What Trump is Teaching Our Children… and What Schools Are Teaching Our Children

July 18, 2019 Leave a comment

What Trump is Teaching Our Children“, Charles Blow’s column in today’s NYTimes, decries the lessons our children are learning from our current President’s conduct. It describes the lessons parents try to instill in their children and contrasts those lessons with the lesson President Trump is teaching:

…He is everything we teach our children not to be. In Trump’s world of immorality, the lessons being taught undo all the principles parents struggle to instill.

He is teaching our children that there is no absolute truth, there is “alternative fact.” It’s not what you say, but how you say it and how vociferously you can defend it.

He is teaching little boys that women’s bodies exist as playgrounds for privileged men, and that there is no price to be paid if you are popular enough or rich enough.

He is teaching little girls that if they are ever victims of sexual assault by a popular, wealthy boy and deign to reveal it, they will likely to come under withering verbal assault.

He is teaching our children that the color of one’s skin does indeed supersede the content of one’s character. He is teaching them that there is a skin-color hierarchy in which whiteness is perched on top.

He is teaching the black and brown children that their citizenship and connection to this country is tenuous and fractional, not like white children.

He is teaching them that it is a perfectly normal to separate some children from their parents, put them in cages, and argue that they don’t need soap, or toothbrushes or have the lights turned off so that they can go to sleep.

He is teaching them to never acknowledge an error, that apologies are for suckers, that what’s right is whatever you say it is.

And, here’s the thing: The children growing up in enormous portions of American households accept, defend and even applaud Trump’s behavior. What lessons are those children absorbing? What behaviors will be modeled on Trump’s example?

In an ideal world public schools would be reinforcing the behaviors parents want to emphasize, things Charles Blow describes in his opening paragraphs:

We try to teach them to always tell the truth, to be kind and generous, to be brave enough to do the right thing even if others aren’t as brave.

We try to teach them empathy and compassion, that caring about the less fortunate betters society and is also self-edifying.

We teach them to have self-respect and to respect others. We teach them that everyone is equally worthy and valuable, no matter who they are, what they look like, how much or little they have or to which God they pray, if they pray at all.

We teach them to be gracious and thankful and not to brag or bully. Also, don’t lie, cheat or steal.

And public schools DO reinforce these behaviors in their conduct codes and in the expectations they have for student decorum. But the way we “measure” student and school performance makes the lessons more difficult. If a school or student is deemed “failing” and students are categorized based on their “ability” it sorts students and schools into pecking orders whereby groups are “superior” to others. We can never create a world where everyone is equal… but we can create a world where everyone has the same set of opportunities over time to master skills and learn about themselves. The best way public schools can teach children that “…everyone is equally worthy and valuable, no matter who they are, what they look like, how much or little they have ” is to set up a system based on that premise… and not a system where the children raised in affluence attend “high performing” schools and children raised in poverty attend “failing” schools.

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How Corporate Welfare Hurts You

July 18, 2019 Leave a comment

Here’s a fact from Robert Reich’s article that should concern every school board member and public school employee in America: State and local tax breaks for corporations are estimated to cost local schools almost $2 billion a year in lost tax revenue. 

And here’s the concluding paragraphs from Mr. Reich’s article:

Here’s the bottom-line: When corporations get special handouts from the government, it costs the rest of us. We have to pay more in taxes to make up for these hidden tax breaks, subsidies, and loopholes. In turn, there’s less money for good schools and roads, Medicare and national defense, and everything else we need.

So the next time you hear conservatives railing against welfare handouts for the poor, remind them that we should really be cutting corporate welfare – unnecessary and unwarranted aid for dependent corporations.

This article, (and this blog) is full of specific examples of corporate welfare. I would hope by November of 2020 that all voters equate “tax breaks” with “welfare”… they ARE the same thing!

Source: How Corporate Welfare Hurts You

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Thomas Edsall Sees a Link Between Racial Segregation and “Trouble”… I See the Same Link Between ECONOMIC Segregation and “Trouble”

July 17, 2019 Leave a comment

Thomas Edsall’s column in today’s NYTimes is titled “When Segregation Persists, Trouble Persists“. The kind of “trouble” that persists is the reinforcement of negative white stereotypes of blacks, the inability of blacks to improve educationally or economically, and the continued vicious circle of poverty. Like all of Mr. Edsall’s columns, this one is full of graphs, quotes from political and social scientists, and lots of links to supporting articles. At the end of the article he includes several quotes from researchers who believe in the power of racial integration, summarizing their sense of optimism or pessimism about the future. Here’s that portion of the article:

I asked a number of those I contacted, all of whom support integration, whether they were optimistic about the prospects of school and community integration. The answers varied:

Rucker Johnson of Berkeley was positive:

I am very hopeful because the research evidence is strong about the path forward, about the lessons we can draw on from past efforts, and there’s a groundswell movement and revival of integration efforts led by current students across the country who are dissatisfied by the segregated environments they are confined to and demanding a response from those adults in positions of power.

Douglas Massey of Princeton: “I tend to be on the pessimistic side when it comes to housing segregation.”

Ann Owens of U.S.C.:

As far as pessimism/optimism goes, in a world of rising income and other inequalities and a tendency toward policies that emphasize individual choice and responsibility and market-based reforms, integration is not going to just magically happen. It’s certainly possible, but it will take a political will and a public orientation toward the collective that, in my opinion, does not currently exist.

Ingrid Gould Ellen of N.Y.U.:

Many white households continue to harbor racially based stereotypes about neighborhoods, associating the presence of minority neighbors, and in particular black neighbors, with declining property values, disinvestment and crime. Over time, I’d like to think that these associations are weakening as integration becomes more prevalent.

Sean Reardon of Stanford:

Racial intolerance (and outright racism) seems on the rise, and white-black income and wealth disparities remain very large and have not narrowed in decades. So there is little reason to expect much decline in racial segregation in the near future, particularly given the lack of policy interest in addressing it. Economic segregation likewise shows no sign of declining. So I am currently pessimistic, given today’s political and economic winds, but am more hopeful about the long arc of the future, which I think will ultimately bend toward equality and fairness.

As I noted in a comment I left, I am pessimistic about any efforts to equalize opportunities given the experiences in my home state of NH where economic segregation persists despite a series of lawsuits won by property poor districts.

The vicious circle Mr. Edsall describes in Southern Cook County IL based on RACE is identical to the vicious circle we have in NH based on ECONOMICS. In NH, affluent, well educated parents avoid a purchasing ANY home in a property poor district with a critical mass of children raised in poverty. Instead they purchase a more expensive home in a district with college educated parents. Why? Because the property taxes they pay will be identical and they know that their home will hold its value and their children will attend schools with better teachers, better facilities, and a “better peer group”.

The way to address economic inequality is obvious: impose a progressive income tax and increase business taxes. This would provide the funds needed to improve the schools in less affluent communities and in turn improve opportunities for children in those communities and improve the well-being of those who live in property-poor districts.

Alas, affluent parents and businesses oppose ANY form of broad-based taxes designed to “redistribute” resources to those in need. Broad-based taxes that could provide the resources needed to help those in need has been shelved in favor of “policies that emphasize individual choice and responsibility”.

Live free or die- but only if you can afford it… and, as Anne Owens noted, as long as we live in a country that favors “…policies that emphasize individual choice and responsibility” New Hampshire’s credo will be our nation’s credo… and the Horatio Alger dream will die along with democracy.

Merger Mania: The Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids

July 17, 2019 Leave a comment

I’m posting this article on the reality of and expansion of the military-industrial complex for two reasons, both of which are included in the following paragraph:

President Eisenhower’s proposed counterweight to the power of the military-industrial complex was to be “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry.” And there are signs that significant numbers of individuals and organizations are beginning to pay more attention to the machinations of the arms lobby. My own outfit, the Center for International Policy, has launched a Sustainable Defense Task Force composed of former military officers and Pentagon officials, White House and Congressional budget experts, and research staffers from progressive and good-government groups. It has already crafted a plan that would cut $1.2 trillion from the Pentagon budget over the next decade, while improving U.S. security by avoiding unnecessary wars, eliminating waste, and scaling back a Pentagon nuclear-weapons buildup slated to cost $1.5 trillion or more over the next three decades.

First, I fear that public schools are not doing nearly enough to help create the “counterweight” President Eisenhower envisioned. I seriously doubt that a graduating senior understands how the revolving door works for the military let alone how it works in virtually every other industry. This concept is not taught because it is not tested, and it is not tested in large measure because those who devise tests have their own revolving door.

Second, if there is a way to save $1,500,000,000,000 in military spending over the next three decades there IS a source for the funds we need to upgrade every public school in our nation, particularly those serving children raised in poverty.

Source: Merger Mania: The Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids

Affordable Housing and Desegregation: A Synergistic Solution to Two Persistent Problems

July 16, 2019 Leave a comment

In yesterday’s post I wrote about the liberal train wreck called “busing”, basing the post on articles about that topic itself and Joe Biden’s willingness to support laws ending busing as a means of desegregation. Given the clear antipathy voters hold toward busing, it is clear to me that promoting that concept as a means of desegregation is a losing proposition. Moreover, as noted on several occasions in this blog, housing and zoning policies are the root cause of both economic and racial segregation.

Earlier this month the NYTimes published an op ed article by Lizabeth Cohen titled “Only Washington Can Solve the Nation’s Housing Crisis”. In the article, Dr. Cohen describes a brief history of federal housing policy, noting that in 1949 Congress passed a Housing Act that “vowed to provide “a decent home and a suitable living condition for every American family.””. The article goes on to describe the mis-steps that occurred in the name of urban renewal and the emerging consensus that housing subsidies and housing projects were a failure. But Dr. Cohen counters that pervasive mindset with these insights:

What has particularly been forgotten are the progressive steps that federal subsidies made possible. For example, in 1968 New York State created the Urban Development Corporation, with a mandate to build thousands of units of subsidized housing and reinvigorate declining industrial cities. Under the direction of the veteran urban redeveloper Edward J. Logue, this authority relied on funding from state appropriations and private bond sales, but the real engine was robust federal backing, both in funds and political support.

During its seven-year run, it built 33,000 units of housing, developed three new towns — including the intentionally mixed-income, mixed-race and mixed-age Roosevelt Island in New York City — and fostered a spirit of architectural and technological innovation to find ways of delivering housing more efficiently, more aesthetically, and more affordably. Marcus Garvey Park Village in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood was a successful prototype of low-rise, high-density subsidized housing.

The Urban Development Corporation ran into trouble when it took a progressive step too far, using its statewide authority to tackle inequities between city and suburbs. In 1972, it began a project to build 100 affordable housing units in nine towns in wealthy Westchester County, provoking a fierce suburban backlash. That, combined with a 1973 moratorium by President Richard Nixon on all congressionally approved spending on housing and cities, spelled doom for the corporation — and a steady decline in federal responsibility for housing and cities.

Dr. Cohen makes a good argument that times have changed. Today the climate change crisis requires that we limit commuting. The tight job market requires that we provide housing for low-wage employees closer to their place of work, which is, increasingly, in the suburbs and exurbs. And, although she does not mention it, I believe Dr. Cohen would agree that we need to at long last address the racial and economic inequality that results in separate and unequal opportunities for black, brown, and poor children.  She concludes her essay with this:

The housing crisis and climate change raise different challenges, but solving both of them requires greater commitment to re-empowering the federal government to act in the public interest. Only Washington has the resources and the scope to tackle these dire threats to the nation’s and the planet’s future.

In 1975, Ed Logue, the visionary head of the Urban Development Corporation, said, “We cannot allow basic public policy” to be made “in corporate board rooms.” And yet, for half a century, that’s exactly what we have done, to our great misfortune.

MAYBE the stars will align in the months ahead and we will find ourselves with a President who believes there IS a federal responsibility for housing and the overall well-being of its citizens. Maybe we will elect a President and Congress who will take basic public policy away from corporate boards and back into the hands of the voters.

“Busing”, a “Liberal Train Wreck” is NOT the Issue: Caste IS

July 15, 2019 Leave a comment

I just finished reading two excellent NYTimes articles on the ultimate third rail issue: the use of busing to integrate public schools.

My use of quotation marks around the word busing is explained in the first article, “It Was Never About Busing“, by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who wrote:

That we even use the word “busing” to describe what was in fact court-ordered school desegregation, and that Americans of all stripes believe that the brief period in which we actually tried to desegregate our schools was a failure, speaks to one of the most successful propaganda campaigns of the last half century. Further, it explains how we have come to be largely silent — and accepting — of the fact that 65 years after the Supreme Court struck down school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, black children are as segregated from white students as they were in the mid-1970s when Mr. Biden was working with Southern white supremacist legislators to curtail court-ordered busing.

The term “busing” is a race-neutral euphemism that allows people to pretend white opposition was not about integration but simply about a desire for their children to attend neighborhood schools. But the fact is that American children have ridden buses to schools since the 1920s. There is a reason the cheery yellow school bus is the most ubiquitous symbol of American education. Buses eased the burden of transportation on families and allowed larger comprehensive schools to replace one-room schoolhouses. Millions of kids still ride school buses every day, and rarely do so for integration.

Ms. Hannah-Jones offers this bitter insight into the real problem with busing:

The school bus, treasured when it was serving as a tool of segregation, became reviled only when it transformed into a tool of integration. As the federal judge who ordered busing for desegregation in the landmark case that eventually made its way to the Supreme Court said, according to the 1978 book “Nothing Could Be Finer,” “Heck, I was bused as a child in Robeson County. Everybody who attends school in North Carolina has been bused. Busing isn’t the question, whatever folks say. It’s desegregation.”

But later in her article, Ms. Hannah-Jones offers an even deeper insight: on three occasions she links the desegregation mandates to “the educational caste system“.  THAT phrase captures not only the racial inequities that persist in our public schools since Brown v. Board of Education, but also captures the fact that almost every state in the union operates schools based on a system of economic segregation. The caste system is both racial and economic and the results are catastrophic for children raised in poverty no matter what their race and doubly catastrophic for black and brown children raised in poverty.

Ms. Hannah-Jones offers a comprehensive history of court decisions and legislative action that initially led to the use of busing to provide racially balanced schools, concluding that overview with this reminder:

When people call busing ill conceived or the worst means of ensuring integration, they conveniently obscure that busing was almost always a tool of last resort, mandated by courts only after lengthy battles with school boards and state officials, by black parents and civil rights groups, failed to produce even modest integration for black children. Judges and attorneys and activists were trying to destruct a racist and segregated educational system in the face of enormous resistance, subterfuge and violence, even in the most ostensibly liberal places.

In doing so, of course mistakes were made. Particularly, desegregation too often shuttered black schools and dismissed black educators because they were not considered good enough to teach white children. Many black activists and communities grew weary of chasing white people across the city as they fled integration, and instead they decided to focus on gaining resources for schools that served their own neighborhoods.

Ms. Hannah-Jones, like presidential candidate Kamala Harris, was bused to a white school– for 10 of the 12 years she attended public schools in Waterloo, IA. The experience was beneficial for her as it was for most African American students who participated in busing programs. But she is resigned to the fact that busing is unlikely to be used again, not because it “failed”, but because even the most liberal and open-minded voters would not support it:

The same people who claim they are not against integration, just busing as the means, cannot tell you what tactic they would support that would actually lead to wide-scale desegregation. So, it is an incredible sleight of hand to argue that mandatory school desegregation failed, while ignoring that the past three decades of reforms promising to make separate schools equal have produced dismal results for black children, and I would argue, for our democracy.

It is unlikely that we will ever again see an effort to deconstruct our system of caste schools like what we saw between 1968 and 1988. But at the very least, we should tell the truth about what happened.

Busing did not fail. We did.

The second article, “How Joe Biden Became the Democrats’ Anti-Busing Crusader“, by Astead W. Herndon and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, describes Mr. Biden’s personal history in dealing with integration in his home state of Delaware who he represented in the Senate. The article provides a good overview of the history of school integration and offers context for the positions he took. The article doesn’t clearly depict the latent racism of Delaware, however. As a junior high student in the early 1960s, I vividly recall going on a field trip to the Dover Air Force Base where there were separate water fountains and bathrooms for “Negros”. It was the first time I came across such blatant discrimination, though I since learned that up until the Brown case my hometown in SE Pennsylvania operated a separate facility for black students.

Mr. Herndon and Ms. Stolberg thoroughly researched their article, and the reported that most of the civil rights leaders who knew Mr. Biden at the time he was becoming “the Democrats’ Anti-Busing Crusader” would not rule out voting for him and felt that he was walking a tightrope between his personal convictions and the anti-integration sentiment of the voters in his state. After an even handed and clear eyed examination of Mr. Biden, the article concludes with this:

The Biden spokesman, Mr. Bates, said that if elected, Mr. Biden would reinstate Obama-era policies “designed to increase the diversity of our schools.” Mr. Biden has long maintained that the white flight he had warned about came to pass, noting the many white families who fled to Pennsylvania for that state’s public schools, or — like Mr. Biden himself — enrolled their children in private schools. In his 2007 memoir, he described court-ordered busing as “a liberal train wreck.”

Aides say he has not changed his mind.

Sanity Prevails in Florida Dismissal of Holocaust Denying HS Principal… BUT…

July 14, 2019 Leave a comment

I read a NYTimes account of the dismissal of a Boca Raton HS Principal with a sense of relief… but also a sense of bewilderment. According to an article by Sarah Mervosh, William Latson, the Principal of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton, Fla., wrote in an email exchange with an unidentified parent in April 2018 that:

…the school offered an assembly and courses on the Holocaust, but that they were optional and could not be “forced upon” all students.

I can imagine that an irate Holocaust denying parent writing an email to a Principal complaining about an elective course offering and, perhaps, a school-wide assembly on the topic… and I can see where a Principal’s appeasing response might be taken out of context as evidence that his personal equivocation on the issue. What I found astounding was what followed:

“I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee,” Mr. Latson wrote, making a distinction between his personal beliefs about the Holocaust and his role as the leader of a public school. “I do allow information about the Holocaust to be presented and allow students and parents to make decisions about it accordingly. I do the same with information about slavery.”

I cannot fathom how anyone “…can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event” and then justify such a stance based upon his status as a “…school district employee”. Then, in case the reader has any doubts about Mr. Latson’s wisdom, depth of knowledge of history, or political savvy, he indicates that he not only allows students and parents to make up their own facts about the Holocaust, he invites them to do the same thing with slavery!

Thankfully, the citizens of Boca Raton did not take kindly to Mr. Latson’s thinking and the school district did the right thing:

The comments set off an intense backlash in South Florida, which has a significant Jewish population and has among the highest concentrations of Holocaust survivors in the world. Thousands signed an online petition calling for Mr. Latson’s resignation, and on Monday, the Palm Beach County school district announced that he would be stripped of his position as principal and reassigned to another job in the district.

In response to the rise in anti-Semitism in the state, the Florida legislature has mandated instruction on the Holocaust in order to ensure that every student who graduates from Florida schools is aware of the horrific genocide that occurred in World War II. The Palm Beach County School Board Chair, Frank A. Barbieri Jr., emphasized that the district’s curriculum exceeds what is required by the state mandate.

“Every generation must recognize, and learn from, the atrocities of the Holocaust’s incomprehensible suffering and the enduring stain that it left on humankind,” he said. “It is only through high-quality education, and thought-provoking conversations, that history won’t repeat itself.”

And leaders in the Jewish community also weighed in:

Mr. Levin, of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, said that the Holocaust should be treated like other undebatable facts throughout history, from the Roman Empire to the Revolutionary War to slavery.

“We simply don’t let educators pick and choose what is a philosophical debate and what is not,” he said, adding: “There is no way to be politically correct about the Holocaust. It is a fact of life.

It IS a fact of life… like climate change, like the need for vaccines, like many inconvenient facts of history and science. When the day comes that we get to choose facts democracy dies.