There is a very sound reason we can’t be happy for each other!

The short answer is: Someone else’s success, elevation, progress, promotion, achievement; is an indication and reminder of my failure, demotion, devaluation, and under achievement (even as the events and situations in their life have nothing to do with the events and situations in my life!). The old folks who were not weighed down with college vocabulary, just called it: “Folks acting like crabs in a barrel”. (The more I learned about science, the more I grew to feel that this statement was unfair to crabs, since there is no comparison in their brain capacity with humans!)

My former superintendent had a (turned out to be true) wise warning she gave to us principals; she said: “You get the union chapter leader you deserve!” (I would later as a superintendent pass on this same wise warning to my principals!) I have learned (painfully) that there is some collective truth and application to this axiom. A people’s vision of their self-worth, sense of entitlement, expectations, what they feel is unacceptable, determines what they will be given and what they are willing to receive, what they are ultimately willing to quietly accept. It is impossible to feel bad about, or hate yourself, and expect good; but further it is also impossible to feel good about someone else who looks like you, even your own children.

There are some very sensible and clear reasons why we find it hard (if not in some cases impossible) to acknowledge, celebrate, champion and encourage the gifts, talents and accomplishments of those who look like us. We see each other through the eyes of the oppressor. We hate with the same intensity he hates, we dismiss in the same way that he dismisses, and we match and mirror his disrespect toward each other. This is the reason we allow what is being inflicted on our children in public education; there is a deep belief (on the part of Blacks) that this is the education these children truly deserve. There is a very deep collective psychological wound that says: We should expect, and receive no better.

Those of us who are the most injured by political-cultural aggression; save up and deliver our most hateful acts of aggression against those who look like us. That is why young Black men are in equal danger of being the victim of police misconduct, and other young Black men with guns. And yet someone like George Zimmerman walks around safe from those same “tough” young Black men with guns. I don’t care how much education is missing from the heads of those Black people who, rob, hurt shoot and kill other Black people ; they are very clear on one important American sociological truth: All, any, single Black life (including their own) is not qualitatively equal to All, any, single White life.

Frantz Fanon (who in my view is one of the best deconstructionist of the mind of the oppressed) states in a chapter from his book: Black Skin, White Masks; chap. 7; “The Negro and Recognition”; here is a small excerpt:

“The Negro is comparison. There is the first truth. He is comparison: that is, he is constantly preoccupied with self-evaluation and with the ego-ideal. Whenever he comes into contact with someone else, the question of value, of merit arises.” The Antilleans have no inherent values of their own; they are always contingent on the presence of the other. The question is always whether he is less intelligent than I, blacker than I, less respectable than I. Every position of one’s own, every effort at security, is based on relations of dependence, with the diminution of the other. It is the wreckage of what surrounds me that provides the foundation for my virility.”

When we become healthy and strong enough to praise each other, then we will be able, strong enough and willing to raise each other!

Keep your enemies close (where you can keep an eye on them); and push your friends to the limit, (where you can see what they are made of)….

“You are my friend,
I never knew it ’til then
My friend, my friend…”

You are absolutely correct Sis. Mafori Moore (I read your Facebook post!) Frederic Douglass’s 4th of July Speech is a critical historical (and present day) wonderful teaching document on “testing the limits of White progressivism”. At the time, many of his “friends” stepped back from him and/or that speech; as with what happen to Dr. King when he opposed the Viet-Nam war. I would (if I taught African-American history) compare and contrast Douglass’s speech with King’s: “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. In both cases friendships, political commitment, compassion, philosophical authenticity, and the level of theological conviction, were being challenged, and pushed to the limit. And I actually think that was ultimately a good thing. For as the old folks would say: “Sometimes you gotta just throw a party, and see who shows up!”

We must also (you being a math person:-) always factor “race” into the equation. Like the situation Black educators face today; I am sure that many of the liberal “friendly” critics of Frederick Douglas and Dr. King were put off by the thought of these two Black men audaciously speaking to them as equals! Perhaps they thought: “Should they not wait for us to tell them what to think and say!”

But in times of trouble, our Black friends can also do a disappearing act. I have finally learned to take the advice Dr. Gerald Deas offered to me many years ago; when he responded to my question as to why he was working on so many projects (newspaper articles, published poet-playwright, producer, director, public lecturing, TV show host, radio host, practicing and teaching medicine, etc.) alone, and without an organization. One word summed it up, “disappointment”; he said that he wasted so much time and energy in the past waiting and hoping that people were serious, that they would meet his level of work and commitment, waiting, worrying and realizing that when things get tough, many folks will just disappear. At the very least he thought, he knows his own strength, his own level of commitment and ability to resist “selling out” ; his capacity to endure the pain a society will surely inflict on those advocating for its most politically disenfranchised and despised citizens. To quote from one of his most famous poems:

“I want to be my own man, not an on loan man”

When trying to accomplish something of meaning and purpose on behalf of poor children and children of color (my advice to young people education activist); you must know when folks will get off the freedom train, and not be hurt by their predetermined and predictable departure. We are reminded today of the witnessing life of a Julian Bond. His life indeed demonstrates that we are in a very long, hard and difficult struggle, and it takes courage, conviction and faith to stay in it (less you get tired, trade in your principles for trinkets, and find a comfortable spot on the floor of the oppressor’s door.

Dr. Kenneth Clark told us at CCNY that you must understand the source of a person’s “motivation”; to truly understand their behavioral decisions and actions. Most people want to just live their lives in relative peace and quiet; and that actually makes a lot of rational survival sense, and that view should be respected. And then for others, enjoying an unprincipled peace in this messy world that chooses to exploit the many for the benefit of the few; living this pretend peaceful respite is not an option.

Ultimately, I don’t trust White Liberals to go the full “distance”, although I like them more politically and philosophically then conservatives (Who are trying to conserve what: slavery, discrimination, and a time when the “colored people” of the world knew and stayed in their subjugated and exploited places?) But with Liberals I always have the feeling that at a critical moment they will “jump ship”; and opt-out for the green pastures of a compromised (with evil) peace. That they might realize that they have less in common with the children I have been trying to save, and more in common with the cruel society that is trying to destroy those children.

Also for many of us, making and keeping “friends” can be a challenge. Particularly, when that friendship is based on our being silent to our suffering; to our not crying out about our pain (See the disappointing liberal critiques/reviews of Ta-Nehisi Coates book: “Between The World And Me”; many of them mirror, sometimes word for word, the conservative critiques of the book!) I have come to realize that what we are being ask to do (fighting political, economic, educational and cultural domination) is just too much for most people to take (the other side just has too much money and too many weapons). Political non-conforming “brawlers” can make folks around them feel uncomfortable. And people like Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg can use their great financial resources to either rent, cower, or buy people off; and in a society that worships and is driven by fame and money, that counts for a lot. And now at 64 I have become a lot more understanding and comfortable with that reality; and so I will fight as hard as I can, in whatever way that I can, as long as I can. My hope is that along with a lot of others also “fighting where and how we can” in the world, we will eventually win. First because our cause is just. And secondly because the people who signed up for an unprincipled paycheck will definitely leave when there is no pay check coming; or opt out for a better (see the drastically diminished Teach For America enrollee numbers, in response to an improving economy) paycheck!

But I would go a step further on this perseverance of supporters and friends thing. Experience and honesty (And as the old folks would also say: “Tell the truth and shame the devil!”) compels me to say that some of my greatest supporters have been White (like the very brave Dr. Donald Scherl, former Pres. SUNY Downstate Medical Center), and some of my worst antagonistic detractors have been indifferent, corrupt, lacking in character and very scared Negros. And so I am not ready to give up on every White Liberal-Progressive. An educational experience, an essay, a book, a speech, or a letter from jail, may do the trick. But a scared, unprincipled Negro, is a hopelessly unproductive and dangerous animal!

REVISITING THE INVISBLE GHOST OF SCHOOL INTERGRATION

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe; nor am I one of those Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids–and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination–indeed, everything and anything except me.”–from the novel: Invisible Man

“There’s something you don’t see every day.” – Ghostbusters 1

A recent NPR program (“This American Life”), and in a related article in the NY Times; there was a revisiting of the idea of school integration as a path to raising Black student academic achievement. Full disclosure: I was a 1960′s product of high school busing for the purposes of integration. And for sure that experience had a profound influence on the quality of my education as a student, and my later thinking as an adult professional educator. There were some very good things that took place back then, I did not understand, or fully appreciate as a teenager. There existed at my high school: a calm and quiet learning environment; access to interesting and thoughtful electives, the high expectations of teachers and administrators; exposure to a standards (NYS-Regents) based instructional program; and (what I later learned) competent teachers and administrators (2 AP’s from my H.S. went on to be principals (much harder to get those positions back then) and one became my deputy superintendent when I became a principal; my former principal was a thoughtful and intellectual educator who wrote a the Regents review book on the US history Regents exam, and later became a superintendent.

School (student) busing for the purposes of integration was a sensible albeit limited option, due to the historical period in which it emerged. It was a very logical response to the mean reluctance on the part of White political and Education leaders to remove the horrible materials, (facilities) structural and equipment inequalities between the two Black and White school systems. For White America the prevailing idea was to practice a system of educational apartheid; which meant two separate systems that were by design and purpose both physically separate and materially and educationally unequal. And in a not-so-strange way; in terms of resources, standards and expectations, the two separate systems still exist, but with many modern and confusing features that serve to confuse Black parents and the Black community (But that’s a topic for another post!).

The problem (not really addressed by the radio program or the NYT) of our present social reality is that we still remain a very racially segregated nation, that looks a lot like my 1950’s-60’ student days; and so the question of solving the logistical problems of school integration was, and still remains as a huge obstacle to achieving its “physical” objectives. And some might even say it is further complicated today by the growing drop in the percentage of White students attending public schools. And although some of us Black students definitely benefited from attending schools in an integrated setting (that high expectations stuff is priceless educationally!); that reality was not possible for the majority of school age Black children of that era, or the present one. The bottom line is that school integration (then and now) as a strategy for the large-scale raising of Black student academic achievement, is a questionable good educational method at best, and at worse, perhaps a political, logistical and mathematical impossibility. Re-reaching back for “school integration” as a Black achievement raising strategy is the typical standard desperate bad education decision move, often made by non-educators. It does not help that this “rushing without thinking” approach to making educational policy, is part of the chronic cultural profile of public education (see the recent national amateur movement to turn standardized assessments into a tool to punish school personnel, schools, and worst of all students). It also does not always help when we confuse and commingle a (perhaps very worthy) societal objective— social integration; with an educational objective—raising academic achievement; they do not in every case connect. Further, in the education profession we are inclined to forever revisit policies that we imagined (a form of historical hope) produced some wonderful outcomes. For us, there is always a past “golden age” of education; a past that in fact never really existed, outside of our inventive memories. The truth is that for as long as I can remember, both as a student and as an educator, we have managed (a decision based on politics) to effectively fail to educate large numbers of children (of the politically disenfranchised) in public education. And changing that accepted reality, is the one real fundamental calculated transformation that would represent real and meaningful change.

In the 1960’s, there was indeed a lot of noise and drama around school integration, but there is very little evidence that it significantly change the under achievement trajectory of the majority of Black public school students, as the majority of Black students in the 1960’s went through their entire public education schooling in segregated schools, and therefore were untouched by this social-political movement.
One might even argue that the loss of Black teachers and administrators due to integration, ultimately did more harm to Black students (nationally), as these students began to be exposed to lowered expectations, as inspired by the undercurrent of prevailing dismissive racial views, expressed as a racial animus, deeply embedded in the collective sub-consciousness of our nation. Further, integration caused a shifting of financial resources and “high performing” Black students to majority White schools. For example, as we moved to White NYC schools the per-pupil expenditure allocated for our education was also shifted to those schools; at my high school they were able to hire more teachers; but none of them were Black. It seems that the Black neighborhood schools were cynically and strategically undermined by the “smart insistence” on the part of the White political-educational leadership establishment, to bus a large majority of Black students from gifted and talented middle school programs (like my own), or students on grade level, to those White schools. It was clear to me later, that the parents of the “SPED kids” they confined to the basement of my middle school; were not asked to come in and sign the “permission to bus” documents. The result was an artificial raising of the achievement level of those White schools. Meanwhile, the Black neighborhood schools saw a drop in their resources and achievement levels (they were left with the most academically struggling and challenging students), which created an academic achievement downward spiral (further accelerated by the introduction of “ed-optional” schools) that continues to this day.

We must be painfully honest with parents, and ourselves. For the majority of Black children who in 2015 are presently sitting in an all-Black 1st grade class, we can reasonably assume that those children will experience an all-Black (with in some places perhaps Latino) schooling experience for the next 11 years. This is quite honestly a matter of geography and mathematics, and the historical/ongoing patterns of housing segregation in our nation. And unless a Republican controlled Senate and Congress falls off of its horse (and are struck by the lightning bolt of justice and compassion) on the way to denying Black Americans their voting rights; and passes a major housing and school busing integration bill (and you would definitely need to integrate housing for the school integration part to work), that reality will not change. The Democratically controlled “liberal-Northeast” is no different; as we see with the annual well-meaning, but time-energy wasting NYC “show” of the movement to make Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science, etc. look more like the demographics of the city. This “political-performance” serves no other purpose other than that of an unnecessary distraction from what really could and must be done. The truth is that because of the politics of the city (the real “haves and have nots”), the Black and Latino integration of specialized high schools is not something that is going to happen any time soon. The real and serious work is for NYC to invest seriously and strategically to strengthen the academic landscapes for Black and Latino students in the K-8 world. Institute a “Princeton Review” type test-prep program afterschool and weekends in the 6th-8th grades. And specifically for the Arts Specialized high school, they must expand and enrich the K-8 music and art programs (We did all of the above in CSD 29-Queens, NYC with great results). This would not only raise the numbers of students eligible for admission to the specialized high schools (and every student who is eligible should not necessarily go, for very sound educational reasons); but this effort would also greatly improve the academic profiles of those students who don’t attend those schools for whatever reasons. Our Black and Latino elected officials should insist on concrete middle school student academic improvement efforts, instead of engaging Black and Brown New Yorkers in an annual false game of political theater that will never make it to the real main stage of improved academic outcomes.

The children (and their parents) can’t go to school every day wishing and hoping for the Integration Fairy to appear, wave a magic wand that will somehow make the child appear in a seat next to a White child in a high performing school. They need smart, strategic, brave, bold and dramatic action; and they need it now. And those actions (demanded by their parents, community, and hopefully their political leaders) should be for the immediate integration of:

A high quality and highly professionally developed school leadership team.

• An adult staff who combine high expectations for students, with high expectations of efficacy for themselves.

• The institution of high academic standards, throughout the school.

• A “Readers to Leaders” like initiative (Albany School District-CSD 29 Queens, NY)

• (Prepare) Get more 8th graders into a course in algebra. (A big STEM “gatekeeper”)

• Safe and productive learning environments. (Increased quality learning time)

• School district-local school staff and leadership stability.

• An instructional staff of experienced, effective, expert and efficacious teachers.

• The investment and expansion of comprehensive social-counseling and health services.

• Equity in educational material-equipment resources.

• Rich art, music, dance, STEM, library programs.

• School sponsored-directed informal educational (out of the school building) experiences.

• The access to modern technology.

• And finally to radically change how those schools operate. To release these majority-minority school from many of the restrictive, and resisting to learning provisions in various labor contracts (and then financially compensate the teachers in those schools), and the removal of non-productive state-school district regulations. Change the “normal” and “standard” way of doing things, which has clearly not worked for so many years. The “normal” school day, week and year, will condemn most of the minority school population to a permanent state of academic under achievement. And so we need to integrate high performing schools practices. Change all the rules and regulations that good schools and effective principals ignore (and superintendents know what I am talking about!), bypass, neutralize or negate in order to function as a good school. This integration of opportunity, I believe could yield a much faster, and a much more significant outcome then the tremendous political lift of an unrealistic national school integration program? Can we keep it real for a moment? Most of the Republicans in both the House and the Senate, don’t even hide the fact that they neither respect nor recognize the Black POTUS as their president; I can’t imagine (or that he would even propose it) that they would support a massive effort and expenditures to integrate the nation’s public schools.

The parents and the communities from which the children receiving a second-class education emerge, must insist on having their children exposed to positive and productive learning environments. One major problem they face is that there is a Black leadership theoretical deficiency when it comes to educational policy. The truth is there is a rich history of majority Black schools doing a really effective job with students before and after the civil rights era. The problem (and here is the Black political leadership deficiency) is that many of those high academically achieving Black schools, march backwards in terms of positive school climate and student academic achievement. In essence, over the years, we have not been able to maintain the high performance status of these Black schools. Schools like Bronx science, Stuyvesant and Thomas Jefferson (VA), will essentially be the same high performing schools, regardless of the number of changes in principals and teachers. Our first big (good faith) effort, before turning back to integration, could be to ensure that high performing Black schools not be downgraded, and that they continue to function as high performing schools. We could then build similar schools based on that effective Black school model. Therefore our next task is to make the (segregated) schools where Black children presently sit, to perform at a higher performance level; that again would require the political will on the part of parents and communities to take direct, definitive and drastic actions of non-compliance and non-cooperation with the present system; they must in essence create a movement to save their children’s minds and lives. In other words they should integrate and incorporate the attitudes and actions of those parents whose children presently receive a quality public school education; and make a quality Black education matter.

On the Tragic Death of a Harlem Principal

“The principal, Jeanene Worrell-Breeden, 49, killed herself soon after the testing was completed at Teachers College Community School, adding a tragic note to the episode and raising questions about whether the allegations had factored into her death. She jumped in front of a B train near 135th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue on April 17, and was taken to Harlem Hospital Center, where she died on April 25, the police said…” NY Times.

Life is a dangerous place to live; sometimes a very sad place to live and work; and always a very difficult place to live and work. Despair, frustration, disappointment and death can come too easily, and so you must always have your spiritual directional guides in good working order. The principalship is a very lonely and stress filled day-to-day position. It can also wreak havoc (or at least put a lot of pressure) on your personal and family life. You are the only one of you in the school building (Even my AP’s had each other!). You can get 100 questions a day; and not one of them will be: “how are you doing?” (Teachers, try asking that question, and watch your principal’s face and reaction; I know because once a teacher ask me that question, and I know how good it made me feel!)

I am not casting blame here; but the Bloomberg era’s misinformed decision to in essence remove school district superintendents, had a devastating and deleterious effect on school based administrators. Principals need coaching and support! They need to be able to check in with someone they trust; and they also need someone who is invested in their success, to check in on them. I can remember many sad, disappointing and challenging days as a NYC principal; and the very positive and supportive role the Brooklyn H.S. superintendent (Joyce Coppin) played in helping me to remain positive, optimistic, and to see myself moving through the present difficult situation. It is also important (something I enjoyed) and of great help for principals to have a twice-a month social get together with other principal friends.

I am sure that the “anti-standardized testing crowd” are fully locked, loaded and ready to fire. But the sad truth, is that these suicide situations are very complex, and rarely caused by one single event. Further, the huge number of schools in this nation, that are identified as primarily serving Black, Latino and poor students; schools that perform dreadfully poor on standardized exams; would suggest that if “test results” was the primary cause of a principal’s suicide, we would be looking at suicide numbers in the tens of thousands! The truth is that as a national group, principal (as compared to other professionals) suicides are rare.

We could do more to help prevent these types of tragedies by not rushing so many principals into the position, before they are mentally and emotionally prepared (or we or they discover they are not a good professional match) to take on the job. We should also stop this current dangerous “reform” idea that professionalism and experience doesn’t matter; it does, particularly in those moments of extreme stress, when the Ed-Amin knowledge, professional preparation and experience are the only thing that will help; I know, I have been there! We must also deepened, expand and enhance our efforts in the ongoing professional development, and supervisory oversight of principals. Finally, a principal must have a strategic plan to put the students in the position of being able to perform well academically in class and on exams; and “after you have done all that you can, you just stand!”

Live today, to Serve tomorrow

“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!
Claude
McKay

“When it comes down to it we don’t get the same treatment. Let’s be real. Let’s keep our mouth shut, memorize badge numbers and write complaints…” — Chryssey A Schloss-Allen

Excellent and wise advice Chryssey A Schloss-Allen. I think it is safe to say that any Black person my age 60+ who is either not dead or in prison, has at some point(s) walked away from an insult from a public official who is sworn to protect and serve us. My personal motto has (and still is) always been: I need to live so that I can serve out my calling; and if I die in that effort so be it; but if possible I will try to avoid dying; knowing how low and unimportant Black life is viewed by many in this nation, and how much I am needed by those same Black lives. Over the years, I have given that same advice (“Live to Serve”) to thousands of young people; particularly young men. My motivation was not out of a philosophy of pacifism, about fear or cowardice, rather it was a matter of discipline. I always had the community’s children in mind, who were waiting and depending on my work and support. I had no interest in making a death-martyr-statement on a NYC street like Atlantic or Bedford Avenues. I read once that: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” This is not a call for indifference, passivity, or the acceptance of injustice; rather I see it as a strategic battle plan/approach to get your work done in a very complex and dangerous environment. Ultimately, my personal pride, convenience, need to make a point, falls far short of the contribution I need to make with the needs of young people; young people, who like you are waiting to make their contribution to a world seriously in need of that contribution. We should also note that the news media (the liberal, right and middle wing Foxes) is structured and inclined to demonize the Back victim, and are in a rapid and rabid race to humanize, professionalize and (ex)honor(ate) the offending police officers. Public defenders (The brave Ms. Marilyn Mosby of Baltimore excluded) don’t see me as part of the public for which they are sworn to defend. Every casual and very normal word or statement made in public or on social media will come under scrutiny so as to point to an anti-police attitude (as opposed to a pro-justice attitude). And I know, like many of my colleagues, I have made many comments concerning my frustration with Back life in America; particularly as it pertains to young people and education; but that does not mean I am thinking or even wishing that my life would end; again I want to live to serve! Your life is important, because your calling and contribution are important. I am thinking of someone like Tiffany Harrison Bryant; and all of the positive change power she has given to young people; starting when she herself was a teenager! Black life indeed matters; and a Black life that is in a state of service matters most when it is alive to serve. You should know that the “wolves” make no distinctions between Black lives, and are ready armed and able to deny and destroy every Black life. And so guard yours carefully!

Finally, and why your advice is correct; the last time I was stopped (the frequency tails off for Black men as you get older) and made a formal complaint. I was stopped on my own block, and according to the officer, because I was driving an “expensive car in this neighborhood”. The police officer actually protested at his complaint hearing: “But I am shocked (and he really was) that Mr. Johnson is making a formal complaint about his stop; as he was so polite and calm during the entire situation!” (And I was) I simply memorized his badge number, and his “log book” reflected the stop. I turned on my interior car lights, keep both hands on the steering wheel, had my license, insurance and car registration card in my hand when he walked up to the window; answered his questions politely and quietly, and didn’t utter a word of complaint and/or protest; until I filed a formal complaint. (He had a growing stupid look on his face when he saw that I indeed lived on that block, had a back seat full of books and folders, and a NYC Principal’s parking permit in my front window.) No apology, no ticket, nothing. But there was just no way that I was going to make my case for police misjudgment, unprofessionalism, racial profiling, and overreach, at night, alone, on an empty Decatur St. block. I don’t see my primary role in life as to serve as a “change agent” for eliminating the racism that exist in the hearts of many Americans (Black and White); I do however, want to neutralize its deleterious effects on the education of Black children! Somethings, to be quite honest must be addressed by time; as people and attitudes began to leave the land of the living. And somethings must be forced (and dragged like the confederate flag wavers, kicking and screaming) to the table of justice by way of political organization, economic boycotts, active protest, and electoral politics. But I do see my primary task as empowering and intellectually equipping a younger generation to dismantle the barriers and structures of race, sexism, classism and economic exploitation; though their very strategically, skilled and smart placed positions in the world. In short, I decided that if I wanted to strike a serious blow against racism, I could do better than lose my one life on a Brooklyn street; and that I would work hard and effectively to educate and empower the lives of many young people of any color.

Flagging down the truth: Educationally, united we strive, divided we fail.

Thanks Mike Williams for the good article*; and sorry it took so long for me to respond. It is important to note: That absent from this entire “flag” debate are the patriotically proud and affirmative voices of those descendants of those who fought and died during the civil war in the service of their nation. Honoring the ignoble confederate flag, and any other symbol of a band of traitors, shamefully dishonors the very noble efforts and sacrifices of the Union soldiers and sailors. As a nation we are under no moral obligation to honor traitors who took up arms against the US; only an educational professional responsibility to respect and be true to the teaching of history.

We are a nation that in many ways still exist in a state of “civil war”; and because this division of the nation, along with its continual rebellion and reluctance (this includes the north) to fully accept its Black population into full participating citizenship; (particularly in matters related to public education) greatly hinders our potential and progress as a nation. The “less developed” parts of the nation; meaning both intellectual, cultural and economic, is a continued legacy of this unresolved “civil war”.
And although this division of achievement and development exist in other nations like China’s rural-city divide; it has a very different deleterious effect when a nation is fully “developed” economically and educationally. Even in our most advance and “liberal” urban centers, large numbers of Black children can live in a city like Washington DC, NYC, Chicago, etc.; be very close to a quality education, and yet not receive a hint of it themselves.

These national acts of political rebellion against the American promise of liberty and justice for all, is based on the need of an economic system that will maintain a class of citizens who are poor and inadequately educated. The most efficient part of this national system is not public education, rather it is a self-funding criminal justice system that can “capture and dispose of” the human overflow of a failed on purpose educational system. The primary source and target for this cynical civil service job producing “sanitation system” are people of color.

The question that is raised of course is, how going forward will this work, when a nation refuses to take advantage of the talents and gifts of its own citizens? What happens when a nation is in some form of civil-rights-war with huge segments of its own population? And this is where China’s “developmental divided” has in my view a better chance at resolution. Because of their present state of racial homogeneity; there is every reason (and incentive) to bring all of their citizenry up to “educational speed”. They are also not creating a constantly in need of feeding criminal justice system (they prefer less, not more social unrest) that is required to siphon off a large number of what would be some very unhappy jobless members of the working class. We on the other hand have states and attitudes that refuse to move out of our apartheid past. See how the recent comments of a Donald Trump are paying off so well for him in the polls; he is not without a huge audience, for he is a spokesperson, and the last best hope of a dying class of Americans, who see their unearned advantaged world collapsing under the weight of a Black and Brown population explosion (They are probably not helping themselves in places like Alabama, where poor Black women find it almost impossible to get family planning education and healthcare!). Latinos should know that his comments have nothing to do with emigration, or “border security”; and everything to do with a world of racial exploitation coming to an end; his target (and his audience collectively winks and knows this) means all Latinos in America, regardless of their citizenship status.

The reliance on the demonization of the darker, non-English speaking “other” (including those who are US citizens) is a powerful cultural narrative in our nation. We are held back (as other nations evolve) because we use our diversity as a political weapon of disenfranchisement, rather than as an asset that could fuel a powerful national development. The south is in no hurry to have a same-nation marriage with the “enemy” north! And I see no movement in the intellectually developed parts of our northern nation to go back to the back of the bus of thinking about things like women not having power over their own bodies. Hope is coming, but in the immediate future it does not look good; and that means no incentive for (or not a hint in the interest of accepting on the parts of the south) an intellectual-modernity “Marshall Plan” for segments of the new-old confederacy. Unfortunately the Republican Party requires a voter base that is bare-brained, uneducated, prejudiced, poorly educated, unenlightened, and wedded to the idea that says: You may be poor, ignorant and destitute as hell, but at least you are not Black or Latino! If White Right-Wing politicians are desperately clinging to a pro-slavery, anti-American treacherous flag; or to a false illusionary heritage that their confederate ancestors fought and died for something anywhere close to noble; we indeed have a long way to go.

The strength of the present German economy is in part due to their seeing historical Nazism as a product of social pathology; not historical pride. To get some southerners (and their northern ideological comrades) to see the civil war in that enlightened context will be a serious (again educational) challenge; as leaving it behind also represents the leaving behind of the nostalgia for time when they had a privileged place in America; a time when Latinos stayed out of the place, and Blacks in America knew and stayed in theirs! That realization that time is not an ally, and that they really lost the war against the US, generates the intense anger you see spewing from the conservative class on places like Fox news! And If these same White misleaders are willing to say: I rather see my White constituents sick and without healthcare insurance, rather than take help from a Black POTUS; I think it is safe to say that we are probably in a very bad place in national race relations, confederate flag flying or not.

But we are also in a very bad place of desperation, when your concept of victory is to fly the flag of your failed anti-patriotic military effort, and traitorous disgrace. That confederacy of deceit and defeat flag, and those sadly desperate flag wavers, both belong in the same museum display case.

*How the South Skews American: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/07/how-the-south-skews-america-119725.html

Sean Combs and one very uncommon core curriculum…

Link

“Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs says UCLA kettlebell incident that led to arrest was self-defense”—LA Times

Although the full details of the incident in question has not been fully presented; a particular section from the LA Times article caught my attention; and like any good recipient of a rigorous High School Common Core Education; I thought about some wider issues and implications:

“…Justin Combs, who graduated from Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y., in 2012, accepted a full merit-based athletic scholarship to play football at UCLA…”

And so I did a little research:

http://www.privateschoolreview.com/school_ov/school_id/19271

http://www.ionaprep.org/

“Today, Iona Prep continues to fulfill this vision and develop young men who are exceptionally well prepared for college while possessing the moral core necessary to be a leader in a society that often does not promote Catholic values. Our Christian Brother education, which permeates the entire program at Iona Prep, is counter-cultural. Iona Prep educates young men at a time in which self-promotion, consumerism, selfishness and personal gratification are the most visible values that adolescents see. In contrast, the Essential Elements of a Christian Brothers’ education defines an education which gives our young men the courage, moral strength and intellectual tools to be leaders in today’s society…”

Student: Teacher Ratio 12:1

% of Faculty w/ Advance Degrees 85%

Number of AP Courses offered: 16

Extra Curricula Activities:
Art Club, Bagpipes, Campus Ministry, Christian Service, Film Club, Gael Force (Newspaper), Gaelic Society, Gamers Republic, Habitat for Humanity, Italian Club, Jazz Ensemble, Math Team, Mock Trial, Music Club, Music Ministry, Peer Counseling, Philosophy Club, Photography Club, Prep Players and Stage Crew, Prep Reps, Recording Studio, Rock Climbing, Rock Ensemble, S.A.D.D., Spanish Club, Speech and Debate

Athletic Programs:
Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Crew, Cross Country Track, Football, Gulf, Ice Hockey, Lacrosse, Soccer, Swimming, Tennis, Outdoor Track & Field, Volleyball, Indoor (Winter) Track & Field and Wrestling.

And then there is a strong moral, ethical and spiritual component to the curriculum; that reflects the best progressive traditions of the Catholic church:

“…Proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Permeate the entire curriculum, activities, and all aspects of the educational process with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Encourage young people to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ…”

And:

“…Stand in Solidarity with those Marginalized by Poverty and Injustice. Promote policies and structures that reflect a climate of compassion for the poor and disadvantaged. Include education and advocacy for peace, justice, global awareness, and care for the Earth. Prepare students to work toward the creation of a just society. Encourage ministry experiences that work with and serve the poor and marginalized…”

From what I can tell (without the benefit of a visit) the school is a very strict, but well-balanced, focused, values rich, academically rigorous, and orderly school….Sounds good to me! But I keep returning to this idea that: A lot of “regular” folks are raising their children educationally to be like celebrities, without some academic achievement to celebrate! And tragically, also like non-scholarly athletes. And then I keep discovering these many celebrities (and I praise, and applaud the attention they give to the quality of their children’s education!) who are raising their children like purposeful, well-rounded and focused scholars (who could also be athletes). What’s up with that?

RACISM DENIERS OFFER HOPE FOR THE IGNORANT, THE CONFEDERATE FLAG IS A MAJOR SYMBOL OF THAT HOPE

There is something historically and philosophical similar about the thinking of the class of “Deniers”; whether it is the topic of the: African slave trade, the horrible and calculated acts of cruelty by Nazi Germany, the genocidal behavior of Turkey against Armenians, or the persistent presence of racism in every day American life. It is as if they are saying: “If we say it does (did ) not exist”; then in the minds of those who are the least intellectually exercised; it would in fact mean to them that the horrible event, or a state of reality actually did not, and does not exist.

For venues like Fox News the motivation is clear; grow and nurture a viewership by keeping them bare brained and indoctrinated with falsehood. And yes it is also a cynical political calculation, by hungry for votes at any cost Republican candidates; a sort of leading by employing the lowest common denier stupid thought. But this cowardly behavior also requires a non-reflective empty of any serious thought head to accept the inverted truth of the obvious.

This denier movement is linked to, and is at the core (no pun intended) of the Rights resistance to the Common Core Curriculum (CCC); and also (in my view) fuels their opposition to the very positive changes to the AP American History exam.

The strange political bed fellows that oppose the CCC is worthy of a post in itself: Right-Wing Racist Tea-Partiers, Teacher Labor Unions, and “White Liberal Educators”. They have all joined the anti-CCC parade, for their own self-serving reasons; but where are the voices of educators who advocate on behalf of Black, Latino and the poor children of any color, those student who suffer from a low core curriculum? We will never know, but perhaps a more thoughtful and reflective public education experience, might have given Mr. Roof a different way of looking at the world; a way that said: We are all one human family, worthy of life!

I do believe, however that the right-wing section of the anti-CCC parade. Is based in this “Denier Philosophy” that employs ignorance, anti-intellectualism, and an anti-compassion for the other, by promoting a crude form of social-economic Darwinism (they oppose the Scientific-Darwinism); meaning, only those we deem fit should be allowed to survive and thrive; need I name our nations designated unfit? Ultimately, it means that southern states want to be able to teach their version of the: “war of northern aggression”; waged against good folks, who were just trying to make a decent and honest, and Christian living through slavery (full sarcastic mode employed here); and thus the honor shown to that treasonous and horrific flag of subjugation!

All campaigns that seek to harm and exploit innocent people, are inherently anti-education and anti-knowledge. Education is the enemy of terrorism, be it racial, ethnic, religious or national. And that is why we must fight to take the curriculum out of the hands of those who would direct its usage to serve the narrow political interest of the narrow of mind few; and place it instead in the service, and proper education of the common (pun intended) folks. For as we saw last week, ignorance does hurt and kill people

Ok, this is my last comments on: Leading while Black, (or White, or Whatever)

Ok, this is my last on this, because I believe, it has already taken up too much time. For we still live in a nation where the POTUS despite his diverse parentage, still receives the full disrespectful of Black people treatment. And Black teenagers can’t even play and swim in peace, without being subject to racism and police violence.

As I stated in an earlier post: “First of all, (and I hope all of my former students know this) the concept of “Race” as it is falsely and cynically constructed in the political-social world, is not scientific (remember that phenotype-genotype stuff?)” The truth is that many of us Black folk might be surprised to know that we may in fact be more closely related to someone who identifies and presents as “White”; then we are to a person who presents and identifies as “Black”. This artificial racial division (after all we are not talking about two different species) was designed as a tool to enslave, exploit and discriminate against specific members of the human family. Once: “The Wretched of the Earth” (Fanon) were effectively dehumanized and heathenized, any amount of cruelty was sanctioned and acceptable.
And even as the “obvious” rules of American apartheid has been eliminated; the primary use of race today by groups like the Republicans, is to offer White Americans a real and false sense of entitlement; as the politicians and corporate captains pick their pockets. It works, for example; White parents don’t realize that by society’s suppressing and lowering of the academic standards for children of color in our public schools; the “ceiling” for achievement is lowered for all children regardless of color.

And so, my question and concern: The challenges we face are “deadly” serious; therefore, how can we afford distractions? We are sentimental, and I guess that is nice in its own way; but it can also get in the way. The majority of phenotypic Black Americans (those who “look” Black), can’t opt out of their oppression; and those Black Americans who are “passing”; must live in constant fear of discovery, and thus be subject to the collective dismissal and disenfranchisement shown to all of their people. But worst they must live a painfully inauthentic life; perhaps even being forced to listen (and grin) to racial slurs uttered by those (they wish to pass as) around them.

The struggle to affirm our humanity requires discipline, integrity and honesty. This work is not to be played with, lives and futures are at stake. And we should: “Tell no lies, and claim no easy victories”. I learned something from attending a majority white high school and college; I realized that whenever my fellow White students decided to “drop back” into society they would be welcomed with open arms. I on the other hand was never in, and would never be welcomed in; and would always be kept at arm’s length, away from full citizenship and human recognition… And to borrow from the title of a book authored by George Lamming: I must live, die, love, lose, survive and thrive “in the castle of my skin”!