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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Chris Maisano, Jacobin
Labor’s day of reckoning has finally arrived. In a landmark 5-4 decision in Janus v. American Federation State, County, and Municipal Employees, the Supreme Court has effectively imposed a “right-to-work” regime on public sector unions in all fifty states. There’s no sugarcoating it: this is a major defeat for an already embattled labor movement, and the successful culmination of years of right-wing judicial activism aimed at undermining organized labor’s last remaining stronghold. The decision punctuates a relentlessly brutal period for organized labor in the US. Six states have passed right-to-work laws since 2012, bringing the open shop to a majority of states including traditional union strongholds like Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and West Virginia. Wisconsin enacted the infamous Act 10, which goes beyond the open shop to radically restrict the scope of collective bargaining and undercut public employees’ wages. Iowa and Missouri passed laws that require public sector unions to hold regular recertification votes, and a handful of states enacted so-called “paycheck protection” laws that require unions to obtain authorization from each member every year before deducting dues or fees from their paychecks. The Janus ruling only paves the way for another round of judicial and legislative assaults on the labor movement. With national open shop the law of the land in the public sector, it seems like only a matter of time before it crosses over to the private sector, either through congressional legislation or another Supreme Court case.
Jared Odessky and Miriam Frank, The New York Times
The Supreme Court just dealt a staggering blow to the L.G.B.T. rights movement. And no, it had nothing to do with wedding cake. While the eyes of most L.G.B.T. advocates this term were concentrated on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the legal ruling was decidedly narrow. The court’s 5-4 decision today in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, however, will have immediate and lasting implications for the livelihoods of queer people. In Janus, the court ruled, on First Amendment grounds, that public-sector employees who do not join their workplace’s labor union cannot be required to pay “fair share fees” to cover the costs of collective bargaining, even though all unions have an obligation to represent paying members and nonmembers alike. Because union membership today is five times higher in the public sector than in the private sector, the ruling is expected to drain organized labor’s already diminished coffers.
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post; Jennifer Rich, Rowan University
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) called them “child internment camps.” Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham compared them to “summer camps.” The left and the right are wildly divided on how to think about the separation of children from parents in the crisis at America’s southern border. It has been disheartening to see how far apart the coverage on this issue has been in lead stories on Fox News and CNN. Immigration has always been a difficult issue with which to grapple, but we are in the midst of what will be remembered as a particularly dark time in our history. Many voices have weighed in on this debate, but we remain unsure of how to talk about it. Americans have especially neglected to make sense of the border crisis in classrooms across the country. In schools, educators will inevitably teach students from a variety of backgrounds with different beliefs, ideas and opinions. More than 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, 2 million of whom are under the age of 18, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. About 65,000 of these young men and women graduate from U.S. high schools each year. What this means is that these children are in our classrooms, whether we know it.
Language, Culture, and Power
James Hilton Harrell, EdSource
California is the home of some of the nation’s earliest and most influential “out” gay leaders. It’s no surprise then that California has paved the way for teaching gay history in our K-12 schools and that other states are beginning to follow suit. The 2011 passage of California’s FAIR Education Act mandated that LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) accomplishments be taught in our history and social studies classrooms in an age-appropriate manner. This law doesn’t teach morality; it teaches our students that gay Americans have been an integral part of our society and continue to shape our current world. What does teaching gay history look like? In elementary schools, this might be reading a book where a character has two moms or two dads. In secondary education, it can be learning about California’s own Harvey Milk or the gay liberation movement. For teachers, these shifts can seem minimal — after all, more and more teachers are being trained on culturally responsive pedagogy. However, for students, the impact could be, quite literally, the difference between life and death. Nearly 7 percent of US millennials identify as a member of the gay community. Though there has been social progress in recent history, disparities in how often LGBTQ youth are victimized have not improved since the 1990s. In fact, there has been an uptick in hate crimes in our schools.
Charissa Ng, 826LA
We Are What They Envisioned explores how students must navigate and carry the histories of their ancestors as they walk towards their own futures. Inspired by Octavia Butler, Tupac Shakur, Kendrick Lamar’s song DNA, and the concept of becoming their ancestors’ wildest dreams, this collection of writing by 74 student authors reveals reflections on the past of colonization, the present of their current family struggles and success, and the future of their own legacies for the next seven generations. We Are What They Envisioned is 826LA and Roosevelt High School’s third Ethnic Studies book collaboration. This annual Ethnic Studies book series began in 2014 when groundbreaking teachers Roxana Dueñas, Eduardo López, and Jorge López created the ethnic studies course “Boyle Heights and Me” for ninth grade students at Roosevelt High School.
Alia Wong, The Atlantic
American men are in crisis, the conventional wisdom goes. And, according to some experts, they have been for a while. For a few decades, perhaps. Maybe for more than a century. But in a discussion about this “crisis” on Tuesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, panelists had varying notions of what that crisis entails, if it exists at all. For Michael Kimmel, an author and professor at SUNY Stony Brook, where he founded the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, the crisis involves one type of man—heterosexual, white ones—who feel like their power “is slipping.” Tristan Bridges, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, agreed with Kimmel, adding that the crisis affects men who are now contending with “unchallenged entitlement.” For the writer Thomas Page McBee, the crisis involves men who are hurting in the face of society’s stereotyped expectations that they should be more inhumane than humane, more violent than empathic. For Joseph Derrick Nelson, a senior research fellow with the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives, the crisis is hitting black boys who need support and the kind of unconditional love necessary to help them break free of certain damaging norms.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
David Washburn, EdSource
Tucked inside last week’s state budget deal was some good news for California’s school discipline reform advocates — an additional $15 million for tackling issues such as bullying and trauma students have experienced, and training teachers and administrators in alternatives to traditional approaches to discipline. The budget agreement approved by the Legislature also includes an indefinite extension of California’s ban in grades K-3 on suspensions for “willful defiance and disruption,” which under state law refers to student behaviors that lead to “disruption of school activities or otherwise willfully defy the valid authority of school staff.” The ban would have expired on July 1 had the Legislature not acted. However, many youth and civil rights advocates remain hopeful that the Legislature will expand the ban to cover at least grades K-8, and that Gov. Jerry Brown will sign it before he leaves office at the end of the year.
Their optimism is bolstered by the fact that Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who is the author of a bill that would outlaw willful defiance/disruption suspensions in all grades K-12, was on the conference committee that negotiated the budget deal. Skinner’s presence on the committee ensured that the suspension ban was a topic of conversation with the governor’s office, and she said she walked away with a strong sense that Brown is willing to continue talks.
Carla Javier, KPCC
A lot of the arts programming around California gets its funding, at least in part, from the California Arts Council. This year, the group is awarding over $16.3 million dollars in funding to over 1,000 programs around the state. That’s over $1.3 million more than they gave out last year. $750,000–or more than half of the increase–was allocated by the state for Jump StArts grants. Those fund arts programs for youth in the juvenile justice system. The Ventura County Arts Council received one of the 46 grants awarded in that category, and will use the increased funds to bring arts to a continuation school, a teen center, a juvenile facility, and a safe house in the county.
Debbie Truong, The Washington Post
Kayden Ortiz dwelled on the word. It appeared in a text message from a friend trying to comfort Ortiz, then a seventh-grader at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax County. Until then, he’d struggled to find a precise word, the language, that captured why he felt he didn’t belong. Transgender. It was not a word he would have heard years ago when learning about sexual health in a Fairfax County school. But with a single vote at a meeting punctuated by jeering and shouting, the county’s school board this month made a four-word change in language that is freighted with social and cultural significance. The board decided to replace “biological sex” with “sex assigned at birth” in the district’s family life education curriculum, which includes lessons on sexual health and sexuality. Supporters say the language more precisely conveys that a person’s anatomy may not coincide with gender identity. “Biological sex,” they argue, is coded language used to denigrate transgender people. Detractors say the changed language will confuse students, condemning it as political sloganeering that values ideology over biology.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
John Yang, PBS News Hour
A study suggesting the benefits of pre-K may not be long-lasting has sparked debate in Tennessee, where proposals for state-funded, universal programs are an issue in this year’s governor’s race. What’s behind the finding, and what are the keys to quality early education? John Yang reports from Memphis.
Jenny Abamu, The Hechinger Report
When Mosi Zuberi learned that his 18-year-old son, Kaja, might not graduate from McClymonds High School in Oakland, he anguished over his parenting missteps, wondering where he had gone wrong. Yet, after seeing school data from the California School Dashboard and learning that close to one-fifth of McClymonds’ students were not graduating, he mentally shifted some accountability to the school, seeing a systemic failure to meet the needs of all students. Zuberi, like many parents across the country, felt he could have been a better advocate for his child had data about the school been more explicit and easier to find. Data has become particularly relevant for parents whose children attend low-performing schools. It can answer questions about school safety, disciplinary actions taken against certain student groups, graduation rates, attendance and academic performance. Several parents with children in low-performing schools view a child’s academic struggles as an individual responsibility — their child’s fault, or their own — but access to and understanding of school data can help them identify broader problems. For example, is only their child reading below grade-level or are a majority of the students? With better understanding, they can take action — invest in a tutor if the problem is isolated, for example, or demand that their district spend more on reading programs if the issue is widespread. Many parents, however, experience educational, technological and language barriers to accessing and understanding data, limiting their ability to make informed decisions about their children.
Adam Harris, The Atlantic
Near the beginning of his presidency, Barack Obama gave a speech to Congress that laid out a goal for the future: “By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” At the time, America was 12th, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Almost a decade later, and with 2020 not far off, where do things stand? The percentage of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 who had earned an associate’s degree rose by 7.4 percent between 2007 and 2017—a difference of more than 5 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Still, that puts America at 10th in the world, according to the latest available data. But even though progress has been made, the data remain quite uneven. A pair of reports released on Wednesday by The Education Trust, an advocacy group for low-income and minority students, break down the attainment data more finely. They found that the share of black adults who hold a bachelor’s or associate’s degree—31 percent—is roughly two-thirds that of white ones—47 percent. And Latinos, at about 23 percent, are just half as likely. Further, the report shows, there is not a single state in the country where black and Latino adults are as likely to have earned a college credential as their white counterparts.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Economic Policy Institute