THE MORAL HYPOCRITE’S OATH* TO HARM THE POOR

THE TEACHING OF COMPASSION MEANS TEACHING A PERSON TO NOT ONLY BE SELF-SERVING (AND THAT THE “SELF” IS WELL-SERVED WHEN YOU ARE IN SERVICE TO OTHERS)..TO CARE FOR OTHERS…TO HAVE CONCERN FOR THOSE OUTSIDE OF THEIR FAMILY…FOR THOSE OUTSIDE OF THEIR “GROUP”…..

I would venture to say that in a particular case, medical education has failed when a medical doctor is not seeking to heal as many people as possible; or when that practitioner is seeking to harm rather than help patients. We often forget (or overlook) the terrible and unethical behavior exhibited during WW II by very well-trained and technically competent German scientist and medical doctors. As professional educators we must always take care that we don’t create STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) practitioners who have very competent analytical brains, but who also have very unethical and immoral hearts. If we fail to educate and engage both the mind and spirit; we could in fact unleash greater harm on the world; by helping to produce a person who is now armed with the knowledge and skills to do great acts of damage to their fellow human beings. While watching the local Alabama news yesterday, the words “cynical opportunism” came to mind. This is what happens when holding political office is reduced to: undermine and destroy anything “Obama”; even if “it hurts poor Alabamians”, Black or White. I watched as the governor (allegedly a medical doctor) and the state attorney general (not sure what he is alleged to be) expressed “glee” at the thought that thousands of poor and middle-class Alabamians (Black and White) could face the possibility of losing the federal subsidy for their health care insurance provided through the Affordable Care Act (AFA). Why is this clearly partisan court decision that is designed to hurt so many, be a cause for celebration? Now that takes a certain kind of meanness. Alabama was doing a great job, before yesterday’s court ruling, in denying many of its citizens access to quality healthcare by not taking advantage of the federally funded opportunity to expand Medicare under the ACA. I am not an anthropologist or a cultural-linguist; but I want to invent a new term: “Sub- species thinking”; that is when reptilian and mammalian brain functions over take and undue years of human evolutionary brain development. I know, the “Bible belt” thing, and yes, I dare to speak the “E” word (evolution); but my observation is that this “belt” is made out of cardboard as these Republicans engage in the harshest, lack of compassion, absence of any mercy and concern, unChristian behavior imaginable.
I always believe that education can solve all of the problems in the world; but it won’t help in this case, as I suspect that these two guys know better, but just won’t do better; thus the tag: “Cynical Opportunism”. The educational question here is, can the White citizenry come to understand that Black folks (or specifically the Black person named Obama) may be the target of the joke; but it is they who must suffer from a collateral laugh at the expense of the quality of their lives. The one blaring failure of Karl Marx is that he did not account for the deep and enduring power of racism; and how it could be used; long after slavery, years after the Civil War and Reconstruction; to neutralize, distract and convince the White American poor, working and non-working class to continually act and vote against their own economic, survival and in this case health interest. The explanation for this sad social-phenomena would require not the writings of a political-economist; but rather the creativity of a fiction writer.

*My apologies to those wonderful and thoughtful medical practitioners who do uphold the Hippocratic Oath; Bless you!

What German Soccer Can Teach Us About U.S. Education….

“How Germany went from bust to boom on the talent production line”

“…Freiburg place great emphasis on academic work, so much so that they like a selection of their staff to come from a teaching background, so that they can provide educational help whenever it is needed, including on the way to matches. It is not uncommon for players to do homework on the coach. Streich says that clubs have a moral obligation to think about what happens to those who fail to make the grade….”

“A Nation that suffered an embarrassing Euro 2000 now boasts both Champions League finalists thanks to a system that values coaches and nurtures indigenous talent.” …(And now 2014 World Cup Champions!)

It is amazing what motivated humans can accomplish; once they decide to do something. In American education we wrongly believe that “academic underachievement”; or “failure”, mysteriously arrives after a student takes a 4th or 8th grade test; that a “drop-out” is discovered in high school. The truth is that things like the so-called: “achievement gap”, “academic underachievement” and “droputism” are artificially created by a system that fails students before they even step through their first school door; and continues to fail them once they step through the school-house door. Society knows (and has always known) how to effectively educate children; regardless of racial, linguistic or socio-economic back ground, with or without educated parents. To be brutally honest; we are simply not interested in doing it, because we are not particularly interested in the children of the poor and the politically disenfranchised. If it was felt that large numbers of poorly educated children, were of interest to the wellbeing of or nation, then it would be done; and the mass educational malpractice that we presently see, would end. Many of us have been saying for years; particularly as it relates to building Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) ready students; that the task was/is impossible, unless we commit to engaging children at an early age, and in a determined, consistent and exciting way. And this must be done before they absorb and accept a belief that they are not smart; and that “smartness”, STEM, reading and academic excellence is the enemy and a threat to their cultural experience. The short term “gain” of this poorly organized educational system for the poor is the production of large numbers of human raw material for social services, criminal, security-law-enforcement industries. It also serves to alleviate pressure on an economy that can only survive if there is a large number of unemployed, and unemployable underclass citizens, who despite their status continue to consume. The children of the poor have monetary value (just ask charter school companies), even as they are still in school. The sad and cynical reality is that some children serve as commodities prior to their exit from the public education system; their “underachievement and academic failure” will create a hugely lucrative “fixing failure”/”closing gaps” industry. Ironically, society’s failure to act fairly toward all children causes the entire US student population to suffer and essentially underachieve, because having low standards and low expectations for the many, leads to false high standards and expectations for the “successfully” educated politically enfranchised few. We have gone from a “Nation at Risk” to a Nation at Waste of our huge creative intellectual resource. The shrinking birth rate of the educationally favored White males, which is doing its part in the creation of the rapid “darkening” of our student population, suggest that our “old (present) plan” of educational quality based on access to finance and political power is not going to equip the US with a capable work force she will need in the future. And as “developing” nations grow their own internal need for highly skilled workers, we may find ourselves at skills (and a national security personnel shortage); as those workers may only need to look down at the ground under their feet, to see that new “land of opportunity”. But it seems Americans are not motivated to solve a problem; until they are dangerously close to appreciating what it will happen if they don’t solve the problem (i.e. The Marshall Plan, The Manhattan Project, landing a man on the moon, and the STEM educational response to the Russian satellite: Sputnik). At that point American “know-how”; determination, human and financial resources shift into full gear; and by will and skill, the problem is overwhelmed and solved!

I was struck while reading this article (always looking for an education angle); how the soccer lords of Germany responded to strong societal pressure; and their own interest in moving German soccer out of the status and role of “near-do-wells” and into the category of consistent competitive winners. First, the Germans Soccer Officials presented an interesting idea and approach; they thought: “We don’t have a shortage of good soccer players; we just have a shortage of a plan to identify and develop those players!” They could have fallen back on the practice of many European nations of just “importing” good players. But instead they choose a different and bold route. If, they thought, statistically, “good players” were basically equally distributed throughout the human population; a nation (regardless of size) could be successfully competitive if they were in some way able to just identify and nurture (coach well) their own reservoir of good players. Further, this national effort would take time and expertise. In other words, this was not to be a “fly-by-night”, “gimmicky”, “reform” project. They analyzed, identified and deconstructed what constitutes good soccer skills; and so now, “let us not leave the teaching of these skills to “random” coaching efforts; we must place competent and knowledgeable coaches with our youth football clubs.” Finally, this effort would require a national financial commitment; with no thought to a quick financial return. We have seen that with any successful American project; funding was not a barrier to success. Money is not our problem in the US, since we obviously sink a lot of it into public/charter schools; unfortunately, without any reasonable return. What is missing in our case is the will, not the ingenuity or the resources. A most interesting part of the German football program was the idea that increased attention and a focus on academic achievement on the part of their youth soccer leagues. They found that strong academic skills enhanced, rather than diminished the young person’s soccer playing skills! Study and hard work in school was formally encouraged and monitored by the coaches; take that NCAA!
Finally, I guess it really goes a long way if you love your country and want to see her succeed; and succeed, not in a faux patriotic and mean-spirited Tea-Party kind of way; but in a kindness of spirit way. When your love for your country extends to a love for its future possibilities; then anything is truly possible. We hear a great deal about international comparative studies on academic achievement; most of them useless because of the important things that they don’t take into account, like racial homogeneity and its relationship to expectations. Perhaps we could do better to study international strategies by sports authorities in other nations; but we could honestly just start by looking at our own national and international successes to figure out how we could stop disregarding so many of future problem solvers, creators, inventors, healers; future Americans.

“How Germany went from bust to boom on the talent production line”… http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/may/23/germany-bust-boom-talent

My Facebook Experiment on Myself

Ok, over the last 2 weeks, I have done my own Facebook (FB) psychological research on: “The capacity of FB’s postings to influence “mood and thought changes”. However, unlike the folks at FB, it was done with my permission and knowledgeable consent concerning the harm and risk. Grand Conclusion: I stop looking at Facebook for long periods of time; and interestingly I felt positive and more upbeat (Step away from the keyboard Crystal Schloss-Allen; no I did not rigorously account for even a few of the possible variables; i.e. the number of World Cup Soccer games that day, and the teams playing :-)

Hypothesis 1: The less time we spend with a constant parade of triviality; the more of the important issues of the world get into our consciousness; and the less we are distracted from our mission and calling in life; thus more contentment.

Hypothesis 2: Spending more time thinking seriously about folks (FB-“friends”) Maybe people are really more then, or less then they post. But is it posting or posturing? And, maybe it’s more revaluation than revelation; and I realized I had been spared (a contributor to a state of contentment?) from some folks TMR (too much revelation)

Hypothesis 3: I found out when I logged on, after a long period of time (days); people still decided to have babies, birthdays, and to fall in, and out of love; without my comments and input!…(Did they not realize and account for my absent advice?)

Hypothesis 4: It seems that FB people have a tremendous capacity to “move on”; there was absolutely no discussion about the seriousness of the FB-“Mood Experiment”; is this a reflection of a public’s short attention span; or the “let’s move on” factor?

Hypotheses 5: Have we totally degraded the concept of “friendship”? I think I am basically a nice guy; but 477 friends, come on! That is a number that my chronic eccentricity, tremendous desire for quiet (to hear myself, and to hear what is written in books and articles), and my secret introvertism (for 5 years I had a non-working doorbell in Washington DC, and loved it!); would never allow me to achieve…..

An Effective Understanding of the Principles of Effective Motivation…

Driving students to some conceptual or operational objective is needed; the question is how and what is truly (internally) driving them; and how is teaching methodology driven by this understanding?

The Secret of Effective Motivation..NY Times Sunday Review 7/4/14…….. “THERE are two kinds of motive for engaging in any activity: internal and instrumental. If a scientist conducts research because she wants to discover important facts about the world, that’s an internal motive, since discovering facts is inherently related to the activity of research. If she conducts research because she wants to achieve scholarly renown, that’s an instrumental motive, since the relation between fame and research is not so inherent. Often, people have both internal and instrumental motives for doing what they do.

What mix of motives — internal or instrumental or both — is most conducive to success? You might suppose that a scientist motivated by a desire to discover facts and by a desire to achieve renown will do better work than a scientist motivated by just one of those desires. Surely two motives are better than one. But as we and our colleagues argue in a paper newly published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, instrumental motives are not always an asset and can actually be counterproductive to success.” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/opinion/sunday/the-secret-of-effective-motivation.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

Teaching Terror-Filled Things….

Just thinking….. I have always taken notice that in any armed conflict; children are guaranteed to suffer in the present and in the future. There is a type of peace that they never come to realize: First, the acquisition of a life-long painful memory; a sense that the world is an unreasonably unsafe place. Second, the loss of a childhood experience, the chance to do those necessary, and necessarily enjoyable childhood things. And third, the loss and/or the gaps in their formal education; which no matter how sincere the “restoration” effort, can never really be effectively “made-up”. In these types of situations (i.e. Ukraine, Syria, Iraqi, etc.) schools are most often the first public institutions to close down.
In Nigeria the conflict has taken on a completely different character, whereby schools, not an opposing army have become the primary military target. And now, more children in Nigeria have been kidnaped by “Islamic Extremist”. If the objective here is to terrorize, then I am sure the children and their families are presently in a type of “terror hell”. What are these children thinking, as the “parents of last resort”, the government, has failed to protect them, again and again. What happens to a child when their childhood is interrupted, and they are forced to constantly think about “adult worries”? Can they dream in peace about being soccer stars,teachers,nurses or engineers; or perhaps their dreams are also being held in captive terror? Do they no longer think about school work, how they look; who they like at school; and what other young person they think likes, or does not like them? How amazingly disconnected from humanity these kidnappers must be to snatch another human being out of, and away from their personal history and dreams; seeking to disconnect them from their humanity. Sounds a lot like what was done to the ancestors of the kidnappers; talk about owning, and becoming the pain and injustice that was inflicted on you! I am not a religious conversion expert; and I understand that my view is guided to a particular perception by an instinctual Christian lens. But as the families and communities of these children struggle against heartless kidnappers, an incompetent government; and the easily distracted short attention span of the public. I wonder what these self-proclaimed “religious” kidnapper’s long-term plan is. To simply call them “religious extremist” seems to me to be just a little too easy. These designations may help in defining common terms; and also to push back against any attempt for a latent religious bias to surface. But in fact this is a religious conversion process using “Stockholm Syndrome” techniques, and has some sense making to it, albeit twisted and sick. This is a well-thought out plan, not just to stop “western education”; but to replace it with a type of terror-full religious education. For we have seen in other parts of Africa the horrific outcomes that occur when children are kidnapped and terrorized; And in a tragic but logical way; this may be Boko Haram’s method of growing a new generation of psychopathological congregants; who like them, can act without mercy, remorse or concern for the suffering of another; “converts” who will now take the stage, and inflict similar horrors, without feeling on other children. Lord, help those children, and also help us.

Happy Birthday to a real school reformer.. Frank Mickens!

Today is Bro. Frank’s Birthday and I am determined to remember his spirit and work. I am so appreciative of his support, friendship, encouragement and professional assistance. Frank was never a true conformer to this destructive world of public education; and so I guess that would make him a true “reformer.” He was not a “casual”, “drive-by”, “recent discover” of education;(at least their discovery of the money to be made in education.) For Frank, education was not a “filler” job on a resume, a stand-in career for a bad economy; he came to education and stayed in education to give children a chance at survival. He understood his student’s story of denial and low expectations; because in their story, he could also see his own personal story. In all of our private conversations he revealed a deep love and hope for the children of the poor, the disenfranchised, the disposable and dispossessed. He was also willing to work daily through severe and painful health issues; one day I stopped by his school to see him one late evening (yes late evening); and he could barely painfully walk. By that time he had the “years” and the accumulated sick and vacation time to just call it quits; he vowed to work as long as he could be effective; as long as there was at least one student he could save. That night my thoughts were filled with the words of the poet Claude McKay’s:If we must die

“If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!”

Often the news media (particularly when it concerns Black principals), want to lead with, and play up, the “gruff and tough”, “take no prisoners”, storyline; while ignoring our thoughtful and strategic vision of creating a school environment where children actually have an opportunity to learn. Our understanding of the families; the social/political/cultural and economic challenges our students face. And the important role of how thoughts about race in America creates thoughts and practices concerning the capabilities of students of color. Years after I left Science Skills Center High School (SSCHS) an official of the then Board of Education made an honest confession to me that: “We blew it with SSCHS, we did not fully understand what you built there; we did not really understand why, and how that school was working; we only knew that it was working.” In a way I understand (although not excuse) the lack of vision; for this is so much like the work of Frank Mickens. A great deal of what must be done by a “practicing” school principal to make a school work successfully; can’t be talked about, or put on paper;it is not by accident, it is a conscience and skilled commitment to student success; that alone,is destined to upset a lot of people!
I am at the same time thinking about the Bronx middle school child who is now lost to us forever; a preventable incident; a situation where both the child and the parents reached out to the school leadership for help. A “tentative” and indecisive principal, content not to confront, not wanting to “upset folks” will mis-lead a school into a place where it is not safe to teach or learn. The “bullies”, not their victims need to feel some “pain and discomfort”; until they change their ways. Like any effective principal Frank broke the “rules” everyday; it is the only way you can get students through a bureaucracy that ignores the realty of their families, their communities, their every day needs; in fact, the educational bureaucracy ignores their very existence, except for their ability, based on their “attendance” and not on their academic success or graduation; to generate money. Frank made his students “visible” to a world, and to themselves; a world that only sees them as raw material for the criminal justice/social service industry; he said no, they are human beings, deserving of dreams and aspirations. One cannot expect to be understood, or rewarded by a society, when that same society has decided to destroy the children you are so desperately trying to save; acting “cowardly and accommodating” in the middle of a war, is the worst type of betrayal…And for many children in this nation, for sure, war has been declared on them…… Frank Mickens refused to settle for an unprincipled peace…..Frank was a warrior-educator who fought the good fight for his students, to the end.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/11/nyregion/11mickens.html

“California Teacher Tenure Laws Ruled Unconstitutional”..NY Times

Now this is interesting…… Imagine a profession that held its primary mission to educate children above adult employment. A profession that pretends that there is no standard of excellence, is pretending to be a profession. The model of school as factory floor is inconsistent with its important purpose. This is not the complete package; as “poor instruction” is a major (but not the only) part of the problem….but its a good start! I say that there are too many children in our nation being blocked from their constitutional right to a decent life, liberty and the pursuit of their dreams and happiness!

LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that teacher tenure laws deprive students of their constitutional right to an education, a decision that hands teachers’ unions a major defeat in a landmark case that overturns several California laws that govern the way teachers are hired and fired.

“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,” Judge Rolf M. Treu wrote in the ruling. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

The ruling, which declared the laws governing how teachers are hired and fired in California to be unconstitutional, is likely to set off a slew of legal fights here and in other states, where many education reform advocates are eager to change similar laws. The ruling brings a close to the first chapter of the case, Vergara v. California, but both sides have made it clear that they plan to appeal any decision that goes against them to the State Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs argued that California’s current laws made it impossible to get rid of low-performing and incompetent teachers, who were disproportionately assigned to schools filled with poor students. The result, they insisted, amounted to a violation of students’ constitutional rights to an education.

But lawyers for the states and teachers’ unions said that overturning such laws would erode necessary protections that stop school administrators from making unfair personnel decisions. They also argued that the vast majority of teachers in the state’s schools are competent and providing students with all the necessary tools to learn. More important factors than teachers, they argued, are social and economic inequalities as well as the funding levels of public schools.

Observers on both sides expect the case to generate dozens more like it in cities and states around the country. David Welch, a Silicon Valley technology magnate who financed the organization that is largely responsible for bringing the Vergara case to court — Students Matter — has indicated that his group is open to funding other similar legal fights, particularly in states with powerful teachers’ unions where legislatures have defeated attempts to change teacher tenure laws.

In his ruling, Judge Treu added his voice to the political debate that has divided educators for years. School superintendents in large cities across the country — including Los Angeles, New York and Washington — have railed against laws that essentially grant teachers permanent employment status. They say such job protections are harmful to students and are merely an anachronism. Three states and the District of Columbia have eliminated tenure, but similar efforts have repeatedly failed elsewhere, including California.

Under state law here, teachers are eligible for tenure after 18 months, and layoffs must be determined by seniority — a process known as “last in, first out.” Administrators seeking to dismiss a teacher they deem incompetent must follow a complicated procedure that typically drags on for months, if not years.

Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist, testified in the trial that California students who miss out on a good education lose millions of dollars in potential earnings over the course of their lives. But lawyers for the state and unions dismissed the argument, saying that the problems in the state’s public schools had little or nothing to do with teacher rules.
-Jennifer Medina 6/10/14

The education-reform movement is too white to do any good..By Dr. Andre M. Perry; Via The Washington Post

The education-reform movement is too white to do any good

By Andre M. Perry June 2 at 3:58 PM
Dr. Andre Perry is the founding dean of urban education at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is the author of The Garden Path: The Miseducation of a City.

At this point, it seems like everyone agrees what “education reformer” means. The phrase conjures Teach for America: messianic, white Ivy Leaguers wearing thick-rimmed glasses and speaking in questions, or the Maggie Gyllenhaal vehicle “Won’t Back Down.” For some, the hallowed education reformer battles the forces that are reluctant to change — which, in too many minds, looks like black and brown families under the hallucinogenic spell of labor unions, unwittingly fighting against their own interests.

This is ludicrous. There’s not quite yet an internecine war within the current crusade, but black education reformers are beginning to revolt. A group of us convened on the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education this month to identify the most pressing challenges in the reform movement — and to reclaim the brand and identity of “reformer.”

Let’s stipulate that, yes, change is badly needed. Call it “reform” if you like: Charter schools, curriculum changes (Common Core), testing, and accountability are not inherently bad things. They can bring justice.

But let’s also stipulate that overwhelmingly white movements pursuing change for black and brown communities are inherently paternalistic. The great educator Benjamin E. Mays famously said, “I would rather go to hell by choice than to stumble into heaven.” Reform is being done to communities of color. That’s why saying you’re a black education reformer effectually elicits charges of “acting white” from black communities.

One of the meeting’s attendees, Sharhonda Bossier, co-Founder and chief fellowship officer of Families for Excellent Schools, believes black and brown communities want change, but those very communities are skeptical of tokenism and duplicity. She said parents essentially say, “Don’t think you can fool us just because you put a black face on a white agenda.” Bossier reacted, “Sometimes I have to look back and ask myself, ‘Am I causing damage to my communities?’”

It’s a legitimate question. Reforming through school closure has a disparate impact on communities of color. Even though African Americans make up only 43 percent of all Chicago Public School students, they represented 87 percent among the 50 schools that were closed last year. Why use it as a technique if it disproportionally harms the communities you endeavor to serve? In New Orleans, where I have worked, alumni and local community organizations struggled to get approvals for their charter applications. D.C. charter schools suspended students at much higher rates than their traditional counterparts (and that’s a bad thing).

Diversity removes doubt of racial bias, explicit or implicit. So when black and brown people are largely absent from positions of power, the entire reform movement loses credibility and accrues suspicion. Black education reformers struggle to connect with the very communities we’re members of. The overarching sentiment among attendees at the aforementioned meeting was that black leadership is missing from education reform. Consequently, “reform” has become a dirty word in some communities.

Again, parents of color want reform. Polls conducted by the Black Alliance for Educational Options demonstrate this. Nonetheless, the recent victories in mayoral races in Boston, New York and Newark appear to be referendums against education reform. Still, I believe the branding of “reform” by heavily funded, predominately white organizations as a “takeover” movement reinforces the notion that it actually is a takeover. In addition, teachers unions have leveraged the movement’s penchant for paternalism to further demonize the term “reform.” Parents of color want change; they just don’t want white reform.

Erika McConduit, CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, says, “Unfortunately, what happens all too often is that white organizations are heavily funded to do community engagement, but since [white organizations] lack the ability to effectively implement, they then come to black organizations to discuss the work.” Black organizations join efforts after the die has been cast. But black communities and educational leaders understand when “community engagement” is merely a euphemism for how to deal with black folk.

More research is needed on who receives funding in terms of race and geography. We need data on who categorically is fired and hired. Who’s awarded charter schools? Nevertheless, to be effective, black educators must differentiate themselves from white reformers.

I’ve never fully embraced the moniker of reformer because the legacy of black educators has been to innovate, expand options and recruit the next generation of teachers. The label of black education reformer is somewhat an oxymoron. Particularly in the South, public education is a direct result of blacks’ struggle for control of their own schools, of which blacks worked with multiracial coalitions of faith-based organizations, white philanthropists and industrialists as well as progressive elected officials to create a portfolio of independent, faith-based and publically funded institutions. Now that was reform!

Still, black educators always had to combat the paternalistic tendencies of our allies and antagonists. (The seminal reading on this topic comes from James D. Anderson’s “The Education of Blacks in the South 1860-1935.”) In fact, the large bureaucracies of giant urban school districts can be another variety of this phenomenon. Traditional urban districts make it difficult for teachers and leaders to develop intimate and responsive relationships with students, communities and parents of color. We need decentralization.

The status quo simply won’t suffice, but neither does the bombastic shouting of crusaders like Michele Rhee and Diane Ravitch. Between those two camps, black and brown families miss out on nuanced approaches for change. And, in the polarized debate, neither camp acknowledges its responsibility toward educational failure.

For example, no bloc owns the teacher racial gap problem. Woodrow Wilson reports that if current trends hold, the percentage of teachers of color will fall to an all-time low of five percent of the total teacher workforce by 2020. At the same time, the percentage of students of color will likely exceed 50 percent in the fall of 2014.

Union-based, Teach-for-America-led, and traditional as well as non-traditional districts proudly tout what they’re doing to address teacher-racial gap, but all have shown limited results. Teachers of color should not blindly support any one faction when racial privilege looks the same in every camp. Yet, if a person of color speaks out against injustice, he or she is branded as a defector or collaborator.

A teacher at a charter school revealed at our meeting that she was thoroughly ostracized by her mostly white organization for simply bringing up diversity issues that parents of her students expressed. Now this teacher feels she has to leave her organization on her own terms. This example is a metaphor. Speaking truth to power can have serious repercussions on funding, professional advancement and political appointment.

Herein lies the burden of the black educator. Black educators will continue to improve the craft of teaching and leadership, provide quality options, make more equitable systems and teach many of our white counterparts about privilege. Exclusivity, inequitable funding and bad public relations got us to our current state of education.

We need less “reform” and more social justice.

College should be the path to, not the end of a good life…

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“Baruch College student plunges to his death during finals week: The student’s body was found Monday on a fourth-floor landing at the school’s Lawrence and Eris Field Building … A 20-year-old Baruch College student jumped to his death Monday — the start of finals week, authorities said….” NY Daily News

I suspect that we don’t know all of the facts of this particular situation, and we may never know. However, what we do know is that some “uncounted” number of high school graduates each year, walk across a stage at graduation; and walk onto the next stage of a promising career; and then something goes terribly wrong. As a former principal I have heard a lot of stories from graduates that fortunately are not tragic, and yet they were problematic, i.e. the roommate, dormitory and/or college from hell. But these problems, as disturbing and disruptive as they may be, don’t come anywhere close to the many stories I read each year about incidents on college campuses that involve theft, violence and death. Imagine the understandable good feelings of parents and family members who are under the belief that the “battle is being won”, because of their child’s acceptance into a college or university. And then imagine the opposite feelings of sadness and despair when they receive notification that their child is dead or seriously injured due to a suicide attempt, assault by a room/dorm/school mate, or they are the victim of a mass campus shooting. A best kept quiet truth is that every year students arrive on a college campus somewhere in the US, and then are assaulted (sexual and otherwise); illegally and improperly “hazed” by a school sanctioned organization; and either fail or succeed at suicide. Society wonders why, because these young people are supposedly the “winners” in the career lottery of life. But the situation is much more complex and institutions should take this problem on in an operational and programmatic way; or be forced to do so by congress. First, lets talk about who is arriving each year on our college campuses. In most cases these are very young people (most 16-19) who have spent their entire lives in the protective nest of the family home. For most, going away to college is perhaps their first experience with “independent living”; unfortunately they arrive with a wide range of preparation for that experience based on the quality of a family and/or high school “transition training” education. This approach is too arbitrary and inconsistent; high schools should create a national “standard” for a “mini-course” titled: “Transitioning into college life”. This course could use case studies and vignettes that will allow “myths”, “misconceptions” and “misunderstandings” about college life be presented to students. This class could also serve as a “safe-space” that would allow these 12th graders to ask questions “they always wanted to ask, but were afraid to do so”. The colleges can require a parallel course on their end; that would of course talk about the campus activities, but would also serve to connect students with a “counseling cohort” assigned to an adult who will keep weekly one on one eyes and ears (talking) on the student. Professors must also be professionally trained to identify and report to counseling personnel, behaviors, writings and, comments that would suggest that the student is having feelings of isolation, is academically overwhelmed, and possibly emotionally depressed. I understand that one of the educational objectives of a college life is: “Transition to adult practices and responsibilities”; but a little scaffolding is needed here, and that transition should not be a gamble or a walk over a field loaded with emotional mines; psychological roadblocks that would cause the student to either hurt themselves or others. We sometimes forget how young these folks really are! And so, we need to expand (and in most cases introduce) serious counseling programs at our colleges and universities. “Orientation like” programs are good; but I would expand the concept of orientation to a: “healthy mental adjustment program” that can’t be done in a large group/classroom setting. A student should have an adult who will listen to their anxieties and concerns about the new life they are about to undertake. Again, they are in many different stages of “exiting out” of teenhood; the institution should serve as a positive guide to insure that the process and path taken is the most productive. Parents (I know, this sounds a lot like my middle school parents “speech” !) don’t abdicate your role; you should continue to check on your child; have an honest and supportive avenue of communication; while at the same time allow them to grow in independence. Often times, an “experienced mind” can ask the right questions; and the answers to those questions can save a lot of grief, and perhaps a life.

The HBCU’s have for so many years created and maintained a model of professors, staff and administrators being more than facilitators, instructors of subjects and content. It was so inspiring to spend a day recently on the campus of Miles College in Alabama and see the “parental” interaction of the faculty and staff with and on behalf of the students; including the president of the college! The antidote to student against student violence on campus; against students harming themselves and others, is that someone, and some ones are connected to that student in a sincere, caring and authentic way. Some may say (and they are probably correct); that the young person of color who is not on a college campus may in fact be in greater danger of self-inflicted or other acts of violence; but statistics is no consolation to a family who has lost a child; and it is definitely not a rational for society not giving the solving of this problem our best efforts. College should be an important and exciting step toward a positive, rewarding and productive adult life; but it should not be a step into the abyss of danger, destruction and despair.

Boko Haram: The real sin is not “western education”; it is, no education

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Ok, you lost me with the name of your organization: Boko Haram or “Western Education is Sinful” (and kidnapping innocent school girls is not?) Do these fellows (obviously lacking a sound history education themselves) realize that a great deal of what is characterized as “western education”, in fact, has in its roots in Asian, African, and particularly in science and mathematics, in Islamic historical scholarly work (hint: the word “Algebra”)? One is really forced to wonder about any movement that has as its primary “mission statement” the hindering and ending of learning. What are they so afraid that these young ladies and other young people in Nigeria might gain from being exposed to education, so-called western or otherwise? I remember many years ago my first reading of Ray Bradbury’s: Fahrenheit 451. As a lover of books and reading I was scared out of my seat (I guess the authors intent) by my reading of a fictional society that prohibited the reading of books as harmful to the “common good”. And to this day I have an “instinctual” resistance to any type of book banning; and that would included books that I find personally offensive. If education, learning, knowledge and thinking is the antidote then what is the disease? The disease is: “that you believe what I say and exactly as I say it” Boko Haram greatest fear is not other religions, Nigeria’s economic system, TV, social media or the “great satan”. Boko Haram greatest fear is the power of thinking- analytical, inquisitive and creative, on the part of Nigerian children. And in a strange and twisted way; their actions, more than “western education”, will distort and discourage a genuine interest in their religion. Christianity has been at its worst when it tried to oppose and suppress science and knowledge (I still cringe when I see exhibits from that “Christian natural museum”, of humans and dinosaurs running together). And in our own U.S. history, the slave owners thought it wise to discourage through legislation and violence, the simple act of a slave learning to read. Reading assisted in escape and rebellion planning; it prevented “free-persons” from having a secret written code. But the slave-owners greatest fear; and here they share the theory stage with Boko Haram; is the awareness that reading and learning changes a person, perhaps forever; and renders them unsuitable for slavery, oppression, domination and exploitation. The power of reading and learning suggest to the reader and learner that more than anything else they are full human beings. It is no wonder then, that Boko Haram is now threatening to “sell the girls”; as they have been removed from their status as students, as humans. I only wonder if Boko Haram is not completely crazy; for some how they knew that if they kidnapped 200+ Nigerian girls, the world would not use every effort and resource available to track down every one of the kidnappers; and execute an immediate death sentence; as a western educational lesson as to why they should never think about doing something like this again.