Thursday Reading List: I Hate to Break It to Larry, but Bias and Racism Are Still at Play

I'm having a hard time writing the Reading List this morning for two reasons. First, I stayed up late watching C-SPAN last night:

Here are some reactions, including my own:

The other reason I'm struggling to write is that all of the articles I have this morning are so rich, that each seems to require a more thoughtful response than two sentences and a half-clever gif.

For example, Chalkbeat has the story of a group of elite New York City public school parents who want to block a school from moving locations:

A resident of the Schwab House, a co-op apartment building a few blocks from 452 where units have sold for more than $3 million, posted a notice about the move on the building’s online message board. “There is a consideration to move the school to a neighborhood (61st and Amsterdam) that has a very different demographic makeup,” read the message, which urged residents to call their elected officials. “THIS CAN GREATLY IMPACT THE VALUE OF OUR HOMES. The great schools are part of what makes this area very desirable.”

Chalkbeat tracked down Larry Shapiro, a resident of the building, who renounced the posting:

“I’m old enough to remember when people meant some pretty ugly things when they discussed how a demographic makeup of a school or neighborhood might affect property values,” said Shapiro, 61, in written remarks he shared with Chalkbeat.

I hate to break it to Larry, but I think the same "pretty ugly things," like implicit bias and racism, are in play right now. I'll write more about this later today. In the meantime, Jack Schnieder has a piece in the Atlantic making the case that the "brokenness" narrative isn't working for America's schools. He makes some decent points, but his thesis is flawed:

American education has some obvious shortcomings. Even defenders of the schools can make long lists of things they’d like to change. But the root of the problem is not incompetent design, as is so frequently alleged. Nor is it stasis. Rather, it is the twofold challenge of complexity and scale. American schools are charged with the task of creating better human beings. And they are expected to do so in a relatively consistent way for all of young people. It is perhaps the nation’s most ambitious collective project; as such, it advances slowly.

I have argued, here and elsewhere, that the problem with American schools is not incompetent design, but rather obsolete design. The system was designed for an America that was whiter, more industrial, and less intertwined with the rest of the globe. Brokenness and obsolescence are difference, and while Schneider makes some good points about the faddishness of too many reforms, we're not doing ourselves any favors by downplaying the problems in schools. Vann Newkirk made a similar point pithily this AM:

Kimberly Quick of The Century Foundation wants us to unabashedly embrace the idea that Black lives matter in education:

One cannot ignore structural racism, anti-blackness, and institutionalized violence in schools and call themselves an education reformer. To assert that the vast disparities in educational and social outcomes between minority children and their white counterparts are not rooted in past and present racist policies and pervasive biases is to intentionally misdiagnose the problem. In fact, let’s take it a step further and ask: Should we be comfortable with people teaching and creating policy for black children if they are uncomfortable proclaiming that Black Lives Matter?

She also pushes back on the idea that an embrace of Black lives threatens the education reform coalition:

Black Lives Matter is simply the notion that the humanity of black people deserves to be respected and regarded with the same vigor and consistency as that of white people in all policy and processes. It’s curious, then, that some conservatives have identified this basic notion—the still unfulfilled promise of “all men are created equal”—as a force that alienates them from the education reform conversation.

This point gets at the heart of the matter. If your commitment to improving the lives of children is so tenuous that talking about the movement for Black lives will scare you out of the room, I'm not sure what you're doing in that room in the first place. 😳