Just News from Center X – October 7, 2022

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Limiting academics’ freedom to tell the truth about racism is not new

Eddie Cole, Washington Post

Last summer, the University of Nebraska president and campus chancellors were forced to defend academic freedom following a state resolution to ban teaching critical race theory. A few months later, the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia issued new guidelines for tenure and post-tenure review policies that sparked a backlash. And similar concerns exist in Oklahoma, Mississippi and other states where recent demands to prohibit teaching about race and the history of racism has widespread public support. In response, faculty senates and professional associations have issued public statement after statement condemning those political efforts, which they argue weaken academic freedom. For example, the faculty senate at Virginia Tech noted, “As scholars and educators, we are called to affirm that limits on discourse and inquiry are antithetical to intellectual and psychological growth.”

To Win in the Midterms, Democrats Should Go All In on Reviving the Child Tax Credit

Jim Pugh, In These Times

With the November midterm elections fast approaching, the path the United States government will take over the next two years is looking very uncertain. Recent polling shows that control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives is up for grabs between Democrats and Republicans. To maintain control of both chambers – and possibly expand their majority in the Senate – Democrats will need to take advantage of any edge they can find to bring in more support. Fortunately for Democratic candidates, there’s a way to gain an electoral edge while simultaneously supporting highly effective social policy: campaigning on the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC).

Justice Department vows to defend DACA policy after court rules against it [Video]

CBS News

The Justice Department is expected to appeal a federal appeals court decision ruling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy to be illegal, though the court left it intact for current recipients. Carlos Benitez Cruz, an undocumented Ph.D. student and DACA beneficiary, joins CBS News to discuss his reaction to the ruling and how DACA has impacted his life.

Language, Culture, and Power

Pushed Out: Trends and Disparities in Out-of-School Suspension

Melanie Leung-Gagné, Jennifer McCombs, Caitlin Scott, Daniel Losen, LPI

Exclusionary discipline, which involves removing students from the classroom through punishments such as suspensions and expulsions, deprives students of the opportunity to learn. This type of discipline dramatically increased in the United States over several decades as a result of zero-tolerance policies that were often applied to relatively minor, nonviolent misbehavior such as tardiness or “disrespect.” Such exclusionary punishments have deleterious consequences and disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities.

While suspension is intended to produce safer schools and deter future misbehavior, research shows that exclusionary discipline is ineffective at improving school safety and deterring infractions. This is because suspensions do not address any of the underlying reasons that may be leading to behavioral incidents, nor do they create opportunities for students to learn new approaches to communicating or resolving conflicts.

Kids with disabilities face off-the-books school suspensions

Meredith Kolodner and Annie Ma, AP News

The phone call from her son’s school was alarming. The assistant principal told her to come to the school immediately. But when Lisa Manwell arrived at Pioneer Middle School in Plymouth, Michigan, her son wasn’t sick or injured. He was sitting calmly in the principal’s office. John, who has ADHD and finds it soothing to fidget during class, had been removed from the classroom after he refused to stop using a pair of safety scissors to cut his cuticles. When she asked why he couldn’t stay for the rest of the day, Manwell said the school told her they would call child protective services if she didn’t take him home. The call was just one of a dozen that Manwell received last fall telling her John couldn’t stay in school because of behaviors she says stemmed from his disability, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Many schools have promised to cut down on suspensions, since kids can’t learn as well when they aren’t in class. But none of these pickups was ever recorded as suspensions, despite the missed class time.

Survivors Are Preserving the Dark History of Native Boarding Schools

Emily Hofstaedter, Mother Jones

Six-year-old Phyllis Webstand wore an orange shirt to her first day of school. It was shiny, she remembers, and laced up the front—more importantly, it was a gift from her granny. At the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in Williams Lake, British Columbia, it was taken from her, as were all the personal belongings she had known and loved. None were ever returned. That year, 1973, Webstand became one of hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children in Canada and the US to suffer at state-run and religious boarding schools designed to assimilate by force. In the words of Richard Henry Pratt, the first superintendent of the infamous Carlisle Indian School, it was possible to “kill the Indian in him, and save the man,” often by coercive conversion to Christianity and the forbidding of Native language.  Physical and sexual abuse were common. Thanks to Indigenous activists—including women in office—the US is starting to face a cruel legacy.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

School Nurses’ Mental Health Is Suffering. Here’s How District Leaders Can Help

Arianna Prothero, Education Week

School nurses are struggling with their mental health. Nearly half said in a recent survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that they had been bullied, harassed, or threatened since the beginning of the pandemic. Forty-five percent reported experiencing at least one symptom of an adverse mental health condition, such as depression or PTSD. Those numbers amount to a cry for help from school nurses, said Donna Mazyck, the executive director of the National Association of School Nurses. “What these results show us is the need to have support, systems-level support to do the work that they do,” Mazyck said.

Education on fentanyl, other drugs often optional in California schools, if offered at all

Carolyn Jones, EdSource

Even as fentanyl overdoses among young people have skyrocketed in recent years, health education remains optional in most California schools, with some students receiving comprehensive education on the dangers of substance use and other students receiving scant, if any, instruction on the topic. “That is our No. 1 complaint,” said Dareen Khatib, co-chair of the California Health Education Community of Practice, a coalition of health educators from throughout California.

Uvalde 1970 Hispanic student walkout teaching parents in a new protest for gun control

Nick Bradshaw, 25 ABC

In 1970, Josué “George” Garza a popular Hispanic teacher was let go from his 5th-grade teaching job at Robb Elementary. The school board didn’t renew his contract and hundreds of students walked out of school for weeks in what they called a stand against pervasive discrimination. “I had to stand up to the principal, one day I saw a teacher pulling a little girl by the ear,” said George Garza. The 83-year-old remembers those days clearly. In tears, he shares the story of injustice that he took a stand for that would cost him his job. “She was speaking Spanish in the classroom, she just came from Mexico,” George Garza said in tears. In Texas, dating back to 1918 speaking Spanish in school was against the law.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

‘There Are Two Americas Now: One With a B.A. and One Without’

Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times

The Republican Party has become crucially dependent on a segment of white voters suffering what analysts call a “mortality penalty.” This penalty encompasses not only disproportionately high levels of so-called deaths of despair — suicide, drug overdoses and alcohol abuse — but also across-the-board increases in several categories of disease, injury and emotional disorder.

“Red states are now less healthy than blue states, a reversal of what was once the case,” Anne Case and Angus Deaton, economists at Princeton, argue in a paper they published in April, “The Great Divide: Education, Despair, and Death.”

Why aren’t flagship universities enrolling more of their own states’ Black students?

Meredith Kolodner, The Hechinger Report

Uchenna Ihekwereme walked to the front row of the 150-person auditorium for a political science class at the University of Georgia. She sat down, as she always did, with her back to the sea of white faces. She had become accustomed to being the only Black student in her classes, but it could still be unsettling. Her hand went up during a discussion when a student compared the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol with the Black Lives Matter movement.

A ‘Day of Action’ for Abortion Protections

Johanna Alonso, Inside HigherEd

Plan B in vending machines. Free at-home pregnancy tests. Time off to get and recover from abortions. Better financial support for student parents. These are just a handful of the asks, both big and small, that students will make of their colleges and universities on Oct. 6. On what has been dubbed the Day of Action, students across the country plan to hold rallies, protests, strikes and other on-campus demonstrations that will call on university leadership to take steps to protect reproductive and transgender rights. According to the Graduate Student Action Network, which is organizing the protest along with the Young Democratic Socialists of America, students at more than 50 universities in 28 states will hold events Thursday.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

For Socialist Psychologist Alfred Adler, Collective Feeling Was the Cure

Chandler Dandridge, Jacobin

It’s a sunny spring day in 1909 at the Stadtpark in Vienna. Leon Trotsky, fresh off another jailbreak, kicks a soccer ball toward his kids and waves back at his wife, who’s sprawled beneath a maple tree on a picnic blanket with another couple. Trotsky waltzes over and chats with his friend, one of the most renowned psychoanalysts in all of Vienna. No, not Sigmund Freud — the man with Trotsky would actually be expelled from Freud’s inner circle two years later. But while he’s less remembered today, he remained highly influential on an international scale for decades, his ideas taking center stage during the city’s interwar socialist period known as Red Vienna. This man was Alfred Adler.

Hispanic students were once segregated at this school. Now it will be a historic site

Travis Bubenik, NPR

Students were not allowed to speak Spanish at school. That was the rule that teachers instituted at a small West Texas schoolhouse near the United States-Mexico border in the 1950s, even though Spanish was the native language for many of the Mexican-American children there. The Blackwell School in tiny Marfa, Texas, was just one of many segregated schools across the southwest where Hispanic children were taught separately from their white peers.

Low-income communities learn to tackle climate-fueled heat

Anita Snow, Associated Press

Reggie Carrillo knows firsthand that where you live can determine how hot your neighborhood gets. The environmental activist and educator resides in a largely Mexican American area of south-central Phoenix, where segregation once forced Black and Hispanic people to live south of the railroad tracks. More than a half century later, the historic lack of investment means fewer trees and subsequent temperatures 13 degrees F (7 C) higher than wealthier, leafier neighborhoods just a few miles away.

Democracy and the Public Interest

What is the Goal of Civics Education? Critical Thinking, Teachers Say

Ileana Najarro, Education Week

Even as some states have increased their investment in civics education in K-12 schools within the last year, there’s still not nearly as much research on what happens during social studies instructional time as there is for subjects such as reading and math. It’s why the RAND Corporation, a think tank surveyed a nationally representative sample of U.S. public school teachers last fall to get a sense of how these educators approach civic and citizenship education in their classrooms, said Julia Kaufman, a senior policy researcher who worked on the survey. It released the findings last week. Using questions derived from an international survey of educators on civic instruction, the RAND study found that a majority of respondents, 68 percent, believed that promoting students’ critical and independent thinking was the top aim for civics education.

State Leaders Are Turning to Students to Shape Education Policy

Lilah Burke, EdSurge

Last year, when Micah Hill was a sophomore in high school, her guidance counselor gave her an application for Mississippi’s student representative program, which allows students to serve on the Mississippi State Board of Education. Hill applied and after two interviews, she was selected as the state’s newest student rep. Since then, she’s represented students on the board and advocated for their interests.

Governor gives California students a seat at the table

Diana Lambert, EdSource

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation last week that will give student representatives seats on the new state Advisory Commission on Special Education, as well as an advisory board for each school district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan. He also signed Senate Bill 955, which will give middle and high school students one excused absence to take part in civic activities like candidate forums and town halls. “California is putting our values into action by providing meaningful avenues for students to participate in local decision-making,” Newsom said.

Other News of Note

First ‘Kids’ Climate Trial Will Be Heard in Montana

Lesley Clark, Scientific American

Young people suing the state of Montana over the effects of climate change are expected to go to trial next June, becoming the first youth climate activists in the U.S. to argue their case in court. Attorneys with Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based public-interest law firm that represents a number of kid-centered climate cases in the U.S., said Tuesday the case will go to trial June 12 at the 1st Judicial District Court in Helena. The trial had initially been scheduled for early February, but Nate Bellinger, co-counsel for the youth plaintiffs, said trial preparations have been ongoing for months.

‘I’m tired of the lies’: the young activists leading the way on climate action

Adam Morton, The Guardian

Sometimes it takes the clarity of youth to capture a moment. Izzy Raj-Seppings had that clarity when she stood her ground outside the Australian prime minister’s residence despite being ordered to move by riot police. She was part of a small group protesting against then prime minister Scott Morrison’s inaction on the climate crisis as the country endured unprecedented bushfires across the south-east. A photo of 13-year-old Izzy, tears running down her face, as a police officer told her to move, catapulted her to the forefront of an emerging generation being failed by its leaders and public institutions.

‘I have a voice’: African activists struggle to attend UN climate talks in Egypt

Nina Lakhani, The Guardian

African climate activists from some of the countries most affected by global heating say they are struggling to get access to the UN climate talks in Egypt in November. Cop27, which has been termed “the African Cop”, threatens to take place without African activists advocating for communities devastated by drought, floods and fossil fuel projects in the negotiations when life-or-death decisions about climate finance will be made. Africa is the continent most affected by the climate breakdown. So far this year, hundreds of people have died from floods and landslides in Nigeria and Uganda while as many as 37 million face starvation after four consecutive droughts in the greater Horn of Africa. It’s also the continent which has contributed least to the climate crisis.