In much of recent memory, battles over education reform have been portrayed as pitting Republican governors against teachers’ unions. Lately, though, we’ve also seen hard-line reform-minded Democrats going against the party’s traditional base of labor liberals, exemplified by the Chicago Teachers Union's two-week strike to oppose (among other things) Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to tie compensation to student improvement. But new research shows that there might be something else going on than simple union-versus-education-reform infighting. Instead, battles over education may be tied to a much deeper issue: race.
As an undergraduate at Stanford, Debbie Sterling once ran out of a mechanical drafting course, crying.
Sterling was one of about five women in the class, and even though she loved drawing, she was having trouble with her final assignment. “I couldn’t get it quite right,” she admitted. But she never thought a struggle with one assignment would lead to what happened next.
During a critique, the two male teaching assistants asked the class, “OK, who thinks that Debbie should pass this class?”
The room remained silent. “Nobody raised their hands. I was mortified,” she said. “That’s the moment where I was really considering just giving up and thinking I didn’t have what it takes.”
On November 28, hundreds of students from Brauch College linked arms and protested outside a City College of New York board meeting in which members authorized, by a 15-to-1 vote, a $300 annual tuition increase until at least 2015. The protest was so disruptive that, according to The New York Times, Brauch canceled classes after 3 p.m. and stopped regular foot traffic going in and out of the building where the meeting was taking place. Three people were arrested.
Judith Ackerman, a mathematics Ph.D., went on the academic job market when the Army transferred her husband to the Washington, D.C., area in the 1970s. She interviewed at many places, both four- and two-year schools, but ultimately landed at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland. "I hadn't planned to have a career at a two-year college," she said, reflecting a common preference among Ph.Ds. to obtain tenure-track positions at four-year institutions with large research budgets. "But here there was an opportunity to innovate, to try new projects."
Each morning, Sherita Rooney wakes up around 6 a.m. She gets her 14-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son ready for the day. She makes breakfast and gets her children to school before driving an hour to West Chester University outside of Philadelphia, where she recently transferred after graduating from Montgomery County Community College.
Every day is difficult, but Tuesdays are especially so. She works from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. before class from 2 to 7. She picks up her kids, then brings them home and puts them to bed. As a math education major, she takes challenging classes that keep her up late studying. She goes to sleep around 2 each night. The next day, she gets up and does it over again.