Just News from Center X – September 24, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

NEPC Talks Education: An Interview with Gloria Ladson-Billings About Education Policy Responses to Pandemic and Civil Unrest [Audio]

Christopher Saldaña and Gloria Ladson-Billings, NEPC

Teaching While Black Is Becoming a Fireable Offense

Peter Greene, The Progressive

You can’t fire a teacher or an administrator for being Black, but in many states and school districts, Black educators could lose their jobs for breaking the ill-defined set of rules established to ban anything labeled as critical race theory, or CRT. The policies are vague and are arrayed against what anti-CRT activist Christopher Rufo called an “entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular” with some folks under the “critical race theory” tagline. Some rightwing activist groups warn of “the many tentacles” of CRT, including references to Black Lives Matter, The 1619 Project, equity, diversity, and social emotional learning. A task force led by North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson collected examples of school “indoctrination” and found people objecting to everything from Black Lives Matter t-shirts to students being shown CNN clips.

Climate change is sabotaging education for America’s students – and it’s only going to get worse

Caroline Preston, Hechinger Report

The wildfires that ripped through California towns torched school buildings and postponed the start of school as students and teachers were left homeless. A deadly deluge in Tennessee flooded schools and delayed classes as rescue teams searched for dozens of people who’d gone missing. Students around the country were dismissed early due to heat waves and Hurricane Ida, while smoke settled over towns and cities as far east as Philadelphia, sending kids inside for recess. This summer has brought not only a resurgence of the coronavirus but also some of the starkest evidence yet of the devastating toll that climate change will take on the planet – and on the lives and learning of children. As humans continue to unleash greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, fires, hurricanes, floods, droughts and heat waves are intensifying, in some cases forcing kids to flee their homes and classrooms and shattering their sense of security. School buildings and budgets aren’t up to the task of weathering climate disasters and the experience of living through these calamities is adding to the mental health strains on students already burdened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Language, Culture, and Power

The Countercurriculum of Black Education

Gloria Ashaolu, Black Perspectives

The discourse on anti-racist curriculum and praxis within educational spaces—both formal and informal—saw massive growth in the summer of 2020. The racial reckoning ignited by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery forced many to confront the racist foundation of the United States and grapple with how its past is remembered and interpreted. Historical narratives constructed from our understanding of the past permeate every aspect of our lives and Black educators have long identified schools as an important site for reconciling the distortion that characterizes the nation’s normative historical discourse. In the words of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and Black History Month, “there would be no lynching if it did not start in the schoolroom.”

Extinction of indigenous languages leads to loss of exclusive knowledge about medicinal plants

Sibélia Zanon, Global Landscapes Forum

“Every time a language disappears, a speaking voice also disappears, a way to make sense of reality disappears, a way to interact with nature disappears, a way to describe and name animals and plants disappears,” says Jordi Bascompte, researcher in the Department of Evolutional Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich. The project Ethnologue concluded that 42% of the world’s more than 7,000 existing languages are endangered. Of the 1,000 indigenous languages spoken in Brazil prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500, only about 160 are still alive, according to language research non-profit SIL International. In a recent study, Bascompte and biodiversity specialist Rodrigo Cámara-Leret warn that the extinction of indigenous languages equates to a loss of traditional knowledge about medicinal plants, which could reduce chances for the discovery of future medicines.

Transformative Programming for Boys and Young Men of Color: Lessons from Youth Organizing and Leadership Groups

Uriel Serrano and Veronica Terriquez, Dornslife

Initiatives across the country have emerged to address “persistent opportunity gaps” that contribute to the criminalization of boys and young men of color (BMOC), and to poor health outcomes in their communities. The California Endowment (TCE) has been a leader in responding to the challenges faced by this young population. Through focused investments in high-poverty communities, TCE has supported youth-serving organizations that help BMOC heal from trauma and hardship while equipping them to challenge the structural conditions that prevent them from thriving and achieving their goals. This report draws on more than five years of research to highlight some promising practices for engaging BMOC as leaders in their communities.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Student Wellbeing in Contexts of Protracted Violent Conflict

Gauthier Marchais, Sweta Grupta, Cyril Brandt, Institute of Development Studies

In contexts of protracted violent conflict, school environments play a key role in children’s psychological, social, and emotional wellbeing. Research by the REALISE education project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) provides a better understanding of how violent conflict penetrates schools; the relationship between school staff, students, parents, and the local community; and the role of children’s social entourage. It identifies key considerations for education projects operating in these contexts and how they can best support the wellbeing of children, including those who are extremely isolated or experience marginalisation on the basis of gender or minority status.

California schools prepare for thousands of Afghan refugee students

Diana Lambert, EdSource

In California, home to the largest number of Afghan refugees in the country, school officials are preparing for an influx of refugee students who fled Afghanistan with their families after the Taliban seized power in the country last month. Schools are especially busy in Sacramento and Fremont, two of the largest Afghan communities in the state. Over 40% of the nation’s Afghan refugees have resettled in the Sacramento region in recent years, according to Jessie Tientcheu, chief executive officer of Opening Doors, a refugee resettlement agency based in Sacramento.

To Teach in Hawai’i, Educators Must Honor Indigenous Land

Kauakanilehua Adams, EdSurge

On my way to work at Kealakehe High School, I see the sky and ocean meld into one monstrous mass of blue to my left and a wall of the invasive, dark green Monstera shoots on my right. I drive from my home up mauka, meaning ‘towards the mountains’, in South Kona where the rain pours heavy. As I get into town, north of where things aren’t as wet and green, I take a right. I turn off Hawai’i Belt Road and go past the gym that used to be a bookstore that used to be an empty lot that used to be the remnants of a centuries-old lava flow. As I get onto Ane Keohokalole Highway, I practice saying the name out loud to myself, thinking about my father scolding me if he could hear me butchering the pronunciation.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

‘Can’t Compete’: Why Hiring for Child Care Is a Huge Struggle

Claire Cain Miller, New York Times

At a Y.M.C.A. in San Antonio, 200 children are on wait lists for child care because of hiring problems. It raised average hourly pay for full-time workers to $12.50 from $10, but still can’t recruit enough workers to meet the demand. In Ann Arbor, Mich., the school district had announced it was shutting down its after-school program. It managed to hire people to open at five of 20 elementary schools, those most in need, but that left out at least 1,000 children. And in Portland, Ore., preschool spots are few and far between, and elementary schools are running after-school care at limited capacity or have canceled programs altogether.

‘Tiny’ bathrooms, big curriculum: New Marygrove early childhood center boosts Detroit neighborhood

Lori Higgins, Chalkbeat Detroit

When Ariyah Small came home after the first day of school last week at the new, highly touted Marygrove Early Education Center, there was one small thing that had her excited. “I love my new school,” Ariyah, 3, told her mother, Antoinette Reid, who recounted the conversation Friday as she spoke during the grand opening of the new center. “I’m like, ‘What about it do you love?’” Reid recalled asking her daughter. “She said, ‘They got tiny bathrooms and I can use it all by myself.’” The tiny bathrooms are just small features of this big new center on the campus of the former Marygrove College in northwest Detroit. What is most significant about the new $22 million 28,000-square-foot building, is what it represents.

Centering Accessibility for Disabled Community

Lian Herder, Diverse Issues in Higher Education

In the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic moved everything online, Nate Tilton was on his way to a classroom labeled as accessible. Except, when Tilton arrived, he realized the accessible spot in the classroom was actually too tight to maneuver his power wheelchair. So, he spent the entirety of the lecture (and the following lectures, until the classrooms were switched) facing the wall. Tilton has been a student at the University of California at Berkeley since 2018, and, through trial and error, word of mouth and his own exploration, he has come to know the campus well.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

How reparations can be paid through school finance reform

Preston Green III and Bruce Baker, The Conversation

White public schools have always gotten more money than Black public schools. These funding disparities go back to the so-called “separate but equal” era – which was enshrined into the nation’s laws by the Supreme Court’s 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. The disparities have persisted even after Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision that ordered the desegregation of America’s public schools. Since Black schools get less funding even though Black homeowners pay higher property taxes than their white counterparts, we think reparations are due – and they can be paid by reforming the ways Black homeowners are taxed and schools in Black communities are funded.

A Latino family paved the way for school desegregation. It’s still ‘unknown’ history

Raul Reyes, NBC News

As a little girl in Westminster, California, in 1945, Sylvia Mendez yearned to attend the “beautiful school” with the “nice playground” where the school bus deposited her every morning. But the 9-year-old wasn’t allowed in that school — because she was Mexican American. Instead, each day she walked past her dream school and trudged over to the “Mexican school,” a rundown building next to a cow pasture. As she recalled, the conditions there were terrible. “All of our books and desks were used and beat up. Boys learned stuff to prepare them for vocational work, and we learned sewing and home economics. It was like they were preparing us, the girls, to become maids.”

Students with disabilities across California stuck in limbo

Joe Hong, Cal Matters

The school year at Duarte Unified School District, 20 miles east of Los Angeles, started a month ago, but Brady, Ellie and Jack Fitzgibbons have yet to receive any instruction from their teachers. The 13-year-old triplets are on the autism spectrum, and their mother, Julie Fitzgibbons, didn’t feel safe sending them to school because she doubted her kids would keep their masks on all day. “They struggle with masks. They won’t be able to be in a class with 36 kids wearing masks,” Fitzgibbons said. “Communication is important for autistic kids. They can’t talk with masks.”

Democracy and the Public Interest

Teaching about Slavery

Danielle Allen, Daina Ramey Berry, David W. Blight, Allen C. Guelzo, Robert Maranto, Ian V. Rowe, Adrienne Stang, Education Next

Both race in the classroom and the New York Times’s 1619 Project have been the subject of recent state legislative efforts, heated debate, and extensive press coverage, both at Education Next (see, for example, “Critical Race Theory Collides with the Law,” legal beat, Fall 2021, and “The 1619 Project Enters American Classrooms,” features, Fall 2020) and elsewhere. The post-George Floyd racial reckoning and the new Juneteenth federal holiday have roused attention toward teaching the history of slavery in America. As part of our continuing coverage of these issues, we asked some of the nation’s foremost scholars and practitioners to respond to the prompt, “How should K–12 schools teach about slavery in America? What pitfalls should teachers and textbooks avoid? What facts and concepts should they stress? Are schools generally doing a good or bad job of this now?”

Teaching Climate Change in the Classroom [AUDIO]

1A, NPR

Public schools serve nearly one in six Americans. What role can they play in making the country greener and cleaner? A new commission concludes the role of schools in the U.S. has yet to be clearly defined. The K12 Climate Commission from the Aspen Institute seeks to make amends. Its report lays out a path that would see schools successfully transition into using clean energy, rethinking food use, and embracing non-fossil fuel transportation over the next decade. The commission says schools can do all of this while educating their students to confront the climate challenges of the future.

Why it’s a mistake to teach climate change only in science class

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

The Washington Post did a recent poll on the attitudes of teens on various subjects, and there was a surprising result on what they see as the biggest threats to their generation: Only 49 percent said they view climate change as a major threat at a time when the world has seen the most extreme weather. The result is surprising, given what climate scientists say is increasing danger of environmental catastrophe if countries around the world do not take immediate steps to slow the warming of the planet. As they gather at U.N., world leaders face furious push to act quickly on climate change

Other News of Note

Paulo Freire’s Radical Method Was Rooted in Brazil’s Historical Inequalities

Bernardo Bianchi, Jacobin

In 2012, Dilma Rousseff signed into law Decree No. 12.612, making socialist pedagogue Paulo Freire the official patron of education in Brazil. It was a fitting tribute to one of the international left’s most beloved icons, and a seemingly uncontroversial one considering the grandfatherly Freire, who today would have turned one hundred years old, is among the country’s most celebrated intellectuals. However, from the moment pen touched paper, Rousseff’s decree has set off a firestorm of criticism. Reaching a fever pitch after Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in the 2018 presidential election, the controversy around Freire’s influence has become a topic of heated national discussion and the fuel for countless right-wing conspiracies of “Marxist indoctrination.”

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