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ASA Webinar Corrects the Record on “Race and Sex Stereotyping” Executive Actions

The American Sociological Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member, held a webinar on October 20 to respond to recent White House actions prohibiting trainings and other activities that touch on white privilege, structural inequality, and other supposedly “divisive” concepts (see previous coverage). The webinar “Sociology Speaks: Experts Explain the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping” featured three sociologists, Karyn Lacy of the University of Michigan, Bandana Purkayastha of the University of Connecticut, and Shelley Correll of Stanford University, who corrected the misrepresentations of these concepts in the orders and memoranda and explained how they have contributed to a better understanding of power and prejudice. A recording of the webcast is available on ASA’s website.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 27), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Administration Expands Ban on “Promotion” of Structural Racism/Sexism to Contractors, Grantees

As part of the Administration’s ongoing effort to crack down on perceived “political correctness” in government, President Trump issued an executive order on September 22 to “combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.” This order expands on a recent memorandum from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that required federal agencies to cease funding for training that addresses critical race theory and white privilege (see previous coverage). The executive order applies this prohibition to federal contractors and grant recipients. In addition, it expands the original OMB memo beyond employee training to require that federal agencies certify that federal grantees will not use federal funds to “promote the concepts” that:

“(a) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; (b) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously; (c) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex; (d) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex; (e) an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex; (f) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex; (g) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or (h) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.”

This raises the concerns that, depending on how the language is interpreted by federal agency leadership, the prohibition could apply to federal social science research grants that address structural racism and sexism. The order gives agency heads 60 days to compile a list of grant programs that violate this prohibition. We will continue to follow the implementation of this order closely and report on developments affecting social scientists. COSSA recently joined a statement led by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Academy of Education in support of anti-racist education.

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Posted in Issue 19 (September 29), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

White House Directs Federal Agencies to Defund Race-Related Trainings for Federal Employees

On September 4, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum calling for federal agencies to cease funding training sessions for federal employees addressing critical race theory and white privilege. The memo alleges that “executive branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date ‘training’ government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda,” citing unnamed press reports as evidence that “employees across the executive branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that ‘virtually all White people contribute to racism’ or where they are required to say that they ‘benefit from racism.’” The memo directs federal agencies to “identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’ ‘white privilege,’ or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.”

Many organizations in the scientific community have expressed concern about the OMB memo, including the American Sociological Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member. In a September 7 press release, ASA asserted that the OMB memo “represents a fundamental misunderstanding of both critical race theory and the term white privilege and the extensive body of empirical research underlying them,” and shared a list of sociologists who could comment on their research of the issues.

Other organizations, including COSSA and several of its member associations, are also weighing a response to the OMB memo. We will continue to report on this developing story.

The full OMB memo is available on the White House website.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 15), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

AERA & AAPSS Briefing Focuses on Inequality and Public Education

The American Academy of Political and Social Science (AAPSS) and the American Educational Research Association (AERA), both COSSA members organizations, hosted a Congressional briefing on March 22 entitled, In the Age of Inequality, Does Public Schooling Make a Difference? The event discussed the effects of public schooling since the “Coleman Report” of 1966, a groundbreaking and controversial study that found schools have little influence on inequality in America, and instead students’ growth is determined by their socioeconomic status and race. AAPSS and AERA welcomed four panelists who discussed their research on public schooling’s influence on the opportunities of underserved youth. AERA Executive Director Felice Levine introduced the event’s four panelists, many of whom were featured in the November 2017 volume of AAPSS’s scholarly periodical The ANNALS, a special issue focused on “The State of Unequal Educational Opportunity.”

The first panelist was Heather Hill, a researcher at the University of Michigan, who stated that providing data on school-readiness in communities helps provide a metric to measure whether public schools influence student growth. The second panelist, Stanford University researcher Sean Reardon, concluded that schools can influence student growth, but measuring that influence is complex. He presented a study that showed that while a national average of third graders in low-income communities have significantly lower test scores than wealthier students, some states such as Tennessee have successfully implemented strategies that have equalized opportunities across the board. This is evidence that students’ grades can be influenced by regional public school systems because other states, such as Florida, show a decrease in student grades from third to eighth grade.

Brown University researcher Susan Moffitt presented on the importance of early education programs and economic assistance for families. Schools have a more positive effect on students when partnering with programs such as Head Start, nurse-family partnerships, and income support such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The final panelist, Prudence L. Carter of the University of California, Berkeley, focused on discrimination at the individual school level as well as the national level. She stated there are unequal outcomes for African American students even in “so-called good schools.”  African American students have limited access to honors programs and are more likely to be suspended or expelled compared to their peers. Carter stated that it is important for us to recognize that this is a result of systemic racism, and societal and policy inequalities need to be radically improved to prevent further inequalities in schools.

This article was contributed by COSSA’s spring intern, Dakota Leonard of Arizona State University.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 3), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

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