I remember back to Homecoming week in high school when we’d have “Backwards Day.” We’d wear our backpacks on our fronts, and our pants inside out (a few of the more daring students wore underwear on the outside of their clothes). We’d also try to walk backwards and say each other's names backwards (I was Aidualc) among other antics. But that was about the extent of our backwardness.
Lately, however, it seems that educational policies have achieved a unprecedented level of backwardness. The past few weeks have yielded three major announcements which I believe to be the complete inversion of decency, goodness, and rationality in terms of our schools and the well being of our country.
Backwards is back:
- Siding with the Accused. First, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is taking pains to reverse progressive policies regarding sexual assault on college campuses. Her supporters feel that the system is rigged against those accused of sexual assault even though according to the FBI, somewhere between 2 and 10 percent of sexual allegations are false while only 12 percent of college rapes are even reported. Regardless, the Department of Education is now using its resources to reverse current policy which sought to make the reporting and prosecution of sexual assault less taxing and traumatic for its victims (1 in 5 women on college campuses). If the goal is to decrease assaults and increase safety, DeVos’s plans are clearly regressive.
- Assault on Affirmative Action. Speaking of regressive, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced that the Department of Justice will be investigating discrimination against white students in the college admissions process. This effort stems from lawsuits over the past few years by one litigant, Edward Blum, who recruited numerous students in numerous court cases in his mission to eradicate affirmative action. Now, even though the Supreme Court just last year ruled that racial consideration is constitutional in college admissions to foster diversity and even the playing field, the Department of Justice will now be using funds earmarked for affirmative action to instead showcase white students as victims of affirmative action. Here’s the reality check on college diversity: even with affirmative action in place, African American enrollment in flagship schools is 5% of the student population, a far cry from proportional representation. Nonetheless, instead of continuing to work toward a system that is more equitable, they're working to dismantle it.
- Gun Classes in School. Lastly while running errands a few days ago, I heard on the radio (I can’t even get a gallon of milk in peace these days!) that there is currently a bill in the Wisconsin State Assembly to allow on-site gun classes in public schools---from rifles to handguns. The bill would require each superintendent to develop a curriculum for such classes in his/her district. Needless to say, this is a ludicrous and disturbing thought. An uncomfortable reality in schools right now is that we necessarily spend professional development time running school shooting drills, preparing for the most horrific worst case scenario conceivable. So, why on earth would we, then, put guns in students’ hands during school hours? Another contradictory corollary: in recent years, Drivers Ed, a class that clearly aimed at saving lives and making our kids safer, has been removed from public classrooms as a cost-saving measure. So out with Driver’s Ed, in with handguns?
A Department of Education siding with the accused over the victims of sexual assault, a Justice Department looking out for white students over minority populations in the college application process, a Wisconsin State Assembly seriously considering mandating gun curriculum in Wisconsin schools: this is our world.
It seems these days that backwards day is every day. I guess the only remaining question is: what happens in the long term if we stop looking forward and keep moving backwards?