Talk Out of School

Why Covid has spread in Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and how entrepreneurs have focused on Black schools for experimentation and profit

Episode Summary

Leonie Haimson first updated listeners on the additional school closures planned this week in NYC, first by Mayor de Blasio in 9 zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens, and now in red and orange zones established by the Governor Cuomo. Naftuli Moster of Yaffed, who first appeared on the podcast in May, spoke about why many of the hot spots experiencing high rates of COVID positivity are located primarily in areas with high concentrations of Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Naftuli explained this was for two reasons: one, there is no science instruction at the Yeshivas, the schools that Ultra-Orthodox boys attend, and thus they don’t understand how viral transmission occurs. Two, the members of these insular communities have long flouted the law in areas of education and public health without any consequences, and in fact have received special favors and additional funding because of their political influence. Many have gotten used to this ability to violate rules set down by the city or state, in this case regarding mass gatherings, masks, and the need to maintain social distancing. Naftuli suggested the best way the Governor and Mayor should address their refusal to comply with the new restrictions would be by threatening the leaders of these communities with a loss of public funding, including discretionary child-care vouchers, funds which they have received at disproportionate levels in the past. Then she interviewed Noliwe Rooks, W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Literature at Cornell, about her new book, Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education, which analyzes the history of education inequity in the U.S. She described how the schooling of Black students has been repeatedly used as an opportunity for experimentation and profit by education reformers and entrepreneurs. Instead of providing these students with the same opportunities wealthy white students receive, such as small classes, experienced teachers, and plenty of extracurricular activities, including art and music, as well as intensive support when they are struggling, she explained how their schools continue to be underfunded and privatized, through the expansion of charters, vouchers and online learning.

Episode Notes