Friday Reading List: "I Don't Understand Certain Things" Edition

Happy Friday, folks! The theme of the Reading List today is stuff that's hard to understand. For example, yesterday I took an impromptu trip to NuVu, and Innovation School right around the corner from my house in Cambridge. It's sort of a cross between a 6-12 microschool and a maker space. Here are some pictures:

Bonus points if you can find the prototype of the mobile falafel cart among the items on the shelf! What I don't understand is how rigidly traditional schools can possibly survive the proliferation of more innovative learning environments like this one. I wrote a long-form piece about a homeschooling collective last year, but the real trend is the blurring of the boundaries between schooling, home, and quasi-schooling environments. I visited NuVu with my friends from The Karam Foundation, because we're trying to figure out some creative ways to ensure that Syrian refugee children don't miss out on education and opportunity during the conflict.

Another thing I don't understand is punishing politicians who have legitimate values. I alluded to this last night on twitter, when, for once, education seemed to be factor the politics of the presidential race. That's a good thing, right? Vox covers the "veepstakes" on the left by looking at the relative strengths and weaknesses of various candidates to be Clinton's running mate. Here's how they describe New Jersey Senator Cory Booker:

The case for picking him: Booker is one of the best-known Democratic senators ... He’s incredibly media-savvy (it doesn't hurt that Newark is in the New York City media market), with a documentary and a documentary TV series, both quite positive, under his belt. He’s famously adept at social media (see: the time he shoveled a Twitter follower’s driveway). That kind of national profile and ability to garner earned media is no small asset in a running mate. And he’d make history as the first black vice president. Like Warren, Castro, Perez, and Becerra, he’d represent an effort by Clinton to say that the era of white male domination of politics is over, and he’d help prevent any drop-off in black turnout due to President Obama no longer being on the ballot. What’s more, Booker is also by most accounts an effective senator. 
The case against picking him: Clinton has attempted to make nice with teachers unions alienated by the Obama administration’s support of accountability measures and charter schools, and you know who teachers unions hate more than just about anyone? Cory Booker.
He's an enthusiastic supporter of charters ... and his collaboration with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on attempting to improve Newark’s schools has gotten rafts of bad press coverage. That's not totally fair — Dale Russakoff, who wrote a critical book on the Zuckerberg donation, nonetheless concedes that the effort led to a doubling of enrollment in charter schools that "dramatically outperform the district schools." But it’s a cause of resentment among the Democratic base.

Sigh. Those last two sentences are the pithiest summary I have seen of my own political party's incoherence on education policy. Leadership means working through issues that matter to vulnerable communities, despite the anti-progressive perspective of one's political base. That kind of leadership is exactly what Booker has done. In the meantime, my fellow Democrats lambaste the Republican party leadership for letting its own base's worst instincts takeover. Erika Sanzi looks at what those instincts look like on a local level:

The Newton Teachers Association recently posed for photos, proudly holding “save our public schools” signs as part of a union driven initiative against [public charter schools]. But Newton teachers don’t just want to prevent students who reside in Newton from attending charter schools; they are actively working to ensure that even the Baystate’s poorest children are stripped of any access to public school choice ... A quick look at median home prices tells the story of a zip code where most Massachusetts residents could only dream to educate their children.

The median home price in Newton is almost a million dollars, and the local union is leveraging its political might to prevent the expansion of a small number of schools in Boston that successfully serve low-income children.

To end on a happy note, here's an interview with one of my favorite people in the world, Carmita Vaughan, who founded the Surge Institute. Vaughan discusses how she unapologetically shows up as herself in her role:

I have grown tired of the monitoring. My work demands that I show up as authentic as possible at all times. We don’t have time to be fake. I had a conversation with a young Black man who’s just starting out in the work. He asked, “Do you talk about Black and Latino leaders? Do you say it that plainly?”
I said, “Yes, every time! Full stop!”