Monday Reading List: Censorship, Safe Spaces, and the Common Core

Fatima Shaik at The Root responds to a recent spat of book-banning:

Our kids need our protection, but also our honesty. So, books which describe a racist society as a racist society are not bad. They are necessary. If a character in a book uses the N-word, we can explain this to our child in the same way that we teach that God is invisible, death is inevitable, and it is folly to make idols out of celebrities. That’s the reality of parenting and is our duty ... it’s important to take a hard line about removing books from classrooms and shelves. Not only does that express our fear of ideas, the crazy thing about censorship is that everyone wants the other person to shut up. So, when we take books that we don’t like from the shelves, we can’t complain when others remove our views. What happens if books about Civil Rights, early freedom fighters, and slavery, for example, begin to disappear? You can bet that in this conservative era, threats to books like that will be forthcoming.

The polarization in our culture is bound to take a toll on our tolerance for uncomfortable, or even differing, ideas. Shaik is correct in encouraging us to reject that mentality. As Anemona Hartocollis writes in The New York Times, college campuses are ground-zero for ideological proxy wars:

Conservatives and liberals on campuses across the country have been clashing throughout the campaign — and throughout this year of protest. But the conflict has gained new intensity since the election, and students, faculty and administrators say they expect tension to get worse once the presidential baton is passed on Inauguration Day in January ... Conservative students who voted for Mr. Trump say that even though their candidate won, their views are not respected. Some are adopting the language of the left, saying they need a “safe space” to express their opinions — a twist resented by left-leaning protesters.

I'm looking forward to seeing a rapid, and thorough, critique from all of the moderates and conservatives who wrote sneering think pieces about "P.C. culture" and "safe spaces" in the last year. 

In other news, Education Secretary-elect Betsy DeVos wants to end the Common Core; Alyson Klein of Education Week has the news from a rally in Michigan:

"I'm so excited and humbled to be nominated as secretary of education. Just between us, let me share this, it's time to make education great again in this country. This means putting kids first every single day," DeVos told the crowd. "This means expanding choices and options to give every child the opportunity for a good education regardless of their ZIP code or their family circumstances. This means letting states set their own high standards and finally putting an end to the federalized common core. " Of course, anyone who has read the Every Student Succeeds Act, which prohibits the secretary of education from telling states which standards they can and can't use, knows DeVos can't legally stop states from using the common core if they want.

I know a handful of Democrats who still think it's worthwhile to try to work with DeVos to shape education policy, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why. First of all, you have to get past the over bigotry and sexism of the administration she is joining, which will translate directly into bad education policy. But even if you can overlook those things, which I don't think anyone should, you're still confronted with an education agenda that has none of the core features that drew centrist Democrats to the project of education reform in the first place. Accountability? Nope. Internationally-benchmarked high standards? Uh uh. Better options for vulnerable families? Not really. I'm still waiting for a better explanation of cooperation than, "We can shape bad policy to be somewhat better."

Finally, Jackie Mader and Sarah Butrymowicz at The Hechinger Report assembled an infographic about childcare in Mississippi. Here's one interesting tidbit to start your day. Have a great week!