Wednesday Reading List: Examining Whiteness, How Middle Schoolers Experience Trump, and USED Parlor Intrigue

Steven W. Thrasher interviewed Claudia Rankine for The Guardian. Rankine has won both the MacArthur "genius" grant and the National Book Award, and she is dedicating the next phase of her creative life to examining race, particularly whiteness:

Rankine is part of a group of thinkers who are dreaming up a “presenting space and a think tank all at once” where artists and writers can really wrestle with race. She wants it to be a “space which allows us to show art, to curate dialogues, have readings, and talk about the ways in which the structure of white supremacy in American society influences our culture.” These, it’s safe to say, are not the organizing questions of most of the art spaces in New York City ... Rankine is extremely interested in whiteness, believing that “it’s important that people begin to understand that whiteness is not inevitable, and that white dominance is not inevitable.” One reason Rankine wants such a center to exist is because she recently went into a bookstore at the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art “and I asked them for books on whiteness. The man was like, ‘What?’

Examining whiteness has been one of the central endeavors of this blog, and there are far more capable artists and visionaries tackling that problem through different vehicles. Keep an eye on what comes out of Rankine's new project.

While discussing race can be difficult, it looks like the most vexing conversation in middle schools right now if the one that teachers are having with students about Donald Trump. Julie Bosman reports in The New York Times:

[Brent] Wathke is one of countless teachers across the country who have anguished over the dark and sometimes shocking tone of the presidential campaign. Like many, he has searched for ways to talk about it in class. Some teachers are planning mock debates before the election; others, like Mr. Wathke, fear that the format could invite students to spout insulting rhetoric ... His students said they have also wondered what they were allowed to say about the campaign in class. “We self-censor a lot,” said Connor Felton, 12. “I think if you repeat some stuff that Trump says, you could get sent down to the principal’s office. Maybe even expelled.”

A lovely sentiment. I wrote a little tweet storm about this topic, which starts here. Trump can say whatever he wants, as his inalienable right to free speech dictates, but everyone else has an equal right to repudiate the sexism, racism, anti-semitism, and hate that he spews. Doing so does not constitute the suppressing of free speech, but rather rhetorical opposition to hate. Oddly, I know a lot of "free speech defenders" whose feelings are so fragile that they cry "foul" whenever someone points out their wrongheadedness.

In other news, Alyson Klein at Education Week speculates that the next United State Secretary of Education is likely to come from higher education:

... there are a lot more names of college presidents or university system leaders in the rumor mill on the Democratic side than there have been in past years ... That's partly because Clinton has spent way more of her time on the campaign trail talking about higher education access and affordability, which was a signature issue for her rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Clinton even revamped her college-cost proposal to better match Sanders' pitch. Her plan would offer free tuition at public universities for students from families that make less than $125,000 a year ... Clinton's proposal would amount to a "very expensive operation," said Marshall "Mike" Smith, who has served in the department under three different presidents, including as acting deputy secretary under President Bill Clinton. "It might be easier for a well-known college president to carry the load on that in Congress."

You'll have to click through to read the names, but this sounds like a smart analysis to me. The political window seems open to higher education reform, while the various sides of the K-12 battles of the last decade are alternately licking their wounds and regrouping.

Speaking of which, Adrienne Dixon and Andre Perry provide another entry in the ongoing saga of the NAACP and charter schools at The Hechinger Report:

Education reformers have built their platform and careers on the value of accountability. The NAACP resolution calls for school districts and the federal government to create structures that hold charter schools to the same standards to which they hold traditional public schools. Are charter supporters suggesting that they are beyond accountability? Should taxpayers not welcome redress? The deplorable conditions of the charter system in Michigan and Ohio answers that question. Out of our clear differences, we are creating a dual system of public schools in black districts. If we’ve learned anything from the history of black education, it is that dual systems don’t work. What happens to public funds when they are privately managed should be a concern of all of us. We should be more vigilant of and demand more from the systems that educate our children.

Dixon and Perry point out that a moratorium is not abolition, and it's worth reading their take to get a sense for the accountability angle of the NAACP's argument.