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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
“Reinventing Ourselves” and Reimagining Education: Everyday Learning and Life Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic
Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, Lu Liu, and Sophia Ángeles, Harvard Educational Review
In this “ethnographically-oriented” study, authors Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, Lu Liu, and Sophia L. Ángeles examine the learning experiences expressed in the diaries of thirty-five families from diverse ethnicities/races, cultures, national origins, and social classes living in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Exploring participants’ reflections on the learning they engaged in during this time and attending to what families prioritized as they reorganized their daily lives, the authors identify several common themes that emerged as participants figured out new ways of “reinventing themselves” during this unprecedented time by centering their cultural heritage, creativity, health, well-being, and connections to nature and to others and by using technology in creative and innovative ways. In offering the life lessons and richness of learning the families experienced as a counter to the current focus on pandemic learning loss, this study has implications for reimagining education in culturally sustaining ways.
Lydia Moran, Minnesota Women’s Press
School isn’t working. Teachers are experiencing burnout and leaving districts at unprecedented rates. The pandemic has exacerbated mental health crises for staff and students alike, and Minnesota students are still experiencing some of the worst racial opportunity gaps in the nation. Aniya Bailey, a recent high school graduate, says that throughout her education, school has felt like an oppressive environment. “It has proved to be a system that is corrupted, unjust, and not serving students well,” she says. “I have questioned, ‘Why is this system acting the way that it is? Why isn’t it helping me? Why don’t I like it here?’”
John Fensterwald, EdSource
A large-scale survey this past summer of California teachers confirms what has emerged as a byproduct of two-plus years of a pandemic: Large numbers of teachers characterize their work as “stressful” and “exhausting.” And nearly twice as many teachers than in the past say that job conditions have changed for the worse. The results of the survey of 4,632 teachers, commissioned by the California Teachers Association and UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools, was released on Tuesday. Hart Research Associates administered the survey; all the teachers are CTA members. The survey points to multiple reasons for unhappiness, and those teachers who are considering leaving the profession cited burnout from stress (57%) and political attacks on teachers (40%), followed by a heavy workload compounded by staff shortages. A low salary, a lack of respect from parents and a lack of a work-life balance also were high on the list.
Language, Culture, and Power
Olivia Waxman, Time
At a time when there’s a national debate over critical race theory and how much of America’s worst moments should be taught in American schools, a new book seeks to provide some context for how history textbooks traditionally came to focus on the experiences of white Americans and downplay the experiences of Black Americans. In Teaching White Supremacy: America’s Democratic Ordeal and the Forging of Our National Identity, out Sept. 27, Harvard University researcher Donald Yacovone analyzed 220 history textbooks from 1832 to the present day. Among his biggest takeaways, he found that textbooks mostly focused on national politics. Because African Americans were underrepresented in that arena, their stories were often left out. “There’s a very limited understanding of what history is,” Yacovone tells TIME.
Yarden Katz, The Monthly Review
In 1914, Howard Knox, an assistant surgeon with the U.S. Public Health Service, explained how intelligence testing was helping to prevent the “contamination of our racial stock by turning back feeble-minded immigrants.” At Ellis Island, Knox classified migrants according to a scale that included terms like idiot, imbecile, feeble-minded, and moron, based on the examined person’s “mental age” and calculated using tests made by the French psychologist Alfred Binet (precursors to IQ testing). Those who scored too low were deported. Knox reported that a seventeen-year-old girl was expelled for failing to say the date and recite the days of the week backwards. According to Knox, such cruel gatekeeping was necessary: the United States “is as it is simply because it has been improved by men from prosperous northern European countries, which countries were prosperous simply because of the type of men who inhabited them.”
Trisha Tucker, The Conversation
Banned Books Week, an annual event that teachers and librarians across the U.S. mark with a combination of distress and defiance, is here again. The theme of this year’s event, which takes place Sept. 18-24, is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” It comes amid regular high-profile efforts to remove allegedly controversial or inappropriate reading material from libraries and schools. Nowadays, the small groups of parents who traditionally spearhead such efforts are joined by politicians authoring legislation that would outlaw or criminalize making controversial books available to children.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
As the Educational Response to the Pandemic Continues, Community Schools May Be Part of the Solution
Colleen Connolly, School Library Journal
More than 100 years ago, education reformer John Dewey made a speech to the National Education Association advocating for schools as “social centers.” He argued that schools should provide social services and “operate as a center of life for all ages and classes.” The idea was popular at the time, says John Rogers, a UCLA professor of education and author of the report “Community Schools: Lessons from the Past and Present,” as the United States was grappling with economic and industrial changes. Schools today, with their auditoriums and playgrounds, still reflect Dewey’s vision as the center of the community. “These wouldn’t just be facilities used during the school day, but they would be used after school and during summer,” Rogers says. “This was a radical departure from what had happened only a few decades before.”
Meg Anderson, NPR
It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly the questions started coming in. Angelyn Nichols, an administrator for Virginia Beach City Public Schools, thinks it was sometime in early 2021. What she does know is that no one really expected them in the first place, and no one expected them to keep coming – week after week, and now, year after year. That’s because the questions involved a decades-old teaching concept many educators thought was settled, uncontroversial territory: the idea that, in order to learn, students need to know how to manage themselves and get along with others.
City News Service
The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education approved a resolution Tuesday calling for all of its campuses to have a minimum of 30% green space by 2035. “For decades our school district has built playgrounds almost entirely of asphalt with no shade cover, which only exacerbates extreme heat,” board President Kelly Gonez said in a statement after the vote. “Today, we are committing to transforming our campuses by bringing tree canopies, plants and outdoor learning spaces for all our students to learn and play.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Zaidee Stavely, Ed Source
California won’t be making kindergarten mandatory or extending the kindergarten school day, at least not any time soon. Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed two bills that would have made it mandatory for parents to enroll their 5-year-olds in kindergarten, and for school districts to make kindergarten more than four hours long. In both veto messages, Newsom said the bills would cost hundreds of millions of dollars in ongoing costs that are not accounted for in the state budget. “With our state facing lower-than-expected revenues over the first few months of this fiscal year, it is important to remain disciplined when it comes to spending, particularly spending that is ongoing,” Newsom wrote. “We must prioritize existing obligations and priorities, including education, health care, public safety and safety-net programs.”
Kalyn Belsha, Chalkbeat
Kelly King was able to do something this summer she’d never been able to before: pay students to help others. King, who works for the school district on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, used federal COVID aid to hire three rising high school seniors to staff a booth at a riverside park. There, as crowds flocked to a farmers market and free concerts, the students told residents how local schools could help families experiencing homelessness and offer other kinds of support.
Elvia LImón, Los Angeles Times
As most of the nine University of California undergraduate campuses start the fall quarter, the state’s college housing shortage has thrown thousands of students into crisis. About 9,400 students systemwide were denied university housing this fall because of shortages — and some campuses are back to squeezing three students into a dorm room as a stopgap measure. Some are living in vehicles.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Journey for Justice Alliance tells Congress it’s ‘Equity or Else’ when it comes to quality of life for all
Darcel Rockett, Chicago Tribune
On Thursday, Jitu Brown, national director for Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J), queried people at the nation’s capital with questions like: “Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced a slumlord. Raise your hand if you live in a neighborhood where you don’t have a decent hospital. Raise your hand if you’ve ever witnessed or experienced police brutality. Raise your hand if you live in a neighborhood where the grocery store functions as the liquor store.” Voices raised in affirmation with each question Brown posed. The national network of dozens of intergenerational, grassroots community organizations traveled to Washington from Chicago last week on behalf of the campaign Equity or Else Quality of Life agenda, a platform centered on addressing basic needs for those in poverty and/or marginalized communities through policy initiatives.
Anna Merod, K-12 Dive
The White House’s Tuesday announcement seeking to work with Congress on expanding access to free school meals for 9 million more children by 2032 marks the first time President Joe Biden’s administration has broadly supported universal school meals, child nutrition advocates say. And while the move is met with widespread support from advocates, they caution that hungry children can’t wait that long.
Julien Lafortune and Joseph Herrera, PPIC
Federal pandemic aid and increased state funding have contributed to record K–12 funding levels. In 2021–22, state, local, and federal funding for California K–12 public schools was roughly $136 billion, compared to roughly $135 billion in 2020–21 (estimates as of July 2022).
The federal government allocated $23.2 billion in one-time aid in 2020–21 and another $9.2 billion in 2021–22. Federal funds accounted for 23% of K–12 funding in 2020–21 and 12% in 2021–22. In most non-recession years, the federal share is only 6% to 9%. State K–12 funding increased nearly 50% between 2017–18 and 2021–22.
Democracy and the Public Interest
Solyani Mesfin, PBS Newshour
As students are getting into the swing of things this fall, high-schooler Solyana Mesfin has a very unusual role. She’s sitting on Kentucky’s board of education and works to bridge conversations between the state’s 600,000 public school students and policymakers. She shares her Brief But Spectacular take on the importance of student representation.
Darcel Rockett, Chicago Tribune
Northbrook resident Irene Sooah Park remembers educators and other adults treating sex education as something that should never be talked about outside the classroom. It was during middle school that she recalled a teacher standing in the back of the classroom when discussing the vagina and penis to avoid eye contact with students. And recently, during COVID, she said sex education was left out of her sophomore health class in favor of lessons about bones and muscles. “I think sex ed can seem daunting at first, but it includes a lot more than just talking about the body, talking about the act of sex itself,” Park, an Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy senior, said. “It can include things like healthy relationships, personal hygiene, just knowing how to keep yourself safe. And I don’t think a lot of people really have knowledge about sex education in that perspective. You can tell there’s a lot of ignorance regarding topics as well. When I first came to the Illinois Math and Science Academy, I overheard this one guy asking: What’s menstruation? I was shocked.”
Alicia Garza, In These Times
For the Left, joining electoral organizing to power-building has long been like trying to fuse oil with water. Reform work has often been cast aside for the sake of more revolutionary work, as if the two are not intricately connected. As a result, we have failed to build the power necessary to engage in the revolutionary work that commands so much of our attention. This has come at great peril, because, to be honest, we’ve not been great at revolutionary work either. Still, too many are searching the past for examples of left transformation, rather than making history ourselves. We should understand how we got here, but it is just as important to study who we are right now, culturally as well as materially. We have to design — and test — new strategies to help us win hearts and minds and contend for many forms of power, including state power.
Other News of Note
Nicole Asbury, Washington Post
When Natasha Sanghvi walked out of Oakton High School in Vienna, Va., she was surprised to see that more than 200 students from the school had also walked out to protest new guidelines from the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) that would sharply curtail the rights of transgender students in schools. Sanghvi, 17, said past walkouts at Oakton hadn’t had as much participation. Many of her peers are afraid of what the proposed guidelines could mean, especially because schools have acted as safe spaces for LGBTQ students when their homes have not been, she said. “A lot of students [are] scared at the prospect of losing that — the space where they can be themselves and express themselves freely,” said Sanghvi, a senior.