Tuesday Reading List: Undocumented Educators, Freedom Fighters, and Watchlists

Melanie Asmar at Chalkbeat talked to three undocumented educators in Colorado, which complements stories about students with similar immigration challenges:

[Carlos] Ruiz, [Alejandro] Fuentes and [Marissa] Molina became teachers through Teach for America, a national organization that recruits college graduates to teach in low-income schools. Starting in December 2013, the organization began deliberately seeking out graduates granted work permits and exemption from deportation through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. Known as DACA, it was created by executive action in 2012 to give protections, but not citizenship, for two years at a time to undocumented immigrants who came here as children. Trump has said he plans to reverse Obama’s executive actions, including DACA. If that happens, the nearly 750,000 young immigrants shielded by DACA would be forced into the underground economy. Ruiz, Fuentes and Molina could no longer work in public schools.

Asmar's story helps dispel two different myths. First, many undocumented Americans came here with their families at a young age, and have no control over the decision to immigrate. In some cases, children do not discover their documentation status until much later in life. In addition, the three educators profiled in this story are contributing to the country in significant ways, through participation in a rigorous, competitive program. Why would we want them to leave?

Sharif El-Mekki wants to show appreciation for educators who work with our most vulnerable kids:

Thank you to those Freedom Fighters who teach and lead in our schools and classrooms. This country has never shown that the education of Black children is of the highest priority, but for you, it is. You stand against the negative narrative about Black and Latino children. You stand as allies like those abolitionists of yesteryear who placed single candles in their windowsills. You not only take a stand, but you take action. You put in massive amounts of hours, are underpaid for the level of importance of your work, and make connections, both academic and personal, with our students that will help them radically adjust the life trajectories they faced before your partnership. You show up. You don’t pontificate from afar about what Black kids need. You don’t tell them to hold on while you patiently wait for more resources. You are able to elevate various truths while you wage these battles: kids need far more resources and they need access to good instruction, safe schools. Now. 

The elevation of various truths is critical, as James E Ford, a former North Carolina Teacher of the Year, writes at Education Post. He wants to ensure that Betsy DeVos's appointment as Secretary of Education doesn't obscure an already fraught conversation:

DeVos has increasingly been in favor of expanding access to charter schools in her native Michigan, but she also lobbied against regulations to ensure oversight and protect families. If Detroit serves as an example, the charter sector hasn’t made good on offering a better alternative to Detroit Public Schools ... My greatest fear is that the squabble about school choice will be exploited and used as a trojan horse to increase vouchers and education saving accounts in the name of giving “poor and underserved communities” better school options—an appeal I find disingenuous ... I believe in the promise of public education. I just so happen to believe that includes traditional and charter schools. Parties on both sides need to work hard to find a compromise that serves the needs of families and offers a quality education for the most students. If a more nuanced understanding can’t be reached, it’s probable that we’ll be left with more failing traditional public schools and substandard charters serving primarily Black and Brown students. A losing situation for everyone. We cannot fall prey to the divide and conquer.

Ford summarizes my own position well, which I will expand upon later today in a longer article about the DeVos appointment. Her track record in Michigan is the clearest picture of how she will govern, and it's not a pretty story. Speaking of Michigan, Brad Plumer writing at Vox explains why it's sort of ridiculous for a presidential candidate to promise to restore an entire industry:

Last weekend, the CEO of Michigan’s largest electric utility reiterated that his company is still planning to retire eight of its nine remaining coal plants by 2030 — whether or not Trump tries to repeal President Obama’s climate policies. "All of those retirements are going to happen regardless of what Trump may or may not do with the Clean Power Plan," DTE Energy’s Gerry Anderson told MLive.com’s Emily Lawler. Anderson’s reasoning was simple. Coal is no longer the economic choice for generating electricity, due to relentless competition from cheaper (and cleaner) natural gas and wind power. In Michigan, a new coal plant costs $133 per megawatt hour. A natural gas plant costs half that. Even wind contracts now cost about $74.52 per megawatt hour, after federal tax credits. "I don't know anybody in the country who would build another coal plant," Anderson said.

It is important to hold multiple ideas simultaneously. On the one hand, the communities whose livelihoods depended on coal do in fact need answers to their economic woes. On the other hand, promising to restore an industry whose economic fundamentals no longer justify its existence is dishonest. The coal industry isn't like the auto industry in 2008, which was suffering from crippling cost structures even though there was increasing global demand for automobiles. Even the developing world has reduced its reliance on coal.

Also, at the risk of being snarky, it's amazing to me that some pundits, many of whom preach education-reform-alone-as-economic-stimulus for struggling urban communities of color, now want us to understand that it's "not that simple" when confronting similar issues in rural, Whiter areas.

Finally, Christopher Mele of The New York Times covers a new "Watchlist" that catalogues college professors who disseminate "leftist propaganda":

A new website that accuses nearly 200 college professors of advancing “leftist propaganda in the classroom” and discriminating against conservative students has been criticized as a threat to academic freedom. The site, Professor Watchlist, which first appeared Nov. 21, says it names those instructors who “advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.” ... “We aim to post professors who have records of targeting students for their viewpoints, forcing students to adopt a certain perspective, and/or abuse or harm students in any way for standing up for their beliefs,” wrote Matt Lamb, an organizer of the site. The Professor Watchlist is a project of Turning Point USA, a nonprofit organization that says its mission is to educate students about “true free market values.” Charlie Kirk, its founder and executive director, wrote in a blog post that “it’s no secret that some of America’s college professors are totally out of line” and that it was time to expose them.

But I thought censorship was a problem with the left-wing PC culture, right?