Tuesday Reading List: Self-Sacrifice Edition

After Nikole Hannah-Jones's piece about integrated schools in the New York Times Magazine made waves this weekend, Alexander Russo went looking for famous educators who put their own kids in struggling schools:

Map of residential segregation in New York City, by Dustin Cable at the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service

Map of residential segregation in New York City, by Dustin Cable at the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service

Some folks criticized education leaders who sent their children to private schools, or moved to exclusive areas, or found magnet or gifted programs ... Indeed, the conventional explanation has been that parents — be they political figures, education leaders, or everyday citizens — were justified to make a choice that’s best for their kids, separate from what might be best for the community ... There are a few folks who’ve made choices similar to Hannah-Jones’, however — which either shows that this is a possible area of growth for more parents to choice, or illustrates how rare and unpopular a decision it is.

I wrote about the one-way nature of schools integration last year. There is an element of hypocrisy here. Folks with resources and power have social capital that, while not easily measured, brings benefits both tangible and intangible to the institutions they elect to attend. That social capital shows up as small donations, volunteerism, or even an impassioned speech at a community meeting. There is not enough concrete research here, but my hypothesis would be that kids with privilege will have a greater positive effect on the struggling schools they attend, and not the other way around.

Sharif El-Mekki looks at equity through another lens in Philadelphia:

When your city funds schools mainly through property taxes (the school district gets 55% of Philly’s tax revenues), it doesn’t bode well for you if many huge non-profits and for-profits don’t pay property taxes, and those who do pay taxes may not have homes that garner a lot of tax revenue. In 2015, funding from the state dropped to 53% of total district funds-a 30 year low. While Philly, one of the poorest big cities in the country, has steadily increased its share of funding of our schools ... The backlash to provide funding equity is coming from all corners. Lamar Alexander, Republican chairman of the Senate education committee, and Randi Weingarten, AFT president, both derided the notion that there should be equal footing for all students. Their alliance by itself may not be unholy, but their stance on the issue of equity for children most surely is. Although fairness is claimed to be the American way, equal funding for schools isn’t looked at through a fairness lens. Perhaps because Black and Brown kids are usually the ones asking for fairness.  On average, districts with high levels of poverty receive $1,200 less per student than districts with low levels of poverty-in Pennsylvania, poor districts receive 33% less than affluent ones.

Not everything is a zero-sum game, but if states want to level education funding, or even decrease it, that - by definition - is a zero-sum game. There have to be winners and losers in that equation, districts and schools that receive more education funding, while others receive less. This would be less of a problem is fewer families, like the ones ins Russo's piece above, escaped from city schools, taking their tax dollars and property taxes with them. 

 Resources aren't the only thing that gets spread around, as LaVita Tuff takes a look at the distribution of teachers nationally:

Federal data tells us that 83 percent of teachers in this country are white  and 75 percent of teachers are female. So where does that leave the young men who are in need of a male version of my experience? Well, according to that same data, Black male educators are approximately less than 2 percent of the teaching population in public schools. Minority students are the majority inside of classrooms, but they have a hard time finding a teacher that looks like them and can identify with their personal issues. This could be the reason why black students are four times more likely to be suspended and are shortchanged across the board ... Simply put, black teachers are black excellence personified, and when our kids see them in a classroom, they see that anything is possible.

If you are used to seeing people who look like you in positions of power, this might not seem terribly important to you. For children of color who are the unwitting recipients of constant negative stereotyping, having more black teachers is a huge psychological benefit.

Finally, One college has decided that laughter will always be the best medicine, but the jury's out on whether or not it's the best ticket to employment:

Starting next academic year, [Performing Improv Comedy] will be a required course for anyone looking to graduate with Emerson’s new B.F.A. in comedic arts, the first such program in the nation. Formalizing the study of comedy into an academic degree may seem like, well, a joke. But Emerson has made strides to pre-empt criticism. The curriculum is heavy on theory and craft, with practical classes like Comedy Writing for Television, Great Screenwriters: Wilder, Allen, Kaufman and Comedy Writing for Late Night, balanced out by headier electives like Why Did the Chicken? — Fundamentals of Comedic Storytelling.

First of all, anyone who knows Emerson should not be surprised by this turn of events. An extraordinary number of comedians went to Emerson, including my childhood comedy idol:

On the other hand, I have no idea whether this is a good idea for, you know, practical reasons.