About brianksohn

I am a former high school teacher and recent graduate of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I earned my doctorate in education and am interested in reconnecting learners to the places and communities in which they reside.

New Job in a New Place!

I taught my first class at Carson Newman University today! It went well. First days of class are always fun, full of potential. Students still listen to me. Since I teach in the basement, cell service is spotty. Maybe that worked in my favor. And with an ever-expanding list of things to do, I’m glad to be at a place where people are nice. It’s a welcoming atmosphere: “We’re like family,” I keep hearing. And this family has a home: the campus seems well situated and connected to the town of Jefferson City.

As students introduced themselves, I kept wondering why Jefferson City exists. Like what industries and businesses are here? What is their relationship with the university? How much does the place and its history matter to students? I’ve seen dilapidated buildings in an old downtown area and the strip along the main highway with Walgreens, McDonald’s, and a Shell station. And I’ve seen the university-developed cafe/restaurant, conceived and managed by the students in the business department. For me these point to history, revitalization, and future survival. And in the bustle of learning my new tasks, I think of my own survival.

Every time I get one item crossed off my list of things to do, another two or three get added. I presume this will be the case for some time. But many of the tasks will help me develop my sense of this place and my connections to it. I hope that my many projects: teaching courses, chairing dissertations, and participating as a faculty member, will act as vehicles, rather than impediments, to my growing familiarity with Carson Newman University. As time goes on differentiation is inevitable. Surely at some point, some faculty member will say something bad about another (none of that so far!). The campus buildings will not seem as uniform. I will find my way over to Cherokee Lake. I’ll get to know students.

But the challenges are formidable. So much so that I’m kind of procrastinating writing this post. I’m chairing 11 dissertations! They have to have their first three chapters by like November! I’ve got three course preps that are completely new! And I have to drive about an hour and 20 minutes every day! But in a Christian college environment, in which faculty get to talk to teacher candidates in terms of answering a calling and treating all students (and people) as children of God, I feel supported and up to the tasks. I guess we’ll see how the student evaluations turn out!

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Health Care and Education

Brian K. Sohn, PhD, Knoxville, TN.

I sent a letter to my rep, John Duncan Jr. about the American Health Care Act (AHCA). He voted for the AHCA, and wrote me a letter back talking about how AHCA is the best we can do considering the crisis of the ACA. He admitted Obamacare helped some, but he pointed out that in places like Knoxville we’re likely to have no insurers willing to participate in the “marketplace” next year. True point. But ACHA is awful in many ways (more so for women than men). And this should not be an either or argument. How about we address the whole, devastatingly complex health care system in the simplest way possible? Everybuddy in, nobuddy out*. I’ll pay for smokers (I know and love some of you). I’ll pay for motorcycle riders (I know and love some of you, too). I’ll pay for people that are overweight (yep, love you too). In return, I hope others will be willing to pay for this rock climber, skier, and runner.


Bouldering at Sheep’s Nose, CO, 2013

As Trump has noted, runners end up having to get knee replacements! And most of us drive on roads, that’s pretty risky behavior. Single payer. Medicare for all. You can compare away to other industrialized nations that have something like it. Say we aren’t like them, we couldn’t do it. Are we the most addicted populace? Are we the most obese populace? (Are we the most unhealthy populace?) I am not sure any of that would make a solid argument AGAINST single payer.

Trump’s in Australia paying compliments to their single payer health care system. He’s probably had to use it some while vacationing there. Trump, who thinks exercise is bad for you. He might not want to have preventative care provisions, but if we’re so unhealthy, we need them. Personal responsibility has to be part of the changes we make. We need health education overhauled. This is just one way talk of health care reform involves schools and schooling. The other way was illustrated in West Virginia (among other places) back when we got that stimulus under Obama, seems like eons ago. There they used some of their economic stimulus money to put health centers in schools. They took care of some basic needs of their students, some of whom, for whatever reason, didn’t get the care they needed when they needed it. What happened was no surprise to anyone who ever heard of Abraham Maslow. Test scores went up. Now I’ve said before and I’ll say again that test scores hide more than they reveal, are a shoddy proxy for learning, not the way to measure progress, etc etc. But in WV, they were perhaps a proxy for comfort, concentration, care. If your tooth aches you can’t focus. If you feel sick learning goes to the back burner. So let’s have everybuddy in, nobuddy out. Richest country on earth for what? To get richer? How about to get people healthy so they can contribute in their own unique ways?

*Thank for the phrasing, Hamish Gowans.

Energy, Efficiency, Waste, Learning

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Brian K. Sohn, Ph.D.

This diagram represents an estimate of U.S. energy consumption. Like most such diagrams, a little context goes a long way to helping understand them. First and foremost, charts like these are often presented as facts when they are really best guesses. Other organizations have different guesses. All that grey “rejected energy” on the upper right is the energy that is lost or wasted as a result of inefficiency.

Now when inefficiency is used in talking about joules or BTUs (or quads: 1 quad = 1 quadrillion BTUs), you have to keep in mind that we’re talking about inputs and outputs. When we talk of inputs and outputs, most of us need to step beyond the usual bounds of our thinking into the world of physics.

In my introductory physics courses in college, I first learned about the technical use of the term efficiency. We use it commonly in a positive way, but in physics it’s a calculation, not a value judgment. Energy out divided by energy in. That gives a fraction, we convert it to a percentage, and we have to compare relative efficiencies in order to gain any understanding of what is good and bad. For example, a typical gasoline engine is about 20% efficient. Incandescent lights are about 2%. Commercially available photovoltaic solar cells range from 14-19%. With those efficiencies in mind, you can look at the diagram above with more sense of our overall efficiency: around 32%.

100% efficiency is impossible via Newton’s second law: entropy increases over time. That is, even if an energy source is just sitting around, it’s decaying. Whenever we try to convert energy into something usable, some of it (usually a lot of it) is lost. Gas engines produce a lot of heat and noise as they push the pistons. Light bulbs give off heat as they shine. Solar cells…leak. I don’t know where the lost energy goes. Probably not noise, maybe heat.

Just as it is helpful to compare efficiencies of typical energy-consuming items like motors and light bulbs, it is informative to compare how energy use changes over time. Five years ago, we were using more coal and hydro. Every other source has grown in the last five years.

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Over the very long haul, we are using more less efficient energy sources. In 1970, we used around 67.5 quads, but LLNL estimated our efficiency at closer to 50%. The article linked above will give you a lot of information in a short amount of time (it’s very efficient!)

Learning and Energy

Schools use a lot of energy but rarely teach about it. The lights are (usually) on. The rooms are (usually) somewhere between 65 and 80 degrees. At Belfry High School, where I used to work, they ran on geothermal, and even as the sponsor for the environmental club, I didn’t learn that until after I worked there for two years. We tend to only think about electricity when it is lost or when the power bill comes in. But learning about energy should be a major chunk of the curriculum, and not just in elementary school. Even many well-educated people fail to understand how we get it, where it comes from, and where it goes.

According to a professor I talked with, even the smarty-pants students that attend Virginia Tech struggle with the concept of the lifespan, “cradle to grave” of energy. Non-renewables must be discovered, transported, refined, burned, etc. Solar requires specialized materials for construction of cells (and the cells don’t last forever!). And then there are the byproducts. From carbon dioxide to sulfur to ash, production and consumption of energy doesn’t end at the point of use.

With knowledge and awareness of energy source lifespans, people can then grapple with the moral implications. Ivan Illich at one point calculated the speed at which sin begins. That is, at some point our increase of speed is taken out on the rest of the world through car accidents, extractive industry destruction, etc. Yvon Chouinard says that in all the discussions around energy use, no one ever puts taking a step backward on the negotiation table. How about let’s use less? How about turn off devices? How about not drive? All these suggestions can be deconstructed from an economic point of view; someone will always bring up Al Gore or Leonardo DiCaprio. But those with relative wealth–individuals, businesses, organizations, governments, etc.–consume the most electricity. The moral imperative is theirs, in the case of energy, to take a step back, to design more efficient systems, and, in the cases of Al and Leo, to help educate people on energy.

But I don’t know if the best way to learn is to watch An Inconvenient Truth or Before the Flood. If you want a sense of energy, go to a power plant. See what’s powering your lights. Ask where the resources come from. Find the ways in which you are tangled up in the spaghetti-string diagrams above.


Crossing Wilderness on the Way to Work


A hillside in Eastern Kentucky

What if you had to cross a little wilderness on your way to work?

You may see a snake, venomous, but maybe not. Varmints very well may cross your path while you pretend it’s not frightening. Just a rodent. Only a rodent in the brush.

How many extra shades of green might your eye capture? Mosses, grasses, flowering plants small and large. Bushes and brambles may catch on your clothes, making you less fit to be seen at the office or wherever you happen to be working, with wilderness on the way to it.

There may be a glimpse of something great beyond control, outside the bounds of trammeled and contained. With the lack of structure, your body may feel it can expand, open, free itself in regard to the normal set of rules, but respond on autopilot to ancient norms.

The contrast, perhaps, of this sliver of wilderness you encounter on your way to work may teach you something. You might not have to read Thoreau or Wordsworth or Leopold to know that something in the rest of your life is unspoken to except for when you’re traversing the small section of wild terrain. If you learn of a lack, that could be the first step towards the remedy.

Tennessee is Not for Sale

Brian K. Sohn, Ph.D.

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I went to Nashville Thursday (3/9/17) to join in with clergy, state workers, union members, and other concerned citizens to meet with state legislators to lobby against Governor Haslam’s immoral and unethical plan to privatize thousands of Tennessee state jobs. We were there on the day Senator Doug Henry, the longest-serving member of  the TN state legislature in history, was lying in state in the capitol. Despite the somber occasion, Haslam officials were meeting with the final three bidders involved in his privatization plan. As I have often found to be the case in civic participation guided by moral principles, it was both inspiring and depressing.

What’s in a Title?

One of the actions we participated in was to follow clergy members from around the state to support them silently while they delivered an impassioned letter to Haslam urging him to abandon his outsourcing/privatization plan. We walked from the legislative plaza to the Tennessee Tower silently holding signs we had created that said why we opposed outsourcing. We marched there because that is the location of the “Office of Consumer-Focused Government.” This is the title of the office commissioned by Governor Haslam to carry out his privatization plan. I find the title of this office disconcerting. When the government is so dominated by business that it ceases to view residents of the state as citizens and focuses more on them as consumers (or as taxpayers, as is often the case), there can be an imperceptible shift in attitude towards self-interest. Rather than citizens of a community, folks with a stake and loyalty to our places, we can become simply purchasers of goods and services. This split makes it much easier to consider profits and savings over people and security.

After being told the Office of Consumer-Focused Government did not exist, we began chanting, “Tennessee is not for sale.” We were told we were being disruptive. One of our spokespersons responded that what we were doing is hardly disruptive compared to outsourcing thousands of jobs. They finally agreed to send a representative of the office down to hear our concerns if we would go outside. Although there was much grumbling, we complied and left the building. After some time, we were joined by three representatives of the office (suddenly it did exist!). What followed were clear, funny, desperate, and heartfelt messages from members of our group asking for answers and pleading for their jobs. One woman told us her husband had recently died, and she wouldn’t make it if she was laid off or had reduced benefits. Another had worked at University of Memphis for 28 years and never made more than $10/hour. Her retirement was $400/month. Another asked for $15/hour, noting that if they really wanted to help the economy, that’s the way to do it. “I love to shop!” she said.

Many questions were asked, and the crowd demanded answers. After so many statements from diverse people in church and street clothes, the contrast was stark as the blond, White, business-suit-wearing woman took the microphone and delivered a canned response. “We have answered all your questions during previous legislative sessions and if you want, you can file freedom of information requests to access transcripts. We have noted what you have said today. I have a meeting, thank you for expressing your concerns.” The crowd booed and yelled angrily at her, “You didn’t answer anything!”

Where you’re from matters.

I know that where you’re from matters. That’s one of the major points of this blog. But it matters a LOT when you’re talking to state legislators. I was with two life-long residents of Tennessee as we went from office to office sharing our flier and asking legislators to do something to slow down or stop Haslam’s plan. One of the guys I was with, Troy Smith, a professor from Tennessee Tech, had known one of the legislators, Paul Bailey, since they were in the 5th grade. The other guy I was with, Hugh Piercey, a retired janitorial worker, had met with his state representative in the past and they knew some of the same people. The possibility for this “small talk” was key in gaining deeper access to the people we sought to petition. Being from Kentucky, I felt less able to convince the politicians to listen.

So luckily I wasn’t alone. We talked to 3 legislators and 3 legislative assistants. Most expressed opposition to Haslam’s plan, although one senator said nothing could be done about it. We pointed out several actions the Senate and House could take. “Well, I’ll look into it,” he said. We talked to Senator Mae Beavers’ assistant and she implied that anything Haslam was in favor of, she was against. So far so good. The last person we talked to was Ryan Williams, a representative from Cookeville. We were invited in during a conference call he was in with engineers, yet he gave us his attention. Unfortunately, he talked a lot of circles around what we were getting at. He wanted to look carefully at how the outsourcing could save the state money. He was having lunch with the governor, and promised to bring our concerns to him, which was nice. But I was getting angry sitting there listen to him not answer our questions. I suppose I should have been forceful, but it seemed better to let the local guys keep talking with him.


All day I was talking with the people around me about Haslam’s plan, which would replace state workers with contract employees of the winning bidder. There would be 10,000 state jobs replaced. Many of the same workers would be rehired, but not necessarily in the same location and with fewer benefits. When you replace a long-time state worker with minimum-wage, no benefits jobs, you trade loyalty and tacit knowledge for an unstable, high-turnover workforce. The connection people have to a place comes in part through a job that makes them feel part of who they are. With state jobs, it is part of who they are as Tennesseans. The plan would send millions of dollars to an out-of-state contractor. I know developing governance and budgeting is difficult. But there are a few lies and misconceptions that support moves to privatization.

  1. Private companies work better than government. This idea has been perpetuated as common knowledge, starting most strongly with Ronald Reagan, but continued as a talking point since. Humans run private companies and government, so human error is rife in both institutions. Some say government jobs are too secure, so people become complacent. But depending on the person, the tenuousness of competition is just as detrimental to quality of work as an assurance you’ll keep your job. And in Tennessee’s plan on the books and in the news to privatize, there are no safe jobs in government unless you’re a politician in a gerrymandered district.
  2. Privatization will “save taxpayers money.” In one sense this could be true in the long run if we only examine cost expended on workers. If the quality of the work we receive for the cost is included, if the value of investing state dollars back into the communities from whence the taxes came, if the value of a stable workforce is included, if we take into account the difficulties of the hiring process and downtime caused by training, privatization is not cheaper.
  3. Citizens should focus more on return on investment of their tax dollars than the health of their community. By using terms like “taxpayers” and “consumers” rather than “citizens,” politicians have distracted us from the connections we all have to each other in our communities. Outsourcing removes responsibility to community. As members of our government, it is all our responsibility to ensure its functioning. What the privatization plan does is funnel citizens’ taxes to corporations. We trade connection  and loyalty to communities for efficiency. But the record shows efficiency means facilities that are less well maintained.
  4. “We need to tighten our belts.” This is a lie in that people only say it when they want to cut specific budget items. It is a good way to see what policies people think are unnecessary. But when politicians say we need to cut this or that, it is no more a fact than any other when it comes to deciding how a state that levies taxes should spend and redistribute that money.

Learning Safely: Trump and DeVos strip transgender student protections

Brian K. Sohn. PhD. Knoxville, TN.

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Not all places are safe, we learn whether or no. Soldiers train in what most school-age children and youth would see as a hostile environment. Yet they learn their duties, they learn scenarios. If this, then that. Many soldiers feel they become their best selves under their training regimen. But the overwhelming research on teaching and learning shows the importance of a safe learning environment. It’s one thing to acquire a specific set of skills and protocols and quite another to develop abilities to creatively and critically think about how to thrive in the entire world—not just survive and prevail on battlefields. We require some combination of security and openness. The safe classroom is a kind of basecamp from which students can explore the risks of the unknown.

It’s what we learn and how we learn it that is affected by the relative safety of the learning environment. Nothing ventured nothing gained, sure. No risk, no reward, ok. But academic risk is a totally different animal than the risk of being beaten, ridiculed, or worse. The world as we have shaped it is much less safe for some people, and schools are no different. The world creeps in, and despite the ways we laud individuality in our country, the nail that sticks out often gets hammered down.

So when the leaders of our country remove what limited protections are available to transgender students, they reinforce what is for most of them an already hostile climate. The message is clear: you do not belong, be quiet, disappear. Yet we supposedly value individual expression. And a sense of belonging is what keeps students from dropping out.

At the University of Tennessee, we have experienced similar controversy. Our trans-friendly bathrooms have been relabeled family bathrooms. Our state legislature has, like the Trump administration, made the campus more like a battlefield. And for those who consider a request to use gender-neutral pronouns or allow a transgender person to use the bathroom an offense, it is helpful to keep in mind a proportional response.

If, every day, you face an environment you perceive as hostile, as a matter of course you are shocked into self-examination constantly by the ways in which you must negotiate the world to survive. If, historically, you have not been beaten or killed for being who you are, and finally those who have ask to be protected, your shock is but a glimpse of their entire lives.

But this is what Trump and some of his supporters seem to want—a land of survival of the (already) fittest, a battlefield for those without the right identity. But what does the teacher in the public school do? How can she or he work to prevent bullying and create a safe learning environment when the President pulls transgender student protections? Teachers can and do make a difference, despite the complexity of their tasks. A few specific ideas can be found here.




All Roads Lead to Where You Are

Yvette Franklin, PhD. Lenoir City, TN.


Bono of U2 said it best, “All roads lead to where you are.” When it comes to the schooling of our children, we didn’t really plan to blaze new trails. As a public school teacher I never considered not sending my children to public school…until I had them. Then the general principles of education became very specific. These weren’t just students, they were my kids. They were each so different. It was a full-time job for us getting to know them, finding out what made them tick, discovering their strengths, helping them with their weaknesses, answering their questions, guiding them to living peaceably together. I couldn’t imagine them being one of 24 souls in a room for seven hours a day with a lone teacher, being marched to lunch, recess, and the bus. The transition from the familial home as the location for their exponential growth from infancy to five years to a large local school seemed to be a transaction that resulted in too much being given up. We thought we could supplement their learning, but they came home exhausted. We thought we could balance our eating habits with the industrial food model in the public school, but we had to fight daily against snacks, sodas, and sweet rewards. We thought we could be part of our local community, but the cost was their childhood as they had known it.

So, we disrupted the well-worn path and we withdrew from public school life and began our own learning journey with the home as the locus instead of an institution. Foucault had scared some sense into us: prisons, hospitals, schools. There were no lines or rows at home. Montessori wanted children to be responsible for their own learning and to follow their own interests and we could do that in the intimate home setting. Rousseau wanted us to get to enjoy the outdoors and let the child be central in learning and our home afforded woods and time to pursue their interests, Aquinas sought to connect the Divine to knowledge making and we could explore faith freely in the privacy of our home. Greene asked us to harness our imaginations and at home we could let the kids read, create, and play for extended periods. As a parent and educator I can answer these calls within my home, free from the constraints of bureaucracy, the need for management of large numbers of people, and the limitations of teacher/student ratios.

When we saw that the public school setting was not meeting the educational needs of our children and that school itself had an institutionalizing effect we made the choice to find another way. We have through the years purchased our own materials and curriculum, utilized cooperatives and private online classes to augment our home education, and as our older children approach high school we have even chosen a five-day private school option. However, the choice to return home is always available for a child if needs are not being met in the traditional school space.

It is, of course, a privilege to be able to have schooling choice. This privilege reveals our income, education levels, and health. This cannot be a just standard in a society rife with income disparity, disproportionate educational outcomes, and varying family unit composition. However, all roads lead to where you are, and since jumping the hegemonic track our educational road led our particular family home for the early years of our children’s lives. Home is not perfect. But home is where we have attempted to answer the best of the educational thinkers before us in our unique circumstance and it is where we hope to separate the arbitrary from the essential to raise productive, thoughtful people.









Career Day at Norris Middle


Brian K. Sohn, Ph.D., Knoxville, TN.

I went to the beautiful Norris Middle School a couple weeks ago in what seemed to be a kind of sitcom setup: the guy on the academic job market speaking at a career day. That is, I’m, um, technically, unemployed. I didn’t know exactly what I should tell them…when you get a PhD these days you’ll likely be on the job market for 2-5 years? What I did tell them was that I just wrote a 7000-word article, it was published in a relatively well-esteemed journal, and, well, I didn’t get paid for it. They were impressed I wrote such a long paper. But I wasn’t really selling academia to middle schoolers.

Since I figured it would be hard to convince any of them to follow in my footsteps, I started with our common experience—I had helped out on a field trip they took to go rock climbing at the Obed. Some of them loved climbing, others thought it pointless. Climbing is a challenge if you care to do it, I told them, if it’s on your radar. I asked them to think of the challenges they enjoy—I got a few volunteers to tell me theirs: video games, guitar, sports, writing stories. I told them to pay careful attention to the who what when where why and how of those fun, driving challenges. It says something important about you.

I told them my story and talked of my driving challenge, the one that’s so important to me that I made a career out of it: teaching. With words, with actions, face to face, through writing. I love to find ways to help students take on challenges that may not have been on their radar. Because the little spark I provide just might turn itself into a passion you have that you didn’t even know existed, and someday may be your career. They seemed to be following me, so I stayed serious.

But it wasn’t some random teaching anywhere I wanted to do. I was sitting in traffic in Marin County and I got the call. GO HOME. I didn’t catch the next plane or anything, but I did not ignore the importance of where I wanted to teach, which was Appalachia. I told the students to harness their passions to improve their communities.

You may be waylaid, sidetracked, sidelined for a time. But always keep in mind the challenges that are your favorites. They will likely change. I left them with a Myles Horton quote—you must be patiently impatient. Don’t just wait, but don’t expect it to be a one-touch process. You want to start liking school? Find the ways you can make school work for you—how school can help you develop your knowledge, experience, and awareness of your favorite challenges.

They asked a few questions, mainly about the length of time it took in school to become a teacher. A handful of them were fascinated that I had traveled in South America and asked about that. I felt pretty good about how it went. And luckily none of them asked how much money I was making!


A Second-Year Teacher Still Struggling to Find Place

Izaak Standridge, Knoxville, TN


Children admiring the view from Sharp’s Ridge

Early on in my M.A.T. program I became excited by the idea of Place-Based Learning. The excitement grew after reading “Out of the Classroom and into the World” by Salvatore Vascellaro. I began to see, with my minds eye, a learning experience for my future elementary students that would allow us to go on walking field trips throughout the neighborhood and get to know individuals and their trades in a similar way that Vascellaro and his students did. I’m in my second year as a first grade teacher at Christenberry Elementary School and that dream has yet to become a reality.

Place Based Learning is encouraged through Common Core State Standards by way of making real world connections with our students (I debated using the word “with” or “for” in the last sentence and felt like “with” was more accurate). After my student teaching at Christenberry, an urban school, I was brought on as a first grade teacher for that following semester there. I began to feel the same excitement that I had when I learned about Place-Based Learning; but so did the reality that I did not know this new place, I did not know this neighborhood, I did not know these students. As a result, learning “with” my students has become my biggest connection to the neighborhood. The partnership developed behind my students and I has caused me to spend many afternoons walking around the neighborhood in search of opportunities to learn.

These walks have allowed me to speculate about these learning opportunities and a few possibilities have come to mind. First, a few blocks from the school lies a city designated birding park, Sharp’s Ridge, that includes a breathtaking overlook view of the city. The birding park also has nature trails and pavilions that would be perfect for outdoor lessons. Second, at the base of the birding park is a trail designated for mountain biking – this prospect is especially exciting due to a recently developed non-profit in town, Kickstand, that seeks to get bicycles in the hands of students living in poverty. The bicycle non-profit also seeks to partner with students to teach general bicycle maintenance and repairs. One walk around the neighborhood planted these seeds and my hope is that possible ornithologists, engineers, athletes, and city planers find their start by learning in place.

Betsy DeVos and Learning in Place


Brian K. Sohn, Ph.D., Knoxville, TN.

I was among the many who called Senators urging them to vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. I don’t have voluminous knowledge of who she is—I read a few articles about her and her policy advocacy in Michigan. But with my extensive experience in schools and studying education, it is not hard to see that DeVos is both unqualified and a threat to public schools at all levels.

As I understand her work in Michigan, she threw her vast wealth into lobbying for the least restrictive charter schools policy in the country. The result: Michigan is known to have the worst charter schools in the country—a story on NPR about a charter school for aspiring airplane pilots in Grand Rapids also discussed the typical results of “family choice” style policies like those DeVos champions: greater inequity, significantly lower test scores.

I do not see test scores as a gold standard for measuring school success. But when people of a mind like DeVos are allowed to shape policy, their goal is more schools like the aviation school—even if it means the common wealth of public schools is degraded as a result. There is no interest in maximizing the good for the highest number of citizens. The perspective is shaped by antiquated notions of social Darwinism: those that want to be pilots deserve more than those who may or may not know what they want yet, or may or may not have access to the resources required to attempt to attend an aviation charter school. The good of those students who can attend the few amazing charter schools is elevated above the rest of the population, whose test scores may dip by double-digit percentiles.

I oppose school choice and privatization policies in part because they elevate the notion of tax-payer over that of citizen. They encourage people to change schools, often leaving an under-utilized building with history, ties to a community, and perhaps in need of commitment from its constituents. They severe community members from their places. They factionalize. Research shows that the competitiveness they inspire does nothing to increase innovation or achievement.

What we will need in the time of DeVos is greater emphasis on a kind of social institution approach. Parents and community members must work to better their schools in whatever capacity is their strength. If a public school is a deficient institution, the public must work to better it. In the same way we protect the environment by repairing, rather than throwing away a jacket, so we protect communities and the ties between education and place when we work to improve public schools.