Friday Reading List: My Facebook Page is Screaming "Ryan Lochte," but I Resist the Siren Call

It's so tempting to preempt today's reading list and just steer everyone to the riveting discussion about privilege, White and otherwise, inspired by Ryan Lochte, happening on my facebook page right now. But I'll resist ... Maybe I'll summarize it later today with a post.

First, some good news! Evie Blad writing in Ed Week reports on the DC public schools' new international program:

Andrew was one of 400 8th and 11th grade students the school district sent on fully paid international trips to 12 countries this summer, including China, Costa Rica, France, Italy, and Nicaragua. The mission, spearheaded by soon-to-depart Chancellor Kaya Henderson, is to eventually send every District of Columbia public school student on two study-abroad trips before graduation, using private contributions to underwrite the effort. The scale of the undertaking is unusual; if the district reaches its goal, it will coordinate travel for about 5,000 students a year. And the pilot is already drawing the attention of other school systems. “I started talking about this a couple of years ago, and I think my team thought I was bananas,” Henderson said. “But if these things were possible and easy, then everyone would be doing them.”

I can't overstate how awesome this is. Very few students get to travel abroad as high school students, let alone those whose families have limited resources. Over 75% of DC students receive free and reduced lunch, which is public school proxy for poverty, so it's hard to see their families being able to afford international experiences without this program. We will not close opportunity gaps as long as we think of education as a series of classroom experiences alone. Decades of research demonstrate that exposure and experience provide grist for the content mill, allowing students to develop better comprehension and analytical skills. Plus, from the perspective of justice, we should be exposing all kids to the world in the way that privileged kids enjoy. Still, as Jon Marcus points out in the Hechinger Report, too many students arrive at college unprepared:

Half a million, or about one in four, show up on campuses each fall not ready to take college courses in math or English, according to the advocacy organization Education Reform Now. In Tennessee, only 17 percent of public high school students score at college-ready levels in English, math, reading, and science on standardized tests. It’s a little-noticed problem that forces these students to relearn material they should have already known, discouraging huge numbers of them from ultimately getting their degrees and costing the nation, by various estimates, between $1.5 billion and $7 billion a year. But the idea of solving it in high school is as rare as it is seemingly obvious.

Unfortunately, some higher education institutions have turned this situation into a grift, wherein they charge students lots of money for remedial classes, which contribute nothing to college credits. Marcus looks at partnerships that are trying to preempt the problem, and policies that discourage bad behavior in the higher education sector.

In other news, T. Rees Shapiro, writing in the Washington Post, looks at the dearth of non-White teachers and doesn't see much light at the end of the tunnel:

Because few minority college graduates are choosing to become teachers, it is increasingly difficult to recruit minorities into classrooms where they could potentially boost the performance of minority children and increase the pipeline of teacher candidates, according to the study, released Thursday. The authors described it as a cyclical problem that could remain for decades if hiring practices and recruiting efforts do not change significantly. The study suggests there will be minimal improvement as far out as 2060 ... The study — from Michael Hansen and Diana Quintero of Brookings and Kate Walsh and Hannah Putman of the NCTQ — notes that while minority children account for half of the nation’s student body in public schools, minority teachers make up just 18 percent of the workforce, creating a significant disparity. “Given these bleak findings, the chances of success for districts’ laudable goals to build a teaching corps that mirrors their student populations crumble in the face of reality — even looking forward nearly fifty years,” the authors wrote.

On the one hand, this paints a bleak picture. On the other hand, this is the sort of data that validates the idea that there will be no quick, easy fixes to  our biggest educational challenges. We should have schools for the sake of having great schools, but those schools should help us hasten a more just, happy, productive world. It's hard to see how that happens without focusing on both academic excellence and inclusive leadership.

Finally, I'm a little late to the party on this, but Rodney D. Foxworth, Jr. has a great piece at Medium explaining the need for more "Black rage" in philanthropy:

Those closest to me know that for years I’ve tried to practice a muscular empathy toward well-intentioned, privileged — and mostly white — people of goodwill. But over the past several months, my empathy and patience have been engulfed by rage, and there are numerous days I fear I will be overcome and destroyed by it. Though I laugh it off in the company of empathizers, good friends, and loved ones, humor has its limits. As a black man working in social impact and philanthropy, I spend many hours each day contorting myself to meet the idiosyncratic whims of philanthropists who move without moral urgency nor operate with a sense of righteous indignation. According to industry demographics, organized philanthropy is one of the last acceptable enclaves of white — especially male — privilege.

At each escalating level of our socioeconomic system in America, the inhabitants become - definitionally - more financially privileged. It also is factually true that those levels get Whiter and Whiter. By the time we reach the fabled top 1% earning households, which is the class of people with the financial means to erect institutional philanthropies, the group is over 96% White. The experience gap between that group, and the country's most vulnerable people, is vast. Something to contemplate over the weekend ...