Battle Of Hastings

You won’t find much here on the Spellings hearings. Unless it turns out she wrote memos authorizing the torture of Gene Hickock and Nina Shokraii Rees, her confirmation is just Kabuki theater. Besides, she’s smart, funny, non-ideological, competent, and not much of a Republican. A good pick all things considered. The praise from Kennedy and Miller about says it all.

But in California, there is a confirmation worth watching. Reed Hastings, a Democratic member of the state board of education and its former chair, is in political trouble. It’s an appalling case of how identity politics are so deadly for Democrats.

Hastings is a valley entrepreneur (most recently the hip DVD service www.netflix.com) and has been very active in a variety of educational issues out there. Conservatives want to do him in because he supported a recent, and important, proposition in California making it easier for school districts to pass bonds (by lowering California’s “supermajority requirement”). No surprise there, conservative anti-tax fervor has already pretty much ruined California’s educational system, why stop now?

Yet that’s not Hastings’ only problem, and it’s one he could probably survive. Liberal Democrats are ready to torpedo him over bilingual education. Hastings isn’t a supporter. Of course, Bilingual education is, unfortunately, too often another example of politics masquerading as pedagogy. The research on outcomes is grim but somehow the tiresome political debate continues while too many kids get hurt because of inadequate programs for English-language learners.

So, a solid progressive Democrat who really cares about low-income and minority kids in California is about to be thrown-over to make a political point that has a lot to do with identity politics and very little to do with kids. What’s more, it’s a counter-productive political point in the first place because most parents, particularly immigrant parents, want their kids to learn English as quickly as possible! Great strategery, as they say.

Remind me again why Democrats are in danger of becoming a regional political party?

Also, this Samuel Freedman NYT column from the summer gives a good ground-level look at this same issue in NY.

SF article link via Jacobs.

Update: Sac Bee’s Weintraub adds some state political context.

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