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Archive for October, 2020

AOC’s Rejoinder to POTUS’s Taunt is Perfect

October 27, 2020 Comments off

NYS Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC as she is known by her supporters, headline writers, and adversaries, showed her political savvy and wit with a rejoinder to taunting by the President. As reported in today’s The Hill, At a recent rally in central PA the POTUS insinuated that AOC never went to college by mockingly asking if she really attended. Here’s is her adept response:

“I could say yes, but who cares?” she tweeted. “Plenty of people without college degrees could run this country better than Trump ever has.”

Ocasio-Cortez said she has hired people without degrees “who have done incredible, effective, & strategic work.”

“The more college costs soar, the more degrees become a measure [of] privilege than competence,” she tweeted. “Our country would be better off if we made public colleges tuition-free & cancelled student loan debt.”

Some politicians would ignore the public taunting and others might post their transcripts on line and dare the President to do the same. But AOC’s response was better. It not only dismissed the POTUS’s bogus charge but also appealed to the majority of voters who didn’t have the privilege of having their parents pay for college and the thousands of students who are saddled with debt. A trifecta!

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Voting Rights and School Desegregation Inseparable in the South

October 26, 2020 Comments off

Today’s New York Times features a long article by Nicolas Casey that describes a half century of fighting in Sumter County GA over a fundamental question:

Should a school district that was 70 percent Black be governed by a board that was 70 percent white?

Mr. Casey’s article manages to be both discouraging and heartening.

The article was discouraging because of the fact that despite court decisions in the middle of the 20th century that provided rights for blacks to govern the schools their children attend by dragging their feet and using gerrymander voting maps the whites in Sumter County prevented the integration of schools. Worse, one court decision— Shelby County vs. Holder— effectively rescinded those rights and enabled the newly elected white board members to create a charter school named for a Confederate soldier that was almost completely white.

The article was heartening because despite the odds stacked against them the blacks in Sumter County persisted and, at least for now, there is good news for the black majority in that county:

This year, Judge Louis Sands of Georgia’s Middle District federal court ordered a new voting map to be drawn and voted on in November

The map, produced by Mr. Grofman, the university professor appointed by the court, signified a major reversal of the last one: Four of its seven seats would be in places where African-Americans were more than 60 percent of the population. It was the kind of map Mr. Wright, the head of the local N.A.A.C.P. branch, had long sought.

But, as is all too often the case in the the fight to integrate schools, the victory may be short lived:

The new map won’t permanently settle the matter. Next year, after the 2020 census, Georgia’s legislature will approve maps for its 159 counties based on the new data.

“It took years for this case to be won,” said Sean J. Young, the legal director of the Georgia American Civil Liberties Union. “And there’s nothing to stop them from drawing the same discriminatory map all over again.”

It was “only” 66 years ago that Brown v. Board of Education ended “separate but equal” schools… and “only” 157 years ago that the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. My heart goes out to the generations of blacks who have struggled in the decades since both of these landmark cases to get what was promised to them.

Reopening Schools in US MIGHT be a Good Idea… IF!

October 25, 2020 Comments off

Over the past several days I’ve read many articles with headlines insinuating that scientific evidence indicates schools in our country SHOULD be opening… BUT… a closer reading of those articles indicates that scientific evidence indicates schools in our country SHOULD be opening IF and ONLY IF they follow the same protocols as regions in our country and nations in the world are following regarding mask wearing, social distancing, and monitoring.

“Are the Risks of Reopening Schools Exaggerated?”, a recent NPR report by Anya Kamenetz is a case in point. In the article Ms. Kamenetz cites the positive experiences in Spain as evidence that our schools should open… BUT… compare this report on Spain to what is transpiring in too many school districts in our nation. Enric Álvarez at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya reported on the findings of his study of the impact on reopening schools in Spain:

“We are not sure that the environments of the schools may not have a small and systematic effect,” said Álvarez, “But it’s pretty clear that they don’t have very major epidemic-changing effects, at least in Spain, with the measures that are being taken in Spain.”

These safety measures include mask-wearing for all children older than 6, ventilation, keeping students in small groups or “bubbles,” and social distancing of 1.5 meters — slightly less than the recommended 6 feet in the United States. When a case is detected, the entire “bubble” is sent home for quarantine.

Those conditions sound eminently reasonable…. but not for the libertarians in our country who view mask wearing as limiting their rights and the COVID truthers who believe the whole thing is a hoax made up to undercut the leadership of Donald Trump.

The ultimate conclusion on the efficacy of reopening schools is that no one knows and, at least in our country, we may never have the data we need to make a rational decision:

Few states are reporting school-related data…(and) that’s a shame, said Buntin at Vanderbilt. “One might argue that we’re running really a massive national experiment right now in schools,” Buntin said, “and we’re not collecting uniform data.”

The largest centralized effort at such data collection in the United States — the unofficial, crowdsourced COVID-19 School Response Dashboard — has gotten a lot of publicity. But it is self-reported, not a representative sample of schools.

Buntin and other experts said it’s likely that the dashboard is biased toward schools that are doing an exemplary job of following safety precautions and are organized enough to share their results. Also, the dashboard doesn’t yet offer the ability to compare coronavirus cases reported at schools with local case rates.

And when data is not systematically collected, decisions based on anecdote can take hold… and some of the anecdotes are not happy:

In the absence of data, there are scary and tragic anecdotes of teachers around the country dying of COVID-19. But it’s hard to extrapolate from these incidents. It’s not immediately clear whether the educators contracted the virus at school, whether they are part of school-based clusters, or what safety precautions were or were not followed by the schools in question.

And so we muddle through…. unsure of whether measures taken or not taken are impacting the spread of coronavirus and, in effect, making life and death decisions based on nothing. Here’s hoping that no matter what happens on November 3 we get our heads screwed on right in terms of measuring the spread and impact of this disease.