Odds & Ends – Multiple Culture Wars Explained, Bellwether Is Hiring, Your Next Classroom Might Be An Office? More…

More NAEP takes are coming this week. We heard from Morgan Polikoff, Marguerite Roza, and Sandy Kress. This week Ed Trust CEO Denise Forte.

Bellwether is hiring. We’re hiring for a host of roles, join our 70 person – and growing – team. All the things you’re supposed to say are actually true – flexible work environment, fun team, great benefits, and most importantly impactful work. Senior Associate Parter and Associate Partner roles on our strategy team and Senior Associate Partner and Partner roles on our policy and evaluation team. And we’re hiring a graphic designer to work across the entire organization.

The NSBA – NAGB story is nonsense. NSBA sent an ill-considered letter to the President about school board protesters. Several of their affiliates revolted, they’ve walked it back. Around conservative media NSBA President Viola Garcia’s appointment to NAGB is being cited as evidence of some sort of political logrolling or thank you play.

Really? If that’s the “thank you” then you wouldn’t want to get on the bad side of these people. What’s second place? Being a peer reviewer? NAGB is a serious board that oversees the best barometer of education performance we have. The work they do there is deliberate and not especially exciting, though it’s quite important. The NAGB nominations process is a long one with a paper trail. It seems likely the White House talked with NSBA about the letter ahead of time, that’s par for the course on these things. Tying that to the NAGB appointment seems unlikely.

Offices to Apartments Schools. People are going back to in-person work but it seems likely the pandemic will have lingering effects on commercial office space in a  lot of cities. By next year Bellwether will be almost 30 percent larger in terms of head count than pre-pandemic, but we’re shrinking our (already largely remote pre-pandemic) office space footprint because of work preferences. One impact of this trend is a conversion of office space to apartments, which is one strategy to address the affordable housing crisis in some places. It might also be a strategy to help with the affordable/available space crunch for new schools – especially charter schools. Some charters operate effectively out of former office space now. Probably a business opportunity there.

The stakes in Loudoun. There are multiple Loudoun County storylines – that’s one reason Glenn Youngkin outperformed there in the Virginia governor’s race. But one that is increasingly confused is about the rape that happened at a high school there in May, and the student who subsequently attacked a second student at a different school.

Assume the worst for a moment – and based on public records this is *not* what happened. But assume for a moment that a transgender kid attacked another kid randomly in a bathroom. Even if that were the fact pattern, it would still be an edge case. Culture warriors would have a field day but it would be an outlier because stuff like that does not happen a lot. Safe bet you’d hear about it if it did.

Instead, the reason the case is worth watching is because the district administration and board handled it terribly. They’ve been caught dissembling about the events since more than once. The superintendent apologized once already. The full story is still not known but will probably come into focus over time with lawsuits, FOIA’s, and what looks like growing journalistic attention. Whether or not the school system’s leadership decided for PR reasons and/or political sensitivities to basically try to minimize a rape in a school is a big deal no matter what ends up being the cause. And other almost any other circumstance people who otherwise identify themselves as feminists or allies would be asking questions/raising hell given that it was handled poorly enough that the attacker allegedly attacked a second student in a second school when school started up again. It really shouldn’t matter who the kid’s father is, who broke the story, who has what politics, or any of the rest of it in terms of how unacceptable this all is.

Is CRT taught in schools? Well, it’s not formally in the curriculum for the most part, that’s the big lie on the political right. I don’t even mean it’s not in the sense that they’re not teaching Derek Bell or some other technical definitional or rhetorical dodge. A lot of what people are objecting to can best be described as derivative of or informed by CRT. The big lie on the political left is the idea that what flies under the banner now of “CRT” is just teaching about history, or American slavery, or whatever. It’s not. Do the work. And this is a pretty good look at where politics intersect with training today.* A lot of people don’t like the idea that urgency or objectivity are “white” traits. That might be why even a majority of Black parents don’t want that stuff taught even as they want better more race conscious history to be taught.

In terms of schools, though, it’s an issue and it happens more like this. You teach in a county that brings in Ibram X. Kendi for the big annual pre-service training and you’re required to read Stamped. Or a district that assigns Robin DiAngelo as a required shared read before school starts. And this is the kind of thing that is being assigned. You see Lisa Delpit’s seminal Other People’s Children used much less today (first published in the 1990s it’s a good reminder a lot of this is not new), which is a shame, and certainly not things like the Fields book or really provocative stuff like Black Rednecks and White Liberals. And as far as history you are unfortunately more likely to encounter something sloppy and reductionist than say James Anderson. And then, per the usual in education, you’re not given a lot of support or curriculum and just told that racism is systemic in your county, so do something to make sure kids learn about it. So you go on Pintrest or whatever and throw something together. Maybe it’s great. Or maybe it’s not. And then some parent is upset because you told their kid that being detail oriented is a white trait or a privilege walk left first graders confused about their classmates because it was informed by a critical theory perspective and was also sort of half-baked.

There are thousands upon thousands of classrooms in any state. Doesn’t take a lot of examples to animate social media and spin people up.

And that is how you end up with a situation, like the one in Virginia, where one side says ‘this stuff isn’t in school’ and the other side says ‘no, it absolutely is’ and they’re both right and wrong at the same time. And of course a lot of conversation about “critical race theory” is not about critical race theory.

I still suspect we’ll find that while this was a factor, the VA governor race turned on other issues more. ICYMI I did an interview with The 74 about all that last week.

Alternatively, via Antonio García Martínez:

Our political factions are even more clueless about what’s going on than average citizens. In the car of society we’re all riding in, the liberals are trying to slam the brakes, the techies are flooring the gas, the conservatives are looking for a reverse gear that doesn’t exist. The most reasonable people inside that metaphorical car might just be the techies stomping on the gas. The only way through is through, and the thought we’re going to maintain physically-defined bubbles of political and moral consensus while also migrating even more into the metaverse is a delusional  belief. We might have to start thinking about a world where politics follows the disembodied digital bubbles we construct for ourselves, rather than thinking we’re going to ‘content moderate’ the digital into conforming with the politics of physical counties and states. The latter is the brake-stomping approach of the liberals and, well, how’s that going for them?
 *It’s also a line of thought that leads to things like this around policies.