Just News from Center X – August 26, 2022

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Progressives Say Biden Student Debt Plan ‘A Good Start, But Not Enough’

Brett Wilkins, Common Dreams

After years of activist organizing, U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a plan to cancel $10,000 to $20,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower, a move that drew both praise and admonition from progressives—many of whom want to erase $50,000 or even all educational debt. Biden tweeted that in order “to give working and middle class families breathing room as they prepare to resume federal student loan payments in January 2023,” his administration will forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers who attended college without Pell Grants and who earn less than $125,000, or $250,000 as a household. Borrowers who received Pell Grants will have $20,000 in debt erased. “In the long term, we need to keep pushing for more relief and for free public college and vocational school,” said Rep. Ro Khanna.

Six Things Kids Need in School in Today’s Politicized World

Valerie Strauss, Raechel Barone, and Karen Engels, Washington Post

A new school year is starting in many districts next month and the media is flooded with stories about teacher shortages, low educator morale, restrictions on what teachers can address in classrooms about race, gender and identity, banned books, and other troubling issues facing public education. Add to that new outbreaks of a coronavirus variant, portending more health-related disruptions to school, and it is clear that students and teachers will return to do their work in a highly politicized and tense environment. What ingredients will it take for schools to be successful under these conditions? That’s the subject of this post, written by Raechel Barone, a kindergarten teacher at Orchard School in South Burlington, Vt., and Karen Engels, a fourth-grade teacher at Graham and Parks School in Cambridge, Mass.

Assessing Voters’ and Parents’ Perspectives on Current Threats to Public Education

Heather J. Hough, Julie A. Marsh, Jeimee Estrada-Miller, Morgan Polikoff, Jeannie Myung PACE

The 2021–22 academic year was profoundly challenging for California schools. Eight critical issues emerged as serious threats to student learning, the operation of schools, and even the very institution of public education: (1) gun violence, (2) politicization of and support for public education, (3) controversy over what is taught in schools, (4) student learning and well-being, (5) declining enrollment, (6) teacher shortages, (7) college affordability, and (8) long-term funding inadequacy and instability. These issues also present a threat to equity because they disproportionately affect the most marginalized communities, exposing long-standing systemic inequities in education and creating new gaps in opportunity and access. It is against this backdrop that PACE and the University of Southern California (USC) Rossier School of Education fielded our annual poll of California voters in July 2022 on their opinions of and priorities for public education.

Language, Culture, and Power

Frustration after bilingual education bill dies in State Assembly

Zaidee Stavely, EdSource

A bill that would have helped school districts open more dual-language immersion programs fizzled in the California State Assembly this month, crushing the hopes of many advocates of bilingual education. Senate Bill 952 would have established a program to offer at least 20 school districts technical assistance and grants of up to $750,000 each to expand or establish dual-language immersion programs.

NYC initiates school supports for children of asylum seekers

Kara Arundel, K-12 Dive

The New York City Department of Education is launching a plan to support families seeking asylum and ensure children are ready for the school year that begins Sept. 8, according to an Aug. 19 announcement by Mayor Eric Adams, the school system and the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Department of Social Services. The plan, titled “Project Open Arms,” includes wraparound services for newcomer students and families.

Radical Social Movements As Love Letters: An Interview with Robin D.G. Kelley

Norman Stockwell, The Progressive

Robin D.G. Kelley is a distinguished professor and the Gary B. Nash endowed chair in U.S. history at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of more than seven books, including Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America (Beacon Press, 1997). The revised and expanded edition of his 2002 book, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, was released by Beacon Press on August 22. We spoke by telephone on June 28.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Clean Toilets, Inspired Teachers: How India’s Capital Is Fixing Its Schools

Karan Deep Singh, New York Times

Pradeep Paswan used to skip school for weeks, sometimes months. His classrooms with tin ceilings were baking hot in the summer. The bathrooms were filthy. Now, he gets dressed by 7 a.m., in a blue shirt and trousers, eager to go to school, in a new building where the toilets are clean. “I come to school because I know that I can become something,” said Mr. Paswan, 20, who is in the 12th grade and dreams of becoming a top officer in India’s elite bureaucracy.

After Roe, teens are teaching themselves sex ed, because the adults won’t

Hannah Natanson, Washington Post

Sweating in the sun, two dozen teenagers spread themselves across picnic blankets in a grassy park and prepared to discuss the facts of life they never learned in school. Behind them on a folding table, bouquets of pamphlets offered information teachers at school would never share — on the difference between medical and surgical abortions, and how to get them. Beside the pamphlets sat items adults at school would never give: pregnancy tests and six-packs of My Way Emergency Contraceptive.

Keep an eye on your student’s mental health this back-to-school season

Sequoia Carrillo, NPR

Students across the country are moving into dorms or getting ready to board school buses for their first day of class. But unlike the past two years, COVID-19 numbers are down nationally and most students are walking in the school doors without masks. From kindergarten all the way through college, educators are trying to convey a sense of normalcy, and for Dr. Richard Martini, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Utah, that push comes with added baggage.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Why Cal State struggles to graduate Black students — and what could be done

Mikhail Zinshteyn, Michaella Huck, Julie Watts, Cal Matters

“A lot of people would tell you to get to college,” said Cal State Northridge senior Christopher Carter, “but the hardest part is staying in college.” Carter speaks from experience: He arrived at Cal State as a business major, and discovered he was one of only a few Black students in his classes. Math had never been his strong suit, and he failed his introductory statistics class twice. Quarantining during the pandemic added more stress. He sought help from academic advisors, but felt they couldn’t understand his background and experiences. Whenever he tried to see one of Northridge’s three Black mental health counselors, he said, they didn’t have available appointments.

Colleges are making tuition free for Native students. Will more students graduate?

Emma Hall, NPR

Growing up in Santa Rosa, Calif., Kayley Walker put sports at the center of her life. She was on the track and field team, doing shotput and discus. After high school, she went to a community college near her home before transferring to the University of California, Davis in the fall of 2020. There, half of her tuition was covered by her tribe – the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians – but the other half was up to her.

The Broken College Ranking System

David Kirp, the Nation

A few years back, the “Varsity Blues” scandal made front-page news. Rich parents, desperate to ensure that their offspring were accepted by an elite university, paid huge sums of money to an entrepreneur who promised “side door” admissions. Over the course of nearly a decade, athletic records were faked, bribes were paid to university staffers, and hired experts took the SAT instead of the students. To the public, the perp-walk treatment received by these parents and those who abetted them was a justified comeuppance for those who cheated the system.https://www.thenation.com/article/culture/breaking-ranks-college-colin-diver/

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Study finds link between racial segregation, lead exposure

Zachery Eanes, Axios

Black students in North Carolina were more likely to be exposed to lead in racially segregated neighborhoods — one factors associated with dragging down their test scores in reading. Driving the news: A new study by Duke University researchers, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, included surveys of 25,000 North Carolina fourth graders. But the findings could be applicable to the country overall, Mercedes Bravo, an assistant research professor of global health at Duke University and the lead of the study, told Axios in an interview. About 500,000 children in the U.S. have elevated levels of lead in their blood, the New York Times reported earlier this year. Why it matters: Lead exposure is dangerous at any level and can hurt cognitive development. Lead paint has been banned since 1978 — but can still be found in many older homes. Removing it from a home can also be expensive.

The End of “Equity Gaps” in Higher Education?

Estela Mara Bensimon and Yolanda Watson Spiva, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

The racial justice activism and protests of 2020 sparked a long-overdue reckoning with the inequitable access and disparate outcomes in higher education. Colleges and universities across the country held campus-wide discussions and pledged to dismantle the many barriers that still stand in the way of Black students earning a degree. It’s a conversation that continues on college campuses and among policymakers today. But many students worry it’s all talk. A recent survey found that students felt the steps being taken by campus leaders amounted to more discussion, rather than action. Indeed, it will take much more work to ensure this moment of increased awareness translates into tangible shifts in policy and practice that improve the lives of students. Promises to do better and proclamations of Black Lives Matter mean very little unless institutions more fully grapple with how our systems of higher education are not designed to create successful outcomes for students of color.

LGBTQ students share their plans, fears for new school year, amid growing backlash

Boris Q’va, USA Today

Rising high school senior Jameson Johnson is among the thousands of LGBTQ students returning to school at a time when conservative lawmakers and activists are pushing to ban or limit the rights of queer people in schools and beyond. State legislatures considered dozens of bills targeting LGBTQ youth this year, with the number of proposed measures targeting access to bathrooms and locker rooms and transgender participation in school sports exploding, according to Education Week.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Where the Youth Vote Can Be Decisive in the 2022 Elections


Young people are vital participants in our democracy. In recent elections, tens of thousands of young people have acted as poll workers and volunteered for campaigns, millions have registered and convinced others to vote, and many more have advocated for issues that affect their daily lives. Youth are also a rising force at the ballot box and had historic voter turnout in 2018 and 2020. Yet too often they remain ignored by political campaigns and organizations who neglect or underinvest in youth outreach, or target only a fraction of youth. When that happens, a wide diversity of young people’s voices are excluded from conversations about issues that affect them, and their massive potential to shape election results may not be fully realized. CIRCLE’s 2022 Youth Electoral Significance Index (YESI) seeks to quantify young people’s likely electoral impact, and to serve as a tool for stakeholders to direct their efforts and resources to reach diverse communities of youth across the country. The YESI includes three data-based rankings that incorporate more than a dozen indicators to highlight the top 10 U.S. Senate, House, and Governor races where youth have an especially high likelihood to play a decisive role in 2022—especially if they are encouraged and supported to vote.

Advanced Placement courses could clash with laws that target critical race theory

Suneal Kolluri, The Conversation

Scientific theories to justify racism. Laws and Supreme Court decisions that denied Black people equal rights. The imperialist view that Anglo-Saxons were called upon by God to civilize the “savages” of the world. These topics might all sound like material from a course on systemic racism or critical race theory, which includes the idea that racism is embedded in America’s legal systems and policies. In reality, these topics are all part of the framework for the College Board’s widely popular Advanced Placement course on U.S. history.

Oklahoma Teacher Quits After Giving Students QR Code For Banned Books

Nina Golgowski, Huffington Post

An Oklahoma English teacher says she has resigned after being reprimanded by her high school for providing students with a QR code to access banned books, following the adoption of state legislation that censors school reading material. Summer Boismier told HuffPost that she resigned effective immediately Wednesday from Norman High School, located south of Oklahoma City, and “would do what I did again… in a heartbeat” because of restrictions that were placed on classrooms by House Bill 1775. “[The Norman Public Schools district] essentially asked me to commit to keeping politics out of my classroom if they were to reinstate me,” she said in an online message. “It is my firmly held belief that education is inherently political; therefore, being apolitical is both an impossibility and (in of itself) a political stance.”

Other News of Note

Eugene Debs and the Idea of Socialism

Howard Zinn, Rethinking Schools

We are always in need of radicals who are also lovable, and so we would do well to bring back to public attention the person of Eugene Victor Debs. Ninety years ago, at the time The Progressive was born, Debs was nationally famous as leader of the Socialist Party, and the poet James Whitcomb Riley wrote of him: As warm a heart as ever beat Betwixt here and the Judgment Seat. Debs was what every socialist or anarchist or radical should be: fierce in his convictions, kind and compassionate in his personal relations. Sam Moore, a fellow inmate of the Atlanta penitentiary, where Debs was imprisoned for opposing the First World War, told, years later, how he felt as Debs was about to be released on Christmas Day, 1921: “As miserable as I was, I would defy fate with all its cruelty as long as Debs held my hand, and I was the most miserably happiest man on earth when I knew he was going home Christmas.”

Howard Zinn Carried Out an Act of Radical Diplomacy in the Middle of the Vietnam War

Michael Koncewicz, Jacobin

A “rare act in the great madness of this war” was how forty-five-year-old historian Howard Zinn described North Vietnam’s decision to release three American pilots during the Tet Offensive. Standing beside Jesuit priest, poet, and anti-war activist Daniel Berrigan in front of a room full of US reporters, Zinn read from one of his notebooks and declared their recent trip to Hanoi a success. The two anti-war activists met with the North Vietnamese government in February 1968 and helped transport the three prisoners back to the United States. The exchange was largely symbolic but was an extension of his radical internationalism and opposition to foreign wars. Reexamining his provocative trips behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War — on what would have been his hundredth birthday today — serves as a reminder that Zinn was both an incredibly productive progressive historian and a persistent critic of US empire.