Weekend To-Do List
1. Republican Takeover of the American Classroom?
READ: Jonathan Chait wrote a lengthy article for New York Magazine about what he dubs a Republican takeover of the American classroom. He argues that conservatives today are less interested in academic results than ideology:
What sets the current movement apart from these previous efforts is not merely its greater intensity but its focus. Academic-achievement levels are incidental to Republicans’ concern. Their main preoccupation is not the ways in which Chinese and Swedish kids may be outpacing their American counterparts. They are instead accusing schools of carrying out an insidious indoctrination campaign that, they believe, poses an existential threat to their party’s future and their way of life.
Dubya once said, famously, "Rarely is the question asked, Is our children learning?" The complaint of Republicans today is not that the schools aren’t working but that they are working all too well at the objective of brainwashing children in left-wing thought.
Chait acknowledges that the far left wing has gone too far in pushing its ideology within schools in certain instances but believes the Republican paranoia has exaggerated the problem:
A broader problem with the wave of conservative legislation is that it is responding to a wildly hyperbolic version of reality. In a very large country with a fragmented education system, there are going to be plenty of examples of outrageous or radical teaching in the schools on a daily basis without necessarily indicating anything about the system’s overall character. As conservatives grew alarmed about left-wing teachers, their favorite media sources started curating examples of it to stoke their outrage.
I could go on, but you should read the piece for yourself. I highly recommend it. Check it out here.
2. Randi Weingarten: Friend or Foe?
LISTEN: I had a spirited debate with Chris Stewart on this question during this week’s episode of the Citizen Stewart Show. Listen here.
3. Pay High School Students?
READ: Patrick O’Donnell over at The 74 wrote about a New Orleans and Indianapolis charter school network that’s been giving students $50 weekly payments to teach them financial literacy. It’s part of a study done in collaboration with university researchers:
Each Wednesday since January, the foundation has deposited $50 in debit card accounts for Lee and about 40 classmates at his school and another 40 at the New Orleans Rooted school. The study will again give those weekly payments for 40 weeks to a second group of students at each school in the fall.
Researchers will then track students’ spending and study their attitudes about money and financial security using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Financial Well-Being Scale as a standardized measure.
Read more here.
4. Child Care Crisis Is a Jobs Crisis
READ: Te-Ping Chen at the Wall Street Journal wrote a depressing article about the dearth of childcare options for blue-collar workers:
Working against these companies is a lack of care, especially in rural areas where many manufacturers and other blue-collar employers operate, some companies say. Affordability, even with employer subsidies, is often a hurdle. So is providing care for parents who work nights or frequently changing shifts.
A February report by ReadyNation, a coalition of business leaders, estimates that insufficient child care in the U.S. costs $122 billion a year in lost earnings, productivity and revenue. . .. Such workers typically have fewer child care options than white-collar employees, many of whom can work from home and earn more than hourly employees, child-care industry executives and researchers say.
Read more here.
5. Banned Mother’s Day Celebration
READ: Greg Sargent at the Washington Post wrote about a Tennessee librarian who came under fire for trying to create what she believed was a more inclusive Mother’s Day celebration:
The saga started when Mickey sent out a notice to parents of a planned lesson in advance of Mother’s Day. She wrote that the lesson would be "sensitive to the fact that not all students live with a mother," by celebrating those who aren’t mothers but "fill the motherly roles in our lives."
Mickey notified parents that two books would be read aloud to kids from kindergarten through second grade. One was "Stella Brings the Family," about a girl who is unsure how to approach a Mother’s Day celebration at school because she has two dads. The other was "Mother Bruce," about a bear who adopts a brood of goslings who believe he’s their mother.
She offered parents the option of opting out of this lesson for their kids. In keeping with school district policy, she offered them an alternate lesson.
Then Moms for Liberty — which is restricting classroom discussion and getting books purged from school libraries across the country — wheeled into action. Members of its chapter in the red-leaning area around the school in Hamilton County attacked the idea on social media and in local newspapers as Leninist indoctrination, anti-Christian and a threat to Western civilization. One woman called on locals to pray for children to guard them against the demonic threat posed by those children’s books.
After this pressure, Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Justin Robertson canceled the lesson. According to an email from Robertson posted by the Tennessee Holler, a progressive local news site, he agreed that the lesson and the books were unacceptable material.
Read more here.
6. Oakland Teacher’s Strike
TWEET: Lakisha Young of Oakland REACH tweeted about the Oakland Teacher’s strike:
7. More on Khanmigo
LISTEN: On yesterday’s episode of Lost Debate, Rikki and I broke down Sal Khan’s recent announcement of of Khanmigo, the powerful new Khan Academy AI tools. Listen here.
8. Texas ESA Expansion?
READ: The Texas Tribune reported on the latest developments relating to the state’s proposed education savings accounts bill. The House and Senate are currently split over the scope of the program:
Senate Bill 8 passed the Senate last month. Its centerpiece is an education savings account program that would work like voucher programs and direct state funds to help Texas families pay for private schooling. The version of the bill approved by the Senate would be open to most K-12 students in Texas and would give parents who opt out of the public school system up to $8,000 in taxpayer money per student each year. These funds could be used to pay for a child’s private schooling and other educational expenses, such as textbooks or tutoring.
The House version of SB 8, the details of which were first reported by The Texas Tribune, adds specific criteria to which students would be eligible to enter the program. The bill says the program would be limited to certain students like those with a disability, those who are "educationally disadvantaged" — meaning they qualify for free or reduced lunch — or those who attend a campus that received a grade of D or lower in its accountability rating in the last two school years. A child would also be eligible if they have a sibling in the program.
Under the proposal, a large portion of Texas students would be eligible. About 60% of Texas’s 5.5 million students qualify for free or reduced lunch and kids in special education programs account for 12% of the total student population. Last year, about 7% of all school campuses graded received a D or lower, but were labeled "not rated" because of coronavirus interruptions.
Read more here.