Orwell Blushed

Washington Democrats should stop treating students and families as political pawns and start working with Republicans on real solutions that will move the country forward. The House remains focused on policies that promote job creation, so that every graduate who wants a job can find a job. The committee will also continue its work to strengthen the postsecondary education system through reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The president should join these efforts, rather than stage more campaign-style events at the expense of students and families.

Education and The Workforce Committee, Press Release, Congressman John Kline, Chairman

Congressman Kline and his committee have created what could be called a perfect form of Orwellian double-speak. President Obama’s proposal is very simple and in fact very Republican: allow students to refinance their loans. If we are lucky, this might increase competition and lower loan costs at no cost to the government. That is what used to be a formula for every conservative proposal: use the market, zero-costs. We ought to be wondering why a Democrat sounds so much like President Reagan. Congressman Kline makes it seem like socialism.

That’s only the first layer of hypocrisy. The Congressman then goes on to claim that the real problem is unemployment, as if it would be fine to exploit students with outrageous loans as long as they have a good job. Even more ironically, the Republican House has not offered even a the most minor of jobs programs in many years. In fact, the Republican obsession with the deficit– a transparently self-serving obsession, of course, since it serves their masters so well– has prevented the levels of government spending that would make a real dent in unemployment.

Class Field Trip

The progressive private school considers the visits to be one of the most radical things it does. “We knew we needed to talk about social class,” said Lois Gelernt, the teacher who came up with the idea. “It was opening up a can of worms, but if we were never going to talk about who we are and where we come from, the sense of community wasn’t going to be there.”

At first glance, Manhattan Country School seems like an unlikely place to be having that conversation. The school, which starts with the pre-K-aged children and goes through eighth grade, occupies a giant townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, just steps from Central Park. The name evokes clenched-jaw accents and competitive horsemanship, though in reality the older children milk cows and gather eggs on a school-owned farm upstate.

“For Lessons About Class, a Field Trip Takes Students Home.” Ron Lieber

I think this is both a very good idea and a very limited one. The problem is that it is so difficult to go from an experiential ethnography of class to a critically aware analysis. We cannot expect young children to be critically and intellectually developed enough, of course, to understand that in many cases what they are seeing amounts to systematic inequality and injustice. Even older students struggle to understand that inequity isn’t natural but a product of human society. One can hope, of course, that these sorts of lessons can help to combat the reification of class and lay the foundation for a more profound understanding.