The Asset Value of Whiteness: Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap, Amy Traub, Laura Sullivan, Tatjana Meschede, and Tom Shapiro

The Asset Value of Whiteness: Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap, Amy Traub, Laura Sullivan, Tatjana Meschede, and Tom Shapiro

Racial inequality in wealth is rooted in historic discrimination and perpetuated by policy: our analyses show that individual behavior is not the driving force behind racial wealth disparities. Typical black and Latino households that attend college and live in two-parent households still have much less wealth than similarly situated white households. Black and Latino households that include a full-time worker have much less wealth than white households with a full-time worker, and only slightly more wealth at the median than white households where the only person employed works part time. Differences in spending habits also fail to explain wealth disparities between black and white households.

See also: This is the one big reason American blacks are poorer than whites

Expensive edTPA Not Accurate Measure of Teachers, Patricia Dunn

Expensive edTPA Not Accurate Measure of Teachers [full submitted version below]

Patricia Dunn, Professor of English, Graduate Program Director, Stony Brook University

Your January 23rd editorial (“Don’t Make Certification Easier for NY Teachers”) does not address what have been the main problems with the edTPA. As you mentioned, one question has been “whether the tests are properly measuring their [student teachers’] capabilities.” Please note that the edTPA has never been shown to be an accurate measure of what student teachers know or can do. This expensive test requires school children to be filmed in their classrooms, interrupting instruction and distracting student teachers from their most important task of actually teaching their students. Requiring pages of busy work and using a peculiar vocabulary used by no one else in education, the edTPA also forces new student teachers to become instant film technicians (in order to get usable video for Pearson), and to secure  permission for filming from students’ parents they may not yet have even met. The resulting videos are then sent off for grading to Pearson employees, who may not themselves be certified to teach in the area they are assessing. Yet these hired graders are allowed to determine the certification of New York state college students.  Everyone wants fully prepared teachers. The edTPA does not accurately measure that preparation.


Trump, Falwell Jr. Signal Shift to Privatization for U.S. Education, P.L. Thomas

Trump, Falwell Jr. Signal Shift to Privatization for U.S. Education

P.L. Thomas, Professor, Education, Furman University

As an educator in the U.S. for over thirty years, including nearly equal time teaching in public school and private higher education, I began to see light at the end of the accountability era tunnel of education reform in late 2016.

The call for a moratorium on charter school expansion from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) appeared to be a powerful and welcomed shift in the mostly bi-partisan support for accountability, standards, and high-stakes testing since charter schools had come over the years to embrace and represent the reform movement begun under Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s.

And while the predicted election of Hillary Clinton seemed to suggest similar education policies implemented under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, challenges to charter schools and opt-out movements rejecting testing across the U.S. revealed potential for public recognition that the education reform movement focusing on accountability was failing and that policy needed to address equity related to race and social class in both the lives and education of children.

However, Donald Trump’s election has dashed that small glimmer of hope—and signaled a much different shift toward privatizing both K-12 public education and higher education.

Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos [1], an advocate of school choice with no experience in education, announced a renewed assault on K-12 education, resulting in a contentious confirmation.

Just as disturbing has been another Trump initiative, as reported by Matthew Roza:

President Donald Trump has asked a member of one of America’s most famous evangelical families to lead a task force on higher education.

Jerry Falwell Jr. is the president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The Christian college, which was founded by Jerry Falwell’s father, told NBC News on Tuesday night that Falwell has been asked by President Trump to spearhead a group that will try to reform America’s higher education system.

Like DeVos, Falwell Jr. has a background mostly in private education (except for his JD from the University of Virginia) and his role as president of Liberty University positions him, again like DeVos, to benefit greatly from deregulating high education, specifically funneling public funds to private and online schools while also reducing the oversight of that funding.

The warning signals about what higher education can expect under Trump include, as Andy Thomason explains: a renewed push for expanding online education, mixing higher education policy with expanding gun rights, and more bully politics that ignore religiously conservative constituents.

Fallwell Jr. matches and expands the Trump playbook that includes populist rhetoric that contradicts evidence, a broad push to pander to religious and Christian interests, and choosing celebrity and wealth over expertise for promoting public policy.

Trump’s task force on higher education also comes in the wake of a professor watch list that has eroded public trust in and academic freedom by university professors, but also created the atmosphere in which Falwell Jr. and the task force can argue for allowing market forces to even the playing field of ideology in colleges and universities.

Along with bold-faced lies, Trump has benefited from coded language in both his campaign and the early days of his administration. Many rightfully fear coded language from Falwell Jr. that masks sweeping changes beyond higher education, as Trudy Ring warns:

Falwell specifically mentioned policies on accreditation and student loan repayment, but it would not be surprising if he saw policies banning discrimination against LGBT students as “overreaching regulation.”

The code of conduct at Liberty University, founded by Falwell’s notoriously homophobic father, states that “sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural born woman are not permissible.” The university has hosted several anti-LGBT events, including some that endorse so-called conversion therapy. Among its other far-right positions, the school supports creationism and climate change denial.

Like K-12 public education, higher education in the U.S. has very real and pressing problems: inequity of access by black, brown, and poor students as well as skyrocketing costs and student debt.

Trump tapping DeVos and Falwell Jr. is a tone-deaf response to those real problems and a pure power grab leveraged on ugly ideologies: racial stereotypes, demonizing the poor, idealizing market forces, and hollow but chilling slogans such as “Make America Great Again” and “America First.”

Education, once again, under Trump is poised to be a political means to a corporate ends, another way to manipulate American blind faith in the free market to serve the interests of wealthy people like Trump, DeVos, and Falwell Jr. by eroding public institutions.

[1] Many have failed to recognize that DeVos is not an extreme or an outlier in terms of SOE since we have experienced a long line of appointees with little or no expertise or experience in public education; see UPDATED: From Spellings to Duncan [Add King]: Incompetence and Deceit.

Bigger than Sputnik: How Betsy Devos’ Nomination for Secretary of Education just Saved Public Education, Christian Z. Goering

Bigger than Sputnik: How Betsy Devos’ Nomination for Secretary of Education just Saved Public Education

Christian Z. Goering, Associate Professor of English Education, University of Arkansas

Most people are familiar with American educational history to the point to remember that the Soviet launch of a satellite into space in 1957 before the launch of a US satellite struck great fear that our country was falling behind and thus needed to double down on our efforts, especially those in education. This little blinking light meant the Cold War could be lost and the years after Sputnik were marked by the National Defense of Education Act in 1958 and an onslaught of programs designed to improve teaching and learning and strengthen our system of public schools. A friend who began teaching in 1963 often shared with me the different ways in which he benefited from this urgency—paid summer workshops for teachers, support for graduate degrees, and just plain old-fashioned support for education.

I’m going to be bold in predicting that Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education will be remembered as a watershed moment in educational history, the point in time where public education was saved. I believe Betsy is bigger than Sputnik.

Before you rush to think otherwise, I don’t believe Ms. DeVos has any business leading the US Department of Education. Her religious adherence to the school choice movement, one I believe is designed to tear down (not improve) our system of public education, is single-handedly a disqualifier. The comment about bears and the fact that she has zero experience ever working inside a school of any kind seems like enough further evidence that she has no business setting foot in the Department of Education, much less leading it. When then President-Elect Trump passed on Michelle Rhee—the former Chancellor of the Washington D. C. schools and arguably the most hated educator in America—to instead nominate billionaire DeVos, it seemed apparent that only the most non-logical and most offensive choice was the goal. In this case, President Trump went too far.

While I’d love to tell you that Betsy DeVos is the worst nominee for President Trump’s cabinet and to place all of the blame for this nomination squarely on the President’s shoulders, she’s not and that wouldn’t be fair. Rather, a hefty amount of blame must be placed at the feet of the Democratic party, which over the past twenty years has increasingly drifted towards the school choice movement, interestingly one of the few areas of agreement in our divided country. Following eight treacherous years for public education under President George W. Bush and No Child Left Behind, Barack Obama gave legitimacy and real teeth to the failed policies of his predecessors. The name and shame, test-punish-rinse-repeat cycle did nothing for our education system. What’s worse is that President Obama provided funding for the biggest expansion of school choice in our nation’s history. His picks for Secretary of Education were both unqualified and considered by teachers to be outright attacks on our sensibility of what education actually is and isn’t. So, a hearty “thanks Obama” is in order.

How’s Betsy bigger than Sputnik, one might ask? She has singlehandedly united the Democratic party against the destructive school choice movement, one they almost universally supported previously and she has unified teachers and public education groups for a cause like I’ve never seen. She’s such a bad nominee for this position that she’s taken the place of a satellite blinking across the night sky. As a teacher, I’m looking towards Satellite DeVos with renewed hope and a sort of religious reverence.

Even school choice magnate Eli Broad came out to denounce her nomination. This guy drinks school choice Kool-Aid out of a platinum cup for breakfast and he’s against her? Anyone interested in perpetrating the school choice ruse is likely screaming from their rooftops or smashing their heads against a wall. BB (Before Betsy) everything was sailing through a dark night sky towards unprecedented spreading of vouchers and charters and the opportunity for the greedy to make money off of our nation’s most vulnerable—our school children. The Democrats were shamefully sitting at the same gilded table as the Republicans, no difference in their vision for education. AB (After Betsy), I project a future where public educators are again valued and where programs are initiated to support teaching and learning, a return to doing what is best for all of the students, a vision lost over the last couple of decades. I project a future in which the Democrats are stronger than ever supporters of public schools, unflinching and unwilling to accept anything less than the best for all of our nation’s students, especially not risky and fraudulent school choice schemes.

Thanks Betsy for being such an egregious choice for Education Secretary that you’ve united and revitalized the opposition to your broken ideas. If you are somehow confirmed, the unified force of all teachers—not just the Democrats—will have the brightest blinking light to look towards and know immediately what we need to work against.

Comments Shared with my Colleagues on the Responsibility of the Intellectual, P.L. Thomas

Comments Shared with my Colleagues on the Responsibility of the Intellectual

P.L. Thomas, Professor, Education, Furman University

The study of silence has long engrossed me. The matrix of a poet’s work consists not only of what is there to be absorbed and worked on, but also of what is missing, desaparecido, rendered unspeakable, thus unthinkable.

Adrienne Rich, Arts of the Possible

Since this is a voluntary gathering of concerned faculty, I am going to risk assuming we are here mostly in solidarity.

None the less, I recognize I am offering at least two controversial points and asking that you afford them your immense breadth and depth of knowledge as well as your patience.

First, while it is now popular in this time of Trump for pundits and the media to wring their collective hands about post-truth and fake news, my opening controversial claim is that despite that attention, neither of these is something manufactured by Trump, and fake news is not the primary problem.

Please consider this Twitter exchange between me and Juana Summers, a well-respected journalist at NPR in 2014, the time of the exchange., and now with CNN:

Summers represents here a tradition that journalists and educators, including professors, assume a neutral pose, honoring a call that they remain apolitical.

In that context, let me ask you next to consider an article published in the New York Times  just a week before Trump’s inauguration: In the Shopping Cart of a Food Stamp Household: Lots of Soda.

The headline and the article itself are mainstream media, not fake news; yet, what that distinction reveals is that our day-to-day public discourse is often indistinguishable from the click bait and false content we are lamenting in fake news.

O’Connors article cites a study from the USDA, which along with this being in the NYT, appears to be credible and compelling.

However, Joe Soss, writing in Jacobin and professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, has exposed that O’Connor’s article badly misrepresents the USDA study and expresses instead ugly stereotypes about people in poverty, what many in the public believe about people depending on food stamps.

So my first controversial claim, which leads into the second, is that public discourse has crossed the Bigfoot line. While there is a spectrum from fake news (entirely false and created to generate clicks online and thus revenue) to mainstream journalism, virtually all of that fails policy and the public because of traditional and misguided commitments to neutrality, objectivity.

There was a time when the National Enquirer depended on a facile commitment to report without unpacking the credibility of the person making a claim; thus, “Hiker has close encounter with Bigfoot!”

Might we imagine that journalist deflecting: “I’m not sure it’s my place to say whether the hiker is credible”?

In that era, mainstream media mostly refused to cross that Bigfoot line. But today, major media outlets are debating if journalists should report “Trump makes claim X” or “Trump makes false claim X”—or even more astounding “Trump lies.”

So I want to end with my second controversial claim.

If you google “fake news,” you are likely to read about a Davidson College graduate, and for us, this may trigger our own Yik-Yak founders.

I think this is not a trivial connection as we gather in our concern as university faculty, intellectuals, serving the liberal arts and our disciplines.

Across our campus, across our disciplines, the liberal arts is an argument that each of our fields is one way of coming to know the human condition. From biology to religion, from economics to philosophy, from psychology to education, and everything in between, we are carefully considering not only what knowledge exists, but what knowledge matters.

Our collective knowledge, or collective pursuit of knowledge, is more likely to serve us well than any one alone.

And then, there is the whole world beyond our beautiful fountains.

Therefore, when Donald Trump says torture works, or when his final TV ad in SC blatantly falsified data on the employment and crime rates, I think about fake news, hot new smartphone Apps, and the failures of mainstream media—each of which fails us if we resist looking at this world informed, if we pretend we can be apolitical, if we close our eyes to larger questions of ethics and morality.

The responsibility of the intellectual—and that includes us—is not about taking a neutral pose, but about speaking beyond those fountains, about modeling what it means to be well informed, to honor the truth, as difficult as at that is to attain, and to model for everyone what it looks like to work in the service of humanity, and not simply to say what you are paid to say, not simply to advocate for your own self-interest.

The responsibility of the intellectual is inescapably political, even as we pledge rightfully to be non-partisan.

Now, I end by appealing as an old English teacher, a writer, must—through metaphor.

Activist historian Howard Zinn’s memoir argues that the human condition is a moving train, and any of us who choose to sit quietly are in effect endorsing where that train is heading.

And thus, as Zinn believed and practiced, ours is always a political act—whether in our passivity or our action.

The responsibility of the intellectual?

For me, it is acknowledging that you cannot be neutral on a moving train, and I must add, you must not be neutral on a disaster-bound train—so I urge that we express our concern as action, informed and ethical.