Tuesday Reading List: Diversifying Our Math Nerds, Immigrant Teachers, and Harmful Ideas

Amy Harmon of The New York Times studied a program that looks to identify future mathematicians among city students:

The extreme racial homogeneity in the rarefied realm of young math wizards has drawn little attention in a nation where racial equality in the basic institutions of civic life — schools, housing, health care, policing — remains elusive. But it has become an increasing source of consternation for some mathematicians, educators and business leaders, who see it directly linked to the striking underrepresentation of blacks and Latinos in high-paying, high-status jobs in finance, science and technology. As those occupations increasingly propel our society, they fear that enrichment programs for mathematically gifted children, while rooted in meritocratic ideals, have become a particularly potent means of reinforcing privilege.

Harmon describes how the program recruits and prepares underrepresented students. It is the sort of nerdy "math camp" experience that used to be unavailable to students without money and resources. While it's easy to construe this kind of program as a frill or academic luxury, it is through these experiences that our culture identifies and cultivates extraordinary talent. The democratization and diversification of academic enrichment is essential.

That said, there are real threats to both democracy and diversity right now. As Corey Mitchell points out in Education Week, Jose Gonzalez is an Ivy League-educated teacher whose immigration status is under assault:

In the 23 years since, he graduated high school with honors, earned an Ivy League degree, and received recognition from the Obama White House for his work teaching students in immigrant-filled Los Angeles charter schools. Now, Gonzalez faces a potentially cruel twist of fate: he could go from being lauded by the White House to being a target for deportation as part of President Donald Trump’s widespread immigration crackdown. Before joining Teach For America in 2014, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Trump’s alma mater ... Gonzalez is among the more than 700,0000 undocumented immigrants awaiting word on the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an Obama-administration policy that grants temporary deportation reprieves and work permits to people brought to the United States illegally as children.

The DACA program used to provide immigration protections for individuals who came to the United States as children. The mass deportation of immigrants is obviously inhumane; threatening the immigration status of people like Jose Gonzalez - who have thrived in this country and are now giving back - is a decision that will be harmful to economic growth as well.

It's interesting that Gonzalez was a teacher in a Los Angeles charter schools, because Josh Stewart* at Citizen Ed describes a recent hearing there about charter schools, hosted by the NAACP. Educators and families reacted to the NAACP's push for a moratorium on charters:

[School leader Margaret] Fortune and several others who gave testimony lamented the division caused by the moratorium, noting that it was a “distraction” that was dividing, rather than empowering the community to work together to fight for quality education regardless of school type. Similar to the most recent hearing in Orlando, Florida, the task force listened to testimony from a variety of speakers advocating both for and against the moratorium. Speakers at this event included charter school founders and advocates, teachers union representatives, school board members and unlike the previous hearing, a relatively large group of parents, teachers, and students.

While the public sparring over the moratorium has subsided, the NAACP continues to hold hearings about the issue around the country. The testimony has been a lot less one-sided than folks expected.

Finally, the saga of Milo Yiannopoulos continues. After footage emerged that showed Yiannopoulos defending pedophilia, the alt-right superstar both lost his lucrative book contract, and was disinvited from CPAC, the annual confab of conservative politicos. Jason Johnson of The Root shrugs:

Over the last year Milo Yiannopoulos, senior editor at Breitbart News was the quintessential example of the American conservative’s craven Trump era transformation ... Yiannopoulos's invitation to be the keynote at the prestigious CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) made perfect sense. Then today video surfaced of Milo openly advocating sexual relations between older gay men and minors. Suddenly there was a media uproar. CPAC uninvited him as speaker, Simon and Schuster cancelled his book deal, and as of this writing, staff members at Breitbart are threatening a walkout if he isn’t fired. Yiannopoulos seems to have finally crossed a line that even Trump era conservatives can’t cross. But not everybody out there is going to advocate sex with kids; there has to be some third rail before that right? Which begs the question—what does it take to be fired by conservatives in the era of Trump?

Johnson goes on to list the only mortal offenses in conservatism in the Trump era and - spoiler alert! - they're all related to preserving the sanctity of white maleness. There should be social consequences for using a large public platform to espouse harmful ideas. Pedophilia clearly is a harmful idea, but - call me crazy! - the line for what constitutes harm should start much earlier than child rape. Have a great day!

Update: an earlier version of this post attributed the Citizen Education article to Chris Stewart; the mis-attribution has been corrected.