Just News from Center X – March 1, 2024

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

The Desolation of America’s Urban Schools

Jonathan Kozol, The Nation

There is an elementary school in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood that bears the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It’s an old and tired-looking structure, built in 1937 and originally named for a former school official. In 1965, Dr. King stood on the front steps of the building and spoke through a megaphone to a crowd of parents and religious figures who were leading the charge in the integration struggle. Three years later, after his assassination in April 1968, the school was renamed in his honor. But ironies abound. In a building that held about 500 students, as the principal told me when I visited the school in 2019, “I think I may have 12 white children.” In academic terms, the school was rated in the bottom 10 percent among public elementary and secondary schools in Massachusetts.

The Right’s Long Game to End Public Education

Jeff Bryant, The Progressive

On February 13, President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, did something Democratic officials seldom do in public: He spoke the truth about what’s behind the relentless attacks on public schools by rightwing advocacy groups and their financial backers. As HuffPost reported, one of the topics that came up during a meeting between Cardona and Black journalists that took place at the Department of Education, was the recent wave of new laws passed in mostly red states that target programs in K-12 schools and institutions of higher education that address diversity, equity, and inclusion. Advocates for DEI programs say they are needed to ensure positive academic, health, and social outcomes for students who often face discrimination and fewer educational opportunities due to their race, class, religion, gender, or ability level. Opponents say they shame white students and cause “reverse discrimination.”

Gaza children searching for food to keep families alive

Fergal Keane, BBC News

Every morning, Mohammed Zo’rab, 11, goes out into the southern Gaza city of Rafah on a mission. He takes a big plastic bowl and heads to schools that have become refugee centres, and to makeshift camps on the roadside where people suffer like his own family but might still find something to feed the child of strangers. Mohammed also goes to hospitals where the wounded arrive at all hours, and anywhere else where there might be a pot boiling over an open fire. “When I go back to my family with this food, they get happy and we all eat together,” he says.

“Sometimes I go empty handed and I feel sad.”

Language, Culture, and Power

English language hegemony: retrospect and prospect

Jie Zeng and Jianbu Yang, Nature

This paper explores the ascent of English as a global lingua franca within the context of linguistic hegemony, following Phillipson’s 1992 framework. It scrutinizes English’s role in the rapidly globalizing world, emphasizing its dominance across economic, governance, and scientific sectors and its impact on non-native English-speaking countries. Utilizing a sociolinguistic approach, combined with historical and interdisciplinary analysis, the study evaluates the influence of English hegemony in cultural, educational, and technological domains, with a focus on post-colonial and expanding circle nations. Additionally, the paper provides critical insights for developing language policies in these areas, considering the intricate role of English in the global linguistic landscape. It concludes by considering the prospects of English language hegemony.

Advancing climate change research and policy demands knowledge from Indigenous Peoples, study says

Autonomous University of Barcelona

As you read this, many regions of the world are implementing crisis plans against drought while, simultaneously, torrential rains wreak havoc in other corners of the planet, submerging cities and crops under the forces of wild waters. Would we all agree that we should be doing our best to improve our understanding of climate change impacts and design policies to address them? If so, involving Indigenous Peoples and local communities is crucial, and if done properly, the results will be valuable for society at large.

Can VR Help Preserve and Teach Indigenous Culture? [AUDIO]

Jeffrey R. Young, EdSurge Podcast

Jared Ten Brink, a doctoral student in education at the University of Michigan, is an enrolled member of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi. He lives a two-and-a-half hour drive from the tribe’s reservation, which makes it hard for him to help his two young kids learn about their Native heritage. As a former science teacher and instructional coach, though, he was looking for a way to deliver the teachings of tribal elders to a broader audience via distance education. But he wasn’t having much success using traditional streaming video.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

What to Know about Lead Exposure in Children

Christina Jewitt, New York Times

A recent outbreak of lead poisoning from cinnamon in applesauce has drawn attention to the toxic effect the heavy metal can have on children. The cinnamon in the applesauce was believed to have been intentionally contaminated, possibly to add to its value as a commodity sold by weight. It had unusually high levels of lead. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 400 children were poisoned in the applesauce outbreak. Their median blood lead levels were six times higher than the average seen during the height of the Flint water crisis, the C.D.C. said.

California babies aren’t going to the doctor when they should. Here’s why

Jenny Gold, LA Times

Pediatricians recommend that children go to the doctor for regular checkups pretty frequently. For parents, that means taking your baby at least six times in the first 15 months, another two times by age 2 and once every year after that. But in California, something is amiss. Although 97% of children have insurance coverage, many aren’t actually making it to a doctor. California ranks 46th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in the percentage of kids ages 0 to 5 who have been to a well-child visit in the last year.

NYC students, advocates call for school-based restorative justice, mental health funding

Julian Shen-Berro, Chalkbeat NY

During a lesson on the Black Lives Matter movement in her first year of high school, Lexi Greenberg was shocked to hear two students in her class making insensitive and offensive remarks. “I left the lesson feeling angry and alone,” she said, noting she was the only Black student in the class. Lexi approached staff at Millennium Brooklyn High School, where just 14% of students are Black, and asked for the students to be suspended. Instead, the school counselor and principal urged her to meet with the students before the school pursued any potential disciplinary action.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

How a Surprising Supreme Court Case Bolstered Conservative Education

Devan Lindey, Time

Feb. 28, 2024, marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Grove City College v. Bell (1984). The case pitted a small conservative Christian college against the Reagan Administration’s Department of Education, with the two sides debating whether Title IX’s requirement to sign an Assurance of Compliance form was needed to receive federal funding for higher education. That form assured a policy of non-discrimination at the signing institution, a prerequisite that the 1972 legislation required in order to receive federal money for educational purposes.

Debt, missed classes and anxiety: How climate-driven disasters hurt college students

Rebecca Hersher, NPR


In August 2016, Maameefua Koomson had just moved into her dorm at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Sophomore year was shaping up to be excellent. Koomson was a strong student, she was pursuing her dream of studying creative writing, and she had landed a plum job as a resident assistant, or RA, in an honors dorm. “I was, like, I’m going to be the best RA to these freshmen,” she remembers. “I did a Sponge Bob-themed hall. I had events planned out.” And then, just a few days before classes began, it started to rain. At first it seemed like just another rainstorm in a part of the country where heavy rain is normal. But then it turned into something else entirely. A record-shattering deluge that drowned much of the greater Baton Rouge area in multiple feet of floodwater.

Tax Ivy League Endowments, and Fund Public Higher Ed

Helen Santoro, Jacobin

Within a one-mile radius in Cambridge, Massachusetts, sit Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — academic institutions that together boast $74 billion in endowment funds. Based on the size of these “rainy-day funds” alone, the two universities, with a combined student body of thirty-seven thousand, have enough wealth to rival Ghana, with a population of thirty-five million. The kicker? These private universities are educational institutions, meaning that for most of their history, they have been exempt from federal and state income taxes. Massachusetts lawmakers want to change that. State legislators are considering a groundbreaking bill that would impose a 2.5 percent annual excise tax on private college and university endowments that are larger than $1 billion. The resulting $2.5 billion raised each year would be more than enough to cover the tuition of every undergraduate student currently attending public colleges and universities in the state.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

A half-century later, students at the University of Mississippi reckon with the past [AUDIO]

Debbie Elliot, NPR

Many a Black history lesson includes the story of James Meredith, the man who integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962. But that wasn’t the end of efforts to dismantle entrenched segregation on the college campus most associated with the Old South. Even the school’s moniker — Ole Miss — derives from the term enslaved people once used for the mistress of the plantation. By 1970, about 200 Black students had enrolled at the state’s flagship university. At the time, school pride meant waving a Confederate battle flag. “The climate was like the desert,” says Linnie Liggins Willis, who started at Ole Miss in 1967. She describes a sense of isolation for Black students.

Student Homelessness Rises to Pre-Pandemic Levels

Brett Guinan and Julien Lafortune, PPIC

After three years of declines in California’s homeless K–12 student population, 2022–23 saw an increase in both the share and number of students experiencing homelessness. Recent cumulative enrollment data show that at least 4.1% of California’s students experienced homelessness at some point last school year—that’s 246,480 young people. This is a notable increase over the prior year and marks a return to pre-pandemic levels. It is also higher than the share reported via Census Day enrollment (3.2%)—measured on a single day October—which suggests that more students experience housing instability over the course of a school year than can be measured at just one point in time.

Most Schools Have Early-Warning Systems. Some Kids Are Still Getting Lost

Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week

The first step to solving a problem is identifying that you have one. For schools using early-warning systems, though, the problem is identification isn’t enough. Early-warning systems use student data to predict which students are at risk academically and intervening to keep them on track. A new study by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University looked at one large, unnamed school district’s data system and found that it worked to improve attendance—but not for low-income students and not before students developed chronic absenteeism.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Welcome to the GOP’s new education agenda: Loot our public schools for private vouchers

Gov. Roy Cooper and Gov. Andy Beshear, USA Today

In North Carolina and Kentucky, public schools are the center of our communities. We’re proud public school graduates ourselves – and we know the critical role our schools play in teaching our students, strengthening our workforces and growing our economies. We’ve seen record-high graduation rates of almost 90% in our public schools. North Carolina and Kentucky rank in the top 10 for National Board-certified teachers, one of the highest recognition teachers can earn. In Kentucky, we’ve seen significant improvement in elementary school reading, even with setbacks from the pandemic like many states experienced. In North Carolina last year, public school students completed a record 325,000 workforce credentials in areas like information technology and construction. The bottom line? Our public schools are critical to our success and an overwhelming number of parents are choosing them for their children.

Students walk out of Oklahoma high school where nonbinary student was beaten and later died

AP News

More than a dozen students walked out of class Monday at an Oklahoma high school where a 16-year-old nonbinary student was beaten inside a restroom earlier this month and died the following day. Students and LGBTQ+ advocates held signs that read “You Are Loved” and “Protect Queer Kids” as they gathered at an intersection across from Owasso High School. The students are demanding action against discrimination and bullying of transgender and gender nonconforming students after the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old student at the school who identified as nonbinary and used they/them pronouns. Benedict, who died the day after a fight with three girls inside a high school restroom, had been the target of bullying at the school, their family said.

Help Students Register to Vote, Education Department Urges Schools

Evie Blad, Education Week

Schools can take a more central role in introducing students to a core civic duty: voting. That’s the gist of a new, nonpartisan guide released this week by the U.S. Department of Education, which lists practical steps schools can take to encourage students to participate in elections and help them register to vote before they graduate. The voter participation toolkit outlines nonpartisan strategies to help students in K-12 school districts, colleges, and universities.

Other News of Note

Charles V. Hamilton, an Apostle of ‘Black Power,’ Dies at 94

Sam Roberts, New York Times

Charles V. Hamilton, a philosophical godfather of the Black Power movement, which he envisioned as the means to subvert what he stigmatized as America’s “institutional racism,” died on Nov. 18 in Chicago, it was recently confirmed. He was 94. A friend and colleague, the South African educator Wilmot James, said he learned of the death from a representative of Dr. Hamilton’s bank. Dr. Hamilton’s nephew Kevin Lacey said it had not been previously announced because Dr. Hamilton was a private and modest man and was “concerned about what would and would not happen upon his passing.” In 1967, Dr. Hamilton, a political scientist at historically Black colleges, and Stokely Carmichael (who later adopted the name Kwame Ture), a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, discombobulated the multiracial anti-discrimination crusade that was radiating from the South to Northern cities at the time by publishing the manifesto “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation.”