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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Linda Darling-Hammond, Forbes
Many students, families, and educators who eagerly looked forward to a return to in-person learning this fall have instead found themselves on a pandemic roller coaster as the school year opens with a surge of COVID-19 cases. In many states, the surge is comparable to last summer’s when many schools opened only to close back down again. And in more than a dozen states, schools just opened have begun to close already. The new, highly contagious Delta variant is taking hold in the country as more people move about with fewer precautions. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are climbing back up, and many states, especially in the south, are experiencing their worst outbreaks yet. In the last month, daily case rates in the country have more than doubled, hospitalization rates have more than tripled, and deaths have increased by 750%. Missouri’s hospitals ran out of ventilators several weeks ago. Mississippi hospitals have been so overcrowded that the University of Mississippi Medical Center had to open up an emergency field hospital in a parking garage.
Catherine Gewertz, Education Week
This fall was supposed to mark a triumphant return to normal for K-12 schools, with children and teachers flooding back into classrooms. But the Delta variant of COVID-19 chewed up that idea and spit it out, and now districts are scrambling to figure out who can stay in school safely and who should go home to quarantine. School leaders are walking a fearful tightrope, trying to find the right balance between protecting their students and staff from a hypercontagious virus, and delivering on their cherished goal of face-to-face instruction. “Both choices have people on opposing sides, and nothing will 100 percent satisfy the masses,” said Lisa Herring, the superintendent of the Atlanta public schools. “It isn’t easy.”
Valerie Strauss and Jesse Hagopian, Washington Post
The rise in coronavirus cases and the troubled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan have dominated the news, but many teachers also have other concerns: not only how safe their schools are in the continuing pandemic, but also what they will — and will not — be allowed to teach about structural racism. Educators and their allies in dozens of cities began rallying Friday and plan to continue through Sunday in a national #TeachTruth campaign to draw attention to laws and proposals in numerous states that restrict what educators can teach about racism, sexism and oppression in the United States. More than 25 Republican-led states have passed or proposed restrictions on how teachers can discuss racism and sexism in a movement that started under President Donald Trump in opposition to something called “critical race theory.”
Language, Culture, and Power
Zachary Pleat, Media Matters
Sinclair Broadcast Group has relentlessly pushed right-wing misrepresentations about critical race theory since it began circulating conservatives’ distorted views on the topic earlier this summer. In recent interviews on Sinclair’s morning show The National Desk and in a town hall debate streamed on websites for Sinclair-owned or -operated stations nationwide, the broadcasting group allowed unqualified activists to spew lies about the academic theory and failed to include necessary context about some activists’ concerns. One interview days after the town hall even hid the punditry and activist background of a guest who spoke out against critical race theory.
William A Blair, UNC Press
Donald Trump has not been the only president to downplay racial violence. Nor is our current situation unique in featuring hyper-charged partisanship that reinforces information bubbles in which people mistrust information from the other side. Immediately after the Civil War, a toxic partisan climate caused information itself to become politicized, with the usual sources of reporting—eyewitness and newspaper accounts—dismissed by opponents as fictions created to mask a political agenda. An under-appreciated conflict in the Reconstruction era occurred over what constituted trustworthy information about lawlessness committed against African Americans in the South. The term “fake news” was not used then, but Democrats led by President Andrew Johnson chastised Radical Republicans (those favoring more expansive Black rights) for allegedly fabricating reports of racial atrocities to mandate federal intervention on behalf of Black people. Resembling current controversies in which conservatives accuse liberals of allegedly fostering racial antagonism, even the New York Times—generally supportive of the Republican party then—criticized Radicals for fostering “anger and estrangement” between the North and South so they could “ride into power on the strength of pretended sympathy with the negro.” Conservatives also claimed that Senator Charles Sumner, a leading Republican, fabricated his so-called eyewitness testimony, which he offered to Congress in the form of anonymous accounts, just as reporters today protect identities of sources to prevent repercussions for exchanges of information.
Melissa Sanchez and Duaa Eldeib, Pro Publica
A principios del año pasado, el guardián público del Condado de Cook empezó a preocuparse de que la agencia de bienestar infantil de Illinois estaba fallando de nuevo a las familias hispanohablantes cuyos niños estaban bajo su cuidado. Así que Charles Golbert decidió llevar a cabo un experimento. Durante 10 meses, abogados de su oficina contaron el número de casos nuevos que involucraban a familias hispanohablantes. Después, los funcionarios averiguaron cuantos de los archivos de esas familias incluían un documento crucial que determina si el Departamento de Servicios para Niños y Familias de Illinois debe otorgarles servicios en español, como requiere una orden de una corte federal.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Hana Baba and Janelle Scott, Crosscurrents
After the big disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 17 months, parents and teachers are wondering- how much learning was lost by students being online only? Studies have suggested that the pandemic slowed student’s academic progress, but a new paper by UC Berkeley scholars is asking educators and parents not to obsess over catching up academically. They say there’s more to think about. One of those scholars is professor Janelle Scott. We’ll hear why she thinks educators should focus on the emotional wellbeing of students.
Katie Headrick Taylor, The Conversation
My son’s kindergarten teachers, holding class on Zoom last year, instructed: “Eyes watching, ears listening, voices quiet, bodies still.” However, I noticed my 6-year-old’s hands would stay busy with items found around our house, building with Legos, shaping clay or doodling with a crayon. While some might describe this child as being “off task,” research suggests his manipulation of materials actually aroused his mind, allowing it to focus on the required task.
As a parent of two school-aged children and a professor and researcher of learning with technology, I believe current models of remote education are inefficient for learning, teaching and productivity.
Joachim von Braun , Kaosar Afsana , Louise O. Fresco & Mohamed Hassan, Nature
The world’s food system is in disarray. One in ten people is undernourished. One in four is overweight. More than one-third of the world’s population cannot afford a healthy diet. Food supplies are disrupted by heatwaves, floods, droughts and wars. The number of people going hungry in 2020 was 15% higher than in 2019, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and armed conflicts. Our planetary habitat suffers, too. The food sector emits about 30% of the world’s greenhouse gases. Expanding cropland, pastures and tree plantations drive two-thirds of the loss in forests (5.5 million hectares per year), mostly in the tropics2. Poor farming practices degrade soils, pollute and deplete water supplies and lower biodiversity. As these interlinkages become clear, approaches to food are shifting — away from production, consumption and value chains towards safety, networks and complexity. Recent crises around global warming and COVID-19 have compounded concerns. Policymakers have taken note.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Karen D’Souza, Ed Source
Even as universal transitional kindergarten — which will offer an extra year of school to all 4-year-olds —inches closer to becoming a reality in California, parents like Katherine Fitzpatrick worry that their children will miss out. Since her son Owen turns 5 in September, he should qualify for the program, a stepping stone between preschool and kindergarten currently offered to children who just miss the kindergarten enrollment cutoff date. However, because they live in a “basic aid” district, transitional kindergarten, or TK, is not being offered at his district. Basic aid districts are funded primarily by property taxes, which generate more per-pupil dollars than what the Local Control Funding Formula —used to calculate education funding for most California districts — would provide.
It’s the latest effort to try and relieve pressure on parents and students in a highly competitive education system. Students used to be required to take exams from the first year of primary school, up until a university entrance exam at the age of 18. But the education ministry said the pressure is harming the “physical and mental health” of pupils. In a statement, the ministry said: “Exams are a necessary part of school education…. [but] some schools have problems like excessive exams, that cause excessive burden on students…this must be corrected.” The rules also limits the number of test and exams a school can set per term.
Sara Weissman, Inside HigherEd
Colleges and universities lost about 191,500 transfer students between July 2020 and June 2021, a drop almost three times larger than the prior year, according to a new report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The report also found racial inequities in upward transfer enrollment — students going from two-year institutions to four-year institutions — and major differences in upward transfer rates at highly selective and less selective institutions. “A lot of institutions are trying to focus on making it easier for students to transfer,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “And I hope that this report will help them to really target their efforts on the pathways and the students who are being most affected and look for ways to help those students in particular.”
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Thurston Domina, Deven Carlson, James Carter III, Matthew Lenard, Andrew McEachin, and Rachel Perera, Brookings Institute
School desegregation works. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that federal efforts to enforce Brown v. Board of Education and dismantle separate and unequal systems of public education improved Black children’s life trajectories—driving gains in educational achievement and attainment, increasing employment, and reducing arrests and crime victimization. This body of research finds little evidence of offsetting effects for white children. Nonetheless, school desegregation efforts have consistently faced intense political resistance. Images of this resistance are seared in the nation’s memory: crowds of angry white protestors spitting and jeering at the Little Rock Nine as they integrated Central High School; U.S. marshals escorting nine-year-old Ruby Bridges into her New Orleans elementary school; battles between desegregation advocates and their opponents in the streets of 1970s Boston.
Freyja Christian and Aimee Christian, In These Times
his year, school was bad. Really bad. I’m scared of going into fourth grade. I don’t think I’m ready, and I’m not sure if I care. I am 10. I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a neurological disorder called pontocerebellar hypoplasia (PCH). It’s really rare. My exact type is unknown, but it’s most likely type 2A. I can do a lot more things than most PCH kids can do, but I still need a lot of support. When Covid closed schools for the last three months of second grade, Mom was so worried. Before the pandemic, I used a walker most of the time with braces on my legs. But then school went remote and the rehab center closed, so I stopped getting physical therapy at both. My whole body got weaker. After six months of sitting at home and watching a lot of YouTube videos and not being able to leave the house, I needed my wheelchair all the time.
In further evidence of how lobbyists, dark money, and campaign contributions have given the corporate class outsize clout in the Nation’s Capital, a recent report by a non-profit think tank reveals 55 of the largest firms in the U.S. paid, combined, less than zero in federal income taxes in 2020. As a matter of fact, past tax breaks—including Trump expansion of one to carry forward losses, many of which are only on paper—let the firms collect a combined $3.5 billion in tax refunds that year. And 26 of the 55 were able to escape taxes every year since Congress passed the 2017 Trump-GOP tax cut for corporations and the rich, starting with their 2018 tax year. “This continues a decades-long trend of corporate tax avoidance by the biggest U.S. corporations, and it appears to be the product of long-standing tax breaks preserved or expanded by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) as well as the Cares Act tax breaks enacted in the spring of 2020,” Matthew Gardner and Steve Wamhoff wrote for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Democracy and the Public Interest
Ezra Klein and Eve Ewing, The Ezra Klein Show
I’m Ezra Klein, and this is “The Ezra Klein Show.” I’m always fascinated by people able to do great work across very different mediums. Eve Ewing is a signal example of this. She’s a sociologist at the University of Chicago, where her work focuses on the intersection of race, and education, and democracy. She wrote this great book a couple of years back, “Ghosts in the Schoolyard,” which is about the closing of some Chicago Public Schools. But it was also about the role that schools play in communities, and the way people do and don’t get listened to, and the disconnect between public officials and those they serve, and the translation problems in the language the two sides use.
Teresa Albano, The Progressive
Amidst a new era of widespread misinformation on elections, the COVID-19 pandemic, and vaccines, some states are pushing back: Illinois recently enacted a law requiring high schools to teach media literacy. While many schools in the state and throughout the country teach media literacy in some way or another, Illinois is the first state in the nation to make it compulsory. Starting in the 2022-2023 school year, high schools in Illinois will provide instruction for students to learn how to analyze and communicate information from a variety of mediums, including digital, interactive, audio, visual, and print. The law also asks students to consider how media affects information consumption as well as its impact on human emotions and behaviors. A civics and social responsibility section allows students to engage with each other in thoughtful, respectful, and inclusive dialogue.
Joseph Kahne, Alejandra Frausto and Eve Vankley, Teacher Stories
Three civic education experts — Joseph Kahne, Alejandra Frausto and Eve Vankley express their concerns about the current state of American democracy and explain how real-world civic engagement in schools prepares young people, regardless of their political orientation, to work together in finding the common good and to participate meaningfully in democratic life. They also address efforts by some public officials to limit civic engagement and recommend ways that educators and policy makers can strengthen and expand civics engagement in our schools.
Other News of Note
Arvind Dilawar and Justin Rose, Jacobin
On February 4, 2018, portions of Martin Luther King Jr’s sermon “The Drum Major Instinct” were broadcast to an estimated 103.4 million people. In the sermon, King urged his listeners to channel the desire for distinction in their personal lives into an unrelenting pursuit of justice in the world at large. “Recognize that he who is the greatest among you shall be your servant,” King said. “That’s a new definition of greatness.” Ironically, King’s audience in 2018 received these words over footage of the latest Dodge Ram pickup truck: the automaker had licensed the speech for use in a car commercial during the Super Bowl. The widely criticized commercial nevertheless captured how King, his life, and his work are frequently wielded today, as depoliticized symbols of goodwill. King himself was more exacting, both in his estimation of the United States and in what must be done to redeem it. Especially toward the end of his life, when the Civil Rights Movement was moving from attacking Southern segregation to striking at North exploitation and the war in Vietnam, King described the intertwined injustices of the United States as racism, materialism, and militarism. To remedy these injustices, he advocated collective action by both blacks and whites, aimed at transforming themselves, one another, and the structures of power.