Thanks Kanika Sloan for your question on the Secretary of Education Hearings…

I watched the entire session; and you are correct that the nominee’s level of “not knowing” about the fundamental current issues in education was frighteningly astounding. And to my great sadness, her even being considered for the position, is a statement about how some people in this nation view the importance of public education. But putting aside the totally useless and cynical “committee hearing” process-format, which sought to obscure rather than enlighten the public; let us put the role of the SOE in its proper perspective. First, I have a more “expanded” definition of professionally qualified to be the SOE, that would probably call into question many of the Secretaries of Education of the recent past, that most people felt no strong objections to their assuming the post; in many cases some former secretaries were only marginally more “prepared” then Ms. DeVos to act in the role. But her total lack of comprehension of the issues and challenges of public education are unprecedented and extreme; and will mean that unlike many of her predecessors she will have less than 0 positive impact on public schools in the US. This means for those children who are on the margins, disenfranchised and disconnected from wealth and political power, a period of injurious, uninformed and ignorant neglect awaits them for the next four years. However, the schools serving the entitled, will go on unchanged in their effectiveness.

Secondly, the strong “localized” structure and format of public education; and the SOE’s limited power that is restricted to “acts” linked to federal funding; severely limits the power of any SOE to make dramatic district/school/classroom changes. The position of the SOE ultimately rest in its power to influence and inspire from a position of knowledge and experience; which is why the “one trick pony” charter school solution was exposed as theoretically deficient last night, for it will fail to solve the multilayered, regional and population specific problems that confront public education.

The vast overwhelming majority of students in America attend traditional public schools; those students will still be attending those same schools after Ms. DeVos tenure ends. And one tragedy of the hearing was that she was never forced to present her plan for making those public schools and students successful; even as she was pressed by a Republican senator who informed her that for most of the nation, charter schools are not an option and/or even wanted! Finally, she (and Mr. Trump), as many of us have learned, that assuming a public position of official responsibility, is very different from talking about that position, and “what you would do” if you had it!

However, there were some critical points that emerged from the hearing:

-Her possible financial conflicts of interest are troubling.

-Her lack of knowledge and solidarity with the goals and objectives of the: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must be freighting to adults with disabilities, and to the parents of students with disabilities.

-Her past donations to organizations that sought to discriminate against the LGBT community.

-Her inability to comprehend (admit, acknowledge) the poor performance of Charter Schools she helped to create in Michigan, was revealing and not promising.

-Again her lack of knowledge and support for the principles of Title IX, particularly during her response to a question, those sections that specifically address sexual harassment, sexual violence on college campuses. I could not imagine her comments were reassuring to the millions of parents whose children attend, or plan to attend colleges in the US.

-Her failure to deny Charter and Voucher programs the ability and right to “legally” discriminate either by forcing (they dishonestly say that parents “chose” to forgo their rights) to waive their child’s right to services identified in the child’s IEP. The ability of these charter-voucher schools to simply not choose students who have emotional or academic problems/challenges; or, at the opportune time, without much parent recourse, put them out. To utilize the little understood leverage of “parent push” (parents having the information and capability to seek out a voucher or charter school; will more than likely to be more active than the average parent in their child’s education.) All of these acts allow Charter Schools in some cases, to artificially post “better scores” than public schools. I definitely don’t want to be placed in the position of defending much of what is wrong with traditional public schools; but perhaps the charter schools in Michigan (Albany, DC, etc.) gives us some insight into what happens when charter schools began to take in large numbers of “challenging” students.

-One of the scariest parts of the hearing for me was the question that was not asked: With all of the above advantages (along with labor contracts and regulations relief); why did the Michigan charter schools (her work-product) perform only a few points better than traditional public schools? (For those few percentage points we made people like her rich?) Her total lack of self and programmatic awareness/evaluation does not bode well for US children. That past performance of the nominee in Michigan, should in itself be a disqualifying action.

-The Democrats must understand that the conversation of: The Charter School movement taking money from traditional public schools budgetary algorithm-analysis-argument, is only interesting to people who find it interesting. The Black parents who are choosing to send their children to charter schools, are doing so out of a desire to save their children from institutions they (rightfully) believe practice low expectations, and that champion adult employment over student academic success. These parents based on my many discussions with them are not interested in the charter-traditional public school debate. The Democrats will need, if they want to make a traditional schools argument and case; to work out of a playbook that is parent/student rather than labor organization focused. As both a principal and superintendent I always said that our “best defense” of traditional public schools is to produce the best schools (by getting out of our own way); and the parents will vote with their feet!

-The 800 lb. gorilla in the room was teacher unions/tenure rights and both sides conveniently and dishonestly (for their own different political reasons) avoided this important discussion. The Democrats because they represent an important constituency (more important than Black parents and students); and for Republicans it is the single topic that is used to justify the commercialization of public education.

-The other tragedy of the hearing (and I will stop here); is the destructive discussion, on the part of both Republicans and Democrats of Black students in the context of: “deficiencies”, “lack”, “gaps” and “underachievement”. Poverty, neighborhood, or level of parent education cannot as single or combined factors fully account for the terrible absence of educational opportunities for Black children, who have nothing wrong with their brains. There is just no meaningful local or national conversation about what to do with Black (or Latino) students who are on or above grade level learning standards.(And let us not forget about the lack of access to gifted and talented programs!) The majority of those students unfortunately, because of being ignored, fall into the “at risk” category of underperforming or failing. If as a nation we can’t make the majority of these students academically successful; then what chance do we have with those students who are a little or a lot below the grade level standards?

And so I am still waiting for that question to be addressed by our local and national leaders; my guess is that it won’t be; after all what would happen if a large section of the population is shifted from the criminal justice-social “fixing” industry, to being competitive and productive citizens? Black students must be removed from the role of being “political metaphors” in two equally non-productive and destructive educational conservative-liberal debate. My guess is that the communities that house these students will need to take, through collective-political and individual-independent acts, the educational destinies of their children into their own hands; if there is any hope that these students will be effectively educated.

Placing Dr. King and Rep. John Lewis in historical and rhetorical context.

“I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people, but it’s going to be very difficult,”. “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.” “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,.”

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History and Literature can be helpful in understanding the context in which Rep. John Lewis was speaking. And just like Dr. King was not speaking to the Klu Klux Klan and the Birmingham Police Chief in his: “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html); rather he was speaking to those (his fellow clergy persons) who should know better, and therefore have the greatest capacity to do better. In that same spirit Mr. Lewis was not speaking to Mr. Trump (and his team), rather he was speaking to those “kind-hearted” and thoughtful Americans (in the private, political and the news media world); who are working very hard in trying to find a right way to justify a grossly wrong thing. We should not set the bar for our principles so low, where the goal is to just sit quiet and act right in the face of evil, while failing to stand up and do right.

The great danger we face in the coming years will not come from the Trump true believers, instead it is the attempt on the part of the naïve and opportunistic to “normalize” and “legitimize” the bigotry and hatred he represents and promotes. By “consulting with” and receiving the “blessing” of a black: boxing promoter, rapper, football players and a comedian. Mr. Trump is clearly summing up both his image, interest and intentions for, and of Black America. If he is serious about the “inner cities” (Where he can’t seem to understand, that all Black people don’t live; or that these communities are not “all bad”!), then why not meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, competent experts in the fields of: Sociology-psychology, health care, K-12 & higher education, urban-housing development, criminal justice reform and economic-job development, etc.?

I believe that over the next 4 years Mr. Trump will not only be the great divider, he will also be the great definer. All Americans of weak character, insufficient courage, those who wish to define themselves by their proximity to power, no matter how evil that power is, the “cash for character” players, will be exposed (be careful of those who criticize Steve Harvey, only because they wish they were in his place!). Get ready, for you will hear some of the most amazing and creative “sell-out” lines imaginable; i.e. “Well, didn’t Jesus have a dialogue with the devil?” But there is a difference between dialogue and devotion; and these people will surely blur that distinction.

The good news, and there is always good news in the worst of times! Is that this time in our history may be the best opportunity to free ourselves from the shackles of dependence and symbolic concern, without real action, imposed by both the Democrats and Republicans; we are clearly on our own for the next four years, and so what should we do with that freedom? We could choose to seriously expose our children to the best in and out (formal & informal) of school education as possible! The next four years will also give birth to many principled personalities, a free group of people who will write letters, speak the words, and act with courageous resistance, build institutions; and even if they are jailed in a cell of dismissive denunciation and suffering, they will not serve to justify the immoral, or make excuses for the cowardly.

The History Lesson Lost At Talladega College…

If you choose a leadership/Drum Major position; then lead with integrity. If you want to march, then don’t lead students astray. Don’t march for bigotry, or sell your inherited mission and purpose for a few coins. If one must march, then let it be for a cause that is greater than oneself!

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

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“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that’s all I want to say…”

Let’s just say it: Talladega College needs a strong Development Office!

First the truth will set things straight. I have been involved in many of these types of events, from hosting State Department sponsored tours for visiting foreign government officials as a principal; to a POTUS visit as a superintendent. I can tell you that there is no such thing as a “surprise invitation”. The public release of the “invitation”; is the culmination of many private “off-the-record” preliminary conversations. Translation: Talladega college officials had a chance to say “no thanks” privately; and it would not have been in the interests of Mr. Trump, or the college to share that “no thanks” information publicly.

Now with that out of the way. There is a standard college/university rule: Do nothing to upset, embarrass, shame, anger, or in any way cause your alumni to not want to support the college by their association with that college, financial giving, or with student recruitment. The present student body is your #1 constituency, faculty #2, and the alumni is #3!

No matter the bold and creative attempts by the national news media to normalize this past election, as well as the person who won the majority of the Electoral College votes; there are large numbers of Americans who have been abnormally insulted, marginalize, dismissed and diminished by both the campaign rhetoric, and by the ongoing behavior of the POTUSELECT. It is safe to say that a large segment of the Talladega college student body, faculty, alumni and supporters, along with many who share a cultural link with those individuals, have clearly been the primary targets of a presidential campaign and transition plan, that seeks to further attack and destroy the progress made by African-Americans in this nation. This would also include a “counter negative narrative”, which stands in opposition to the positive narrative that led to the continued need for the HBCU system.

And after so many years since the publishing of Ralph Ellison’s invisible Man; where he graphically describes the demeaning “groveling approach” to raising funds for Black colleges; we now know that this type of fundraising strategy is no longer needed are even applicable today. And so now it is a shame that in this current era, that Black students attending a HBCU are being asked to “dance” and “play” to honor loud and obnoxious bigotry, masquerading as some kind of traditional pageantry.

College officials may want to pretend that there is no “quid pro quo”; but the truth is, there are always “benefits” in these types of situations; especially in the case when a desperate inauguration planning committee is finding it hard to pull in conscious, sensitive and aware entertainers (or just people who don’t want their name-brand associated with “ugliness”) of any race and nationality.

Which leads me to my main point; clearly Talladega college officials find themselves in this terrible situation because they probably are strapped for cash. The long-term and more effective approach is for the college to do what every college that hopes to be financially viable in the modern era is doing, and that is to create a dynamic Development Office.

The cost of operating a college or university is daunting; and there are limits as to how much they can raise from student tuition. Therefore, no serious college can presently hope to be financially viable, let alone expand and thrive, without a strong Development Office; and the good news is that these efforts essentially pay for themselves. This is the department that could be charged with raising funds by way of college related products, special revenue-generating events, special governmental and non-governmental foundation grants, coordinate specific campaigns (i.e. a new library, robotics lab, etc.), soliciting support from “friends and benefactors of the university”; and last but not least to encourage the alumni to give; for what group has a larger stake in the college’s success! And so one of the major responsibilities of a Development Office is to keep those alumni happy, proud, involved and active donors; “marching for Trump”, does not in this case help in that effort.

But something that is as important as a HBCU should not only rest on the shoulders of the alumni; the truth is that the “overflow” generated from the annual Black American GNP (the economic value of services and products we collectively produce) could easily fund 10 Talladega colleges!

Politics aside, one of the most important assets of a college and university is its good name and good standing. Which is why these institutions invest so much in acquiring and maintaining a good “public look” and positive image (Have you seen those great non-sports University of Alabama commercials focusing on the strength of their academic departments?) I have gone on enough college tours over the years to clearly see the difference in investment levels, attention and professionalism that various institutions put forward in their recruitment presentations to students.

It is essential then that Talladega college officials think hard and long before they make a decision that could seriously compromise, and perhaps damage their public image. They may find in the long-term that the “pocket change” they collected today will be incapable later of covering the cost of restoring and reconstructing the good image they previously held, and then decided to sell so cheaply.

Yes, Talladega College needs a strong Development Office; and yes they also need our support!

Let the real Hunger Games begin!

A childhood to adulthood purging plan. A callous strategy utilizing poisoned water, lack of access to nutritious food, little or no healthcare, fratricidal living conditions, unemployment and under-employment, poor education options; and if all else fails, prison and/or pre-arrest and trial summary execution in the streets…

Well, I guess this brings us to full clarity on this year’s election: “equivalence of evil” theme the hate Hillary at all cost “progressive” crew championed… Folks should read Paul Ryan’s “bible” Atlas Shrugged. It is the fictional/metaphorical blueprint for the need to institute a national and official (out in the open) form of “Social-Darwinism”. Paul Ryan and his GOP colleagues want to introduce a type of legislative/policy “hunger games”; where the “unfit” (people of color, poor people of any color) just need to die off (the absence of an affordable health care plan “Obamacare”, should help to speed up the process), and spare the nation the burden of their offending presence. But unlike the cinema “Hunger Games”, the unfit in this “game” don’t even have a fighting chance because they will simply be nutritionally starved to death as children. In Mr. Ryan’s speech he also cleverly and cynically takes a swipe at poor parents (wait for it!), for being….well, poor. Read it and weep for the children for whom a school lunch may serve as their only nutritionally sound meal of the day.

From Time Magazine writer: Eliana Dockterman

“Paul Ryan says that free lunches provided to children by government programs give kids “a full stomach — and an empty soul.”

The Wisconsin Republican who recently took aim at the War on Poverty said during his CPAC speech that the Obama administration’s free school lunch program is offering Americans “a full stomach — and an empty soul”
Paul Ryan says that free lunches provided to children by government programs give kids “a full stomach — and an empty soul.”

In a speech he made at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the country’s largest gathering of conservative leaders and activists, Thursday, he shared this story he heard from Eloise Anderson, who serves in the cabinet for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker:

She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch — one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.
He went on to say that “the Left” doesn’t understand this desire for dignity, not just comfort.

Part 2: An Educational Movement That is Based On Who is Secretary Of Education Will Always Fail Its Children!

Sorry to be the barer of bad news, but the last 8 years has not in the slightest way, change the “apartheid academic achievement” system that presently exist in our nation’s public schools. If anything, like the fictional characters in a play by Samuel Beckett; our waiting passively in vain for “rescue”; perhaps did more harm than good. I say we get out of the waiting game!

Now a lot of folks are bent out of shape by PEOTUS’s pick of Betsy DeVos as the next Secretary of Education (SOE); and in particular focusing a great deal of their fire on her “inexperience”; and her “hostility” to public education. One major problem is that “inexperience” seems to be the popular trend in public education these days; as long as the source of your adventurism is poor kids of color. And it would be professionally and intellectually challenging for me to make the case that either of Mr. Obama’s SOE picks were significantly more “experienced” than Ms. DeVos.

Further, some of the loudest organizational/individual anti-SOE pick voices are held by those who through their own actions, and inactions have primarily stood in the way of public education being successful; allowing public education to do its most damaging and ineffective work with this nation’s children of color. Their consistent inability to stand up for children, particularly, children of color, suggest to me that their protest is more about a lost opportunity to wrongly influence a national path for education; and to continue to “get paid” as bad acting tour guides. Being taken for an unproductive ride by the Democrats as opposed to the Republicans, does not feel better, when one finds themselves lost in the ineffective education wilderness.

These are the cynical educational crusaders who battled relentlessly, those of us who have passionately tried to change the educational trajectory for the majority of our public school students. They are also those who at every opportunity, failed to make reasonable professional concessions and changes that would allow the children of the disenfranchised to have a chance at a decent future through education. They are the ones who opened the door for all types of horrible experimentation, the national decimation of Black school teachers, principals and superintendents. Yes, it was many “educational traditionalist” who paved the entrance for people playing with, and at education, those masquerading as “reformers”; who would go on to inflict the greatest harm on the most vulnerable children in our society.

And in those places where black people were in operational charge of the school system; the policy officials looked the other way, after all, it was not their children being harmed; this alas was “black on black” educational criminality, theft and incompetence. No one should now protest against our present state of affairs, when it is a reality that they themselves have created!

The “hostility” to public education thing…

Parents are not fooled; high expectations and a quality educational product is not equally distributed throughout the public educational systems; in some places the children are first, and in others (their schools), it is the well-being of the adults that matters most. It is the choice of two radically different metaphors: schools as employment centers; or schools as centers of learning and intellectual growth. The children of these parents are systematically excluded from gifted & talented programs as well as gaining access to specialized academic programs and schools; in large part because of formal and informal educational “unpreparedness”, or just flat out interviewing and screening discrimination. There is no comprehensive strategic plan for Black children who do not have academic deficiencies; all Black children must find their natural low-expectation place in the fictional “achievement gap” (which hides the more accurate and true: Opportunity Gap!).

When Black and Latino parents are asking for “diverse-integrated schools”, it is not because they are so naïve as to think that just sitting their child next to a White child will make them smarter; no they want their child to enjoy the educational experience that the White child is enjoying, of not receiving a good education by accident, but rather as a standard of entitled K-12 educational excellence.

And given the opportunity to successfully educate their children in a local-traditional-neighborhood public school, I think that Black parents would be happy to make that choice. But Black parents are often forced to choose charter schools (parochial, private and the rapidly growing Black homeschooling movement) out of a sense of having been abandoned by public school systems, acting out of a desperate hopeless frustration, not hope.

For too long, “leaders” and “leadership organizations” in those communities, that are the least well served by public education, have spent most of their time arguing over which failed “achievement gap closing” strategy is better; how to politely “tweak” a terribly failing system that is in need of dramatic radical transformation. They cynically select and take uninformed educational positions based on political and financial support. Like some kind of children’s game they choose sides on topics for which they lack any deep pedagogical understanding of how schools, and education in general works (i.e. unions/charter schools/school choice/common core curriculum/standardized testing, etc.); when the choice should be to fight for the interest of the community, and children they purport to serve. They have mastered the art of making a lot of loud and angry sounds about public schools; while insisting on very little substance change in the existing narrative as to how to successfully educate children of color.

It would seem to me that those mis-underrepresented communities who suffer public educational disappointment and neglect the most, should adopt a dual strategy of political engagement to change the present ineffective public school systems; while at the same time (because children can’t wait!) do all that they are able to counteract the deleterious effects of a system that is not designed for their children’s success. And those positive, pro-active parental-community actions on behalf of their children; those things that don’t require “permission” from a SOE or anybody else, these self-affirming and independent strategies will be the focus in part 3…

AN END OF SELF-DELUSIONAL LIBERAL PRETENDING, MIGHT MEAN A BEGINNING OF EDUCATIONAL SELF-PROTECTION…

Pain, physical or mental, has the purpose of focusing your attention. The rise, legitimization and official state empowerment, of recalcitrant and unrepentant racism and bigotry; could lead to a new era of educational self-reliance.

One of the reasons as a principal that I stood at the school door each morning to greet students, was to thank particular students for just coming to school…that day. You see, unbeknownst to those who may have been on the train, or bus with them that morning; these young people were making their way to school in spite of, and to often escape from, some terribly and difficult living situations. These are the students that bring tears to your eyes at graduation; because you know the magnitude and power of their four-year journey.

I have never been one to glorify poverty and suffering as an optional lifestyle choice; trust me there is nothing glorious about being poor. My dream is that all of the children in this nation, and the world, would no longer need school to be the only place where they can receive a good meal, heat and to be able spend a large part of the day in a safe, peaceful and predictable environment.

And even as I don’t cheer not having a lot of financial options; at the same time I have come to admire how brave, creative and self-depending humans can be when they don’t have a lot of “options”, and are forced to rely on themselves. I am thinking of all of those thousands of post-emancipation Africans (not yet Americans) who had to depend on each other to survive in the most hostile environment, and under an insincere and duplicitous national government. And how did we have thriving, self-sustaining communities like Weeksville, Black Wall Street, etc. in the middle of US racial apartheid meanness?

These great pre-civil rights era African-Americans represent the spiritual lineage of those students who succeed, in spite of the most discouraging and difficult conditions. There is something about having your back against the wall, where and when, it is fight or fail! Now some might wait over-patiently for an “exit door” to be built for them; not knowing where that door will lead; or wait to be thrown an assistance ladder, unaware as to where that ladder is taking them. And then what are the motives of those who are offering this “assistance” and “help”? Is it to help you to become free and independent; or is it a form of “psycho-social-political crack”, that forces you into a state of never-ending dependence on them? And does your pain become a commodity that fills their pockets with cash?

But another response is to turn to those next to you who also have their backs against the wall; since in reality they are the only people you can truly trust, because at the very least they are in the same desperate situation you find yourself in, and like you they want to escape from pain, suffering and death.

As a youngster ( and youth of course is all-knowing) I hated having to go with my mother to her “Susu” (people generated, owned and operated saving organizations) meetings; after all this was time taken away from reading, my science kit, or the building of my model airplanes. But she was trying to teach me a lesson about self-sufficiency and self-reliance. For those 1950’s “owning a house obsessed” Caribbean emigrants this was their way of saying we are not waiting for a white commercial bank/loan officers, the GOP or DNC to believe in, or help us; we will believe, help and rely on each other. And I could remember, even in my total disinterest, the celebration, when one of their members announced that they had saved enough money to put a down payment on a house; the full meaning of this effort made complete concrete sense to me only when we moved into our own new house!

Great and powerful are those who can turn disappointment into an appointment with their own ingenuity, internal resources and courage. What large numbers of Americans meant on Nov 8, 2016 as an act of angry dismissal and nullification, can be transformed into a powerful affirmation of self-dependence on the part of those “others” who they were seeking to erase from the American portrait.

Part 2: The art of tree planting, and growing life out of dead things… (Or, how we can make great generational progress educationally over the next four years…)

With the present political reality, schools will need to “ramp-up” their protecting, healing, and teaching tolerance capacity.

The growing number of videos are becoming frightening. Young Latino children being terrified by chants of: “Build the wall”; “White-Colored” signs being posted on school water fountains. Racist graffiti inside and on the outside of school walls. Students marching down school halls with “Trump-Pence” signs, not as an exercise in civics education; but as a way of informing Black, Latino and Muslim students, that they are neither recognized, nor wanted as part of the American family.

I must first confess that it is the lack of education that has these misguided young people, and us in our present dangerous state. Their parents and the news media has informed them incorrectly that the latest expression of electoral bigotry is justified because of the: “anger of economic displacement and societal disconnection”. But the truth is that even if we eliminated all of the EPA safety and health regulations; and all protective US labor laws (most of which the Chinese already ignore); we still will not be able to undersell the Chinese in making steel; that by the way is used by the president-elect, and every other profit-first developer in this nation. If Wal-Mart, Target, et al, stock their shelves with “made in America” products only; they would close tomorrow, if they were not willing to absorb major profit loss; or dramatically raise prices. And that wall some students are chanting to be built, is not necessary; just pay US citizens $10-15/hour to pick fruits and vegetables, and accept paying $10-15 dollars for a head of lettuce!

No one: Not our president-elect, santa clause, the “tooth fairy”, the combined efforts of the “good or bad witches of the north, south, east and west; is ever going to return our nation to the 1950’s. No POTUS is going to force Black people to sit in the back of the bus; they are not going to stop LGBT folks from falling in love and marrying; and men will never regain the past control they held over the reproductive rights of women.

Education (the lack of) is the problem, but it is also the solution…

Education/Schools will need to respond to the present climate by serving as both protecting and affirming spaces for children who wear the skin, language, culture and religion, that has been targeted by this “winning” exclusionary campaign strategy. Educating parents should be part of the process for it is clear by comments being made by many adults in the news and on social media (CNN’s Van Jones eloquent explanation is one of the exceptions); that they don’t get that for large segments of the American citizenry this is more than the disappointment of an election loss. Many young and old feel that their country has not only rejected them; but intends to inflict great harm on their physical and psychological beings; one definition of entitlement could be, no matter who was elected POTUS in 2016, your ‘Americanness’ is still fully intact.

ELA and History classes are some of the best places to educate those “Build the wall” chanting and “Trump” carrying signs students. There is more than enough literature at ever grade level that speaks to stories of what happens when someone falsely believes that their personal pain and disappointment can only be relived and resolved when they inflict pain and suffering on an innocent “other”. Is that not at the core of our “anti-bullying” learning objectives? And are there not more than enough historical examples (and dedicated museums); that warn us of the savage brutality, the eventual danger and downfall of one group exploiting the labor of other human beings, the dehumanization and blaming of one group of people for an entire nation’s economic problems.

Historically, National Bullying efforts have always failed to deliver on their promises. In main because the day after the “other” is contained or removed; people wake up and realize that their spouse does not look any better; they have not grown more hair or teeth. If they were poor, unemployed and uneducated, they are still poor, unemployed and uneducated. The only option available for the National Bully Leader is distraction through war; or in the case of countries like North Korea, never-ending “states of war”.

And just as we work to protect the students whose humanity and citizenship has been marginalized in this recent political campaign; as professional educators we can’t give up on their “taunters” and “tormentors”; they are our students too, and we are called to love them, even when they fail to display love. Besides: If not us, who—their make America ugly again parents?

The improperly-bad acting students we fail to reach and teach empathy, compassion and the true meaning of citizenship; will grow up to be the adults who are chanting at future proto-fascist rallies: “Build the wall—hurt the other!”

I know we did not cause it, but we must fix it, and so get to work educators!

WHAT GOOD EDUCATION PARENTS UNDERSTAND AND DO…

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I read two really good post recently on Facebook from two parents. (1) Advice to parents seeking to get their child into a NYC specialized high school. And (2) a reflection on a parent-teacher conference meeting; and they got me to thinking…

What good parents understand (if not ideologically, then instinctively), is that public education in this nation reflects, and is driven by the “free enterprise” ideal, everything is commercialized, every person is reduced to a commodity, it is a culture of brutal competition. And therefore, unfortunately public schools, being agents of the societal culture, have adopted a “sifting process” (haves-have nots/winners and winners not!) to nourish and sustain that system. Just sending your child to public school and hoping for the best to happen, is a bad odds lottery decision (And in my view would constitute “insufficient parenting”; regardless of the parent’s level of education or finances).

If students are to survive, and hopefully thrive in public schools, then they need serious parental oversight, protection and the advocation for the best learning experience available to the child. And parents need good information to be able to effectively play that role.

The small number of children who succeed without, or in spite of their parents are “Educational-Jedi”, who are super-motivated and blessed in a way that even after 30+ years in the field, is beyond my understanding. Students can also “luck up”, and get into a school where the staff and administration are professionally competent, serious practitioners of efficacy, as they give full purpose and meaning to the phrase: In loco parentis (Latin: “In the place of a parent”).

Public schools (and I love them!) are not the places where you want children, including teenagers, “fending for themselves”. In part because we employ the full spectrum (and to be honest, too many who are completely “off the spectrum”!) of human personality types. The: uninspired, the disinterested, the “uncalled” to educational service, those with low self-esteem, steeped in prejudice, blinded by bias, the insecure, the insincere, the incompetent and the completely clueless! You can’t just thrust a child into such a system and expect things to “magically” turn out right. Good parents are really conscious and good at directing their children around the system’s terrible organizational and operational mine fields; and safely into those garden spaces where public education really does its best work. (No accident that both of my posting parents went to really excellent high schools!)

Many parents of special education students are already very aware of the need for continuous and consistent parental oversight, engagement and advocacy on behalf of their child. They are indeed, the main: “trust, but monitor and verify”, parents of our system!

I wish that it was true that any parent, could just send their child to any school district, public school, and to any teacher’s class; and that child’s gifts, talents and life aspirations could be fully realized. But this is not what presently exist. Sadly, for too many students, zip code, color, gender, and/or ethnicity; greatly determines their educational achievement destiny. And good parents know that. And so they have created a counter narrative of a “Crib to 12th grade graduation” commitment/plan to be fully engaged with their child’s public school educational life!

And as I have warned thousands of parents; middle-high school is not the place to go into “Rest and Relaxation” mode; in fact you need to turn-it up a notch to match the “at risk” danger level going up; no matter how much talent and smartness your child displays! And when that belief and understanding is shared with other parents; I believe that act blesses the child who receives that information, as well as the child of the parent who shared that information.