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Prom Attendance, Participation in Graduation Depends on Hair Style in Texas

January 24, 2020 Leave a comment

Of many reports that are all over Facebook, I chose this one from the Washington Post to provide an overview of a predicament a Trinidad-Amrican student faces. Here’s the headline:

Student will be barred from graduation

unless he cuts his dreadlocks, school says

Nene, who just retired from the Houston Rockets, wore dreads as does Houston wideout DeAndre Hopkins… Maybe the school might invite one of them to speak at commencement about the freedom to wear ones hair in whatever style they wish. If not, maybe they could invite the coaches of those teams to speak out for individual liberty. When athletes, music performers, and even businessmen and politicians can wear dreads, why can’t students? The double standard is not lost on them…. and if the schools are teaching students to follow-rules-for-the-sake-of-following-rules they just might be missing a key point in a democracy.

Ministry’s Gift Relieving Lunch Debt Double Edged Sword

January 24, 2020 Leave a comment

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The Alabama Ministry group who offered to pay off the lunch debt in the “relatively affluent” school district described in this article is a clear benefit to the local taxpayers and an even clearer benefit to the children who could not afford to pay for their meals. But there is a shadow side to this gesture. It can lead voters to the conclusion that charity can fill the void in providing meals for every child when the government’s tax revenues fall short. Instead of using moral suasion to help a targeted group of children it would be far more helpful to far more students if the Ministry groups helped their congregations see that by supporting more government spending on schools and social safety nets they could do even greater good.

This McSweeneys Article Would be Funnier if it Weren’t So Close to the Truth

January 23, 2020 Leave a comment

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The banks love Betsy DeVos… Those who owe fly-by-night for profit colleges? Not so much!

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Must Montana Restore Repealed Choice Legislation?

January 22, 2020 Leave a comment

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The headlines about the pending Supreme Court case involving Montana’s now repealed legislation that provided public funds to sectarian schools pits the State constitution against the US constitution. But after reading the details of the case I see a different question emerging. It seems that after the Montana Supreme Court ruled that donated fund’s raised to provide school choice could not be used to fund sectarian schools the Montana legislature repealed the Bill altogether.

It strikes me that the SCOTUS ruling not only determines whether states can provide any funds to sectarian schools, it also determines the validity of State constitutions that explicitly separate church and state AND the validity of state legislation that repeals previously enacted choice legislation. In short, it is very much about the power of the federal government over state governments and state constitutions. Here’s hoping that the Court looks at the full impact of their decision. It seems like the press has not.

Schools CAN and SHOULD Encourage Secular Spirituality… But Stay Away from Dogma

January 21, 2020 Leave a comment

WBUR reporter Robin Young recently broadcast a story describing how schools across the world are introducing secular spirituality into their classrooms and detailing the benefits that students get as a result. The report was triggered by her coverage of a conference at Columbia University convened by professor Lisa Miller, the founder of the Collaborative for Spirituality in Education. Ms. Miller defines spirituality as a “deep way of being, through which we feel connected to all life, with awe and reverence for the mystery of being”, and she sees this as part of a natural progression of intellectual and emotional maturity… one that leads students to inevitably ask questions like “why am I here?”

Ms. Miller suggests that schools should not sidestep these questions, which are important for future citizens to grapple with, especially in a democracy:

All schools are tasked with preparing students for democracy, she says. Educator John Dewey said before we can have a political democracy, we must have a “spiritual or social democracy” where we learn how to speak to people with whom we disagree.

Robin Young’s report included the voices of teachers and professors who shared experiences of how spirituality-infused schools impacted children AND teachers. The report concluded with this observation from Ms. Miller:

We found most teachers go into education out of a deep sense of calling and yet there is a silencing of the deep core of the teacher. My job each day when I show up as a teacher is to draw out the possibility of the child that they don’t even know is there for themselves. … That is a different sense than subject teaching.

I would assert that children connect with those teachers who do NOT silent their deep core, who tap into the spirituality that drew them to the profession and relate to the student on a spiritual level as well as an intellectual one. When we suppress the sense of spirituality (as opposed to religion– which IS “subject teaching”), we diminish the joy of teaching AND the joy of learning.

Anonymous eSchool News Contributor Offers Chilling School Safety Ideas

January 20, 2020 Leave a comment

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This article from eSchool News, posted by an anonymous contributor, offers a list of ways the school district he or she oversees is dealing with school safety issues… and the solutions offered are chilling. In the name of school safety all of the students in the district are completely forfeiting THEIR anonymity and privacy by inviting adults to monitor their every move within the school and every word they write. I hope that the school board and parents in the district led by the “contributor” have thought about the kind of citizens they are developing in the name of safety.

Nick Kristof Bursts the “Personal Responsibility” and “Bad Choice” Bubbles in Cogent Op Ed

January 19, 2020 Leave a comment

A few days ago, Nick Kristof and his wife posted an extended essay describing the fate of the Knapps, a family that grew up in Kristof’s home town of Yamhill OR. The five siblings in that family all ended up dead, diseased, or incarcerated as a result of alcohol and drug addiction. It is a story of many working class families from rural outposts and one that puts a face on and explains the cold statistics showing that the life expectancy in our country is declining.

In today’s op ed column, Mr. Kristof offers several rejoinders to those who responded to this earlier essay with declarations that essentially boiled down to this: the Knapps got what they deserved. In his evenhanded and clear-eyed response to those who suggested this, Mr. Kristof burst the bubbles of personal responsibility and “bad choice” bubbles. The crux of Mr. Kristof’s arguments against these social Darwinists can be found in these paragraphs:

A newborn in a ZIP code of North Philadelphia with a largely poor and black population has a life expectancy 20 years shorter than a newborn in mostly white central Philadelphia just four miles away; that’s not because one infant has displayed “weak character.”

Britain reduced child poverty by half under Tony Blair. It’s not that British infants suddenly showed more personal responsibility; it’s that the government showed responsibility. Here in the United States, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine laid out a blueprint for reducing America’s child poverty by half, yet Congress and President Trump do nothing.

In that sense, Dr. Carson is right: Poverty is a choice. But it’s our choice.

I find it maddening that those who argue that poverty is a character flaw ignore the fact that good fortune plays a huge role in the ability to develop and retain good character. It is much easier for those who have reliable food, clothing to focus on character development. And as pointed out repeatedly in this blog, telling parents in North Philadelphia that their children have a choice about where to attend school is disingenuous at best and completely dishonest at worst. There isn’t a child in North Philadelphia who can choose to attend any school they wish anywhere in the city… and as for attending a school outside the city: forget it!

As is almost always the case with Mr. Kristof’s writing, he leaves the reader with a ray of hope after diagnosing the problem. Here are the concluding paragraphs of his op ed piece which come close to doing that:

We moved from an inclusive capitalism in the postwar era to a rigged system that hobbles unions, underinvests in children and then punishes those left behind. This is the moral equivalent of (placing) spikes on dashboards (to ensure there are adverse consequences for speeders or reckless drivers).

What would a better social narrative look like? It would acknowledge personal responsibility but also our collective social responsibility — especially to help children. It would be infused with empathy and a “morality of grace” that is less about pointing fingers and more about offering helping hands. It would accept that a country cannot reach its potential when so many of its citizens are not achieving theirs.

To which this reader can only say: AMEN!