Archives for category: Bias

Johann Neem is the author of Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America, in which he describes the creation of public education between the American Revolution and the Civil War and recognizes public schools as an essential building block of a robust democracy.

Neem’s family came to America from India when he was a. Dry young child. They settled in California and lived in a diverse, multiethnic America. He went to public schools, to college, to graduate school, and eventually became a historian of education.

He lived what was then considered the American Dream. But now he fears it is disappearing for reasons he explain in this essay.

He begins:

I arrived—as we all do—in the midst of history. I was not yet three, and my parents had migrated to San Francisco from Mumbai to start a new life. They had been sponsored by my dad’s sister, whose husband, an engineer, had come over to work for Bechtel. We were, in other words, part of the first wave of immigrants to crash into a changing America in the wake of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Our arrival—among those of the numbers of Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans who came to the country—was largely unexpected. It was not what most Americans had anticipated when the law was passed during the civil rights era. But it was what brought me here, to a new country.

Mine was an American childhood. We were middle class and lived on a cul-de-sac whose residents were diverse in many of the usual American ways. There were Japanese-Americans and Catholics and Protestants. There were people without college degrees, and others with graduate degrees. There were Republicans and Democrats. There were immigrants from Germany, and of course we were from India. But most of us kids went to public school together, and our parents would take turns carpooling us. Gathering on the court, we rode bikes, played football on our muddy lawn (I was never much good at sports), and pretended to be motorcycle officers Ponch and Jon from the TV series CHiPs. Together, we made up games and celebrated birthdays. We grew up knowing about our differences but caring about what we shared. What bound us together was America, although I’m not sure I would have been able to say that. Perhaps I didn’t have to.

I imagined that I could become anybody. I had no awareness then that this belief was the result of more than two centuries of activism on the part of African Americans, feminists, and their allies to earn equality within the American nation-state. It was California. The American Dream was alive. Of course, that dream had been deferred for so many Americans for too long. But after 1965, it was hoped, those obstacles would be behind us. Immigrants would be welcome. African Americans would be equal. And despite the thus-far unsuccessful effort to enact the Equal Rights Amendment, I grew up in a world that took for granted that women too could be whomever they wanted to be.

There was a kind of amnesia. Maybe that’s not the right word. We were new. So maybe it was that I just didn’t know the history, and my parents had experienced a different history. Whatever it was, America was, for us, a blank slate. But it was not fully blank. It had rituals and traditions for us to learn, such as giving gifts and spending time with family and friends on Christmas or having barbecues on the Fourth of July. We gathered with neighbors to hunt Easter eggs. It had norms, like saying “thank you” for any kind of service, a sign of the respect each American owed fellow Americans for their contributions to society. It had a creed, too—that the United States promised all people a better, freer, more prosperous life…

I lived in a world where we could all be American, not because of our cultural differences but because of what we could share. This shared culture—this sense of being a people—is a precondition to sustaining the universal ideals of American democracy. We like to pretend that principles are enough, but abstract ideas are thin gruel for flesh-and-blood human beings. We are not disembodied reasoners. We belong to groups. We have emotions. Culture connects us to our country and to one another. But that culture depends on shared rituals and experiences. Today, we are so afraid of offense that we risk privatizing the very culture we once could share together…

As I studied American history, I came to appreciate the struggles so many Americans had undertaken, often in the face of brutal violence, to create the California my parents and I had entered in 1976. As a professor, I want my students to know of these struggles, of the wrenching realities of slavery and Jim Crow, of the violence unleashed against labor unions, of why a human being could be beaten and left tied to a fence to die for being gay. These stories have to be told if we are to confront the truth about our past, which continues to shape the way many Americans experience the present.

But some felt threatened by these new stories. They worried that they represented the end of America because they dethroned many idols. Jefferson did look different from the perspective of an enslaved person or a Native American than he did from that of a white farmer in western New York State or Virginia. The culture wars reflected Americans’ disagreements over which perspectives mattered most, and how to fit them together into a coherent story about ourselves as a people…

I am outside two worlds—both defined by race. On the left, race seems to be everywhere, as something to celebrate but also to divide. On the right, whiteness represents a reracialized vision of America that denies black voters access to the polls, engages in race-baiting that targets immigrants of color, and insults people of non-Christian faiths. It authorizes a president who suggests that we should deal with the problem of illegal border crossings by shooting migrants in the legs.20 I see myself distorted through both sets of eyes. But neither defines me. I don’t want to be white. I am proud of my Indian heritage. I am an American.

This sense of who I am makes immigrants like me carriers of an American Dream that is being lost. I still believe in the Dream. Most white Americans are not white nationalists, and, because I work on a college campus, I hope that I exaggerate the divisive features of multiculturalism and whiteness studies. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area at a particular moment in its history, I know from experience that diversity does not necessarily lead to fragmentation. Living in a diverse society depends on tolerance and mutual respect, and, I learned, both a willingness to share and to participate in American culture.

I don’t do justice to this thoughtful and provocative essay by citing disconnected excerpts. Neem analyzes the tensions created by too much pressure from the academic left, focused on identity politics, and the counter-response from conservative and radicalized whites, who assert their white identity and proclaim their grievances, with the encouragement of a president who loves divisiveness.

Read it.

On January 23, the Orlando Sentinel published an investigative report that nearly 160 religious schools receiving public money for vouchers openly discriminated against LGBT students, families, and staff.

The Florida House just rejected a bill to make such discrimination in publicly funded schools illegal. To make it plain, the Florida House sent a message to religious schools that it is just fine to discriminate against gay students, families, and staff.

Leslie Postal and Annie Martin wrote:

The Florida House voted down a proposal to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ students in the state’s school voucher programs Friday as it moved to expand the number of state-financed scholarships available to send youngsters to private schools.
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, urged his colleagues to “tackle the issue of LGBTQ discrimination,” with him and some other Democrats arguing private schools that take Florida scholarships shouldn’t be able to ban gay students any more than they could ban students based on their race.

But the measure was defeated in the Republican-controlled House, and Smith said he doubted he had any other legislative avenues to pursue the issue this year.

This will not disturb Secretary of Educatuon DeVos. Her family foundation has given large donations to anti-gay groups for years (e.g., the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family).

Peter Greene nails it here, in discussing how Trump and DeVos folded the federal Charter Schools Program into a big, fat block grant that states can spend however they wish. 

For decades, Republicans have been wanting to eliminate social programs by turning them into block grants to the states. Now, as Valerie Strauss reported, charter school advocates are outraged. Brought to the dance and abandoned.

Open the link and see the great image Greene posts to make the point.

I have known for many years that right-wingers went for charters only because they lay the groundwork for vouchers.

I learned that when I worked in rightwing think tanks like the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Koret Education Program at the Hoover Institution.

The true right-wingers don’t give a hoot about charter schools except as a way to condition the American public to give up on public schools and place their faith in consumerism.

Charters pave the way for vouchers. They turn citizens, invested in public institutions, into consumers, looking out only for their own child.

Now that the Trump administration has a chance to show what it really cares about, it is vouchers (aka “Education Freedom Scholarships” or some other deceptive name).

DeVos wants every American child in a religious school or some other private school.

Not the kind that costs $25,000-50,000 a year.

The kind that costs $4,800 a year.

The kind that scoffs at the common good.

The kind that employs high-school dropouts as teachers (as in Florida), the kind that decides which children are acceptable and which are not allowed. The kind that kicks out students, staff and families who are gay, knowing that Trump’s rightwing Supreme Court will back them up.

The kind that accepts only “our kind.”

The Trump-DeVos show and the return of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia as acceptable public policy.

To the shock and consternation of charter school advocates, the Trump budget proposal abandons the controversial federal Charter Schools Program, turning it into a state bloc program that turns the money over to the states. 

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools issued a scathing denunciation of the axing of the federal charter school programs, which has enriched the big corporate charter chains.

The Network for Public Education issued two reports on waste, fraud, and abuse in this program, showing that nearly 40% of the federal money was spent on charters that either never opened or closed soon after opening, with waste of nearly $1 billion. See the reports here and here.

Trump and DeVos are backing their chief priority: vouchers, which they prefer to call “education freedom scholarships,” at a proposed cost of $5 billion. They want America’s children to be “rescued” from public schools that hat have been burdened by harmful federal policies like high-stakes testing, and punishments attached to testing. They want them to attend religious schools that are low-cost and have no standards or accountability, and are free to discriminate against students, families, and staff they don’t like.

The erstwhile Center for American Progress lamented the proposal to cut federal spending on charter schools, even though Democratic support for them has substantially declined. Apparently, CAP is the last to know that school choice is a Republican Policy.

Chalkbeat reports:

The Trump administration wants to create a new stream of funding for disadvantaged students that would consolidate current spending on Title I — which gives money to schools serving low-income students — and 28 other programs.

This school year, the department spent $16.3 billion on Title I grants to states and districts and $7.8 billion on the other programs. Under the proposed budget, it would all become a $19.4 billion pot that would be distributed through the Title I formulas — a $4.7 billion cut, if the budget were enacted.

The individual programs on the chopping block include:

  • 21st Century Learning Centers, which supports after-school programs in places like Detroit and New York City ($1.25 billion)
  • Arts in Education ($30 million)
  • English Language Acquisition ($787 million)
  • Homeless Education ($102 million)
  • Neglected and Delinquent, which offers grants to states to educate incarcerated students ($48 million)
  • Magnet Schools, which offers grants some districts use for desegregation ($107 million)
  • Migrant Education ($375 million)
  • Rural Education ($186 million)
  • Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, which is also known as Title II, Part A, which districts can use for teacher training and to reduce class sizes ($2.1 billion)

This move, the budget documents say, would reduce the federal government’s role in education and pave the way for less spending on department staff.

But the proposed elimination of these streams of funding raised alarms among civil rights advocates, who said this would enable states to spend less money on vulnerable groups like students who are English learners, homeless students, students involved in the juvenile justice system, or migrant students.

“History has shown us that … unless the federal government says you must serve migrant children, and here are funds to help you do that, migrant children are lost and forgotten,” said Liz King, the education equity program director at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The purpose of the dedicated pots of money … is to make sure that the most powerless people in our country are not lost.”

Advocates for other programs expressed concern, too. During a question and answer session with education department officials, a member of the National Association for Gifted Children asked why the administration had proposed eliminating a $13 million program that supports gifted education.

Jim Blew, one of DeVos’s assistant secretaries, and a former official at the Walton Family Foundation, said that advocates for these programs should lobby the states to fund their favorite programs.

The University of California’s faculty leaders have recommended  retaining the controversial SAT and ACT as admissions requirements, despite concerns that the standardized tests are rigged against students of low income. Wealthy parents pay huge sums for tutoring their children. Standardized tests by their nature are rigged against disadvantaged students, which has encouraged more than 1,000 colleges and universities to drop them.

But paradoxically, UC leaders believe that these tests help disadvantaged students.

The new yearlong faculty review found that most UC admissions officers offset that bias by considering an applicant’s high school and neighborhood demographics in evaluating the standardized test scores. The review found that less-advantaged applicants were admitted at higher rates for any given test score, a finding that faculty review committee members said surprised them. That process results in increased admission of disadvantaged students, the review found.

The faculty review committee “did not find evidence that UC’s use of test scores played a major role in worsening the effects of disparities already present among applicants and did find evidence that UC’s admissions process helped to make up for the potential adverse effect of score differences between groups.”

This is good news for the SAT/ACT test prep industry, as well as the monolithic testing industry that benefits far more than students.

Leslie Postal and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel identified nearly 160 religious schools that receive state funding but exclude gay students.

Some refuse to enroll students whose parents are gay or hire gay staff.

Discrimination is A-OK at these schools.

This would not be a problem for Betsy DeVos, whose family has contributed to anti-gay organizations for years. It would not be a problem for the current a Supreme Court, which ruled that a baker in Colorado need not sell  a cake to a gay couple if homosexuality offends his religious beliefs.

Postal and Martin wrote:

In the shadow of a nearly 200-foot cross, Central Florida Christian Academy enrolls students who live by the Bible’s commands and abstain from “sexual immorality” — meaning gay children aren’t welcome on the state-supported campus in west Orange County.

Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater denies admission to students if they, or someone in their home, are practicing a “homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity” or “promoting such practices.”

Wade Christian School in Melbourne keeps an “expulsion list,” with a “homosexual act” among the offenses, alongside bringing weapons to campus, distributing drugs and striking a staff member.

In Florida last year, 156 private Christian schools with these types of anti-gay views educated more than 20,800 students with tuition paid for by state scholarships, an Orlando Sentinel investigation found.

Florida’s scholarship programs, often referred to as school vouchers, sent more than $129 million to these religious institutions. That means at least 14 percent of Florida’s nearly 147,000 scholarship students last year attended private schools where homosexuality was condemned or, at a minimum, unwelcome.

Step by step, the Trump administration, Red states, and the Supreme Court are denying any civil rights to gay people.

Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld reports here that a Democratic legislator has proposed a bill that prevents voucher schools from discriminating against students, staff, or families based on their religion, race, sexual orientation, or disability.

Bill Phillis of Ohio has proposed that religious schools that get vouchers should be subject to the same laws and regulations as public schools and should be required to report their finances and take the same state tests as other publicly funded schools.

Will legislators in Ohio and Indiana tolerate any restrictions on voucher schools?

Will they too be required to be accountable in exchange for getting public money?

Or will the public be forced to pay for schools that discriminate and schools that indoctrinate their students into their religious world-view?

 

The charter industry has lobbied for years to promote the idea that public schools and their teachers and teachers unions are uniquely responsible for denying educational opportunity to children of color. Ever since the propaganda film “Waiting for Superman,” produced by billionaire charter supporter (and rightwing evangelical zealot Philip Anschutz), the charter industry has promoted the claim that supporters of public schools are hostile to children of color while they—funded by billionaires like the Waltons, the Sacklers, the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and every Republican governor—claim to be champions of civil rights.

”Malarkey!” says FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting).

FAIR offers a “close reading” of media bias against public schools and demonstrates how the charter industry has deceptively labeled any opposition to charters as the work of teachers’ unions, never admitting that supporters of public schools include parents, grandparents, and graduates of public schools, as well as members of the public who understand the importance of public education in a democracy.

After thirty years of charter advocacy, only 6% of American students are enrolled in them.  In the only city that is all-charter, New Orleans, the only choice that is forbidden is a public school. This decision was not the result of a vote by the citizens of New Orleans, but a decision imposed by the white Republicans who control the State Legislature. Southern white Republicans are not typically perceived as concerned about the well-being of children of color.

This is an important speech by Sasha Baron Cohen to a conference of the Anti-Defamation League.

I posted early this morning about this speech but only linked to the written version.

Watch Sasha Baron Cohen give the speech.

It is powerful.

 

David Currie is a rancher, a pastor, and a member of the board of Pastors for Texas Children. He writes in this post about those who claim that the Bible gives them the right to discriminate against and hate others. He is chair of the Democratic Party in Tom Green County.

http://bit.ly/2ke3t2d

He begins:

“Most of you have probably never heard of Rachel Held Evans, but I want you to know about her. In May, at age 37, she died from severe swelling of the brain brought on by an allergic reaction to medication she was taking for an infection. She left behind a husband and two children — a boy age 3 and a girl just under a year old.

”She also left behind millions of us who admired her and were inspired by her grace and courage.

“I followed her writings on Twitter and simply loved the things she wrote. She was a Christian who struggled honestly with the questions of faith. She wrote four books about her faith, especially encouraging others who struggled with making sense of God, the Bible and living the Christian faith.

“She always wrote about God’s grace, and she was courageous in doing so. She challenged those who gave simplistic answers to life’s complex questions. I’ll share a few quotes that especially resonated with me.

“It’s a frightful thing – thinking you have to get God right in order to get God to love you, thinking you’re always one error away from damnation. … The very condition of humanity is to be wrong about God. The moment we figure God out, God ceases to be God. Maybe it’s time to embrace the mystery and let ourselves off the hook.”

“I’ve come to regard with some suspicion those who claim that the Bible never troubles them. I can only assume this means they haven’t actually read it….

“Writing about Rachel brings to my mind Charles Perry, our state senator, who sponsored SB 17, which I call the “permission to hate in the name of Jesus” bill. It allows people serving the public to refuse service to people whose lives or beliefs conflict with their own “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Of course, what Senator Perry aims to do, in proposing this bill, is to give people the right to discriminate against gay people, or Muslims, or … well, you get the idea. If you don’t like the way someone chooses to live their lives or the way they think, it’s OK to disrespect them and refuse to serve them. Personally, I can’t imagine Jesus being pleased. Seems to me Jesus didn’t treat people this way.

“Rachel wrote: “I thought God wanted to use me to show gay people how to be straight. Instead God used gay people to show me how to be Christian.” Same thing has happened to me. I finally figured out what Dr. Tracy tried to teach me at Howard Payne — that the love of God is unconditional and that my role as a follower of Christ is to love people, not judge them.

“Maybe you disagree with Rachel and me. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to believe as you see fit, but it does not give you the right to discriminate against those who disagree with you. You need to learn the difference between acceptance and approval. You don’t have to approve of the way that others use their freedom in living out their faith and their lives, but you do have to accept their right to do so. It’s the American way….

“During the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, there were plenty of people who did not want to serve African-Americans in their restaurants, hotels, or other places of business because of their “sincerely held religious belief” that white people were superior to black people. Sadly, that appears to be the “sincerely held religious belief” of millions in America today who are encouraged by our president and his statements in support of white supremacy and racism.

“What most bothered me about Senator Perry’s bill was his statement about how the Bible doesn’t need interpreting … that it speaks for itself. That just blew my mind, but it is typical of the thinking of Religious Right fundamentalists.

”Take, for example, Psalm 137:9 (NIV): “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” I kind of think that verse (and a few thousand more) might need some interpretation….

“But I am very concerned that many Christian leaders — for example, Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, and Jerry Falwell, Jr.; and political leaders — for example, President Trump, Gov. Abbott, Senator Ted Cruz, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and State Senator Charles Perry, are working to redefine religious liberty as the right of Christians to be mean and hateful in the name of Jesus.

“That is not the meaning of the First Amendment, which guarantees all people in America — not just Christians — the freedom to worship (or not) freely without interference. It does not guarantee them the right to use their “sincerely held religious beliefs” as an excuse for racist and bigoted — or downright evil — actions toward others…

“In 1791, Baptist preacher John Leland defined religious liberty as well as it will ever be defined: “Let every man speak freely without fear — maintain the principles he believes — worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God or twenty Gods; and let the government protect him in so doing.” America was founded on this very sentiment…”