The American education system started 2017 out with a bang. In January, we witnessed the heated confirmation hearings that led billionaire philanthropist and charter school advocate Betsy DeVos to become the "most polarizing" secretary of education of all time. DeVos' Department of Education quickly set about dismantling some of her predecessor's biggest accomplishments: protections for student loan borrowers, aggressive policies for handling accusations of sexual assault on college campuses, and discrimination guidelines specific to transgender students and students with disabilities, to name just a few. Meanwhile, college debt continued to balloon, and economic prospects for Millennials—many of them students—continue to look grim. Education reporting everywhere closed the year with some validation: Nikole Hannah-Jones, who reports rigorously on the persistence of school segregation, won a MacArthur "genius" grant. At least people are paying attention to the work.
In addition to these developments, Pacific Standard spent the year charting interesting and offbeat facets of the education system, from children's heightened trust of libraries in these fractured times to Nazis' history of worship for J.R.R. Tolkien.
Below, Pacific Standard's best reporting on inequities in education.
- "Can California Pull Off Debt-Free College?," by Elena Gooray
One expert explains what kind of dent the state's ambitious plan could make on the college affordability crisis.
- "The Hoax That Backfired: How An Attempt to Discredit Gender Studies Will Only Strengthen It," by James McWilliams
The latest academic stunt to receive widespread coverage raises interesting points about vanity journals and peer review, but we must also question the motives of the authors.
- "America Keeps Criminalizing Autistic Children," by David M. Perry
When non-white autistic students get in trouble, schools have a track record of escalating tensions and treating it as a criminal matter. Two recent cases in Orange County, Florida, help illustrate the problem.
- "How The YouTube Classroom Is Teaching Teens to Make Space Watermelons," by Alissa Greenberg
Inside the world of young makers tapping online resources to engineer their own learning.
- "In the 'Fake News' Era, Americans Increasingly Value Libraries," by Katie Kilkenny
Local lending institutions remain trusted sources of information while trust in the media has hit an all-time low.
- "The Afterlife of Big Ideas in Education Reform," by Michael Hobbes
How one high school—mine—explains why we keep making the same mistakes.
- "For Undocumented Aspiring Scientists, Funding Remains in Limbo," by Francie Diep
Ineligible for federal grants, undocumented science students must rely on private fellowships—which often depend on DACA.
- "Trump and DeVos Are Preparing a Historic Rollback on Discrimination Law," by Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza
From weakening protections for survivors of sexual assault to axing protections for transgender students, the administration has made no secret of its animosity toward the Civil Rights Act.
- "How Can We Untangle White Supremacy From Medieval Studies?," by David M. Perry
A conversation with Australian scholar Helen Young.
- "The Department of Education Is Pulling the Rug Out From Under Student Parents," by Natalie Pattillo
The Trump administration has quietly removed CCAMPIS, a childcare subsidy for student parents attending college, from its 2018 budget. Over one million student parents' ability to afford childcare hangs in the balance.
- "Will America’s School Ever Be Desegregated?" by Rachel Cohen & Will Stancil
Though there are practical obstacles to school integration, it's not an unreachable ideal.