Just News from Center X – January 26, 2024

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Sharon Egretta Sutton on the Democratic Power of “Place-Based Activism”

Michael J. Crosbie, Common Edge

Architecture professor Sharon Egretta Sutton describes herself as an “activist scholar” who takes a radical approach to thinking about space and place through the lens of programs for underprivileged youth working to better their communities. In her latest book, Pedagogy of a Beloved Commons: Pursuing Democracy’s Promise Through Place-Based Activism (Fordham University Press), Sutton writes that these programs can transform not only disadvantaged neighborhoods but also the young people themselves working to revitalize them. I spoke with Sutton, who teaches at the Parsons School of Design in New York, about how space and place can play a part in cultivating citizenship and democracy, how community service can be a first step in raising consciousness, and the challenges to incorporating these approaches in architectural education.

Our Union Called for a Cease-Fire. It’s About Our Students.

Dave Stieber, In These Times

If you teach, your absolute worst nightmare is that something tragic happens to your students. Teachers don’t just think about students when they are in front of us; we think about them throughout each day and night. They are a central part of our lives.  When a young person steps into our classroom, the first thing we do is work to connect. That’s the best way students learn. When a student doesn’t live up to their own potential, we take it personally. We obsess about what went wrong. Caring about students also means deliberately caring about the world we are helping them grow into. It has never been enough to only teach students when they are in the classroom; we have to advocate for them all the time.

Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor Corresponds With Pasadena’s Willard Elementary Students

Colorado Boulevard

PUSD students were delighted to hear back from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor after sending her inquisitive letters and original artwork. In the letter addressed to Willard Elementary School’s second graders, Justice Sotomayor took time to answer many of the children’s questions and encouraged them to use their talents to serve others. “Always remember that dreams can come true when you work hard to achieve them.” Sonia Sotomayor said. Justice Sotomayor is the third woman, first woman of color, the first Hispanic, and first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court. “Dear Second Graders:  Thank you for sharing your letters and drawings. It is always heartwarming for me to receive letters and hear from schools and students. I want you to know that my favorite part of my job is having the opportunity to inspire children like you to make your dreams come true.  I would be happy to answer your questions.”

Language, Culture, and Power

The effort behind getting the Blackfeet language taught on the tribe’s reservation [Audio]

Michel Martin, Morning Edition

When Lily Gladstone became the first Indigenous person to win a best actress Golden Globe, she said some words in Blackfeet. Her mother was behind efforts to get the language taught in classes.

In 1974, the Supreme Court Recognized English Learners’ Rights. The Story Behind That Case

Mark Walsh, Education Week

Fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that some considered the Brown v. Board of Education for students whose native language is not English. In its 1974 ruling in Lau v. Nichols, the court held that the failure of the San Francisco school system to effectively educate some 1,800 Chinese-speaking students denied them “a meaningful opportunity” to participate in school. Like the 1954 Brown decision striking down racial segregation in schools, Lau addressed educational inequities faced by a disadvantaged minority population. Like Brown, the justices spoke without dissent (though there were some minor differences over the case issued in concurring opinions). The Lau decision was hailed by advocates for immigrant and native-born language-minority students and it resulted in slow but genuine improvements in the classroom for not only the Asian-American community but also the much larger Latino student population in the United States.

Colorado’s unique move to hire incarcerated professor highlights value of prison education [Audio]

Erin O’Toole and Robyn Vincent, KUNC

Colorado has taken a pioneering step as one of the first states to employ an incarcerated professor in a prison education program. It is a move that could have big impacts on incarcerated people and society more broadly. Chalkbeat Colorado’s Jason Gonzales spent time at a state prison in Canon City to learn more. He spoke David Carillo, an incarcerated professor who now goes by the prison name “Professor.” Carillo told Gonzales he has been in and out of the criminal justice system since he was a kid. “My worldview was very narrow for a very, very long time, as you could imagine. I believed that life was a certain way. And this is all that there was to offer to, to people like me.”

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Inside Finland’s incredible education system [Video]

The Listening Post, Al Jazeera English

Reading, Writing, Math … and Climate Change?

Hilary Howard, New York Times

Third graders at Public School 103 in the north Bronx sat on a rug last month while their teacher, Kristy Neumeister, led a book discussion. The book, “Rain School,” is about children who live in a rural region of Chad, a country in central Africa. Every year, their school must be rebuilt because storms wash it away. “And what’s causing all these rains and storms and floods?” asked Ms. Neumeister. “Carbon,” said Aiden, a serious-looking 8-year-old. Ms. Neumeister was one of 39 elementary school teachers from across the city who participated in a four-day training session in the summer called “Integrating Climate Education in N.Y.C. Public Schools.” Its goal was to make the teachers familiar with the topic, so they can work climate change into their lesson plans.

Students do better and schools are more stable when teachers get mental health support

Lee Ann Rawlins Williams, The Conversation

When it comes to mental health at school, typically the focus is on helping students, especially as they emerge from the pandemic with heightened levels of anxiety, stress and emotional need. But as school officials seek to put resources toward student well-being, another school population is possibly being overlooked: teachers. Teachers are experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety and work-related trauma in the classroom – much of it stemming from student behavioral problems. The pandemic exacerbated this issue, impacting students and teachers alike.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

The Campaign Against D.E.I.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, The New Yorker

Critical race theory was yesterday’s scandal. Today, diversity-equity-and-inclusion initiatives are in the crosshairs of critics across the political spectrum who seek to dismantle any notion that racism is systemic and thus deserving of systemic remedies. Though the crisis at Harvard University began with questions concerning the prevalence of antisemitism and ended with charges of plagiarism against its president, Claudine Gay—who then resigned—for many of Gay’s opponents, D.E.I. initiatives appear to have been the main target. When the conservative activist Chris Rufo wrote in the Wall Street Journal about the role of conservatives, including himself, in ending Gay’s presidency, antisemitism and plagiarism received no meaningful mention. Instead, Rufo focussed on conservatives’ efforts to end D.E.I. in higher education. In his own long statement, Gay’s chief critic, the billionaire hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman, said that D.E.I. was the “root cause” of antisemitism on Harvard’s campus.

Cal State System reaches tentative agreement with faculty on salary

Ashley A. Smith, EdSource

Faculty in the nation’s largest public university system agreed to end their historic strike against the California State University system late Monday evening. The faculty union, which represents more than 29,000 professors, lecturers, librarians and coaches, agreed to a 5% general salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2023, and a 5% general salary increase on July 1, 2024, as long as the state does not reduce Cal State’s base funding this summer. Monday marked the first day of a planned one-week strike. The system’s nearly 450,000 students saw many of their classes canceled as faculty protested.

Exclusive: The Education Department says it will fix its $1.8 billion FAFSA mistake [AUDIO]

Cory Turner, NPR

Families have a lot of questions right now about how much help they’ll get paying for college — questions that financial aid offices can’t yet answer. That’s because this year’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is months behind schedule. And to make things really complicated, it includes a mistake that would have cost students $1.8 billion in federal student aid. We covered the mistake in detail here.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Combining perspectives in multidisciplinary research on inequality in education

Louise Elffers, Eddie Denessen & Monique Volman, Nature

This comment presents some general principles for multidisciplinary research to capitalize on the growing attention for inequality in education across academic disciplines. The variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives across disciplines results in different conceptual frameworks and empirical designs to study inequality in education. While each framework and design contributes to our shared understanding of the problem, combining these perspectives requires awareness of the various lenses through which educational inequalities are being studied. We identify three dimensions along which perspectives on inequality of education vary between disciplines. These dimensions pertain to (1) how the problem of inequality in education is framed, (2) how inequality in education is empirically evaluated, and (3) how the role of education in fostering (in)equality is conceptualized. In response, we propose three general principles that may help deal with this variation when building a multidisciplinary body of knowledge on inequality in education.

A school in Jerusalem brings Arab and Jewish kids together to boost understanding [AUDIO]

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR

When the bell rings at Jerusalem’s Hand in Hand school, you hear something that’s not common in Israel: the sound of young people’s voices rising together in laughter and conversation in both Hebrew and Arabic. Israeli society is largely segregated. There is no law officially mandating segregation, but the separation of Jews and Arabs — who make up 20% of Israel’s population — usually begins at a young age, with separate school systems.

France’s Elites Are Turning Their Backs on Public Education

Michele Barbero, Jacobin

France likes to think of itself as one of the world’s most egalitarian countries. But in recent weeks a bitter row over its new education minister’s choice to send her kids to an exclusive private school has drawn attention to a different reality: the soaring inequalities in France’s education system. Earlier this month, barely one day after her appointment by business-friendly president Emmanuel Macron as part of a government reshuffle, Amélie Oudéa-Castera came under heavy criticism when she said she had originally picked a state school but had then grown “frustrated” at the “great number of teaching hours lost” due to staff shortages. Oudéa-Castera has since apologized, but the storm is raging on. Subsequent media reports have questioned whether she was telling the truth about teacher absences having been an issue at the school. There are also allegations that at the private institution ultimately chosen by the minister, one of her children benefited from an internal selection system for its higher-level courses that effectively bypasses the official, nationwide procedure. The left-wing opposition is demanding Oudéa-Castera’s resignation, arguing that her attitude toward state education is incompatible with her role. Various teachers’ strikes are planned for coming days.

Democracy and the Public Interest

“The fact that so many Brown girls across the country have connected to this book makes me believe that I’ve done the right thing.”

Antero and Alix, La Cuenta

Erika Sánchez needs little introduction. Her novel, I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, is a modern classic, beloved by readers globally and currently being adapted into a film by America Ferrera. Her recent memoir, Crying in the Bathroom, only adds to the reasons why Erika’s voice is so important right now. Describing La Cuenta’s focus on the voices of individuals labeled as undocumented over Zoom, Erika connected with our work, offering a tiny glimpse into her current writing: “I’m interviewing women for my next novel, and most of them are undocumented. And just learning about what they go through has been really overwhelming. It’s something that I’m constantly thinking about, especially now, here in Chicago, with immigrants being sent here against their will essentially. It’s a humanitarian disaster, what’s happening right now.”

Senate OKs bill protecting teachers who discuss intelligent design despite lawsuit concerns 

Amelia Ferrell Knisely, West Virginia Watch

Public school teachers wouldn’t be penalized for speaking about scientific theories, including intelligent design, with students, according to legislation approved by the Senate on Monday. While the bill, Senate Bill 280, doesn’t mention intelligent design by name, the legislation would prevent public school boards or administrators from prohibiting a teacher “from discussing or answering questions from students about scientific theories of how the universe and/or life came to exist.”

Kentucky House Committee Advances Bill Requiring Moment of Silence in Schools

Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press

Kentucky schools would set aside time for a moment of silence at the start of each school day under a bill that won approval from a state House committee on Tuesday. The moment of silence would last one to two minutes at the start of the first class each day in public schools across the Bluegrass State. Students would decide how to use that time and school personnel would be prohibited from instructing them on their silent reflection. Parents would be notified of the policy and encouraged to offer guidance to their children on how to spend that time. The measure — House Bill 96 — cleared the Republican-led House Education Committee and advances to the full House. The proposal drew criticism that it seems to set time aside specifically for prayer.

Other News of Note

Jan. 26, 1944: Angela Davis Born

Zinn Education Project

“It is essential to resist the depiction of history as the work of heroic individuals in order for people today to recognize their potential agency as a part of an ever-expanding community of struggle.”  ― Angela Y. Davis, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement.  Angela Davis, born on Jan. 26, 1944, is a civil rights activist, writer, professor, and a founding member Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex. In 1970, she was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List on false charges, jailed, and eventually freed with the help of a national campaign that demanded her release. Here are two contemporary interviews with Davis of note: discussion about Frederick Douglass with Toni Morrison and reflections on prison abolition movement, 40 years since arrest, on Democracy Now! below.

Angela Davis

Nelson George, New York Times

There’s a wall on Throop Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, that is painted with a mural of Black icons. It begins with Bob Marley and Haile Selassie before going on to include Martin Luther King Jr., Betty Shabazz (Betty X) and Nelson Mandela. The last portrait is of Angela Yvonne Davis — scholar, activist and the only surviving hero of the global African diaspora. Davis’s image is painted from a photograph taken in the early ’70s, when she became a symbol of the struggle for Black liberation, anticapitalism and feminism. It’s a powerful portrait — she is wearing her hair in a round, black Afro, her hand curled as if she’s making a rhetorical point. Her expression is pensive, intelligent, challenging.