The Divide in Yakima is the Divide in America

Yakima’s 15 minutes of fame compliments of the New York Times. The sunny place just on the other side of the mountains where I’ve spent some summers teaching.

Except for this sentence, it’s a hopeful story.

“Planes now land almost weekly at the Yakima airport, loading Central American migrants wearing leg shackles and handcuffs to and from buses bound for a federal immigration facility on the other side of the state.”

Dulce Gutiérrez is a great human being whom everyone in the United States should celebrate.

Monday Assorted Links

1. A Spanish-English high school proves learning in two languages can boost graduation rates.

“Muñiz Academy teachers, 65 percent of whom are Latino, strive to create an environment that celebrates their students’ heritage and allows them to embrace this piece of their identities. For some students, that fills an aching need.”

“She gives her students opportunities to discuss their cultural and linguistic insecurities openly, helping students find their place in the world as they work toward Spanish fluency. This identity support contributes to one of the more intangible benefits of the Muñiz Academy, but one that parents most appreciate.”

2. Jennifer Egan: By the Book.

My writing students often want an “improved vocabulary” or “deeper thinking” secret sauce. Egan provides it in this glorious interview excerpt:

“I’ve become hooked on audiobooks — fiction and nonfiction — so nowadays I read pretty much all the time. Only a really good book can stand up to audio, though; anything less is almost intolerable. I listen while walking, waiting for the subway, gardening, composting, cooking, and doing laundry, and with my noise-canceling headphones, I’m as tuned out as my teenage sons! I use an iPad to read books that aren’t available in physical form and for long research papers and transcripts. Then I’m usually reading a couple of physical books: nonfiction for the gym, and fiction for all other times. I like to read (and write) lying down, and despite strenuous effort I often fall asleep at some point, so what I read and write ends up becoming weirdly entwined with my dreams.”

3. Cost of contact in sports is estimated at over 600,000 injuries a year.

“. . . the television production people on the sideline walk. . . around with parabolic microphones. . . . They are catering to their audience. The audience wants to hear heads crack.”

Count me out.

4. The downside of baseball’s data revolution—long games, less action.

Baseball has never been more beset by inaction. Games this season saw an average gap of 3 minutes, 48 seconds between balls in play, an all-time high. There were more pitcher substitutions than ever, the most time between pitches on record and longer games than ever.

5. Today’s tax cuts are tomorrow’s tax increases.

“Anytime you hear a news report on the Trump ‘tax cut,’ substitute the phrase ‘tax shift.'”

6. Bob Corker says Trump’s Recklessness Threatens ‘World War III’.

“In a 25-minute conversation, Mr. Corker, speaking carefully and purposefully, seemed to almost find cathartic satisfaction by portraying Mr. Trump in terms that most senior Republicans use only in private.”

Here’s hoping others have the courage of their convictions.

The Teaching Profession Desperately Needs Some Linsanity

ESPN’s Elizabeth Merrill waxes philosophic about Jeremy Lin of New York Knick NBA basketball fame. Her angle? Lin is inspiring legions of young Asian American ballers to rethink what’s possible.

In some classes I teach, I use an activity I created titled “The Making of a Multicultural School.” In the activity students assume the role of teacher leaders who advise me, the principal, on the most important changes to make in order to manage conflict and strengthen teaching and learning at an increasingly diverse, hypothetical high school. First the “teacher leaders” individually rank seven specific challenges nearly all culturally diverse schools struggle with and then in small groups, they share their rankings and work together to establish common priorities. I wrote the challenges by working backwards from a list of multicultural education “best practices” as described in one of James Banks’ many books on multicultural education. Our discussion is always around their rationale for their priorities.

One of the seven challenges, recruiting and retaining a culturally diverse faculty, almost always gets rated as the seventh most important challenge. Meaning in my mostly white, mostly middle class students’ minds, it’s the least pressing issue. This happens over and over. The usual reasoning, a teachers’ attitudes are all that matter.

My students, tomorrow’s teachers, are unable to imagine what it would be like to be a student of color and hardly ever see anyone that looks like them standing in front of the class, a graduate of college, with a professional license, assuming a role of serious responsibility. Janitors, bus drivers, and office staff, sure; teachers and administrators, very rarely. Year. After year. After year. What is the cumulative effect on what young people of color think is possible?

The bad news is far too few Jeremy Lins and Latino and African-American candidates are pursuing teaching credentials today. Meanwhile, the country’s K-12 student body grows increasingly more diverse every year. So the “looks like me” gap steadily widens. To make matters worse, fewer students of color can afford four or five years of higher education even with targeted scholarships and financial aid. Plus the Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that colleges have relied upon to admit moderately diverse classes and states keep ratcheting up teaching licensure requirements and fees.

Many newer state requirements, like content exams in Washington State, are proving nearly insurmountable to too many of the handful of candidates of color who persevere to the final stages of the constantly changing, ever more challenging, teacher certificate journey. These realities don’t bode well for schools hiring and retaining many Asian-American, Latino, or African-American teachers. It also makes it more difficult to successfully implement a multicultural education that inspires all students and provides them with equal educational opportunities. This is doubly true when too many teachers expect less from students of color as illustrated by this highly recommended personal story by Ed Taylor.

There are 3.2 million teachers in the U.S. As many as half are expected to retire in the next decade. Figuring out how to make sure more of those 1m+ are strong Asian-American, Latino, or African-American men and women is among the most important public policy issues of our time. Instead of focusing intently on that, opinion leaders and policy makers are choosing to tighten the screws on today’s experienced classroom teachers. They’ve convinced themselves there’s a panacea for what ails public education—making teachers more accountable for student learning by tying together their students’ test scores, their evaluations, and their compensation.

All of this does not bode well for an increasingly diverse country.