Friday Reading List: Democrats Shouldn't Work for Trump and Other Stuff

America, we did it! We made it through the week. Part of my coping strategy was spending a few days with the wonderful people at Education Pioneers:

That's me moderating a conversation with former District of Columbia schools chancellor Kaya Henderson, and New York City deputy mayor for education Richard Buery. One of the things we talked about was rethinking the politics of education policymaking. Philissa Cramer and Sarah Darville of Chalkbeat look at that question through the prism of serving in the Trump administration:

Trump met with New York City charter school mogul Eva Moskowitz this week before she took herself out of the running. His transition team also expressed interest in former Washington D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee. The overtures put backers of the reform movement in a bind. Should they support a move to put one of their own in a position of major influence, even if it means associating themselves with Trump’s often racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric? Or should they eschew an association with Trump — and lose an opportunity to move their agenda forward?

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) - whose Massachusetts affiliate I advise - issued a strong statement amidst the back-and-forth:

... in the case of President-elect Trump, DFER encourages no Democrat to accept an appointment to serve as Secretary of Education in this new administration. In so doing, that individual would become an agent for an agenda that both contradicts progressive values and threatens grave harm to our nation’s most vulnerable kids.

DFER's statement is correct, and Democrats have more important things to do than collaborate on the inside of a Trump administration. There's an urgency among some centrist Democrats, wherein they want to enter the administration to both curb Trump's worst inclinations and support the parts of his agenda that they like. Political appointees at the sub-cabinet level are kidding themselves if they think they will have enough authority to curb the most devastating-to-children parts of the Trump agenda, like deportations and impingements on religious freedom. Moreover, the education reform community has to work on its "outside game" right now, as Chris Stewart points out while making sense of the recent charter battle in Massachusetts. In short, if you're a Democrat thinking of going into this nascent regime:

Jamelle Bouie is in Slate describing why resistance is the more appropriate strategy right now, but instead of looking through the education lens, he chastises Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders for trying to find common ground on infrastructure:

The simple truth is that Trump’s use of explicit racism—his deliberate attempt to incite Americans against different groups of nonwhites—was integral to his campaign. It was part and parcel of his “populism” and told a larger story: that either at home or abroad, foreigners and their “globalist” allies were cheating the American worker, defined as a white working-class man with a factory job. To claw back the dominion he once enjoyed—to “make America great again”—Trump promised protectionism and “law and order.” He promised to deport immigrants, register Muslims, and build new infrastructure. This wasn’t “populism”; it was white populism ... It seems reasonable for Warren and Sanders to make a distinction between Trump as blue-collar populist and Trump as racist demagogue. But that distinction doesn’t exist. Supporting a Trump-branded infrastructure initiative as a discrete piece of policy where two sides can find common ground only bolsters a white-nationalist politics, even if you oppose the rest of Trump’s agenda.

You're going to get tired of me saying this, but the entire notion that there exists a "White working class" whose interests are separate from a multicultural, race-agnostic "working class" is part of the problem. Resistance is a reasonable strategy, if one is resisting unjust policies that drive further divisions in an already divided country.

Michael Tesler at The Washington Post looks at the election returns and determines that racial animus was a more valid predictor of Trump support than "level of education" among White voters:

Donald Trump made racial attitudes more important in the general election, too. I showed earlier that racial resentment, unfavorable opinions of African-Americans and ethnocentrism were significantly stronger predictors of whites’ preferences for Trump or Clinton than they were in hypothetical match-ups between Clinton and Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. Many of these same racial attitudes are also heavily influenced by education. College-educated whites and whites who live in highly educated areas of the country have long been much more racially tolerant than other white Americans. It turns out that this relationship between education and racial attitudes explains a very large portion of the education gap in white support for Trump. Indeed, the graphs below show that the negative effects of education on white support for Trump vanishes after accounting for attitudes about both African Americans and immigrants.
Graph by Michael Tesler. Numbers at the bottom represent the sample sizes for each education category.

Graph by Michael Tesler. Numbers at the bottom represent the sample sizes for each education category.

Finally, this week, Melinda D. Anderson, writing at The Atlantic, looks at how this sort of racial discrimination plays out in communications among educators and families:

When teachers were questioned about their parent communications in three key areas—homework completion, disruptive behavior in class, and student accomplishments—a youngster’s race, ethnicity, and immigrant status appeared to be the deciding factors. After controlling for students’ classroom conduct and academic work, perceptions of parents’ English proficiency, family socioeconomic status, and other variables, distinct racial and immigration patterns emerged. Among all students with reported behavioral problems, teachers were much more likely to reach out to black and Latino parents—even those who didn’t come from immigrant families—than they were white ones.

Studies like these remind me that "the work is the work." I've had a lot of educators ask me "what do I do?" in the last week, and my answer is almost always, "Keep working to improve the lives of kids." If the election gives you more urgency around that topic, that's terrific, but let's not pretend that the world changed dramatically last week; it just revealed itself more fully.