When your religious friends and family plan says no to education and learning, well…

“Lack Of Education Leads To Lost Dreams And Low Income For Many Jehovah’s Witnesses”-— NPR/ All Things Considered

http://www.npr.org/2017/02/19/510585965/poor-education-leads-to-lost-dreams-and-low-income-for-many-jehovahs-witnesses?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20170219

Interesting segment… As a principal I have always done everything in my power to encourage student academic success, while at the same time that I respected their religious convictions-affiliations. One of my proudest awards of the hundreds I have received, is the one (still hanging today on the wall of my study), I received from my SSCHS Muslim students. And that award was in recognition of my creating a space, and an opportunity for them to make daily Salat (obligatory prayer) during the school day; and to also be able to attend Friday Jummah Prayer at a local Masjid (Mosque). It was interesting a few years later when as a superintendent in queens I met with, and visited several Masjids in the community; and even though my former school was in Brooklyn; and I did not publicize my actions; they all knew about my accommodating treatment of my Muslim students. Goes to show, good news can also travel far!

But two full personal disclosures:

(1) I don’t trust any religious movement, or effort that is anti-education. I always feel compelled to ask: What parts of the natural scientific world are you trying to hide from your followers? Why are you seeking the advantage of keeping them ill-and uninformed…is this a control issue? In fact one of the things I really respected about the Nation of Islam (NOI) under the leadership of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad; was the heavy emphasis he placed on the study of formal science and mathematics; even as like most religions the NOI held many “metaphysical beliefs” as sacred!

(2) I had an “uncomfortable” conversation with a Jehovah Witness (JW) official who was discouraging one of my top (AP biology-Physics-honor roll) students from pursuing a STEM college program (This would not be the last time I faced this problem). This was a student who entered high school previously performing below grade level in reading! His academic achievements over 4 years, still remains one of the greatest educational stories of my career. The young man was frustrated and conflicted, and thus the genesis of the conversation with the official. I felt that if I could get the JW official to meet me somewhere in the middle; this young man could collect his waiting full scholarships and college admissions. And for reasons unrelated to academics I needed to get this young man (as with many others); out of NYC and onto a college campus. First, out of respect (and for the first time) I humbled myself by attending a JW service; where my student spoke; it was a very electrifying and exhilarating evening; especially when it was announced from the podium that ________ principal had come to hear him give his talk!

The few days later the discussion with the JW official however, was less joyous, welcoming and electrifying; and although parts of the dialogue could definitely be defined as electrifying, yes they were indeed electrifying, but in a not so good way. Quick description: The conversation did not go well (this is my putting the best spin on it!). And over time as I grew more and more frustrated, with what I thought was his inflexible intransigence (“Couldn’t he join with other JW’s on campus, and they could form an organization to support each other, and thus a further opportunity to share their beliefs with other non-JW students?” I pleaded! … “No!”) I was also disgusted that the JW official seem to have no interest, or understanding of the need to get this young man out of a very “challenging” Brooklyn living situation. And while patiently and respectfully I debated with his “religious line of reasoning”; at some point I lost it. Seeing that he was phenotypically (in appearance) black I desperately appealed to his sense of cultural/historical pride. Sensing the conversation was going nowhere, I finally ask the question: “Do you know for sure that the white folks who run (highest leadership levels) the JW organization (I did my online research home work in preparation for our discussion), don’t allow their kids to pursue a college education? Do we really want to stifle the education of Black children? Are there any “orders” that we could receive as Black men, or as human beings, that could never be questioned, challenged and/or disobeyed? Well, that went over as well as the campus ministry idea.

A great deal of my life’s story starting with my mother; and traditionally administered by many of the many wise and wonderful women I have been blessed to meet in my personal-professional journey, can be summed up in this one phrase: “You had to go there, didn’t you?” “Yes”, I would always confess, in at least the spirit and tone of true contriteness…“Because I couldn’t take it anymore.” Higher education may have been this JW official’s enemy; but that type of thinking always has, and will always be my enemy.

I failed. Because I was up against a family and a powerful religion; and any religion that has the power to “unfriend a member”; (You should see Leah Remini‘s TV program on Scientology to fully appreciate the power of being religiously “shunned” by everyone you are close to in the world!) Most of us who are not part of those types of religions can’t really understand how extremely powerful the act of being “defellowshipped”, even as a threat, truly is.

I lost. The young man never went to college. But somehow I always saw this as just another way that misleaders in power, can act out their dreams, while denying the dreams of their followers. As a professional educator I vowed early in my career to never regret the work I put into a student; even if things seem to turn out badly. The work will forever stand as good work, and besides we really don’t truly know the end of things! And I get the “religious freedom” part; I am just not sure about those freedoms including policies that promote ignorance. Perhaps that’s my small concession and confession to a personal type of religious bias.

I offer this. If your “friends & family” religious plan is to say that education, knowledge and information is the enemy, and by extension places like schools and libraries become enemy territories, then I would check the motives of those “friends and family”. And when your religious friends and family plan says no to education and learning, are they really saying, no to thinking? Now why would a religious leader want a non-thinking flock, I wonder (not really) why…

Now that the Betsy DeVos “show” is over, perhaps we can get to the real work!

The painful truth is this. For many schools in this nation, and no disrespect to a lot of sincere and hard-working friends of mine; not only does it not matter who the secretary of education is, what she knows or does not know. It does not matter who is their governor, state commissioner of education, state Board of Education, local school board, state representative, congressperson, mayor, and even the district superintendent. These schools are essentially “insulated” from the political noise, they are on “on academic achievement automatic”, and locked into their standard effective schools operational model and procedures; with a focus on effective school leadership and quality instructional practices. These schools have also identified the supplementary (to the standard inadequate budget allocation) funding resources that every successful school must have. There is really no need for the parents of these schools to request charter schools or vouchers, because they get everything they need for their children from the public schools their children attend. Who is, or is not an elected or appointed official; has no effect on their school’s high: standards-expectations-achievement and quality work product.

From someone who has actually spent some time thinking and doing something about education:
“The way ESSA was written, it outlines an important federal role, it outlines a state role. It actually prohibits the secretary of education from making a whole set of decisions that are outlined, so regardless of what administration is in Washington, the law really limits the extent of federal involvement.”—Linda Darling-Hammond

That being said, I tried unsuccessfully in an earlier blog post to convince many well-meaning and sincere people, that the entire Betsy DeVos (BDV) “magic show” was a fatal distraction; wisely instigated and managed by the anti-voucher-charter folks for their own political reasons. For sure, neither the pro nor anti sides of this charter-voucher debate, are truly interested in the educational well-being of Black and Latino children; unfortunately they both see students of color as cash machines and/or political props.

I reference a “magic show” because one of the operational objectives of such a show is to distract the audience from the actual execution of the “trick technique”. And as I also stated in an early post, BDV’s performance at the Senate confirmation hearings was frighteningly dreadful. It seems that they could have randomly selected someone to testify who was just walking down the street near the capital, and there was a very good chance that person would have done no worse than the nominee. But there is a 2nd sobering truth. As pedagogically deficient as she was, combined with her lack of professional experience, or even personal contact with public schools, Ms. DeVos as an “existential threat to public education” (one prominent opponent), was a gross exaggeration, given the statutory limited powers of a secretary of education. And given that in many sections of our nation public schools already exist as an existential threat— to the unfortunate children who attend them. Further, the real attributes, knowledge and qualifications (present in a person like: Rudy Crew or Linda Darling-Hammond) needed for the post of secretary of education (SOE) has been tragically missing in past appointments of both Republican and Democrat administrations. The truth is that the “professional qualifications” of some past secretaries of education have been grossly overstated.

I have been at this for a while now, and so I get it. The artificially manufactured and hyped up: “Call your Senator” movement was inspiring and exciting; and it helped people to feel they were actually doing something about public education. After all, it’s not like the “boring” hard work of building an afterschool, Saturday and summer STEM program, or a dynamically successful early childhood program like Little Sun People (http://www.littlesunpeople.com/). Going unnoticed by the national media and the Black public at large, is the very hard expanding opportunity “grunt” work done by people like: Denise M. Lewis at FIRST Robotics; Carl Mack and Anthony Junior putting more children of color into the STEM pipeline, and Donna Y. Ford fighting valiantly to expand the participation of children of color in Gifted and Talented programs. At some point communities of color need to establish a criteria for what (who) is, and is not speaking and acting in the educational interest of their children.

But despite my concerns about the “Stop DeVos” movement I never said anything to oppose this effort because in essence the actions seeking the rejection of Ms. DeVos was both democratically and educationally sound. But historians may look back at this moment and come to a conclusion that the appointment of a right-wing ideologically focused and powerful Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (he probably goes by “Jeff” to take the confederate edge off!), will turn out to be a greater existential danger to the survival of Black and Brown children, then the theoretically confused and power limited Ms. DeVos. As the dissenting Republican senators so wisely pointed out during the hearings; her greatest impact will be no impact, because for the vast majority of American school children, charter schools or school vouchers are for a lot of reasons, not an option; and she won’t be able to change that reality. While Mr. Sessions will have the power to ignore protecting the civil and human rights of selected American citizens; Ms. DeVos can’t change the statutory (based on law) funding programs; and she is one education official, in a very complex and multilayered power sharing national system. In many school districts across this nation, where Republicans control all three branches of state government, there is an “annual ritual” of charter school proponents presenting a charter school proposal to a local school board, and then having that proposal routinely rejected. “Power” in matters of public education policy and practices; is a very complicated affair. And based on the testimony of Ms. DeVos, it might take her 4 years to fully understand the limitations of official power in the public education arena, a lesson that many of us who ascended to the superintendency, learned rather quickly after taking office!

Many of my colleagues have short, or self-erased memories, (and the public is not aware) concerning the tremendous amount of disappointment, anger and sense of betrayal that was directed toward Mr. Obama’s appointee Arne Duncan. Mr. Obama gave Secretary Duncan “cover”; and so a great deal of the “on record” comments were muted and/or mildly critical. But the “off the record” comments were much less kind. For his tenure was seen by many of us as a historic and monumental lost opportunity to fundamentally change the nation’s thinking about educating its children. “Place holding” (a chronic Democratic ailment), is not a place from which real change can occur.

Although the amount of “damage” Ms. DeVos can inflict is greatly overstated; not knowing what to do is not a neutral act; not knowing what to do, or if the SOE is a “one trick pony” (charters and vouchers), the children who will receive the most harm are children of color, and poor children of any color. I have never been a fan of the “silver lining” theory. Permanent bad and damaging things can and will happen to people who are both good and innocent. It is left then for those of us who are struggling to be good, to resist evil and insist that our actions are the meaningful efforts in the defense and restoration of those human personalities evil people are seeking to destroy. Perhaps this terrible triangle (POTUS, House of Representatives and the Senate) of ill-gotten and evil power, acquired by way of Russian intervention; and soon to be a four-headed monster with the control of the Supreme Court; can push the good people of America, and in particular the most forgotten and disenfranchised members of our nation into self-affirming and self-depending action.

The greatest mistake, the mistake we keep making in seeking educational justice and quality for our children is waiting for: a “superman our woman”, some magical piece of legislation, the no professional educational training or experience required like strategies, the new “hot” educational theory or leader of the month, a “corporate model”, “military model”, or any silly model will do. The truth is (and all professional-experienced educators know this); at this point we pretty much know how to teach students how to read, to do math, successfully engage STEM and other subject areas, and to get them to graduate; all that is missing is leadership with the political independence and political will to make a successful educational experience true for all children. For example they could start with small courageous acts like the easy and simple “task” of pushing for the expansion of the number of gifted and talented programs (and provide special training for administrators and teachers) into communities that are presently gifted and talented deserts. There is no G&T “sacred text” that determines the number, geography and admission requirements for establishing gifted and talented programs. And these politicians can do this without running the risk of offending their white voters, since you are not reducing their programs. But even as we push our political, civic and civil rights leadership to understand that their children-constituent’s education should be the sole focus of their interest and efforts; we should not be overconfident and rely solely on them, knowing their complicated funding and political alliances.

Parents: if it is to be, it must start with you!

There is nothing to stop parents of color and communities of color from asserting their role and responsibility for the education of their children. This must be a “three front” campaign, one the before mentioned political action. The second should be personal-parenting, and the third community institution building action. No one can stop a parent from nurturing and empowering their own child’s education through the engagement with the many “informal” educational institutions, programs and activities. Professional educators have known for years (and utilize it with their own children), that high academic achievement is very often related to the quality and quantity of the child’s engagement with the informal educational experience.

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The “educational win” odds increases tremendously for any child with the employment of the formula: Student Success = A rich informal out-of-school learning experience that is supplemental to, and supportive of, a rich formal in-school educational experience.

There are Museums, public libraries, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, science and other children related educational magazines, dance-instrumental music-art-etc. out of school classes, educational toys, non-stereotypical sports activities (fencing, gymnastics, archery, tennis, etc.) educational games, computers and fun learning software programs, puzzles, kits, and most importantly access to books for independent-fun reading; all of these efforts are crucial complementary learning activities for the “formal” learning that takes place inside of schools.

Betsy DeVos can’t go into every Black and Latino home and stop parents from insisting on: independent reading time, serious attention to homework and study, on time everyday attendance, and making sure that students behave in school and bring home good grades. No SOE can start or stop communities of color from setting up afternoon, weekend, school breaks and summers: homework-study, chess clubs, test prep, STEM, art, music, dance, reading and creative writing centers. As we learned in Brooklyn (Science Skills Center) not only are these communities rich with professional talent who are more than willing to donate their time; there are also many public, corporate and private institutions who are led by people of good and sensitive character, who are anxious to help with the cause of expanding educational opportunity for children of color. Parents who select to Homeschool their children should form local learning networks (see who’s better at teaching what), and also take advantage of the huge amount of informational resources that exist in the ranks of retired teachers and school administrators in their communities (And as retired public school educators we must be ready to assist Homeschool educators when our assistance is requested). As a superintendent I invited both Homeschooling parent/teachers and charter school teachers to our professional development activities; why not in other places?

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Parents and communities of color must “lower their buckets where they are”, seeking educational opportunities for their children into the rich resource streams of their own efforts, and the efforts of those who sincerely care about their children.

The worst thing to happen is not a Republican SOE, no matter the ideological propensities, or the dearth of professional knowledge and experience. The worst thing that can happen is that we deceive ourselves into thinking that educational outcomes will significantly change for the better, when, and if our nation survives long enough to one day have a Democratic SOE. And to tip my hat to my high school ELA teachers; waiting for an educational savior, is like waiting for Godot!

“The general sentiment of mankind is that a man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others, and this sentiment is just.” — (The real not Trumpian version of) Frederick Douglass

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

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

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

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

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

-Her possible financial conflicts of interest are troubling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The History Lesson Lost At Talladega College…

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

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let the real Hunger Games begin!

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

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

From Time Magazine writer: Eliana Dockterman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “hostility” to public education thing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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