Just News from Center X – November 18, 2022

Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

U.C. Workers Strike on All 10 Campuses

Soumya Karlamangla, New York Times

In what organizers are calling the largest strike in the history of U.S. higher education, tens of thousands of academic workers across the University of California system walked off the job on Monday to call for higher wages and better benefits. The walkouts involve nearly 48,000 teaching assistants, researchers and other employees across the system’s 10 campuses. The labor action could become a turning point for graduate student workers nationwide, upon which America’s universities have long relied for grading exams and staffing labs for relatively little pay. And it tracks that California serves as the setting for this moment. California is a largely pro-labor state, and the cost of living here is exceptionally high, making it particularly difficult for graduate students to make ends meet. The University of California system in particular often draws international attention, with U.C. Berkeley and U.C.L.A. regularly ranking as among the nation’s best public universities.

Public Education’s Big Midterm Election Wins

Glendon Daigon, The Progressive

In an election in which pundits and reporters predicted education would be a major factor in a much-anticipated “red wave,” Republican gubernatorial candidates were said to be following a “playbook” of school choice and so-called parents rights that Glenn Youngkin used in winning the Virginia governor race in 2021. To the extent that conservative candidates followed that script, voters differed widely in their response. Although Greg Abbott in Texas and Ron DeSantis in Florida, both harsh critics of public schools and proponents of school vouchers, won their reelections handily, Democratic incumbents Tony Evers in Wisconsin and Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan successfully defended their seats with strong, pro-public education platforms. Where voters had the opportunity to vote directly on education issues, however, they were unanimous in their support for public schools. State ballot initiatives strengthening public education passed in all regions of the country.

Teachers Experienced More Anxiety than Healthcare Workers During the Pandemic

Tony Pals and Marla Koenigsknecht, AERA

Teachers experienced significantly more anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic than healthcare, office, and other workers, according to new research released today. Those teaching remotely reported substantially higher rates of depression and feelings of isolation than those teaching in person. The study, published in Educational Researcher, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, was conducted by Joseph M. Kush at James Madison University and Elena Badillo Goicoechea, Rashelle J. Musci, and Elizabeth A. Stuart at Johns Hopkins University. The authors found that U.S. teachers were 40 percent more likely to report anxiety symptoms than healthcare workers, 20 percent more likely than office workers, and 30 percent more likely than workers in other occupations, such as military, farming, and legal professions. Among teachers, those who taught remotely were 60 percent more likely to report feelings of isolation than their in-person peers. Female teachers were 70 percent more likely to experience anxiety than male teachers.

Language, Culture, and Power

There Is No “Migrant Crisis”

Harsha Walia, Boston Review

I grew up on the short story “Toba Tek Singh,” an Urdu satire on the Partition. While the story’s protagonist is a Sikh man, for whom the story is named, the character that stuck with me most was an unnamed man in a mental health facility in Lahore. Refusing to take part in the partitioning of patients between India and Pakistan, he climbed onto a tree and proclaimed, “I do not want to live in either India or Pakistan. I am going to make my home here in this tree.” The Partition—the scars of which reverberate today in brahiminical Hindutva fascism, the genocidal Indian occupation of Kashmir, mass protests of debt-ridden farmers, and counterinsurgency in Panjab—displaced at least 15 million people and killed at least one million across the newly drawn borders. My grandfather’s own family was displaced from their village, after which he started working the passenger and cargo trains that transported up to 5,000 refugees a day. He later recounted stories of torture, kidnappings, burnings, rapes, and massacres. In the afterlife of this carnage, I found the seemingly mad man on the tree marvelously rebellious and utterly lucid.

Connection, Creativity and Drama: Teen Life on Social Media in 2022

Monica Anderson, Emily A. Vogels, Andrew Perrin And Lee Rainie, Pew Research

Society has long fretted about technology’s impact on youth. But unlike radio and television, the hyperconnected nature of social media has led to new anxieties, including worries that these platforms may be negatively impacting teenagers’ mental health. Just this year, the White House announced plans to combat potential harms teens may face when using social media. Despite these concerns, teens themselves paint a more nuanced picture of adolescent life on social media. It is one in which majorities credit these platforms with deepening connections and providing a support network when they need it, while smaller – though notable – shares acknowledge the drama and pressures that can come along with using social media, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 conducted April 14 to May 4, 2022.

As the right fights the teaching of race, a new AP course expands it

Michelle A. Purdy, Washington Post

Even as conservatives push statewide bans on the teaching of critical race theory or lessons on racism and other topics that might cause general discomfort to White students, the College Board is launching a very different sort of initiative. This fall, the organization is piloting a new AP course in African American studies in 60 U.S. high schools. The course, which was designed with input from K-12 teachers and professors across the country, will address African American life, culture and history. These seemingly contradictory impulses in our education landscape are the result of a nation divided about what students should learn and what teachers should teach. On one side, conservative activists seek to stifle academic freedom by quelling curriculums that expose U.S. fault lines. On the other hand, social justice educators embrace a much more robust and full understanding of the United States, one that is rooted in the African American quest to show the centrality of Black Americans to U.S. life and history.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Improving Trauma-Informed Education: Responding to Student Adversity With Equity-Centered, Systemic Support

Stacy Gherardi, NEPC

Today’s youth suffer through challenges on multiple fronts. Alongside the COVID-19 pandemic and its related social and educational fallout, they’ve experienced trauma from increasingly frequent school and community violence, homelessness, family separation related to immigration, and sustained child poverty. Exposure to these and other traumas triggers health, psychological, social-emotional, behavioral, and educational harms. In response, and as part of efforts to increase holistic support for students, educators and policymakers have sought to implement educational practices that increase awareness of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma while preventing future trauma. This policy brief explores both the promise and challenges of trauma-informed education, suggesting that it may be best designed as a systemwide commitment, rather than an intervention, and that the concept of equity-centered trauma-informed education may offer a productive path to addressing the conceptual and implementation challenges involved.

In one first-grade classroom, puppets teach children to ‘shake out the yuck’ [Audio]

Cory Turner, Morning Edition

Teacher Leticia Denoya stands at the front of her classroom, at Natchaug Elementary in Windham, Conn. Her first-graders sit criss-cross applesauce on the reading rug. “Do you remember last week, we worked with our puppets and we learned a new strategy?” One little girl raises her hand: “Belly-breathing.” That’s right, Denoya responds, to help with “heavy” feelings. She asks the students to name a few. One child offers “angry.” Another: “sad, because someone took something away from you.” For many children, it was the pandemic that took something away. Most at Natchaug come from working-class families and qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Some lost loved ones to COVID. Many saw parents lose work. And, in schools across the country last year, that kind of stress followed kids back to class and has led to all kinds of disruptive behaviors.

Want resilient and well-adjusted kids? Let them play

Jackie Mader, Hechinger Report

In 1966, when psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown was assigned to a commission to investigate what led University of Texas student Charles Whitman to kill 12 people in one of the country’s first mass shootings, Brown and his colleagues considered many different aspects of Whitman’s background. The student had access to firearms at home; he had witnessed abuse while growing up; and he had a difficult relationship with his father. But Brown was struck by one other factor that came up in the commission’s discussions: Whitman had experienced play deprivation, or an “almost complete suppression of normal play behavior,” as the commission put it, while growing up.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

A Preschool on Wheels Drives Opportunity to Immigrant Families in Colorado

Emily Tate Sullivan, Mother Jones

In a valley renowned for its world-class ski resorts and unrivaled outdoor recreation, with 14,000-foot peaks that pierce the horizon, five-star hotels, designer storefronts, and multimillion-dollar mountainside mansions, there is a fleet of short, white buses stamped with geometric shapes. Parked in the lots of schools, churches, and community centers, the buses are inconspicuous. Most passersby would overlook them, distracted by the natural beauty of their backdrop. But inside, day after day, small wonders are unfolding. Gutted and retrofitted to look like traditional preschool classrooms, these mobile spaces host 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds in the valley who, otherwise, likely wouldn’t see a formal learning environment until kindergarten, by which time many of their peers are already steps ahead. The El Busesito “little bus” preschool is run by Valley Settlement, a nonprofit that delivers free early childhood and family engagement programs to Latino immigrant families in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley.

Courts Use Increasingly Lawless Arguments to Block Student Debt Relief

David Dayen, American Prospect

On Monday, a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals instituted an emergency injunction of President Biden’s student debt cancellation program. The verdict granted standing to sue to an alleged plaintiff which has said publicly and in writing that it had nothing to do with the lawsuit, and no relationship with the office that filed it. The ruling, in effect, turned a non-plaintiff into a plaintiff. It’s the kind of decision that makes you wonder what the law is, and whether it matters what it says. But the conservative judiciary could see these same tactics used by determined plaintiffs with different priorities. This would force right-wing judges to come up with what amounts to two different legal systems, one for policies they like and another for policies they don’t, eating away at the increasingly unpopular system of judicial supremacy.

Legal peril for Biden’s student debt relief prompts calls to extend payment pause

Michael Stratford, Politico

White House officials expressed confidence over the weekend that they would ultimately prevail in reversing court rulings that have shut down President Joe Biden’s effort to cancel student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans. But the legal limbo is already prompting calls from the left for the Biden administration to delay the planned restart of student loan payments Jan. 1.

Biden’s student debt relief went dark last week after a federal judge in Texas, a Trump appointee, declared it illegal and voided the program. The decision immediately jeopardized debt relief for the 16 million borrowers already approved by the Education Department and the roughly 10 million additional borrowers who were in the process of being considered for it.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Young and homeless in rural America [Audio]

Samantha M. Shapiro, The Daily

Sandra Plantz, an administrator at Gallia County Local Schools for more than 20 years, oversees areas as diverse as Title I reading remediation and federal grants for all seven of the district’s schools. In recent years, though, she has leaned in hard on a role that is overlooked in many districts: homeless liaison. Ms. Plantz’s district, in rural Ohio, serves an area that doesn’t offer much in the way of a safety net beyond the local churches. The county has no family homeless shelters, and those with no place to go sometimes end up sleeping in the parking lot of the Walmart or at the hospital emergency room.

Math teachers in virtual classes tend to view girls and Black students as less capable

Yasemin Copur-Gencturk, Ian Thacker, Joseph Cimpian, The Conversation

In virtual classrooms, math teachers deem Black students as less capable than white students. They also view girls as less capable than boys. That’s what we found after we conducted an experiment with 1,000 teachers in schools throughout the United States. For our experiment, we had teachers evaluate student answers to various math problems. Those answers were accompanied by images of different students online. We asked them to tell us how correct the students’ answers were. We also asked them to tell us how capable they thought the student was and how likely they would be to refer the student to be tested for a special education program to get extra help, or a gifted program, which would enable them to do more advanced work. We randomly changed the images of students presenting their solutions in Zoom classes to show Black and white girls and boys. However, the solutions stayed the same.

Universal Benefits Are Actually Cheaper Than Means-Tested Ones

Matt Bruenig, Jacobin

In 1998, Walter Korpi and Joakim Palme published “The Paradox of Redistribution and Strategies of Equality: Welfare State Institutions, Inequality, and Poverty in the Western Countries.” The paper aimed to tackle the argument that targeting welfare programs to those with low market incomes reduces inequality and poverty more than not targeting them. In their response, Korpi and Palme accept the basic math of the “targeting efficiency” claim but argue that it fails to consider the political effects such targeting has on support for increasing the size of the welfare budget. If (1) big, nontargeted welfare states reduce inequality and poverty more than small, targeted welfare states, and (2) targeting causes welfare states to be small, then (3) targeting is actually worse for inequality and poverty than not targeting. This paper started a fire in the welfare-state discourse that still burns hot even today. A massive number of secondary papers have been written about the topic trying to prove or disprove its thesis with various cross-country regressions. And the basic argument has become boilerplate rhetoric for social democratic politics across the world. But Korpi and Palme’s paper makes a key mistake that few have taken note of. In fact, once this mistake is understood, the whole argument of the paper and the discourse it spawned becomes moot.

Democracy and the Public Interest

The history behind ‘parents’ rights’ in schools

Brooke Schultz, AP News

The movement for “parents’ rights” saw many of its candidates come up short in this year’s midterm elections. But if history is any guide, the cause is sure to live on — in one form or another. Activists through the generations have stood up for a range of things in the name of parents’ rights in education. Over the last century, the term has been invoked in disputes related to homeschooling, sex education and even the teaching of foreign languages in schools. In politics today, many U.S. parents have joined a conservative movement pushing for state legislation giving parents more oversight of schools. At issue are library books and course material, transgender students’ use of school bathrooms and the instruction of topics related to race, sexual orientation and gender identity. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, won election last year with his slogan “Parents matter.” The GOP embraced the message, with conservative PACs funneling millions of dollars to school board races on the coattails of frustration over remote learning and school mask mandates.

The culture wars are pushing some teachers to leave the classroom

Scott Neuman, NPR

In the spring of 2020, James Whitfield had just become the first African American to be named principal at Colleyville Heritage High School, located in a predominantly white Dallas-Fort Worth suburb. Whitfield, who holds a doctorate in education, was anticipating big challenges when students returned in the fall. COVID-19 had already shut down in-person learning, and the pandemic was about to make a chronic teacher shortage even worse. Then came the death of George Floyd, the unarmed Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer during an arrest outside a convenience store. Unable to sleep one night in early June, days after Floyd’s death, Whitfield set down his thoughts in an email to friends and colleagues. He wrote about “systemic racism” and wondered what could be done to stop it.

Being a young climate activist

Samantha Antusch, Nature

My name is Licypriya Kangujam. I am 10 years old studying in grade 5 at Ryan International School. I am fighting to save our planet and our future. I am raising the voice of the millions of children of the world, and also the voice of the millions of countless and voiceless animals. I was born in Manipur, which is a small carbon-negative state of India, full of rich biodiversity and alluring atmosphere. But I grew up in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, for my schooling. My life was hit by Cyclone Titli in 2018 and Cyclone Fani in 2019. During the cyclones, many people lost their lives and many children lost their parents and thousands of people became homeless. I was very sad. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t drink. I even couldn’t take my food. After all these experiences, I moved to Delhi. Again, my life was messed up completely by high air-pollution levels and the extreme heatwave crisis. All such incidences in my young life turned me into a child climate activist.

Other News of Note

A Brief History of the American Labor Movement [Video]

Bernie Sanders, Tobias Higbie, Cornel West, and more