Monday Reading List: The Federal Role in Education, Immigrant Communities, and Hateful Rhetoric

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos heard from twitter this weekend, after she made critical comments about the teachers at Jefferson Academy, the DC pubic school she visited last week:

Meanwhile, an influential conservative group, to which DeVos and her family have donated, released its vision for education in the Trump era. Emma Brown at The Washington Post breaks it down:

The five-page document produced by the Council for National Policy calls for a “restoration of education in America” that would minimize the federal role, promote religious schools and home schooling and enshrine “historic Judeo-Christian principles” as a basis for instruction ... The proposal to abolish the department dovetails with the long-held views of many Republicans, and Trump suggested during the 2016 campaign that the agency could be “largely eliminated" ... The document proposes demoting the department to a presidential “Advisory Council on Public Education Reform,” a sub-Cabinet-level agency that would serve as a consultant to states. New employees should subscribe to the educational worldview of the Trump administration, it says, “from assistant secretaries to the mailroom.” It also says states should encourage K-12 public schools to post the Ten Commandments, teach Bible classes, recognize holidays such as Easter and Christmas. promote instruction “from a Judeo-Christian perspective” and remove “secular-based sex education materials from school facilities."

Families and educators with a stake in the public system are justified in being concerned about documents like these. While the political positions in this document might have been considered "fringe" just several years ago, they are now the professed beliefs and objectives of the Trump administration. While I'm skeptical that this administration will ever prioritize education policy enough to hasten sweeping changes, this administration has a penchant for actually, you know, doing the outlandish things it promises to do.

For example, as Ricki Morell writes at The Hechinger Report, the president's extreme actions on immigration already are taking a toll on children and schools in Portland, Maine:

Portland is a progressive coastal city of trendy restaurants and Victorian homes, as well as housing projects and homeless shelters, in one of the whitest states in the country. Its diversity is evident — from the assistant principal at Deering High School, who is a Somali immigrant, to the former student and current math teacher at King Middle School, a Ugandan immigrant, to the Somali restauranteur whose son is studying for his law school entrance exams ... Students said King Middle School feels like a safe haven, but added that the world outside the school building has lately felt more dangerous. They hear their parents talking about being accosted in the street and worrying about relatives abroad who may be affected by the ban.

It's important to understand that it's not just the travel ban, or the ICE raids, that affect children. By all accounts, day to day harassment has escalated due to the extraordinary, bigoted rhetoric coming from the White House.

Speaking of bigoted rhetoric, Bill Maher hosted Milo Yiannopoulos, a star of the alt-right movement, on his television show this weekend. While Maker argued that Yiannopoulos's critics should celebrate the invitation as an opportunity to "expose" Yiannopolous's bigotry, Michael Arceneaux at The Root explains why that was never going to happen:

People like Yiannopoulos will never go away nor can they be convinced with reason. Reason is not their aim; fame is. This is exactly why many of us took issue with the likes of Trevor Noah and Charlamagne Tha God giving Tomi Lahren the time of day. Lahren was recently on Real Time, too, which just goes to show Maher’s real aim is to generate ratings by any means necessary. Fine, do that, but don’t posit attention-whoring as helping advance liberal principles ... Funny enough, Bill Maher and Milo Yiannopoulos have a few things in common. They’re both especially impressed with themselves. They both love saying outlandish things to score attention.

The similarities between Maher and Yiannopoulos might have been most apparent when, during the show's panel discussion, Maher coached the younger man to temper his rhetoric, to lengthen his potential career as a provocateur. This pisses me off for a thousands reasons. I agree with Arceneaux that fame is the driving force behind people like Yiannopoulos, and providing him with a platform just stokes the fire.

Beware false equivalencies here: this 👏🏻 is 👏🏻 not 👏🏻 a 👏🏻 free 👏🏻 speech 👏🏻  issue.

The first amendment protects you against government censorship. The first amendment does not guarantee that your perspectives, no matter ho detestable, get prime time exposure on a popular television program.