— Andrew Rotherham (@arotherham) September 11, 2020
Yes, Democrats are vulnerable on their flank over school choice and empowering parents in education. No, in 2020 Donald Trump is not going to be the politician to exploit that.
Here’s Marc Sternberg of the Walton Family Foundation* with a lively New England brown trout on what looks like an A+ day on a lovely river.
The summer is winding down sure, but you can still see hundreds of education types with fish by clicking here and here. Tips on how take a kid fishing here. Send me yours (pics not kids please although I have taken a few kids of readers fishing, it can be arranged).
At the Children’s Defense Fund Marian Wright Edelman is stepping it down. It’s one of those things that’s at once something you knew was coming but is nonetheless a stark reminder of the passage of time. She will be succeeded by the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson. Two of her sons are active and influential in the education sector. She leaves quite a legacy.
Fordham’s Jessica Poiner takes a look at Biden and charter school policy But it seems like there is a more basic puzzle everyone dances around – Biden wants to ban for-profit charter schools, that sounds sensible but like many policies the specifics are more tricky.*
A few things are true.
And of course, different kids need different things and thrive in different environments.
So, banning for-profit charters would undoubtably clean up some bottom feeders (even accounting for the point just above about school diversity, it’s a messy part of the sector). But it would also sweep up some schools that are working for kids and families right now. Here’s a look at that from a few years ago. To some extent it is also at odds with an ethos of being just for good schools and against bad ones.
That means one option is saying, sure, that harm is outweighed by the benefits. Defensible. Another is saying, the way through here is better charter authorizing rather than banning broad categories of schools. Clean up the bad actors but leave space for the good ones. Also defensible, if politically tricky, though it can be done. What’s the role of choices parents are making? And what does either approach mean for various factions that claim to put kids and families first before adult politics?
Not a straightforward problem, but let’s have that conversation.
*There are multiple for-profit configurations, some that different states allow or don’t, so the specifics of any ban in terms of how broad it could be – would it include management organizations that work for non-profit schools, for instance – remains to be seen.
The credentialist prejudice is a symptom of meritocratic hubris. By 2016, many working people chaffed at the sense that well-schooled elites looked down on them with condescension. This complaint was not without warrant. Survey research bears out what many working-class voters intuit: At a time when racism and sexism are out of favor (discredited though not eliminated), credentialism is the last acceptable prejudice.
Beyond revealing the disparaging views that college-educated elites have of less-educated people, the study also found that elites are unembarrassed by this prejudice. They may denounce racism and sexism, but they are unapologetic about their negative attitudes toward the less educated.
He concludes that,
Appreciating the role of luck in life can prompt a certain humility: There, but for an accident of birth, or the grace of God, or the mystery of fate, go I. This spirit of humility is the civic virtue we need now. It is the beginning of the way back from the harsh ethic of success that drives us apart. It points beyond the tyranny of merit toward a less rancorous, more generous public life.
There’s more and it is well worth your time. It’s hard to argue, at least for me, with any of these points above or the problem of credential fetishizing or education prejudice. (Even a vulgarian like Donald Trump doesn’t break the Harvard – Yale stranglehold on the Supreme Court.)
But, this seem like one of those times where it’s important to keep a few competing ideas in your head at the same time.
– Sandel has an important point about education and class bias. It’s real, a problem, and it’s present in our sector.
– At the same time, education is a good pursuit inherently as well as for individual opportunity and collective prosperity. And a culture of learning is a key component of progress for any society.
One possibility here is a healthy recognition of just how inequitable access to educational opportunity is in America.* And a healthy acknowledgement that there are many purposeful and important ways to go through life that don’t involve a traditional four-year degree.**
Another is a devaluing of education more generally.
Four-year college is not for everyone but everyone should have the opportunity to chose it if they desire.*** That’s central to any creed of equal opportunity and also to social mobility and opportunity. Although a way of thinking that is a puzzling mash up of Marxism and Calvinism seems to have infused education circles lately, there is a lot of evidence that for low-income kids completing college is a an important social mobility strategy that works! We can address the myriad barriers to expanding that without further sending a message to poor kids that college isn’t for them or fueling another round of the perennial education parlor game of who college education is for in the first place.
And, as Sandel notes, we could all be more humane toward one another.
*With about one in ten low-income Americans getting a college degree by age 24 it’s always odd to hear people worry we’re sending too many people to college. And seems like it might go part of the way toward explaining what Sandel is talking about – low-income backgrounds are pretty underrepresented in a lot of roles.
**Though if we’re being honest there is a troubling amount of for thee not for me to some of the conversations in education about this, which is bound up in the Sandel argument.
***A related idea can be found in Frederick deBoer’s new book. He makes a point that is at once obvious and pernicious. Sure, not everyone can do elite academic work. That’s obvious. But much less obvious is figuring out who can – especially given America’s screwed-up school system – and most of the proxies are stereotypes that limit human potential and fuel what Sandel is talking about.
Julie and Janice Garland recently published this analysis for CCSSO on the state implementation of the federal requirement for More Rigorous Options for underperforming schools.
Here’s some new Bellwether and Bellwether supported work:
Here, via Kelly Robson, Julie Suqire, and Indira Dammu is an analysis of federal Charter Schools Program that unpacks some issues surrounded by a lot of confusion.
Chad Aldeman on learning loss.
Not from Bellwether:
Via CRPE here’s a look at reopening plans. Per the tweet below, more live instruction that you’d gather from a lot of the coverage.
And Robin Lake looks at whether politics or health concerns are driving reopening decisions. Warning: Might challenge your priors!