Wednesday Reading List: #BetsyWithTheGrizzBear Moves On While Connecticut Grapples With White Privilege

The Senate panel responsible for vetting the future education secretary just sent #BetsyWithTheGrizzBear's nomination to the full senate. Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week has the story:

The Senate education committee voted to move the nomination of Betsy DeVos for education secretary to the full Senate by a vote of 12 to 11 on Tuesday, following remarks that showed the bitter divisions between many Democrats and Republicans about President Donald Trump's nominee. However, two Republicans on the committee expressed serious concerns about DeVos and wouldn't commit to voting for her in the full Senate ...The date of the full Senate vote on DeVos has yet to be set, but Republicans hold 52 seats, compared to just 48 for Democrats. If Collins and Murkowski decide to vote against DeVos, Democrats would still need to pick up an additional GOP "no" vote on DeVos to defeat her nomination, since Vice President Mike Pence holds the tiebreaking vote.

While the skepticism of Collins and Murkowski seems ominous, rumor has it that their concerns were theater, and that they will only vote "no" in the full Senate if her confirmation is otherwise assured. During the hearing, Erin Einhorn of Chalkbeat picked up Colorado Senator Michael Bennet's comments about the city of Detroit:

Detroit schools have so many problems that a U.S. senator charged Tuesday that his colleagues would never consider the city’s schools for their own kids. “Kids are going to school in an American city that not a single person on this panel, if they could avoid it, would allow their kid to attend school,” said Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, who listed a slew of painful statistics about the state of Detroit schools. “So many kids in America … haven’t been given a chance.”

I wasn't feeling this argument. Very few public officials send their children to struggling public schools. Members of the United States Senate least of all. For Senator Bennet to isolate Detroit, as if the overall situation there is so different than in every other American city, seemed opportunistic. It is fair to critique the extent to which DeVos's policy preferences have exacerbated the challenges in Detroit, but to pin the performance of the Detroit schools on her leadership obfuscates what actually happened there. In fact, I would argue that part of the reason that Detroit, and other cities, have struggling schools, is that people with oodles of privilege, like Senator Bennet, have spent two generations taking their own children out of them.

Laura Pappano of The New York Times looks at rural college attendance:

There’s an achievement paradox here, too: While students in rural high schools graduate at rates second only to suburban students (80 percent, compared with 81 percent), and perform at or above other students on the National Assessment for Educational Progress, they enroll in four-year degree programs and pursue advanced degrees at lower rates. Just 29 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in rural areas are enrolled in college, compared with 47 percent of their urban peers. Research also shows that they “under-match,” attending less competitive colleges than their school performance suggests, often favoring community colleges.

There are big questions embedded here, and as Pappano points out, a college education often is the precursor to dreaded "brain drain," wherein a community's most promising individuals leave, never to return.

In other news, Monique Judge of The Root looked at one Connecticut town's "white privilege" essay contest and found - surprise - annoyed some white people:

When a committee in the town of Westport, CT., announced an essay contest on the topic of white privilege, they did so in hopes that it would spark an important conversation in this wealthy coastal town of roughly 27,000 people, 85 percent of whom are white. Instead, the contest offended many of the residents ... Janet Samuels, 60, said her children are now grown but she believes it is the role of parents to teach what privilege is. “That would upset me very much,” Samuels, who is also white, said of the essay question. “I wouldn’t go there.”

When it comes to discussing race and privilege, I'm almost certain that there is no way to have the conversation without rustling some feathers. People who are white need to understand the extent to which their own racial category only exists as a place in a socially constructed hierarchy that puts themselves at a manufactured advantage, while explicitly disadvantaging other people. Giver the history of this country, I'm always stunned by how resistant most white people are to internalizing this concept.

Finally, on a lighter note, here's an awesome video of a teacher in North Carolina: