I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

There’s no more pretending, at least not way up here in upstate New York. The leaves are turning, the back-to-school sales are already over, and city folks are bringing their kids up here to start their semesters…the evidence is in: Fall is just around the corner. Here are some stories you might have missed as you scramble to store up acorns for winter:

Our ILYBYGTH story-of-the-week: Google fires an engineer for questioning diversity policy.

Other stories that floated by our raft this week:

Want to try Christian theocracy? Ari Feldman wonders if you can do it with a quick trip to Texas.

Trump’s “court evangelicals” ask the Vatican for a meet. Why can’t they all get along?

How did climate-change denialism become an evangelical belief? Check out Brendan O’Connor’s piece in Splinter. HT: DL

How did one evangelical purist hope to save the Religious Right from its deal with the GOP devil? Daniel Silliman explains the history at Religion & Politics.

Captain America, meet POTUS Shield: Prophetic Order of the United States. Pentecostal leaders declare Trump “anointed by God,” an interview at Religion Dispatches with Peter Montgomery.

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Charismatics take action…

Parents win a big settlement from a Minnesota charter school. They had sued because the school did not do enough to protect their transgender six-year-old. The school promised to force all families to go along with its new inclusive policies, even if the parents have religious objections.

Forget evolution, religion, or any of that noise. The real problem wrecking public education is the forty-year old boondoggle of special education. At least, that’s Stephen Beale’s argument at American Conservative.

Worried about Florida’s new textbook opt-out law? Relax, says historian Jonathan Zimmerman—it’s a good thing.

If You Don’t Like It, Get Out: Hasidim and Schooling in Rockland County

“The hand that writes the paycheck rules the school.”

That was the line of William Jennings Bryan in the 1920s.  As I describe in my 1920s book, the conservative Presbyterian leader hoped to purge American public schools of theologically suspect notions, especially evolution and atheism.

Almost a century later, we can see a case in which religious conservatives have put this saying into action.

But William Jennings Bryan would have been surprised.  The conservatives in this case are not Protestants, but Hasidic Jews.

Journalist Benjamin Wallace-Wells offers a spellbinding account of the takeover of the public-school system in Rockland County, New York by Hasidic Jews.  Over the past several years, the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect has moved in large numbers into towns such as Ramapo.  Members of the community have used their demographic dominance to win control over the East Ramapo school board.  Since community members send their children to private schools, the school board has shifted funding from those public schools to private yeshivas, most commonly in the forms of special-education services.  Public-school funding has also been cut to the bone and beyond.

Public school students, Wallace-Wells describes, often have a hard time filling their schedules, since so many teachers have been laid off.  When non-Hasidic parents and activists complain, the president of the school board has a simple message: “You don’t like it?  Find another place to live.”

According to Wallace-Wells, the origins of the public-school takeover came from the unlikely field of special education.  Hasidic parents noticed that many of their children needed special-education services.  Yet they could not—for religious reasons—attend the pluralist public schools where such services were provided.  As a result, the Hasidic community won spots on the school board.  That school board then allowed students with special-education needs to receive needed services at private religious schools.

Many of the foes of conservative educational activism and policy worry about a “fundamentalist takeover” of public education.  What would it mean if conservatives won control of public schools?  In this fascinating essay we can see one example of conservative takeover in action.