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Counting Joy in School-Based Racial Equity Work If there has ever been a time where I’ve witnessed the widespread erosion of joyfulness among children and school-aged youth, it has been throughout the past two years. In March 2020, joy gave way to confusion, fear, and uncertainty as the world came to terms with the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. Abrupt school closings upended the routine of schooling that was a familiar constant for ten months each year. Enter remote learning. Soon after, in May 2020, joy gave way to anger, fear, and resentment. Why do police officers and white vigilantes keep killing Black people? Enough was enough.
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Democracy, Intellectual Virtues, and Education For a democracy to function well, its citizens must, at a minimum, have reliable access to credible information and be able to distinguish it from information that is inaccurate or misleading. Alas, in the contemporary information landscape, misinformation is pervasive. And with the advent of user-friendly design programs and “deep fake” technologies, distinguishing political fact from fiction can be exceedingly difficult.
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Curriculum is the Answer to Questions about CRT Some governing bodies are working vigorously to ensure that every student has space in their classrooms to discuss race. Several states are working towards ethnic studies (and similar programs) as mandated curricular offerings. Others are moving forward legislation that will dramatically change whether (and how) teachers are able to discuss race in their classrooms at all. There is a well-coordinated, national political campaign, the aim of which seems to be turning Critical Race Theory (CRT) first into a red herring, a powerful wedge issue second. How strange that our national culture wars would metastasize on the curriculum.
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Can Educators Really Be Anti-Racist Without Racial Literacy? Since the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer, there has been an increased focus to promote anti-racist pedagogy, curriculum, and professional development for K–12 teachers. In retaliation to this growing analysis of racism in schools, there has also been an active countermovement to suppress discourse about race and racism, including the recent attacks on Critical Race Theory (CRT) across the US and UK. Despite the investment and growth in how to be anti-racist, however, many teachers and school administrators have still felt thoroughly unprepared to confront this racially charged backlash. But why?
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Black Parents’ Impossible “Choices” The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on P–20 education cannot be overstated, yet Black parents’ quest to find a “good” school is a perennial dilemma. Black parents constantly challenge anti-Black practices in public, private, and charter schools, and are increasingly considering the utility of choice programs or the affordances of homeschooling. In fact, amidst rampant concerns about how virtual or hybrid learning affects Black children, many Black families are reconsidering schooling altogether, transitioning to private schools, or trying out homeschooling. As before, Black parents do not have any ideal options: some want their children physically in schools and others see the racialized benefits of keeping their children at home. While parents across the country are now tasked with balancing their jobs and educating their children at home, Black parents have long felt the burden of having to be hypervigilant about what their children learn and experience in school and/or reeducating their children. Why must Black parents always make impossible choices regarding their children’s well-being and their education?
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The Need to Understand Teacher Choices About News Media News sources matter. If there is ever a time that illustrates this, it is now. With the flip of a channel or the flick of a finger, people can access news media that represent various relationships to truth, ideologies, journalistic integrity, and utter conspiracy. Democracy requires an informed electorate, but recent studies have found most folks are not particularly good at figuring out whether they are being misinformed (McGrew et al., 2018). When misinformation combines with political and social animosity, as illustrated recently by the mob of white supremacists storming the US capitol to overturn a free and fair election, the consequences can be dire. Although we hesitate to place responsibility for mitigating these systemic issues at the feet of already overworked teachers, it is critical to acknowledge that the education system has a role to play in promoting more thoughtful consumption of news.
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Youth Apprenticeship is Back, Again The idea of creating formal apprenticeships starting in high school has appeared and faded more than once. During the 1980s and ’90s it emerged as a response to fears that Germany and Japan were threatening the United States’ leadership in manufacturing and inspired the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994. Wisconsin began a youth apprenticeship system around that time that persists today. Other initiatives have emerged recently after “college for all” and standardized testing have failed to improve the education of all students and China has become the dominant source of manufactured goods.
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Race and School Discipline in the COVID Era As schools reopen across the United States, there has been a rash of headlines about school discipline crises. Teachers and school systems have been forced to consider what they should do if a child refuses to wear a mask or plays with a toy gun during remote learning. They must identify appropriate responses to children who struggle with the return to school, following recent trauma. Many educators are struggling to address student behavior under extremely stressful conditions, in both remote and face-to-face environments.
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If Miguel Cardona Cares about All Students, Urban and Rural, He and President Biden Must Make Universal Broadband the #1 Priority The next US Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, faces enormous challenges. Not only does Cardona have to address educational inequality at a time of unprecedented interruptions in schooling, but he also takes leadership when our country is facing large divides between urban and rural communities. The United States has educational reform traditions, policies, and entrenched practices that focus so squarely on urban schools, that urban has become almost synonymous with educational improvement efforts. But if Cardona cares about equality and national unity, he must begin to pay greater attention to our rural schools, and the more than thirteen million students who attend them. We have a simple recommendation that can help address both of these issues: partner with President Joe Biden to make universal broadband a top priority of the new administration.
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Want a Piece of Biden’s Planned $58 Billion Investment in Community Colleges and Workforce Training? Better Start Thinking Entrepreneurially For those of us who work in community colleges, as well as for the 5.5 million students who attend them, the future under President Joe Biden is bright. Not only do community colleges feature prominently in the administration’s Plan for Education Beyond High School, but we’ve got one of our own in the White House with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, a longtime professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College.
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