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Posts Tagged ‘DeVos’

Conservatives Concern Over Authoritarianism is Ironic

October 16, 2020 Leave a comment

Washington Beacon reporter Jack Beyrer’a praise for Mike Pompeo and Betsy DeVos’ pushback against a canned Chinese curriculum that is hardly used anywhere in the United States is ironic given the POTUS’s recent rants against our social studies curriculum. It seems that these two Cabinet members are opposed to the Confucius curriculum because it is narrow and overlooks some of China’s flaws.

Participants in Confucius Classrooms have noted that the programs restrict academic freedom. Program instructors often avoid discussing topics showing Chinese Communist Party in a bad light, such as the regime’s Uighur concentration camps and political abuses against Hong Kong.

At the same time I am certain that these two stand behind President Trump’s efforts to eliminate any curriculum that emphasizes the inherent racism in our country, lionizes our traditional “heroes” without relating their ownership of slaves, and perpetuates the narrative that the GOP wants children (and voters) to believe.

What is particularly chilling is the latent McCarthyism included in this kind of preemptive purge and the implication that Tufts college might be excoriated for using this program. Yet another reason that November 3 is a crucial date in our history.

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The POTUS’ Executive Order on “Patriotic Education” a Transparent Distraction from our Country’s Real Problem… and Real History

September 19, 2020 Comments off

Time magazine’s Olivia Waxman followed up on her earlier article about the President’s insistence that teachers adopt a “patriotic education” approach to history with a report on a speech he gave at the Library of Congress after issuing an Executive Order establishing the “1776 Commission,” a group that would “promote patriotic education.” Why is this necessary, you ask?

In the course of his announcement, Trump claimed that people on the left want to “bully Americans into abandoning their values, their heritage and their very way of life,” and denounced the forces that he blamed for propagating that view in history classes. He called the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which reframes the story of nation’s founding around the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia, “toxic propaganda,” and he also singled out the late Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States. Zinn’s book, widely used in schools since it was published in 1980, is credited for helping popularize a bottom-up approach to history, as an alternative to telling the story of the U.S. via the top-down achievements of elite white men.

Such approaches to history, which encourage students to challenge long-standing narratives about national heroes, are “ideological poison, that if not removed will dissolve the civic bonds that tie us together,” Trump said. Under his plan, he said, “Our youth will be taught to love America with all of their heart and all of their soul.”

Without pointing out that Donald Trump’s love of America did not include a desire to serve his country when called to do so, there are countless other examples of the President’s ignorance of the Federal laws, particularly those dealing with schools. As education historian Diane Ravitch who served in GOP administrations noted in her post on this topic:

Do you think he knows that federal law prohibits any federal official from interfering with curriculum or instruction in the schools? Obviously not, but if he knew, he wouldn’t care since he is convinced that he is above the law.

Federal law 20 USC 1232a prohibits “any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system…”

And contrary to Mr. Trump’s assertion that Howard Zinn’s text is widely used, a check by Politifact found no evidence to support a on a similar claim by Rick Santorum:

In an interview, (education and history professor Sam) Wineburg of Stanford added that “not a single state in the union” has put Zinn’s books on an “approved adoption list for middle or high school. Three big companies, including the biggest, Holt-McDougal, control about 90 percent of the market. They issue conventional, 1,000-page behemoths. … Find me one instance in which Zinn appears on any one of 50 state adoption lists, and I’ll find you a unicorn.

In a Common Dreams article by Brett Wilkins Kevin Kumashiro synthesized the real impetus behind this move by the Trump administration:

Kevin Kumashiro, former dean of the University of San Francisco School of Education, told Common Dreams in an email that Trump’s remarks were but the latest attempt by conservatives to paint critical learning as “divisive, un-American, biased, and inflammatory.”

“Not surprisingly, it is this whitewashed curriculum that often gets framed as objective and neutral, whereas efforts to raise awareness about the discomforting realities of race and racism get framed as, in Trump’s words, ‘toxic propaganda,'” he said, also noting the administration’s recent directive banning federal funding of diversity and anti-discrimination training.

At a rally in Nevada in 2016, President Trump famously stated that “I love the uneducated”. With his party’s short-changing of public education, his education secretary’s desire to put an end to “government schools”, and his desire to interfere with the objective findings of scientists and epidemiologists, the President has done everything within his power to make certain that our nation remains uneducated. Four more years of his leadership will ensure that public schools and with it, critical learning, will come to an end.

Peter Greene Wonders: What IS Biden’s Position on Public Education?

September 13, 2020 Comments off

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In this Forbes article pro-public education advocate Peter Greene describes the dilemma those of us in his camp face in this election. We clearly cannot afford another minute of Betsy DeVos but neither do we want to see a reprise of the misbegotten Obama-Duncan test and punish regime. Before the POTUS’ mishandling of the pandemic and before the police brutality in Wisconsin and Minnesota began eating up bandwidth in the news there was a brief window where it appeared that public schools might be in forefront as a campaign issue and in that brief time Greene describes a platform that his staff and Bernie Sanders staff put together that had the elimination of high stakes testing and the abandonment of “market based” reform as the centerpiece. Greene believes that the DNC was unsettled by this because their base is split on these issues and, as a result the current Biden platform sidesteps both issues completely. And Greene concludes that as things stand now, candidate Biden may never have to offer a clear position on public schools, which will suit him fine:

This may highlight how education as an issue has changed for Democratic candidates. It used to be a simple, safe topic, but as it has become more contentious, Democratic politicians have tried to skate carefully past the tricky parts. And this may be the election that makes skating easy—after all, the Trump/DeVos track record for public education is abysmal, and their plan for public education is more of the same. For people who care about public education, Trump is a terrible choice. But Biden can’t skate forever. Nominee Biden may not have to fully explain himself, but if he becomes President Biden, he won’t have that luxury. The people who work in public education would just like to hear about it sooner rather than later.

Given the DNC’s stance on public schools, and the bipartisan support for the continuation of the use of standardized testing incorporated in ESSA, and the daunting fiscal challenges he will face I doubt that Biden will do anything about the inequities in public education… and I fear that those inequities, which are the root cause of the inequities in our economy, will persist for another generation.