Friday Reading List: Civil Discussion in Complicated Times

Yesterday this blog received more traffic than it has ever received in a single day. By a lot. I have been wading through the comments section for the last two days, which has me like: 

The good news is that there are a lot of new readers here, all of whom are wrestling with the very complicated questions of how to provide justice, safety, security, and opportunity for all folks in a country dealing with the indelible stain of racism. As a result, the comments section has become a lively, and mostly civil, debate about critical issues of race and police brutality. It is more or less my dream for folks to be having this conversation civilly, so thank you for that.

That said, I had PROMISED my readers that I would start a discussion of Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing today, the book we chose for our Summer Reading project. I am going to limit comments on this particular post to anyone who wants to discuss the first half of Part One of Homegoing. Check last Friday's Reading List if you'd like to join us.

For new readers in general, I curate a daily "Reading List" of articles pertaining to education, justice, and whatever else I think you might enjoy. You're reading Friday's version of that tradition!

First, Vann Newkirk is in the Atlantic wrestling with whether anything an be done to curb police brutality:

The right to kill in self-defense is in keeping with the generally expansive and bloody American doctrine of self-defense. But officers are not ordinary Americans. They likely carry with them the same sense of intimidation and mistrust of people of color that many people across the country carry, but are simultaneously trained to aggressively interact with them on a daily basis ...  At some point, a system constructed in such a way that killings are inevitable asymptotically approaches a system in which killings are deliberate so as to make the difference difficult to discern ... The expansive authority of police to kill forestalls accountability for all but the best-documented and most-egregious acts of violence by police officers and reduces the ability of the criminal-justice system to meet its burden of safeguarding citizens. 

Newkirk is a brilliant writer, and you should read his entire argument. I will just add that the events in Dallas last night were tragic. Killing police officers is wrong. Killing civilians outside of any judicial process is wrong. We should mourn the loss of officers who died in the line of work, and that mourning process should not stop folks from advocating an end to police violence. Carmita Vaughan, the founder of the Surge Institute, a nonprofit that supports leaders of color in education organizations, shares her visceral reaction to the continuation of this violence:

It’s a burden my people carry daily. Don’t walk through a store with your hands in your pockets. Smile to make people feel more comfortable around you. Wear nicer clothes when shopping so you don’t get followed. Keep your hands on the wheel and turn off your hip-hop when being pulled over. Highlight your pedigree as quickly as possible to establish respect among those who will still discount you anyway.

Chris Butler has some tough words too, but make sure you read past the headline, because it's deceiving. Ron Clark, a teacher in Atlanta, had some beautiful words targeted at white leaders, as did my friend, Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston.

Turning back to schools, Dana Goldstein looks at what the Clinton candidacy means for Democratic party's embrace of education reform:

The Obama era has been, often, a painful one for teachers-union activists. Obama launched his presidential campaign in 2007 as an ally of Democrats for Education Reform, a group of philanthropists (most with ties to the financial sector) who support weakening teachers’ tenure protections, evaluating teachers according to their students’ test scores, and increasing the number of public charter schools. Obama held many positions with which teachers’ unions agreed, like helping teachers improve through peer mentorship programs and pushing states to embrace the Common Core national curriculum standards. Still, he represented a wing of the Democratic Party that thought unions held too much sway over education policy, and in 2008, the NEA chose not to endorse in the Democratic primary, while the other national teachers' union, the American Federation of Teachers, endorsed Obama's primary challenger, Hillary Clinton.

As I mentioned last week, we tend to forget that Obama was an insurgent candidate, running against the establishment infrastructure, which made his embrace of the reform wing of the party not just ideologically coherent for him, but also politically useful. While there has been some hand wringing about whether or not Goldstein went overboard in this article, it's important to remember that candidates "campaign in poetry and govern in prose." After a decade of reforms that the unions loathed, Clinton is regressing to the mean; if she gets to the White House, her policy agenda is bound to be more balanced. I'm sure that pleasing all of the factions will be a blast.

In light of the events of this week, I wanted to share some tips for educators for helping children deal with trauma, including these signs to watch for:

Finally, a reminder that the comments section for this post will be exclusively dedicated to discussing the first chunk of the Summer Reading. I'll kick it off with some thoughts, and then we'll spend the weekend in discussion. Have a safe and reflective weekend.