Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Opinion | What the 1960s taught one student, and Joe Biden, about race in America

Opinion | What the 1960s taught one student, and Joe Biden, about race in America


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The lessons of the ’60s for a new generation

Having a real estate agent explain racist housing practices to high schoolers sounds like the sort of instruction that would these days get labeled as “critical race theory” and banned from Florida.

But Katy Roberts’s essay isn’t about some new trend in American education. Rather, it’s a remembrance of the vibrant sort of history and civics she and her peers learned in the late 1960s.

Roberts, a longtime journalist, got in touch with her 11th-grade history teacher — and ahold of the authors he assigned or recommended to his class: Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Malcolm X and more.

These authors were prolific on the “divisive concepts” that so rankle some parents and administrators today. But Roberts reflects that the only trouble they caused her were the nights spent reading too late. Nor did her open-minded education brainwash her; she’d go on to vote for Richard M. Nixon once she got to college.

What the 1960s model of history and race education did do, she says, was teach her how to self-educate. She has spent the years since, she writes, “peeling the onion of American history with more insight and points of view and facts that challenged and amplified what came before.”

Another recent op-ed writer is looking to the 1960s for guidance, too; his name is Joe Biden.

In a reflection Sunday on the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, President Biden writes for The Post that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream still gives us all something to keep marching toward.

Biden talks up his own record on racial equity and rebukes the trickle-down economics that have failed Black people (as well as boosts the Bidenomics he hopes will do better). But he also calls on private-sector leaders, asking them to resist the voices dismissing diversity as a distraction.

“Let us reject the cramped view,” Biden writes, “that America is a zero-sum game that holds that for one to succeed, another must fail.”

E.J. Dionne, meanwhile, warns about living entirely in the past. He writes that most Republicans are stuck in at least one of “three political yesterdays”: the Trump era, the tea party rebellion of the Obama years and the Reagan golden age.

E.J. predicts that none of the three will get Republicans very far. “What Trump knows instinctively that his internal party foes don’t,” E.J. writes, “is that GOP voters are looking for more than just the old stuff.”

Finally, Eli Tillemann, a student at Alexandria’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, writes that his generation is sick of political tribalism. He’s living proof, as president of both his school’s Young Democrats club and its Teenage Republicans club.

He and friends have worked with outside experts to build a curriculum on “how to disagree more calmly, honestly and effectively.” As with the history curriculums of the ’60s, it’s an ambitious push to shake up a pretty baked-in part of our civic life.

Take heart that it’s catching on, and already spreading to schools in other states. As Tillemann notes, “We have been surprised by how many of our peers want to fix this problem.”

It’s easy to wax on about America’s past, but its future is pretty promising, too.

Chaser: Alyssa Rosenberg interviewed an education professor on what parents should be asking schools about covid learning loss.

From Catherine Rampell’s explainer of the enormity of this problem. It won’t affect just the child-care industry, “but also every other sector of the economy that needs the care industry to exist so parents can work,” she writes.

Catherine writes that pandemic intervention helped keep afloat “fragile care operations” that otherwise struggled to employ workers with sufficient wages. Now, the pandemic is over but the child-care crisis, she argues, very much isn’t.

As Catherine says, it would be “astonishingly shortsighted” to plunge over September’s funding cliff and endanger the entire economy. The alternative? Just keep investing in America’s children.

Maybe you actually can poke the bear, at least a little bit. Columnist Max Boot has watched Ukraine tiptoe over Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s ostensible “red line” repeatedly. He writes that “the Kremlin’s response appeared to be limited to expressions of outrage.”

So why is Biden still dragging his feet on providing Ukraine the weapons it really needs to shorten the war? His fears, Max writes, “once understandable, now seem excessive.” Max makes the case that a little (or a lot) more help wouldn’t raise the risk of wider war.

As things stand now, the war looks set to stretch on and on. David Ignatius reports on the U.S. consensus re: Ukraine’s big counteroffensive. His column is full of nitty-gritty stats and tactics, but the takeaway is, basically, “no stalemate, but no breakthrough” either.

  • Bob Barker was the gentle pastor of America’s game-show culture, deputy opinion editor David Von Drehle writes in a remembrance.
  • Maui was warned again and again about wildfire risk. The rest of the country can’t make the same mistakes, the Editorial Board writes.
  • You might have missed last week’s showdown in the South China Sea. Op-ed editor Christian Caryl explains why a few Filipino supply ships are worth paying attention to.

It’s a goodbye. It’s a haiku. It’s … The Bye-Ku.

“One dollar, please, Bob!”

Have your own newsy haiku? Email it to me, along with any questions/comments/ambiguities. See you tomorrow!



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