The idea of “sending students home” who don’t ‘comply’ with the mask-wearing requirement is extraordinarily complicated and problematic on multiple levels.

“Students who don’t comply with requirements to wear masks in schools will be sent home and barred from in-person learning, schools Chancellor Richard Carranza told parent leaders on Tuesday, a position he said is essential for maintaining public health.” —Chalkbeat/New York

“What problems could arise from this decision?” would be a ‘gimme’ question for the principal’s or superintendent’s certification exam’s education law section. And so, as lawyers sharpen their ‘lawsuit’ pencils, let’s be clear about somethings. First, even when a student violates a ‘real’ school district regulation like ‘fighting,’ school administrators are forbidden from ‘putting that child into the street alone’; because we know that when children are on the streets unsupervised, many very terrible things can happen. And further, as is often the case, a parent will refuse or is unable (perhaps because of who they are and where they work) to leave their jobs and pick up their child. Even a ‘parent pick-up policy’ will unfairly affect different parenting community members, based on wealth, ‘working-at-home’ status, and those parents working low-paying, perhaps no leave or benefits, and could-be-fired-at-any-moment jobs. Therefore schools must safely shelter all student ‘mask-violators’ until the end of the school day. Where will these students be held? What will they be doing for the rest of the school day? Which staff members (being exposed to them) will be responsible for their supervision? Mask or no mask, every school needs (especially Title-1’s) Covid-19 school-based human and medical resources. And finally, do we want a hospital worker, EMT/EMS or NYPD personnel, MTA employees, or other DOE staff members leaving their workplaces during a significant health crisis? And then, showing up at a school, potentially expanding the COVID-19 exposure parameters?

Presently, “not wearing a mask” or “failing to wear a mask properly” is not a ‘suspendable act.’ We need a smart and workable plan to make mask-wearing a core operational principle that can be easily and willingly followed and enforced when necessary. I would probably design an ‘educational’ (what public education is supposed to do) and a positive incentive-rewards approach, as a major part of ‘selling’ the initiative to students and staff. All principals (should) know that ‘punitive’ measures alone will doom any policy that seeks to achieve positive student behavioral objectives (e.g., yes, stop ‘graffiti artist’ but also give them art classes, programs, activities and exhibitions opportunities).

We should also be concerned that the existing ‘disciplinary-racial-inequities’ practices that exist in public education will also show-up with this new no or improper mask-wearing policy; what is being put in place to ensure that Black and Latino students don’t bear the outsized brunt of these compliance rules?

The Reason School-Districts Need Strategically Smart and Comprehensive Reopening Plans.

Many questions must be answered to protect students, staff, and yes, also any ‘mask-wearing’ violators. For example, what does ‘non-compliance’ look like in the 2nd, 7th, or 11th grades? Is it refusing to wear a mask or not wearing it properly(which kids will figure out how to do)? And, what is to be done with a student who has an IEP that plainly states something like: “Student will have difficulty following (verbal or written) directions or adult-directed instructions“; I’m not sure if those categories of students who don’t fully comply with the ‘wear your mask and wear it properly” suspension ‘rule,’ can legally be suspended. We already know from experience the many problems that emerged when classroom teachers are asked to ‘enforce’ a very straightforward ‘cell phone’ restrictions policy; mask-wearing will be ten times more complicated.

As a superintendent, you get to visit the four levels of schooling (early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school); and therefore see the radically different developmental psychological levels children go through. From my experience, I believe that this mask-wearing thing will produce many ‘different,’ difficult, and in some ways challenging and ‘amazingly creative’ outcomes, as only K-12 kids are capable of producing. They will purposely or by accident disable their mask, do things like wearing a mask around their eyes to play some version of “blind man’s bluff” or “ghost,” wearing a mask as ‘hats’, to students exchanging masks during the school day. And to that list, add those students who will be flat out ‘rebellious,’ and ‘contrary,’ no matter how valid and safety beneficial a regulation is for them.

I understand that the news media must do their job, but one of the things I learned (painfully) as a leader, is that you can’t always take their ‘bait’; they are looking for that ‘hot-headline’ story; while you are responsible for personnel and children. You should never ‘wing-it’ or go ‘off-script’ with a serious policy decision that carries significant life-implications for parents, students, school-building administrators, and staff members. (Full disclosure: In the past, I have assisted Chancellors with their ‘talking-points’; but this (format and venue), is not how I would have advised that a policy of this magnitude be presented.)

The other thing that must be done in a major crisis is to keep civic and elected leaders’ in-the-information-loop’. If they find out about an (in this case ‘half-baked’) major policy decision for the first time when a reporter asks them for a response, they will not be inclined to defend you because they don’t have the full ‘information package’ at their disposal. The present NYC mayor’s official or unofficial policy of either encouraging or allowing city agency officials (e.g., NYPD and NYCDOE) to disregard and disrespect city and state elected and legislative officials; maybe ‘normal politics’ but it is the worst possible approach in a severe health crisis when cooperation, calming*, clear and excellent communication to the public is desperately needed.

* I was a superintendent of a district with a large Muslim student population. Understandably, the parents had many concerns about how their children were going to be treated after the tragedy of 9-11(by the way I lost Muslim constituents in the Twin-Towers). I realized that (without being asked) I had to personally visit and speak directly to the Imams, Muslim civic leaders, and the Muslim community generally, to let them know that the safety and well-being of their children was of high importance and a priority for my district office staff and me. The worst place and time for any leader to communicate ‘casually,’ wrongly, or incompletely, is during a major crisis (see: Donald Trump)!

The usual public school system’s public relations stunts won’t work during a deadly pandemic.

That moment when the governor of New York says that your school-reopening plan is an “outline”…

It was one of the most ‘coded’ but not so coded ‘shade-rebukes’ you can issue in our profession. And so let me translate. From the local district to the national level, if any educational oversight body says to a principal, superintendent, chancellor, or school board: “What you sent us was an outline of a plan!”; it can only mean one or both of two things (1) “I don’t really think that you have a plan!” And, (2) “I don’t think that you can develop a plan!” In the context of the deadly nature of the COVID-19 disease and the importance of maintaining a significant degree of student learning, either #1 or #2 designations are not good.

As a superintendent, if I informed a principal that what they sent me was an “outline” and not a “plan” in preparing for or responding to a crisis. They could next expect to hear a knock on their door from a deputy superintendent who I sent to the school to help that principal with developing a serious and comprehensive plan.
When safety, lives, and learning is at stake, decisive and knowledgeable action must be taken quickly. Covid-19 time is not a time for amateur hour; too many important things (e.g., lives) are at stake. This is not about playing the ‘political firing’ game; it’s about getting school districts the kind of experienced and knowledgeable support they need to design soundly balanced and smart reopening plans.

One of the reasons mayor Bloomberg was mistaken by his uninformed decimation and cynical removal of NYC’s most experienced senior educators; was moments like now. Many of us were battle-tested and survived complicated, challenging, and severe (e.g., 9-11, CSD29Q) crises during our long tenures. These are the individuals who know every available resource inside and outside of the school system. Those are the system-vet superintendents, along with retired principals and assistant principals, that you now need as part of the Covid-19 district and school-based response planning teams. I understand that politics (and the news media) will direct a focus on the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), but there is an unmatched wealth of crisis leadership knowledge in the working and retired ranks of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators (CSA); for goodness sake utilize them!

Public school systems are very good at pulling off a lot of public relations’ stunts’ (one might say public hoodwinking), year after year. Like getting the Black and Latino communities mad at the Asian community for doing the kinds of things that many of us have been (doing and) begging Black and Latino communities and their leaders to do for years. Also, ‘slickly’ having those same Black and Latino communities distracted by ‘integration’ and ‘implicit-bias’; while ignoring the real issue that is blocking Black and Latino student academic achievement; the inequality of having the opportunity of receiving a quality learning experience, and the explicit bias of running a system that favors specific entitled communities; while educationally dismissing and denying other communities. But the problem is that public relations ‘distracting’ stunts won’t work in a pandemic. First, because the virus does not discriminate, the children of entitlement are at equal risk. Not effectively educating entire zip codes of children under ‘normal school conditions’ is one thing, but a plague is no respecter of zip codes. This means that any ‘reopening plan,’ unlike the standard separate and unequal inequality educational plans presented annually, means that this reopening plan must work across the entire city, or it won’t appear viable to any segment of the city.

The original “reopening plan” put together by the Stuyvesant High School school-based team was an excellent boilerplate model for how an effective NYC reopening plan could work through a school-by-school; district-by-district, community-by-community uniquely creative plan. It was a wise plan because that school, if operated anywhere near normal, would make it a Covid-19 ‘time-bomb’. Students traveling from long distances across and coming from many different neighborhoods + the school’s overcrowded situation would make it impossible for the staff and students to safely-distance from each other. Since a large percentage of these students (as well as 11th & 12th graders attending other high schools) can take AP courses, why not make a collaborative arrangement with SUNY, CUNY, and other local/state/national public and private colleges to allow these students to enroll in actual college courses online? Saving these kids some money when they eventually transition to college; while also presently giving us both more space and more excellent safety conditions!

The best educational (in the interest of students) decisions don’t usually align with the best political decisions. As a former principal and superintendent, I see many troubling and dangerous ‘operational holes’ in the plans of many of the school districts that are rushing to open up.

For electoral purposes, Mr. Trump and his political acolytes are unreasonably pushing schools to open ‘on time,’ to give the appearance of a normalcy that does not exist. But for some student populations, even a ‘normal’ response under non-pandemic ‘normal’ school conditions is disastrous. No one should harbor any pandemic-school-year illusions; the children who academically suffer the greatest under the ‘regular-normal’ school year conditions; will see their learning ‘double-suffer’ under these severe Covid-19 crisis conditions. Both learning and achievement gaps will expand and remain fixed-for-life for different cohorts of students, based on their ethnicity and zip code, regardless of how ‘good’ the opening plan feels or looks. Part of any district’s reopening plan must be the closing of the parental-provided-resources gap!

In any event, the people leading the ‘school-opening-conversations’ should be health officials and professional educators, with input from parents and elected officials. Now, I will probably never get an invite to the UFT ‘cookout’; but I am convinced that a district of any size can’t successfully pull off a significant program or a workable response to a massive health crisis, without working in a sincere consultative and collaborative mode with multiple public education stakeholders, including federal, state and local elected officials, state, city agencies and unions.

Perhaps some of my ‘woke’ friends won’t like part of this; but right-about-now the mayor and chancellor must be ‘laser-focused’ in order to not completely lose a year of learning, and to save the lives of school personnel and students; this is not the time to ‘needle’ Trump, or to not give the governor the type of plan he requested, and that the state and city legislators can get behind. To borrow a line from the movie “Drumline”; with a crisis of this magnitude we need: “One band and one sound!”

Any 2020 school year opening plan will need to be boldly and radically different from what we now know as ‘schooling.’ And, as in the example of Stuyvesant*, the model could look and be different (and it should be) for different cohorts of students, schools, and school districts. You will need all categories of school employees (school aides to superintendents) to ‘buy-in’ and support the new school year’s crisis response learning model. That ‘buy-in’ should start (or should have started a few months ago) by giving schools the ‘legal’ and ‘regulatory’ guidelines that their plan must meet, and then let each school-based staff, parents and their communities draft a ‘proposal of school-year operation’ (trust your principals to not ‘sign-on’ to a ‘silly-plan’). This approach can’t hurt since the school district will always retain the right and power to reject or modify any school-based proposal in consultation with the state. But with the presence of school-based options proposals, no one can claim that they had no chance to offer input or denied access to information.

There are many Covid-19 converging and sometimes competing concerns; there are also many justifiable fears in play here; they all need to be adequately addressed. No plan will be ‘perfect,’ and no proposal will make everyone happy, but risking a life or an education should not be part of the plan.

School districts could operate from a much stronger planning position if an extraordinary ‘Marshall Plan’ type effort is made to dramatically close the cable-tv, computer, internet access , and home learning materials, supplies and books gaps between students, based on their race, ethnicity, and economic class. Based in part on the calls I am receiving daily from parents and educators at all levels; the usual: “Let’s just throw this out there and see if it gets us through this” won’t work. I think right now citizens are in a deeply concerned and frightened place. Therefore, they will insist on receiving a first-rate sensible, safe, and strongly strategic school-opening plan.

* “Make it easier on yourself”: Once the majority of students attending “targeted” schools like: Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Technical H.S., Staten Island Technical H.S., A. Philip Randolph H.S,Townsend Harris H.S., Medgar Evers H.S. and similar K-12 schools, have been confirmed or provided with home technical/internet distance learning capabilities; those huge empty buildings could then be utilized as ‘safe-distancing’ support spaces to relieve other schools that face safe-distancing space challenges. I say that Stuyvesant’s plan-of-action works best for them and all NYC students.

If not Jamaica, then where?

“KINGSTON, Jamaica — Jamaica’s high court ruled Friday that a school was within its rights to demand that a girl cut her dreadlocks to attend classes…” — Washington Post* 7/31/2020

The above article is an interesting and sobering, eye-opening read. I am also quite embarrassed by it. If I saw this story floating around social media, I would immediately seek to verify its authenticity. But we cannot say that it is: “fake news” because this is the Jamaican supreme court speaking for itself.

Trump’s exposure and exploitation of our national ‘unwelcomeness’ via the wide-spread hostility to the Black Lives Mattering movement has an upside; African-Americans slowly realize that if our lives are to matter, then it is us who first must make that belief possible (the people who look like us, must matter to us), make a claim defensible, and affirm its righteous reality; alas, no one is coming to save us.

As African-Americans seek to justifiably rediscover their African-Centric heritage, relocate, visit, invest, and spend vacation dollars in those places where Black people are in the majority and “in-charge”; let us not be led by any illusions. Dr. Franz Fanon did a masterful job** in fully explaining the powerfully insidious nature and outcomes of centuries-long brutal racist slavery and European colonial domination. The self-esteem damage done to the collective African-Diaspora psyche has left many lasting ill effects on all of us, including those nations that have “Black faces in high places,” national anthems, flags, and seats at the UN.

I still think that we should direct our financial, skills/talents, and intellectual wealth to build and enrich these majority Black nations. But we should do so with a clear understanding that these peoples and governments are not any more politically, economically, culturally, or psychology free than those of us who live under direct racially aggressive internal-colonialism and negro-neocolonialism in the US. The emphasis on ‘colorism’ (including medically dangerous ‘skin-lightening’ techniques) as a standard for beauty; governmentally sanctioned or “winking-approval” of acts of violence committed against members of the LGBTQ community; straight-hair and ‘long’ hair wigs; the insatiable taste for ‘anything western’ food, furniture, household goods, and products, as opposed to recycling the money of the nation by purchasing those food items, products and commodities that can be produced locally; and some examples of Christian practices that make our Black-American prosperity preaching jack-leg preachers look like saints.

When will we (the African-Diaspora) learn that mimicking the West’s cultural values will not work for us? Michael Manley, a former Prime Minister of Jamaica, came to clear understanding that the ‘international (western/capitalist) economic system’ is specifically designed to exploit and keep the economies of non-western nations underdeveloped, and thus ripe for continued resources and human exploitation. International ‘aid’, lending organizations (e.g., the IMF) and banks require developing nations to commit ‘cultural suicide’ by turning their backs on their historical and possible modern evolutionary traditions: ‘One village, one people, mutual care and no exploitation.’ The small-scale replication of class-exploitative western economic systems is a no-win scenario for developing nations. It’s the establishments of sizable wealth-gap poverty societies, which is not the best path to building a humane, shared-wealth and wide-spread developing society. And for this public revelation, Manley paid a heavy price. We saw significant acts of armed violence introduced by external sources into the Jamaican electoral system and process.

Our hair, skin, walk, laughter and tears, are all part of our natural majestic beauty!

And this is why this Jamaican ‘hair’ ruling is more significant than ‘tonsorial-styling’ choices (as is the focus of the article); but instead goes to the heart of cultural aggression; and when there is no cultural resistance, what is revealed are the cowardly acts of economic, political, and ultimately cultural surrender.

Bob Marley (by the way a Jamaican who proudly wore his natural locks) charged us to: “Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!” Marcus Garvey (also a son of Jamaica) said that Africans worldwide must unite. He was and still is right. I say that we must unite to reclaim our history, dignity, and the power to define and determine our humanity. If our ‘natural locks’ are not acceptable and safe in Jamaica, then where are they or we safe from racism?

* “Jamaica’s high court rules school can ban dreadlocks”: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/jamaica-dreadlocks-school-student/2020/07/31/2cf6db4c-cf4e-11ea-8c55-61e7fa5e82ab_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-low_jamaica-655pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory-ans

Or:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20200731/court-rules-constitutional-rights-5-y-o-dreadlocked-girl-were-not-breached?fbclid=IwAR2mCuuEsLYuqDFGjtU4cNPChIfwdxU82gqaNHT4vi55m38ky6kmp7dJtTU

**Wretched of the Earth; Black Skin, White Masks; A Dying Colonialism; Toward The African Revolution.

The Educational Problem With the Kente Cloth Performance.

As a former principal, I fully appreciate the power of positive symbols. And so, I am not questioning the sincerity (hearts) of our Kente adorned politicians, or even their right to wear the attire of any one of the many American beautiful collage of cultural attires, some representing groups who are daily disrespected and denigrated by the present occupant of 1600 Black Lives Matter Way. My concern with the recent ‘Kente wearing performance’ is that it is tragically symptomatic of what always happens in public education, where rhetoric, form, and appearances are offered to the Black community, in place of real educational learning quality substance and authentic change for the children of that community.

Recently in NYC a great deal of ‘storm and drama’ was created by the introduction of that politically hot trigger word, ‘integration’. And unfortunately, NYC’s Asian students (and their communities) were unfairly maligned and castigated for doing nothing wrong except following the rules and conditions that were established in the past and were actually created to help white students and not Asian students gain access to the then 3 academic specialized high schools!

I along with several others informed whoever would listen that in reality, the NYCDOE had complete (total) control over the admissions policies of the majority of ‘specialized high schools’ in the city, as well as the many specialized high school programs (inside of schools), and those high schools with a special admissions process. The NYCDOE could have enacted major, sweeping, dramatic and profound access changes (for Black and Latino children) at 10X the population of the three specialized high schools that formed the center of the integration controversy; and this could have been done without seeking the permission of any state or local legislature (or emotionally beating up on Asian students).
And further, the NYCDOE has the authority to redesign a present high school or design a brand new school that could then essentially become: a Brooklyn Technical High School #2, Bronx Science H.S. #2 or Stuyvesant High School #2; and no legislative body can stop the NYCDOE from doing this.

The best-ignored solution, of course, is to ‘integrate’ great school leaders, quality instructional practices, adequate materials, supplies and equipment, and high expectations and efficacy into any school a Black or Latino child attended; thus properly preparing them for the SHSAT or any standardized exam they will face in life.

In terms of that important ‘Integration’ ‘pipe-line’ to gain access to a high performing high school, also known as K-8 gifted and talented programs. We proved in (2000-2003) Community School District 29 Queens (CSD29Q); that there is no legal or regulatory ‘cap’ on the number of gifted and talented programs that can exist in a local school district (e.g. NYCDOE). In CSD29Q we placed (without consulting the central board) additional G&T programs in a geographical and performance cross-section of schools in the district, thus giving more students who were on and above academic grade and performance levels the ability to receive the rigorous and challenging academic work that met their needs. It is my hope, that out of a very tragic situation for the Floyd family, a legacy of a national and local political action hunger will grow for the realization of serious and not superficial change.

I think the common cry theme we are hearing from all over this nation and the world; is that people want real change, not symbolic gestures. It’s been a ‘nice ride’ for a Democratic Party whose, let’s just be honest, total credibility and legitimacy with Black people is wholly dependent on the Republican Party performing (‘acting the fool’) in the role of first-class bigots and racist; but, that’s not a sound long-term organizing and mobilizing strategy.

Further, the “just vote your troubles away” Black leaders have taken some serious (but not fatal) hits as of late. For example: Black New Yorkers overwhelmingly voted in a ‘northern liberal’ city, for an alleged ‘progressive’ mayor; and yet clearly the NYC police department is not properly operating under civilian control and seems to be immune (inoculated by the various police unions), from adopting any of the modern enlightened and effective policing methods. We only need to look at the Philippines to see what results from a para-military police force not being under civilian and judicial control.

I suspect that the Republican’s racist and bigotry posture won’t change even if Trump is removed. Full disclosure: I’m voting not so much for Biden, but to remove a serious existential threat to the well-being and safety of many citizens in this nation and the world. But I am only one vote, and if I were the Democratic National Committee (DNC) I would be careful and concerned for that day when the Republican bigotry ‘pass’ alone won’t grant the DNC access to the ‘collective black cookout’.

The DNC better start thinking about some real and substantial change actions (not Republican lite projects) quickly. Don’t just show-up but show-out with some meaningful generational improvement economic and educational* change initiatives. And importantly, don’t keep believing that you can also just show-up, year-after-year thinking you’ll get into the collective black cookout by simply wearing Ghanaian, Kenyan, Nigerian, Senegalese, Egyptian, etc. outerwear. I think Black people are beginning to say: “Come real or don’t come at all!”

*would require that the DNC end their unquestioning and unprincipled alliance with teacher’s unions!

Some groups in our nation utilize “Eldership Wisdom” better than others, but anyway here is…

My brief 1960-70’s experienced political demonstration advice to young folks:

Get a purpose, reason, and a clear well-thought-out (this is what we want to happen) set of objectives. I made the mistake of being part of an action that demanded the appointment of “Black Administrators”; well they agreed and brought in a ‘black’ Administrator who made the white administrators look progressive and blacker then himself!

Get this clear: “Privilege follows the topic”. All protesters (even if they are protesting the same issue) are not seen as deserving of the same and equal treatment by the police and criminal justice system.

Get people out of your ranks and the demonstration (any color) who are: “political adventurists”, opportunists, reckless, and not disciplined; they could derail the purpose of your movement; and possibly get you arrested or even killed.

Get the people out of your ranks whose ‘professional assignment’ is to delegitimize the very legitimate rationale for the demonstration. Newark NJ did a brilliant job (mayor who is the son of an activist) of ‘dispersing’ and immersing authentic community activists throughout the marching crowd so that they could quickly and effectively eliminate any ‘off-message’ provocateurs.

Get reckless and undisciplined people out of your ranks whose ‘mommy and daddy’ has the racially entitled power to make any penalty occurring out of their ‘momentarily revolutionary fervor’ to go away, and not hurt them in the future. On the other hand, your ‘racial identity’ in America (Blackness) is a life-time existential reality; that you can’t ‘grow-out-of’. And your mommy and daddy probably don’t have the contacts and resources to help you when you are captured by the criminal justice system.

Get a daytime (this is even for your own safety) demonstration schedule, and then let the folks who want to do whatever they do at night do it without you.

Get a hold of some good African-American authored history books (e.g. Manning Marable) and study. This is not the first demonstration/civil action in America. And surprise, you actually have people walking around your neighborhood who have been part of successful similar efforts; and you can learn from their victories and mistakes.

Pardon me, but I just want the Black citizens of this nation to think about something, for a moment…

I know everyone is focused right now (and rightfully so) on the discriminatory and excessive behaviors of many of our nations police forces; as well as the ability of any white American citizen to deputize themselves and call for a ‘death sentence’ to be inflicted on any Black person they encounter; Black people who could be doing anything from mowing their own lawn, bird watching or delivering (in uniform) a UPS package. With those very pressing day-to-day: “Don’t know if I or my child will live to see the end of the day!” thoughts weighing on our individual and collective minds. And, on top of that having a proto-fascist, unhinged, mocker of Christianity US president; who quite frankly large numbers of our fellow white citizens think is doing a good job or is ok except for perhaps the way he expresses his racism and bigotry, but not how he practices it. I get it, you Black America have a lot of things on your mind. But please indulge this Black senior citizen educator to engage in my 40 year-long rant (as a form of self-healing Covid-19 quarantine psychotherapy.)

I want you to just take a moment to think about something. With the full racist character of our nation being explicitly exposed, not created by Trump (he is a conductor, not an inventor); and how that culture of racism permeates every aspect of our national life including deadly discriminatory treatment during a health crisis. Please, think about this.
Now I know from experience that this is not a ‘politically-sexy’ topic. But if you could think for a moment, as to how racism defines how Black children are received, perceived, and treated in our US public school systems… And who (if not us) is going to protect, defend and save them? I’m just asking you to think about it. (But then, at some point of course, I really want you to do something about it!) Granted, many of the destroyers of Black children’s gifts, talents, and dreams, look like the children they pretend to serve; well we need to do something about them also!

Rebels With a Cause … Public Education, a Cause in Need of More Rebels.

After observing, as a principal and superintendent, countless numbers of world and US history classroom lessons, one of my key take-aways is that power exists in the power of definition. The American Revolutionary War is not a 1775 violation of the sovereign law and order of the British nation; instead, it’s now defined as a righteous and just struggle. I could imagine some London newspaper columnist proclaiming: “My word, those British (subjects) colonial ingrates are destroying their ‘own’ colony!” The violence of the American Revolution was initiated only after many peaceful and lawful unsuccessful protestations that were made to (and ignored by) the British Government. To put it in a modern context, the colonist took a non-violent plea for justice knee during a professional football game; and then the act was ignored, scorned, and banned by the NFL.
The ‘bad acting exploiter’ always seeks to ‘flip-the-narrative’, such that the causes for any Righteous Rebellion are ignored and downplayed, in the effort to demonize and marginalize those who have taken up the cause of Rebellion.

Staying with Historiography…

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. And so, now in the spring of 2020, the ‘primary-concern’ is about African-Americans “destroying their ‘own’ neighborhoods”, and not why African-Americans don’t own (like other Americans) the neighborhoods where they are the numerical majority. And by “own” I mean having the political capacity, leverage, and power to truly receive: Professional (and real) protect and serve treatment from their police departments. Not being the last on the list of the least, in receiving quality healthcare services (pre and present pandemic), that is commensurate with living in one of the most powerful and richest nations on the planet. (And my personal disappointment) Having public school systems that leaves their children under-prepared, their gifts and talents undiscovered and undeveloped, as these public schools also damage their children’s hopeful future aspirations. And yet these same school systems are amazingly efficient in preparing Black children for social-psychological destruction, and prisons. And to be painfully honest there are many Black and Latino ‘leaders’ who represent and reinforce this system of political Black child educational dis-ownership by the larger society.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was not a document that affirmed the humanity and human rights of those 1800’s Africans being held in cruel and inhuman captivity. And if we are to be truly honest, the Emancipation Proclamation was not a morally courageous act, it was in fact a strategic military tactic. It’s true underlying message to Black US enslaved persons was that: “We don’t care about you, and you are on your own!” In the last presidential election (and as the present normalization of ‘Trump-culture’ confirms and continues), America sent a similar message: “African-Americans, we don’t care about you; and you are on your own!” The question is then: “When will we take ownership of our ‘own’ correct readings of these two very clear messages?”

There will always be some significant number of white Americans who driven by politics, morality, decency, conscious or spiritually; who will step-up and step-into the idea of wanting to live in a nation that truly practices liberty, justice, and freedom for all. Freedom, however, can’t be subcontracted out or based on any form of ‘good-hearted’ reparations; the people who are to be freed must take ownership of their own ‘freeing’ process.
But our sitting idle, year after year, watching and waiting for public schools to make Black students competitively competent (and express shock when these children are not); and this after so many (Asa Hilliard, John Henrik Clarke, Lorraine Monroe, et al.) have warned Black America that our public school systems ‘are working’, by not working for large numbers of the ‘American Dream’ disinherited student populations.
Therefore, not fighting for the educational empowerment of Black children (all, not just the ones living in your house); means that we are in essence burning down and destroying our own, and their future possibilities.

I think I am developing Covid-19 quarantine ‘grouchiness syndrome’…

Symptoms: shortness of patience, low-tolerance for Bulls&%$, a propensity to just call things what they are, the inability to suffer quietly; and don’t give a D#&@ what people think! I am going to check-in with my former students in the medical profession to get a proper diagnosis!

34.5 Million, I’m sorry I really can’t…

“Shaun King Keeps Raising Money, and Questions About Where It Goes..”*—The Daily Beast

Note: The Daily Beast is not a right-wing rag; and in fact, I found the article well-researched, fair, and balanced; and offered Mr. King more than (the usual) ample opportunity to provide counter and clarifying narratives and explanations for the many charges leveled against him.

I don’t know if it’s the result of a quarantined life-style or just some naturally age-time acquired “crankiness” (or a combination of the two); but I find that I am losing what little mental-space-patience I had for foolishness. I am so sick of the black traffickers in Black pain and misery industry. Who I believe secretly want a Trump reelection because they have turned Black suffering into a marketable commodity. The other reason is that they are personally financially capable and secure (also having good health insurance) to make it through 4 more years of Trump; meanwhile, a large number of Black folks (especially children) and many of Trump’s targeted for destruction ‘others’ won’t survive or will survive irreversibly broken after 4 more years of his and the GOP’s rule.

I know, I have been told on many occasions throughout my life that I can’t say many of the things I say because: “White people will hear/see it!” (Like ‘white people’ don’t know that public education systems are tragically not meeting the needs of the majority of Black children!) And further, count it as either a strength or weakness, to be honest, my work efforts (no disrespect) don’t take into account what ‘white people’ see, think, or feel about the efficacy or direction of my work. But if I am to step further into honesty, much of the best support I have received over the years (up to today) has come from ‘white people’. I will never stop praising the courage and vision of the late Dr. Donald Scherl (Former President; SUNY Downstate Medical Center), who in the face of a lot of opposition, allowed people like Dr. Gerald Deas, George Leonard, Tiffany Harrison and myself to essentially turn a medical school into a dynamic summer medical science learning program for middle and high school Black and Latino students.

34.5 million!

I am thinking of all of the wonderful public school teachers and administrators who annually ‘donate’ to an unofficial ‘school supplies, materials, and helping students and their families support tax’ out of their own pockets; monies that will never end up as donations on anybody’s IRS tax forms.

If these woken and much spoken on radio, print and cable TV people, who make a career out of Black people’s suffering taught some Black children (other than their own) how to read, bought them a microscope or a computer and then taught them how to use it, and then helped those same young people to master algebra, and thereby unlocking and opening wide the ‘gate’ to a future STEM career; I could half-way respect them, but all of this only ‘telling white folks off’ mess, I find tiring. I was so proud to see Brooklyn’s Concord Baptist Church actually ‘do something’ substantially significant (Paying off $4 Million dollars of Medical Bills Amid the Coronavirus crisis) to relieve the Covid-19 suffering of our people; but if they wanted more ‘news-media-time’ for their wonderful efforts they probably would have done better to have a press conference and call Joe Biden names!

And this is why in my view, that great supporter of education, scholarship awarder, and a builder of schools LeBron James, is statistics and ‘GOAT’ documentaries notwithstanding, one of the greatest celebrities of all time!

*https://www.thedailybeast.com/shaun-king-keeps-raising-money-and-questions-about-where-it-goes-3?fbclid=IwAR3ovD3Du2abtEX-JKZPa7L3uD8emKDBEkgbZjVRrqzU0ZJdCr-mdsFsXgA

Why I think this idea of Black people being ‘tricked’ by the DNC into voting for Democratic candidates is dismissive and disrespectful.

(Full Disclosure) I have spent a great deal of my adult-professional life discovering and uncovering the inherent gifts, talents, and immense creative intelligences of Black children. I never did and never will believe that Black children, (and by extension Black adults) are in any way academically ‘naturally inferior’ to any other people on the planet; and I include capabilities in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Any so-called K-12 Black related ‘achievement gaps’, ‘academic under-performance’ or poor standardized test results; are all purposely and artificially created and crafted by public school systems that don’t honor and respect the right of Black students to receive a quality education, when that honor and right interferes with the rights and benefits of adults who work in public education.
I get it, it’s politically more convenient and safe to blame the ‘under-performance’ of Black students on standardized exams by saying the test themselves are racist; when the truth is that not preparing Black students to perform well on standardized exams is the real racism!

Unfortunately, this low to no expectations of Black students is extended and attached to their adulthood, and sadly this ‘down-grading’ of Black American thinking ability is now being pushed by ‘black-celebrity-talkers’ under the guise of ‘wokeness thinking’.
I was physically in many southern states that voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden During the recent Democratic primary.
In Alabama in particular I did not see any indication (I’m talking a post-card, flyer, campaign office, church fan, a person walking around in a sandwich sign, billboard, lawn sign, etc.) of a “Biden for President” promotional effort. What I think occurred was not an act of DNC ‘strategic-brainwashing’, instead the Black voters in Alabama and other states exercised their ‘mother-wit’, intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge (much of which gained through personal experience) of American racism, prejudice, and bigotry. Black voters are the most strategically smart voters in the US. And so, this is why they have and will support Joe Biden; wealthy celebrity militants notwithstanding:

(1) They don’t believe the polls and estimate that Trump’s positive poll numbers are closer to 50%+ of white American voters. And,

(2) When you combine those numbers with Black voter suppression, intimidation and ‘misdirection’ efforts, his numbers become even more potentially dangerous.

(3) They also don’t believe that Trump’s horrible response and performance in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic; as well as his immoral, corrupt, and incompetent leadership will necessarily deter large numbers of white American voters from seeking to return him to office; and that’s because of his ‘pact’ with white supremacist ideas and policies.

(4) Black voters correctly I believe, hypothesize that poor working and unemployed white Americans, who continue to vote their fears and prejudices; and not their economic interest, did not receive the type of quality education that would allow them (and many other Americans for that matter) to effectively distinguish between a ‘communist’, ‘socialist’ and a ‘democratic socialist’(and thus the no Black vote for Bernie Sanders).

(5) And following the historical ‘prejudice rationale’; Black voters believe that there is an ideological link that binds a significant number US white citizens to embrace both anti-Jewish and anti-Black feelings (another reason why Black voters believe that a significant number of white US voters won’t vote for Bernie Sanders)

Nowhere I visited in the south during the Democratic Primary did I witness any: “Boy, do we love Joe!” private or group energy (or even the discussion of the same). My sense was the decision to vote for Biden was a calculated move based on the above-mentioned variables. The outcome Black voters desired was not crafted by some magically presented plan by the DNC (really, come on folks the DNC?) This was simply Black voters voting their existential survival interest. “Who” they ask unemotionally, “can defeat the ‘every word out of his mouth’ is (and never apologizing for it) racist and bigoted Donald Trump!”

Black leaders should stop denigrating the people they purport to represent. Black voters have essentially designed a ‘hierarchy of people who don’t care about us and will actively seek to hurt us’; and right now the racist Trupublicans are at the top of the list; that could change (it has in the past—study US history!)

What is needed is a Black leadership that is not waiting for the never-enough few crumbs to feed Black people that fall from either the Republican or Democratic Party tables. We need independent projects and programs that can create in those things and areas we can control; the kind of efforts that would produce educational and economic generational progress leaps!
And there is no freedom worth having that could be granted (and therefore taken back) by our giving our votes to any political party or person; we need to create our own freedom!

In my Principal Johnson voice: “Stay Focused!” … In my Al Green voice: “Let’s Stay Together!”

Now all of you’ll can front if you want; but I am just going to be honest here and admit that Joe Biden’s comments on “Black Trump Voters”, is a thought that enters my mind every time I hear a black person extol the virtues of or speak of supporting the policies of Donald Trump. I mentally cringe and disinvite these individuals from Blackhood! In fact, Biden’s comments were much more PC then my own. And please (step back from the keyboard) spare me the “everybody can vote for whomever they want lecture”; these are only my thoughts and I am very familiar with the US civics syllabus; and so unlike Republicans, I am not engaging in the suppression of any voters, including black people who want to vote for Trump.

However, if I were advising Mr. Biden I would share with him an admonition I have given students who were sent to my office because of some inappropriate and ‘off-task’ comment they made in a classroom. I tell those students the following: “You know that you are under no obligation to share with the world an idea, just because it came into your head!” And further, “The truth is not always sacred, and in any event, even that which we call and agree to be ‘the truth’ must be properly managed by wisdom!” (And in this particular case Mr. Biden (who is white) should probably not take on the extremely difficult and perhaps impossible task of determining the ‘degrees of righteous blackness’)

But beyond Black voters, I also raise similar questions about any Americans who have supported or will support Donald Trump, like:

• Any working poor and not-working white American.
• Any middle-class or not rich white American.
• Any American without health insurance.
• Any American hurt(ing) by Trump’s ‘bungling’ of the Covid-19 crisis.
• Any Latino American.
• Any Buddhist American.
• Any Asian American.
• Any Liberal American.
• Any Jewish American.
• Any American Woman.
• Any American who at some point in their lives read a book.
• Any Native American
• Any Sikh American
• Any Conservative American.
• Any Muslim American.
• Any LGBTQ American.
• Any Christian American.
• Any Progressive American.
• Any Hindu American
• Any American who remotely cares about the well-being of our environment.
• Any American (especially educators) who care about the well-being of children.
• Any American who in any small way believes that they are a decent human being.

How could any of the above Americans in good conscience, support a POTUS who is so lacking in competence, compassion, and decency?

I am going to follow one of my favorite principal sayings of: “Stay Focused”; and we should all follow Al Green’s advice of “Staying Together” and voting out the: unfit for office, ignorant, racist, and bigoted excuse for a human being—Donald Trump; who I believe presents a grave danger to the peace and survival for all of America and the world. I harbor no illusions about the faux ‘opposition party’ DNC. I am not marrying Joe Biden (I think of it as temporarily dating), I am voting for him. And although I have a personal preference; and there is something I like ‘electability wise’ about each of his potential VP candidates; to be honest, I don’t care if he selects the Bride of Frankenstein as his VP; I am still voting for Joe Biden!

Those of us who have spent most of our adult lives in public education (especially Title-1 schools) know that it is extremely rare when we can choose between the ‘perfectly-perfect’ and the ‘perfectly-imperfect’, and to borrow from my ELA colleagues most of the time we are in “Catcher in the Rye” mode; where we are trying to save as many kids as is humanly possible. It would be easy from my position of privilege (decent civil service retirement income, a nice home, great health insurance, stocks, and savings, etc.) to not care who is president; but I am not voting so much for Joe Biden, but rather for all of those Americans who are less privileged and are now suffering horribly; it is for them that I will be voting for Joe Biden; and I really wish the folks running his campaign would get that!