Tag Archives: Education

The damage done by “good schools”

Well-intentioned but as unwilling to scrutinize their motives as they teach their children to be, many Miami parents put their children in what we are trained to call “good schools” for the sake of putting distance between their Latino non-black children and black children, who, it is understood but never said aloud, turn their schools into “bad schools.” In twenty-one years of teaching college students I’ve seen public school kids with active, intellectually curious parents, private school kids with decent and often excellent parents for whom paying for a Good Education is akin to heightened social status, private school kids with intellectually serious parents, and public school kids with disengaged parents. I can’t distinguish the college student with a private school education from the public school student. Miami’s racial lines, reinforced by the county’s segregated neighborhoods, coax out the privilege when these students share opinions. Parents who scrimped to put their kids in private schools congratulate themselves on their virtue whose children in turn avoid the hard work of repeated self-scrutiny. Continue reading

The Ten Commandments of Student Writing

Teaching full time since last August, I’ve got more students than ever, hence more exposure than ever to the infelicities of student writing. I wanted to share these pensées before my next face-to-face course in late June. Let me stress: student writing, not other writing, although why not.

I’ll take suggestions. Continue reading

Florida — the state with the prettiest name, part XVIII

While Governor Ron DeSantis helped break the impasse over medical marijuana and has made clear his opposition to Big Sugar, the Florida House remains a cloaca in which ideas like this fester: on Wednesday a panel approved a bill requiring Florida public universities to survey faculty members and students about their politics. Continue reading

On the contempt for education

Most citizens when asked regard teachers as essential to holding together what we used to call the Fabric of Society; but they don’t want tax dollars going to raises. Blame state governments and talk show personalities’s decades-long assault on so-called big government and public sector unions (if asked, many Miami-Dade residents of both parties view the teachers union as the Comintern). Continue reading

Is free speech possible without job security?

When an English professor at California State University at Fresno tweets from a personal account while on leave that the late Barbara Bush was an “amazing racist” who raised a “war criminal,” there was no doubt that Fresno’s president would get embroiled in the latest salvo in the free speech wars. Despite the president’s remarks, however, Randa Jarrar is safe because it would cost the university a great deal of money to rid itself of her:

Henry Reichman, a professor emeritus of history at California State University-East Bay, chairs the association’s committee on academic freedom and tenure.

“There is little doubt in my mind that the professor’s tweets, while arguably ill-considered and quite foolish, are protected speech,” he wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “They were made in her capacity as a citizen and as such constitute what the AAUP calls extramural expression.” Such statements, he said, “constitute grounds for discipline only if they clearly demonstrate a lack of fitness for one’s position.”

Because she is protected by both tenure and a collective-bargaining agreement, Jarrar enjoys significant due-process protections, Reichman said. He called Castro’s statement that “all options” are on the table “both inaccurate and irresponsible.”

“While it is true that tenure does not permit faculty members to say or do whatever they want, it does clearly protect the specific statements that this faculty member made, however much the administration or anyone else, myself included, may find them offensive,” Reichman said.

The thought of an employer, even a public university like Fresno, punishing an employee for political speech made on her own time chills me. We shouldn’t need tenure to be sentient human beings who can exist apart from our jobs; this, to me, is the conclusion I make from this episode. Some of us are lucky to have job security.

But Randa Jarrar probably pissed off colleagues too: thanks to Jarrar’s tweeting the number of a suicide hotline at Arizona State University (to my mind the crassest thing she did), imagine the workshops the dean will demand the faculty sign up for.

‘I’ve got the match’

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP

What Reader’s Digest used to call life in these United States:

Inside the Capitol, teachers — many wearing matching, custom-made T-shirts — crowded hallways, waiting in long lines that stretched down the corridors to bend the ears of lawmakers. A group of teachers from Sallisaw, near the Arkansas border, packed into the tiny office of state Rep. John Bennett (R).

They lamented how the state had repeatedly shifted academic standards, but without furnishing teachers curriculum guides.

Bennett, who had a stack of New Testaments and a biography of Robert E. Lee on an end table, said he was sympathetic to the teachers’ needs. And though he’s reluctant to raise taxes, he said he will fight to get schools more money. He offered some ideas for how to go about raising additional revenue — rooting out Medicare fraud, for example.

He pledged to push his colleagues to follow through on their promises.

“If they try to reneg on this next year, I’m going to blow this place up,” Bennett told them.

First-grade teacher Dolly Dunlap jumped in: “I’ve got the match.”

Raylynn Thompson, 16, a top student at Muskogee High, said her history textbook is nearly 10 years old — stopping at the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama. She is a serious student but said the crumbling classrooms make it difficult to learn. Last week, when her AP U.S. history teacher was going over a lesson on President John F. Kennedy, rain seeped through the ceiling and the foundation. Rather than evacuate as the classroom flooded, the class rearranged some desks and forged on.

It’s important for readers to consider that in some Oklahoma districts children enjoy four-day school weeks. The state ranks forty-seventh in public school revenue per student. Florida ranks thirty second. The average salary for a Miami-Dade County teacher? About $46,000. Matters are as dire in Kentucky, where the Republican legislature passed and the governor signed a bill slashing pensions for future teachers.

I’m one of those Reagan babies who grew up thinking members of public sector unions had no business walking out — the sinecure was reward enough. To see past one’s own nose, etc. Working at a public institution has a way of clearing the mind of obstacles.

Plutocratic messianism and public education

Janet Reitman’s Rolling Stone essay on Betsy DeVos explains how Christians and billionaires have created a racket that operates under the fiction of public education. One of those consortium, the Council for National Policy, hides Christian policy behind its bloodless moniker. Some of the material uncovered:

As a candidate, Trump suggested diverting $20 billion in federal money toward private-school vouchers. School choice, he said, was the “civil rights issue of our time.” But mass privatization is about more than improving test scores, as was made clear in a report the Council for National Policy submitted to the Trump administration. Though CNP’s membership is closely held, the Southern Poverty Law Center recently obtained a copy of its 2014 roster. Betsy DeVos’ name didn’t appear on it, but her mother was on CNP’s board of governors and listed among its “Gold Circle Members.” The CNP’s view on education, as outlined in the report, is based on the definition in the 1828 version of Webster’s Dictionary: “To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, it is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable.”

The rest of the five-page document outlines a radical vision for the Department of Education, the first step of which would be to eliminate it, transferring responsibility for public-school education to the states. In its place, the CNP suggests creating a “President’s Advisory Council on Public Education Reform,” a sub-Cabinet-level department that would serve as a “consulting service” to state education departments. Among the other recommendations: Restore Ten Commandments posters at all public schools, encourage schools to “recognize traditional holidays (e.g., Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas) as celebrations of our Judeo-Christian heritage,” and implement Bible classes. The authors advocate a “gradual, voluntary” approach to promoting “free-market private schools, church schools and home schools as the normative American practice.” But, they add elsewhere, “It is not unreasonable to believe that many state officials will be emboldened for change along those lines when the Trump administration is fully in place.”

I refer my readers to my home state, where former governor and former Donald Trump punching bag Jeb Bush evangelized about them in the late nineties. A bill in the Florida Senate would require school districts to “share” tax dollars with charter schools. Well. “Of state capital aid this year to K-12 public schools,” The Miami Herald reports, “$75 million went to the state’s 650 charter schools and the other $75 million was divided among about 3,600 traditional public schools.” Public money goes to institutions like Academica, among the most profitable of charter school companies, that are under investigation for enrolling in one school year five black and four Asian  out of 475 students at one of their Miami schools (full disclosure: I’ve got relatives who attend this school). Public money in the form of tax credits and grants allows an entity like Academica to charge us usurious amounts in leases, which leads to the inescapable conclusion that charter schools exist as real estate schemes subsidies by taxpayers and whose educational promises aren’t much better than the local public school.

Add a dash of religious lunacy and the result is a nexus unlike anything seen in the civilized world: plutocratic messianism, with Christ as revered dead CEO.