Despite these numbers, some on the left have decided that the answer is not to insist that schools use the $190 billion in emergency federal COVID school aid to help students catch up and even excel, but to launch a nihilistic crusade in service to a warped mantra of “equity.” This is the same notion of equity that has spurred California’s move to eliminate advanced math instruction and Oregon’s Department of Education urging that teachers learn to abandon “racist” math practices like asking to students “show their work” or worry about “getting the ‘right answer.’”
What’s going on? To be blunt, too many grownups on the American left have thrown in the towel. Many of the same Democratic leaders who, just a few years ago, were cheering Common Core and Obama’s Race to the Top, now nod along as the woke fringe and “diversity, equity, and inclusion” officialdom insist that schools frequently serve as little more than engines of systemic racism. This line of argument turns out to be surprisingly convenient for Democratic officials, as it permits them to placate the woke base, back away from the kinds of demands that offend their teacher union allies, and suggest that the disappointments of grandiose school reform were a product not of their missteps or excessive faith in bureaucracies but of the public’s own moral failings.
While it may help Democrats finesse a political squeeze, this tack marks a troubling break with the recent past, when right and left agreed about the perils of the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” While the sweeping, bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) born of that consensus proved to be a mess as a statute—undone by unrealistic dictates and its cavalier expansion of the federal footprint—it represented a powerful, shared conviction that America’s schools must strive to educate every child; that every student should (at least!) learn how to proficiently read, write, and do math; and that we must reject those who would set different expectations for students based on their color creed—whether those are fueled by bigotry or misplaced benevolence.
2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results
My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results
Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.