CURMUDGUCATION: Whose Children Are These?

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Whose Children Are These?

Saturday and Sunday we were working our way back from Maine to Western PA (drive– feed babies– drive- curse Mass turnpike– drive– etc etc). That meant that unlike other folks who watched events in Charlottesville unspool in real time, we got them in every-many-hours blasts. It was heartbreaking and horrifying and completely predictable, yet far more awful in reality than in anticipation. There are lots of thins to be said about events (though I think we’re also operating in Onionesque headline “White People Once Again Surprised To Discover That Racism Exists” territory), but I want to talk about what jumped out at me from the disjointed blasts of news.

Twenty years old.

The white supremacist who murdered one woman with his car (while trying to murder others)– twenty years old. The torch guy who was later shocked that his picture, face pulled back in open raw hatred, was identified and shared far and wide– twenty years old.

Twenty years old.

So these racists are not grown men, battered and beaten by the long, hard haul of trying to make a living, trying to raise and support a family, trying to make their way in a world that beat them up so badly that they have finally retreated in a huddled posture of hatred. These are not that particular caricature of a nazi, a white supremacist, a fascist racist.

These are boys. These are nearly children.

Their lives have not been long and difficult. They haven’t lived long enough to lose big or lose hard. Their life experience is short. Their life experience is not years of rattling around in the big, wide world. We cannot blame the hard edges of the world for making them this way.

Their life experience is school.

They are barely high school graduates. They walked through some teachers’ classrooms, across a stage, grabbed a diploma, strode into the heart of this evil movement.

And that means that those of us who teach in those classrooms cannot escape our responsibility in all this.

Teenage boys can be jerks. Some love Ayn Rand’s call to selfishness, to abuse of the weak, because it fits so nicely with their inclinations. Some have been soaked in the stew of toxic manhood, told since infancy that the only manly feelings are anger and violence. And some like to say things like “Hitler was really a great guy” not because they have any coherent belief system, but because it shocks their elders in the same satisfying way that “F@#! the government– I’m burning my draft card” once set aged hackles up.

And those of us who see them in our classrooms are often the last people to get a shot at getting them to understand you can’t go moving through the world like that.

So as I face the return to school in a few weeks, I have to ask the question– what can I do to change that trajectory? How do I convince students who are that way inclined that there are better ways to be in the world?

There are resources out there. Xian Franzinger Barret offers a good set of recommendations on Alternet. There are several good reading lists out there– this is just one. And Audrey Watters echoes what I have always pursued in the classroom– teach history. The white supremacist stance feeds on hate and anger, but its foundation is ignorance. And as authorities, knowledgeable in history, it’s part of our job to say “This happened. That did not.”

As an 11th grade English teacher, I teach a lot of history, and I teach to it overwhelmingly white classes. I suppose it’s easy for us who teach in similar situations to focus on the “white” parts of our history because that’s “our” culture. But the truth has always been that while the face of American history has often been presented as white, the blood and guts and heart has always been black and brown and red and every damn shade. White students need to learn slave narratives, because that is “our” history, too. They need to know it all. And in times like these, they need to know that just because they would never have walked with those racists in Charlottesville, never said the awful things they said there– well, racism doesn’t always have such an obvious face, no matter how comforting it is to think so.

But I digress, probably because I have no good, clear answer to this. I know we can’t always make an impression on our students.I know that you don’t make evil go away by refusing to let students say it out loud, and I know you can’t deal with uncomfortable things if you aren’t willing to have uncomfortable conversations, and that means somehow making a classroom a safe place for everyone, even as you put the pressure on to stand against evil. I know that any company suggesting that we might use a battery of standardized tests to both evaluate and address such issues is a ludicrous scam. I know this is not easily faced or changed.

But twenty years old.

Maybe a mere two years from graduation– maybe less. Meaning that the only non-related adults who may have ever had a chance to push these children in a better direction were their school teachers. I know none of us want to hear about one more thing we’re responsible for, a God knows we cannot work miracles on the hardened skulls of white teenaged boys. We are certainly not the last line or only line of defense.

But the truth is inescapable. There are more of these children out there, waiting to become  raging face of anger or even a murderer, and this fall, they are sitting in our classrooms, and we will have to deal with that mindfully and purposefully. And I also know that it needs most of all to come from grown-ass white men like me, that we are the ones best positioned to talk about the choices a grown-ass white man makes about how to be in the world as either a force for good or for evil. And I know most of all that in this time and place, we cannot be silent about it.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Whose Children Are These?

Michigan: Governor Rick Snyder Accepts No Responsibility for His Failed School Reforms

Diane Ravitch's blog

A reader sent a letter signed by Governor Rick Snyder and the State Superintendent Brian Whiston lamenting the poor performance of Michigan’s schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Please note that the Governor makes no reference to the failure of the state’s obsession with school choice over the past 15 years.

Nor does he say anything about the proliferation of charters, most of which operate for-profit, and most of which perform worse than the public schools.

Nor does he acknowledge that the state’s education agenda is a wholly owned enterprise of the DeVos family.

Nor does he mention the disaster of the Educational Achievement Authority, into which the state of Michigan poured millions of dollars and overpaid administrators sent by the Broad Academy, only to see the EAA collapse in failure.

This is a politician who does not know the meaning of the word accountability. He is…

View original post 44 more words

In response to Charlottesville

Seattle Education


Being African American, I have seen and heard many things in my life, many times because most people don’t know my heritage and speak freely of others who are different.

Early in my life there were Ku Klux Klan rallies in the south. No one stirred, protested, or decried the racism. It was expected and as a family we mourned the ignorance of others.

When I heard about the actions in Charlottesville I was horrified. The deadly violence towards others in this circumstance is beyond my comprehension. An innocent woman killed while protesting racism and bigotry is unforgivable.

My second thought though, was that fifty years ago you would not have seen protesters decrying this display of bigotry and ignorance or hundreds of vigils around the country in response to the violence perpetrated by those who hate others simply for looking different.

As we remain shocked by this incident in…

View original post 101 more words

Parents Gather 111,540 Signatures, Put Arizona Education Savings Account Vouchers On Hold for Now


Parents in Arizona collected and, this week, delivered petitions with 111,540 signatures to Arizona’s secretary of state to stop the expansion of a new law that would have made 1.1 million public school students in Arizona eligible for Education Savings Account vouchers.

To demand that a referendum on the new Education Savings Account expansion be placed on the November 2018 ballot, opponents of the Education Savings Accounts were required to present 75,321 valid signatures. Save Our Schools Arizona’s collection of over 100,000 signatures puts the implementation of the law on-hold until the signatures can be verified.

The law to launch Education Savings Accounts was an expansion of school choice provisions already in place in Arizona.  SB 1431, enacted and signed in April, would make 1.1 million students eligible to apply, although it capped the number of children who could receive grants under the program to 30,000 by 2022.

Here is…

View original post 762 more words

Why Did Sandy Hook Happen? Because He Had A Gun.

We are slightly more than four sad months away from the fifth anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook. The deaths of 20 young schoolchildren, 6 adults, plus the shooter and his mother unleashed a firestorm of emotion and controversy which persists today and shapes the attitudes and strategies of the two opposing sides in the gun debate. One side, led by national gun-control organizations Brady and Everytown keeps up a steady drumbeat to strengthen laws which promote keeping guns away from high-risk individuals; the other side, led by the NRA, wants it easier for individuals to arm themselves as well as abolishing gun-free zones.

sandy             There’s only one little problem with both arguments: neither would have prevented what happened at Sandy Hook. If you don’t believe me, read the thousand-plus pages produced by the State’s Attorney, the Office of Child Advocate and the Department of Emergency Services…

View original post 517 more words

Who owns Representatives Amash and Huizenga?

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

The mid-term elections are over a year away, but politicians never wait around to raise money to keep their seats in Congress.

The Center for Responsive Politics now has the most recent FEC filings for the 2018 election, since the end of June. It’s always instructive to see who is funding candidates. In fact, one could say that those who currently contribute the most to political candidates essentially own them.

Campaign funds are not just to get politicians into office, they are a means to have access and to get politicians to decide on policy that is in the best interest of those making the contributions.

We looked at the current political contributions in the 2nd and 3rd Congressional races and here is what we found.

Representative Bill Huizenga, the incumbent, is running against Rob Davidson. According to the most recent data, Davidson has raised only $8,923, compared to…

View original post 196 more words

An Excellent Article About Why Trump Can’t Condemn White Nationalist Terrorism

Diane Ravitch's blog

This is a good read, except for the phony upbeat ending, which an editor must have inserted. The writer knows that Trump will always be Trump and will never be Lincoln.

Opinion: Why Trump won’t stand up against hate

The article was written by Michael D’Antonio, one of his biographers.

Trump has played the race card all his adult life. There’s no reason to expect him to change.

View original post