Posts Tagged ‘DeVos’

Executive Orders Impact Public Education Directly and Indirectly… AND For the Better!

January 21, 2021 Leave a comment

Yesterday, in his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued 17 Executive orders that overturned some of the most contentious and odious actions taken by his predecessor. The NYTimes Aishvarya Kavi summarized them in an article and this post flags those that will directly or indirectly impact public education. The first section of her article described orders that will address the Pandemic:

Though it is not a national mask mandate, which would most likely fall to a legal challenge, Mr. Biden is requiring social distancing and the wearing of masks on all federal property and by all federal employees. He is also starting a “100 days masking challenge” urging all Americans to wear masks and state and local officials to implement public measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

This “masking challenge” will undoubtedly land on school board agendas across the country and could provide an incentive for schools to work with community leaders to promote the voluntary use of masks.

Three executive orders that Ms. Kavi bundled under the heading Racial and LGBTQ Equality will have a direct and immediate impact on schools:

Mr. Biden will end the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, which released a report on Monday that historians said distorted the role of slavery in the United States, among other history. Mr. Biden also revoked Mr. Trump’s executive order limiting the ability of federal agencies, contractors and other institutions to hold diversity and inclusion training.

The president designated Susan E. Rice, who is the head of his Domestic Policy Council, as the leader of a “robust, interagency” effort requiring all federal agencies to make “rooting out systemic racism” central to their work. His order directs the agencies to review and report on equity in their ranks within 200 days, including a plan on how to remove barriers to opportunities in policies and programs. The order also moves to ensure that Americans of all backgrounds have equal access to federal government resources, benefits and services. It starts a data working group as well as the study of new methods to measure and assess federal equity and diversity efforts.

Another executive order reinforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to require that the federal government does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, a policy that reverses action by Mr. Trump’s administration.

This is hopefully the beginning of a great unwinding of the horrific policies and deregulation that occurred during the tenure of Betsy DeVos and AG Barr. These Executive Orders could be the most far reaching of all if they are fully implemented.

Two of the Presidents edicts on the Economy will indirectly impact schools:

Mr. Biden is moving to extend a federal moratorium on evictions and has asked agencies, including the Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development Departments, to prolong a moratorium on foreclosures on federally guaranteed mortgages that was enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The extensions all run through at least the end of March.

The president is also moving to continue a pause on federal student loan interest and principal payments through the end of September, although progressive groups and some congressional Democrats have pushed Mr. Biden to go much further and cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per person.

As noted in many earlier blog posts, there is a high correlation between transience and school performance as measured by standardized tests… and a similar correlation between transience and food insecurity. If parents and their children do not have to worry about the loss of shelter it relieves some stress… but an extension to the end of March is hardly the reprieve or clarity needed to bring about peace of mind.

President Biden also issued a series of executive orders on immigration, none of which appear to have a direct impact on the governance of schools but all of which convey a message that immigrants are far more welcome in our nation and will lift any psychological burdens school children feel as a result of pressures their parents are feeling.

In all, the President and his team have done an admirable job of identifying the most egregious policies put in place by Executive Order in the Trump era and are showing a new direction.

1776 Commission Redux: Retrograde Revisionist Version of History Lasts Less Than Three Days

January 20, 2021 Leave a comment

Here’s the latest– and hopefully LAST word on the 1776 Commission… that is unless Fox News and other conservative outlets want to keep it alive on the pretext that it proves Joe Biden is a “radical socialist”.

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Trump Administration’s 1776 Commission Issues “History” Report on MLK Holiday that Shamelessly Celebrates Racism, Xenophobia, and Patriotism

January 20, 2021 Leave a comment

President Donald Trump was obsessively concerned with the NYTimes celebrated, widely publicized (but not widely used) 1619 Project, that offered a historic perspective on the United States that he (and perhaps not coincidentally Fox News and conservative radio commentators) deemed offensive. In response to the project, which conservative media outlets (without evidence) insisted was replacing the traditional history lessons in schools across the nation, President Trump created the 1776 Commission which was charged with developing a recommended curriculum for all schools to follow in the future. The Commission’s findings, which Common Dreams writer Andrea Germanos described as “not only a scholarly failure but a reflection of the racism espoused by the outgoing administration“, was written by a panel of conservative operatives that had no historians. 

Sadly, Ms. Germanos’ article, which could have been substantive and meaty, consisted mostly of tweets written by bona fide progressive scholars who descried the findings in 280 characters or less. After reading the article, there are several conclusions I drew: 

  • Mr. Trump’s obsession with the 1619 Report probably extended the “legs” of the story and certainly broadened its reach among social studies teachers across the country.
  • The resulting reactions to HIS response made it clear that the version of history offered in public schools is one of many versions of history that could be offered. This is good thing because it helps students understand that ALL history has SOME point of view and the narratives about the past can be skewed to reinforce current perspectives and forecasts for the future.
  • It is impossible to rewrite history in a Democracy… and the widely public pushback and mainstream revulsion to this effort to do so by the Trump administration underscores the fact that we are living in a Democracy.  
  • Mr. Trump’s defeat is a major victory for truth. Had he prevailed in November it would not be surprising to have Betsy DeVos mandating a form of this curriculum in 2021-22 and devising some kind of standardized test based on it as a graduation requirement. 
  • The Biden administration might consider creating a Commission charged with establishing a national standard for history instruction… one that would be based on the premise that ALL history has SOME point of view and the narratives about the past can be skewed to reinforce current perspectives and forecasts for the future. The conservative counter-argument about the relativistic nature of the Commission’s findings would prove the point.