Tuesday Reading List: Rehashing the 1990s, SCOTUS & school choice, and White Male Identity Politics

Morgan Freeman is planning to produce a new film about Rodney King. Monique Judge of The Root digs in:

April 29 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, also known as the Rodney King Riots, and the man whose beating by police was captured on film and brought the topic of race to the forefront of the national conversation may soon be the subject of a new docuseries ... King’s youth with an alcoholic father, the behind the scenes turmoil of his civil trial, his life post-trial and his reluctant status as a civil rights figure will be explored and told through his own voice with the use of intimate home video footage. Revelations [Entertainment], along with director Sheldon Wilson, has acquired the rights to 20 hours of newly discovered and never-before-seen video footage of King that was filmed over a 12-year period before his 2012 death ...

It's hard to overstate the impact of 1992 and its immediate aftermath on my psyche. At the risk of oversharing, I was in elementary school in 1992, and my life's first two political memories are: 1) arguing with a close friend when he defended the police who assaulted Rodney King, and 2) writing a letter to Bill Clinton urging him to lift the ban on gay men and women serving in the military (seriously ... the link=receipts). I trace my own personal and political awakening about issues of race and justice back to this period in history; I'm sure I'm not alone. There is a direct through-line from the video of King's beating, to the cell phone videos of police violence today.

In other news, Mark Walsh of Education Week is watching a current Supreme Court case for signals about the future of school voucher programs:

The court's decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer (Case No 15-577), which it was slated to hear this week, could weaken or eliminate one of the last legal barriers to vouchers and tax credits for use at private religious schools: state constitutional provisions that strictly bar government aid to religion ... If the Supreme Court were to rule that the Missouri state constitution's language that "no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion" had to give way to Trinity Lutheran's federal constitutional right to participate in the recycled-tire grant program, that would put the court's stamp on "government funding of a church," [Willamette Professor Steven K.] Green said. "That would set in motion [a situation in which] the government could fund other aspects of religion," including private school vouchers, he said. "There is a larger principle at stake."

The case itself involves the use of recycled tires to make materials for a church playground. I'm not a constitutional scholar, but those facts are tailored to tug at the public's heartstrings. The principles undergirding the case are much more foundational than church playgrounds, though. Call me old fashioned, but providing public money to subsidize private religious schooling does not advance the project of having an educated populace with a collective stake in social mobility for all people.

That's not say that our public institutions always do an admirable job of fostering inclusiveness over divisiveness. Here's Nicholas Garcia in Chalkbeat, covering the recent deliberations of the Colorado State Board of Education:

The State Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved Colorado’s federally required education plan, but not before two of its most outspoken members questioned whether it would make any difference and clashed over which students would benefit. “Unless you’re poor or a minority or from another identity politics group, there is nothing in this plan that will benefit you,” said board member Steve Durham, a Colorado Springs Republican. “There’s nothing in this plan to improve the education of your children" ... Colorado’s public schools serve about 905,000 students. About 42 percent qualify for free or discounted lunches, a proxy of poverty. A similar proportion of students are non-white. Both populations are growing in the state.

First of all, lol at the term "identity politics group." 

I want to share a little secret with everyone ... come in close ...

*whispers* All politics are identity politics.

Whether or not Steve Durham realizes this fact, he is a white Republican man from Colorado Springs. That particular identity informs his political interests. Those interests emerge from some amalgam of his values and experiences of the world, and in this particular case, cause him to think that people who share his identity should be the beneficiaries of education policymaking. That's literally how politics works, it's just that some people (mostly Republicans and political centrists) like to label things pejoratively as "identity politics" when non-white, non-male groups realize their political goals and preferences.

Finally today, the team at Blavity looks at a new online course, based on Hidden Figures:

The book-turned-blockbuster smash has now been readied for the classroom in an online course from Journeys in Film. According to the organization's website, the curriculum will be "grounded in the empowerment of women in historical and contemporary STEM leadership" ... Journeys in Film offers lesson plans rooted in the legacy of Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson. Each lesson, eight in total, will use both the book and the film as a source of inspiration while challenging course-goers to really examine the implications race, gender and class have on a society.

Someone should enroll Colorado state board member Steve Durham in this course. Have a great day!