentage of students vaccinated for contagious diseases. Last year, 78 percent of traditional public schools reported that its students had all required vaccinations necessary to protect the community, while only 68 percent of private schools and 57 percent of charter schools met that goal, an EdSource analysis of California Department of Public Health data reveals.
Rebecca Klein, HuffPost
When three local NAACP branches in California passed April resolutions opposing the national group’s call for a charter school moratorium, school choice advocates greeted the news with glee. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos voiced her support in an interview. The Wall Street Journal published a flattering editorial about the move, describing it as a welcome “revolt.” But leaders at the California state NAACP say this so-called “revolt” is fake news. They say the main member who pushed these actions ― a woman named Christina Laster ― is being paid by a right-wing group connected to the Koch brothers to infiltrate the organization and sow chaos. They also note that, despite the media attention, these resolutions were dead on arrival at the national organization for failure to follow proper submission protocol or rejection by higher committees.
Robert Blake Watson, Trenton Stone, Erica Scott, and Kahlil Greene, Los Angeles Times
By now, we’re all familiar with the college admissions scandal investigated in Operation Varsity Blues by federal prosecutors. Over the course of the last several months, the investigators have exposed the actions of wealthy families across the world who paid large sums of money to get their children into selective American colleges fraudulently. The conspiracy received global attention — particularly because of the celebrities involved — and prompted widespread disdain. Now, as some internal campus investigations come to a close and guilty pleas pile up, it’s easy to think that the legal process has addressed the problem. Wrong. As student body presidents at four universities immersed in the scandal — USC, UCLA, Stanford and Yale — we know that this illegal scheme is only one example of the many ways in which money influences the admissions process.
Other News of Note
Toni Morrison, The Journal of Negro Education (1995)
Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another. Something, perhaps, like this: (1) Construct an internal enemy, as both focus and diversion. (2) Isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse. Employ ad hominem attacks as legitimate charges against that enemy. (3) Enlist and create sources and distributors of information who are willing to reinforce the demonizing process because it is profitable, because it grants power and because it works. (4) Palisade all art forms; monitor, discredit or expel those that challenge or destabilize processes of demonization and deification. (5) Subvert and malign all representatives of and sympathizers with this constructed enemy. (6) Solicit, from among the enemy, collaborators who agree with and can sanitize the dispossession process. (7) Pathologize the enemy in scholarly and popular mediums; recycle, for example, scientific racism and the myths of racial superiority in order to naturalize the pathology. (8) Criminalize the enemy. Then prepare, budget for and rationalize the building of holding arenas for the enemy-especially its males and absolutely its children. (9) Reward mindlessness and apathy with monumentalized entertainments and with little pleasures, tiny seductions, a few minutes on television, a few lines in the press, a little pseudo-success, the illusion of power and influence, a little fun, a little style, a little consequence. (10) Maintain, at all costs, silence.
Toni Morrison, The New Yorker (November 21, 2016)
This is a serious project. All immigrants to the United States know (and knew) that if they want to become real, authentic Americans they must reduce their fealty to their native country and regard it as secondary, subordinate, in order to emphasize their whiteness. Unlike any nation in Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force. Here, for many people, the definition of “Americanness” is color. Under slave laws, the necessity for color rankings was obvious, but in America today, post-civil-rights legislation, white people’s conviction of their natural superiority is being lost. Rapidly lost. There are “people of color” everywhere, threatening to erase this long-understood definition of America. And what then? Another black President? A predominantly black Senate? Three black Supreme Court Justices? The threat is frightening.