Journal of Educational Controversy


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

March on Washington to Support Public Schools on July 30th

Save Our Schools March & National Call to Action
There will be a march and rally in Washington, D.C. on July 30 to support and reclaim control of public schools by educators, parents and concerned citizens. Labeled a Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action movement, the four day event will feature Jonathan Kozol and Diane Ravitch as keynote speakers.  Similar events will be held across the nation. This grassroots movement is calling on the public to demand:
• Equitable funding for all public school communities.

• An end to high-stakes testing for student, teacher, and school evaluation.

• Curriculum developed for and by local school communities.

• Teacher and community leadership in forming public education policies.

More information is available at

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

School Segregation: An Update on our Journal's Continuing Coverage

One of the purposes of our blog is to provide updates on topics covered in the Journal of Educational Controversy. Indeed, the journal itself is an experiment in creating a concentrated study of current controversies that is more than a one–time coverage of ideas but rather an ongoing in-depth look at a topic. Many of our journal’s issues have included an introductory section with articles that provide a broader context for understanding the topic, articles written in response to the actual controversy posed, and a section for related issues connected with the topic. The rejoinder section is intended to continue the conversation through peer review responses to the articles and the blog is intended to continue a more informal discussion of the ideas. Even our video series, “Talking with the Authors,” is intended to bring a broader understanding of the ideas by exploring the topic with the author in an interview that provides a look at the person behind the article. And our public forums, that are also videotaped and often made available in the journal, try to continue the exploration of these ideas in the context of a discussion or debate among the authors. Indeed, each issue of the journal is conceived as almost a mini-course on the topic with the conversation continuing into the future, something, we believe is unique for journals. Our goal is to provide a public space where scholars, educators, policymakers and the public can come together and engage in a deeper understanding of the controversies that arise in a pluralistic, liberal democracy.

Our winter 2007 issue on “Jonathan Kozol's Nation of Shame Forty Years Later” tried to do all these things. Dedicated to Jonathan Kozol, who was the journal’s distinguished speaker at our university, the journal published his prologue to the topic along with the video of his talk. The issue was published at the time his new book, The Shame of the Nation, the Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, had just come out. Fortuitously, it was also the time the U.S. Supreme Court had decided to hear arguments in the Seattle case on the use of race as a factor in public school admissions policy in PICS v. Seattle School District No.1 et al. So in addition to the articles in response to the controversy, we published a special section on “Washington State Politics and the future U.S. Supreme Court decision.“ After the issue went online, the High Court rendered its decision and we covered it in our rejoinder’s section. Some key players took part in our public forum that year.

Our Introductory Section for that issue contained a background essay to provide a context for the theme. Gary Orfield, distinguished professor of education at UCLA and co-director of the Civil Rights Project/El Proyecto de CRP, had permitted us to excerpt sections of his 2006 Report on Racial Transformation and the Changing Nature of Segregation. A member of our editorial board provided a short introduction to a selection of excerpts along with a link to the entire report. This morning, we just learned about a new manual that was released by the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA on Integrating Suburban Schools: How to Benefit from Growing Diversity and Avoid Segregation. According to the press release, the manual is intended to provide “invaluable guidance for education stakeholders in suburban school districts — including school board members, parents, students, community activists, administrators, policymakers and attorneys “ as they try to achieve “positive and lasting multiracial diversity.”

The 2010 census indicated a very large movement of African American and Latino families to suburbia. As CRP Co-director Gary Orfield notes, “Many hundreds of suburban communities that were all-white when they were constructed, and had experienced little diversity until the recent past, are now facing important questions about how they can achieve lasting and successful integration and avoid the destructive resegregation by race and poverty that affected so many areas in the central cities a half century ago.”

The manual offers the following information:

• A comprehensive discussion of the critical importance of diverse learning environments in racially changing suburban school districts.

• The history of court-ordered desegregation efforts and an overview of the current legal landscape governing school integration policy.

• General legal principles for creating racially diverse schools.

• The vital role that teachers and administrators play in building successfully integrated schools and classrooms.

• Specific examples of suburban school districts promoting high quality, inclusive and integrated schools.

• Strategies for teaching in racially diverse classrooms.

• Methods for building the political will and support in your community for voluntary integration policies.

• An extensive and reader-friendly list of education and legal resources including easily disseminated fact sheets on important topics related to school diversity.

Our readers can download the manual by going to the website of the Civil Rights Project at: K-12 Research Section.  The press release also indicates that the manual may be copied or reprinted and used in classes without permission or payment.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

An Update on our Journal’s Article on the USA Patriot Act

In our special issue of the journal on the theme, “Schooling as if Democracy Matters,” we published several introductory essays to provide context for the articles that followed. The controversial scenario that we posed in the issue asked:

In this issue, we consider how we are to fulfill the traditional moral imperative of our schools -- to create a public capable of sustaining the life of a democracy. How do we do this in an age of the Patriot Act and similar anti-terrorism legislation in other countries, NSA surveillance, extraordinary rendition, preemptive wars, enemy combatants -- all likely to involve violations of civil rights and liberties and a curtain of government secrecy? What story do we tell our young about who we are, who we have been, and who we are becoming? How do we educate children about their identity in this global world? What sense are they to make of the "imperial" democracy they are inheriting? Is our new political environment a fundamental break with the past or an extension of longstanding trends? What are the implications of these forces for the education of the young on the foundations of our democracy and our collective identity?

One of our two essays in the introduction focused on the controversy over civil liberties in U. S. democracy as it existed in 2008. See Brett Rubio and Bridget Baker article,  “Are We Targeting Our Fellow Countrymen? The Consequences of the USA PATRIOT Act.”

With some of the provisions of this act about to sunset, Congress had the opportunity to exercise its oversight obligations and re-examine carefully the current state of the law. The most recent congressional action with its brief debate on the Patriot Act and related intelligence measures was commented upon in an editorial in today’s New York Times. The Times lamented Congress’s failed duty “to carefully re-examine the provisions, trim back excesses, and add safeguards to protect civil liberties,” by ignoring “the whole point of requiring that the provisions be periodically reviewed.” Instead, the powers were extended for another four years without any changes.

Three specific provisions of concern are highlighted in the Times editorial:
One of the renewed provisions permits a roving wiretap on terrorism suspects who switch phone numbers or providers. While this is a useful tool, the lax rules for specifying who is the subject of the wiretap could invite abuse. Another provision permits the government to examine library, bookstore and business records without having to show that the material is related to a terrorism investigation. The third overly broad provision allows surveillance of “lone wolf” suspects with no known ties to a foreign power or recognized terror groups. It has never been used, but the low threshold for doing so is concerning.
Congress has one more opportunity to provide some safeguards through a resubmitted amendment that has been put forth by Senator Patrick Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, that would call for “enhanced auditing and oversight of how the powers are being used." The amendment also proposes “an early sunsetting of ‘national security letters,’ which the F.B.I. has used to obtain evidence without a court order, and which have been widely abused.”

The questions we posed in our 2008 issue are as important and current today as they were then. How are we engaging our students in these questions? What kind of public are our public schools creating?