Tuesday Reading List: Immigrant Students, Solidarity, and a New Podcast Episode!

Educators around the country are grappling with the implications of the presidential administration's travel ban. Corey Mitchell and Francisco Vara-Orta of Education Week examined the magnitude of the problem:

Foreign-born students represent 6 percent of the population in American schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Influxes of immigrant students—who may have large gaps in schooling and whose linguistic and cultural differences can present challenges for educators—have at times caused friction in communities where some parents raised concerns that new arrivals negatively impact their children's education. The anxiety over Trump's order is particularly acute for students and educators in immigrant-rich communities like Minnesota's Somali strongholds, California's heavily Latino communities, and blooming Syrian enclaves around the country. Trump’s freeze on immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—is casting a shadow on immigrant students. The ban also hit home in places like Houston and Nashville, Tenn., both with a growing number of Islamic students. The districts also have large Kurdish communities, many of whom come from countries targeted in the immigration ban. In Nashville, at least 1,000 students from affected countries are in the city's schools.

What's striking to me is the cognitive dissonance of anti-immigration sentiment. The communities that have higher concentrations of immigrants - like the urban centers described above - tend to welcome and embrace their immigrant communities. At last night's #GetOrganizedBK event here in Brooklyn, for example hundreds of people showed up to demonstrate solidarity:

Sharif El-Mekki, writing at Philly's 7th Ward, compares the refugee experience to that of Black Americans:

Oppression comes in all forms. And victims are many. As activists, new and veteran, seek to utilize the supports that immigrants and refugees need, it should come as no surprise that Black children are “refugees” in the very country that many claim. Marginalized, living in communities starved for resources, and deported, en masse, to prisons, Black families have historically suffered America’s contempt, the very contempt that today engulfs us in regard to Muslim immigrants.

El-Mekki describes a recent trip to France, wherein he and other educators studied the education of marginalized groups there. It's a fascinating comparison of how former colonial powers navigate inclusivity.

In other news, Alyson Klein of Education Week looks at Betsy DeVos's likely confirmation:

School choice advocate and billionaire GOP donor Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump's pick to lead the U.S. Department of Education, has been at the center of a social-media maelstrom and stirred more opposition than any other nominee to lead the agency in its more than three-decade-long history. But regardless of those strong feelings, it remains to be seen whether DeVos—if confirmed, as appears likely—would have the clout to be an effective education secretary. The litany of prohibitions on the secretary's role in the year-old Every Student Succeeds Act means DeVos would take office with far less executive firepower than such predecessors as Arne Duncan and Margaret Spellings, who used waivers and pilot programs to reimagine implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, the law's previous version.

Whereas prior education secretaries had wide berth to drive policy change, the role's executive authority was diminished in the last iteration of the nation's federal education law.

Peter Cunningham, a former Obama administration official, wonders aloud in The Hechinger Report whether she can be effective:

There’s no question she’s starting much further behind than former Education Secretary Arne Duncan did eight years ago, following a bipartisan lovefest at his confirmation hearing and a voice vote in the Senate even before President Barack Obama took office. Duncan had a few advantages: $100 billion in Recovery Act funds to save teacher jobs and drive reform, making him especially popular in his early years. DeVos won’t be nearly as lucky. There are, however, a few things she can do to soften the strident opposition she’s faced since her nomination, and since she made remarks taken as evidence of her lack of understanding for and about public education. She could start by honoring the federal government’s historic role in promoting educational equity and access.

Cunningham also suggests that she should use her bully pulpit to push her own party on controversial issues. Color me skeptical. DeVos has a long track record of taking firm policy positions, but she rarely challenges her own party's orthodoxy.

Finally, if you're a veteran reader, you'll remember that Chris Stewart and I enjoy dabbling in podcast cohosting.

After a long hiatus, we are back! The newest episode of our podcast - The Beard Brothers Dope Show - is available on iTunes, Blubrry, and your favorite podcasting platforms. Also, whereas the podcast title was a misnomer for many months, because I had shaved my beard, my facial hair has made a triumphant return to ensure fidelity to our marketing artwork. You're welcome, Chris.