Archives for category: Citizenship

Mike Rose blogs once every few weeks. One day I will copy his excellent model. But this season it is hard to cut back, in view of the pandemic, the uncertainty about keeping our students and staff safe, and the most consequential national election of many, many years. Those who know Mike Rose’s work usually become Mike Rose Fan Boys or Fan Girls 

I am grateful that he shared his latest post, in which he offers advice to Joe Biden and Kemala Harris. 

In this post, Mike captures the anxiety that so many of us feel about the polls. Biden is leading in all of them but we remember what happened in 2016. Trump is like a monster who lurks behind every door and in every dark alley, ready to spring at a moment’s notice to swallow our democracy.

Rose is worried about the so-called “enthusiasm gap.” Trump supporters remain fervently loyal. Biden-Harris voters express a commitment that is rational but not as intense. Will that matter on November 3?

Rose offers advice:

Be more than “not-Trump.”

Educate the public, starting with what Trump wants to do to health care. He is a consummate liar and many of his own followers have no understanding of his malign plans for the future.

Get out and meet with large crowds, safely.

When you visit towns and cities, highlight the good work happening in those places.

He adds:

You are both skilled retail politicians, a talent constrained by COVID, because, unlike Trump, you believe in the basics of public health. There is a great challenge before you, and I hope all the bright campaign people around you are focused on it: How to integrate the potency of human encounters on the campaign trail with the communication possibilities of virtual technology. Unfortunately, you have to solve this problem while the campaign is in high gear, steer the boat while building it. But if you can do it, you will make history – and reclaim what remains of our democracy.

 

Melanie Sirof is a teacher in the Bellmore-Merrick School District on Long Island innNew York.


“Let’s start rowing in the same direction”.

“Posting this now, before I walk into the first day of meetings that signal the start of school. I’m sure by three o’clock I will feel overwhelmed & frustrated, so I write this now, while I am still clear-eyed:

Know this, parents, we teachers are going to make the most of this lemon of a situation. We want your students to have a great year & not just “a great year, all things considered.” We are aware of our place in the story of your child’s life, understand that they only get one “senior English teacher” (or Math, or Chem, or Gov), one sixth grade experience. So we are going to do our best to live up to that mythology. We want your children to discover things about the world & themselves they had not known before our time together & our time starts now.

Can you help? Can you stop talking about what a disaster this is going to be? (Perhaps it will be, but let’s not lose the game before we get on the court.) Can you help your kids to respectfully reach out to us when they are struggling? Can you set them up for success with a mindset that says “yeah, this is the hand we were dealt, & look how everyone is doing the best they can with it.” Can you give them some agency in this, help them understand the buy-in? Can you stop calling out teachers you feel did your students wrong on social media? Give them the benefit of the doubt (a rough day, an honest but not malicious mistake) or the professional courtesy of handling the issue privately?

This will not be a lost year, it will not be a year of treading water, this will be a year in the story of your child’s life & you & I & they have the power to create some true greatness here. That is how we would like to be remembered when they come together in 10 and 20 years for reunions, when their own children (should they choose that path) start school & they are sitting around the dinner table swapping stories. We want your kid to say “Oh yeah, I remember my __th grade teacher…” & then start to tell funny stories about class or remember something they learned that year & never forgot, a new way to look at the world, a new part of themselves.

It’s a big ask, to want be remembered that way, maybe selfish and a bit self-aggrandizing to want to seize the opportunity given every teacher every September. But so many of us are in front of the classroom for exactly that reason, we had teachers we still talk about, people we met at 15 who continue to influence us at 45.

Let us do that -in person, or remotely, or some combination of both- we want the best for your children. Yes, we are all in the same boat, let’s start rowing in the same direction.”

Melanie Sirof
English Teacher
Mepham High School

Arthur Camins, retired science educator, warns that the coronavirus pandemic is rivaled by an equally harmful pandemic of selfishness.

He begins:

Deadly as it is, the uncontrolled spread of Covid-19 in the United States is but a part of a broader, more devastating phenomenon: the be-out-for-yourself-pandemic. The readily available antidote is organizing for mutual benefit, but that medicine has been intentionally kept off the public market. Now, people are marching for it in the streets.

The virus lurked in our culture in partial dormancy at least since defeat of resistance to New Deal legislation. It reemerged in plain sight with the election of Ronald Reagan, the rise of ultra-conservative think tanks and foundations, and Republican dominance in local and state government. Be-out-for-yourselfism reached pandemic proportions with Trump’s victory. It has perniciously infected much of our daily lives, reeking death and destruction in its path. We are suffering from rampant selfishness sepsis. The pathogen spreads by promulgation of a three-pronged anti-government, anti-tax, anti-regulation ideology. Racism is its nourishment.

He goes on to explain why this ideology undermines our ability to react wisely to the coronavirus, which requires cooperation and common purpose.

Andy Hargreaves, a scholar of international renown, participated in a virtual seminar in South Korea about post-pandemic education.

His 20-minute presentation is brilliant, pithy, and compelling.

Look for it on this YouTube video. He starts at about 22:00 minutes and concludes at about the 43:00 minute mark.

He urges South Korea and the rest of the world not to “return” to austerity, competition, high-stakes testing, and education that is subservient to GDP, but to pursue a very different path.

To learn about that different and very alluring vision of the future, take 20 minutes of your time, watch and listen.

The following article appeared in the Grio and was co-authored by Dr. Andre Perry, Jitu Brown, Keron Blair, Richard Fowler, Stacy Davis Gates and Tiffany Dena Loftin.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and now Rayshard Brooks — all Black people whose lives and purposes were snuffed out by White Supremacy. These four slain Americans were fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, and one-time students of our nation’s public education system.

If we acknowledge the truth about the systemic racism in our country, we must also acknowledge the impact that racism has on our children and their classrooms. For us, #BlackLivesMatter is more than just a hashtag or social media post. #BlackLivesMatter is a policy doctrine that should govern how we think about safety, health care, the economy and certainly our nation’s public schools.

For Black lives to matter, we must reconstitute our nation’s classrooms and ensure that they are places that push back against the epidemic of racism and anti-Blackness. Its symptoms include under-resourced school buildings, oversized classrooms, over-policing, less access to necessary protections, lack of opportunity, and disinvestment.

Together, we — parents, students, community, educators and our local unions — believe we can cure anti-Blackness in our children’s classrooms

Here are the 10 things we can do today to combat anti-Blackness and racism for the sake of our babies and their neighborhood public schools:

1. Our school curricula must be culturally relevant, responsive and designed to prepare Black students for a future as global citizens. We must move away from rote memorization for standardized testing to teaching and critical thinking. Forget Columbus and talk about the role colonialism and capitalism played in structuring our nation and the modern world. Incorporating ethnic studies, with an emphasis on the Black experience as a conduit to addressing other marginalized groups, is critical. That way, more people will be familiar with key concepts — such as the building of our economy on exploitation and extraction (through slavery, Jim Crow, labor suppression, mass incarceration and criminalization). This will allow future generations to see the power dynamic created by policing and how it evolved by protecting wealthy business interests and oppressing Black bodies, enslaved and as they exist today.

2. We need smaller class sizes. Black parents have been demanding this for decades. Smaller class sizes allow for more individualized attention to each student. As we return to schools in an ongoing pandemic, small classes will be critical to keeping students physically and mentally healthy while they academically progress.

3. School safety can no longer mean school police and security staff. We know by now that most Black children are justifiably terrified by the police. Research affirms that police presence in schools leads to harsher punishment disproportionately affecting Black students — regardless of the severity or frequency of the behavior. For far too long, misguided leaders have depended on police in our public schools as a form of discipline. It is time for that to change. Our students deserve to learn in safe, loving and welcoming environments. Law enforcement officials walking the hallways of America’s schools only stoke fear.

4. We must recruit and support Black educators. When schools undergo major changes, Black educators are deliberately shut out. Disregarding their institutional, classroom and community knowledge has crippled generations of students and harmed our community. Everyone, from cafeteria workers to bus drivers, should have the tools to support our students, especially those experiencing disproportionate levels of trauma. By supporting our most vulnerable kids and families, school staff can improve the climate for the entire community. Salaries, working conditions and the protected right to organize must reflect the high level of commitment required to be an anti-racist educator.

5. It’s time for serious investment in school infrastructure and technology. Too many Black children attend schools where the walls are crumbling, there is lead in the water and heating and cooling are in disrepair. We want playgrounds, libraries and digital devices for every child. We want broadband internet to be a public utility, free or subsidized for families that can’t afford it.

6. Our schools and communities can no longer be turned over to private interests through vouchers, charters, education savings accounts, commercial tech platforms and other schemes used to syphon off public monies for private profit. Privatization hurts Black students and communities by excluding the neediest students, stealing funds that would otherwise support the 90+ % of kids enrolled in neighborhood public schools, and requiring those schools to further cut budgets and services for the vast majority of students. Black communities are tired of false and destructive choices of others. Our tax dollars are controlled by somebody else who’s eager to make a profit, escape our communities, and starve our people as they push an anti-Black agenda.

7. Schools serving Black students need more resources, not less. COVID-19 has laid bare the disproportionate health vulnerabilities facing Black people. The same vulnerabilities exist in public education. For decades, Black students, parents and educators have suffered from educational neglect and discrimination in public schooling. This suffering must end today. It starts by building bigger budgets for our neighborhood public schools. In order to learn at the same level as their white counterparts, our kids need more nurses, guidance counselors, paraeducators, social workers, mentors, and enrichment opportunities. These critical supports cost money. Equity demands that more public school dollars should flow to our most vulnerable students and their classrooms.

8. We need sustainable community schools. Many of these elements (greater community control, parental engagement and support, wraparound services, challenging and culturally relevant academics and enrichment) come together in the sustainable community school model. The Journey for Justice Alliance has suggested following Maryland’s lead by turning any school receiving Title I funds into a sustainable community school — neighborhood public schools that bring together many partners to provide a range of supports and opportunities to children, youth, families and communities.

9. We must eliminate standardized testing. Based in racist ideology, these tests are biased against Black students and contribute to the evil myth of anti-Blackness mentioned above. They are used to rank, sort and deprive Black children of everything, from access to advanced coursework to a chance to study with the best teachers. Standardized tests are the excuse decision-makers use to stigmatize Black neighborhood schools with misleading grades before targeting them for closure, privatization and disinvestment — despite obvious student need. Meanwhile, schools serving children with the privilege these tests measure are rewarded. The children’s privilege, and that of the school, also gets compounded.

These ideas are not new. Folks have been waging campaigns to gain these wins for a long time. They are worth restating at this moment, and they are certainly worth fighting for. Let us take to the streets with these demands in hand to make a new world possible

Authors:

Dr. Andre Perry – fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings

Jitu Brown – National Director of Journey for Justice

Keron Blair – Executive Director for the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools

Richard Fowler – Fox News Contributor/National Syndicated Radio Host

Stacy Davis Gates – Executive Vice President for the Chicago Teachers Union

Tiffany Dena Loftin – Director of the NAACP Youth and College Division

Having grown up in the middle of World War II, I have always been patriotic. We were the good guys. We stand for liberty, freedom, and the rights of all. I was aware from a young age that we didn’t live up to our ideals. I experienced religious bigotry. Living in a racially segregated city, I saw racial bigotry, though I was not one of its victims. I was keenly aware of the gap between ideals and reality. I imagined that our society would progress, expanding rights and freedoms over time to everyone. At the moment, we are in a period of regression. The hopefulness that I felt has almost evaporated.

I used to love the Fourth of July and the surge of national pride and optimism that went with it. Today, after three years of an ignorant, bigoted, crude, foul-mouthed leader who puts his political fortunes above the lives and liberties of our citizens, I don’t feel like celebrating.

Whatever else Trump has done, he has extinguished any sense of exceptionalism. He has made us look squarely at the fact that about 40% of our fellow citizens endorse his noxious actions.

My hope for the future is that America will once again, someday, be the America of our ideals and dreams. I hope to live to see a rebirth of kindness, compassion, love for others, respect for the commons, civic duty, social responsibility, love of nature, decency, and all those other currently out-of-fashion virtues that we once celebrated. This is a dark time. Let it soon pass into history as a sordid chapter in our national life.

A federal appeals court overturned a landmark ruling that affirmed the right to an education. Education is necessary for full citizenship, so voters can be fully informed. However the appeals court did not agree.

In April, a 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a landmark decision in the Detroit literacy case, Gary B. v. Whitmer, holding that there is a “fundamental right to a basic minimum education” under the U.S. Constitution. The two-to-one decision of the three-judge panel defined the right in terms of “access to literacy.”

However, in May, the full complement of 6th Circuit judges moved to review the case “en banc”, and eradicated the decision of the three judge panel. In the meantime, the Plaintiffs had settled the case with Governor Whitmer, the main defendant. Accordingly, they informed the Court of the settlement and said that the case was now moot and should be dismissed. Certain other defendants and the legislative leaders sought to continue the case, but earlier this week, the Sixth Circuit issued a ruling that accepted the plaintiffs’ position and dismissed the case. The net effect of the complicated history of the Gary B appeal is that although two U.S. Court of Appeals judges issued a landmark ruling holding for the first time that there is a limited right to education under the U.S. Constitution, that decision is now a legal nullity. However, as Mark Rosenbaum, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, put it, “The decision was vacated but the words will never disappear.”

The Washington Post published a statement endorsed by 89 individuals who served in the U.S. Department of Defense.


President Trump continues to use inflammatory language as many Americans protest the unlawful death of George Floyd and the unjust treatment of black Americans by our justice system. As the protests have grown, so has the intensity of the president’s rhetoric. He has gone so far as to make a shocking promise: to send active-duty members of the U.S. military to “dominate” protesters in cities throughout the country — with or without the consent of local mayors or state governors.


On Monday, the president previewed his approach on the streets of Washington. He had 1,600 troops from around the country transported to the D.C. area, and placed them on alert, as an unnamed Pentagon official put it, “to ensure faster employment if necessary.” As part of the show of force that Trump demanded, military helicopters made low-level passes over peaceful protesters — a military tactic sometimes used to disperse enemy combatants — scattering debris and broken glass among the crowd. He also had a force, including members of the National Guard and federal officers, that used flash-bang grenades, pepper spray and, according to eyewitness accounts, rubber bullets to drive lawful protesters, as well as members of the media and clergy, away from the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church. All so he could hold a politically motivated photo op there with members of his team, including, inappropriately, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


Looting and violence are unacceptable acts, and perpetrators should be arrested and duly tried under the law. But as Monday’s actions near the White House demonstrated, those committing such acts are largely on the margins of the vast majority of predominantly peaceful protests. While several past presidents have called on our armed services to provide additional aid to law enforcement in times of national crisis — among them Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson — these presidents used the military to protect the rights of Americans, not to violate them.


As former leaders in the Defense Department — civilian and military, Republican, Democrat and independent — we all took an oath upon assuming office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” as did the president and all members of the military, a fact that Gen. Milley pointed out in a recent memorandum to members of the armed forces. We are alarmed at how the president is betraying this oath by threatening to order members of the U.S. military to violate the rights of their fellow Americans.


President Trump has given governors a stark choice: either end the protests that continue to demand equal justice under our laws, or expect that he will send active-duty military units into their states. While the Insurrection Act gives the president the legal authority to do so, this authority has been invoked only in the most extreme conditions when state or local authorities were overwhelmed and were unable to safeguard the rule of law. Historically, as Secretary Esper has pointed out, it has rightly been seen as a tool of last resort.


Beyond being unnecessary, using our military to quell protests across the country would also be unwise. This is not the mission our armed forces signed up for: They signed up to fight our nation’s enemies and to secure — not infringe upon — the rights and freedoms of their fellow Americans. In addition, putting our servicemen and women in the middle of politically charged domestic unrest risks undermining the apolitical nature of the military that is so essential to our democracy. It also risks diminishing Americans’ trust in our military — and thus America’s security — for years to come.


As defense leaders who share a deep commitment to the Constitution, to freedom and justice for all Americans, and to the extraordinary men and women who volunteer to serve and protect our nation, we call on the president to immediately end his plans to send active-duty military personnel into cities as agents of law enforcement, or to employ them or any another military or police forces in ways that undermine the constitutional rights of Americans. The members of our military are always ready to serve in our nation’s defense. But they must never be used to violate the rights of those they are sworn to protect.


Leon E. Panetta, former defense secretary


Chuck Hagel, former defense secretary


Ashton B. Carter, former defense secretary


William S. Cohen, former defense secretary


Sasha Baker, former deputy chief of staff to the defense secretary


Donna Barbisch, retired major general in the U.S. Army


Jeremy Bash, chief of staff to the defense secretary
Jeffrey P. Bialos, former deputy under secretary of defense for industrial affairs


Susanna V. Blume, former deputy chief of staff to the deputy defense secretary


Ian Brzezinski, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Europe and NATO


Gabe Camarillo, former assistant secretary of the Air Force


Kurt M. Campbell, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Asia and the Pacific


Michael Carpenter, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia


Rebecca Bill Chavez, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Western hemisphere affairs
Derek Chollet, former assistant defense secretary for international security affairs


Dan Christman, retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Army and former assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff


James Clapper, former under secretary of defense for intelligence and director of national intelligence


Eliot A. Cohen, former member of planning staff for the defense department and former member of the Defense Policy Board


Erin Conaton, former under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness


John Conger, former principal deputy under secretary of defense


Peter S. Cooke, retired major general of the U.S. Army Reserve


Richard Danzig, former secretary of the U.S. Navy


Janine Davidson, former under secretary of the U.S. Navy


Robert L. Deitz, former general counsel at the National Security Agency


Abraham M. Denmark, former deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia


Michael B. Donley, former secretary of the U.S. Air Force


John W. Douglass, retired brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy


Raymond F. DuBois, former acting under secretary of the U.S. Army


Eric Edelman, former under secretary of defense for policy


Eric Fanning, former secretary of the U.S. Army


Evelyn N. Farkas, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia


Michèle A. Flournoy, former under secretary of defense for policy


Nelson M. Ford, former under secretary of the U.S. Army
Alice Friend, former principal director for African affairs in the office of the under defense secretary for policy


John A. Gans Jr., former speechwriter for the defense secretary


Sherri Goodman, former deputy under secretary of defense for environmental security


André Gudger, former deputy assistant defense secretary for manufacturing and industrial base policy


Robert Hale, former under secretary of defense and Defense Department comptroller


Michael V. Hayden, retired general in the U.S. Air Force and former director of the National Security Agency and CIA


Mark Hertling, retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Army and former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe


Kathleen H. Hicks, former principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy


Deborah Lee James, former secretary of the U.S. Air Force


John P. Jumper, retired general of the U.S. Air Force and former chief of staff of the Air Force


Colin H. Kahl, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Middle East policy


Mara E. Karlin, former deputy assistant defense secretary for strategy and force development


Frank Kendall, former under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics


Susan Koch, former deputy assistant defense secretary for threat-reduction policy


Ken Krieg, former under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics


J. William Leonard, former deputy assistant defense secretary for security and information operations


Steven J. Lepper, retired major general of the U.S. Air Force


George Little, former Pentagon press secretary


William J. Lynn III, former deputy defense secretary


Ray Mabus, former secretary of the U.S. Navy and former governor of Mississippi


Kelly Magsamen, former principal deputy assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs


Carlos E. Martinez, retired brigadier general of the U.S. Air Force Reserve


Michael McCord, former under secretary of defense and Defense Department comptroller


Chris Mellon, former deputy assistant defense secretary for intelligence


James N. Miller, former under secretary of defense for policy


Edward T. Morehouse Jr., former principal deputy assistant defense secretary and former acting assistant defense secretary for operational energy plans and programs


Jamie Morin, former director of cost assessment and program evaluation at the Defense Department and former acting under secretary of the U.S. Air Force


Jennifer M. O’Connor, former general counsel of the Defense Department


Sean O’Keefe, former secretary of the U.S. Navy


Dave Oliver, former principal deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics


Robert B. Pirie, former under secretary of the U.S. Navy
John Plumb, former acting deputy assistant defense secretary for space policy


Eric Rosenbach, former assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and global security


Deborah Rosenblum, former acting deputy assistant defense secretary for counternarcotics


Todd Rosenblum, acting assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and Americas’ security affairs


Tommy Ross, former deputy assistant defense secretary for security cooperation


Henry J. Schweiter, former deputy assistant defense secretary


David B. Shear, former assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs


Amy E. Searight, former deputy assistant defense secretary for South and Southeast Asia


Vikram J. Singh, former deputy assistant defense secretary for South and Southeast Asia


Julianne Smith, former deputy national security adviser to the vice president and former principal director for Europe and NATO policy


Paula Thornhill, retired brigadier general of the Air Force and former principal director for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs


Jim Townsend, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Europe and NATO policy


Sandy Vershbow, former assistant defense secretary for international security affairs


Michael Vickers, former under secretary of defense for intelligence


Celeste Wallander, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia


Andrew Weber, former assistant defense secretary for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs


William F. Wechsler, former deputy assistant defense secretary for special operations and combating terrorism


Doug Wilson, former assistant defense secretary for public affairs


Anne A. Witkowsky, former deputy assistant defense secretary for stability and humanitarian affairs


Douglas Wise, former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency


Daniel P. Woodward, retired brigadier general of the U.S. Air Force
Margaret H. Woodward, retired major general of the U.S. Air Force


Carl Woog, former deputy assistant to the defense secretary for communications


Robert O. Work, former deputy defense secretary


Dov S. Zakheim, former under secretary of defense and Defense Department comptroller

Michael Hynes is the superintendent of schools in the Port Washington school district on Long Island in New York. He is one of the most creative, innovative, and unconventional thinkers in education today. His new book was just published, offering advice to school leaders and, frankly, to everyone, about what is most important in life.

Mike Hynes is my candidate for the next State Commissioner of Education in New York. He has fresh ideas, deep experience, and values the well-being of children more than test scores.

In this brief essay, he outlines what schools should do after the pandemic.

He writes:

Now is the time for our school leaders to generate a new compelling philosophy of education and an innovative architecture for a just and humane school system. We must refocus our energy on a foundation built on a sense of purpose, forging relationships and maximizing the potential and talents of all children. Let’s take advantage of the possibility that our nation’s attention can shift 180 degrees, from obsessing over test scores and accountability to an entirely different paradigm of physical, mental, and emotional well-being for students and staff.

It is our collective responsibility to foster engaging and meaningful environments when educating our children in the new era of a post pandemic education. As the great philosopher John Dewey stated over one hundred years ago, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” The first sentence in the 2018 World Bank Group’s Flagship Report- Learning: To Realize Education’s Promise states, “Schooling is not the same as learning.” I couldn’t agree more. The report continues to speak about that as a society, we must learn to realize education’s promise.

Now is this the time to revolutionize this antiquated system built on old structures and ideologies. I recommend we change the purpose of schooling to the following core values:

· Emphasize well-being. Make child and teacher well-being a top priority in all schools, as engines of learning and system efficiency.

· Upgrade testing and other assessments. Stop the standardized testing of children in grades 3-8, and “opt-up” to higher-quality assessments by classroom teachers. Eliminate the ranking and sorting of children based on standardized testing. Train students in self-assessment, and require only one comprehensive testing period to graduate from high school.

· Invest resources fairly. Fund schools equitably on the basis of need. Provide small class sizes.

· Boost learning through physical activity. Give children multiple outdoor free-play recess breaks throughout the school day to boost their well-being and performance. We observed schools in Finland that give children four 15-minute free-play breaks a day.

· Change the focus. Create an emotional atmosphere and physical environment of warmth, comfort and safety so that children are happy and eager to come to school. Teach not just basic skills, but also arts, crafts, music, civics, ethics, home economics and life skills.

· Make homework efficient. Reduce the homework load in elementary and middle schools to no more than 30 minutes per night, and make it responsibility-based rather than stress-based.

· Trust educators and children. Give them professional respect, creative freedom and autonomy, including the ability to experiment, take manageable risks and fail in the pursuit of success.

· Improve, expand and destigmatize vocational and technical education. Encourage more students to attend schools in which they can acquire valuable career/trade skills.

In short, if we learn anything at all from this pandemic, we should clearly recognize that we need our teachers more than ever before. It’s imperative that schools focus on a balanced approach to education, one that embraces physical, emotional, cognitive and social growth. We have an enormous amount of work to do, but our children deserve nothing less.

If you agree, please send his essay to every school board member you know and to anyone else who is interested in finding a new way to educate our children, one that develops their well-being and joy in learning, instead of subjecting them to an endless and useless series of standardized tests.

The Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University, issued this statement on the landmark decision in Michigan that students in Detroit have a fundamental right to education to prepare for citizenship.


In a landmark decision issued yesterday in the Gary B. v. Whitmer case, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held there is a “fundamental right to a basic minimum education” under the U.S. Constitution. The two-to-one decision of the three-judge panel defined the right in terms of “access to literacy.”

Students in very low performing schools in Detroit brought the case. They claim that—due to the absence of qualified teachers, crumbling facilities, and insufficient materials— the conditions in their schools are so bad students leave school virtually illiterate. As the decision states, “Plaintiffs sit in classrooms where not even the pretense of education takes place, in schools that are functionally incapable of delivering access to literacy.” Because of this, these students attend “schools in name only, characterized by slum-like conditions and lacking the most basic educational opportunities that children elsewhere in Michigan and throughout the nation take for granted.”

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling that had dismissed the case. The court held there is a “fundamental right to a basic minimum education” that provides access to literacy as a matter of “substantive due process” under the Fourteenth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a fundamental right for substantive due process must be “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition. Accordingly, the Sixth Circuit discussed in detail the history of education in the United States, especially at the time of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court also relied on the precedent of the Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that single-sex marriage was a fundamental right as a matter of substantive due process.

This is the first time a court has asserted a federal right to education. In 1973, in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that education is not “a fundamental interest” entitled to strict scrutiny analysis under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (although the Court emphasized in the same decision that “education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments,” as it had previously held in Brown v. Board of Education). Even though the Texas system of educational finance provided the plaintiff students only half the per-capita funding that students in a neighboring, more affluent district received, the Supreme Court deemed this a “rational” state policy because it promoted local control of education.

In the nearly 50 years since Rodriguez, a number of cases have sought to distinguish and limit the scope of that ruling, but none has succeeded prior to this major pronouncement from the Sixth Circuit.

The Gary B. case has been remanded to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Michigan for a trial and further proceedings. Governor Whitmer and the other defendants have not yet indicated whether they intend to appeal the Sixth Circuit’s ruling.

For procedural reasons, the Sixth Circuit did not decide the claims plaintiffs had raised under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That issue may be decided by the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island where a decision is currently pending in Cook v. Raimondo, another case seeking to establish a right to education under the U.S. Constitution. The main argument asserted by the Cook plaintiffs is that, in the Rodriguez decision, the Supreme Court left open the question of whether there is a right to the “quantum of education” students need to exercise “meaningfully” important constitutional rights like the right to vote, to serve on a jury, to exercise free speech, and to participate in political activities.

Michael A. Rebell, executive director of the Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College and lead attorney for the plaintiffs in Cook v. Raimondo, said:

We applaud the outcome of the Gary B. case, which may bring important relief to students in Detroit. Nevertheless we are concerned about the narrow scope of the right to education as defined by the Sixth Circuit opinion. We are
hopeful that Judge Smith in Rhode Island will declare that under the equal protection clause, or other constitutional provisions, students have a fundamental right to a more robust and and meaningful education—one that provides the
knowledge, skills, experiences, values, and civic integration necessary to prepare them to function effectively as civic participants in a democratic society.

The Center for Educational Equity | centerforeducationalequity.org