Category: Education

Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos

Your writer hates to be the one to do this, but sometimes it’s necessary to bring a necessary understanding of religion to those who deliberately misunderstand and mischaracterize it. In this specific instance, it’s the Interfaith Alliance, a group more intent on spreading progressive ideology than religious faith. How else to explain a consortium that declares education vouchers anathema and clutches its respective pearls at the nomination of Betsy De Vos for U.S. Education Secretary?

Here’s IA on vouchers, for example:

Religious schools provide an important service to many students and families, [sic] However, Interfaith Alliance firmly believes that public funds should not go to private religious schools or to any educational institutions that may discriminate against students and teachers based on religion. Interfaith Alliance has a long history of fighting in in [sic] the halls of Congress and in our communities to ensure that voucher programs for sectarian schools are eliminated, not expanded.

Got it? So intent is the nominally faith-based IA “to separate church and state” it would deprive families of viable educational options and opportunities they otherwise may not be able to afford. (more…)

Growing up, I attended a private, Christian school until 4th grade, when my mother couldn’t afford it any more and my brothers and I switched to a blue collar, suburban public school. Academically, I experienced a clear difference. The worst contrast was in math, where I learned basically nothing for three years. The only subject that was probably better at the public school was science, but I’m not even certain about that. Class sizes were larger too.

None of this is to say that I didn’t have good teachers and experiences and learn a great many things at my public school. I did, and I’m quite thankful for it, in fact. And, of course, private schools are perfectly capable of employing bad teachers and failing to properly educate their students. But this was my experience.

So in high school, for purely anecdotal and self-interested reasons, I supported school vouchers, much to the chagrin of many of my teachers. (There was a state level proposal in the 2000 Michigan election in support of vouchers that I wore a button supporting — I wasn’t old enough to vote at the time. Incidentally, the proposal failed.) After all, I thought, I might not have become such a slacker if I had continued to be challenged in my public school like I was in my private school.

With the recent appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education by president-elect Donald Trump, vouchers may become a national issue. She has championed the cause and supported politicians who do for years.

Able now to take a less self-interested look at the issue (or so I tell myself), I’m actually a bit confused by the politics of vouchers — why isn’t there more skepticism on the right and support on the left? (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Thursday, November 3, 2016
By

imrs (2)UPDATE: Given the recent attention drawn to this post, permit me to clarify that I do NOT endorse replacing education with paid labor, nor do I support sending our children back into the coal mines or other high-risk jobs, nor do I support getting rid of mandatory education at elementary and middle-school ages. Due to the confusion it brought, I have removed “bring back child labor” from the title, as many falsely took it to mean a call to “bring back” earlier laws, conditions, or jobs, which is not my argument. My recommendation here is simply that we challenge our cultural assumptions about labor at all levels, from parenting to education to policymaking, and ensure we take a more holistic approach to education that recognizes the dignity of each human person.

The abundant prosperity of the modern age has brought many blessings when it comes to child-rearing and child development, offering kids new opportunities for education, play, and personal development. Yet even as we celebrate our civilizational departure from excessive child labor, we ought to be wary of falling into a different sort of lopsided lifestyle.

Alas, as a day-to-day reality, work has largely vanished from modern childhood, with parents constantly stressing over the values of study and practice and “social interaction” even as they insulate their children from any activity that might involve risk, pain, or boredom. As a result, many of our kids are coming far too late to the arena of creative service and all it brings: dignity, meaning, freedomvirtuecreativitycharacter, and neighbor love.

Operating out of a justified fear of the harsh excesses of “harder times,” we have allowed our cultural attitudes to swing too far in the opposite direction, distorting work as a “necessary obligation of adulthood,” a gift too dangerous for kids. Working from these same distorted attitudes, the Washington Post recently published what it described as a “haunting” photo montage of child laborers from America’s rougher past. (more…)

odufrathouseThe implosion of Donald Trump’s campaign is a reminder that at the end of the day, character matters more than professional success or political commitments. At the beginning of the second presidential debate Donald apologized again for the lewd comments recorded during a private discussion with Billy Bush in 2005 in which he boasted of romantically pursuing married women and groping others. In his apology, he referred to that discussion as regular “locker room talk.” In other words, Trump believes he is just a normal locker room guy. If lewdness is normative, America is in deep trouble. But should we be surprised?

What I found especially interesting was the attempt to contextualize Trump’s comments as something we might expect from younger men but not from older men. For example, during the October 8 edition of The News Hour on PBS, Roger Simon, Chief Political Columnist for Politico commented that Trump’s comments emanate from “frat boy culture” before adding, “but he’s no longer a frat boy.” Simon may have uncovered the root of the problem. Young men do see moral virtue celebrated as a young man’s norm.

For example, teenage and college male fraternity life has been depicted in the exact terms that Trump used in movies as old as Animal House (1978) or Porky’s (1981), and even as recent as the series of Neighbors films starring Zac Efron, in 2014 and 2016 respectively. This “frat boy” culture was evident in the political scandals of President Bill Clinton and Congressman Anthony Wiener.
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“Our problem [with education] today is not to enforce conformity; it is rather that we are threatened with an excess of conformity. Our problem is to foster diversity.” –Milton Friedman, Capitalism & Freedom

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._SchoolThe education reform movement has set forth a range of strategies to combat the leviathan of public education. Yet more often than not, those solutions are couched only with boilerplate about the glories of markets and competition.

There is plenty of truth behind such rhetoric, but as Greg Forster outlines in an extensive series of articles at EdChoice, a revival in education policy and educational institutions is going to require much more than free-market talking points and surface-level solutions.

“It’s not that the things we’re saying are wrong,” he writes. “We just aren’t getting to the heart of the matter because we are not challenging our nation to re-ask itself the big questions about education: What is the purpose of education? Who has final responsibility for it and why?”

Indeed, while our aversion to technocratic solutions has prodded us to focus on things like improving accountability, expanding competition, and removing barriers to information, many of the subsequent reforms have fallen prey to the same technocratic temptations. As Forster reminds us, in education, “technocracy fails more importantly because it is based on a wrong understanding of what education is for.” (more…)

Given the overpopulation of American jails and prisons, it would stand to reason that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump be pressed to explain how they would dismantle the unfortunate relationship between low-performing schools and the criminal justice system. Last February, The American Bar Association (ABA) released a report in the school-to-prison pipeline. According to the ABA, the pipeline is a metaphor for how the issues in our education system facilitates students leaving school and becoming involved in the criminal justice system. The process is a cycle of compounding issues ranging from low engagement, lack of relationships (including family breakdown), harsh discipline, and various problem with authorities in law enforcement and juvenile justice being involved in school discipline. For the ABA report, researchers conducted eight town hall meetings across the country to try and understand how the issue affected local communities by gathering testimony and exploring how bias plays a role in the system.

According to the report, minority populations are especially affected by the pipeline–a fact known across the academic world. Recent data from reports like this one show the magnitude of the problem, one that the ABA report says is “unacceptably large and out of proportion to the population of our young people.” The problem manifests itself during pre-k through high school years, from the juvenile justice system to adult prisons, and both for students of color and those with disabilities. For example, students of color, regardless of gender, were found to be disproportionately punished by harsher and more frequent methods, failed to graduate as often, had lower education retention and learning, and were more often referred to authorities for arrest. (more…)

school-deskThe current problems with the school-to-prison pipeline often start with poor school discipline policies. Various school discipline policies and tactics have recently come under criticism for being overly harsh—often causing students to drop out of school. The frequent use of suspension and expulsion for minor offenses has become commonplace in many schools across the country.

Over the summer Gina Raimondo, the Democratic governor of Rhode Island, signed a bill into law making it harder for schools to suspend students for minor infractions. The law creates stricter guidelines for when students can be sent home from school in order to lower the number of suspensions. High suspension rates are just one of the contributing factors to the school-to-prison pipeline. A Febuary 2015 study by The Center for Civil Rights Remedies looked at some of the contributing factors to the problem and how the policies affect different parts of the population.

Data cited in the report found that most suspensions occur in secondary school and are rarely used in younger grades. Students who had a disability were suspended twice as much as non-disabled students in the 2009-10 school year. One out of 3 students with an emotional disturbance were suspended.
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