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Tag: "education"

What Will We Do to Actually Desegregate Our Schools?

[ 78 ] April 20, 2016 |


I know the answer to the above question will be “nothing.” People who can, largely white people, will continue to move to the suburbs or send their kids to private schools while people of color will attend tax-starved public schools, continuing the long cycle of racial discrimination in this country. Every white person benefits from this today and many of us contribute to it, even unintentionally. But the problem is real and more people are articulating responses to it. Matt Delmont has a new book out on the busing controversies in the North and notes how much of the busing controversy was created by the media, who reported on southern civil rights problems as a moral issue but sided with whites on northern civil rights issues. Jake Blumgart interviewed Delmont.

Q: Do you think part of the reason Northern racism was harder to expose was that it was subtler and less dramatic? There’s this whole edifice of tightly drawn school district lines where residents are able to pull down the portcullis behind them with zoning regulations. Segregation in the North relies on incredibly complex policies that were just harder to make interesting and accessible.

A: The way racism functioned in the North was much subtler. In the South it’s easy to picture how racism operated—colored drinking fountains and white drinking fountains. The system of Jim Crow segregation was so visible. It was still incredibly difficult to overturn that system, but it was easier to visualize. For Northern white citizens and white politicians, the way their schools and neighborhoods were structured was just normal, they didn’t know or chose not to understand that it wasn’t just a matter of white families choosing to live in white neighborhoods and black families in black neighborhoods. There was a whole history of mortgage redlining, zoning decisions, public housing discrimination, and real estate discrimination that created those separate neighborhoods. But the subtlety of that allowed white people to just see it as common sense, just how our neighborhood and schools should be.

It’s easier for them to say, and mean, well, these are our neighborhood schools, this is our property, and we want to protect those things and lobby for zoning restrictions that reflect that. It made it easier because it they believed it to be an innocent thing that just happened and it gave them a language to be able to argue against school desegregation that resonated powerfully and didn’t seem racist.

Delmont concludes:

One of the goals in my book is to get people to think about the fact that schools are still segregated many decades after Brown v. Board because of intentional choices that politicians and parents and school officials made. In regards to school zoning, school financing, and student assignment, those were intentional things that happened. If we want to have a different set of outcomes in the future and have meaningful school integration in terms of race and socioeconomic status we have to make different choices. It wasn’t inevitable that Brown was going fail as it did and it wasn’t inevitable that schools were going to be segregated the way they are now. Those were choices that people made and continue to make. To have different outcomes, we need to have different choices.

We do have to make different choices. One of those choices may well mean committing to contributing to the solution of de facto segregation and then acting on it. Another solution may be a return to busing. That’s what Sean Riley, who was a bused student as a child and now teaches in the Seattle public schools calls for in response to the growing segregation of the city’s schools. He notes that busing worked in many ways, even though white people of course took advantage of it to dominate it for their own purposes. It led to better test scores for minority students, created a more inclusive city, and spawned a greater desire for integration throughout other facets of urban life. But that era ended, Seattle got rich, and the age of testing took over. That’s helped destroy what was good about diversified education in Seattle.

We must prioritize getting different kinds of young people working and learning together again. Therefore, we must prioritize reintegration.

First off, the Seattle Public School District—a district that currently disciplines black kids four times more often than whites—must immediately increase professional development around culturally responsive and socially just instruction. When schools resegregate, staff stagnate. We must ensure that classrooms use all students’ identities and knowledge as entry points. It takes incredible skill and openness to develop these abilities, and Seattle needs to commit serious resources to the work.

Seattle teachers should also blaze the trail on creating cross-district and inter-district collaborations. There is evidence, from groups such as Narrative 4 in New York City, that writing projects between disparate groups of students generate radical empathy, develop cultural flexibility, and nurture authentic writing skills. Writers in the Schools (WITS) and I are currently developing a collaborative writing project between Blaine and South End middle schools. As Seattle continues to segregate, these projects should extend beyond our district’s borders. Seattle Public Schools should look into applying for federal grant money to facilitate this work.

In the long-term, I propose something called the Seattle Civics Academy. Pulling students from all over the district, this would be a semester-long program that all Seattle high-school students would participate in at some point in their school careers. They would get to choose when, but no student could opt out—the overwhelming flaw in Seattle’s integration plan. Five days a week, all day long, students from across the city would attend completely inclusive classes that examine race, class, and gender through the lenses of math, language arts, and other disciplines. Teachers highly trained in socially just and culturally responsive teaching would emphasize and promote communicating across differences and fighting for a more just city and society. Each semester’s cohort would create an activism project to improve the city and its citizens’ lives. Such work would break down isolation, facilitate access to power, and promote harmony and empathy. Frankly, I also believe it would be fucking awesome.

Of course, Riley also understands the class dimensions of this–that Seattle can talk all it wants to about racial inclusiveness and support bringing in Syrian refugees but they will all end up in south King County because they can’t afford to live in Seattle. But we have to move forward to creating more integrated schools in very real ways. When wealthy people move to the suburbs or stay in the cities and find ways to put their kids in all (or almost) white private schools or push black students out of their schools because their parents can’t afford to live in a gentrified city any longer, they contribute to racial discrimination. This may not be intentional, but that’s how white privilege works. White privilege must be fought, including and especially by ensuring that all students have equality of opportunity at school. Separate but “equal” is a terrible thing, whether that is the de jure schools of 1954 the de facto schools of 2016.


The Testing Scam

[ 80 ] April 4, 2016 |


Diane Ravitch absolutely eviscerates the bipartisan education reforms of the last 15 years under Bush and Obama in a review of two new books for The New York Review of Books. The first shows the disaster that was Cory Booker and Mark Zuckerberg’s attempt to remake the Newark schools by chartering them all, destroying teachers unions, and using students as subjects to experiment on through constant testing. The other is on a school in San Francisco that does a great job training students to be successful people and with a high college acceptance rate, but which is considered a “failing school” because most of the students don’t speak English as a first language and thus don’t fare well on standardized tests. The whole thing is very much worth your time. An excerpt:

Newark had one major attraction for the reformers. Its schools have been under state control since 1995. The governor had total control of the district, its budget, and its leadership. The district had been taken over by the state because of poor academic performance and pervasive corruption. But in the next fifteen years, the state had not gotten better results than the regime it displaced. Newark’s mayor since 2006, Cory Booker, wanted to uproot the school system and start over.

Booker had been raised in the nearly all-white suburb of Harrington Park, New Jersey, and had graduated from Stanford, Oxford, and Yale. He was a frequent guest on national television shows, and he moved easily among the rich, the powerful, and the famous. Russakoff describes a ride that Booker took with Governor-Elect Christie through Newark one night in December 2009, when they agreed to create a plan for a radical transformation of the Newark public schools. The confidential draft of the plan that Booker sent to Christie proposed turning Newark into “the charter school capital of the nation,” weakening seniority and tenure, recruiting new teachers and principals from outside Newark, and building “sophisticated data and accountability systems.”

In July 2010, Booker attended an invitation-only meeting in Sun Valley, where he mingled with fabulously wealthy hedge fund managers and high-tech entrepreneurs. There he met Mark Zuckerberg. Booker knew that venture philanthropists were looking for a “proof point,” a city where they could demonstrate the success of their business-style school reforms. He persuaded Zuckerberg that Newark was that city. Booker believed that a great education would set every child on the road out of poverty, and he also believed that it would be impossible to do this in the Newark public schools because of their bureaucracy and systems of tenure and seniority. That’s why he wanted to spend money turning the city into an all-charter district, without unions, where like-minded reformers could impose the correct reforms, like judging teachers by test scores, firing teachers at will, and hiring whomever they wanted.

That September, Zuckerberg, Booker, and Christie announced the gift of $100 million on The Oprah Winfrey Show, to tumultuous applause. When Winfrey asked Zuckerberg why Newark, he responded, “I believe in these guys…. We’re setting up a $100 million challenge grant so that Mayor Booker and Governor Christie can have the flexibility they need to…turn Newark into a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation.”

As Russakoff points out, “What Booker, Christie, and Zuckerberg set out to achieve in Newark had not been accomplished in modern times—turning a failing urban school district into one of universally high achievement.” Like other reformers, Booker earnestly believed: “We know what works.” Zuckerberg’s money would give him the chance to prove it. But while the media saw Booker as the “rock star mayor,” he faced a growing budget deficit and soaring violent crime when he returned from his frequent fund-raising travels.

Meanwhile, even in much wealthier places than Newark, real education, not to mention recess, gets sacrificed to the cult of standardized testing.

Today in the Republican War on Women

[ 218 ] April 3, 2016 |


Louie Gohmert, saying the quiet parts loud again.

Texas Representative Louie Gohmert has just established himself as public enemy number one for women by publicly opposing H.R.4742, a new bill that would increase federal support for entrepreneurial programs for women in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math.

A satirical site creates an explanation for Gohmert, which unfortunately was picked up in the original link as being real, as was pointed out in comments. But really, given current Republican rhetoric, it would hardly be surprising that Gohmert actually believes this.

Gohmert’s explanation for opposing this bill is that it discriminates against boys. In his own words, “this program is designed to discriminate against that young, poverty-stricken boy and to encourage the girl. Forget the boy. Encourage the girl.” In addition to this backwards argument, he continued on, launching into a ridiculous tirade about how this is also the wrong way to treat women. Naturally, he also had to bring in God and God’s intentions for women.

‘And, you know, that’s just not the way God intended us to be treating women. I know that everybody is today talking about equality and we’ve got groups that are trying to make us believe that women are equal to men. However, that’s just not the case. God didn’t make us equal. It is ourselves, we have created this illusion of equality. And you want to know what the most powerful evidence of that there is? Simple biology. We have parts they don’t and vice versa. So right then and there you’ve got proof of God’s master plan.’

‘Women were created for one thing and one thing alone. We are insulting the Lord by allowing women to act like men. Women are beautiful creatures, no doubt about that. We marry them, we look after them, we provide for them and we love them, but that does not mean they are the same as us. It is the job of a woman to stay at home, to maintain the household, to bear children and look after them after they’re born. Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that women should be chasing after fancy titles and knowledge. The only knowledge they need is the one we men allow them to have.’

Louie Gohmert may be an idiot. But this is really pretty close to the belief system of many Republicans. I guess affirmative action is for women after all too and that has to stop just like it does for people of color stealing the white man’s jobs! We all know that God intended for all good jobs to be held by white men. Why is the gov’ment getting in the way of Jesus?

On a more serious note, I will say that I strongly oppose special STEM-promoting bills or lower tuition for STEM students or the like because a) they largely are nothing more than job training programs for the jobs available in 2016 as opposed to providing larger skills that will allow students to be able to transition through jobs in life, b) they are short-sighted in terms of thinking about the relationship between students and jobs, and c) they are part of the open war on the humanities going on across the country.

Today in Rheeism

[ 140 ] April 1, 2016 |


Sean Combs or whatever name he is going by today sees a chance to make money by starting a charter school. Nothing like privatizing our public goods. Of course, he has to hire someone to run it. He made a great choice, someone who is open that he’s in it because he hates teacher unions and who has called teachers’ unions “roaches.”

Earlier this week, Sean Combs, a.k.a. hip-hop and vodka mogul Diddy, or Puff Daddy, announced that he had become the co-founder of a new charter school, due to open in Harlem this summer. The school will be overseen by Steve Perry, a union-buster accused of juicing graduation stats at his schools in Connecticut.

Capital Prep Harlem will open at 1 East 104th Street, with 160 sixth and seventh graders, in August, the Wall Street Journal reported. It will phase up into a 700-seat high school as the students age. “Creating this school is a dream come true for me,” Combs said in a statement. “I want to impact the lives of young people in my community and build future leaders. The first step is offering access to a quality education.”

He’s also a known ally of Michelle Rhee, the charter activist married to Kevin Johnson, and echoes her union busting sentiments. At a 2013 forum in Minneapolis, Perry proclaimed, “I know in polite company, you’re not supposed to talk about the unions…But I will. I know you’re here. I hope you hear me, because I’m tired of you. Every time you fight to keep a failed teacher in a school, you’re killing children, and that’s not cool.”

“It’s high time we call the roaches out and call them for what they are. I’ve been to too many cities where the excuses pile up, one on top of the other. You know what happens with those excuses? They kill our kids.”

Of course, he’s already had to leave his old job in controversy because the scam caught up to him. What’s a grifter to do but start the same con in a different state.

CTU Strike

[ 126 ] April 1, 2016 |


The Chicago Teachers Union, which in 2012 had one of the biggest and most important strikes of the last decade, is back on the picket line today for a 1-day strike. Like the 2012 strike, this is about more than just a contract. This is a political strike with broad if somewhat vague demands about the treatment of teachers and students, the racial injustice of Chicago, and of course the CTU’s archenemies, Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Rauner. The legality of this strike is questionable, although I’d be surprised to see Emanuel do too much with that. However, the CTU has deep roots in the Chicago community and is receiving a lot of community and labor support. Micah Uetricht explains what is going on.

The union is walking a fine line between the narrow issues they are legally permitted to strike over and those “bigger issues.”

“This [strike] is a call for revenue for funding the schools and social services in this state appropriately,” CTU President Karen Lewis recently told Chicago Tonight, shortly after explaining they were striking over the “steps and lanes.”

The union says that school closings and round after round of budget cuts and teacher layoffs have meant that many schools aren’t able to accomplish their most basic tasks.

“We’re not able to function with this low level of funding,” says Sarah Chambers, a special education teacher at Saucedo Academy. “And the board says they’re going to make more cuts.”

The strike comes amid a longstanding budget battle between Illinois’s Democratic-controlled State House and Senate, and Gov. Rauner. A former private equity mogul and near-billionaire, Rauner has refused to pass a budget for the state without new rules restricting public sector workers’ union rights and has enacted deep budget cuts that have caused numerous social service agencies in the state to close down or drastically reduce services. Illinois is currently the only state in America without a budget.

The union’s demands for increased revenue — a tax on millionaires, a tax on financial transactions like futures and options trades, and a progressive state income tax (Illinois is one of the few states that has a flat income tax) — can’t be won in contract negotiations. Some would require state constitutional changes. That makes a union victory hard to define.

“Victory will be showing a united force — not just teachers and parents and students, but actually creating a movement with other workers from around the city and the state,” Chambers says.

Still, the fact that an American union is going on strike alongside other unions and community groups with broad political demands is almost unheard of.

“[Such strikes] happen pretty much everywhere but the US,” says Professor Bruno. “They’re very common in France, they’re common in Germany and Central and South America. It’s only in the US, because of the historical evolution of labor law, that you can only strike legally under the narrowest of conditions. And a political strike over larger policy issues is clearly prohibited.”

That makes today’s strike “extraordinary.”

The action “hearkens back to the ’30s and ’40s, when organized labor was using the strike to make larger economic and political points and trying to pursue broader economic and social goals,” Bruno says. “We don’t have much precedent for it.”

See also Uetricht’s interview with CTU activist Sarah Chambers.

One of the biggest tragedies of modern politics is Karen Lewis coming down with cancer before taking on Rahm Emanuel. She would have crushed him.

Today in the Charter School Scam

[ 45 ] March 17, 2016 |


You may not be surprised that privatizing education is not actually a solution to the problems of racism and poverty that are the root causes of poor public education. Instead, those charter schools face the same issues and resort to the same “solutions” as public goods, with the added benefit of undermining public education and moving money into the pockets of the wealthy!

Black students are four times as likely to be suspended from charter schools as white students, according to a new analysis of federal education data. And students with disabilities, the study found, are suspended two to three times the rate of nondisabled students in charter schools.

These inequities are similar to those in traditional public schools, where black and disabled students are disproportionately disciplined for even minor infractions, and as early as preschool — although on average, charter schools suspend pupils at slightly higher rates than traditional public schools.

The analysis of charter school data from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights of close to 5,000 charters was done by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, a nonprofit civil rights research and policy organization.

Still, the report is likely to fuel an often fierce debate about disciplinary practices in charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. Some charter networks have come under fire for “no excuses” behavioral codes, under which students can be suspended for offenses like clothing violations.

Based on data from the 2011-12 school year, the report found that charter schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels suspended 7.8 percent of students, compared with 6.7 percent of students in noncharter schools. Among students with disabilities, charter schools suspended 15.5 percent of students, compared with 13.7 percent at noncharters. At the extreme end, there were 235 charter schools that suspended more than half of their students with disabilities.

If you like your educational system showing prejudice against people of color and people with disabilities, charter schools are for you!

Clearly, Paying Teachers Peanuts is the Way to Produce Good Teaching

[ 110 ] February 15, 2016 |


I can think of no better way to provide quality education for our students than paying teachers so poorly that they are forced to get 2nd and 3rd jobs to make ends meet, thus giving them no time to prep for class or rest.

Second and even third jobs are the norm for many school teachers in South Dakota, where teacher pay ranks lowest in the nation, according to a state education task force. Gov. Dennis Daugaard has proposed a half-cent sales tax increase to help raise teacher pay, but his plan needs two-thirds approval in both the House and the Senate — a tough proposition in a legislature with an anti-tax lean.

Mary McCorkle, president of the South Dakota Education Association, said teachers often give up their evenings by grading papers and preparing lessons, and second jobs lead to burnout.

“Something has to give, whether it’s your health, your sanity,” McCorkle said. “You just can’t do everything, and you want to be there for your students.”

The SDEA, which represents more than 5,000 teachers in the state, said Daugaard’s proposal is an acknowledgement that South Dakota schools are having trouble hiring and keeping teachers.

The Brookings School District used to get dozens of applications for each open teaching position but now receives resumes from just a handful of qualified candidates, said school board President Steve Bayer. The pool depth is likely dwindling as applicants look across South Dakota’s eastern border to better-paying jobs.

“When you can make another thousand dollars a month as an experienced teacher, it’s probably worth looking at a place in Minnesota,” he said.

South Dakota’s average teacher salary of $40,023 in 2013-14 lagged an average of six states that border it by $11,888 a year and was $8,643 behind the next lowest neighbor, North Dakota, the group found. In some of South Dakota’s more remote areas, that average salary drops quickly.

Looks like Kansas and Louisiana might learn some tips from South Dakota on how the next step of their wars to destroy their own middle classes.

The Roots of the Chicago School Funding Crisis

[ 20 ] February 13, 2016 |


It seems that sketchy bond trading from Rahm Emanuel is at the roots of the Chicago school funding problems:

Over a billion dollars of taxpayer money will be diverted from Chicago’s school children to high interest loan payments to bankers over the next three decades as the result of an under-the-radar visit by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to Wall street where he quietly negotiated a bond deal.

Emanuel’s administration has focused on wage and pension cuts as a solution to the half billion dollar budget shortfall, while Rauner, after denying aid to the school children with whose wellbeing he is entrusted, shocked Chicagoans by calling for a state take over of the school system.

This didn’t sit too well with Chicago parents, contemplating the poisoning of Flint’s children by a similar Republican governor’s takeover. “Will Rauner connect the schools’ water fountains to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to save a buck?” asked an anxious dad at the LaSalle Street protest.

“State takeovers planned by Rauner are not in the interest of the children,” said Bea Johnson, another teacher who had taken to the streets after she got off work that day. “I’ve been teaching 22 years and this is about the worse I’ve seen. I love the kids, that’s why I’m doing this. The Chicago public schools are the reason I was able to start out on a fabulous career as a teacher. I want the kids to have the same opportunity.”

Rauner’s plan for a state takeover actually made Mayor Emanuel’s deal with the banks worse than it originally was.

The rate for the $750 million in bonds the school district had to sell to meet its obligations ballooned to 8.5 per cent as the district’s credit rating dropped when the governor’s threat hit the headlines. The bonds, which have a 28-year life, will assign $43 million every year from the district’s budget to interest payments to the financiers, enough to buy a laptop every year for every one of Chicago’s school kids, or to put 1,000 laid off teachers back in the classroom.

Admittedly, this article does not explore the entire story of precisely what Emanuel did, but it’s pretty clear that what is happening in Chicago schools is part and parcel of the larger pro-corporate, anti-public service, anti-union agenda of both Emanuel and Bruce Rauner.

Are Charter Schools the New Separate But Equal?

[ 105 ] February 4, 2016 |


A lawsuit in Minnesota claims they are, effectively arguing that their existence is discriminatory to children of color, even when the charters specifically target those students.

Alex Cruz-Guzman, who came to the United States from Mexico as a teenager, lives in a poor, minority neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota. Determined to provide his five children with a quality education, he and his wife were able to send their two oldest daughters—who are now in college—to desegregated St. Paul schools. But it’s become more difficult to find such schools in St. Paul today, and the Cruz-Guzmans were told they would likely be unable to send their three younger children to integrated institutions, even when they offered to transport their kids themselves.

So Cruz-Guzman became a plaintiff in a lawsuit—one that may shape the future of American education. Filed against the state of Minnesota by two veteran civil-rights attorneys, Daniel Shulman and his son John Shulman, the suit accuses the state of allowing schools with high concentrations of poor and minority students to proliferate. A 2015 Minneapolis Star Tribune analysis found that elementary school students in the Twin Cities attend more racially segregated schools than they have in a generation. Children who attend such schools, the lawyers argue, achieve far less than their peers in integrated institutions. The lawyers also say that the growth of charter schools, which are even more racially segregated than traditional public schools, have exacerbated these trends.

The Shulmans are seeking a metro-wide integration plan to satisfy what they argue is the state’s constitutional obligation to prevent segregated schooling. They cite the state constitution’s education clause, equal protection clause, due process clause, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act to make their case.

Not everyone agrees that this kind of integration is legally necessary or the best way to meet children’s needs. Some see the suit as a threat to parents’ right to choose the schools that would best serve their children. This is particularly true for parents of color, who sometimes send their children to charters in the hopes of avoiding what they see as hostile traditional schools.

John Cairns, one of the most experienced charter school attorneys in the nation, is working against the lawsuit. “If the state is going to do anything, then they’d have to attack parental choice,” says Cairns. “While the plaintiffs are inexplicit about what their remedy would be, in our view, they’re explicit that their remedy would address charter school enrollments. The only way they could do that is to have some conclusion that parental choice is unconstitutional.”

Daniel Shulman sees in this argument an echo of Plessy v. Ferguson. He thinks charter school advocates are arguing, in effect, that separate schools can be equal. “We don’t think that’s true or the law. If they follow the law, they’ll say separate is not equal, and not equal is inadequate,” he says. “All the data will support that … test scores, graduation rates. School segregation is a national tragedy and disgrace.”

This is an extremely controversial issue because by saying that charter schools should be included under school integration laws, it would undermine ethnically or religious-based charters. That would upset a lot of parents of color, especially in an area with very high Hmong and Somali populations. The evidence that students in integrated schools perform better than students in schools where poverty is concentrated, including charter schools, is pretty high. The NAACP is mixed on this, welcoming the lawsuit but unsure where to stand. And of course this has led to the rise of all-white charter schools as well.

In other words, is it the state’s duty to ensure diversity with mixed-race and mixed-income classrooms? Or should people be able to opt out in self-segregation through private and charter schools? I rather strongly favor the former as a personal choice but I’m not sure entirely how to legislate it, especially given the favorability of the charter option among some parents of color desperate to avoid public schools. Certainly this is a tougher and more complex issue than the usual union-busting and privatization issues around charters.

Among the Many Failures of Education Reform Is Not Understanding Students’ Challenges

[ 71 ] January 4, 2016 |


It’s hardly surprising that a leading factor in how well students do in the classroom is their home life. Are they homeless? Are they a victim of abuse? Are their parents working three jobs in order to keep a roof over their heads? Of course these questions (or at least the first and third) reflect divisions within class and race. But education reform advocates paper all this over. They focus on attacking teacher unions for getting in ways of their scams to profit off of education by blaming them for these underperforming students. But of course the education reform people have absolutely no solutions to these problems. And by talking about students’ “grit” to get an education as a factor and noting that poor students and students of color lack this “grit,” they are just naturalizing racial and class inequality to serve their own agenda.

So, what are those challenges? If a hypothetical classroom of 30 children were based on current demographics in the United States, this is how the students in that classroom would live: Seven would live in poverty, 11 would be non-white, six wouldn’t speak English as a first language, six wouldn’t be reared by their biological parents, one would be homeless, and six would be victims of abuse.

Howard said that exposure to trauma has a profound impact on cognitive development and academic outcomes, and schools and teachers are woefully unprepared to contend with these realities. Children dealing with traumatic situations should not been seen as pathological, he argued. Instead, educators need to recognize the resilience they are showing already. The instruments and surveys that have been used to measure social-emotional skills such as persistence and grit have not taken into account these factors, Howard said.

He questioned the tools used to collect data that suggest poor students and students of color do not have as high a degree of grit as middle-class and white peers.

The transformative potential in growth mindsets and social-emotional skills such as grit may be more applicable to students whose basic needs are already met. When asking the question of why some children succeed in school and others don’t, he said the educators and administrators tend to overestimate the power of the person and underestimate the power of the situation.

Underestimating what is inconvenient for the Rheeist agenda is something these people do all the time. It’s also why education reform is no solution at all to any of these problems. If you want to fix education, fix poverty. That’s the number one thing we can do. Programs like Head Start have done far more than anything Michelle Rhee or Campbell Brown or Scott Cowen will ever do. That’s what we need more of–direct interventions to alleviate poverty. But since there’s no profit to be made off of it, it doesn’t happen.

Dilapidated Schools and Race

[ 148 ] December 11, 2015 |


Kids in Dallas are staging walkouts over the terrible conditions of their schools.

About 250 students at South Oak Cliff High School walked out Monday to protest leaky roofs, unbearably hot or cold classrooms and other problems they say make learning difficult.

“We have been through so much and today we got fed up,” said David Johnson, a 17-year-old senior who helped organize the walkout.

For instance, he said, the heating and cooling systems don’t work properly, and some rooms get so hot and stuffy that teachers and students must hold class in the hallways.

Shortly after 3 p.m., Johnson and other students left the building and gathered on the front lawn as classes continued inside. They marched down one side of Marsalis Avenue and back up the other. They held signs that read “Fix leaks now,” “We need a new school,” and “Help!!! Call code compliance!!!”

Of course, nearly all the students in this school are African-American, another sign of the racism that plagues our education system that never integrated after Brown in the face of whites resisting actually sending their special snowflakes to school with large number of black kids. They justified it and continue to justify it in all sorts of ways. Some are actually racist. Some just benefit from structural racism and have the ability to get their kids out. Some are even parents of color who see no choice but to go along with the system of racism that forces their public schools into these situations and do what they can to get their kids out too.

And as for the many comments in my recent posts on structural racism and education, I am pretty disappointed in how many commenters were unwilling to reckon with or perhaps even understand the realities of structural racism. Just because you choose to send you child to a better and of course whiter school does not mean you are doing the wrong thing. It also means that you are contributing directly to inequality. The two are by no means mutually exclusive. We so often have this vision of racists being the worst people in the world, but that actually causes more problems than it solves because it allows us to point and say “It’s Those People!” because they are waving a Confederate flag. And that’s one part of a racist nation, no question. But as white people, you benefit from white supremacy every day, especially if you are middle or upper class, including in your ability to live where you want and send your children to better schools. And even if you say, I have black neighbors or whatnot today, remember that you as white children also benefited from this racism when you were children and federal housing policy ensured lily-white suburbs with good schools and tax-starved urban districts with all-black schools. Residential segregation and educational segregation are tied together and those inequalities last for generations and are repeated in the present. Admitting this doesn’t make you a bad person per se, even if it means that you are personally playing a tiny role in increasing inequality. It’s complicated, like most everything. I figured this was self-evident and not particularly controversial, but then I forgot about the special snowflake syndrome.

Was the Southern Strategy Effective?

[ 298 ] December 7, 2015 |
Richard M. Nixon, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is seen arriving at the airport in Atlanta, Ga. with his wife, Patricia, on May 31, 1968. A crowd of about 350 people greeted them as Nixon visits the South to meet with delegates from various states. (AP Photo)

Richard M. Nixon, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is seen arriving at the airport in Atlanta, Ga. with his wife, Patricia, on May 31, 1968. A crowd of about 350 people greeted them as Nixon visits the South to meet with delegates from various states. (AP Photo)

I am not in the habit of reviewing older books I read. But I recently read Matthew Lassiter’s 2006 book, The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South. Lassiter strongly questions the effectiveness of Nixon’s Southern Strategy. I mentioned this on Twitter and Thus Blogged Anderson asked me to lay this argument out on the blog. OK.

Lassiter’s book explores the intricacies of suburban politics around public schools and integration in the South, comparing how Atlanta becomes a place that does not integrate and Charlotte does, with busing, urban expansion to take control over the suburbs, and the politics of “moderate” whites revolving around the Chamber of Commerce and business communities playing a huge role in shaping how this plays out. Central to his argument is the development of a suburban politics that keeps most schools functionally segregated through “a bipartisan political language of private property values, individual taxpayer rights, children’s educational privileges, family residential security, and white racial innocence.” (304)

In other words, while the image in our mind of resistance to integration is frothing rural whites killing civil rights workers, Lassiter convincingly shows that politically, the politics of the growing Sunbelt suburbs were far more important. Those suburban peoples may well have supported integration in theory and may well have been totally fine with a few black kids in their schools, but rejected residential integration and the busing that would have brought actual educational equality of opportunity to children, effectively reinforcing racism without having to say they were racist.

Now, we all know the basic story around the Southern Strategy, which is effectively that Lyndon Johnson said when he signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that he had handed the South to the Republicans, that Nixon built on Kevin Phillips’ The Emerging Republican Majority to do so and that through Nixon’s 1972 sweep of the South and then Reagan’s 1980 speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the South was on the road to becoming truly Republican. But Lassiter strongly pushes back against this story because it ignores electoral analysis. Nixon did try to follow Phillips’ strategy in 1970 and race bait his way to Republican victories. But it was a disaster throughout Southern states that had large suburban populations. In other words, George Wallace could race bait his way back into the Alabama governor’s office in 1970. Nixon tried to copy that. And it failed. Democrats moved toward the center in many states, arguing for following the law, moderation, and for general principles of public education. That didn’t mean an outright support of actual school integration. But it made the big suburban populations comfortable. Combined with African-American voters, this was often enough for victory, even in states like South Carolina where Nixon and Thurmond completely flopped in 1970. Dale Bumpers defeated Orval Faubus in the Democratic primary on a law and order platform. This was the election that saw the rise of Jimmy Carter, Lawton Chiles, Reubin Askew and other “new” Democrats that reinvigorated the Democratic Party in the South for a generation, paving the way for people like Bill Clinton. The Nixon/Phillips southern strategy was a completely failure.

By 1972, Nixon had learned this and embraced the more suburban values of law and order and de facto segregation in opposition to busing, turning his back on the politics of massive resistance personified by Wallace. This was not a southern strategy, it was a suburban strategy that played in Atlanta, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Of course, that’s not the only reason southern states did not vote for McGovern, but it showed that the new politics of the post-civil rights movement would promote suburban values of school choice, property values, and personal choices for your children that just so happened to ensure that schools and neighborhoods were nearly lily-white but without any vocal support of segregation. Lassiter goes on to argue that these politics became bipartisan by the late 20th century, especially in the Clinton presidency.

I will also remind readers that the arguments made in 2015 by liberals who choose to move to the suburbs to the schools reinforce this same racist scenario created in the 1960s and 1970s by other suburban whites who made the same arguments about their children. Choosing to move to the suburbs for schools or sending your kids to private schools because the schools are “bad” is a racist act that comes right out of the anti-busing movement. I don’t care if you are a liberal college professor, it’s still a racist act that shows hostility to the Brown decision even today.

One other thing. Since a lot of you are political junkies or you wouldn’t be reading this blog, let me point out that Lassiter’s book is in the outstanding Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America series at Princeton University Press and there are many books in this series well worth your time.

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