Tuesday Reading List: When Ideologues and Pragmatists Collide

Vesia Wilson-Hawkins is a blogger in Nashville. Yesterday she discussed the interplay between her local schools leadership and national education politics, when Diane Ravitch called for the firing of the new, popular superintendent:

By the hem of her entitlement, Ravitch calls for OUR school board to amend or terminate the good doctor’s contract. I’m sorry, what? First, I recall there being a unanimous vote on the Dr. Joseph’s contract (watch the celebratory announcement)—even after his request to amend to reflect his expectations of school board behavior. Interestingly, eight of those nine contract-voting board members are still serving. What has changed since May?

It seems that Ravitch is unhappy with the new superintendent's hiring decisions, so she weighed in on her blog with some aggressive thoughts, as she has a habit of opining on local issues without having a lot of information. The broader issue here is the nationalization of what traditionally have been localized education issues. I'm not sure that's a bad thing, but it will be hard for people like Ravitch - who have strictly ideological views - to sound informed, as the local nuances of issues are much more complicated than the broad strokes with which the ideologues paint.

Speaking of outsiders, and their tendency to misunderstand communities from which they do not come, Sharif El-Mekki wants White people to stop telling Black communities and leaders how MLK would react to current politics:

White folks, stop trying to define our heroes for us. Your attempts to lecture Black people about where Dr. King would have stood on charter schools, integration, etc. is ridiculous and disrespectful. If you want to learn lessons from Dr. King, know that many of us identify with his radicalism. While his speech about dreaming about joyful integration resonates with you, his realization that he may be trying to “integrate in a burning house” resonates with some of us. We are not a monolithic group of people. Our belief in what is best for our youth’s education is as varied as our other tastes. What most of us agree on is the systems “constructed” to educate our community’s youth are failing.

As a White dude, I try my best to avoid telling people of color what their beliefs should be, and I know my friends and readers will call me out when I falter ...

Folks are buzzing about 13th, Ava DuVernay's new documentary about the 13th amendment. Felice León at The Root talked to the director:

DuVernay is a prolific director, and her latest project is 13th. The sobering documentary focuses on the 13th Amendment—which abolished slavery—and its loophole, making slavery and involuntary servitude unconstitutional, except for punishment of a crime. This structure has made the prison-industrial complex the oppressive beast that corporations have profited from and that has been affecting black and brown people disproportionately. The facts speak for themselves: One out of every 4 prisoners in the world is incarcerated in America, and 1 in 3 black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetimes. This exploitation is historic.

The United States incarcerates more people per capita than any other country in the world. More than Russia. More than China. Just as segregation and racism have compromised our moral standing in the past, so does mass incarceration threaten the global influence of the United States.

In other news, Emanuel Felton looks at whether students can snag high paying jobs without a college education:

[The Rooted School in New Orleans] is part of a larger national effort to get young people of color into tech. Another program, The Hidden Genius Project, based in Oakland, California, runs a free 15-month computer science boot camp for black boys still in high school. Together these initiatives look to diversify an industry dominated by white and Asian men. In a 2015 Fortune Magazine survey of nine tech giants – titans like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google – six of those companies reported that black and Hispanic employees made up less than 10 percent of their representative workforces. That’s in keeping with national statistics. In 2013, the Census Bureau reported that African Americans and Latino have consistently been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The goal of getting more students of color into STEM fields is admirable, and I don't think it has to be mutually exclusive to those students also receiving a college education. It's the "walking and chewing gum" of public education policy.