Video: Sean Hannity Slammed ‘Lunatic’ Trump Backers as He Did White House Bidding!

Dear Commons Community,

What has long been suspected has come to light that Fox News host Sean Hannity was taking orders from the White House while he ranted about the “lunatics” supporting then-President Donald Trump, according to new details in a trove of text messages revealed by CNN (see video above).

Hannity and then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows exchanged 82 texts from Election Day 2020 up until Joe Biden’s inauguration as president, CNN reported.

The messages were among 2,319 texts Meadows provided last December to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

In some cases, the texts reveal that Hannity functioned as a kind of shadow chief of staff and gave advice to Meadows in the aftermath of the 2020 election. But Meadows also issued specific orders to Hannity to help the Trump administration, morphing Fox News into a kind of state media.

On Election Day, Meadows wrote to Hannity in a text: “Stress every vote matters. Get out and vote. On radio.”

“Yes sir,” Hannity replied. “On it. Any place in particular we need a push?”

“Pennsylvania. NC AZ, Nevada,” Meadows instructed.

“Got it,” Hannity texted.

In another revealing text, Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo texted Meadows with a heads up about the questions she planned to ask Trump on air in late November 2020, a practice that’s frowned on by journalists. She indicated that she would provide a platform for Trump’s lies about the election and pleaded with Meadows: “Pls make sure he doesn’t go off on tangents. We want to know he is strong he is a fighter & he will win.”

In mid-December 2020, Hannity urged Meadows to continue joining forces. “You also need to spend at least half your time doing business with us,” he texted Meadows.

“I agree. We can make a powerful team,” Meadows responded.

Meadows and Hannity also worked in tandem to help spin Trump’s false tale of a rigged election.

But Hannity’s enthusiasm appeared to flag on Dec. 22, when he began bashing the “lunatics” supporting Trump.

“You fighting is fine,” he texted Meadows. “The f’ing lunatics is NOT fine. They are NOT helping him. I’m fed up with those people.”

Hannity is a pathetic two-faced individual who typifies the crew at Fox News.


Peter Coy: To Tackle Student Debt, Fix Ineffective Colleges!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times opinion writer, Peter Coy, has a piece this morning entitled, “To Tackle Student Debt, Fix Ineffective Colleges.”  His message is that while President Biden and the federal government are debating and considering college student debt forgiveness, it would be a good time to also consider examining and correcting the operations of unscrupulous colleges as well as excluding debt forgiveness for graduates who will have high lifetime earnings such as doctors and other professionals.

Coy covers important background on the issue such as “In 2018, then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos scrapped a regulation that would have forced for-profit colleges to prove that students they enroll are able to obtain decent-paying jobs. A 2018 New York Times story called the move “the most drastic in a series of policy shifts that will free the scandal-scarred, for-profit sector from safeguards put in effect during the Obama era.”

He goes on to comment that:  “The overall solution is clear: Limited forgiveness coupled with increased aid and reforms that keep future students from piling on debt for worthless studies. Cardona, the education secretary, testified in Congress on Thursday that the Biden administration is seeking to double the maximum Pell Grant by 2029 and to increase support for minority-serving institutions. It has reinstated an enforcement unit to crack down on financial aid fraud by institutions and is working on a new rule to ensure that graduates obtain gainful employment, he said in January. Those moves are in the right direction.”

Coy’s piece is below and worth a read!



The New York Times

To Tackle Student Debt, Fix Ineffective Colleges

April 29, 2022

By Peter Coy

Opinion Writer

Before the federal government forgives student loan debt, it would be good to understand what makes the debt so onerous. The problem isn’t overwhelming debt — it’s underpowered education.

Postgraduate borrowers aren’t earning enough money to repay their loans because whatever they studied didn’t give them the skills to get a sufficiently well-paying job.

Think about it: Even a big debt is manageable if you incur it to get, say, a medical degree. Conversely, even a small debt is unaffordable if you major in a field with limited career prospects or low pay or, worse, you drop out with nothing to show for your efforts. The high price of tuition simply compounds the problem.

This obvious point has been obscured in the current debate over loan forgiveness, which focuses on the symptom of unaffordable debt rather than the cause, namely unproductive education.

If the federal government forgives most or all student loan debt without fixing the schools, it will just keep the vicious cycle going. Students will continue to borrow, their money will disappear into the bank accounts of ineffective schools with slick marketing, and in a few years there will be a fresh clamor for loan relief. That will be bad for the students, for taxpayers and for employers, who need a genuinely well-educated work force.

I thought about this on Thursday when I read a news release from the U.S. Department of Education announcing that 28,000 people who borrowed to attend Marinello Schools of Beauty from 2009 through to its closure in 2016 would have a collective $238 million in debt discharged. “Marinello preyed on students who dreamed of careers in the beauty industry, misled them about the quality of their programs, and left them buried in unaffordable debt they could not repay,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in the release. (By the way, as of Thursday the Small Business Administration still had a web page boasting about helping finance Marinello’s expansion, though it seems to have been taken down after I asked about it.)

The problem is, of course, much bigger than Marinello Schools of Beauty. Only a small percentage of the schools that fail to educate are outright predatory, but those that are well meaning but ineffective are just as bad from the point of view of the students and the economy. According to the latest data from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, only 26 percent of students who enrolled in private, for-profit institutions in 2013 managed to graduate within six years. Other schools’ six-year graduation rates weren’t great, either: 62 percent for public institutions and 68 percent for private nonprofits.

A report last year by Third Way, a center-left think tank, found more than 500 schools where the average low-income student who enrolls earns less than an average high school graduate, even 10 years after enrolling. “It’s unlikely that low-income students who attend these institutions will ever be able to recoup their educational investment,” the study said.

Congress is at fault, said Adam Looney, an expert on student loan debt who is executive director of the University of Utah’s Marriner S. Eccles Institute.

“The debt crisis is a very recent phenomenon,” he told me. “There was a previous crisis in the 1980s. The loan default rate then was three times what it was in the Great Recession. The cause was terrible schools that enrolled unsuspecting students and saddled them with unaffordable loans. So Congress enacted very strict rules. If your default rate was too high, your institution was kicked out of the loan program. Or if students were too reliant on federal aid. Or you used aggressive recruitment techniques. Or you taught everyone remotely. Thousands of schools were kicked out and the default rate plummeted.”

Looney continued: “Then in the late ’90s or early 2000s we eliminated the distance learning rule. There were no checks on quality. We gutted rules on default rates and the fraction of funding that could come from federal sources. We eliminated loan limits for grad students. All this has allowed proliferation of low-quality schools.”

In 2018, then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos scrapped a regulation that would have forced for-profit colleges to prove that students they enroll are able to obtain decent-paying jobs. A 2018 New York Times story called the move “the most drastic in a series of policy shifts that will free the scandal-scarred, for-profit sector from safeguards put in effect during the Obama era.”

The federal government could reinstate the safeguards imposed under Obama and previous presidents, but the current focus among Democrats in Congress is on debt relief. President Biden has repeatedly extended a pandemic moratorium on student loan debt repayment. The current moratorium is set to expire on Aug. 31, so he will have to decide soon whether to extend it yet again or go for permanent relief. Whether he could forgive debt himself by executive order, or would have to ask Congress to do so, isn’t clear.

Some progressives, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, are pressing for across-the-board debt forgiveness in the belief that it would mainly benefit the poor and lower middle class, in particular Black borrowers, who are at greater risk of defaulting.

In reality, across-the-board forgiveness would help the rich much more than the poor, according to Looney. The debate over this question is mind-numbing, but I’m persuaded by two points that Looney makes. First, some of the borrowers who look poor at first glance — such as fresh graduates of medical school — are rich when you take into account their lifetime earnings potential, which they bolstered through their studies. Forgiving the debt of these nominally “poor” people would not exactly strike a blow for the proletariat. Second, many lower-income people already receive limited debt relief. Full debt forgiveness is less of a benefit to a low-income person who wasn’t likely to pay in full anyway, whereas it’s a valuable benefit to an upper-income person who would have paid in full.

Looney is all in favor of selective debt forgiveness. “Just about everyone agrees that individuals who experience low income for a period of time and cannot pay their loans in full or part should have the majority of their loans forgiven. (Indeed, that’s the law now, even if poorly implemented.),” he wrote in an email. “So the contested ground (and the progressive position) is around advocating for forgiveness for people whose incomes are sufficient to pay.”

And that — forgiveness for people who don’t need forgiveness — seems a bit daft. “Alongside my kids’ student loans, I’d like the government to pay off my mortgage. If the latter idea shocks you, the first one should too,” David Autor, an economist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, commented in a 2020 survey of leading academic economists by the Initiative on Global Markets of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

We all benefit from a more educated populace, so it makes sense to help people get college degrees, but making federal loans and then (maybe) forgiving them isn’t the way to do it. Better to hold down the cost of tuition by giving more support to schools that actually do educate, giving more grants in place of loans to students, or both.

Since money talks, the government has a right to steer students toward fields of study that are in demand. On the other hand, we don’t want only the independently wealthy to learn about art, history and philosophy. Striking a balance between career education and the liberal arts is tricky, but possible.

The overall solution is clear: Limited forgiveness coupled with increased aid and reforms that keep future students from piling on debt for worthless studies. Cardona, the education secretary, testified in Congress on Thursday that the Biden administration is seeking to double the maximum Pell Grant by 2029 and to increase support for minority-serving institutions. It has reinstated an enforcement unit to crack down on financial aid fraud by institutions and is working on a new rule to ensure that graduates obtain gainful employment, he said in January. Those moves are in the right direction.

I like what Kevin Carey, an expert on higher education, wrote last year in Washington Monthly: “The amount of new money currently being proposed for higher learning is historic. It would be an enormous missed opportunity to spend that much and do little to change the underlying structures that keep too many students down.”


Artificial intelligence algorithm that screens for child neglect raises concerns!

(AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin)

Dear Commons Community,

The Associated Press has an article this morning raising concerns about an artificial intelligence algorithm being used in Pittsburgh to assist in placements in child welfare decisions. Critics say it gives a program powered by data mostly collected about poor people an outsized role in deciding families’ fates, and they warn against local officials’ growing reliance on these types of artificial intelligence tools.

​​If the tool had acted on its own to screen in a comparable rate of calls, it would have recommended that two-thirds of Black children be investigated, compared with about half of all other children reported, according to another study published last month and co-authored by a researcher who audited the county’s algorithm.

Advocates worry that if similar tools are used in other child welfare systems with minimal or no human intervention–akin to how algorithms have been used to make decisions in the criminal justice system–they could reinforce existing racial disparities in the child welfare system.

“It’s not decreasing the impact among Black families,” said Logan Stapleton, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. “On the point of accuracy and disparity, (the county is) making strong statements that I think are misleading.”

Because family court hearings are closed to the public and the records are sealed, AP wasn’t able to identify first-hand any families who the algorithm recommended be mandatorily investigated for child neglect, nor any cases that resulted in a child being sent to foster care. Families and their attorneys can never be sure of the algorithm’s role in their lives either because they aren’t allowed to know the scores.

This is a classic example of the possible misuse of artificial intelligence technology for a deeply sensitive human activity.

The article rightfully raises critical questions.



Video: Dropping Anna Netrebko, the Metropolitan Opera Turns to a Ukrainian Diva, Liudmyla Monastyrska

Liudmyla Monastyrska Singing In Questa Reggia from Turandot!

Dear Commons Community,

Liudmyla Monastyrska, a Ukrainian soprano, was in Poland, shopping for concert dresses ahead of a performance. Her phone rang, and it was Peter Gelb, the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager, on the other end. He was blunt: His company was in a bind.

Ukraine had recently been invaded, and the Met had parted ways with the Russian soprano Anna Netrebko over her previous support for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Gelb wanted Monastyrska, a charismatic singer known for her lush sound, to replace Netrebko in a revival of Puccini’s “Turandot,” which opens this Saturday.

Monastyrska, 46, was reluctant. In 2015, after a punishing run at the National Opera of Ukraine in Kyiv, she had vowed never to perform the title role of “Turandot” again, worn down by its demands. And she was nervous about getting caught in the politics of the Russian invasion and alienating Netrebko, one of opera’s biggest stars, whom she has known for seven years.

Gelb reassured Monastyrska, promising that her appearance would help bring attention to the plight of the Ukrainian people.  As reported by The New York Times.

“I was surprised, but I felt it was important for me to sing,” Monastyrska said in an interview. “I wanted to help however I could.” She still felt uneasy, though. “I don’t like to sing other people’s contracts,” she said.

Throughout her career, Monastyrska has made a studied effort to avoid politics. She does not have a Facebook page and tries not to read the news, preferring to focus on her family, her faith (she’s Ukrainian Orthodox) and her artistry.

But in recent weeks, as the war in Ukraine has intensified, she has found a political voice. She has criticized Netrebko’s meandering statements on the invasion, saying that Netrebko’s opposition to the war and attempts to distance herself from Putin have come too late. She has railed against the Russian government (“They are killing people for no reason,” she said in the interview) and denounced artists who continue to support Moscow.




Tania Tetlow:  First layperson and first woman to lead Fordham University in its 181-year history!

Tania Tetlow, J.D., Named Fordham University's First Lay President -

Tania Tetlow – President Elect of Fordham University

Dear Commons Community,

Fordham University has broken with its tradition of naming priests by appointing Tania Tetlow, to be its next president, starting on July 1st.  She will be the first layperson and first woman to lead the University in its 181-year history.

Below is an official announcement of her appointment.

My two brothers and I are all graduates of Fordham and it is hard to imagine Fordham not having a Jesuit president.  I wish Ms. Tetlow well!



“Tania Tetlow, J.D., a former law professor and current president of Loyola University New Orleans who has deep ties to the Jesuits and New York, has been named president-elect of Fordham.

She will be the first layperson and first woman to lead the University in its 181-year history. Her tenure will begin July 1.

“The Board of Trustees and the search committee were deeply impressed by Tania Tetlow from the moment we met her,” said Fordham Board Chair Robert D. Daleo, GABELLI ’72. “She is deeply rooted in, and a strong proponent of, Ignatian spirituality, and will be a champion of Fordham’s Jesuit, Catholic mission and identity. She has a deep understanding of and comprehensive vision for undergraduate liberal arts and sciences, the Gabelli School of Business, Fordham Law, and all of the graduate and professional schools of the University.”

Tetlow has served as president of Loyola New Orleans since August 2018. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School, magna cum laude, in 1995, and her Bachelor of Arts in American studies from Tulane University, cum laude, in 1992.

Prior to being named president of Loyola, she was senior vice president and chief of staff at Tulane University from 2015 to 2018. She also served at Tulane as associate provost for international affairs, the Felder-Fayard Professor of Law, and director of the university’s domestic violence clinic. From 2000 to 2005, she was a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

In a video message to the Fordham community, Tetlow said she is “honored beyond measure” to have been chosen as Fordham’s next president, and talked about what it’s like coming from “a family full of Jesuits.”

“They taught me that faith and reason are intertwined. They instilled in me an abiding curiosity to find God in all things … They sang me to sleep with a Gregorian chant and taught me the absolute joy of learning. I grew up in New Orleans, but Fordham is the reason that I exist. My parents met there as graduate students and got married, and I was born in New York,” said Tetlow, whose father was a Jesuit for 17 years before leaving the order to start a family. “Fordham loomed large in my family. It was an institution of breathtaking excellence in the most exciting city in the world.”

Tetlow and her family left New York for New Orleans when she was a child; at age 16, she earned a Dean’s Honor Scholarship at Tulane University, where she later earned a Truman Scholarship that took her to Harvard Law. There, she embarked on a celebrated legal career and carried her commitment to justice forward as a professor, advocate, and university leader.

Her return in 2022 will usher in a new, exciting chapter in Fordham’s history. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, said he’s confident he’ll be leaving Fordham in good hands.

“Tania Tetlow has in abundance the qualities of leadership one needs to run a major university, among them discernment, patience, decisiveness, self-awareness, and magnanimity,” said Father McShane, who announced in September that the 2021–2022 academic year would be his last as president. “Her commitment to Jesuit pedagogy and to Fordham’s Jesuit, Catholic mission is both deep and well-informed. I shall rest easy with her in the office I have occupied for almost two decades.”

Though she won’t start in her new post until this summer, Tetlow is already a member of the Fordham community through her family connections: her late father, Louis Mulry Tetlow, a psychologist and former Jesuit priest, received his Ph.D. from Fordham’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1974, four years after earning a master’s degree from Fordham; and her mother, Elisabeth M. Tetlow, is also a double GSAS graduate, classes of 1967 and 1970, with master’s degrees in philosophy and theology. The prominent writer Joseph Tetlow, S.J., President-Elect Tetlow’s uncle, is another family connection to the Jesuits; he served for eight years in Rome as head of the Secretariat for Ignatian Spirituality and has held other important roles ranging from president of the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley to associate editor of America Magazine. He is currently writing full time at the Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Dallas, Texas.

Tania Tetlow is married to Gordon Stewart, originally from Glasgow, Scotland. They have a 9-year-old daughter, Lucy, and a stepson, Noah.

“Tania Tetlow brings to Fordham a powerful mix of academic accomplishments, a deep love of Jesuit education, a record of tirelessly fighting for justice, and visionary leadership in higher education,” said Fordham Provost Dennis Jacobs, Ph.D. “She is eager to build strategically on Fordham’s strong foundation in the liberal arts and superb graduate and professional schools, including one of the nation’s top law schools and trailblazing business schools. Tania aspires to distinguish Fordham as an outstanding university, offering a transformative education for its students and working to build a more just and thriving New York City, nation, and world.”

“This is a historic and exciting moment for Fordham,” said Daleo. “As a university that seeks to transform its students’ lives, we are preparing to be transformed by bold new leadership—leadership that will build upon Father McShane’s legacy of academic achievement and institutional growth.”



Teacher Educators Express Concern about Divisive Concept Laws that Restrict How K-12 Teachers Discuss Certain Issues!

Education Professors React to Divisive-Concept Laws

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education had an article yesterday commenting on how teacher education faculty are reacting to state laws limiting what K-12 teachers can say in their classrooms regarding racism and other DEI topics. Since 2021, more than a dozen states have passed laws — sometimes referred to as divisive-concept laws — or used other statewide actions such as executive orders to restrict how teachers discuss certain issues. Many draw language from an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in 2020, which has since been revoked by President Biden. 

The basis for the article is that faculty members at teacher colleges have had a unique perspective as the nation’s culture wars have shifted into K-12 classrooms, where many of their students work or soon will. Worried that the laws will have a chilling effect on teaching, some recommend their students consider the environment when they decide where to teach. They urge them to think creatively about how they can serve the needs of their pupils even under the constraints of the laws. And some have actively fought against the laws, testifying in statehouses against them or working to get higher education exempted from bills, and organizing faculty senates to pass resolutions opposing the laws.

For faculty in teacher education programs, these are important issues that should be considered.

Below is the entire article.



 The Chronicle of Higher Education

Education Professors React to Divisive-Concept Laws

By Adrienne Lu

April 25, 2022

New state laws and other actions limiting what teachers can say in the classroom about topics including race, racism, and sexuality typically apply to elementary and secondary schools. So professors, while often opposed to the laws, have largely remained unaffected. But at least one group of faculty members has felt a direct impact: those training teachers.

Since 2021, more than a dozen states have passed laws — sometimes referred to as divisive-concept laws — or used other statewide actions such as executive orders to restrict how teachers discuss certain issues. Many draw language from an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in 2020, which has since been revoked by President Biden.

Faculty members at teacher colleges have had a unique perspective as the nation’s culture wars have shifted into classrooms, where many of their students work or soon will. Worried that the laws will have a chilling effect on teaching, some recommend their students consider the environment when they decide where to teach. They urge them to think creatively about how they can serve the needs of their pupils even under the constraints of the laws. And some have actively fought against the laws, testifying in statehouses against them or working to get higher education exempted from bills, and organizing faculty senates to pass resolutions opposing the laws.

Academics who have spent their professional careers working to help mold future teachers say the laws represent not only a violation of academic freedom but the rolling back of progress toward more inclusive classrooms.

“I am woefully disappointed and frankly I’m very angry that in 2022 … we are still fighting for the rights of Black and other marginalized groups to have their history told, to have their lived experiences shared,” said Donna Ford, a distinguished professor in the college of education and human ecology at Ohio State University.

What the Laws Say

Politicians and the public alike have lumped divisive-concept laws together under the banner of critical race theory, the once-obscure academic theory that conservatives rail against, although few of the state laws explicitly name the theory. Among other things, critical race theory argues that racism is structural and built into laws and institutions.

Mississippi’s critical race theory legislation, which was signed into law in March and covers public colleges as well as K-12 schools, states that educators shall not direct or compel students to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to tenets including that “that any sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is inherently superior or inferior; or that individuals should be adversely treated on the basis of their sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.”

The laws rely on “unsubstantiated claims about what teachers are doing in their work,” said Rich Milner, the chair of education in the department of teaching and learning at Vanderbilt University.

Milner believes that the laws undermine the “professional judgment of educators who know and understand what their students need to learn, how they need to learn it, and when they need to be exposed.”

“Students are going to miss important aspects of history, important aspects of current realities,” Milner said. “They’re going to miss insightful opportunities to analyze, to critique, to make sense of curriculum that legislators are attempting to silence.”

Likewise, Dana Thompson Dorsey, an associate professor of educational leadership and policy at the University of South Florida who directs its David C. Anchin Center for the Advancement of Teaching, characterized the divisive-concept laws as oppressive. “It is a way of limiting teacher voice, student voice,” Dorsey said. “It’s a way to avoid discussing history in this country so that students are not learning real history.”

Fear and Anxiety

Professors say that their students worry about upsetting parents or other community members simply by trying to teach, for example, American history.

“They are anxious, they’re nervous, they’re frustrated, [and] scared,” said Milner. “We talk very explicitly about what do you do, how do you address and work through this legislation that is oppressive and is really undermining their professional judgment.”

Milner advises his students to save artifacts of their pupils’ work to demonstrate that they are drawing from the standards in their teaching, for example, and to engage with families and the broader community. He said that while that adds a layer of unfair and unnecessary stress to their jobs, he wants his students to be prepared for what they may face.

Dorsey urges her students to encourage conversations about difficult topics, rather than ignore them. “I tell them to stand on truth … that they are to facilitate and not shut down discussions.”

Likewise, Ford said she remains committed to helping her students learn what they need to know.

“If there’s a wall, you go around it,” Ford said. “I’m going to find a way to do what needs to be done to really prepare future educators.”

Some professors also talked about the responsibility they feel to prepare their students — many of whom are white — to be effective teachers for students of color. Meir Muller, an assistant professor in early childhood education at the University of South Carolina’s College of Education, said many Black children enter college without ever having had a Black teacher, or without seeing themselves in textbooks, or on the posters on the walls at school.

“It is this idea of letting everyone be seen in this classroom,” Muller said. “It would go for Jewish or Muslim or LGBT students. We want to make sure every student is well seen in the classroom, validated and celebrated.”

A March tweet by Amy Rutenberg, an associate professor and coordinator of the social-studies education program at Iowa State University, drew 37,500 likes. She tweeted: “For the first time in my career, I had to tell a student to change the wording of a 100% factually correct lesson plan because to teach it with the initial wording would violate Iowa’s ‘divisive concepts’ law, and now I want to cry.”

Rutenberg explained that in a lesson plan on the civil-rights movement, she suggested that her student change the words “systemic nationwide level” to “structural level,” a revision that would, in her view, meet the letter of the law without substantively changing the content of the lesson.

Rutenberg said her students are most worried about how parents will work with or against them. She noted that their concerns have escalated in recent years, with news about contentious school-board meetings, for example, making headlines.

“When I was a teacher in high schools, I gave no thought to the school board in my districts,” Rutenberg said. “That was not a thing I was thinking about; it is a thing they’re thinking about now.”

Caution Among Students

One future teacher contacted for this article declined to be interviewed, saying she did not want to risk jeopardizing her first teaching contract, given the laws in her home state of Georgia.

Others were more forthcoming. Markuan Tigney Jr., a master’s student at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College who plans to teach first grade in Virginia, where Gov. Glenn Youngkin opened a tip line in January for parents to report schools for teaching divisive concepts. Tigney said he and his classmates talk frequently about the divisive-concept laws and try to figure out what they can teach and what they can’t.

“There’s always this level of hesitation about teaching and getting in trouble,” Tigney said. “There’s always conversations like, ‘Do you think it would be OK to read this book?’”

Tigney said he has been training to become a teacher for the past four years and that he would rather focus his energy on teaching than on worrying about whether he might say something that would offend someone. “It’s like I’m being censored as a teacher when I’m the one who’s supposed to expose my children to the truth and [help] them become critical thinkers themselves,” Tigney said.

Chris Darby, who is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of South Florida and hopes to enter academe someday, said the debates may well affect where professors decide to live and teach. “A lot of times universities miss out on great professors who opt out because the politics hinder their work,” Darby said.

Even as a student, Darby said, he has sometimes stopped himself from asking a question or making a point in a public setting because he’s worried that his views might change how a professor grades him. “I think it limits knowledge because there’s not healthy way to disagree.”

Caroline T. Clark, a professor in Ohio State’s department of teaching and learning, feels heartened by her students’ resolve to teach in spite of the divisive-concept laws. Students have told her that if they can reach the one child who really needs to hear something, for example, that would make it worthwhile to have become a teacher.

“It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s kind of a brave thing to say as a young teacher,” Clark said. “I’m impressed and hopeful because I feel increasingly their commitments are strong.”


Michael Bloomberg to give $200M to New York City’s high-profile charter school networks!


Michel Bloomberg and Geoffrey Canada

Dear Commons Community,

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday that he’s donating a $100 million each to two high-profile charter networks: Harlem Children’s Zone and Success Academy.

The donation — billed as a means to help close the achievement gap and meet demand for school choice seats — is part of a larger $750 million nationwide push Bloomberg has made for charter schools following the COVID-19 pandemic.   As reported by the New York Post.

“One foundation can’t take care of everybody. But we can act as an example to show that you can really do it,” Bloomberg told The Post during a visit to the Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy, where he announced the donation.

“I don’t know that 30 years from now, when they don’t have the kind of life that we’d want for them you can explain to them what happened and why we were asleep at the switch,” he added of current students. “We’re trying to do something about it.”

Priorities include school facility improvements, teacher recruitment and retention, learning loss and mental health services and college and career readiness programs.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has donated $35 million to Harlem Children’s Zone for general operating support, and added $65 million on Monday for new plans — including upgraded buildings and classroom space, and additional remedial teaching and health services.

“We should lean in, whether it’s in traditional public school or in charter schools,” said Geoffrey Canada, founder and president of Harlem Children’s Zone. “But we got to do something about education, because the country’s future — certainly the future of black and brown poor children in this country — are on the line right now.” 

Some of the cash infusion will also go toward a college scholarship fund for students pursuing four-year college degrees, as well as internship and career readiness programs. Other funding has been earmarked for retaining teachers through professional development, loan forgiveness and other incentives.

That’s an investment Kwame Owusu-Kesse, CEO of the network, said will trickle down to students: “There’s no more important person that you can put in front of a young person than their teacher,” he said.

Owusu-Kesse pointed to the many things schools can do “with resources as an excuse being taken off of the table,” from leveraging technology to investing in social workers.

“In many ways, we view ourselves as R&D [research and development] for the field or an innovation lab for the country,” he said. “Getting it right for our young people here in Harlem is getting it right for under-resourced communities all across this nation.”

At Success Academy, the $100 million gift — the largest in its history — is expected to support constructing a new campus in the South Bronx that could educate 2,400 students from all grades in one building. The plan is pending city approval.

“We are adding seat capacity, adding the number of students. Our demand is off the charts,” Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of Success Academy, told The Post, predicting enrollment could grow by a third over the next five or six years.

Moskowitz described the investment as “taking a stand” and “really sending a powerful message about K-12 and education reform.”

Critics of the privately operated but taxpayer-funded charter schools say the model redirects public dollars and building space to a limited share of students — and, in certain cases, take issue with the“no excuses”approach of high achievement and strict behavioral codes some have implemented in their classrooms.

But the folks at Bloomberg Philanthropies said their investment will help all students succeed following the pandemic.

“Anything we can do to make these schools better, to improve educational outcomes for these kids, helps every kid in every school,” said Howard Wolfson, the education program lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “We see it as a sector-wide investment that will benefit the whole city.” 

The gifts are part of a national multi-year, $750 million Bloomberg initiative to grow charter schools in 20 cities with 150,000 additional seats.

The billionaire philanthropist told The Post he’s starting by contributing to the New York schools that he “knows the best.”

“Harlem Children’s Zone and Success Academy have both shown what’s possible when we put students first, set high expectations and hold everyone accountable for results,” he said in a statement.

“This is the beginning of a five-year plan to significantly invest in charters,” Wolfson said. “This is a floor not a ceiling for our efforts in New York City.”

Bloomberg recently spearheaded “Summer Boost NYC,” a $50-million investment for city charter schools summer programs from the private and philanthropic sectors.

Wolfson said Bloomberg Philanthropies has been working with and talking to several newer schools he noted were also deserving of support. He pointed to last week’s announcement of funding for summer programs in all charter schools as sending “a signal” that there are many “outstanding” options.

No doubt where Bloomberg’s priorities are when it comes to public education.


Harvard to Spend $100 million to atone for ties to slavery!

Dear Commons Community,

Harvard University is vowing to spend $100 million to study and atone for its extensive ties with slavery, President Lawrence Bacow  announced yesterday, with plans to identify and support the descendants of enslaved people who labored at the Ivy League campus.

Bacow announced the funding as Harvard released a new report detailing the many ways the college benefited from slavery and perpetuated racial inequality. But the report stops short of recommending direct financial reparations, and officials have no immediate plans for that kind of support.

Harvard, the nation’s oldest and wealthiest college, is the latest among a growing number of U.S. schools attempting to confront their involvement with slavery and also make amends for it.  As reported by the Associated Press.

The report, commissioned by Bacow, found that Harvard’s faculty, staff and leaders enslaved more than 70 Black and Native American people from the school’s founding in 1636 to 1783. It cautions that the figure is “almost certainly an undercount.” Using historical records, researchers were able to identify dozens of enslaved people by name, along with their connection to the university.

Most were identified only by a single name, such as Cesar, Dinah and Venus.

“Enslaved men and women served Harvard presidents and professors and fed and cared for Harvard students,” researchers found. “Moreover, throughout this period and well into the 19th century, the University and its donors benefited from extensive financial ties to slavery.”

The report says the university “should make a significant monetary commitment, and it should invest in remedies of equal or greater breadth than other universities.” Bacow said Harvard will attempt to redress its wrongs through “teaching, research and service.” He is creating a committee to implement the report’s suggestions.

Building on earlier research at Harvard, the report details how the university depended on the slave trade in its early years and profited from it for decades.

Harvard invested directly in the sugar and rum trades in the Caribbean, along with the U.S. cotton and railroad industries. The college’s early growth is credited to support from wealthy donors who accumulated their fortunes through the slave trade and industries that relied on it.

Along with the 70 people who were enslaved, the report also lists their enslavers — including several Harvard presidents and high-ranking officials — and the campus buildings, rooms and professorships that are still named after them.

Even after slavery was abolished, the report says, prominent scholars continued to promote concepts that fueled racist ideas.

It cites work by 19th century professor Louis Agassiz, who pushed discredited theories on “race science” and eugenics. Another scholar led a “physical education” program that collected students’ physical measurements to support research advancing eugenic theories.

In his message, Bacow called the findings “disturbing and shocking,” and he acknowledged that the school “perpetuated practices that were profoundly immoral.”

“Consequently, I believe we bear a moral responsibility to do what we can to address the persistent corrosive effects of those historical practices on individuals, on Harvard, and on our society,” he wrote.

The 130-page report included a series of recommendations that Bacow endorsed. The $100 million will be used to carry out the work, with some funding to be made available now and more to be held in an endowment. The university itself has an endowment of more than $50 billion, the largest in the nation.

The report says Harvard should identify the descendants of enslaved people and engage with them “through dialogue, programming, information sharing, relationship building and educational support.”

“Through such efforts, these descendants can recover their histories, tell their stories and pursue empowering knowledge,” the report said.

More broadly, it urges Harvard to fight racial inequality by expanding education options for descendants of enslaved people, especially in the South and the Caribbean. It calls on the university to work closely with historically Black colleges across the country, with new funding to bring students and scholars to Harvard for up to a year at a time.

And acknowledging the enslavement of Native Americans, it calls on Harvard to build closer ties with New England tribes. Harvard should recruit more students from tribal communities, the report says, and organize a national conference promoting research on the enslavement of Indigenous people.

In accepting the recommendations, Harvard joins an increasing number of colleges attempting to move from research to action as they reconcile with their histories.

Georgetown University in 2019 promised to raise $400,000 a year for the descendants of enslaved people sold by the school. The Princeton Theological Seminary created a $27.6 million reparative endowment. The University of Virginia established scholarships for the descendants of enslaved people.

Harvard formally began exploring its ties to slavery in 2016, when former President Drew Gilpin Faust acknowledged that the school was “directly complicit in America’s system of racial bondage.” Faust organized a committee to study the topic and had a plaque installed on campus honoring enslaved people who labored there.

Student activists had been shining a light on Harvard’s darker histories for years. In 2015, students demanded that Harvard Law School abandon its official crest, which was tied to an 18th century donor whose family enslaved dozens of people. Months later, the school retired the symbol.

Soon after becoming president, Bacow established a new Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery to dig deeper into the university’s role. That effort led to the new report.

“The Harvard that I have known, while far from perfect, has always tried to be better — to bring our lived experience ever closer to our high ideals,” Bacow wrote. “In releasing this report and committing ourselves to following through on its recommendations, we continue a long tradition of embracing the challenges before us.”

Good move on the part of Harvard!


More Pandemic Fallout: The Chronically Absent Student!

Groundbreaking Johns Hopkins analysis shows national scale of chronic  student absence - JHU School of Education

Dear Commons Community,

“Chronic absence has skyrocketed” during the pandemic, said Hedy Chang, the director of Attendance Works, a national group that promotes solutions to chronic absenteeism, which has been linked to weaker academic performance and can predict whether a student is more likely to drop out before finishing high school. Chronic absence is often defined as missing 10 percent of the days in a school year, whether the absences are excused or not.

The rate of chronic absenteeism among New York City public-school students has risen to a staggering 40 percent.

With 938,000 students enrolled in NYC’s schools, that means some 375,000 kids are missing too much school and falling too far behind.

But that number is likely an undercount because students out with COVID or quarantined could be marked present if they logged in online or had minimal contact with a teacher.

Rates of absenteeism can be hard to compare nationally because schools do not report the data in the same way, nor on the same timetable. But according to a December report from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which defined chronic absenteeism as missing 15 school days per year, the percentage of students who were on track to be chronically absent was about 22 percent — more than double the rate of chronically absent students before the pandemic.

“While absenteeism rates for high-income students are leveling off, rates for low-income students have continued to worsen since the spring,” the report added.

“What we know,” Dr. Chang said, “is that chronic absence is exacerbating existing inequities.”

For school districts, attendance is a knotty problem. Showing up to class is fundamental to learning, but schools have little control over absences and solving the problem is not easy. Chronic absenteeism can stem from a variety of issues including instability at home, work obligations or illness.

In Connecticut, state data shows that chronic absenteeism soared during the pandemic, especially for Black, Latino and Native American students. This year in Hartford, where children of color make up a vast majority of the student body, the pandemic has disrupted years of effort to push that figure down, said Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, the superintendent of Hartford Public Schools.

“You feel that in the hallways,” she said. “You hear teachers saying to students: ‘I’ve missed you. Where have you been?’”

The district collected data on students’ reasons for absences and found that the most common included illnesses and quarantines, whether Covid-related or not; transportation difficulties, sometimes exacerbated by safety concerns or bad weather; suspensions over students’ behavior; and appointments outside of school, for example with doctors or social workers.

“We look at the barriers,” said Marjorie Rice, the principal of McDonough. “What we can remove, we remove.”

In Washington County, Md., the rate of public school students who were chronically absent rose to about 38 percent during the first semester of this school year — more than double the rate from a comparable time period before the pandemic.

The absences appear to have been driven in part by depression and anxiety among students, cases of which skyrocketed during the pandemic and are now overwhelming health care providers, according to Jeremy Jakoby, the district’s director of student services.

“Kids aren’t showing up as much as they used to,” said Leilani Ciampo, 14, a high school freshman in Washington County. Some students, she said, have jobs during the day, while others have simply fallen out of the habit of coming to class after months of online learning.

“And some of them get Covid,” she added.

This is a critical problem for our public schools that will not be going away anytime soon!


Elon Musk and Twitter Agree to a Buyout!

Twitter Inc sold! Tesla CEO Elon Musk buys company for USD 44 billion with  plans of 'free speech'

Dear Commons Community,

Twitter announced yesterday that it has entered into a deal to be acquired by Tesla CEO Elon Musk for $44 billion. Twitter shareholders will receive $54.20 per share, and when the deal is finalized the social network will become a privately held company. 

Twitter trading was halted yesterday ahead of the news. Shares were up 6% just after 3:30 p.m. EST.  As reported by various news media.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a statement following the announcement.

“I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

The announcement follows a tumultuous few weeks between Musk and Twitter’s board during which Musk became the company’s largest shareholder, rebuffed the board’s efforts to recruit him as a member, and launched a hostile takeover bid of the social media company.

Musk now adds Twitter to his impressive portfolio of firms including Tesla (TSLA), SpaceX, The Boring Company, and Neuralink. Musk is a prolific Twitter user, regularly firing off news related to his companies, as well as his own stream of conscious tweets. He also, however, uses the platform as a means to tangle with politicians and critics.

His Twitter use has also gotten him into legal trouble in the past, most famously when he tweeted his intentions to take Tesla private at $420 a share, which earned him a $20 million fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Musk’s animosity toward the SEC, specifically its San Francisco office, was on full display yesterday when he claimed, on Twitter, those in the agency are “puppets of Wall St shortseller sharks.”

Musk, a friend of Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey, often attacks Twitter and its content moderation policies. How exactly Musk will change the social platform, though, remains to be seen.

In recent weeks, he has proposed relaxing Twitter content restrictions — such as the rules that suspended former President Donald Trump’s account — while ridding the platform of fake “spambot” accounts and shifting away advertising as its primary revenue model. Musk believes he can increase revenue through subscriptions that give paying customers a better experience — possibly even an ad-free version of Twitter.  Musk’s pledge to make Twitter a haven for free speech could dim the appeal of Donald Trump’s troubled Truth Social app, which the former president has touted as a competitor to Twitter that would cater to conservatives. Truth Social is part of Trump’s new media company, which has agreed to be taken public by Digital World Acquisition Corp. Shares of DWAC dropped 16.2% yesterday and are down 46% since Musk revealed his stake in Twitter. Trump in a statement said he had no plans to return to Twitter.

Easing the company’s content moderation policies could invite a litany of user-generated content that both existing users and, more importantly to the company’s bottom line, advertisers find objectionable.

Without safeguards that prevent their ads from showing up next to hate speech or disinformation, which are a problem even with content moderation practices in place, advertisers could pull out of Twitter. And since the company relies on ad revenue to generate the vast majority of its cash, that could bring the whole social network down.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Musk will make any dramatic changes to the platform. He could simply take over Twitter, tweak a few things, and leave the majority of the social network as is. After all, he still needs to build out Tesla’s infrastructure, not to mention the release of its cybertruck.

We’ll just have to wait to find out more from Musk himself.  Via tweet, naturally.