Hunt Exits, Culture Wars Don’t. Kristof Correction & When DIY Goes Too Far…More…

I really like Idaho, it’s western and wide-open in ways that appeal to me. The frontier bootstrap spirit is still evident. Incredible fishing, especially in the eastern part near Yellowstone. Independent people. I have a variety of friends there I adore. Yet most things need some sort of limiting principal, too. Even in a state where you can still find relics and tracks of pioneers you don’t have to DIY everything yourself in 2022 America. Anyway, this:

Another parent said she had filed a formal complaint against the West Ada School District over the book “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

“The school does not need to teach our children how to do oral sex,” she said. “That’s my job.”

Uh…no. No. No thank you.

More seriously, civil societies figure out other ways to balance parental and family prerogatives than punishing librarians. The problem here is to some extent a shrinking of the idea of discretion. Use discretion. One side is culturally against this material – and often not just for their kids but in general. The other side is not satisfied with tolerance or pluralism, they demand embrace. That’s quite clearly a recipe for social conflict. Some direction would mean elevating the role of families here – not to ban, but to engage with what their kids are reading and actualize their decisions and views that way.

Here’s Penn swimmer Lia Thomas in some of her own words in SI. There’s been a lot about her, much less actually from her so it’s worth reading. In general, you can see the outlines of a resolution here where some sports will have men’s, women’s, and open divisions. Some sports have co-ed divisions now. But we’re a long way from that right now, it seems, and maybe views are hardening?

In 2021 Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison vetoed a bill that would have banned gender affirming treatment for anyone under 18. The governor vetoed because he believed it would put government into a space where families and physicians should make decisions. The legislature overruled his veto the next day. That was a signal of where things were going. In Texas, the politically and legally embattled attorney general, is taking things even further. He issued an opinion that gender affirming treatment runs afoul of state child abuse laws. This builds on a remarkable effort from Texas’ governor to have the states department of family and protective services open investigations into parents who have allowed such care. Like the proposed Florida law we talked about last week, there has been some hysterical and inaccurate rhetoric about this, but at it’s core it’s terrible policy – and hopefully won’t survive legal challenge. Even most of those skeptical of putting young kids on medications or taking any irreversible step balk at the heavy handedness here and the intrusion of the state into an issue like this where at the end of the day families and medical professionals should make decisions. It’s hard not to see this as more about politics than sound youth policy.

And, in a superfecta of culture war news, here’s Fordham’s Daniel Buck on restorative circles in school. He’s not a fan. On the one hand, you do see things that cross lines, or would be more appropriate for say an Outward Bound course than an elementary school. Buck offers some useful admonitions on where those lines are. On the other, there is some value a less sterile approach to school – I do work with several non-profits in the SEL space trying to help students learn skills to help manage their lives. There is value there and a balance to be struck. Like many things we discuss around here – curriculum and training help a lot. 

I would watch this space, though. As part of the resurgent transparency movement I suspect you will see more questioning of where the lines are and pressure to rein in some of what’s happening under the guise of “SEL.”

An update. This post on education politics and the Oregon governor race proved to be one of the most read and shared posts of the past year.* Everyone loves some Kristof news. In it I noted that it seemed implausible that former New York Times columnist and author Nick Kristof had not gamed out the legalities of a run,

I should note here that just yesterday Oregon’s Secretary of State ruled that Kristof, who is from Oregon and owns property there, is ineligible to run given he recently lived, paid taxes, and, crucially, voted in New York. I’m hardly an expert on Oregon election law so I have no idea how this will play out, Kristof can and says he will appeal the ruling. And I’d be stunned if he hadn’t gamed this out before he quit one of the few remaining great jobs in journalism.

Well, I was stunned. It turns out there was no plausible legal theory or case. A source close to the legal process out there told me that in general the court would go out of its way to let voters decide something like this at the ballot box. But there was not even enough of a legal fig leaf, they said. Just, wow. In other governor news, former North Carolina governor Jim Hunt is stepping down from the Hunt Institute. He was a well-regarded governor, in general and on education. And after leaving office he continued to promote a bipartisan southern brand of standards-based reform as well as other school improvement ideas. Definitely someone deserving of respect – and thanks – for their contributions to the sector.

Around 2013 or so, I helped NBC’s Brian Williams moderate a town hall for governors at an event in New York. I asked Maryland’s Martin O’Malley why more Democrats were not trying to learn from the experience of Florida, which was seeing some notable education results especially for Hispanic students at the time. O’Malley responded that the Dems didn’t need Jeb Bush, they had Hunt. Even at the time it seemed like a telling signal of the rising partisanship and tribalism and really not the kind of pragmatic bipartisan approach Hunt and that entire cadre of southern ed reform governors tried to follow. Republicans were, of course, going partisan in the other direction at the time. Unfortunate, because both governors had a lot of lessons to share and both Rs and Ds would do well to learn from both and others. How’s that going, right? There are a few R and Ds who behind the scenes are doing that but it’s not today’s fashion…good the institute will continue its work.

Praise for Sandy Kress:


Some advice from a member of Generation Kony: if your high school is the one sanctioning the assembly, you’re not getting conscripted to the Weather Underground, you’re being marketed to in the shape of a social movement by someone you never met and will never meet.

Billy Preston, Dr. John, Nils Lofgren, Ringo Starr, Clarence Clemons, Levon Helm, Joe Walsh…

*Just a quick note on corrections since it’s been a while. I fix errors of fact immediately when I learn about them and indicate that in any post and usually a subsequent post if it’s substantial. Typos that are not material I fix but usually don’t flag – some of these posts would be nothing but a long correction otherwise…On things like this, where a point becomes obviously wrong as time passes, I try to double back but not always in the moment on the assumption that this is not your only news source and if you really cared about, in this case whether Kristof was eligible to run for governor, you’d be following local media there to know that rather than Eduwonk.

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