Required Readings

Religious Holidays, Science Teacher Suspended for Doing His Job, Standardized Testing Eulogy, Charter Schools, and Segregation 60 Years after Brown v Board, it’s Required Readings 04.20.14

Good Sunday morning.  Did you know to ast Eostre is the goddess of spring (or the dawn depending on which source you read)?  Yep, Easter, like Christmas is another pagan holiday co opted by early Christianity.  In December, around the shortest day of the year, we bring into our homes an evergreen tree, a symbol of of perseverance against the suffocating dark, and hope that the spring will come quickly.  Today we celebrate the end of that journey.  The day is now longer than the night, and green leaves clothe the once naked branches.

I heard a quote about Easter from a nonbeliever recently that resonated with me. On “Fresh Air,” Bart Ehrman, a prolific scholar on the historical Jesus, was asked what Easter means to him as an ex-believer.  He responded:

I think Easter continues to show me that there is horrible injustice and oppression and political violence in the world, but that we should wrestle against it. In the Christian story of God raising Jesus from the dead, God was saying no to the Roman Empire and the forces that were aligned against him.

There are political forces in our world today that do horrible things; acts of injustice and oppressions, creating poverty and misery and suffering, and I think we should say no to them. And so I understand that Easter story not to be a historical event, but I still think that it says something very important about how we ought to live in the world.

On to the links!

Here’s the latest on an LAUSD AP Bio and Psych teacher suspended for “supervising the building, research and development of imitation weapons.”  I guess the physics of projectile motion now falls under no tolerance policy.

In New York, the Muslim Democratic Club is pushing for public schools to recess for Eid holidays.  In an interview with NPR, Linda Sarsour, said

And I think that because it’s afforded to the Jewish community and the Christian community as two of the three Abrahamic faiths, we think it’s about time that students in the Muslim community have the same opportunity.

I think Sarsour is being generous when she says Jewish communities get the same deference. We certainly aren’t out of school this week because of Passover, and we don’t break in winter for Hanukkah.  Why do we break for religious holidays at all?  I don’t think we need more holidays, we need fewer.  Holidays should be scheduled for academic reasons, not religious.

Over at the Fordham Institute, they are declaring victory for the anti-standardized testing camp, but warn that effective policy must fill the void, or schools will once again be able to sweep under the rug their growing achievement gaps.

The Democrats for Education Reform are arguing to not throw out the baby with the bath water.  Charter schools can be successful, but they should be held to the same standards as neighborhood schools, and if they are underperforming, they should be closed.

And finally, the Economic Policy Institute takes a look at Brown v. Board after 60 years and shakes its head in disappointment.

Required Readings are a list of links that you might find interesting! Look for them to appear every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday morning.Have some links you’d like to share? Submit them on our contact form!

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Keith is a high school Chemistry and Biology teacher for an urban public school district in an area of the country where pants are called “britches.” Though he has a degree in Percussion Performance, he teaches science because he thinks that a well honed skeptical toolbox is necessary for a more informed citizenry and a more just and prosperous society. When he’s not in the classroom, he spends all his time with his wife and two children, attempting to become the first person in the world to be both a perfect husband and father.


  1. April 21, 2014 at 9:36 pm —

    “Schiller, 43, also was the teachers union representative on the campus and had been dealing with disagreements with administrators over updating the employment agreement under which the faculty works. His suspension, with pay, removed him from those discussions.”

    I suspect this may have had a great deal to do with his suspension.

    As far as having Eid off, I would generally approve of this. We don’t have Channukah off because it’s not a major holiday, but Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are often off (where I have lived). Passover arguably should be off, the first and last days. I think that having MORE religious holidays off and a longer school year would probably be beneficial. Supplement the religious holidays with other holidays as needed, and shorten the summer break, in order to increase year to year retention. Also perhaps just add a week.

    Then again, we might have to pay teachers more, which would never fly, because we only value children when it doesn’t cost us money.

  2. April 22, 2014 at 7:08 am —

    I agree with extending the school year for retention reasons. There is a robust body of research to support that idea. That is exactly my point about religious holidays: the calendar should be design through evidence-based criteria for academic reasons, not for religious reasons. Sarsour argues that every religion should have their holidays scheduled off; I say no one should.

    • April 23, 2014 at 8:31 pm —

      What sorts of criteria for which reasons? If we don’t have Christmas holidays, how many kids miss school then, and what is the harm? I think that if we agree that breaks are necessary/useful, using religious holidays is sensible, since people are religious. I do not see a benefit in forcing people to choose between attendance of school or religious services. Education should work with people’s lives, and not be seen as an enemy.

      How would you deal with attendance on Christmas (for high Christian populations), Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur (for high Jewish populations) and Eid (for high Muslim populations)?

      • April 23, 2014 at 11:51 pm —

        For the record, I agree with this. If anything, schools should try to meet the needs of their local populations as far as holidays go. I grew up in an area with a substantial Jewish population, but if I remember correctly, it was not until I was in high school that they decided to change the calendar to give them the high holy days off. It was kind of unfair before that, since they were forced to choose between being observant (and really, it wasn’t the kids’ choice) and keeping up with what was going on in class.

        It would be nice if districts had a certain number of free-schedule holidays that could be used by individual schools to address the needs of their specific communities, possibly guided by a survey or even decided by a vote of the parent association. Some might get Rosh Hashanah, some might get Good Friday, some might get the lunar new year!

        • April 29, 2014 at 11:10 pm —

          This past year my district had an inservice day 1 day before Eid. Now our Muslim population is not a large percentage, but how hard would it be to schedule the inservice 1 day later? It doesn’t help the teachers, but at least the students do not miss class time. In my district the days are already in the calendar, but when they are scheduled is up to the districts. A little creative thinking is all it takes to show that an organization values all its student’s cultures.

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