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It is unacceptable that too many African American and Hispanic American children are stuck in bad schools, just because of their ZIP code.
Agree or disagree? Personally I find this sentiment in line with my own values about educational equity. Certainly my friends and colleagues at brightbeam would sign onto this statement in a jiffy and, most likely, many of you too.
So hold onto your hats: The statement above was uttered by Donald Trump, Jr. on Monday at the Republican Convention. He added, “[i]If Democrats really wanted to help minorities in underserved communities, instead of bowing to big money union bosses, they’d let parents choose what school is best for their kids.”
When I read this (don’t have the stomach to watch the spectacle) I tumbled into inchoate cognitive dissonance, my worldview spinning like a widening gyre, center askew.
Look, I’ll be frank: I detest Trump (Jr. Sr., et. al.) and all this Administration signifies, especially in terms of social justice, the linchpin of educational reform.
Yet how can the words of a Trump brat align with my own (card-carrying Democratic) views? Of course low-income families shouldn’t have to buy their way into gated school districts where school quality comes bundled with granite countertops! Of course party elders shouldn’t be beholden to teacher union leaders more concerned with market share than reinventing a broken system, especially during a pandemic wreaking havoc on learning!
And the corresponding dilemma: How can Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — building back better, right?—want anything else than liberating low-income children, disproportionately Black and brown, from red-lined school districts that have failed to adequately educate generations of families? How can a team that defines itself as “progressive” not sign on for, well, progress?
Look, I’d vote for a banana peel before I’d vote for a megalomaniacal buffoon like Trump. And yet I can’t help wishing that Biden’s educational platform gave more than lip service to the values shared not only by people in the education reform space but also — overwhelmingly —by parents stuck in, well, “bad districts, just because of their ZIP code” currently scrambling to bypass flawed school reopening plans that leave their children further and further behind as wealthy neighbors (in different districts) shell out cash for chic micro-pods and private tutors.
I can’t help wishing that Biden’s team paid more attention to Democrats like former presidential candidate Cory Booker, who actually walked the walk and wrote, “the treatment by many Democratic politicians of high-performing public charter schools as boogeymen has undermined the fact that many of these schools are serving low-income urban children across the country in ways that are inclusive, equitable, publicly accountable and locally driven.”
I can’t help wishing that Biden’s education platform spent a little less time on “teacher pay and dignity” (the very first bullet point on his platform, one that dominates his whole agenda) and a little more time on how America can scale up schools that work (even during a pandemic) like our best public charter schools.
I can’t help wishing that Biden wouldn’t bow to big money union bosses when, to all appearances, he has. In fact, one could be forgiven for concluding that his entire education wishlist was written by the bigwigs at AFT and NEA.
But mostly I can’t help wishing it were Biden and Harris who said what Trump Jr. said Monday night.