Archives for category: Cruelty

Greg B. is a regular commenter on the blog. He lives in Ohio. He is deeply knowledgeable about German history and literature. I enjoy his comments.

He wrote:

As much as many Americans crow about being the land of the free, etc., they don’t like to do the work of being citizens, much less engaged. With citizenship comes responsibility. When one is engaged with the history of this nation, one understands that the enslavement of Africans who were transported here and their descendants literally built this country. While we learn about elites, it was enslaving Americans that created capitalism and wealth for whites around the world. The descendants of those whites have benefitted immeasurably from the status quo and keeping status regardless of quo. Even those who weren’t direct descendants, yes even people who immigrated to the US in the 19th through 21st century have benefitted by virtue of not having immediately identifiable physical traits.

Those who continue to complain that they didn’t benefit from racism, who claim merit got them to where they are, conveniently forget that a large portion of the population never ever gets the chance to prove merit. And if they can, they are not promoted, they are paid less, and they are segregated to live in certain areas. Those who claim merit are scared of real competition; they like the game rigged, one that gives them advantages before they even start playing and excludes everyone else. They may claim equal opportunity, but they see in “woke” a threat to their status. Even poor whites in West Virginia and Utah don’t realize they’re being played as pawns.

For Black History Month, I reread a classic on enslavement and found these two nuggets that help explain it all: “The willingness of many white southerners to unite around the idea of hanging on to racial power made the South a swing region, and white southerners a defined interest group, willing to join whichever national party was willing to cater to its demands.” And, “…the unbending anger of former Confederates against Reconstruction morphed into their grandchildren’s suspicion of the New Deal, and the insistence of the part of white southern Democrats that measures against the Depression could do nothing to alleviate black poverty or lessen white supremacy.” That’s what they want to keep up.

Nostalgia for “The Lost Cause” and deep-seated racism keep white southerners tethered to a political party that keeps them poor.

The mainstream media has given ample coverage to the likelihood that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is likely to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president in the next week. The stories about him treat him as a normal elected officials. They do not reference his multiple efforts to censor ideas and people he doesn’t like; to ban teaching ideas he doesn’t like; to ban textbooks that include ideas he disagrees with; to persecute drag queens and gay people. The American people need to know who he is. DeSantis’ regime of censorship is a pathetic attempt by pasty-faced cowards to dumb down the students of Florida. They can’t succeed because everyone has access to the Internet and television, where they will learn about the lies the state is teaching them.

Scott Maxwell is a regular columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. He is fearless. In this post, he writes about Governor Ron DeSantis’ purge of knowledge he doesn’t like.

The headlines are as abundant as they are dystopian:

“Florida rejects, amends many social studies textbooks”

“An Entire Florida School District Has Banned a Kids’ Book on Segregation”

“Florida bans more than 40% of math books after review”

“350+ Books Banned in Florida School Districts Since Last July”

A knowledge purge is underway in Florida. The targets: History lessons that politicians want hidden. Perspectives that make parents uncomfortable. Truths that ideologues find inconvenient.

Basically, we have people who want to control the narrative. And they think it’s easier to do that if kids don’t know all the facts.

Now, it’s hard to get your hands around both the scope and the specifics of this purge, because education officials are censoring so much and revealing so little.

In the latest salvo, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education department rejected 35 different social studies books — more than a third of all they reviewed.
Florida rejects some social studies books, forces ‘Take a Knee’ out of one

But to justify their actions, they released snippets from only six of the books they shunned or ordered altered. So you don’t have much to go on.
But let’s look at one of those six examples. It’s from an elementary school textbook that teaches children about patriotism.

DeSantis staffers approved passages that instructed students to learn the Pledge of Allegiance and encouraged parents to stress the significance of the national anthem. But they did not want kids hearing why they might see some Americans, especially athletes on TV, take a knee during the anthem.

Specifically, the Florida Department of Education ordered the textbook to remove a section that suggested parents — not teachers, mind you — use that lesson on patriotic traditions “as an opportunity to talk about why some citizens are choosing to ‘Take a Knee’ to protest police brutality and racism.” DeSantis staffers ordered that suggestion stricken.

A popular talking point for people who dislike athletes taking a knee is to describe them as “anti-American,” “anti-cop” or “unpatriotic.” And it’s easier to peddle that narrative if students don’t hear why the players themselves say they’re doing what they are.

Personally, I think there’s valid debate over taking a knee. I can see why some players would. I can see why many people would dislike them doing so. It’s not really that hard to understand the divide — if you listen to what people on both sides are saying.
But the new Florida model of education doesn’t want to share all sides. The censors say kids aren’t ready for these discussions. Really, though, it’s the adults who are scared their kids might hear a different perspective. They’re the snowflakes.

The DeSantis censors also axed a section about Black Lives Matter from a middle school textbook that presented both pro and con perspectives on the social movement. The passage described the killing of George Floyd, explained that social media gave rise to civic activism and then gave a brief explanation of why some people supported Black Lives Matter and an even lengthier description of why others opposed it.DeSantis’ education staffers ordered the entire section removed.

At least one of the passages DeSantis staffers removed looks justifiably flagged. It’s a section from a middle-school book that attempts to teach students what a socialist form of government is.
The first part does a fine job explaining that, in a socialist society, the government controls much of the means of production, but then says: “It keeps things nice and even and without unnecessary waste.” Um, what? That seems more like a pom-pom for socialism — and a pretty skewed one at that — than a civics lesson. Yank it out.

But here’s the problem: DeSantis staffers shared a reworked version of the textbook that met their approval. It removed the word “socialism” altogether, replacing it with “planned economies.”
I’m no fan of socialism, but I’d sure like students to have a correct understanding of what it is. Why? Because the vast majority of adults who scream about socialism absolutely do not. They somehow believe anything government-funded is “socialism” … and then turn into Cletus the Slack-jawed Yokel when you ask them if that means Medicare and highways are socialist as well.

I’d love to see students better informed than these adults. But that seems to be the last thing the grown-ups want.

Last year, before state officials were rejecting social studies textbooks, they were flagging math books for being allegedly too woke. A handful of people apparently believed liberal boogeymen had infiltrated the nation’s algebra-instructional complex. And the handful got their way.

Some of this censorship is silly, political theater. Some is a serious effort to indoctrinate.

One publisher, Penguin Randomhouse, sued the Escambia County school district last week over its book-banning. Other publishers agree to comply with whatever censorship orders they’re given as they’re more interested in selling textbooks than standing on any sort of educational principles.

Then there are all the school library books being banned in historic numbers, thanks to the Republican-led Legislature’s new book-banning bill — books about everything from the civil rights movement to nontraditional families.

School book challenges, already on rise, could escalate in Florida

The Lake County school district pulled a picture book about the true story of two male penguins in Central Park Zoo who raised a chick after the zookeeper gave them an egg. A Panhandle district removed a book about school segregation in the 1950s with the New Republic reporting the district concluded the subject matter was “difficult for elementary students to comprehend.”

I don’t think kids are the problem here. In fact, the local banning crusades are sometimes led by just one or two adults who not only want to shelter their own kids from ideas they find scary but want to keep books away from everyone else’s kids at school as well.

I thought of all this book-banning and history-censoring while attending a recent session on the rise of antisemitism at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida. One panelist said the best way to combat hatred, intolerance and ignorance is to ensure children hear unvarnished truths. He described it as “The criticality of giving truth to our kids.”

The leader of a Holocaust Center in South Florida made a similar point recently stressing: “The Holocaust, it didn’t start with guns and death camps. It started with words.”

Well, words are precisely what Florida is trying to ban, censor and distort. In unprecedented fashion.

The editorial boards of the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun Sentinel published this commentary on Governor DeSantis’ campaign to demonize being “woke.” What does it mean to be woke? It means being aware of systemic injustice. Did systemic injustices occur in the past? Yes. Do they occur now? Yes. Should we banish teaching or learning about systemic injustices, as DeSantis demands? No. That would mean teaching lies. Can we blame teachers or schools for the drop in scores on NAEP (the National Assessment of Educational Progress) when politicians like DeSantis require teachers to teach their students lies?

The editorial says it’s good to be woke:

Have you noticed? Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn’t smile enough. His brand is anger, especially at anything he can ridicule as “woke.”

Disney is “woke.” Diversity is “woke.” His obsession to cleanse Florida classrooms of discussions of racism was the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act.”

He took over New College of Florida because it was “woke.” He suspended Tampa State Attorney Andrew Warren because his policies were “woke.”
Florida “is where woke goes to die,” he says. This four-letter word has lost much of its punch, purely from overuse.

But it really doesn’t matter whether people have any idea of what “woke” means — just that it sounds bad.

But what does it mean, really?

‘Systemic injustices’

As good an answer as any came from DeSantis’ general counsel, under questioning from Warren’s attorney in federal court.

“The belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them,” lawyer Ryan Newman replied, adding that DeSantis doesn’t share that belief.

He doesn’t? No society is without injustices. To pretend that ours is is ludicrous.

The term “woke” originated in Black culture almost a century ago. According to the Legal Defense Fund, it became an “in-group signal urging Black people to be aware of the systems that harm and otherwise put us at a disadvantage.”

Those are precisely the systems that DeSantis pretends don’t exist, and that he doesn’t want Florida schoolchildren and college students to learn anything about. His hijacking of the word “woke” is ironic, to say the least.

Obnoxious objectives

His objectives, like that of copycat Republican politicians, are threefold. One is to cater to bigoted and resentful white voters. Donald J. Trump taught them the effectiveness of that. No. 2: Breed a generation of future voters who will have learned nothing about racism’s history or continuing consequences.

The third objective, not quite so transparent but equally pernicious, is to desensitize the nation’s courts to systemic economic and political injustices, many of which afflict poor white people just as much as Black people. The Florida Supreme Court bought into this when it purged diversity guidelines from the Florida Bar’s continuing education criteria.

There hasn’t been such a cynical disinformation campaign since the Daughters of the Confederacy set out more than a century ago to reinvent the Civil War and Reconstruction. In that distorted looking glass, slavery had nothing to do with the war; it was the South fighting for freedom and the North fighting against it. That’s how children were to be taught.

Writing in The New York Times, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. described how the Daughters suppressed textbooks to the extent of rejecting any that described slaveholders as cruel. Slavery, wrote the Daughters’ historian, “was an education that taught the negro self-control, obedience and perseverance.”

“Undertaken by apologists for the former Confederacy with an energy and alacrity that was astonishing in its vehemence and reach, in an era defined by print culture, politicians and amateur historians joined forces to police the historical profession,” Gates wrote. “The so-called Lost Cause movement was, in effect, a take-no-prisoners social media war.”

The racism didn’t go away when the South lost the war and slaves were freed. It fostered sharecropping — slavery by another means. It rationalized Jim Crow laws, lynchings, inferior schools and a denial of the right to vote that persisted until 1965. It led to federal housing policies that confined Black people to urban ghettos. It was evident when Social Security initially excluded domestic and farm workers on the fiction that it would be too difficult to collect the taxes.

It remains glaring today in the statistic that Black Americans, who account for 13% of the population, are 27% of the people shot and killed by police. It was evident when the Tennessee House of Representatives expelled two Black members over a gun violence protest in their chamber, but not the Caucasian legislator who protested with them. It is apparent in the increasing re-segregation of public schools; profound racial disparities in income, health and mortality; and the persistence of fair housing and fair employment violations.

Exposure is essential

The remedy for injustice begins with exposure. It is essential. To conceal it is to be complicit in the injustice.

To teach American history through rose-colored glasses, as DeSantis intends, is to ignore the heroism and sacrifices that every generation has made toward fulfilling the belief that “all men are created equal.” That so many Americans have risen so often to that challenge speaks well of our nation, not poorly.

A federal judge has temporarily blocked one of DeSantis’ schemes — the law allowing educators and private businesses to be sued for making students and employees feel guilty about racism — but the destruction of the schools and universities goes on.

It’s up to the voters whether that continues. It’s better to be “woke” than silent any day.

The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board includes Editor-in-Chief Julie , Opinion Editor Krys Fluker and Viewpoints Editor Jay Reddick. The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Steve Bousquet, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Dan Sweeney, and Anderson. Send letters to

© 2023 Orlando Sentinel

President Biden has said he would not compromise on raising the debt ceiling but lately he has sent mixed signals. If the debt ceiling is not raised, the United States would be forced to default on its bonds for the first time in history. Congress raised the debt ceiling three times during Trump’s term in office. Congressional Republicans passed a budget that allows increases for defense and border security but requires steep cuts in everything else. Trump, the titular leader of the Republican Party, said at his New Hampshire town hall, that the U.S. should default on its debt, even though most economists predict that a default would likely precipitate a deep recession, with global consequences. Trump once called himself “the king of debt,” so he has no fear of the consequences, which would hurt Biden in 2024.

Ryan Cooper of The American Prospect explains why the President should not compromise and what those cuts would mean:

For months, President Biden had a consistent line on the debt ceiling: He would accept only a clean increase, without conditions. This was the lesson from the Obama administration, it was thought, learned at great expense when President Obama tried to negotiate with Tea Party Republicans in 2011 to get a grand bargain to cut the deficit. The result was the budget “sequester,” which badly eroded the federal government and elongated the agonizingly slow economic recovery. That’s why Obama stood his ground in 2013, and Republicans—eventually—backed down, getting essentially nothing out of the eventual debt ceiling increase.

But now all that is out the window. With the June 1 X-date approaching, the Washington media clamoring for Biden to cave, and administration officials working themselves into an anxious fit over potential executive actions to nullify the ceiling, it seems President Dark Brandon is returning to be old Conciliatory Joe. The man himself telegraphed this in a speech in New York last week that was designed to hammer Republicans over the debt ceiling, saying “we should be cutting spending and lowering the deficit without a needless crisis, in a responsible way.”

Reuters and Politico report that the White House is preparing to offer concessions in the form of cutting discretionary spending to the level of fiscal year 2022, and then capping the rate of increase at 1 percent per year for an indeterminate period, maybe two years. There would be other parts to the compromise, including rescinding some COVID aid and some bargain on permitting reform, but as far as spending, the discretionary caps would be the major piece.

This is a disastrous move. Politically, it reinforces the precedent that Republicans can extract concessions through legislative terrorism, and by signaling weakness and timidity in the Democratic leadership, it will further enable GOP extremism. If Republicans control either chamber of Congress next time the ceiling is hit—a high likelihood given how bad the Senate map is in 2024—then they’re virtually certain to take the debt ceiling hostage again.

But the practical consequences will also be terrible. We don’t know the details yet, but returning to fiscal year 2022 budget levels would mean an immediate cut of about 13 percent to every government agency and program (thanks to an unusually large spending increase in 2023 to account for economic growth, high inflation, and a few additional programs). If defense and border cops are exempted, then the cut will be perhaps 22 percent.

Read all of our debt ceiling coverage here

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, solicited estimates from various government departments on what that 22 percent cut would mean. They told her that just for starters, 60,000 people would not be able to attend college; 200,000 children would get kicked off Head Start; 100,000 families would lose child care; and 1.2 million people would be removed from WIC nutrition assistance.

One hundred twenty-five air traffic control towers would be shut down, affecting one-third of airports, and no doubt worsening the chronic snarls in American air travel. Rail safety inspections would be cut back by 11,000 work days, meaning 30,000 miles of track going uninspected. (More dangerous chemical spills, here we come!) Some 640,000 families would lose rental assistance, and 430,000 more would be evicted from Section 8 housing. And even all that isn’t the whole list of carnage.

Now, Republicans have not suggested an across-the-board cut, and it’s certainly possible that some of the above priorities would be spared. But that would only make the cuts to the programs that don’t get such treatment worse, because appropriators would need to hit that overall cap number.

Incidentally, this illustrates well the utter stupidity of Republican budget politics. Instead of drawing up a list of priorities, calculating how to fund them, and then writing a budget plan to fit—they neither know nor care about any of that stuff—they just demand arbitrary and escalating cuts to everything that isn’t the troops or border police, because that’s what right-wing media says is the most conservative thing to do.

Needless to say, there’s no indication of any revenue increases being discussed to offset this pain. Anti-tax Republicans wouldn’t like that, and in this hostage situation, you mustn’t anger the guys (and it’s mostly guys) with the guns.

There may well be macroeconomic effects from this deal as well. These cuts would suck hundreds of billions of dollars out of an economy that is already plainly softening, thanks to high interest rates and instability in the banking system. A ton of austerity might just be the thing that tips America into a recession during an election year, with Biden, a willing negotiator in this process, on the ballot.

Finally, it’s not at all clear that House Republicans will actually accept this partial ransom. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy just barely managed to pass his current debt ceiling hostage note by giving the far right everything it asked for (and then only because two Democrats were absent from the chamber). Sure enough, several members told PoliticoFriday that they want the spending cap to last ten years instead of two, at a minimum. As I was writing this, others also told Politico they want harsh border controls as well.

From their perspective, this makes perfect sense. If Biden is too weak-willed to stare down Republicans like Obama did in 2013, and too chicken to mint the coin or invoke the 14th Amendment, why not demand more concessions while he’s on the ropes? Heck, why not demand the entire ransom, including work requirements for Medicaid and gutting the Inflation Reduction Act?

Two years of capped spending is bad enough. But it might end up being even worse.

Parents in Chattanooga, Tennessee, complained to the district school board about its cancellation of a Mothers Day event that was intended to be inclusive. The school board reacted to a complaint by a member of the censorious rightwing Moms for Liberty.

Alternet reported:

Parents in Chattanooga, Tennessee boldly confronted the Hamilton County School Board and its Superintendent Justin Robertson “for caving to Moms (Against) Liberty-led bullying and canceling a librarian’s Mother’s Day lesson inclusive to kids without moms,” The Tennessee Holler tweeted on Sunday.

Moms for Liberty (which the paper dinged as “against”) is a right-wing organization that campaigns against social progress and civil rights. Media Matters for America pointed out in November 2021 that the non-profit has deep connections to the Republican Party and “has county-specific chapters across the country that target local school board meetings, school board members, administrators, and teachers.” Moms for Liberty also promoted “stripping districts of protective COVID-19 measures” and seeks to “modify classroom curriculum to exclude the teaching of ‘critical race theory’ (CRT) and sex education, all in the name of ‘parental rights.'”

Last Tuesday, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Alpine Crest Elementary School librarian Caroline Mickey posted a letter on Moms for Liberty’s website stating that “With Mother’s Day approaching, I’d like to highlight this special role, but I am sensitive to the fact that not all students live with a mother. As such, I am planning a lesson that celebrates those who fill the motherly roles in our lives.”

Then, on Wednesday, ABC News Channel 9 explained that Mickey’s event was “designed to include students who didn’t have what is considered a ‘traditional’ mother. But the group Hamilton County Moms for Liberty said the books promoted what they call the ‘homosexual agenda.'”

Jim Hightower is a Texas populist who has observed the state’s hard rightward swing with dismay. In this post, he flays the profiteers who are attacking teachers and public schools. You should consider subscribing to his blog.

He writes here in honor of teachers:

I’m a child of privilege. Not the privilege of money (I come from a family of small-town working people). But it was my privilege to grow up in the public schools of Denison, Texas.

There I received the rich blessings of dedicated classroom teachers, a diverse student body, playground socialization, librarians, coaches, cafeteria and custodial workers, student politics, vocational training… and a deep appreciation for the unifying value of community and the Common Good.

That’s why I’m flabbergasted by today’s clique of corporate profiteers, theocratic zealots, and laissez-faire knuckleheads who’re lobbying furiously across the country to demonize, defund, and dismantle this invaluable social benefit. If ignorance is bliss, they must be ecstatic!

Public schools do have some real problems: Politicians constantly slashing education budgets, professional burnout created by understaffing and low pay, the devastating strain of a killer pandemic, and a new-normal of assault-rifle murders. But the profiteers, theocrats, and knuckleheads aren’t interested in those, instead focusing on what they say is the fatal flaw in public education: Teachers.

Yes, the claim is that diabolical educators are perverting innocent minds by teaching America’s actual history, showing students that the full diversity of humankind enriches our society, and presenting our Earth as something to be protected, not plundered. And worse – OMIGOSH – many classroom teachers are union members! So, teachers suddenly find themselves political pawns in the GOP’s culture war. “Our schools are a cesspool of Marxist indoctrination,” squawked Sen. Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump squealed that schools are run by “radical left maniacs” and “pink-haired communists.”

These right-wing Chicken Littles are demonizing America’s invaluable educators because they need someone for people to hate, providing cover for their unpopular plot to privatize education. But hate can easily backfire on hatemongers – and local teachers are a whole lot more popular than conniving politicos and profiteers.

A nonpartisan journalism project called Wisconsin Watch released an alarming report about voucher schools that openly discriminate against LGBT students and students with disabilities. State law requires them to admit all who apply but not to enroll those from these disfavored groups.

State law for public schools prohibits discrimination on these very same grounds. In other words, public schools may not discriminate against these two groups, but publicly-funded voucher schools may and do.

Among the voucher schools, discrimination against gay students and families is usually on religious grounds. Voucher schools may exclude students with disabilities for any reason, such as lack of staff or resources.

Wisconsin has funds 52,000 students in 373 private voucher schools, or 6% of all students in publicly funded schools. This year the state spent $444 million on vouchers. “About one-fifth of voucher schools have 90% or more of their students on vouchers, what one scholar describes as “private in name only.” Republicans want to expand voucher availability by removing any limits, so that public funds underwrite tuition for rich kids.

Wisconsin is considered the birthplace of the “school choice” movement. The nation’s first publicly funded private voucher program began in Milwaukee in 1990. Initial restrictions, such as limiting vouchers to secular schools, have disappeared as the program has expanded. Today, 32 schools — including at least one with an anti-LGBTQ+ stance — have their entire student bodies on publicly funded vouchers.

Legal discrimination against students who are LGBTQ+ or have disabilities results from a lack of state-level protections; a federal exemption that allows religious entities to discriminate against LGBTQ+ students and another that requires schools taking federal funds to make only minor adjustments for students with disabilities; and a state education agency constrained by punctilious rules and decades of litigation.

One of the cardinal goals of publicly-funded education is equal opportunity for all. In voucher schools, it’s equal opportunity for some. We are reminded once again that “school choice” means SCHOOLS CHOOSE.

Perry Bacon, Jr. is a relatively new columnist at the Washington Post. He joined the Post a year ago and writes about national and state politics and race. His latest column in the Post startled me and perhaps others, because the Post editorial board has been an enthusiastic supporter of the worst kinds of punitive corporate reform. The Post editorial board frequently defended No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the teacher-bashing by Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan. Seldom was a contrary view expressed, except on Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet blog, which was a haven for critics of the failed reforms based on testing, punishment, and privatization.

The article begins:

America’s decades-long, bipartisan “education reform” movement, defined by an obsession with test scores and by viewing education largely as a tool for getting people higher-paying jobs, is finally in decline. What should replace it is an education system that values learning, creativity, integration and citizenship.

Joe Biden is the first president in decades not aggressively pushing an education agenda that casts American schools and students as struggling and in desperate need of fixing. He has not stated that “education is the civil rights issue of our time,” a sentence said by presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. His administration has backed policies, such as an expanded child tax credit, that view giving people more money, not more education, as the main way to reduce poverty.

There is a push from experts and politicians across partisan lines, including from Biden, to get employers to stop requiring college degrees for so many jobs. There is also a growing defense of college students who study English, literature and other subjects that don’t obviously lead to jobs in the way that, say, engineering does.

An education gospel is being dismantled, one that was 40 years in the making. In 1983, the Reagan administration released a report called “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.” It warned that America’s status as an economic powerhouse was under threat because its students were doing so much worse than those from other industrialized nations on standardized tests. That report put education reform on the national agenda and explicitly tied it to economic growth.

But this education fixation wasn’t just about the economy. The two parties couldn’t agree on racial policy. Democrats wanted more funding and explicit policies to help Black people and heavily Black areas to make up for past discrimination, and the Republicans largely opposed them.
What Democrats and Republicans could agree on was making education a priority. So Republican politicians, particularly Bush, pumped more money into schools, as Democrats wanted. And Democrats broadly adopted the view that education was the main way for Black people to make up for the effects of racism, thereby shifting responsibility for Black advancement from the government to individual African Americans, as Republicans wanted.

Eventually education, particularly getting a college degree, became viewed as the primary way for economic advancement for not just Black people but people of all races who weren’t born into the middle class.
The result was a bipartisan education fixation for much of the period between 1990 and 2016. It included the expansion of charter and magnet schools as an alternative to traditional public schools; an obsession with improving student test scores; accountability systems that punished schools and teachers if their kids didn’t score well; increased government spending on college loans and grants as part of a movement to make college essentially universal; and a push for Black students in particular not to just get college degrees but ones in “STEM” fields (science, technology, engineering and math) that would help them get higher-paying jobs.

This agenda was racial, economic and education policy all wrapped into one.

The problem is that this education push didn’t work. While the number of Americans who have graduated from high school and college have skyrocketed in the past three decades, wages and wealth haven’t grown nearly as much. Black people in particular haven’t seen economic gains matching these huge increases in education levels.

The remainder of the column nails the point: the education reform movement of the past few decades is a failure. It’s time for fresh thinking, centered on the idea that education is first and foremost about learning, not test scores.

But if the real aim of education policy is no longer really economic and racial policy, what should its goals be? Neither party seems to have a clear answer. Most Democrats defend teachers, a core party constituency, and extol public schools and community colleges, trying to shed the Democrats’ reputation as the party for graduates of Ivy League schools. But they don’t have a broader theory of education policy.

The Republicans are doing something much worse. At the state level, they are largely abandoning public schools and instead aggressively pushing universal voucherlike programs for K-12 education to help as many families as possible to enroll their kids in private and/or religious schools. They are also casting K-12 public school teachers and in particular college professors as propagandists who impose liberal values on students. At the college level, Republicans are trying to force out left-leaning faculty and push campuses to the right.

I certainly prefer the “teachers, professors and public schools are good” perspective (the Democratic one) over “teachers, professors and public schools are bad” (the Republican one). But neither is a real vision for American education.

Here’s one: Our education system should be about learning, not job credentialing. Schools and universities should teach Americans to be critical thinkers, not automatically believing whatever they heard from a friend or favorite news source. They should make sure Americans have enough understanding of economics, history and science to be good citizens, able to discern which candidate in an election has a better plan to, say, deal with a deadly pandemic. They should foster interest and appreciation of music, arts and literature.

They should be places where people meet and learn from others who might not share their race, class, religion or ideology. Our schools and universities should of course also provide people the core skills for jobs that actually require higher education. They should provide a path to becoming a doctor, lawyer, professor or any profession that requires specialized training without going into debt.

What our education system should not be is 16 years of required drudgery to make sure that you can get a job with stable hours and decent benefits — or a punching bag for politicians who have failed to do their jobs in reducing racial and economic inequality.

Hannah Natanson of the Washington Post reports that high schools are canceling productions of plays that might offend parents and members of the community. The “culture wars” have watered down which topics are permissible in 2023. Once again, we see how fear of offending anyone restricts freedom.

She writes:

The crew had built most of the set. Choreographers had blocked out almost all the dances. The students were halfway through rehearsals.

Then in late January, musical director Vanessa Allen called an emergency meeting. She told the cast and crew of 21 teens that their show — the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” — was off.

Board members in Ohio’s Cardinal Local Schools disliked some features of “Spelling Bee,” Allen explained, including a song about erections, the appearance of Jesus Christ and the fact that one character has two fathers.

Sobs broke out across the room, said Riley Matchinga, 18, who was slated to play one of the leads: Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, the character whose fathers are gay. “Everyone’s faces just fell,” she said. “I could see everyone’s hearts melting, because we had worked so hard.”

Following a record-setting surge in efforts to change curriculums and ban books at schools nationwide, the education culture war has now reached the stage. The controversy in Cardinal is one of a number of recent instances in which school administrators have intervened to nix or alter school theatrical productions deemed objectionable — often because they feature LGBTQ characters or deal with issues of race and racism.

In Florida’s Duval County Public Schools this January, administrators stopped a production of the play “Indecent,” which details a love affair between two women, due to its “mature content.” In February, Indiana’s Northwest Allen County Schools pulled the plug on a production of the play “Marian” after adults raised the alarm over its depiction of a same-sex couple and a nonbinary character. And in March, Iowa’s South Tama County Community School District halted a performance of the play “August: Osage County” over fears that its treatment of suicide, addiction and racism was inappropriate for school-aged children.

Censorship of K-12 student productions has been happening for years, said Howard Sherman, managing director of the performing arts center at New York’s Baruch College. Since 2011, Sherman has tracked and fought efforts to end or edit school theater, assisting with roughly four dozen such cases, many of which never became public.

Still, this most recent wave of opposition seems more intense and organized than in past years, Sherman said, and more tightly focused on plays and musicals with LGBTQ content.

“Something that was being dealt with community by community has now, for some people, become a cause, ” he said. “You see politicians and officials enacting rules and laws which are incredibly onerous and designed to enforce a very narrow view of what students can see, read, learn or act on stage.”

The logic: if high school students see a play with gay characters, they might think being gay is normal, and they too might be gay. Counter-logic: the same students are far more likely to see movies, TV, and plays where people are not gay.

Robert Pondiscio of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, defended censorship:

“You have to be mindful of local values,” Pondiscio said. “School has always existed to signal to children what is worth knowing and valuable, what we praise and condemn, and you have to apply that to musicals as well.”

In North Lebanon School District in Pennsylvania, the school board voted down a proposed performance of “The Addams Family,” which is the most frequently performed high school musical. The board thought it was too gloomy.

In Ohio, the students won a minor victory:

In Ohio’s Cardinal schools, Matchinga and her peers were determined to put on “Spelling Bee.” They bombarded the school board with emails questioning the cancellation.

Musical director Allen began revising the script to erase lines board members dubbed inappropriate — eliminating profanity, a line about “[beating] up” kids and replacing the phrase “fake mom” with “step mom,” according to school documents obtained by The Washington Post. She was assisted by Rachel Sheinkin, one of the writers of the 2005 Broadway musical. Ultimately, after requesting more than two dozen edits and receiving 12, the school board voted to let “Spelling Bee” proceed.

Alterations to Matchinga’s lines included replacing “and I’ve heard she is pro-choice/though still a virgin” with “but she will not make her choice/til she is certain.”

“I don’t think that really made a big effect on the story, and the show was still really funny and we got a ton of laughs,” Matchinga said. “Overall, I think it was okay.”

But in the future, the school board will have veto power on which plays may be staged.

Let’s see, “Mary Poppins” should pass muster. What else?

A reader shared a link to an important study of the damaging effects of student mobility. The more students changed schools, the more negative effects on them.

Too bad Margaret Spellings and Arne Duncan didn’t know about this research when they decided that the best way to help low-scoring students was to close their schools. Too bad Rahm Emanuel didn’t know about it when he closed 50 public schools in a single day.

School mobility has been shown to increase the risk of poor achievement, behavior problems, grade retention, and high school drop-out. Using data over 25 years from the Chicago Longitudinal Study, we investigated the unique risk of school moves on a variety of young adult outcomes including educational attainment, occupational prestige, depression symptoms, and criminal arrests. We also investigated how the timing of school mobility, whether earlier or later in the academic career, may differentially predict these outcomes over and above associated risks. Results indicate that students who experience more school changes between kindergarten and twelfth grade are less likely to complete high school on time, complete fewer years of school, attain lower levels of occupational prestige, are more likely to experience symptoms of depression, and are more likely to be arrested as adults. Furthermore, the number of school moves predicted above and beyond associated risks such as residential mobility and family poverty. When timing of school mobility was examined, results indicated more negative outcomes associated with moves later in the grade school career, particularly between fourth and eighth grade.

Doesn’t this seem like common sense? Your child is in a school where he or she makes friends and has a good relationship with teachers. You take the child out, and he or she has some trouble readjusting. Maybe the family moved, and it was necessary. But why would the government inflict it on children, call it “reform,” and celebrate the harm to the children?