November 11, 2016

More Post-Election, Rural And Education, Must-Read McWhorter, Blame Trump On Charters, Civic Education Please, Mike Rowe On Cats And The Election (and CTE), Gaulden On Lattimore, Taylor On Sturgill. More!

By Bellwether

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Sara Mead on five election takeaways for education. Chad Aldeman looks through the education tea leaves as well. Some of these 16 ideas might work in the new politics of Washington.  The 74 has a lot of election round up news.

This John McWhorter essay in the Boston Globe is valuable –  strong pushes that demand engagement even where you disagree. Too much to pull quote but if you read one thing today you can do a lot worse than this. Go to the Globe for McWhorter, stay for the wonderful news about Mookie Betts!

This is also a pretty spectacular read you shouldn’t miss.  And Matt Levine has been very good on all this.


Still reading? OK, then somewhat related, after condescending to rural Americans – and worse – the education reform coalition realizes rural Americans matter to our politics. The superficial enthusiasm for a class-based politics obscures how politically complicated such a project will be. Class exerts enormous leverage in the world view of a lot reformers of all races. We at Bellwether do a lot of work in rural America and I personally spend a lot of my time there. But recently at a meeting with a lot of elite types involved in education and other issues a very influential person remarked matter-of-factly, as if it was the most obvious demographic statement in the world, that the trends were clear and rural was “done” as a significant part of American life. This was met with agreeing nods. OK.

I don’t think it’s by coincidence that people in the education world who spend a lot to time in rural America were actively concerned about this outcome happening or saw it as a real possibility, or both. For my part, I split my time between a community that voted 75-17 for Clinton and one that voted 64-32 for Trump. I wouldn’t want to idealize either place, plenty of pluses and minuses, that’s life, but I have great affection for my friends and neighbors in both communities. I can assure you, though, that if you think rural Americans don’t understand that many in the 75-17 parts of the country quietly or openly hold them in some contempt, see them as a drag on progress, or at best see them and their lives as relics, you’re kidding yourself. And stuff like that transcends “issues”and  is not all about race. And if you double down on it this will happen again. That’s why it’s especially astounding to me that people who can’t shut up at dinner parties and on Facebook about structural inequality (an idea I happen to agree more with than I disagree) don’t realize that millions of Americans they regard as backwards are actually plenty smart and capable but were born in some small community rather than Greenwich and that might have something to do with the jobs and lives they have now. Although as I noted the other day more still binds us than divides us as people (and that’s the big political opportunity waiting for the right leader in 2020), Tuesday night was a big fuck you. And in education for all the talk of listening to communities and all that, well,….check your privilege I guess?

And just so there isn’t confusion because this gets reductionist pretty fast, I think Trump has proven to be a racist and appealed to racists in his campaign in various ways. It just doesn’t follow from there that everyone who voted for him is racist. Our politics are more complicated than that. That said, it does seem to me that Trump voters have a special responsibility to speak up/act about things like this.

Meanwhile, except for the big prize the teachers unions had a decent night on Tuesday and won some state ballot issues and some races that will help them in states, where the balance of power is during the ESSA era. That’s bad news for low-income and minority students whose needs will be obscured in a lot of new accountability systems. ESSA is the kind of bill you sign when you think there is no way a Trump Administration will oversee federal civil rights protections. How’s that going? An interesting political question is whether the teachers unions are now more valuable in state and local politics to Democrats than in national races. I don’t know, but it’s clear that while they produce volunteers and money they can’t reliably deliver the vote.

Here’s a look at the structure of the election and reasons why Clinton got fewer votes where she needed them and Trump got more. Brownstein on that, too – the American demographics of 2050 are really interesting but this election was held in 2016.  All of this has some pretty obvious education implications going forward.

Here’s a new theory on why Trump won:

Rick Kahlenberg says that a lack of civic education (and too many charter schools) are a cause of why Trump won. Seriously.

I guess I’m sort of with him on the first point, but there are a few problems with this analysis – although I’m all for better civic education and wish schools emphasized it more and had better curriculum for it. Enormous area to do better.

First, there is no evidence any one kind of school is better or worse at helping students internalize democratic values. Charter examples like Green Dot in California or Democracy Prep in New York show how powerful charters can be at that. Many traditional public schools show the same. So do many private schools. There is actually literature on this that indicates we should be cautious about ascribing great civic virtue, or lack thereof, to any particular class of schools. What’s more, reasonable can disagree, but it may well be that letting parents choose schools and having various public authorities oversee them can itself encourage good civic habits? In the city where Rick works, Washington D.C., does anyone really want to argue that the D.C. Public Charter Board is less a model of good civic habits than, say, the old D.C. school board?

Second, and actually seriously, Rick’s case suffers from the flaw of many arguments for better civic education: They boil down to ‘if people were more educated then they would vote more like me.’ Perhaps. But it may well be that a lot of Trump voters simply have a different conception about the Supreme Court than Rick and I do or a different set of economic concerns than we do or they just liked or trusted Hillary Clinton less than we do, or were simply mad about their health care bill. Check the exits, Trump voters are all over the place. People disagree! That’s democracy. I have friends who are quite well-versed on civic matters but don’t agree with me on politics and don’t support the candidates I do. In fact, one might argue that the significant share of Trump voters who saw the composition of the Supreme Court as an overriding issue in this election were looking at the world through a particular civic prism that resonated with them.

I certainly agree with Rick that the lack of concern in many quarters about Trump’s indifference to Constitutional issues and constraints as well as his apparent indifference to democratic norms is jarring and serious and real cause for concern. But don’t look too closely at the free speech views of millennials – especially left-leaning ones – if that kind of thing makes you uneasy.  A lot of students and Americans see the authoritarianism of the left modeled for them regularly so it seems somewhat unsurprising they’re not as resistant as they should be to the authoritarianism of the right.

Perhaps we could all use a constitutional refresher, and hopefully it’s not too late for one

Speaking of coming together and millennials. Although I’m not at all happy about the election and would like to say I think this is simply all wrong, there is probably something to it. Around the country people have an admiration but also unsurprising lack of sympathy for students at elite schools. If you went to those schools you might not talk with them very much about it. And think about it, if you’re say a single mom waitressing and working extra shifts to make ends meet and dragging yourself to work even when you feel awful – physically or emotionally or both – then hearing that kids at the nation’s most elite schools don’t want to go to class because they’re upset about the election might just piss you off. On the other hand, people like my fictional waitress and everyone calling these students snowflakes also needs to appreciate that they are still young and it’s understandable how some of the context of this election – not to mention some of what has transpired the last few days – might have someone concerned or freaked out.


Mike Rowe on the election and CTE. Bizarrely fascinating cat analogy. And Mike Petrilli looks at what’s next.

Non-election news: MDRC looks at a texting initiative to help students.

Tim Taylor reviews Sturgill Simpson in Denver (my take on Sturgill’s current tour here). And here’s Jason Gaulden on Kenny Lattimore at an intimate private show.

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