BIGOTRY IN THE CLASSROOM
The bullying, bigotry, and harassment that permeated the recent campaign season has filtered down into our classrooms. One-fifth of the incidents described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, happened in K-12 settings.
Our children are watching us…
Between Wednesday, November 9, the day after the presidential election, and the morning of Monday, November 14, the Southern Poverty Law Center collected 437 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment.
…A Gwinnett County high school teacher said she was left a note in class Friday telling her that her Muslim headscarf “isn’t allowed anymore.” “Why don’t you tie it around your neck and hang yourself with it…,” the note said, signed “America!”
Our kids are going to need a lot of resilience to weather the storm of hate and divisiveness we’re experiencing. This resilience can be cultivated by teachers who celebrate their students. It won’t happen by pretending we don’t see race (or gender or religion) or that everyone’s the same.
But, we don’t just want to build resilient young people, we want to dismantle the harmful forces around them. Anti-bias education teaches students they are powerful. It teaches them they can take action against injustice in their community. If we want to live in a world different than what we’re seeing in the news this week, it’s clear we’ll have to show the next generation another way.
Ultimately, culturally relevant pedagogy is one name for one part of a larger approach to teaching that celebrates diversity. When looking for resources you might also look for “anti-bias education” or “culturally responsive teaching”. These are not interchangeable, but they all work together to help teachers create a classroom environment where all students can succeed.
Republicans haven’t been friends of public education since before Reagan pushed for both eliminating the US Education Department and private school vouchers. Today’s Republicans are no different. President-elect Trump has bounced the idea of getting rid of the USED and has stumped for “choice” whenever he mentioned K-12 education – which wasn’t very often.
For those of us in Indiana, a Trump Administration, coupled with the continued Republican control of the legislature and governor’s office, will mean more of the same. There will likely be a continued misuse and overuse of testing, more “choice,” more charters, more vouchers, and less for public schools and public school teachers.
One party rule in a two party system is dangerous.
One thing we do know for sure, however, is that every branch of our federal government will be dominated by Republicans—the Presidency, the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court.
A new President whose plans we do not know. The absence of checks and balances. Federal public education policy that has for years been undermining support for the institution of public education. Those of us who believe improving the public schools is important have good reason to be nervous, even afraid.
After all, in 2000 and especially after we were distracted in September of 2001 by the attacks on the World Trade Center, we were unprepared to speak to the federal test-and-punish education law, No Child Left Behind. We failed to connect the dots between an accountability-driven, poorly funded testing mandate and the destruction of respect for school teachers and the drive for school privatization that lurked just under the surface of federal policy. And in 2008, we didn’t anticipate the collusion of government technocrats and philanthro-capitalists that emerged when the federal stimulus gave billions of dollars to the U.S. Department of Education for competitive experiments with top-down turnarounds to close and privatize schools and attack teachers.
The election was not all bad news for public educators. A few states dodged threats to public education.
First, in Massachusetts, voters rejected a referendum called Question 2 that would have forced the expansion of charter schools in the state. Charter schools, which receive taxpayer money but are privately operated, have come to represent another example of the creeping privatization blob rapidly absorbing public infrastructure – transportation, schools, sanitation, prisons, and other essential services – into business pursuits for the wealthy.
…In Georgia, another progressive victory for public schools shone bright through the cloud of misery up-ballot.
…In the state of Washington, the threat to public schools appeared on the ballot in the form of a race for state Supreme Court.
…In Montana, charter school advocates had targeted Democratic Governor Steve Bullock for defeat. Bullock had the temerity to express, according to a state-based news outlet, “I continue to firmly believe that our public education system is the great equalizer. Anyone who says public schools have failed isn’t seeing what’s happening.”
…Of course, support for public education did not win everywhere. There were bad outcomes in state legislative races in California and New York.
SECRETARY OF EDUCATION – MORE NAMES
In the “She’s baaaack” department, Michelle Rhee’s name was mentioned in connection with the US Education Department. Of course it was. Former D.C. Chancellor Rhee used the same sort of bullying during her rule as chancellor as has been prevalent during the campaign.
Two of the names in the mix for Trump-nominated US Secretary of Education are Eva Moskowitz and Michelle Rhee.
Moskowitz is the CEO of New York-based Success Academies charter schools. Rhee is the former chancellor of DC Public Schools.
Both are very controlling, with Rhee having a bonus dose of sociopathy.
According to the New York News, a source stated that a Moskowitz appointment “is not going to happen.” This makes sense; in order to become US ed sec, Moskowitz would have to relinquish her tight control over her Success Academies empire– an empire that is heavily dependent upon one person– Eva Moskowitz.
As for Rhee: Congress would have to confirm her appointment, which means Congress would have to dismiss Rhee’s unresolved past regarding the DC cheating scandal as well as a seemingly endless stream of sexual scandal issues related to her husband, Sacramento mayor, Kevin Johnson. Rhee is, however, supposedly a Democrat agreeable to the usually-Republican preference for vouchers.
Why were so many people ready to believe Candidate Trump when he promised things which a US President cannot do unilaterally? A US President has a lot of power, but it’s not unlimited. He can’t restrict the free press, deny citizens the right to an attorney, mistreat prisoners, or ask the military to engage in torture. Maybe it’s time to increase (or begin) the teaching of civics.
We have just come to the end of a long and contentious political season. Many of us are worried about America’s future. It’s never too late to ask how civics education is being addressed in our public schools.