Eduwonk: The Divisiveness Issue! Is It Identity Politics, Campus Culture, Or….The SAT? Pensions And Beer, DC Charter Performance, Coal Country School Finance, Grit, Hansel On Reading, Hess On EDSec, Oscar The Grouch Gets 2 And 20, Pavel Datsyuk Gets His Degree! And More…

Let’s start with some catastrophic pension news that should have everyone on edge about an age of austerity:

For a half-century, retired Labatt employees have been entitled to as much as a 12-pack of free beer every week, an unusual perk that Anheuser-Busch InBev — the brewery’s owner for the last 21 of those years — has now made the “reluctant decision” to end in an effort to save costs.

We do seem a bit divided lately, why?

Justin Fox blames the SAT:

I’ve been puzzling over this meritocracy problem for a while now, and I don’t have any brilliant answers. But it does seem like we’d be better off if we dispensed with the notion that a “meritocracy” or “aristocracy of the intellect” is really something to strive for. Yes, it’s good to have competent people in important jobs! But admitting only one style of competence, or assuming that skill at one narrow activity (taking standardized tests, for example) implies competence in other areas, seems like a sure-fire way of sorting society into classes of people who neither understand nor trust one another.

George Will blames college campus culture these days:

Many undergraduates, their fawn-like eyes wide with astonishment, are wondering: Why didn’t the dean of students prevent the election from disrupting the serenity to which my school has taught me that I am entitled? Campuses create “safe spaces” where students can shelter from discombobulating thoughts and receive spiritual balm for the trauma of microaggressions. Yet the presidential election came without trigger warnings?

The morning after the election, normal people rose — some elated, some despondent — and went off to actual work. But at Yale University, that incubator of late-adolescent infants, a professor responded to “heartfelt notes” from students “in shock” by making that day’s exam optional.

There may be something to this. You save and spend a fortune to send your kid off to college so they can come home, at best, a half-educated marxist and lecture you about the errors of your ways – that might piss you off (unless you’re a half educated marxist yourself so given what we know about college going patterns this might take care of itself over time). But, I’m having trouble seeing what in the Will column he wouldn’t have written regardless of the election outcome? On both the right and the left a lot of the post-election commentary has an old wine, new bottles flavor to it. On the other hand….there is this, which while not new is new again in its prominence in our national politics and is disturbing. Where is everyone who couldn’t shut up about Jeremiah Wright?

Speaking of colleges, there is definitely donor influenced affirmative action for the rich that goes on and is gross, of course. But, in fairness, there are also instances where colleges do the right thing and turn down unqualified children of large donors. Harder to write about because it’s handled discreetly and is a dog that didn’t bark kind of thing. But it happens, too. Also, it turns out pretty much everyone at Harvard graduates with honors.

And Mark Lilla set off a debate with his essay about identity politics in The Times. It has an education angle:

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)

When young people arrive at college they are encouraged to keep this focus on themselves by student groups, faculty members and also administrators whose full-time job is to deal with — and heighten the significance of — “diversity issues.” Fox News and other conservative media outlets make great sport of mocking the “campus craziness” that surrounds such issues, and more often than not they are right to. Which only plays into the hands of populist demagogues who want to delegitimize learning in the eyes of those who have never set foot on a campus. How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose the designated gender pronouns to be used when addressing them? How not to laugh along with those voters at the story of a University of Michigan prankster who wrote in “His Majesty”?


If you followed the Pence/Trump/Hamilton debate over the weekend and didn’t see Stevie Van Zandt’s Twitter feed you’re missing out. Also education’s own Robert Pondiscio took to the Daily News about this, too.  This, of course, diverted attention from the settlement in the Trump U case. 

Did you know that Oscar the Grouch is a hedge fund guy in his free time?*

Don’t miss Lisa Hansel on reading and equity. Rick Hess has a hard core of top ten attributes for a new education secretary – he doesn’t want your Common Core or early education ideas!

The 74 continues to track bullying incidents in schools following the election.

New DC charter school performance rankings.* In coal country depopulation is complicating school finance formulas.

Apparently Pavel Datsyuk just finished his bachelor’s degree.

Today in grit: Donkey becomes running partner.

*Bellwether has worked with Sesame Workshop as a client.  Bellwether’s Sara Mead is on the DC Charter School Board.

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