Earlier this week I wrote about or highlighted Prince, but also why tribalism is making us dumber in the policy world, the new charter regulations (politically dumb), NFTs, NCTE’s new aversion to books, pandemic closures, testing, and pensions.
Lillian Lowery has passed. She was wonderful. Committed to kids, smart, effective. A good superintendent and state superintendent. I enjoyed working with her. Big loss for the sector, she’ll be missed professionally and personally.
Teachers of Tik Tok…
Everyone went berserk this week over the Wash Post story on the Libs of Tik Tok Twitter account. It does have an education angle, it was sometimes teachers being highlighted. But it’s more a story of just how dumb our debates are.
When I’ve written here that a lot (though not all) of the stuff animating social media around “CRT” or gender or whatever is teachers freelancing, this is in part the kind of thing I’m referring to. That account’s bread and butter was not teachers talking about the formal curriculum and it was not made up. It’s why the way through a lot of this is better curriculum not leaving it to teachers.
This wasn’t a doxxing. If you run a Twitter feed with hundreds of thousands of followers and go on cable news to talk about it, well then you can’t expect anonymity.
The story was lame because there is nothing there. It’s a Twitter feed. The person who runs it is a random – there was no big ‘aha’ like some major donor or figure funding this. And you did not really even get a sense who this person was, and, really, who cares? Did you learn anything you didn’t already know? The news angle seemed weak to me. The account and its impact seem more germane.
There are more than three million public school teachers in the United States. That’s a large number so even if an incredibly small fraction say stupid stuff for whatever reason on social media that’s still plenty of content for a Twitter feed. The Opossums have their own feed, too, though it’s cuter. Most teachers are not like the ones highlighted. That’s why they call it “nutpicking.” Social media screws up our sense of prevalence and across a range of issues leads to lousy journalism.
A contagion in the school choice sector is the idea of being for choice only when it’s a choice you’d make. Conversely, there is also this idea out there that we can just choice our way out of all these social issues. I tend to think school choice is good in that it shrinks the sphere of stuff to argue about – you want Montessori and you want Core Knowledge and you want unschooling, great have at it. But at some level a society can’t escape having to wrestle with these questions.
This seems like an under-discussed issue to me (both on its own terms and especially in relation to the teacher shortage panic:
A lot of hysterics about a teacher shortage when what public schools have is a student shortage (both attrition and absenteeism) problem. Unaddressed that will become a more acute finance problem once the recovery dollars wash through.
— Andrew Rotherham (@arotherham) April 22, 2022
Here’s Ruy Teixeria on Democratic politics but with clear parallels to the elite education sector:
The culture of the left has evolved and not in a good way. It is now thoroughly out of touch with its working class roots and completely dominated by college-educated professionals, typically in big metropolitan areas and university towns and typically younger. These are the people that fill the ranks of the media, nonprofits, advocacy groups, foundations and the infrastructure of the Democratic party. They speak their own language and highlight the issues that most animate their commitments to ‘social justice”.
These commitments are increasingly driven by what is now referred to as identity politics. This form of politics originated in the 1960s movements that sought to eliminate discrimination against and establish equal treatment and access for women and for racial and sexual minorities. In evolving to the present day, the focus has mutated into an attempt to impose a worldview that emphasizes multiple, intersecting levels of oppression (“intersectionality”) based on group identification. In place of promoting universal rights and principles—the traditional remit of the left–advocates now police others on the left, including within the Democratic party, to uncritically embrace this intersectional approach, insist on an arcane vocabulary for speaking about these purportedly oppressed groups, and prohibit discourse based on logic and evidence to evaluate the assertions of those who claim to speak on the groups’ behalf.
Policy can work!
There is a “nothing” works crowd in education running around Eeyore-like making claims like nothing has improved in education in the past 30 years. This isn’t the case.
Unrelated to education, the other day I was looking at harvest numbers in Virginia for wildlife and saw this chart about bears. I don’t hunt bears, I like having them around, but like any other resource they do need to be managed. And, wow, look at that growth curve – more impressive when you realize it happened against a backdrop of shrinking habitat. Bears were hunted almost to extinction, thanks to the North American approach to wildlife management they’ve made an amazing recovery (deer, too, turkeys are a somewhat different story). You also see the same thing with cold water conservation and fishery restoration.
You can decide if wildlife conservation is more or less complicated than education policy, but it seems clear our problem in education right now is politics, not that policy can’t improve things. Also I just wanted to share the bear chart.
Enjoy your weekend.