Do students at poorly performing schools have a constitutional right to a better education?
On Friday, a Federal District Court judge in Michigan decided that they did not when he dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed by students at troubled schools in Detroit.
The suit, filed in September 2016, argued that students at some of the city’s most underperforming schools — serving mostly racial minorities — had been denied “access to literacy” because of underfunding, mismanagement and discrimination.
The complaint described schools that were overcrowded with students but lacking in teachers; courses without basic resources like books and pencils; and classrooms that were bitingly cold in the winter, stiflingly hot in the summer and infested with rats and insects.
Conditions like those, the lawsuit said, contributed to dismal test scores and left students woefully underprepared for life after high school.
“The abysmal conditions and appalling outcomes in plaintiffs’ schools are unprecedented,” the complaint said. “And they would be unthinkable in schools serving predominantly white, affluent student populations.”
.. Judge Stephen J. Murphy III said that “access to literacy” — which he also referred to as a “minimally adequate education” — was not a fundamental right. And he said the lawsuit had failed to show that the state had practiced overt racial discrimination.
But he conceded that the conditions at some Detroit schools were “nothing short of devastating.”
.. “Historically, access to literacy has been a tool to subordinate certain groups and certain communities and to keep those communities down,” he said.
.. A dilapidated history book at Osborn High School with a publication date of 1998, in photographs provided by a law firm.
.. He also agreed that giving students the opportunity to learn to read was “of incalculable importance,” adding that some level of literacy was necessary for voting, applying for a job and securing a place to live.
.. “But those points do not necessarily make access to literacy a fundamental right,” he said.
.. Paul Tractenberg, an expert in education and constitutional law and a professor emeritus at Rutgers Law School, said lawsuits like this one are typically filed — and have a better chance of success — in state-level courts.
“In theory, it would be a great breakthrough to have the federal courts recognize education as a fundamental right,” he said. “But I see no chance of that happening in my lifetime.”
Fish can’t explain to you what water’s like because he’s never been out of water. And I don’t think you can really understand where you’re from until you go somewhere else and see a different form of social organization.
.. I think it was Twain, I can’t remember for certain, but I think it was Twain who said, “The man who chooses not to read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” And right now, we live in a society of people who are decreasingly, appetitively literate. The average American reads 19 minutes a day, and it’s age correlated. Older folks are reading quite a bit more than 19 minutes and younger folks much less than 19 minutes. I think Gutenberg is the true father of America. I think the sine qua non of America is mass literacy, which led to competitive ideas, healthy challenges to authority, a plural marketplace after the printing press, that then creates a First Amendment culture of free speech, press, assembly, etc.
.. Ken Burns has the great phrase that right now we have a whole lot of pluribus and very, very little unum.
SASSE: And if you think of what Ken Burns’s work is about: Jazz, and baseball, and Civil War, and Lewis and Clark, and the Dust Bowl, and his new project about to come out on Vietnam — one of the things that he’s trying to do is give us a common canon.
.. There are basically three purposes to sex. Sex is a covenant, initiation, and renewal ceremony. Sex gives you a different kind of knowledge of someone. You form a kind of bond with someone that’s different than just a random person on the street. Sex matters. Sex is for procreation and sex is for pleasure.
There really isn’t much more to it than that. And yet those three things should be differentiated because it’s not just another contact sport. I don’t think it’s helpful to have teenagers not know that sex matters, and yet you can understand it. When you’re old and you look back on your sexuality, I bet most people are going to think it was basically reducible to those three kinds of categories. So I felt like I had to talk about it a little bit, but I wanted to duck the culture wars as much as possible.
.. I think that you can’t possibly become a really good parent without developing empathy. I don’t know that you have to have clear, cognitive categories to do it. There are lots and lots of people who are good parents who are empathetic who maybe couldn’t reflect on it. But since you’re asking the question for people who are advice-seeking, I think you need to self-consciously think about the cultivation of empathy.
And the travel point that you asked is another way of thinking about why it’s important to become well read. Because when you go into books, and you go to different kinds of stories, and obviously, you’ve just written a really important nonfiction book, and this this a nonfiction book, but one of the reasons why it’s critically important for our teens to read fiction is, they need to be transported to other times and places. They need to actually be able to see through the lenses of other protagonists.
.. One of the fundamental challenges of the moment we’re at is that we believe that the digital moment will necessarily expose us to more and more diverse things, and I think what’s actually going to happen is that we’re going to become more and more siloed. And there’s a real danger of tribalism and being able to at the moment that media is going to disintermediate. We’re not going to have big common channels anymore. We’re going to have more and more niche channels. It will be possible to surround yourself only with people who already believe what you believe.
In that world where you can create echo chambers and when advertisers and marketers and Russians are going to try to surround you with echo chambers to only believe what you already believe, it’s not going to be easy to develop empathy. It’s going to be really easy to demonize the other and come to believe that the deep problems of my soul and the deep problems of my mortality could maybe just be solved if I could vanquish those other really bad people from the field.
The heart of the matter was mistakes. When typing on a typewriter, you made mistakes, and then had to decide what, if anything, to do about them; and woe be unto you if you didn’t notice a mistyped word until after you had removed the sheet of paper from the machine.
.. For some few writers the advent of word processing was a pure blessing: Stanley Elkin, for instance, whose multiple sclerosis made it impossible for him to hold a pen properly or press a typewriter’s keys with sufficient force, said that the arrival of his first word-processing machine was “the most important day of my literary life.” But for most professional writers — and let’s remember that Track Changes is a literary history of word processing, not meant to cover the full range of its cultural significance — the blessing was mixed. As Rice says, now that endless revision is available to you, as a writer you have no excuse for failing to produce “the perfect book” — or rather, no excuse save the limitations of your own talent.
.. Kirschenbaum also wonders “who was the first author to sit down in front of a digital computer’s keyboard and compose a published work of fiction or poetry directly on the screen.”
Quite possibly it was Jerry Pournelle, or maybe it was David Gerrold or even Michael Crichton or Richard Condon; or someone else entirely whom I have overlooked. It probably happened in the year 1977 or 1978 at the latest, and it was almost certainly a popular (as opposed to highbrow) author.
.. Wallace, for instance, always wrote in longhand and transcribed his drafts to the computer at some relatively late stage in the process. Also, when he had significantly altered a passage, he deleted earlier versions from his hard drive so he would not be tempted to revert to them.
.. “Every impulse that I had to generalize about word processing — that it made books longer, that it made sentences shorter, that it made sentences longer, that it made authors more prolific — was seemingly countered by some equally compelling exemplar suggesting otherwise.”
.. Thomas Hobbes says in Leviathan (1650) that in comparison with the invention of literacy itself printing is perhaps “ingenious” but fundamentally “no great matter.”
George W. Bush joked at a Yale commencement: “To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say, well done. And to the C students I say, you, too, can be president of the United States.”
.. The Republican embrace of anti-intellectualism was, to a large extent, a put-on. At least until now.
.. During the Reagan years, the G.O.P. briefly became known as the “party of ideas,” because it harvested so effectively the intellectual labor of conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation and publications like The Wall Street Journal editorial page and Commentary.
.. In recent years, however, the Republicans’ relationship to the realm of ideas has become more and more attenuated as talk-radio hosts and television personalities have taken over the role of defining the conservative movement that once belonged to thinkers like Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and George F. Will.
.. The trend has now culminated in the nomination of Donald J. Trump, a presidential candidate who truly is the know-nothing his Republican predecessors only pretended to be.
.. It is hardly surprising to read Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Mr. Trump’s best seller “The Art of the Deal,” say, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”
.. What little Mr. Trump does know seems to come from television: Asked where he got military advice, he replied, “I watch the shows.”
.. He claimed that Mexican immigrants were “bringing crime” even though research consistently shows that immigrants have a lower crime rate than the native-born.
.. Mr. Trump also proposed barring Muslims from entering the country despite terrorism researchers, myself included, warning that his plan would likely backfire, feeding the Islamic State’s narrative that the war on terrorism is really a war on Islam.
.. The Trump acolytes claim it doesn’t matter; he can hire experts to advise him. But experts always disagree with one another and it is the president alone who must make the most difficult decisions in the world.