…and my response:
I commend our new left social justice educators for continuing the fight to end institutional racism and address social equity. But this activism leaves the job only half done. Calls for social justice ring hollow when they do not address economic justice with equal vigor.
Seattle’s public schools, as well as many (but not all) others around the nation, do their best to prepare as many students as they can for a liberal arts baccalaureate education, and it works pretty well for about a quarter to a third of high school graduates (what they do after college is another vital subject). The rest of the students, the majority, find their way into quality non-baccalaureate options, if they’re lucky. They otherwise dropout or flounder, bearing a ‘less than’ stigma effectively inculcated by the college-for-all mentality that prevails in our schools, despite a shifting rhetoric.
The schools do little to expand or promote non-baccalaureate options. While the data are hard to come by, shouldn’t a metric of the success of our students be reflected in the percentages of Seattle’s recent high school graduates populating the meaningful jobs found in the well-paid ranks of construction workers, police, firefighters, educators, skilled tradespeople, engineering and computer science tech workers, health care tech workers, etc.? I would suggest that Seattle’s high school graduates are disproportionately underrepresented in these fields, jobs that are going to high school and 2-year college graduates from communities that strongly support Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and imbue them with the dignity they deserve.
Addressing racially disproportionate discipline rates should be a top priority. And indigenous history, ethnic studies and other initiatives to correct the public record and improve history instruction are needed and should be supported. But when such initiatives take up all the air, and resources, and attention of school boards and staff, then the whole student gets neglected, and CTE programs continue to be put on the back burner. This is a chronic issue in Seattle. To wit, there ARE easily obtained data to show that a smaller proportion of Seattle’s high school students are enrolled in robust CTE programs when compared to most other Washington State school districts.
I would suggest that many educational reformers are committed to a form of social justice that diversifies the élite, but leaves income inequality and skills shortages unaffected. A diversified élite is still an élite, as Asad Haider so well explained.