Just News from Center X – May 28, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

What’s missing from the discourse about anti-racist teaching

Jarvis R. Givens, The Atlantic

People often remind me that my story is peculiar. “Black Kid From Compton Becomes a Harvard Professor” is the headline, as they see it. Although I am apprehensive to conflate a job at Harvard with some universal vision of success, I do recognize why my family, my friends, and even those with whom I am unacquainted take pride in the accomplishment. But this flattened narrative of individual achievement misses a key aspect of my development: My education was mostly led—and undoubtedly influenced—by Black teachers. The educators who taught me, like so many generations of African American teachers before them, operated from a pedagogical vision that was fundamentally anti-racist. They exposed students to expansive visions of Black life, through both their lessons and the relationships they formed with us as students. They helped us understand that we were more than the suffering of our people.

No, It Isn’t Racist to Teach Anti-Racism

Mica Pollack, Education Week

There’s a lot of caricaturing of “anti-racist” work going on these days. The state legislature in Iowa (where I grew up) recently passed a bill banning “divisive concepts” in diversity training, including any suggestion that racism is fundamental to our history or society. Idaho, Oklahoma, and Tennessee have passed similar laws targeting anti-racist teaching, with other states poised to follow suit. Parent organizations and politicians around the country are mobilizing against an imagined version of “critical race theory,” convinced that anti-racism trainings or K-12 activities vilify white people and teach that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another.” These anxieties are replicating nationwide—probably in a community near you.

A Poly High program helped heal racial wounds. When teachers saw it threatened, they revolted

Mike Guardabascio & Tyler Hendrickson, Long Beach Post News

For weeks now, incensed parents, students and teachers say they’ve been defending Long Beach Poly High School against a quiet effort by district administrators to dismantle a program that exemplifies what the world-renowned campus is all about.Poly is a uniquely beloved school in Long Beach and beyond, famous nationwide for its rigorous academics and Grammy-winning music program as much as its football team that consistently pumps out NFL stars like Willie McGinest and JuJu Smith-Schuster. As Poly’s slogan next to its signature Jackrabbit mascot tells you, it’s the “Home of Scholars and Champions.” So when recent graduate Anais Lopez heard from her younger sister that the magnet program they both attended was being hollowed out, she made a fuss. She started a petition to save Poly’s Center for International Curriculum, called CIC by everyone who knows it.


Language, Culture, and Power

Critical Race Theory Puts Educators at Center of a Frustrating Cultural Fight Once Again

Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

The fight over how schools are handling America’s history with race and discrimination continues to heat up. But what does it mean when people say it’s part of a seemingly endless culture war? The assertion that educators are increasingly using or somehow inspired by critical race theory—a concept that racism is a social construct embedded in policies and legal systems, and which goes beyond individuals’ prejudices—has triggered a rush of commentary and political reactions, including new laws in at least four states. The idea of a culture war in education conjures up a host of long-standing, never-completely-resolved disputes over things like sex education, the teaching of evolution, Ebonics, history standards and curriculum, and bilingual education. These and other issues emphasize fundamental divides and power imbalances (real and perceived) in society.

Black teachers ground down by racial battle fatigue after a year like no other

Peggy Barmore, Hechinger Report

It took Jasmine Lane five years to discover and fulfill her passion for English literature and teaching — but a year and half to burn out. “I have been navigating majority (or all-) white spaces for a very long time. … In a state with 96 percent of its teaching staff being white, choosing teaching was to be no different,” the 27-year-old high school teacher in Minneapolis wrote in her blog this winter. But the abuse and isolation of this last year were too much, she wrote. It wasn’t worth the tightness in her chest, “knowing I have to get up and stare at a silent screen hoping in vain that someone will talk, wondering which family will criticize me today, which students will yell at me, and whether administration will support my professional judgement.” “So, dear reader,” she wrote, “I quit.”

Cobb counselor: If I can’t address social justice and equity, I can’t help students

Jennifer Susko, Atlanta Journal Constitution

There has been a lot of talk about letters and theories lately. DEI and SEL and CRT. Unfortunately, eliminating the work we do with students that involves diversity, equity and inclusion, social and emotional learning or critical race theory will require the removal of these letters from what school counselors do. A-L-L. As school counselors, we have ethical standards that we must follow, or we will not maintain our certification. Part of those ethics includes ensuring that ALL students feel affirmed and safe at schools so that they can achieve their potential. We cannot do that if we are forbidden to address issues around identity, equity and social and emotional learning. Further, the words that intimidate some and enrage others are all throughout our job descriptions.


Whole Children and Strong Communities

Parents in Gaza and Israel are doing their best to shield kids from the trauma of war [Audio]

Ruth Sherlock, NPR

In this month’s escalation of violence, as Hamas fired rockets into Israel and the Israeli military pounded the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and artillery, parents on both sides have had to find ways to try and protect their children from the trauma of war and soothe them when they’re terrified. In the Gaza Strip, “Mothers tell me their children are frightened of bedtime because the worst airstrikes come at night,” says Suhair Zakkout, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross who lives in Gaza. “Other parents tell me their sons and daughters now know how to differentiate between airstrikes, missiles and other weapons. This is a language that should not be for children.”

Why summer school in California will prioritize fun and reconnecting students

Diana Lambert, Ed Source

Merced County Office of Education students will hike through a wildlife preserve, fish in the Merced River and take sailing lessons from a local yacht club as part of this year’s summer school program. Elk Grove Unified students have the option to learn to act, sing or perform slam poetry. San Francisco students can take archery at a local park or classes in a high-rise downtown building that is usually home to tech workers. Although school districts are still offering academic programs, summer school this year is supposed to be fun. Experts say schools won’t be able to combat learning loss until they deal with the social and emotional needs of children who have been away from their peers and teachers for more than a year and may have experienced other trauma during the pandemic.

We know how to stop gun violence; let’s fund it

Mike McBride, Cal Matters

In 2009, I was pained to bury a young student of mine named Larry Spencer. Like too many young Black and Brown men in this country, his vibrant and promising life was cut short as a result of gun violence. At Larry’s funeral, I spoke to a room of more than 500 teenagers, and I asked them, “How many of you have been to more than one funeral?” Every hand went up. “More than two funerals?” Again, every hand was raised. By the time I got to 10, the congregation was weeping, half of them with their hands still in the air. In that moment, it became clear: whatever we’re doing, it’s not enough.


Access, Assessment, Advancement

Fifty years after Nixon, GOP still argues that subsidized child care is anti-family

Allan Smith, Yahoo News

In 1971, President Richard Nixon vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have laid the groundwork for a national child care system, saying it would have placed the government on “the side of communal approaches to child rearing [and] against the family-centered approach.” Fifty years later, as President Joe Biden makes subsidized child care for low- and middle-income families a major plank of his legislative agenda, the socially conservative argument against his plan sounds much the same as the one Nixon aide Pat Buchanan was making when he wrote that veto message.

Essential California: A plan to put more CA into UC

Maria L. La Ganga, LA Times

It’s a difficult balance, and California parents say it’s been out of whack for years. Their tax money goes to support the University of California, the nation’s premier public research university system. But most of their accomplished kids can’t get in, because equally accomplished kids from other states and countries want to learn there too. Now, the state Senate has unveiled a plan to cut enrollment for non-California freshmen nearly in half over the next decade, starting in 2022, writes my colleague Teresa Watanabe. Three state records fuel the proposal.

Secretary Cardona Holds Virtual Roundtable to Discuss the Importance of Providing Pell Grants for Incarcerated Individuals

U.S. Department of Education

This afternoon, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona held a virtual roundtable to showcase the importance of providing Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals by speaking with students and former students who took college courses in prison. This session allowed the Secretary to hear directly from students who have gone through college in prison programs and provided insight on how we can best serve these students going forward. Secretary Cardona launched the discussion and listened as the students shared their stories. “I am so glad to be here to talk with you today and thank each of you for your willingness to share your stories with me. College in prison programs have an important mission that I strongly believe in. I know how important teachers and professors are and the effect they have in all our life trajectories – and I want more incarcerated adults to have access to high-quality educational programs while they’re in prison.”


Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Can we finally end school segregation? [Audio]

Marianne McCune, New Yorker

By many accounts, American schools are as segregated today as they were in the nineteen-sixties, in the years after Brown v. Board of Education. WNYC’s podcast “The United States of Anxiety” chronicled the efforts of one small school district, Sausalito Marin City Schools, in California, to desegregate. Fifty years after parents and educators there first attempted integration, the state’s attorney general found that the district “knowingly and intentionally” maintained a segregated system, violating the equal-protection clause of the Constitution. The district’s older public school, which served mostly Black and Latino students, suffered neglect; meanwhile, a new charter school, though racially diverse, enrolled virtually all the white children in the district. The reporter Marianne McCune explored how one community overcame decades of distrust to finally integrate.

Turning equity lens on schools exposes white unhappiness

Maureen Downey, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The social justice movement in America has prompted schools to apply an “equity lens” to reveal the effects on students from such societal ills as racism, sexism and homophobia. The angry crowds descending on local school board meetings suggest the equity lens is revealing something else as well — aggrieved white people. Unhappy parents — overwhelmingly white — in politically conservative districts in Georgia are packing school board meetings to voice alarm over what they decry as a liberal plot to divide the races by representing white students as oppressors and Black students as oppressed.

California is finally confronting its history of slavery. Here’s how.  

Sarah Barringer Gordon & Kevin Waite, The Washington Post

The newest monument to Black history in Los Angeles is small enough to fit in your pocket. Rather than a physical structure, the monument is projected onto the landscape through the viewer’s phone using augmented reality (AR) technology. Created by artist Ada Pinkston, the work celebrates the life of Biddy Mason, a formerly enslaved woman who helped build modern Los Angeles through her philanthropy and entrepreneurship. The Biddy Mason AR installation is one of several initiatives to transform California’s commemorative landscape. Often called the “city of the future,” Los Angeles is investing heavily in its past. Those efforts — cooperative ventures between a responsive local government and community leaders — offer a blueprint for other cities and states to follow as they, too, confront their troubled histories.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Walking the wall: Revisiting a brutal barrier to migrant dreams [Graphic]

Kevin Pyle, Yahoo News

Germany’s lengthy pandemic school closures hit migrant pupils hardest

Benjamin Bathke, InfoMigrants

Migrant children and teenagers in Germany are disproportionately affected by the country’s longer than average lockdowns, experts say. They warn that the widening education gap between migrant pupils and their native peers could derail efforts to integrate the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in Germany. “My son had picked up German fast, and we were very proud of him,” said Um Wajih, a Syrian mother of two. But then came the pandemic. During the six-week shutdown that started in March last year, Wajih’s son wasn’t able to attend his Berlin school in person. Consequently, the 9-year-old’s German worsened significantly, a teacher told her. Wajih was saddened but not surprised. “I knew that without practice he would forget what he had learned, but I couldn’t help him,” the 25-year-old told Reuters.

International migration and the right to education: Challenges for facing inequalities in education systems policies

Ana Lorena Bruel, Isabelle Rigoni, Maïtena Armagnague, Education Policy Analysis Archives

Studies about international migrant students in primary school are increasingly frequent in the educational literature. There is a strengthening on the production of international scholarship that seek to guide the debate on international migration policies and the defense of the right to education as a fundamental human right regardless of status, citizenship, or the existence of official identity documents, a right guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Child. International migration processes are multiple and heterogeneous. The origins of migration are plural, as are the forms of reception in the countries of destination or transit. In the field of educational policy, researchers observe that international migrant students may go through totally different schooling processes, with very different reception and permanence policies, depending on the school, education network or country in which they are. In this heterogeneous and complex international context, we present this dossier with the aim of contributing to an expanded reflection on the educational policies compared to international migrant populations in different countries, guaranteeing a multiplicity of voices, theoretical perspectives and fields of study.


Other News of Note

How Afro-Boricua Antonia Pantoja fought for education equity for Latinxs

Rachel Reichard, Mitú

Few education organizers have had such a transformative impact on Latinx students as Antonia Pantoja. In the Afro-Puerto Rican educator and civil rights leader’s 80 years, she created spaces that restored dignity to discriminated youth of color and influenced policy that directly improved the way Spanish-speaking students learned in public schools. From New York to California, Pantoja’s legacy is still felt nearly two decades after her death on May 24, 2002.

Saroj Lal: Legacy of teacher who was race relations trailblazer

David MacNicol, BBC

As one of the first Asian women to teach in a Scottish primary school, Saroj Lal, opened doors for women of colour in education. Following her death last year, aged 82, her trailblazing achievements in equality, women’s rights and community work are being formally recognised.

As well as being one of the first Asian teachers in Edinburgh, Ms Lal was also at the forefront of race relations during a period of immense political and social change. Her son Vineet Lal says: “It’s only with my mother’s passing that her achievements can be put into perspective.” Saroj was born in Gujranwala, the daughter of Behari Lal Chanana, a Congress Party politician and “Quit India” advocate, who campaigned for an end to British rule in India.