Philosophy Lies at the Heart of Mississippi Education Debate

Originally published in The Clarion Ledger, September 6, 2015, 2C

Click here for a full-sized Adobe PDF scan of the artile.

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Mississippians have been entangled in a deep philosophical debate about education funding for months, though attention has focused largely on technical details. Ballot initiative 42 that will be decided this November asks: “Should the state be required to provide for the support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools?” If voters pass the initiative, they would be demanding an amendment to the state Constitution making that requirement explicit.

This is a photo of the top of the scan of my Clarion Ledger article, 'Philosophy at Heart of Mississippi Education Debate.' If you click on this image, it will open a full-size, printable Adobe PDF scan of the original piece in the paper.

People who want voters to choose “yes” explain that such a requirement should be enforceable in the courts. Without that, a parent would have no recourse when his or her child must attend a chronically underfunded and failing school.

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“The Nonsense of Beating Sense into Kids: Corporal Punishment in Public Schools”

The Prindle Post
September 1, 2015

Photo of a hand holding a wooden paddle in a school classroom.I’ll post the full article here in a few weeks to archive it on my site. For now, go read it on The Prindle Post. I am impressed with what the folks at Depauw University are up to in Indiana, at their Prindle Institute for Ethics. Their periodical is the new way to publish, without a doubt. Newspapers are great, but those folks starting out on the Web don’t have to worry about how best to transition. They’re more than a blog and don’t have the cumbersome print concerns.

If you’re interested in the issue of corporal punishment in our public schools, check out my 2013 interview with SVT Nyheter, Sweden’s national TV news service. Soon, I’ll post my Clarion Ledger article from earlier that year on the topic. That article was part of what caught the attention of the Swedish TV folks. When I post that article, I’ll update this post with a link.

“Try Charter Schools Experiment Where Others Failing” (2010)

Now that my new site is up, I’m slowly but surely adding to it the pieces I had up on my old site. This was my first op-ed published in The Clarion Ledger, published March 6, 2010, on 9A. I am grateful for permission to republish my pieces here and elsewhere.

Photo of my op-ed in the Clarion Ledger, which links to a PDF of the scan, though the full text is available below on the Web page featuring this image.

Here’s a scan of the piece, though the character recognition in the file didn’t work well. Therefore, I’m posting here the text from the piece.

Try Charter Schools Experiment Where Others Failing

In January, three University of Mississippi undergraduates advocated for charter schools before the Mississippi House Committee on Education out of concern for the crisis of education in the state. The Public Policy Leadership majors, Chelsea Caveny, Cortez Moss, and Alex McLelland, met resistance to partial measures for progress.

Aside from a few vocal opponents, the general response from Republicans in the room was positive and some Democrats were cautiously open to charter schools. The most vocal opponents of charter school legislation worried about the children who stay behind in traditional schools. One representative exclaimed: “Separate but unequal!”

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Guest View: Don’t gut the Dewey Center

Eric Thomas Weber, first published in The Southern Illinoisan, April 26, 2015, 12A.

I am an alumnus of SIUC’s Ph.D. program in philosophy. I am writing to urge you to continue full support for the Center for Dewey Studies. I understand that the center has been asked to prepare a budgetary plan for a reduction of its support by 50 percent. Were that reduction to be applied, it would incapacitate the center. That would be a truly terrible mistake.

This is the scan of my op-ed in The Southern Illinoisan, titled 'Don't Gut the Dewey Center.'

The Center for Dewey Studies is one of the jewels of SIUC. As I said in a recent interview with the Daily Egyptian, it is simply the best resource in the world of its kind. John Dewey’s work remains deeply important. Presently, Penguin Books is in contract negotiations with me to release a collection of Dewey’s public writings, in part because of help I received from the center, its director, and its relationship with the SIU Press. Dewey was America’s greatest public philosopher, and next year marks the 100th anniversary of his master work, Democracy and Education. There is also a burgeoning movement in public philosophy for which Dewey is the exemplar to whom people will be looking with increasing interest. This is not the time to cut support for the center, but to increase it.

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Racism Defies the “Greatest Commandment”

Eric Thomas Weber, first published on The Second Breakdown, July 30, 2015.

In July 2015, University of Mississippi graduate, Adebanke Alabi invited me to comment on race and the Church for a series on her blog. The following is my piece, originally published on her page and reposted here with permission.


Preface: I am grateful to Adebanke (Buki) Alabi for calling me to comment on race and Christianity for the readers of her blog, The Second Breakdown: My Thoughts on Jesus and His Church.

Photo of a Church gathering of the KKK, meeting underneath a sign that reads, "Jesus Saves."

 

Photo of a church.Mississippi is still home to obstinate racism, even while in 2014 Gallup found it to be the most religious state in the United States. The vast majority of the 44 failing school districts’ enrollments in the state are majority- to almost totally made up of African American students. Some districts have been accused of  not having desegregated. We have seen  symbolic racism at the University of Mississippi, as well as troubling direct confrontations. Some young people planned and executed a  racially motivated murder a few years ago in Jackson, MS.

Photo of a Church gathering of the KKK, meeting underneath a sign that reads, "Jesus Saves."Despite all of these disturbing cases of racism in Mississippi, many citizens and public officials continue to resist change even to symbols of racism. I have argued that falsely romanticizing heritage does us harm  and that symbols, like the Confederate Battle Flag featured in the canton of MS’s state flag, contribute to the perpetuation of racism and injustice. What has gotten very little attention is the tragic inconsistency between the religious beliefs people say that they hold dear and the contradictory behaviors that we see here in Mississippi.

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What a Flag Has to Do with Justice

Eric Thomas Weber, first published July 8, 2015 in The Prindle Post.

Flags over Mississippi, including the state flag of Mississippi and the Confederate Battle flag.

The June 2015 murders in Charleston, South Carolina, have prompted a remarkable cultural shift in the American South. States around the region are removing or are voting to remove Confederate symbols of various kinds from public spaces. South Carolina and Alabama have made significant moves, and in Mississippi, the Speaker of the House and both U.S. Senators have called for changing the state flag, which presently features the Confederate Battle Flag.

I have argued recently that some heritage can do harm and that denying that Mississippi’s secession had to do with slavery is ignorance, not love, of heritage. For those who acknowledge our troubled history, an important question remains: Why is there such a push to get rid of the flag all of a sudden? What does it have to do with the Charleston murders or justice?

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Sometimes Heritage Does Harm

Eric Thomas Weber, first published in The Clarion Ledger on June 27, 2015, 5C.

This article was published online with the title “Sometimes Heritage Does Harm,” and in print, with the title “‘Heritage’ Argument Overlooks History.” It is republished here with permission. Click on the image or here to open a scan of the printed version, or here for a PDF of the online version. The text from the online version is included here below.

This is a photo of the cutout of the printed version of my article in the Clarion Ledger, titled 'Sometimes Heritage Does Harm.' The title for the printed version was ''Heritage' Argument Overlooks History.'

 

Flags communicate pride for heritage, but, for some, so do nooses.

Unqualified love of heritage inflames America’s deepest moral wounds. Heritage is palpable in places like Mississippi and South Carolina, where it is prized wholesale, the good with the bad. In the wake of Charleston’s mass murders, it could not be clearer that heritage is harming the country.

In 2012, James Craig Anderson was murdered out of racial hatred in Jackson,. Two years later, young men hung a noose and the old Georgia flag, featuring the Confederate stars and bars, on the statue of civil rights pioneer James Meredith in Oxford. Some courageous public officials and university leaders have begun to speak up about the need to transform our cultural symbols, while others stand in the way of progress.

In the name of loving heritage, those opposed to moving forward leave out the unpleasant parts of our history. Mississippi and South Carolina were among the states most honest about their defense of slavery in their justifications for secession. Nevertheless, South Carolina until this week flew the Confederate flag in the state’s capital. Mississippi’s state flag bears the stars and bars alluding to the Confederacy.

Symbols matter.

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