Monday Reading List: Senator Bennet on Bipartisanship, Quantifying Privilege, and Privacy

Chalkbeat's Eric Gorski interviewed Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. They discussed the protection of immigrants' rights and the Denver public  schools, but Bennet reserved his sharpest words for US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos:

I read the other day that she said when asked about the results that had occurred in the Michigan schools and the Detroit schools, her answer to that was that she wasn’t a numbers person, and that she was just for choice. Choice is not choice for choice’s sake. Choice is about improving outcomes for kids and you cannot do that without real accountability that ensures that there is rigor, that we are moving towards rigor, for kids that are choosing schools in the system. I wish she would come to Denver and take a look at the work that’s been done here, both in terms of choice and in terms of trying to move our traditional schools forward.

Hmmm, where have I heard that position before. Bennet subsequently confirms that bipartisanship feels like a lost cause, even in the august halls of the United State Senate. If you were still wondering whether there was a chance to advance education policy at the federal level during the Trump era, Bennet's comments should be a nail in the coffin for your fledgling hopes.

In other news, Michael Harriott of The Root wants to start quantifying the concept of white privilege:

Imagine the entire history of the United States as a 500-year-old relay race, where whites began running as soon as the gun sounded, but blacks had to stay in the starting blocks until they were allowed to run. If the finish line is the same for everyone, then the time and distance advantage between the two runners is white privilege. Not only can we see it, but we can actually measure it. If we begin viewing it as an economic term—the same way we use “trickle-down economics”—then it might be debatable, but it becomes a real, definable thing that we can acknowledge, explain and work toward eliminating. Race might be a social construct, but white privilege is an economic theory that we should define as such: "White privilege: n. The quantitative advantage of whiteness"

Harriott posits four primary factors that might contribute to the aggregate quantitative advantage: education, income, spending, and employment. Regular readers will guess that I think real estate ought to be on this list as well, as housing constitutes the primary source of property wealth for many white families. I think Harriott is on to something here; too often we talk about privilege as some ephemeral concept, but when we boil down the economic realities of systemic racism, it's hard to argue with the numbers.

Olivia Deng is in The Atlantic, wondering if the push for gender equity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) might have an equal an opposite effect on the arts:

In the U.S., women make up close to 50 percent of the workforce but hold less than 25 percent of jobs in “STEM” professions—science, technology, engineering, and math. It’s a gap the country has long been on a campaign to fix, with government initiatives, privately funded diversity programs (including Apple’s), colleges that offer special STEM support for women, and other incentives. But now, Donald Trump has thrown women-in-STEM advocates for a loop. Last month, his budget blueprint proposed significant cuts in funding for science and health agencies, draining resources for researchers. For women in science, who receive less funding than their male counterparts, such cuts could be especially crippling. For some women outside of the sciences, however, the proposed cuts only underscore a parallel problem women face in the arts—one that they say hasn’t received the same amount of attention. While Trump recently signed two bills to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM, there are no arts-and-humanities equivalents. And Trump’s budget proposes doing away with the National Endowment for the Arts entirely.

First of all, gender equity - including both representation and pay parity - should be our goal for the workforce, across fields. The fact that increasing focus on the sciences comes at the expense of the arts is indicative of how much work we have left to do. Second, Deng shares troubling statistics, namely that women outnumber men in formal art training programs, but are underrepresented vis-a-vis commercial representation in galleries. In other words, this is not a "pipeline issue," as contrarians often will argue about gender and racial representation.

Finally today, Sarah Sparks of Education Week looks at the fine print of user agreements for education apps:

A 2016 survey by the Consortium for School Networking found nearly all its members (mostly school district education-technology officials) are using or plan to use digital open educational resources in the next three years, but fewer than half have clear policies on how apps are selected and used to safeguard students' privacy and teachers' intellectual property ... A 2016 study led by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University compared the written privacy policies of nearly 18,000 free apps targeted to children to the actual computer code that ran the applications. It found that out of more than 9,000 apps that had a privacy policy, more than half had conflicts between what the privacy policy said the app did and what the code revealed that it actually did. Among the most common sins were those of omission: companies that collected location or time-on-task data without disclosing that information. For example, more than 40 percent of the apps collected location information, and 17 percent shared data with other companies without saying so in their privacy policies.

I'm not a privacy expert, but this seems like a big vulnerability for both schools and technology companies. Concerns like these have tanked education projects in the recent past. Have a great week!