Otesanya David March 31, 2022


Kojo Nnamdi is doing an Ali-like return to action at WAMU. I sat in yesterday for a show about education.

TL/DL version is: We talked about masks, it’s hopelessly political. We talked about the Wild One issue and frustrated parents. I tried to make the point that as with most popular movements of the past decade +/- there are plenty of contradictions and disagreements – you see that as soon as you scratch beneath the surface of today’s parent frustration. What’s sort of new is the multi-front culture wars coming to schools the way they have the past year. We talked about CRT. A substantial majority of people want schools to teach about racism and teach honest history. A vocal minority does not. They need to join the rest of us here in the 21st Century. At the same time, if you think it’s a good idea for 1st-graders to be doing privilege walks or that limiting access to advanced classes is a good way to further equity then no one sensible is going to trust you with their kids.

At the end we got to the mental health problems for young people, and really all of us. Not enough time on that issue but the president of the Montgomery County Maryland School Board, Brenda Wolff, made the key point that schools need to be supported doing this – they can’t and shouldn’t take it all on themselves. The President talked about this issue last night as well. And the Biden Administration has pledged to make it easier for schools to access Medicaid funds to support mental health. We do some work on that here at Bellwether, it’s an important issue and a place policy is still stuck in the past.

Tom Edsall on the Asian vote. Big education overlay.

OK, once again for everyone in the back. Don’t proselytize to kids. Pretty much every incident, left or right, is someone who thinks their point of view is so blindingly obvious only the dolts or deluded don’t get it and kids must be brought around to it. This seems strange to me. For me, the most liberating aspect of teaching about contested issues is that you’re freed from any responsibility to tell people what to think but instead get to help them learn how to think about various issues. Anyway, this happened:

Stanton said he understands why some feel that a lesson on the Russia-Ukraine conflict is not an appropriate topic for a Spanish class. But he also said that, if he had another chance, he’d give the same speech again.

Speech. If it does turn out this guy actually just presented both sides and the Russian leadership perspective on this in terms of security and NATO then he should get his job back – people can get carried away when the drums of war start. Otherwise, don’t proselytize to kids.

Let’s face it though, when there is a graf in the article about you that literally says, “in a Pravda opinion piece published Feb. 28, Stanton wrote….” You are starting behind the eight ball.

Seasoned ed hand Rich Hershman, who writes the must-read blog on federal appropriations called ‘Rich Better Have My Money’ (OK, he doesn’t, but he really should write that blog) noticed this in Biden’s  SOTU speech last night:

I couldn’t tell if that was just off the cuff or if the President is aware that unspent money is a political liability if people start paying attention to it and was pushing that point. If it were Trump I imagine The New York Times would already have a whole vertical about unspent funds with some sort of countdown feature. “In this Ohio diner they’re concerned about two things, the pecan pie and why President Trump isn’t spending federal ed funds fast enough.” Or, ‘Tonight on CNN: America’s Unspent Education Billions.’

It’s pretty well established that initial reports from distant battlefields are often wrong. The brave defenders of Snake Island, for instance, did tell a Russian warship to f*** off. But they may now be POWs not casualties.

Florida, however, is not a distant battlefield. Even if it sometimes seems that way. It’s the 27th state in the union. It has major cities and all that. It has men. Yet when Florida was debating its transgender athletes bill, this was the kind of headline you were seeing:

I wouldn’t have supported that bill if I were a legislator there because I think it’s the wrong policy. But, as you might have guessed, having some degree of common sense, it’s not really how the law actually works.

Another Florida law I wouldn’t support is the parents rights bill now moving through the legislature there, often referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It’s vague in places (anyone who has been around education for more than a few minutes knows “developmentally appropriate” is a frequently weaponized catch-all), will likely have a chilling effect, and possibly worse for some kids. But it, too, is not actually as it’s being portrayed in much general media and on social media. It does, for instance, have some language aimed at protecting vulnerable kids. Some of it is about surveys.

My hunch is some of the misrepresentation is because the bill does point up an issue we’re going to have to talk about more, but some people really don’t want to: When is it OK for schools to withhold information about kids from their parents? Or, as a lot of people would argue, it’s never OK. Where is the line between family and school on issues of sexuality (that issue/tension is not new, this is just a few version). And what kind of information should schools be collecting from kids? I take no convincing that there is some ill-intent behind this bill and some measures happening elsewhere the past few years. There is also a real issue here people are ducking.

The other day I spoke with a teen who identifies as LGBT and was sort of stunned to learn that it was even a debate if schools should be talking to really young kids about their gender and sexuality other than to make sure public classrooms are inclusive of all. Of course not, they said in that tone kids have when they think something is blindingly obvious. But they quickly noted that, in general, schools need to do a lot more to be welcoming and affirming to all kids.

Like a lot of debates, in general this one is being hijacked by stridency on both sides and reflexive partisanship, with common sense, and more importantly actual kids, the casualties.

The Kids Are Alright.


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