The All 133 Problem…Plus Daylight Savings And Schools

The Washington Post announced the other day that,

All 133? Wow.

I’m not a big fan of the snitch line, which as anyone who has seen The Simpsons or South Park could have predicted has not turned out well.

Still two things happened. One, VA Dems seized on the “all 133” framing. And second, anyone who knows much of anything about Virginia education was like, all 133, really?

So The Post is trying to clean it up a little bit – even after the original story added one of those storyline undermining clarifications that it really wasn’t all 133 in the first place.

Clean up on aisle 3.

It includes some gyrations.

As of Wednesday afternoon, [no superintendents] said they disagreed with the overall message of the document.

Later, in the same article, this:

Robbie Mason of Charlotte County Public Schools, expressed discontent with the letter, saying: “I agree with some aspects of the letter, like the need for better communication. Other parts I do not agree with.”

And then this:

Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter on Tuesday arranged interviews with two Virginia superintendents whom she said disagreed with the letter. Both superintendents spoke on the condition of anonymity, the first because “there is a sensitivity to the topic” and the second because the superintendent’s local school board has not taken a position on the matters discussed in the letter.

Speaking with Porter on the line, both condemned the manner in which the letter debuted, lamenting that they were not consulted before it was sent to Youngkin.

That’s some Olympic-quality hair splitting. Especially in a story that references a local WJLA story indicating all superintendents are not on board with the letter in question.

But here’s the thing: At some level who cares?

This has the feel, like Loudoun County did, of a narrative that’s out there and now everyone feels compelled to support – regardless of whether it makes much sense or how many intellectual contortions it takes. Some superintendents are quite anti-Youngkin, some support what he’s doing. And why would you expect all 133 superintendents to be on board with anything – especially if you know anything about school boards in Virginia? It’s a pretty diverse education landscape across a big state. There are superintendents in Virginia who are closer geographically to as many as nine other state capitals than they are to Richmond. Closer to Indianapolis than Richmond. There are places in Virginia where if you travel due north you’ll end up in Michigan. You get the idea.

And whether or not it’s 133, 33, 13, or none, isn’t dispositive in terms of the best policy. Even if all 133 thought the snitch line was a great idea, I still wouldn’t. People disagree about it. You should make your own mind up, too.

What I’m trying to say is there isn’t a provably falsifiable view on Glenn Youngkin’s policies. People will disagree. That’s how it goes. There are though falsifiable claims about things like whether every superintendent opposes him. And in a lot of ways the second issue actually ends up being more important than first in terms of understanding what’s actually going on. Apparently the NSBA letter episode or the Virginia election (or the 2016 one for that matter) taught us little.

This whole thing is illustrative of the rise of narratives over facts, it was always an issue but has really gripped the sector the past few years. If you are a regular reader you are probably sick of hearing me say this, but Julia Galef’s recent book is a good look at all this. It’s a fast read and I’ll recommend it again.

If you recall last year as the debate over transgender athletes and competitive sports started to heat up the party line was that there were no examples transgender women athletes having an impact so it was a non-issue. Lia Thomas won a NCAA championship yesterday. The whole debate about the ubiquitousness of “Latinx,” was a great example. People can disagree about proper language usage, that’s not falsifiable. Claims about preferences, awareness, and usage are falsifiable. People can disagree about police in schools but if you’re denying that uniformed officers make Black students less comfortable then you’re denying a fair amount of evidence. Schools and covid, testing, teachers, charter schools, etc..etc…there is almost always a narrative and it’s often a poor fit for the facts on the ground.

Let me be clear, Bellwether often gets hired to help people sort out fact from fiction or noise from signal, and business is good. So I’m arguing against self-interest here to some extent (some, because there will always be a need for this kind of work even in a healthier information / media environment). But this is a bad way to run a railroad and not in the general interest at all.

So you should care a lot about an accurate assessment of what education leaders in Virginia think if you want to know the landscape. You shouldn’t care that much if you want to know what the optimal policy is – from your own standpoint. Conflating all that confuses things.

And returning to Virginia, all of this is prelude to the bigger and more meaningful fight on school accountability that is coming, which you should be paying attention to. These culture fights serve to distract from the catastrophe that is schooling in too many communities.

Run to Daylight?

The other day the United States Senate passed a bill that would make daylight savings time permanent. It was led by Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R). He represents a state where the impact of this would not be all that significant. It would be elsewhere.

Josh Barro and Sara Fay do a nice job laying out some of the history and context of this issue. Historically, seems like one of those things people seem to like until they have to live with it. Even Putin couldn’t pull it off.

We should also note that this is not just a debate that turns on ideology or preferences about dark or light mornings. There are substantial stakes for manufacturers of the kind of products consumers use in the afternoon – grills, patio gear, booze, and so forth. More light in more places = more business.

It’s a debate that also impacts schools – and would have kids in many parts of the country heading to school or waiting for buses in the dark. This move would mean a lot of post-8 AM sunrises in many places. There are safety concerns as a result of that. And the obvious opportunity to shift start times later would negate the benefits proponents say we’ll see with more kids outside playing in the evenings.

But if we do end up with darker mornings and lighter evenings, perhaps an upside would be the opportunity to rethink school schedules, which are a classic example of educational inertia. From adolescent sleep needs to risky behavior there is a lot to be said for keeping kids in school later in the day and starting school a little later in the morning.

If we could get there, then perhaps giving up that glorious 25 hour fall Sunday we get once a year might be worth it.

Coming soon: Mavis and Levon. 

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