On the need to rebuild our cruel schools: This was a remarkably strange weekend in the Washington Post and in the New York Times.
We don't want to enumerate all the strangeness yet. That said, the strangest piece may have been this personal essay from yesterday's Outlook section. In the essay, a previously apolitical person explains that she has become politically engaged because of new education secretary Betsy DeVos.
In truth, the writer still seems to know little about DeVos. On a journalistic basis, the essay, and the mere fact that it was published, struck us as rather strange. We expect to go into more detail before the week is done.
Why has Betsy DeVos produced so much reaction? We can't necessarily answer that question. That said, a letter in yesterday's Post concerning DeVos called to mind an unfortunate fact. Especially concerning the public schools, we liberals often repeat propaganda from The Other Side.
Let's offer some quick background concerning that letter:
In the wake of her confirmation, the Post had written an editorial criticizing DeVos. In the process, the Post reaffirmed its support for public charter schools, as long as they're carefully monitored, and for "the judicious use of private school vouchers."
The letter writer seems to disapprove of vouchers and of all charter schools. There's nothing "wrong" with those views, but in the course of writing his letter, he flattened several straw men—and he channeled right-wing propaganda about our horrible schools.
Let's focus on the part of the letter shown below. We've already skipped past several straw men. We'll leave two straw men in:
LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST (2/11/17): ...School choice has been a disaster in Detroit. After Hurricane Katrina, the public school system in New Orleans was replaced with charter schools that have not succeeded in preparing students for college or achieving equity for students with special needs.Has DeVos-style school choice "been a disaster in Detroit?" Quite possibly yes, but the Post editorial basically said as much.
Charter schools and vouchers have allowed politicians to avoid the difficult work of rebuilding urban public school systems that largely serve black and Latino students. Instead, school choice allows them to use our children’s educations to peddle influence through crony contracts, keep citizens disenfranchised, bust unions and pander to religious extremists.
Political and media advocacy for this system led us to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a tomorrow with no national public education. In advocating school choice, the editorial might as well have sung Ms. DeVos’s praises.
Have charter schools in New Orleans "not succeeded in preparing students for college?" The statement is spectacularly vague. In its spectacular vagueness, the statement is utterly silly.
(Whose schools have succeeded, across the board, in "preparing students for college?" The writer's implied complaint makes no apparent sense.)
Those were a couple of straw men. It's in this passage that the writer channels right-wing cant:
"Charter schools and vouchers have allowed politicians to avoid the difficult work of rebuilding urban public school systems that largely serve black and Latino students."
Do politicians need to "rebuild" urban public school systems? This implies the existence of some sort of golden age, a better educational era which has now gone by the boards.
No such golden age existed. Based on the only reliable data we have, students in our urban systems are currently doing much better in reading and math than was the case in 1970, when measurements began.
In that passage, the writer reinforced the picture which is constantly used to argue the need for "education reform" of the type DeVos advocates. Despite our fiery ways, we liberals never tell the public about the substantial improvement in urban test scores. Instead, this writer pushes a portrait of educational decline, the very portrait The Other Team very much wants him to push.
Over at Slate, Dana Stevens served the same peculiar god in her review of Moonlight. Last week, we posted the passage shown below. Today, let's add one additional comment:
STEVENS (10/20/16): Moonlight’s most noteworthy achievement, in the age of both Black Lives Matter and the backlash against identity politics, is that Jenkins mounts no soapboxes and brandishes no manifestos in his attempt to illuminate the inner life of this troubled boy turned teenager turned man. Instead he shows us the love that other characters feel for Chiron, made tangible by the generous performances of co-stars Harris, Ali, Monáe, and Holland. Chiron’s search for sexual and personal identity matters because he himself does—if not to the often cruel educational, social, and legal systems that surround him, then at least to that small group of people who love him. By the time Moonlight reaches its ravishing conclusion, that group includes us, too.Buddy Holly always said how easy it is to fall in love. In this passage, Stevens lets us see how easy it is to channel right-wing cant.
In Moonlight, that "troubled" (read traumatized) 9-year-old boy is never shown encountering a "cruel educational system." He's constantly shown being badly mistreated by his drug-addicted mother.
Presumably for political reasons, Stevens didn't want to say that a drug-addicted woman who's black could possibly be cruel to her 9-year-old son. Instead, she lists the actress who plays the mother as one of the people who show their love for Chiron, and she tosses off the easiest putdown in all of American politics.
Stevens was channeling Betsy DeVos. So was that letter-writer.
We self-impressed liberals do this all the time. Presumably, the gods on Olympus rock with laughter each time.
Black kids' test scores are way up! Do we liberals ever tire of pimping the other's team's pap?