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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Annie Tan was a special education teacher for a decade in public schools in Chicago and in New York City. She knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was 6 years old. “I had a teacher, Mrs. Sheridan who really inspired me because she made it joyous to learn,” Tan says. “I wanted every kid to find themselves and to self-actualize like I did.” But two years into the pandemic as thousands of students got sick, standardized testing increased, and teachers’ workloads grew, Tan had had enough.
Jackson Potter, In These Times
On Sept. 10, 2012, I joined thousands of my fellow public school teachers in Chicago and walked off the job. After facing 30 years of corporate education “reform” that demonized teachers and led to massive privatization of public schools across the United States, teachers everywhere were ready to fight back. For many of us in Chicago, ahead of the 2012 strike, political developments had shown a range of possibilities for what that fighting back could look like. We had watched intently as protesters took over plazas in Tahrir Square to demand the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as well as the crowds occupying the Wisconsin statehouse to oppose Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union Act 10.
Chelsea Sheasley, Christian Science Monitor
Education has always played a crucial role in Leslie Fenwick’s life. The dean emerita of the school of education at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and professor of education policy says that her parents were adamantly opposed to segregationist policies. They also taught her about Black educator excellence, a story she wasn’t taught in school. Dr. Fenwick’s most recent book, “Jim Crow’s Pink Slip: The Untold Story of Black Principal and Teacher Leadership,” published earlier this year, tells the story of highly qualified Black educators displaced during school integration efforts. The book presents historical evidence showing that following the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, which ended segregation in schools, nearly 100,000 Black educators were dismissed or demoted from their positions and often replaced with less qualified white educators.
Language, Culture, and Power
A Martinez and Kimberle Crenshaw, NPR
Critical race theory, or CRT, has been discussed in academic circles for nearly 40 years, but the term has only recently been weaponized in backlash of the racial reckoning that spread across the country following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020. Law professor Kimberle Williams Crenshaw is a pioneering scholar and writer on race, civil rights and law. She teaches at Columbia University and UCLA. She’s also a co-founder and executive director of the African American Policy Forum. I spoke with her about CRT and its importance in this moment.
NBC Dakota News Now
The ACLU of South Dakota submitted a letter to the Board of Education Content Standards ahead of their Sept. 19 public hearing, saying that the latest set of social studies standards for South Dakota’s K-12 public schools are an example of ongoing colonialism and discrimination against Indigenous students and tribes. According to a press release from the ACLU, the initial standards were developed by a nearly 50-person working group in 2021 from diverse backgrounds in South Dakota.
Zaidee Stavely, EdSource
More than 100 students in Lodi Unified School District spent part of the summer running relays and braiding jump-ropes from plastic bags, all while learning more complex writing and reading skills in English. This summer school program was designed to strengthen English language skills for elementary and middle school students who speak another language at home and have not yet mastered English.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Amanda Datnow, Vicki Park, Donald J. Peurach, & James P. Spillane, Brookings
The period since the founding of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1945 has been marked by an accumulating global agenda for transforming education for students in fundamental ways—including the recognition that education is a human right and a public good, that access is not tantamount to learning, and that academic learning is but one dimension of holistic student development (Figure 1).
Meghan Smith, WGBH
As a new semester starts, not all college students across Massachusetts have the same access to reproductive health care on their campus. Some undergraduates at private and public colleges are working to get more options for themselves and their peers, with and without support from their schools. Urged by student activists, UMass Amherst this semester began offering medication abortion to students at its campus health center. Northeastern University will install a vending machine on campus with emergency contraception, much like the one Boston University installed earlier this year, which offers what’s often called the morning-after pill. Some universities, like Boston College, don’t provide contraception on campus, but an underground group of students there has been organizing to provide free sexual health products.
Rebecca Stephens, Education Week
April 20, 1999. Columbine. It was the birth of a tragic new era that we never could have imagined before: an age of increasingly regular mass shootings perpetrated by students. Even after that first shooting, I could not have imagined a day when the call to arm teachers would be seen as a logical response to keep children safe in schools or when parents would be restrained by police as they attempted to rush into a school in Texas to save elementary-aged children from an active shooter. I could not have imagined that schools would traumatize students with active-shooter simulation drills, lockdowns, and metal detectors. I could not have imagined the fear that accompanies parents as we drop our children off at school or stand in front of the classroom to teach.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Albert M Carvalho & Pedro Noguera, EdSource
Los Angeles has been grappling with two epidemics over the past several years: Covid-19 and the exodus of students from our public education system. The two challenges are interrelated. Through the incredible work of our dedicated health care workers and public health professionals, we are now on solid footing in addressing Covid. However, declining enrollment poses another threat to our children and our schools, and we must take steps to address it now. Since the advent of the pandemic, enrollment decline has become a national trend for many school districts across the country.
Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
For several decades now, education policymakers have been obsessed with data-driven accountability — usually with standardized test scores as the key metric. The approach has failed to achieve any of the goals supporters have championed, such as closing the achievement gap, and has instead brought us things like pep rallies to get students excited to take standardized tests and methods to evaluate teachers based on the scores. Such accountability tactics need to be reevaluated now as a new school year begins and millions of students and teachers are still trying to work through the academic and mental health setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This piece looks at the one-size-fits-all metrics and what could be used instead. This was written by Simone Ispa-Landa and Wendy Espeland, both of Northwestern University.
JT Torres, Times Higher Education
In his 2021 song Family Ties, Kendrick Lamar raps: “I been duckin’ the overnight activists, yeah / I’m not a trending topic.” Before Family Ties was released, many criticised Lamar for not being vocal about George Floyd’s death. The ensuing debate centred on the meaning of activism and what counted as authentic. As a result, discourses of social justice became less a matter of justice and more a matter of social rank. Lamar’s jab at “overnight activism” is an important consideration for educators. What Lamar is criticising is activism performed for its own sake, rewarding the virtuous performer for capitalising on the social context rather than achieving social progress. The problem here is not so much the performance or even the performer, but how we recognise and reward efforts towards equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). As an educator myself, I worry that we emphasise competence at the expense of humility.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Cheyanne Daniels, The Hill
Chicago has always been a city of advocacy. The fight for civil rights can be seen through the work of prominent names such as Fred Hampton and the Black Panthers and Martin Luther King Jr. Today, South Side native Jitu Brown is one of many continuing the call for equity. Brown is the national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance, and his fight for equity in the education system was instilled in him by the streets where he grew up. Speaking to The Hill from a Chicago office adorned with posters screaming “Equality or Else” and “Water Is a Human Right,” Brown talked about growing up in the Rosemoor neighborhood of Chicago’s Far South Side during the 1970s.
Matt Bruenig, Jacobin
The New York Times released a big story this week declaring that child poverty has plummeted over the last thirty years. But their numbers are misleading: unlike social democratic countries, the US is still plagued by sky-high child poverty. Jason DeParle at the New York Times had a story yesterday about a new study with an apparently surprising conclusion: “Child poverty has fallen 59 percent since 1993, with need receding on nearly every front.” The study DeParle discusses in his piece is a seven-author behemoth published at Child Trends. In it, Dana Thomson uses a dataset produced by various Columbia University researchers seven years ago to demonstrate that “the past quarter century witnessed an unprecedented decline in child poverty rates.” This bit of introductory text is accompanied by the following graph
Study: Unmitigated School Choice May Lead to Racial Segregation Due to Different Parental Preference
Arman Kyaw, Diverse Issues in Higher Education
Having free choice in where to go to school may, counterintuitively, drive segregation instead of reducing it, according to the findings from a new study. The study, “School choice increases racial segregation even when parents do not care about race,” was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Democracy and the Public Interest
Lesson Plan: How an Eighth-Grade Civics Class Helped Reverse the Last Conviction in the Salem Witch Trials
Jeremy Engle, New York Times
Elizabeth Johnson Jr. is — officially — not a witch. Her name was cleared 329 years after she was convicted at the Salem witch trials thanks to the efforts of an eighth-grade civics teacher and her students. In this lesson, you will learn about the power of civic action to achieve justice — even three centuries later. Then, you will propose your own plan to rectify a wrong in your own community.
Tim Donahue, Hechinger Report
At the high school where I last worked, the librarian had what we all understood to be an ironic trinket sitting on her office shelf: an action figure of a librarian that made an amazing shushing action when you pushed a button, providing welcome levity. That’s all the action figure could do; today’s librarians, who must confront increasing ranks of violent protesters, could use a lot more features to fight back.With school politics proving a strategic wedge issue for Republicans from Washington State to Virginia to Florida, more and more school boards are glomming onto the convenient optics of book banning. At least 1,586 individual books were banned from July 2021 through March of this year, PEN America reports, citing an “alarming” spike compared with previous years.
Eugenia Nazrullaeva, Anja Neundorf, Ksenia Northmore-Ball & Katerina Tertytchnaya, Washington Post
In Russia, Sept. 1 is known as the “Day of Knowledge.” The day traditionally kicks off the start of the new school year, with festivities in schools and universities. After six months of war in Ukraine, however, this school year in Russia is not an ordinary one. To garner support for President Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine, Russian authorities have passed new education laws, revised school textbooks and introduced teaching guides that help teachers deliver “patriotic” lessons.
Other News of Note
Mauricio Rodríguez Pons, Aliyya Swaby and Annie Waldman, ProPublica
Before 1965, many Southern states forced voters to prove they could read before casting a ballot, a requirement primarily designed to keep Black people from voting. The Voting Rights Act put an end to those polling site exams. But a ProPublica investigation found that the efforts to block people who have difficulty reading from casting a ballot continue, especially in the South. In fact, today’s election system remains a modern-day literacy test. It didn’t get that way by accident. For decades, conservative politicians have passed laws to make it harder for these voters to cast a ballot and discourage anyone trying to help them.