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Feb. 10, 2021

Remote Learning (Closed Schools) and Racism (EP.304)

Remote Learning (Closed Schools) and Racism (EP.304)


I am using the word “closed” to mean both not open to in person learning, and not open to school choice. And I am going to tie both to today’s accusations of racism.

That is the subject of today’s 10 minute episode.


Let’s change things up a bit and start with today’s Key Points:

  1. Remote Learning is an oxymoron.
  2. School Choice means a better education for every child, and a better value for the taxpayers.

I’ll give you the beginnings of why I tie both of these to racism. Both remote learning and lack of school choice lead to the same dismal results, frequently suffered by minorities, that some people and political groups blame on racism. The irony here, or is it hypocrisy, is clear.

There is a unifying force behind both of these damaging practices: Money. “Follow the money” is a catchphrase popularized by the 1976 docudrama film All the President’s Men. The idea, put forth by the anonymous “Deep Throat”, is that if you can see how the money flows, you will figure things out. 

Following the money trail in the school choice issue is easy. Teachers unions, who represent only traditional public school teachers, want all of it. If they had their way, no taxpayer money would go to charters or private schools. When it comes to digging in their heels about refusing to open until everything seems ideal, it is a power play, with money being the reason to seize and hold onto power. Hey, if they can show they have the power to keep schools closed in the face of opposition from both the scientists and the politicians in their own party, they have the power to do anything. Including fighting merit pay raises, doing away with standardized testing–and demanding more money for just about anything they want.

Speaking of money, can you see the conflict of interest here? Teachers unions are heavy contributors to Democrat politicians. Their politicians vote to support the teachers unions demands, using taxpayer money. Rinse and repeat. There is no real bargaining here, as there is in private companies where the unions and management have separate views when it comes to pay and benefits, but both parties recognize the importance of maintaing the overall health of the business. Teachers unions pay cash to get their candidates and politicians elected, and the politicians do what they are paid to do. For example, Biden’s campaign received over $232K from teachers unions in the 2020 election cycle; the second highest was Bernie Sanders who got $51K. Apparently there is no kickback from the other side.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, with the world’s 3rd largest public school system, is alternately pleading and demanding that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) get back to work in person. She is supported in her effort by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Mayor Lightfoot points to failing grades, depression and other negative consequences coming from keeping the schools closed. 

Mayor London Breed in San Francisco is in a similar bind, with San Francisco having to sue the teachers union to return to work in the schools. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Board of Education has enough time and money to tackle the all-important task of renaming 44 schools, including ones named for Lincoln and Roosevelt. One Board member, when asked which Roosevelt was being targeted, responded with saying that he did not know. The beat goes on in San Francisco where the school board next week is expected to consider a resolution abolishing merit exams and high grade point averages for admission to Lowell High School. Named for 19th-century poet and abolitionist James Russell Lowell, the school is a nationally known beacon of excellence. Lowell is also among the 44 schools whose names the school board recently voted to change because Lowell’s references to African-Americans are regarded as insufficiently enlightened by today’s standards. One school board commissioner, Alison Collins, has called merit-based admissions “racist.” (There’s that word again.) 

Teachers unions and some school boards are attacking any kind of standardized testing, both for admissions and to assess progress once admitted. They want to eliminate testing for admissions so that more and more of the admissions can be based on race and not merit. They want to eliminate testing for advancement of students and assessment of teachers so that teacher advancement can be based on seniority and union standing and not student achievement. 

Do you see the pattern here? No objective assessments based on real achievement either for the students or the teachers. No one can get fired for poor performance in teaching our young, and everyone gets generous pensions after a career of no measurements, including not measuring whether or not you even showed up in the classroom.

And this pay for non performance model is being defended with a fierce attempt to make sure that as little taxpayer money as possible goes to charter schools, and virtually no money goes to private schools via vouchers. The last thing the teachers unions want is clear examples of how the very different approach that the charter and private schools take to everything from core education to teacher compensation and recognition works better than their approach. They know they would be exposed, so they fight.

No one needs to be an educator to know that remote learning is not nearly as effective as in person learning. Adults know that a good 50% of the value of any class or conference comes from being in the room, chatting with other attendees before and after class. Having a meal together later when some of the more important topics come up. And it is even more important for children who have the attention span of a gnat even when they are in the classroom. How long will a Zoom meeting hold a 3rd grader’s attention? 

Keeping schools closed to in person learning and fighting school choice hurts all kids. And it hurts minorities in poor areas the most. They are the ones who already have the worst schools, the slowest Internet, and the least capable computer hardware and software. And those kids are less likely to have decently educated role models, or even adults in their lives who will encourage them to do their homework, and help them with it. All of this, if allowed to continue, would lead to dropouts and graduates who are even less prepared for today’s workplace than they are now. This would lead to more intentionally misleading accusations of racism, demanding that more money and more government programs be directed toward these unprepared, “racially disadvantaged” minorities. And that is exactly what the closed crowd wants. But that is another episode. 

The solution is clear and attainable: Give parents liberal access to equally funded traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools via vouchers. Competition makes everything stronger and better. Only the weak and the lazy fear it.

Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know. 

As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty. 1 Corinthians 16:14


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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.