Just News from Center X – January 6, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

UC Academic Workers win historic contracts after 40-day strike!

Ernesto Huerta & Todd Emmenegger, Liberation

After 40 days on strike, 36,000 graduate and undergraduate student-workers across the University of California voted to ratify a historic contract on Dec. 23. The new contract guarantees wage increases of 55% to 80% for Academic Student Employees (Teaching Assistants, Tutors and Readers) and 25% to 80% for Graduate Student Researchers through 2023 and 2024, as well as many other significant wins. Other important wins for student-workers include a 27% increase in child care subsidies, the expansion of fully paid parental and family leave to eight weeks, expanded coverage of dependent health care, guaranteed transit benefits, precedent-setting protections against bullying and harassment, guarantees of safe working conditions and new rights for workers with disabilities.

After the Historic UC Strike [Audio]

Jon Wiener and Nelson Lichtenstein, Start Making Sense

Teaching Assistants and other grad student employees at the University of California won a historic victory in their strike last month. What does that mean for other universities, and other union organizing campaigns?

One Solution to the Teacher Shortage? Growing Your Own

Sandra Jones, The Progressive

For Cheryl Pelt, a public school teacher in Richmond, Virginia, she finds it very disturbing to work in an environment where the classroom has become unbearable. “Many teachers have been bitten, kicked, and had chairs thrown at them,” Pelt tells The Progressive. She has taught K through 5th grade for a decade but doesn’t always feel valued or supported by the administration. “If you have a dangerous or real behavioral problem in the classroom,” Pelt says, “the principal insists the teacher takes care of the problem [without support from behavior specialists].” The stressful working conditions that teachers face is not unique to large urban districts like Richmond Public Schools, which serves nearly 25,000 students from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. Just south of Richmond, in the smaller, suburban Chesterfield County public school district, the same issues are present. According to Mary Ann Quigley, a former high school educator in Midlothian, teachers are regularly asked to do extra work, including “covering for sick colleagues or writing curriculum because the school cannot find anyone to write it.”

Language, Culture, and Power

This School District Is Ground Zero for Harsh Discipline of Native Students in New Mexico

Bryant Furlow, New Mexico In Depth

One chilly March afternoon, dozens of Navajo children spilled out of their middle school to play in the snow before heading home. Students in jackets and parkas can be seen on grainy security camera footage chasing and pushing one another to the ground. The next day, the principal called one of the children into her office. “She said I was expelled,” the child said in an interview, looking at his feet as he sat with his grandmother on their living room couch. “We were just playing around.” His offense, according to school records, was “assault and battery” for pushing another student down. The seventh grader, whose middle name is Matthew, said that was the culmination of months of being written up for “everything” — from being off-task in class to playing on the school elevator. (Out of concern that the boy will be stigmatized at school, his grandmother agreed to speak on the condition that she not be identified and that he be identified only by his middle name.) In New Mexico, Native American students are expelled far more often than any other group and at least four times as often as white students.

Black Panthers and LAPD

M. Keith Claybrook, Jr., Black Perspectives

There is much to learn from studying the Black Power Movement in the context of the Black intellectual-activist tradition. It takes intelligence to prepare, organize, and counter-organize when dealing with a force that seemingly has the law on its side as well as greater resources such as personnel and firepower. Consider the events surrounding the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party and the shootout with the Los Angeles Police Department at Panther Headquarters on 41st Street and Central Avenue in the early morning of December 8, 1969. Much of the popular and scholarly attention given to the shootout highlight the spectacle of Panthers as revolutionaries engaged in self-defense from agents of the state. Here, the focus is on the intelligence of the Panthers and the broader Black community. Reflections of those who were involved reveal their reflections and intellect in that historic moment.

In Their Own Words: Asian Immigrants’ Experiences Navigating Language Barriers in the United States

Luis Noe-Bustamante, Lauren Mora, and Neil Ruiz, Pew Research

New immigrant arrivals to the United States face many challenges and obstacles when navigating their daily lives. For Asian immigrants, these include language and cultural obstacles that impact those who arrive with little to no proficiency in English. But navigating life in America also impacts English-speaking immigrants as they adjust to life in a new country with its own unique linguistic and cultural quirks. A little over half of Asian Americans (54%) were born outside the United States, including about seven-in-ten Asian American adults (68%). While many Asian immigrants arrived in the United States in recent years, a majority arrived in the U.S. over 10 years ago. The story of Asian immigration to the U.S. is over a century old, and today’s Asian immigrants arrived in the country at different times and through different pathways. They also trace their roots, culture and language to more than 20 countries in Asia, including the Indian subcontinent.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Most LGBTQ Youth Can’t Access Mental Health Care. How Schools Can Help

Lauraine Langreo, Education Week

A majority of LGBTQ students in every state except two said they sought mental health care but were unable to access it, according to a Trevor Project report. In Vermont and Minnesota, 45 percent and 49 percent of LGBTQ youth, respectively, were not able to get the mental health care that they wanted, the report found. In all other states, the percentage of LGBTQ youth who were not able to access mental health care ranged from 50 percent to 72 percent, with Nevada having the highest percentage of such students.

Oakland School’s Peer-to-Peer Counseling Program Helps Students Cope With Trauma [Audio]

Julia McEvoy, KQED

A week after a student discharged a gun on campus at Madison Park Academy in Oakland’s Sobrante Park neighborhood on Aug. 29, 2022, it wasn’t just the adults who were on edge.

“It was fifth period at the time, and I just started about 10 minutes in and we heard over the intercom the principal, ‘It’s on lockdown! The school’s on lockdown,’” senior Habeeb Tiamiyu recalled. “You could really tell it’s serious because of the tone of her voice.” “Everyone started to panic because we don’t know what’s going on out there,” said senior Laila Goodman, who began texting her mom from inside the school. ‘If you are open and pretty brave and courageous and kids can trust you, and then you come with real information that feels like it is necessary and needed, and you are consistent and put some time in, then it is a recipe we know works.’ These high school students, who are part of the Madison Park Academy Mentoring Program, wanted to step in and help their younger peers. Their program’s goal is to help create positivity inside the school located in one of the city’s neighborhoods most affected by systemic racism.

As family homelessness climbs, calls grow louder for solving school attendance woes

Reema Amin, Chalkbeat

Nine-year-old Ameerah remembers when her commute to school was a five-minute walk. That was before her family left their Queens home for a shelter in another part of the borough.  During the year they lived in the shelter, Ameerah was at the bus stop with her mom and sister at 6:30 a.m., commuting at least 45 minutes on two buses and two trains. They often returned nearly 12 hours later, her mom said, and the girls were sometimes too tired to complete their homework in the evenings. “My legs, sometimes they hurt. My backpack, it’s heavy,” Ameerah said during one of her bus rides last spring when she was in third grade. She fell behind in math, requiring her to go to summer school. (Chalkbeat is using pseudonyms to protect the family’s privacy.)

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Muzzled by DeSantis, Critical Race Theory Professors Cancel Courses or Modify Their Teaching

Daniel Golden, ProPublica

Jonathan Cox faced an agonizing decision. He was scheduled to teach two classes this past fall at the University of Central Florida that would explore colorblind racism, the concept that ostensibly race-neutral practices can have a discriminatory impact. The first, “Race and Social Media,” featured a unit on “racial ideology and color-blindness.” The second, “Race and Ethnicity,” included a reading on “the myth of a color-blind society.” An assistant sociology professor, Cox had taught both courses before; they typically drew 35 to 40 undergraduates apiece. As recently as August 2021, Cox had doubted that the controversy over critical race theory — which posits, among other things, that racism is ingrained in America’s laws and power structure — would hamstring his teaching.

Rick Singer, head of the college admissions bribery scandal, gets 42 months in prison [Audio]

Tovia Smith, NPR

Rick Singer, the man behind the notorious “Varsity Blues” college admissions bribery scandal, was sentenced Wednesday to 3 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $19 million — about half as restitution to the IRS and the other half as forfeitures of money and assets.

Video of college student arrest raises questions about use of police on campus

Jarell Skinner-Roy, The Conversation

When a video emerged of a 20-year-old Black student being arrested at Winston-Salem State University on Dec. 14, 2022, after she got into a verbal argument with her professor, it brought renewed attention to the often controversial role of campus police. Here, Jarell Skinner-Roy, a University of Michigan doctoral student who is examining how students of color view police and surveillance on college and university campuses, breaks down the significance of the episode at the historically Black college in North Carolina.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Strife in the Schools: Education Dept. Logs Record Number of Discrimination Complaints

Erica Green, New York Times

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights logged a record number of discrimination complaints in the past year, the latest indicator of how the social and political strife roiling the country is reverberating in the nation’s schools. Nearly 19,000 complaints were filed to the office in the last fiscal year — between Oct. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2022 — more than double the previous year and breaking the record of 16,000 filed in fiscal year 2016, according to figures provided by the department. The surge reversed the decline in complaints filed to the office under the Trump administration, which rolled back civil rights protections.

Lessons from Ceará to deliver a more inclusive, equitable education

Yifei Yan, Hironobu Sano, Lilia Asuca Sumiya, London School of Economics

Over the past few decades, there has been great progress on enabling universal access to school education. Accordingly, many developing countries are now accelerating their efforts to improve student learning outcomes. However, political commitments and financial investments have not always translated into learning improvements. Nor is it uncommon to see the quality of education achieved for certain parts of the population at the expense of others. This makes educational inequality all the more glaring, a trend that has continued and even intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. The quest to raise quality and promote equity in education has prompted many developing countries to draw lessons from other education systems – notably, from places like Singapore and Finland, where high levels of socioeconomic development and plentiful resources underpin their educational excellence. For their Global South counterparts who rarely enjoy the luxury of abundant resources – this message can be rather unhelpful, if not frustrating.

Inequality in annual earnings worsens in 2021

Elise Gould and Jori Kandra, Economic Policy Institute

Rising wage inequality and slow and uneven growth in real (inflation-adjusted) hourly wages for the vast majority of workers have been defining features of the U.S. labor market for most of the last 40 or so years. In only about 10 years since 1979 did most workers see any consistent positive wage growth: in the tight labor market of the late 1990s and in the five years leading up to the pre-pandemic labor market peak in 2019. Some low-wage workers have experienced disproportionate wage gains in the current business cycle—gains that even beat out high inflation.

Democracy and the Public Interest

The US is inspiring education censorship elsewhere

Nadine Farid Johnson, Al Jaazeera

In school districts around the United States, book bans are spreading at an alarming rate. PEN America recently documented more than 2,500 book bans issued across 32 different states during the 2021-22 school year. These bans are not isolated incidents, but part of a coordinated assault on public education that’s taking aim at the teaching of race, gender, LGBTQ+ identities and US history. While demands to ban books in schools in the US are not new, over the last year and a half, book banning has erupted into a national movement. Coordinated and highly organised activist groups have transformed school board meetings into political battlegrounds, threatening educators and undermining students’ freedom to learn. These efforts to censor books are an affront to the core principles of free expression and open inquiry that US democracy swears by. But equally worrying is the fact that this pattern of attacks on public education in the US appears to be inspiring similar efforts in other countries, even though such censorship campaigns haven’t had as much success there yet.

How Democracy Works at a Democratic School

Peter Gray, Psychology Today

A democratic school, as I and many others use the term, is one where students have much or full control over their own activities and a clear voice in school governance. The most famous and long-lasting such school is Summerhill, a boarding school in England, which celebrated its 100th anniversary a year ago. Another long-lasting democratic school is ALPHA, a public alternative elementary school in Toronto, Canada, that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. I have recently learned much about ALPHA by reading a great a new book, by Deb O’Rourke, about its history, and I may say more about it in a future post.

It’s a crucial charter-conventional school clash: Baldwin Hills Elementary wants its campus back

Erin Aubry Kaplan, Los Angeles Times

By now everyone knows there’s bad blood between conventional schools and charters. It’s permanent family dysfunction rooted in the fact that they’re related — charters are quasi-public schools that operate with fiscal independence and less oversight than their traditional counterparts. But from the beginning, marked differences in funding and educational philosophy have put them in opposing camps. Over the last 20 years, charters encroached on conventional schools’ turf literally as well as figuratively, thanks in part to Proposition 39, which requires school districts to rent empty space on their campuses to charters.

Other News of Note

Why Movements Need to Start Singing Again

Paul Engler, In These Times

Social movements are stronger when they sing. That’s a lesson that has been amply demonstrated throughout history, and it’s one that I have learned personally in working to develop trainings for activists over the past decade and a half. In Momentum, a training program that I co-founded and that many other trainers and organizers have built over the last seven years, song culture is not something we included at the start. And yet, it has since become so indispensable that the trainers I know would never imagine doing without it again. The person who taught me the most as I came to appreciate the impact that song can have on movement culture is Stephen Brackett, an activist and hip-hop MC known on stage as Brer Rabbit.