Slightly delayed but hopefully worth the wait, this is definitely a darker themed issue. For the past couple of weeks, there has been a groundswell of material being churned out about new Secretary of Education appointee Betsy DeVos. Having poured through all kinds of related articles, it seemed irresponsible not to include some here. So be forewarned this material is pretty politically focused, except for the last piece which is another ongoing theme I follow.
Still, I feel like this issue should come with a musical score, like the “Imperial Theme” from Star Wars or something. I am already on the lookout for some decidedly more upbeat stuff for next week.
We definitely live in interesting times.
Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age
Here are four curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.
Betsy DeVos and the twilight of public education – Detroit Free Press – Stephen Henderson (12 minute read)
Detroit knows all about new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and one of Detroit Free Press’ editorial page editor is pretty emphatic is his take-down of her here. The more information I learn about the new appointment the more concerned I become as an educator, parent, even citizen. From the information I have been reading from positions across the spectrum there seems little good to come from this appointment. There is little chance of her appointment being blocked, especially considering the campaign contributions she has already made. It is hard to avoid foreseeing a renewed and invigorated assault on public education and all the elements we have come to understand about that system with a strength not previously possible. Most interestingly, both the paper and the writer are supporters of charter schools, albeit with a seemingly more rational appeal.
What’s the worst that could happen under New Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos? Some scenarios – The Hechinger Report – Aaron Pallas (13 minute read)
If Henderson’s editorial on DeVos is not sobering enough, Pallas outlines a couple of almost equally nightmarish scenarios that could forecast the next four years at the Department of Education. Pallas is a professor and former statistician at the federal DoE, so it is fair to say he has some sense of how things work at the highest level. Regardless of which scenario pans out and there are likely a few more possibilities, what may be nailed on with this appointment are serious financial incentives for loosening restrictions on charter schools and school choice/voucher programs. Also, look out for even greater push toward online charter enterprises, which often consist of for-profit entities shrouded in a public cloak. The madam secretary’s husband, Dick DeVos, has strong ties to online provider K12 Inc.
Meet the congresswoman poised to tear up Obama’s education legacy – Politico – Kimberly Hefling (11 minute read)
The degree to which education will be further politicized only looks like deepening with haste, especially on the federal level. Virginia Foxx is about to take over as the chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. She has some pretty strong views that are likely to get a fair amount of traction on Capitol Hill. The elder, seasoned representative is highly respected in the House and has no problem making waves. Any thoughts that the government should engage with big intractable social challenges like education or health care she will likely quickly rebuke. Interestingly, retired people make up her largest campaign contribution category, followed very closely by education with her two largest single contributors being for-profit university outfits. That may provide even more insight into which winds fill her sails.
Heavy Screen Time Rewires Young Brains, For Better And Worse – NPR – Jon Hamilton (4 minute read)
This is a wrinkle in an ongoing debate that is not likely going away anytime soon. While the American Academy of Pediatrics did ease their restrictiveness about screen time, the bigger issue is that the problem is a far more complex one than simple prescriptions can accommodate. All screen time is not equal. Brains continue to be a kind of undiscovered country of science and as much knowledge that has been gained we still know so little. Then, throw in the fact of just how different individuals can be and things get pretty tricky pretty quickly. That list only scratches the surface of the variables in play. Still, the implications are profound for educators, parents who are charged with creating environments for young people.