Right’s Attack on Cincinnati Public Schools
Two Cincinnati educators, principal Virginia Rhodes and veteran science teacher Dennis McFadden, were suspended for two weeks after Tom Brinkman Jr., a conservative Republican representative of COAST (Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes), filed suit against the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) for political partisanship. He claimed that McFadden’s high school students visited a board of elections and received only Democratic ballots. Mr. Brinkman told me he believes that the CPS strategy is part of a larger election plan to “Al Qaeda-like” take over the voting booths in 2012.
Rhodes is adamant that no partisan efforts were made by the teacher and/or the students. The principal maintains that the students were briefed before their visit about the actions of poll workers of both parties, and that Republicans turned their backs on the students. In a local Cincinnati newspaper, she said, “I do think our students were marginalized and disrespected by the Republicans’ decision to ignore this group of new, young African Americans.”
The spotlight on the field trip revealed that Rhodes and McFadden failed to follow correct procedures in authorizing vans and skipping background checks on chaperones and drivers. The safety of the children is a critical issue. The principal and teacher are being held accountable for sidestepping the rules created to ensure student safety. But clearly, the willingness of the top Cincinnati school leader to suspend two veterans so quickly only fuels the image that “something” is awry.
Many questions remain about the Brinkman suit. Most importantly, should a school system stand up for its principals and teachers when they are attacked by fringe groups? The superintendent’s review did make clear that partisanship was not the issue. Yet there is a lingering issue about whether the teachers are really being targeted for what was an appropriate civics lesson. The failure of the school system, the school board, and the teachers to rise up and reject COAST’s attack is an ominous signal for those interested in promoting education in democracy.
Director, Peace Village
Professor of Peace and Educational Studies, University of Cincinnati
More Clues to the ‘Other Internment’
When I read Moé Yonamine’s article (“The Other Internment: Teaching the Hidden Story of Japanese Latin Americans During WWII,” Fall 2010), I wanted to share my own story.
In the ’60s I was a migrant student in Crystal City, Texas. I went to an elementary school that had been converted from an internment camp. Later, when I did a little bit of research, I found out that the internment camp had held Japanese Latino immigrants from Brazil. I always heard horror stories about the treatment of Japanese immigrants in California internment camps, but that was the first I realized I had gone to school in one of those camps.
Yonamine’s story of the Japanese Latinos moved me. As a migrant Chicano from Texas who went through trials and tribulations as a youth growing up in the fields all over the United States, I can relate to some of what they went through. A lot of migrant Chicanos were treated as foreigners and second-class citizens or worse. Now, with the growing immigration problem in the United States, I see—after decades of injustices—nothing has changed.
Assistant Dean Milwaukee Area Technical College
West Allis, Wis.
To prepare myself to go see Waiting for “Superman,” I did some research. The movie shows a family trying to escape Stevenson Middle School in the Los Angeles Unified School District in favor of KIPP Los Angeles Prep. So I looked up some statistics.
FYI: The Stevenson Middle School class of ’09 started in 6th grade with 869 students and shrank to 816, a loss of 6.1 percent. The KIPP LA Prep class of ’09 had 119 students in grade 6 (06–07 school year) and shrank to 52, a loss of 56.4 percent. According to an article in the New York Times Magazine, the SEED School in Washington, D.C., has a history of expelling 70 percent of its students between entry and graduation. I’m just sayin’. . . .
San Francisco, public school parent, volunteer, and advocate