Thursday Morning Open Thread: The Way We Live Now, #473

The Moustache of Understanding is never one to let go a bad old idea, and it looks like his rummaging through the dustbin of such turned up 1994 Newt Gingrich‘s least popular proposal. From Adam Johnson’s FAIR article:

The piece reaches peak whitesplaining when pro-charter school Secretary of Education Arne Duncan chimes in and parrots the pernicious trope that the Baltimore Uprising was the result of “absent fathers”:

I asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan what he thought generally about the public boarding school model, which is expensive. He said, “Some kids need six hours a day, some nine, some 12 to 13,” but some clearly would benefit from a more “24/7” school/community environment. “I went to Baltimore and talked to teachers after the riots,” Duncan added. “The number of kids living with no family member is stunning. But who is there 24/7? The gangs. At a certain point, you need love and structure, and either traditional societal institutions provide that or somebody else does. We get outcompeted by the gangs, who are there every day on those corners.” So quality public boarding schools need to be “part of a portfolio of options for kids.”

The not-so-subtle implication here: Absent black parents caused the “riots.” Not legitimate outrage. Not the brutal killing of a black youth. Not the subsequent lack of an investigation. Not the decades of rampant police abuse. But absent fathers and the catch-all of gangs. This is the type of centrist racist dog-whistling one would expect from the man who once said Hurricane Katrina was “good for New Orleans” because it led to more charter schools.

If only more kids could be funneled into the boarding schools of benevolent billionaires—who, incidentally, get massive tax breaks for running these programs—all would be well with the black community…

Our awesome “meritocracy”, where guys like Tom Friedman and Arne Duncan are well compensated for explaining that all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds!

Apart from keeping a sharp eye out for civic improvers bearing gifts, what’s on the agenda for the day?

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: “The Most Fun I’ll Ever Have”

She was the first known LGBT astronaut, too. Happy birthday, Sally Ride.

From the Verge article where I saw the video:

… “Studies show that the reason kids turn away from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is not that they don’t like it or aren’t good at it,” writes Ride’s partner Tam O’Shaughnessy in a blog post for Google. “Instead, young people get turned off because society sends false messages about who scientists are, what they do, and how they work. So Sally decided to use her high profile to motivate young people to stick with their interest in science and to consider pursuing STEM careers.” Hopefully, today’s Doodle will spread that message just a little wider.

Apart from admiring real heroes, what’s on the agenda for the sorta-start of a holiday-shortened week?

The Great White Fright

Apparently, even discussing the notion of white privilege on America’s college campuses in 2015 is causing a massive fit among your local white nationalist groups, to the point where they’re concern trolling everyone in sight about how awful it is being a white guy.

The National Youth Front’s leader, Angelo John Gage, told TPM in a phone interview Thursday that he believes the bulletin board amounted to discrimination. He repeatedly took issue with the portrayal of white people and Christians as having “privilege.”

“State and federal law says you must keep the school discrimination-free. They’re not doing that,” Gage said. “The Civil Rights Act says you can’t have discrimination based on race, sex, gender — all that stuff. Here comes a board that discriminates against people for their race, sex, gender, religion. It’s the complete opposite.”

He defined privilege instead as something “handed to you.”

“‘Oh you’re black, here you go, here’s a scholarship.’ That’s a privilege,” Gage explained. “Or here’s a racial quota. ‘You’re not qualified but you’re black, so here’s the job’ — otherwise it’s racism.”

Exciting new quantum technology will need to be developed in order to successfully play a violin small enough for Mr. Gage here, so I’m really jazzed about those coming scientific advances that will benefit all of humanity. Perhaps these nano-scale breakthroughs can also be applied to locating all the lost fucks I give about “reverse racism” in a country that was founded on the wholesale slaughter of the people living here and then built with the blood of the enslaved dragged here from an entirely different continent.

And yeah, being a straight cisgender male roughly the size and shape of a refrigerator, the internet reminds me almost daily that there are things I don’t have to worry about as much in my life (even though I’m black.)  I’ve learned a lot (mostly when to shut up and listen to others) about basic awareness, which is all this “anti-White” bulletin board seems to involve.

As a side note, aren’t these the same people complaining that making “safe spaces” in colleges and universities is “coddling” students and making them weak, because in college you’re supposed to be constantly challenged by new ideas?

Anyway, it doesn’t shock me that we’re still dealing with stuff like this in 2015, not at all, but at this point the changing demographics of America is just something that certain people are never going to be able to handle, no matter how much you try and educate them.

HRClinton’s First ‘Townhall’

Yeah, it’s long, but it’s worth watching when you’ve got an hour to spare — probably especially if, like me, education is not your specialty. Because the whole roundtable is only secondarily about what Hillary intends to do to get those votes; it’s almost entirely about how a bunch of teachers and administrators and high school-slash-college students do their best to get the education they need to make a living going forward. (Including a side note that one of Hillary’s first jobs in politics, in the 1970s, was going door to door to find children with disabilities who’d been left out of the educational system entirely, because those who “couldn’t keep up” were considered disposable.) And I hope there are people who’ll watch this and think about how they could use the various strategies discussed (vocational certification, college credit for high schoolers, community colleges, Pell grants & work-study) to improve their kids’ or their own chances. Call me a dreamer!

From the Politico article:

Taking her place at a folding table with seven students and educators here at Kirkwood Community College, Hillary Clinton re-emerged in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state where she suffered a painful defeat in 2008, striking economic populist tones and vowing not to take the state for granted…

For Clinton, letting other people do the talking made for a low-risk launch strategy. She took only one question from the press, commenting on her “great drive across the country” and saying that she was having “the best time” and is “running to be the champion for Americans and their families.”…

A more substantive rollout — she promised “very specific policies over the weeks and months ahead” — is expected to begin next month with her first big rally and speech…

Obama’s Presidential Library

I know at least some of you are interested in the politicking behind presidential libraries (Anthony Clark’s The Last Campaign is due out next month!). So you might just be interested in the Washington Post‘s report on how “Two Chicago universities, one private and one public, vie for Obama library“:

… Sometime soon, probably before the end of March, President Obama’s foundation is expected to announce a development partner for the Barack Obama Presidential Center. Two of the finalists, culled from an initial field of 13, are Columbia University, the private Ivy League school in Manhattan where Obama earned a bachelor’s degree, and the University of Hawaii, the public flagship of his native state.

The other finalists are a pair of universities here that could hardly be more different.

The private University of Chicago, founded in the 19th century, has 15,000 students and a neo-Gothic campus in Hyde Park with echoes of Oxford and Cambridge. It has deep ties to the president and the first lady. Barack Obama was a senior lecturer at the university’s law school for several years until his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate. Michelle Obama was a vice president for community and external affairs at its medical center and also an associate dean of student services…

The public University of Illinois at Chicago, just west of downtown, took shape after World War II during boom years for state-funded higher education. UIC’s stark modernist campus of concrete and brick has a close-up view of expressways and skyscrapers, including the Willis Tower, once known as the Sears Tower. While the University of Chicago is ultra-selective, turning down 92 out of every 100 undergraduate applicants, UIC is far more accessible, admitting 70 percent of applicants and serving many more students from families with financial need.

UIC officials say their 28,000-student research university is in sync with Obama’s philosophy. “We don’t pay attention to diversity just because it’s convenient,” said Alfred W. Tatum, UIC’s dean of education. “It’s truly at our core.”…

The choice is entirely up to the Obamas, and they will work with a recommendation from the foundation’s board of directors, which includes Obama’s friend Martin Nesbitt; his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng; and political strategist David Plouffe. The foundation, responsible for raising money for a project that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, declined an interview request. Obama discussed library plans with foundation officials Thursday in a visit to Chicago. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that no decision had been made….

There’s a not-wholly-glorious precedent for siting the Obama Library in the city of Chicago but away from “his” university. The JFKennedy Library & Museum was built way out on the Columbia Point peninsula, best known at the time for public housing projects & garbage dumps, because the original Harvard-based proposal fell through. (And it’s still folk legend that the well-to-do Brattle Street Cambridge owners volubly rejected any connection with that ‘jumped-up bootlegger’s brat’ JFK and the busloads of Catholic-school kids the ‘unseemly shrine to an accidental martyr’ would attract.) The Harbor Point area, as it is now known, has gentrified considerably since then… but then, of course, so has most of the city of Boston.

Test Refusal

For those of you who are interested in education “reform”, take a look at this letter from Bill Cala, who is the superintendent of one of our suburban school districts (Fairport), to his teaching staff. Here’s a taste:

As this country gets poorer and poorer and the few get richer and richer the pride of our nation, its public schools, are being disassembled while Bill Gates, The Walton’s, The Koch Brothers, Eli Broad and other scavengers are feasting at the table of greed.

While the situation may seem hopeless, I believe parents are able to bring this tyranny to a screeching halt. Assessments should be used only for the benefit of students…..nothing else. Last year over 60,000 parents in New York refused the 3-8 tests. This year it is expect that number will triple. The refusal movement will indeed collapse the evaluation system and the governor’s plan to dismantle public education.

Cala was on a local radio program this week and it’s worth a listen if you’re interested. He really believes that the test refusal movement will sink Cuomo’s ed reform battleship. His comments about how teachers are getting blamed for the problems of poverty in urban schools are also worth a listen.  Cala is interim superintendent at Fairport after a long and successful career there. Fairport, like most of the Rochester suburban schools, is one of the best public school systems in the nation. He was also interim at the Rochester City Schools, which are some of the worst in the nation, in a city with a serious problem with childhood poverty. So he’s seen both sides and been consistent in defending the position that schools cannot be the sole cure for the effects of severe poverty.

Open thread for those who aren’t interested in this stuff.


Long Read: “Rush After ‘A Rape on Campus’

Quite a long read, with a lot of different topics to unpack, but it’s well worth reading the whole thing. Jia Tolentino, at Jezebel, tells us what happens as “A UVA Alum Goes Back to Rugby Road“:

It’s a blue, cold Thursday in January and I’m walking down Rugby Road on the first night of fraternity rush at the University of Virginia, brushing past groups of identical gossiping boys in matching preppy outfits: fleeces, checked oxfords, khakis, boots. “Excuse me,” they say politely when our coats touch, then turn back to each other and their offhand drawling: “What was that back there, Bronyfest?” “Not enough of a tobacco enthusiast for that house, I can’t just sit around ripping cigs.” “I wasn’t feeling them, dude, they had, like, a serial rapist vibe.”

I am startled at the boy who just threw that out in the winter night to his two friends, because all four of us are crossing the street on our way to Phi Psi, the fraternity whose huge Christmas-lit mansion is a landmark in the middle of the physical fraternity scene in a way that the fraternity itself—until Rolling Stone—was not. But the boys were talking about a druggier, prep-school frat; they’re not talking about Phi Psi.

No one here is talking about Phi Psi, at least not “Phi Psi,” the figural fraternity or the true, unchecked scourge of sexual assault that it was used to represent. (The frat has since been cleared of charges, with “no basis to believe that an incident occurred.”) In fact, if there is a single male interacting with the Greek system—or even one human on campus generally—who wouldn’t rather tuck away last semester as a bad dream, I won’t hear about it over the next five days. It was enough that Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s egregiously misreported gang rape story put everyone at Thanksgiving dinner with Grandma asking about consent mechanics between bites of mashed potato, but there were three undergraduate suicides, too, and Hannah Graham, a first-year girl found dead a month after she went to a party and then disappeared.

It was a lot. Everyone’s ready to move on. Rush numbers are robust and steady, both for frats and sororities, which rope in a third of the undergraduate population: the boys in fleeces on the street are just trying to hurry up, bro, and belong. “Those guys are so Southern I felt racist just walking in,” one says. “That one dude was gay as fuck,” says another. Their elementary language belies both the bigoted underpinnings of the Greek system that are common to every Southern prestige structure—classism, racism, homophobia, sexism—as well as the genuine desire among many participants in these structures to process and transcend the bad blood that stains the corners of their party…


… [I]n a national context, UVA’s Greek system is legitimately low-key. Sororities don’t haze or send 5,000-word emails about coating your person in Vaseline. Fraternities don’t, as they do in other places, force their pledges to beat each other unconscious. Greek students at Virginia are just trying to meet their best men and future maids of honor, just trying to find someone to smoke weed with on a Sunday; they’re just trying to follow in their grandparents’ footsteps (possible only, of course, if said grandparents are white); they’re just trying to put on a neon tank top and hook up with the best-looking rich person they can. “What’s the fucking big deal?” they might say, reading this. It’s just a good time, isn’t it? I met my boyfriend seven years ago at a sorority pre-game; he lived in a frat house and came out much sweeter than me. I, like the majority (but certainly not all) of the current and former UVA women I talked to while writing this piece, never felt unsafe at a fraternity party.

But neither did my college friend Kelly on the night that she was raped. Neither did UVA alum Jessica Longo, forcibly penetrated while unconscious in her own bed, by a guy in a prestigious fraternity who everyone jokingly called “Predator.” Read more