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Here’s a Thought: Keep Holiday Names, Teach the Truth Behind Them

June 18, 2021 Leave a comment

Tracy Tully’s NYTimes article, “A School District Got Rid of Columbus Day. It Didn’t Stop There” described the contortions a district in North Jersey went through to respond to the pushback they received for the renaming of Columbus Day to “Indigenous Peoples Day”. When local voters put up a hue and cry, the School Board eliminated the names of ALL Holidays. Their latest gambit is to RESTORE the names of all of the Holidays. Why? Here’s what transpired after the district voted on May 13 to accept the recommendation of a local diversity and inclusion committee to rename the holiday:

One online petition last month drew more than 1,100 signatures and comments criticizing “woke” cancel culture. A second petition calling for the immediate resignation of the superintendent and board members generated more than 4,000 signatures and a flurry of media attention.

The board said its decision had been “misconstrued” and that the meaning behind the unnamed holidays would still be taught.

“Schools will still be closed on the days that we originally approved and our children will know why,” the board explained on Sunday in a statement.

(State) Senator Bucco was among those who spoke out against renaming Columbus Day at last Thursday’s raucous board meeting. He said he was heartened that the school calendar may restore the names of all state and federal holidays.

“If they want to add Indigenous Peoples’ Day to the calendar, then by all means do it,” he said. “But don’t violate Italian Americans’ civil rights by removing only them.”

Columbus Day has been celebrated as a federal holiday on the second Monday of October since 1971, according to the Library of Congress, but has been observed for centuries. The first recorded celebration was in New York City in 1792. In 1892, then-President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation that recommended local celebrations, in part in response to anti-Catholic and anti-Italian sentiments and the murder of 11 Sicilian men in New Orleans.

Here’s an idea: maybe the “woke cancel culture” will advocate the continuation of the named Holidays with the REAL history behind each of them and the fact that the “heroic deeds” of the late 1400s have some elements that look barbaric 600+ years later, the heroes themselves are imperfect, and that political tensions and identify politics have existed for decades.  Make sure that the children understand the bravery it took for Columbus to sail uncharted oceans is admirable, but the greed that drove him might not be. Make sure that the children understand that Columbus and his fellow explorers saw the Native Americans as “savages”, a perspective that was wrong-headed and inaccurate. Make sure the children understand that Columbus, his fellow explorers, the settlers and other Americans brutalized and exploited the Native Americans in the name of “civilizing” them, a perspective that we now know is wrong-headed and inaccurate. And that history of celebrating Columbus Day? Make sure that is included to emphasize that our country has struggled for inclusivity and diversity for decades?

What’s that you say? This kind of instruction might be construed as “Critical Race Theory”…the body of knowledge that the anti-cancel culture crowd wants to (ahem) cancel? Maybe when we look at history through a wide range of perspectives instead of through the lens of the “conquerers” we will achieve the diversity and inclusiveness everyone seems to aspire to.

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The Underlying Causes of a DC Charter School Hybrid Teacher’s Disgraceful Experience Should Not Be Overlooked… But Now That We’re “Back to Normal” Probably Will Be…

June 17, 2021 Leave a comment

DC Charter school teacher Lelac Almagor wrote a heartfelt but dismaying op ed piece in today’s paper titled “I Taught Online School This Year. It Was a Disgrace“. These three paragraphs summarize how his experience with remote learning jibes with the pre-Covid realities of schooling where the affluent parents and children have entirely different experiences in school, where the well-being of businesses is a higher priority than the well-being of children, and where parents have lost faith in public education’s ability to deliver a quality schooling:

I don’t know the first thing about public health. I won’t venture an opinion on what impact the school closures had on controlling the spread of Covid. What I do know is that the private schools in our city quickly got to work upgrading HVAC systems, putting up tents, cutting class sizes and rearranging schedules so that they could reopen in relative safety.Public schools in other states and countries did the same.

More of our public school systems should have likewise moved mountains — repurposed buildings, reassigned staff, redesigned programming, reallocated funding — to offer consistent public schooling, as safely as possible, to all children.

Instead we opened restaurants and gyms and bars while kids stayed home, or got complicated hybrid schedules that many parents turned down because they offered even less stability than virtual school. Even now, with vaccinations rising and case rates dropping, some families remain reluctant to send their kids back to us in the fall. I can’t help thinking that’s because we broke their trust.

President Biden’s ambitious infrastructure proposal addressed the flaws Covid revealed… but they cost a lot of money, require the rich (i.e. those making more than $400,000/year) and businesses to pay more taxes, and implicitly place a higher value on care than on safety. I fear that the package is DOA… and the pre-Covid status quo will prevail.

Bezos Wants Amazon to be the “Best Employer on Earth” and the Business Round Table Wants an Economy that Serves ALL Americans. Do they REALLY Mean It?

June 16, 2021 Leave a comment

Today’s NYTimes has a follow up article to a long form essay on the wages and working conditions at Amazon warehouses written by Jodi Kantor, Karen Weise, and Grace Ashford. In the article, after describing the reign of terror management style of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, they share this astonishing pledge he recently made: 

Mr. Bezos recently made startling concessions about the system he invented. In a letter to shareholders, he said the union effort in Alabama had shown that “we need a better vision for how we create value for employees — a vision for their success” — and vowed to become “Earth’s best employer.”

This brought to mind a similar pledge made in 2019 by Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Chairman of Business Roundtable. Speaking on behalf of his organization, Mr. Dimon stated:

“Major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term. These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans.”

These quotes brought to mind one of my favorite quotes from Stephen Covey: “You Can’t Talk Your Way Out of Problems You Behave Your Way Into”. I DO hope that Mr. Dimon and Mr. Bezos are sincere in their intentions, for it would mean that the notion of shareholder primacy and employee disempowerment are behind us and that the quality of the workplace and well-being of employees will be as important as the bottom line. But before their visions of being the “best employer on earth” and developing “an economy that serves all Americans” can come into being, they will need to change the culture of their Boards who came to power during a time when efficiency and profit were the dominant values.

In the end, Bezos and the Business Roundtable CEOs can only achieve their visions if they change their behavior…. because their actions to date speak louder than their words and their actions thus far make this blogger cynical.