Black Power and the Rise of Trumplandia

During my formative years of the 1960s and 1970s, the political unrest driven by race and racism churned somewhat innocuously for me in the dim background. Several aunts and an uncle lived in Asheville, North Carolina, and their school lives were punctuated with protests, my mother receiving frequent updates by phone as we lived about an hour and a half south of there in South Carolina.

The working class white racism of my family and being a son of the recalcitrant South significantly skewed the ongoing version of history occurring around me—the othering of black people (protests in Asheville were always “riots”) and the discrediting of the Civil Rights movement and its black leaders.

Then, “black power” existed for me in two forms—pop culture versions of blaxploitation media, including Luke Cage, Hero for Hire and Shaft, and real-world protest such black gloves and fists raised, John Carlos and Tommy Smith at the 1968 Olympics.

Introduced in June 1972, Marvel’s Luke Cage embodied some of the best and worst aspects of how pop culture addressed race and racism.

Shaft became iconic pop culture in the U.S., first released in 1971.

Black power as black protest in my home, and I suspect all across my community, was met with disdain, posed as offensive, not heroic.

After the election of Donald Trump as president, many have continued to scramble to explain the rise of Trumplandia, often falling into two opposing camps—one arguing Trump’s support is because more people were hurting under Obama than the pundits ever admitted and the other demanding that we admit Trump’s rise was fueled by racism, now neatly cloaked in terms such as “nationalism” and “alt-right.”

I am of the second camp because the data are overwhelmingly compelling about how white men and women voted for Trump in large percentages:

We stand in 2017 continuing a corrosive tradition confronted by James Baldwin—”this rigid refusal to look at ourselves.”

“White” remains unspoken as the normal, as the given, and then any excuse is embraced in order to ignore the lingering weight of racism in the U.S.

As might be expected, “black power” in 2017 is before us in the form of economic power, a rising economic autonomy by blacks that likely played a major role in motivating Trump’s supporters who seek to keep the U.S. white.

Two recent controversies may serve as evidence of this: LaVar Ball creating a a sports brand around his soon-to-be-drafted son, Lonzo, and former president Barack Obama’s speaking engagements and fees.

The backlash against both Ball and Obama are interesting and telling since the critics are often those who elected Trump—a bravado and hollowness that dwarf anything Ball has said or done—and who worship Ronald Reagan—who earned millions speaking in Japan after leaving office.

The problems are not bravado, self-promotion, or capitalizing on political careers; the problems are when blacks seek the same avenues as whites to fortune and power.

Moments of this racial anger occurred under George W. Bush as well when his administration sought to dismantle affirmative action, racial preferential treatment for college admission; although Bush himself had benefitted from legacy admission to college.

Trump’s wealth and political success began with an inheritance, one that he has squandered and continued to grow on the backs of others, at the expense of others. Trump now right in front of the entire world works daily to pass on that unearned privilege to his family.

But we are somehow offended by Ball and Obama’s speaking fees—somehow offended that these black men are doing exactly what the capitalistic American Dream says we are supposed to do.

And swirling around all this are black superheroes returning to pop culture prominence—Luke Cage on Netflix and The Falcon as well as the Black Panther in the Marvel film universe.

And just as it did when I was growing up, as long as these black heroes generate money for the right people (“right” means “white”), all is good.

But those same people paying to watch black superheroes, as my family did about Carlos and Smith, turn their scorn on #BlackLivesMatter, rigidly refusing to look at themselves.

Twenty-first century black power is LeBron James, who demands not only the wealth he earns but the power to control that wealth.

Trumplandia is a self-defeating racist response to black power, one that is a real-world dystopia not far removed from another message of pop culture begging for our viewing dollars, The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu.

We must admit black power spawned Trumplandia, a white fright, and we can only hope, in part, black power will be able to dismantle it.

NEW RELEASE NOW AVAILABLE: United We Stand Divided We Fall: Opposing Trump’s Agenda – Essays on Protest and Resistance

United We Stand Divided We Fall: Opposing Trump’s Agenda – Essays on Protest and Resistance

Full List of Contributing Authors

Yohuru Williams: Yohuru R. Williams is Professor of History and Author of Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights Black Power and Black Panthers in New Haven

Denny Taylor: Denny Taylor is Professor Emeritus of Literacy Studies, Novelist, Children’s Author, and Founder of Garn Press

Jonathan Foley: Jonathan Foley is a World-Leading Environmental Scientist and Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences

Charlene Smith: Charlene Smith is a Journalist, Documentary Film Maker, Author and Biographer of President Nelson Mandela

David Joseph Kolb: David Joseph Kolb is a Prize Winning Reporter, Editor and Columnist, and Author of Devil Knows: Tale of Murder and Madness in America’s First Century (Garn Press)

P.L. Thomas: P.L. Thomas is a Recipient of the NCTE George Orwell Award and Author of Beware the Roadbuilders and Trumplandia (Garn Press)

Jennifer C. Berkshire: Jennifer Berkshire is a Writer, Editor, and Author of the Have You Heard Blog and Co-Host of its Weekly Podcast on Education in the Time of Trump

Morna McDermott: Morna McDermott is Professor of Education and Co-Editor of Testing Our Courage: United Opt Out and the Testing Resistance Movement

Steven Singer: Steven Singer is a Public School Teacher, Education Advocate and Author of the Gadfly on the Wall Blog

Russ Walsh: Russ Walsh is a Public School Teacher, Literacy Specialist, Curriculum Supervisor and College Instructor, and Author of A Parent’s Guide to Public Education (Garn Press) and the Russ on Reading Blog

Katie Lapham: Katie Lapham is a NYC Public School Teacher and Author of the Critical Classrooms, Critical Kids Blog

Anne Haas Dyson: Anne Haas Dyson is Professor of Education, a Recipient of the NCTE Outstanding Educator of the Year Award, and Author of Negotiating a Permeable Curriculum (Garn Press)

Esther Sokolov Fine: Esther Sokolov Fine is Professor Emerita of Education, Former Elementary School Teacher in Downtown Public Housing Communities and Alternative Programs, and Author of Raising Peacemakers (Garn Press)

Vanessa Barnett: Vanessa Barnett is School District Arts Program Coordinator, University Arts Instructor, and Museum Arts Consultant

Carolyn Walker: Carolyn Walker is a journalist, memoirist, essayist, poet, and creative writing instructor nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and Author of Every Least Sparrow (Garn Press)

Steve Nelson: Steve Nelson, Head of Calhoun School 1998-2017 in NYC, one of America’s most notable progressive schools, and Author of First Do No Harm: Progressive Education in a Time of Existential Risk (Garn Press)

George Lakoff: George Lakoff, Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science and Linguistics, is a World Renowned Linguist Integrating Studies of Social Issues and Politics from a Neural Linguistics Perspective

“Ignoreland” Realized: Trumplandia 2017

Bertis Downs, lawyer and everything-man for Athens-based group R.E.M., asked on social media what Automatic for the People song is most under-appreciated.

As this album approaches its 25-year anniversary—and in the weakening wake of the band calling it a day—we may be hard pressed to argue that any song on that collection is more relevant than “Ignoreland.”

The career of R.E.M. has some relatively clear eras—the independent phase spanning the 1980s, the popular phase associated with the Warner Brothers contract and the 1990s, and then the post-Bill Berry R.E.M.

It seems fair to argue that Automatic represents what makes R.E.M. an elite example of how a group can achieve significant popularity while maintaining artistic independence and credibility. In short, this is a beautiful album that may in fact have a collection of songs that are all under-appreciated.

Throughout their independent years as playing so-called college alternative rock, R.E.M. developed a reputation as a political band; Michael Stipe’s lyrics unpacked as such, even when they remained elliptical and more evocative than declarative, and then band mates themselves politically vocal and active beyond their music.

R.E.M. fandom seems to fall along the three eras above, with some clinging to the independent 1980s band but balking at popular R.E.M. and then abandoning post-Berry R.E.M. However, “Ignoreland” in many ways is a powerful link between the independent and popular phases.

From 1987, Document lays the groundwork for “Ignoreland” with “Exhuming McCarthy,” pop-song catchy and politically scathing. A compact distant cousin to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, “Exhuming McCarthy” takes aim at the Reagan administration as a manifestation of all-that-is-wrong with U.S. corporate-capitalism as well as the need to keep the public afraid of creeping threats such as the 1950s Red Scare echoed in Reagan’s “Tear down this wall.”

It is damned hard to find better pop-culture political literature than “Look who bought the myth/ By Jingo, buy America.”

The U.S. did just that for twelve years—eight of Reagan and then four more with George W. Bush, who appears in “Ignoreland” with equally incisive lyrics: “How to walk in dignity with throw-up on your shoes.”

A great bittersweet reality of my life is that I no longer can anticipate a new R.E.M. album, no longer feel that rush of the first listen to unpack what I knew would be something that would make me a different person, a happier person.

I recall that first listen to Automatic and how I marveled at “Ignoreland”—what felt to me as a writer, a teacher, and a part of the political Left to be a perfect metaphor for the U.S.

The politics of ignoring reality—tremendous and grinding inequity—in the glare of rhetoric about the American Dream captured in e.e. cummings’s “‘next to of course american i.”

As in “Exhuming McCarthy,” cummings confronts U.S. jingoism—”by jingo by gee by gosh by gum”—linking the paradox of extremely inward-gazing nationalism and the simultaneous failure of the American character unmasked by James Baldwin: “This rigid refusal to look at ourselves may well destroy us.”

“Ignoreland” begins causticly and rings as if written in recent months: “These bastards stole their power from the victims of the Us v. Them years.”

The rise of Reagan/Bush is detailed twenty-five years ago by exposing divisive politics, sword rattling, and hollow promises of trickle-down economics. But “Ignoreland” also warns about the failure of media, predating significantly the recent hand wringing about fake news: “The information nation took their clues from all the sound-bite gluttons/ Nineteen eighty, eighty-four, eighty-eight, ninety-two too, too.”

The U.S. as a media-centric people who are paradoxically, again, un-/misinformed—Stipe’s catalogue also triggers George Orwell’s 1984, a work recently regaining popularity along with other works of dystopian science fiction because Orwell focused on how often those who control language control everything:

TV tells a million lies
The paper’s terrified to report
Anything that isn’t handed on a presidential spoon

If we truly want to know how we have arrived here, what I have christened Trumplandia, the bread crumbs of that decline can be followed through “Exhuming McCarthy” and “Ignoreland” to finding ourselves in the witch’s cauldron.

Trumplandia is a people willingly filing into what was sold as a Jacuzzi, only to find ourselves the meat of a meal to feed the 1%.

To ignore—this must not be ignored now. It is an act of will, a decision.

I argued during the presidential election of 2016 that voters had to compromise their morals to vote for Hillary Clinton, but to vote Trump was a complete abandoning of any moral grounding.

To vote Trump is the ultimate act of ignoring found in the majority of white women voting for a misogynist, in the religious Right voting for a serial adulterer, and in the media happily skipping along hand-in-hand with a pathological liar.

Twenty-five years ago, “Ignoreland” captured the toxic mix of political anger and political resignation:

If they weren’t there we would have created them
Maybe, it’s true
But I’m resentful all the same
Someone’s got to take the blame

Trump ascending and fabricating an administration of billionaires, “Ignoreland” realized because we chose the road of least resistance—we created them.


Beware the Bastards: On Freedom and Choice

Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Eugene V. Debs: Statement September 18, 1918

Based on “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” by Ray Nelson, the cult science fiction film They Live focuses on the main character, Nada (Roddy Piper), who discovers a pair of sunglasses that reveal to him that aliens are controlling the human race.

In the real world, the trick is not finding a pair of enlightening sunglasses to expose the alien overlords but to recognize the bastards we have chosen to rule over us—because the bastards controlling the U.S. are really easy to see.

Here’s one:

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And here’s a whole room full:

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The masking, you see, is not taking on human form to hide alien bodies, but the use of words that appear to say one thing while actually meaning something entirely different.

The trick in the real world is not visual, but verbal.

So we have Ryan on Twitter:

And Vice President Pence:

O, happy freedom! And glorious individual responsibility!

Let us, of course, step back and note that our federal political leaders are overwhelmingly white and wealthy men who have healthcare, retirement/pension, and daycare all provided for them at tax payers’ expense—although every one of them due to their wealth are free to take the individual responsibility to choose to pay for those luxuries that they are denying everyone else.

*

In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred (June), the eponymous handmaid of the tale, reveals that “[t]he circumstances have been reduced” (p. 8) for the younger women of Gilead, a post-apocalyptic theocracy of sorts. These seemingly fertile women have become extremely precious for the survival of the white race and paradoxically the embodiment of a perverse slavery for procreation.

Atwood has written at length about being indebted to George Orwell—those who control language control everything and everyone—and that her speculative novel includes a quilting of human actions drawn directly from history, not fabricated by Atwood.

How have humans kept other humans in literal and economic bondage? Often by exploiting token members of the group being exploited.

Thus, in The Handmaid’s Tale, a few women are manipulated to control other women. The handmaid’s are trained by Aunts, who instill the propaganda:

There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. in the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it….

We were a society dying, said Aunt Lydia, of too much choice. (pp. 24, 25)

Throughout the novel, readers must navigate how Offred (June) weaves the overlap of her own original ideas and vocabulary as that intersects with the propaganda of Gilead:

Will I ever be in a hotel room again? How I wasted them, those rooms, that freedom from being seen.

Rented license. (p. 50)

“Freedom” and “license” are exposed as bound words, the meanings contextual.

As Offred (June) continues to investigate rooms, she discovers a powerful but foreign phrase:

I knelt to examine the floor, and there it was, in tiny writing, quite fresh it seemed, scratched with a pin or maybe just a fingernail, in the corner where the darkest shadow fell: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

I didn’t know what it meant, or even what language it was in. I thought it might be Latin, but I didn’t know any Latin. Still it was a message, and it was in writing, forbidden by that very fact, and it hadn’t been discovered. Except by me, for whom it was intended. It was intended for whoever came next. (p. 52)

The power to control language includes defining words, but also denying access to language—forbidding reading and writing, literacy, to those in bondage.

And then, Offred (June) explains about her life before Gilead:

We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.

Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it….The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives.

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of the print. It gave us more freedom.

We lived in the gaps between the stories. (pp. 56-57)

And from that previous life of “ignoring” the other since it wasn’t about them, Offred (June) finds herself the procreation slave of a Commander, in “reduced circumstances” where she realizes: “There wasn’t a lot of choice but there was some, and this is what I chose” (p. 94).

Her previous life of “ignoring” has been replaced by something seemingly more awful, but nearly exactly the same as she explains about the Ceremony: “One detaches oneself” (p. 95).

Even in Gilead, Offred (June) again becomes the other woman, lured into an infidelity characterized by playing Scrabble with the Commander, who reveals to her that Nolite te bastardes carborundorum is slang Latin for “Don’t let the bastards grind you down” (p. 187).

Adolescent language as rebellion has become a life-or-death slogan for Offred (June).

As her relationship with the Commander becomes increasingly trite and complex, Offred (June) declares, “Freedom, like everything else, is relative” (p. 231).

*

It is 2017, and many are living lives by ignoring because it just doesn’t seem to be about them.

Detached, unwilling to look or listen carefully—skipping along to the hollow mantras of “freedom,” “choice,” and “individual responsibility.”

As with Offred (June), this is no longer an adolescent joke; it is the only real option we have.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

 

Misreading Wealth as Intelligence and Universal Expertise

While the British appear hopelessly trapped in worshipping the arbitrary lineage of royalty, in the U.S., our senseless obsession is the wealthy.

Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Cory” captures perfectly that fascination:

And he was rich–yes, richer than a king–
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

While Robinson dramatizes the trite argument that money doesn’t buy happiness (“And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,/Went home and put a bullet through his head”), the poem also reveals that the wealthy are far less than what the public has manufactured about them—notably that wealth somehow equals intelligence and universal expertise.

A poster boy for this nonsense is Bill Gates, who has parlayed his billions into his hobbies well outside of his computing background—specifically education.

As I have noted during the heydays of Gates as education expert: Without his billions, who would have listened to Gates hold forth on education? Or anything for that matter.

No one.

Gates depends on the false conflating in the U.S. that his wealth is a fair proxy for universal expertise.

Not nearly as successful or credible as a billionaire, Donald Trump has leveraged his own narrative that he is some great business man (he isn’t) along with his self-promotion as a celebrity (the hollow sort of Paris Hilton celebrity) into the presidency, a nearly perfect, although perverse, logical consequence of the hero worshipping of the wealthy in the U.S.

In a review of Brooke Harrington’s Capital without Borders: Wealth Managers and the One PercentSam Adler-Bell argues, “Americans have insufficient antipathy toward the extraordinarily rich,” adding:

We like them too much. Despite a short-lived blossoming of post-recession anger toward the “one percent,” and the efforts of anti-plutocratic politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Americans persist in seeing extreme wealth as a virtue—a sign of integrity, intelligence, merit. Those who have it garner respect and deference, even reverence. Being wealthy signifies that you have done something good, achieved something praiseworthy. More than any previous presidential candidate, Donald Trump made his net worth a centerpiece of his campaign, the proof he was worthy of the office. His opponent, in turn, sought to portray him as not quite as wealthy as he claimed: a boastful con man, not a real billionaire. We know how well that worked.

Adler-Bell confronts how the allure of great wealth is contradicted by ample evidence that the wealthy are likely ill-suited to be political leaders; their wealth, in fact, should be a political liability, not an advantaged.

Harrington’s book, Adler-Bell notes, “helps dispel two of the most pernicious myths underlying America’s overly tolerant attitude toward the extremely rich:first, that they deserve to be so, and second, that the rest of us might one day be extremely rich too”:

The first falls when we understand that the vast majority of these high-net-worth individuals—including our president and his children—have benefited from dynastic wealth. As legal scholar Lawrence Friedman has said, “An upper class is a class that inherits. A lower class is a class that inherits nothing.” In the next three decades, it’s estimated that between $10 and $41 trillion in private wealth will be inherited in the United States. Practically all of it will descend to a tiny fraction of the population. Eighty percent of us will inherit nothing at all.

The second myth is dispelled when we realize that, for much the same reason, the prospects that the non-rich will accumulate great or even significant wealth in their lifetimes are miniscule. This is Thomas Piketty’s central insight, made famous by his blockbuster book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. When the rate of return on capital (r) exceeds the rate of economic growth (g)—as has been the case for most of human history—wealth originating in the past inevitably grows faster than wealth stemming from work. The wealth you create from your labor (unless you’re Taylor Swift or LeBron James) simply cannot compete with wealth derived from inheritance. We’re screwed from the start.

And while these facts that contradict our fantasies about the wealthy remain important in terms of understanding Trump, his Secretary of Education appointee, Betsy DeVos, proves to be an even more powerful cautionary tale.

DeVos is the sort of ill-got wealth that we conveniently ignore in the U.S. Amway is at least a controversial business model, if not an outright scam (see here and here).

As Harrington details, the white wealth gap is not the result of hard work and some sort of white advantage of intelligence, hard work, and expertise, but the result of hoarded and inherited wealth (think Trump, again).

Wealth buys opportunities no one earned, guarantees margins that allow risk and failure, and cushions every aspect of the so-called struggles the wealthy want the public to believe they have suffered.

Devos represents not only that inequity but also how great wealth must necessarily come at the expense of others—whether by massaging the limits of a pyramid scheme (Amway) or on the backs of underpaid workers (think the Walton clan and Walmart).

Adler-Bell, then, offers a profound warning that instead of assuming the best about the wealthy, we are likely much closer to the truth to assume the worst.

Part of that transition, I believe, must be to stop prefacing criticisms of our uber-wealthy ruling class with “I am sure s/he has good intentions” because, first, good intentions are never enough, and, second, it is more likely the wealthy are being self-serving than seeking to do good by others.

The key to doubting good intentions comes back to how often the wealthy perpetuate and depend on the belief that wealth equals expertise, universal expertise.

If you have genuinely good intentions, you seek out experts to address problems that others do not have the capital to address.

To announce yourself both wealthy and the One Who Can Get This Done (despite having no background in This) is megalomania, not good intentions.

It is also naive, if not delusional, and deeply offensive to those who have worked to gain the expertise needed.

So as with gates, we must ask who would listen to DeVos—or nominate her for a cabinet position—if not for her enormous and ill-gained wealth?

No one.

We are currently confronted with an entire administration about whom we can ask the same.

If the U.S. had an expert class committed to generating great wealth, equitably distributed to all who participated in that endeavor, these are the sorts of people in whom we should place our trust, the sorts of people we should ask to sacrifice their time as our political leaders.

Instead we have the wealthy-as-royalty—wealth as an accident of lineage and power bought, not earned.

And unlike Richard Cory, these bastards are happy, laughing all the way to the bank at our great expense.

The Facts about Reading Just Don’t Matter: On the Absence of Ethical Leadership

Elizabeth Kolbert’s Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds is even more sobering in Trumplandia, but “reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational” being confirmed—again—is incredibly frustrating for educators.

The facts of many years of research show that people cling to their beliefs regardless of the evidence; contrary evidence, in fact, tends to cause people to dig in even deeper to their misguided beliefs.

Democracy is a tenuous thing, then, when the willfully misinformed vote for those who learn to speak to and perpetuate that misinformation.

Trump has cashed in on false claims that work because of the public’s beliefs and the power of fear:

Opinion surveys regularly find that Americans believe crime is up, even when the data show it is down. In 21 Gallup surveys conducted since 1989, a majority of Americans said there was more crime in the U.S. compared with the year before, despite the generally downward trend in both violent and property crime rates during much of that period. In a Pew Research Center survey in late 2016, 57% of registered voters said crime had gotten worse since 2008, even though BJS and FBI data show that violent and property crime rates declined by double-digit percentages during that span.

Public policy in the U.S. too often is driven by popular beliefs not grounded in evidence. And an ugly irony to this dynamic includes public education policy—mostly a jumble of pet programs by people without any expertise in education who offer platitudes that resonate with a public ill-informed about what works in teaching and learning.

The misinformed echo chamber about education among political leaders, media, and the public has maintained for over thirty years now an accountability era of education policy committed to practices that have not worked, and often have caused more harm than good.

One of the many casualties of this belief culture is literacy, notably reading.

Education policy continues to march through a never-ending series of new reading programs, new reading standards, and new high-stakes reading tests (that have children perform in ways on the tests, brief passages with multiple choice questions, that are unlike real-world reading).

In 2017, then, it is stunning that a news article on reading research (from a publisher!) confirms—again—the facts we have known about reading for more than a century, but refuse acknowledge and practice.

The problem is what we know about reading and fostering literacy in children and young adults just isn’t that sexy (or profitable for politicians and publisher/testing companies): access to books in the home and libraries (community and school) and choice in what is read are strongly correlated with reading ability and eagerness.

Not phonics programs, reading programs, standards, or high-stakes testing.

Access to books and choice. Period.

From federal immigration and policing policy to how we teach our children to read, we are experiencing a fatal absence of ethical leadership.

Ethical leaders would inform the public about the decrease in violent crime, and ethical leadership would admit that our reading problems have relatively simple solutions.

Continuing to lead the uninformed by perpetuating misinformation is both a doomed practice but also a tremendous waste of our resources.

In education, the tens of millions wasted on reading programs, retooling and retraining for ever-new standards, and the bloat testing industry can and should be redirected to proven investments in books for children and robust libraries.

If we committed to buying every school-aged child 20 books a year to own (10 the choice of the child and 10 the choice of the teachers/schools), we would see an increase in reading ability and eagerness. Of course, direct instruction and fostering literacy are still needed, but these are greatly enhanced by the mere increase in book access and student choice in that reading.

And as well, we must make the same sort of ethical choices about social and education policy—addressing equity over accountability.

The facts about reading are not that sexy, but access to books and choice in what children read are what must be addressed in fostering childhood and young adult literacy.

These commitments require a move away from the inexpert ruling class and toward a culture that acknowledges, appreciates, and applies the evidence—evidence that should ground a call for ethical leadership and responsive policy.