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

September 13, 2020 Leave a comment

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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.

“Critical Race Theory” and the Banning of the 1619 Curriculum: New GOP Memes Intended to Draw Attention Away from their Core Message of White Supremacy

September 8, 2020 Comments off

Two news stories that emerged over Labor Day weekend illustrate how the GOP intends to run the campaign for 2020, and it will not be a pretty picture.

Common Dreams writer Jon Queally describes the Trump administration’s recent edict banning any federal funding for training that is based on “critical race theory”, which is described as “…a theoretical framework for social scientists who explore the ways in which racial identities and racism impact society and culture”. Why is this being banned? Because to is “divisive, false, and demeaning propaganda” that “should have no place in the Federal government.” Calling training that brings structural racism to light, structural racism that reinforces racial biases as “divisive” is preposterous… but it will resonate with the latent White Supremacy that has been subtly and pervasively inculcated by the very structural racism that is currently kept under wraps. A tweet by Jamil Smith summarizes the GOP’s intentions well:

Critical race theory helps contextualize how systemic racism affects us. Trump and his party perpetuate systemic racism, but pretend that it doesn’t exist. Of course he wants “sightings” of CRT reported. This is white supremacy trying to cover its tracks.

Business Insider’s Connor Perrett wrote an article over the weekend on the POTUS’ threat to withhold federal funds from any schools that plan to use the NYTimes’ 1619 series describing the lasting impact of slavery. The Pulitzer Prize winning series has come under some criticism for historic inaccuracies and overstatements regarding the role of slavery in the founding of our country, but that is because it was intended to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” In doing so, the New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones inevitably elicited some pushback from Conservative writers and news outlets. When the state of California announced it would include the 1619 project in its curriculum, the Wall Street Journal reported on it and the POTUS tweeted that the DOE would investigate whether to provide funding for the State.

Here’s what is sad: high-minded editorialists on both sides of the spectrum will write about high-minded issues like academic freedom and the extent to which structural racism and slavery currently hinder the economic and educational advancement of blacks… but voters who never heard of “critical race theory” or read a word of the 1619 series will take sides based on the messenger and the hot button of racism will be in play instead of the simmering issues of fair housing, adequate funding for public schools, and the relentless push to privatize public services. The lizard brain issues will win out and take over bandwidth… the thoughtful issues, the tough ones that require deliberation and compromise, will be shoved aside.

Is Kenosha WI the Rule or and Exception? Can We Hope to End Police Violence by Burning Garbage Trucks?

August 29, 2020 Comments off

I have a knot in my stomach that I hope this post will help loosen, a knot that is the result of the sequence of events witnessed by millions of Americans over the past few days in Kenosha, Wisconsin, events that I believe would have caused moral outrage a decade ago but now feed into a pitched political battle about law enforcement.

The sequence of events are described factually in this USA Today article that also includes some pictures and videos. In brief, a police officer called to intervene in a domestic dispute shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year old black man, in the back seven times as he was walking toward his vehicle. Peaceful protests occurred the next night, protests that devolved into violent confrontations between some in the crowd and the police and led to some in the crowd setting fire to vehicles and public buildings. The next day, the Governor sent in National Guardsman to protect property and supplement that police as they enforced an 8:00 PM curfew enacted by the local government. Uninvited “militias” who support the police were also present. The next night, three of the protesters who stayed out beyond the curfew were shot by a Kyle Rittenhouse, a White teenager who was a self-declared member of one of the militias. Kyle Rittenhouse was transported from his home in Illinois by his mother, who was a supporter of the police. After shooting and killing two people and seriously injuring another Kyle Rittenhouse was driven home to Illinois were he was arrested the next night.

Since then, several other facts have emerged, all of which provide pro-police-force advocates with some degree of justification for the actions of the Kenosha Police and others of which provide the protesters with some degree of justification for their animosity toward the police:

  • Jacob Blake had a knife in his vehicle under the floorboard on the drivers’ side.
  • Jacob Blake had a police record.
  • Kyle Rittenhouse was not only a supporter of the police, he was an avid supporter of the President.
  • Some of the protesters who pursued Kyle Rittenhouse after he shot his first victim had handguns.
  • All of the protesters and Kyle Rittenhouse were in violation of the 8:00 PM curfew.
  • Kyle Rittenhouse was seen talking with the police before he confronted the protesters
  • Wisconsin is an “open carry” state.

This sequence of events saddened me and the predictable reactions to the events saddened me even more. The fact that non-violent protests erupted into burnings and shootings happened on the week the GOP was holding its convention played into the President’s “Law and Order” campaign and added fuel to the fire that any protests require the presence of law enforcement.

As I reviewed the USA Today synopsis, a series of questions merged, including the two in the title of this post. Questions that, I fear, will be lost in the pitched political battle that is likely to take place in the weeks and months ahead between those who blindly support the police and those who seek justice— which doesn’t necessarily preclude the support of police:

  • Are armed police the best resource to help resolve a domestic dispute?
  • What kind of training do the police sent to break up a domestic dispute receive?
  • What role did Jacob Blake have in the domestic dispute? Why did the police pursue him with guns?
  • Why didn’t the police prevent an armed militia member like Kyle Rittenhouse from entering an area of curfew violating protesters?
  • Why aren’t the organizers of peaceful protests clearly disavowing support for those protesters who engage in acts of violence?

If we ever hope to achieve justice, we need to adopt the non-violent approaches of Martin Luther King, Junior, and avoid falling into the tit-for-tat logic and reactions that lead to conflicts. Peaceful protests can only occur in a society that values the rule of law…. a society that embraces and supports even-handed law enforcement and calls out instances where that is not in place. If Martin Luther King, Junior were alive today he would refute those who attend his marches armed with handguns, those who violate curfews, and those who burn and destroy property in the name of freedom and justice. He would understand and support the rage behind those acts, but seek to channel that rage productively. We need leaders who will be peace and seek peace knowing. as John Lewis did, as the Freedom Riders did, as the children in Birmingham did and as Martin Luther King Junior did, that there may be a price to pay. We will not put an end to police violence against innocent blacks by burning garbage trucks. We will only do so by being peace.

 

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