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”!

THE REAL, ON THE REAL GRADUATION RATE…

I told a reporter once, when we were discussing this topic; that whoever finds and reports the “real” graduation rate for ________ school district, should automatically earn a Pulitzer!

Ok Mike, not to make excuses for Chicago (“Chicago Public Schools have been mislabeling dropouts, getting them off the books and out of the graduation rate. CPS now says it will stop the practice…”– NPR); but misleading (as in false), purposely obscure and confusing graduation rates, is a national school district: Standard Operating Procedure. And that would include the little known middle school dropout rate, because these students are not usually counted, if they are counted at all, until their cohort reaches the 12th grade. And, as bad as these graduation rates may appear, they are actually much, much worse! The reason school districts are very eager and adept at this art of deception; is the belief that journalist and politicians will just not invest the time and money in finding out the real graduation rate (they might actually be forced to do something about it!).

Also, even though students of poverty, and students of color are the most adversely affected by these huge (real) dropout rates, I think that even the general tax-paying public, finding out the real high school dropout rate, might be shocked and angered into demanding demonstrative change; if not for matters of morality, at least for that fact that a huge amount of their money is being wasted.

But, (sorry, I know I never make these things simple) the misleading dropout rate is only one-third of the graduation rate problem. A school district can offer multiple standards for gradation from: “I am on my way to college”; “I am prepared for some type of career and meaningful employment”; to the “digestive system” student: “I am just passing through to graduation by meeting middle school standards” (you know I had to throw in a little science!)

Further, the “fake” graduation rate would be reduced even more if students were honestly forced to meet true high school (any high school in America) standards. School districts maintain elaborate (and costly) systems of disingenuous “credit recovery” programs; where high school students can earn credits for classes they failed by attending some iteration (summer, afternoon, evening, weekends, etc.) of these programs; and in some cases whole schools have this approach as their school philosophy and procedures. The criteria for passing these classes: (1) the student shows up, and (2) the student has a pulse.

It helps that the students most adversely affected by this travesty, are the children of parents and communities that are the least organized politically to put a stop to this shameful system that is destroying their children. That is why in places like Chicago, they can close a historical percentage of schools, and then be on the verge of bankruptcy! How does this happen? There is just no one Black or White who knows what questions to ask (or they do, and are not asking them!); or, even know if any questions should be raised at all.

But the good news on US graduation rates (I wanted to end on an upbeat tone); is that colleges and business employers, offer public schools a subsidy parachute, by providing high school “graduates” with the skills, and content knowledge that many of them should have learned in high school; and of course, the criminal-social service industry is always ready to pick up the rest of those dream denied young dropouts.

The NYPD recruitment of Black Officers: It is very hard to find what you are not looking for!

“NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton says it’s hard to hire black cops because too many have criminal histories”—NY Daily News

Mr. Bratton and I have the opposite problem. Around the house, I usually can’t find what I am looking for; and in his case he can’t find what he is not looking for. As a former NYC principal I can assure you that there are plenty of Black and Latino young people who are capable and eligible for any type of civil service career. It is just a matter of identification, encouragement, cultivation and preparation.

The cynical Irony of this entire scenario, is that the NYPD along with our Borough District Attorney’s offices are systemically structured to nail young Black and Latino men and women who can’t afford bail even if they are innocent, and then they often “plea out” to a felony charge, with less, little or no jail time; however that decision makes them ineligible, if not unattractive for any type of meaningful employment (civil or otherwise). In a cruel sense, it is policing policies that are creating the very problems that they claim are preventing them from diversifying their ranks. Now, Work with that awhile!

WHAT A REAL RECRUITMENT EFFORT LOOKS LIKE…

Mr. Bratton only need to travel a few miles north to West Point, or take a day trip to Annapolis; to get some ideas.

The U.S. Military Service Academies have made a serious commitment to diversify their ranks while maintaining their standards for admission, and with no use of a quota system. In particular the Navy has opened its bases, the academy itself, aircraft carriers and even nuclear submarines to minority student visits (I know because I took students from Phelps on these trips). The office of naval research opened its underwater robotics lab to a group of minority students from Phelps, and also was a major sponsor of the Phelps Robotics team. The Navy also conducts a summer program at the Academy for high school students (I had students take advantage of this also) Most important the Navy has assigned specific personnel to do strategic outreach information and recruitment sessions (and it is real solid outreach, not for show public relations stuff!) Everyone I have spoken to including retired Black naval officers agree that these outreach efforts have been successful!

The big difference here is organizational culture, which feeds intent (or lack of). Institutions like the Navy see diversity as part of their strategic mission to defend the nation; and of course, they see Black and Latino Americans as part of that nation! And unless our police departments across this nation adopt that cultural posture; to see people of color as citizens worthy to be served and protected. And to not see Black and Latino communities as areas to be conquered and controlled, they will always fail in the area of recruitment. For what military force, para or full, would want to recruit the enemy?

DEAR JASON, 3 INSTRUCTIVE THINGS WE CAN LEARN FROM OUR MOMS WITHOUT KNOWING OR LIKING IT.

Dear Jason, thanks, and to your question concerning the article: “3 destructive things you learned in school without realizing it”. Beyond the fact that the “destructive things” mentioned have everything to do with schools reflecting the societal values and principles in the national environment in which they exist. It makes sense that the writer’s high school promoted a materialistic, market driven (the selling of the self), selfishness culture. And as we are told by anthropology, “culture is perfect”, and perfectly all-encompassing. A school can, on its own, only valiantly push back against the twisted virtues of a system that says capital gains is more important than what people gain from the educational experience.

But more importantly beyond the technical flaws in the article. I have read several of these “anti-high school” missives; and in fact commented on one that is very popularly making the rounds on social media (“Things I never stopped learning because of High School”… http://majmuse.net/?p=1941

First, a bit of Caribbean Mom wisdom I received as a child. I was always taught (and did not fully appreciate when I was young): That just because a parade is coming down the street, it does not mean you must jump in! Find out who is leading the parade, and where they are leading it. I was also taught to be suspect of those who by the virtue of the color of their skin, enjoy the power of forgiveness, a network of connections; an enfranchised and “special conditions” life experience in America.

As a youngster, I hated to be told that: “I had to be twice as good, and three times as careful, then my White school mates”. This rule severely struck my “fairness nerve”. But I must admit, the elders of my youth who although lacking college degrees, were not lacking in common sense; they were on to something about America that was true. As a person of color my: Right and legitimacy (regardless of credentials) to hold a leadership position, will always be constantly challenged and under attack (See Mr. Obama). I would go further to say that a smart young Black man, like yourself, is in reality, the most dangerous (and in danger) person in America. (And not the stereotypical “hoodlum” whose lack of a high school education, and self-destructive behavior, feeds an ever hungry criminal justice industry.)

And so, as I was instructed, so I went on to instruct (you) and thousands of others. You probably still remember my: “Life is not fair!” speech. All of this to say you may indeed find many personal examples of where a high school staff person did not perform their job admirably, or even in a professional competent manner. And as entertaining as these: “My high school did not prepare me (failed me)” stories may be, they can’t compete with the real sociological-economic data. There is an undeniable correlation (by grade) between high school completion, and potential earning power over the course of a lifetime!

For the children of color, for those children of any color who are trying to break out of the cycle of poverty. I say approach these stories with skepticism. Each life is different, and some lives in America are very different from others. We know nothing of the families, social and economic fences that surrounded these “anti-high school” writers. What was their inheritance (social and financial), who gave them a break, who opened a door at the right time for them?

Young folks should not be deceived; public education (with all of its flaws) is still the most efficient and effective journey one can take to improve the quality and positive productivity of one’s life. For the disinherited of our society, a high school education is not their enemy; and I would be very suspicious as to the motives of those who say, and advise otherwise. At the very least, I trust my mother over them!

What part of this excerpt from a newspaper article, do the affected parents and politicians not understand?

“The number of students taking the test for District 23 kindergarten classes, which includes schools in Brownsville, Brooklyn, increased from 78 last year to 94 this year. But as in previous years, too few kids qualified to open a single gifted class in four of the city’s 32 school districts, including Districts 7 and 12 in the Bronx and Districts 16 and 23 in Brooklyn.”

I wonder if Black and Latino parents (and their elected representatives) fully comprehend the implications of the above statement? How about this: Open the same amount of G & T classes in all 32 school districts? I can hear it: “it can’t be done”. But, between 2000-2003 we opened our own district funded G&T classes in CSD 29! And for those who say there are not enough G & T children* In places like Districts 7, 12, 16 and 23; well I found plenty as a high school principal!

*Really not sure what that means, since all children are gifted and talented in some way or another. The only question then is the modality (how it is expressed), the degree of discovery and development. In any event in the case of “G & T” kindergarten entrance evaluations; we are in fact testing the parent’s level of education, english language mastery, “pushiness”, awareness of how the system works, and their access to information and financial resources!

NY Daily News; 5/27/2015. “Public school students will learn this week if they were picked for coveted gifted programs”… http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/city-reveal-students-chosen-coveted-gift-programs-article-1.2238023?fb_action_ids=10205007427440519&fb_action_types=og.shares

Things I never stopped learning because of high school

You probably have seen the: “Things I never learned in high school” posting; it list several items that one allegedly did not learn in high school like “doing my taxes”; and ends with: “But thank my luck stars I can tell you all about the Pythagorean theorems” A skill a true star searcher (astrophysicist) might appreciate; but let me not get ahead of myself.

I have seen this item float around on social media for a while; but I think that the fact it is posted by people who are very smart, points to its importance as a measure of something very serious, and very deep. I actually think that the underlying theme here is anti-education, and anti-professional educator (but I will leave that alone for now). I would actually like to challenge these detractors to divide the USA into people who know (or who are even vaguely aware of) the Pythagorean theory, and those who never heard of it; and let us see the relative difference in the GNP of the two groups. This is the other reason I am concerned about certain groups adopting this belief system (even as a joke), for we know in education that algebra is the serious gate-keeper for advance STEM learning and careers.

It also points to a lack of understanding on the part of segments of our society as to the sequential and prerequisite building nature of concepts and skills that exist in formal education; and further how we construct knowledge in our brains. We didn’t learn calculus in the 3rd grade, but the mathematical algorithms and concepts that allow us to do calculus were necessarily learned there (that is why we often struggled with students doing high school math because of the many “holes” in their k-8 learning experience.) And needless to say, if you are struggling with inadequate elementary reading skills; every high school subject is a problem.

We could probably name thousands of things we did not learn in a finite high school (what kind of lousy school could teach you everything you ever needed to know in life!); in fact I am still learning things that I did not learn in high school; because I learned the requisite skills that allow me to learn; and (most important) I also learned how to be a learner. I for one am forever grateful for my teachers and k-12 education; everything I enjoy, what I am able to do, the way I live, the fact that I have been able to help others is a blessing of my K-12 education.

And so now (one of my hobbies), I am planting trees; but then I never learned to plant trees in high school; but I can read the instructions from the state agriculture department, and I did take biology, and so I understand the parts of the tree, I did take chemistry and so I understand all of the pH soil testing stuff; and I can read a calendar, count and measure, and so I can get that planting time-table-watering part right. Oh, I almost forgot I bought the tree and the land to plant it on, because I attended high school, which allowed me to go to college, and then to get a job. Man, am I glad I went to high school!

In public education, I would like to see more action and less talk from parents…

In NYC, there are legitimate calls for greater parent input, and representation on public education decision making councils.

These advocates are not wrong; and I would be the last to argue against parents having a greater voice in how our public schools engage with their children. For sure, they are making the largest commitment to a hope that the system succeeds! They also stand to lose the most of all stakeholders (their children’s future), if the system fails their child. My experience in public education has taught me that the best chance you have of convincing a stakeholder group to accept radical-progressive change, are the parents of the children for whom you are seeking that change! And so yes, I trust them above everyone else!

But parent political engagement with the public education system would probably not be at the top of my: “Things we need to do list”, when it comes to parent engagement. If we want to get the quickest, most effective, and most long lasting positive parent influence on the level of academic achievement by children. I would go big and audacious, by moving to close the little mentioned, and greatly understated: Parent Resource and Information Gap. Now, that would be a serious politically parent empowering act of the first order!

We need to help all parents to understand that an important part of a child’s academic success, and parallel to the public education system, is the informal education system. For those NYC parents who are in the know when it comes to informal education (IE), the advantage starts before the child starts school. These fortunate children are exposed to books (being read to), educational materials, toys and games; a nutritious diet, and the rich resources of the city’s many venues for learning. This turning the city into a large classroom continues up to and throughout pre-elementary and middle school years. Recently while reading an unrelated to education article in the New Yorker, I was struck by this paragraph:

“One recent morning on the Upper East Side, a troupe of two-year-olds, strapped into their strollers, sat around the grand entrance to the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Their nannies chatted in many languages—Spanish, Urdu, English. “This is my first time coming here,” one woman said. “Art class,” she added, nodding at her charge.”

This, I thought is the real meaning of a head-start! Some children in NYC are rapidly expanding their knowledge base, being intellectually stimulated and educationally accelerated through this IE system. Those pre-early-elementary school children who visit museums, cultural performing and graphic arts centers; engaging in art, dance and music programs and lessons, build up a wealth of knowledge, vocabulary, inquisitiveness, creativity and intellectual capital. Schools will then only serve to enhance and accelerated those IE learning gifts. And the longer those students remain in school the wider the gap grows. For those students on the positive side of the IE gap, they will start to out-perform (actually out-parent-pushing) their less fortunate peers in Pre-K. And of course those parents who are most aware of the power of IE will also pick the “right” school programs, or schools that will further nurture those IE accelerated talents. Further, these students are probably better able to escape a school environment that consist of a culture of: all-test-prep-all-the-time. This means they have a better chance of being exposed to an enriched, creative, thought provoking and exciting curriculum; which further widens the gap between them, and students who are not exposed to IE.

We need to fairly provide all parents with the real “rule book” for how to make their child academically successful; not the false rule book that says all learning takes place inside of a school. Let’s start early: Based on economic need, some parents, as part of prenatal education, and when leaving the hospital to take their new born babies home, should receive a “parent education resource manual”, and a package of books to later read to their child. Parental educational materials and classes should be made available through the child’s first year; and should parallel the attention given to the child’s physical health by pediatricians. We should share with parents the unwritten: “What children really need to know before starting school” list. Let’s be honest, pre-K—Kindergarten children are “sorted” (not necessarily for reasons of tracking, but for teaching purposes) by a rubric consisting of: Vocabulary (the size and quality of it), knowledge of colors, letters, numbers, language-concepts mastery, word recognition and writing skills. But in reality, in almost every case we are really measuring the amount of exposure, and “teaching” provided by the parent.

But schools also can’t wait while parents are being made aware of the importance of our IE system. Schools must be provided with the resources and personnel to essentially step in and serve as providers of a systemically planed IE program; especially in places where the parents are unable or unwilling for whatever reasons to engage in these activities. To start: art, music, dance, drama, museum study, performing arts exposure, access to technology (not just for test-prep), creative writing, science project learning, foreign language and library (and live full-time librarians) programs, must be established, enriched and expanded in every school. Establish K-8 applied STEM labs (with a dedicated science teacher). Schools can organize family trips to museums (In CSD 29 we sponsored evenings at the museums.) Joint parent-student STEM projects. After-school and summer programs could be a wonderful mix of academic with creative, performance and inspirational work.

In my particular area of educational interest, I would like to see high school parents act less “friendly” and more “parently” with their children. These young people are developing, and are not fully developed emotionally. They need guidance, standards, and accountability. Parents must insist their children get to school every day, and to get there on time. They must insist that their children behave themselves, and rigorously invest in their own learning (set up an entire family reading-study 2-3 undisturbed hours an evening). Further, I would like parents to intensify their involvement with their child’s education, rather than “slack off” as they move up, and into the high school. Finally, parents must ensure that students are studying hard (not just doing homework) and seriously investing in their own future by applying themselves to their school work. Help the young people to understand that they are in a global competition for achieving a meaningful and productive adult life in this world; school is not a fun-pleasure boat, it is a life raft! A parent can choose to negatively enable their child, if it is the parent’s plan to take care of that child for life!

While we “wait” for schools to improve (reform after reform); young lives can’t wait; students should perform at their best no matter what school they attend. Parenting necessarily begins at home; and if we don’t help parents to perform effectively in their primary job of educational parenting, where they serve as the first, most direct and consistent teacher; then they can attend a 1,000 meetings a year, but their children will suffer, and fail academically.

“A Crazy Prayer” Part 2: THEY DID GET STOPPED BY A CANADIAN POLICE OFFICER; BUT…

My trip to Canada—Crystal Schloss-Allen

I just wanted to say thank you so much for the traveling prayers. We made it there and back safely.
The difference began at the border. The crossing was uneventful and boring- the Canadian guard was pleasant, didn’t do a thorough check of our vehicle or ask any strange questions. Even driving throughout Canada that first day, it didn’t seem strange or scary, though we were nervous for a while about being pulled over. We actually didn’t see any cops other than at the scene of an accident. Eventually what calmed our fears was seeing family and our experience with the teens there.

Our first stop was Newmarket, ON- small town outside of Toronto. Using NYC as a reference, it is similar to the towns of Nassau County. My husband’s family lives in a middle class neighborhood, three young and hilarious teenage boys lived there and they were something different from NYC teens of the same age- they were still kids. Unlike Black American teens of that age, they were honestly just kids- the way kids are supposed to be. They had no fear. They were aware of race and racism but they were not beaten down or beaten back by it.

Our second stop was in Mississauga- it is also considered a suburb but again using NYC as a reference, it is more like Queens or even the downtown Brooklyn area than anything else. It is quite urban but not quite the metropolis of Toronto. I got to hang out with my handsome little cousins age 14 at the towering height of 6′ 6″ and age 12 and average height. This big towering teen, like the other teen boys, though tall was just a super-sized child. Still a teen in attitude and not beaten down by life. Teens of that stature in NYC I would be so afraid for but in Canada he is allowed something that Black American teens are not, to be a child and enjoy it. After I went to church with my cousins we went to a birthday party/BBQ and two of the most amazing things happened.

First, all of these teens (about 8 of them) after eating went for a walk by themselves to the park- all of the parents agreed and none were worried. It amazed me when the mom of the birthday boy excused herself to go see what the boys were up to and all of the other moms said- “oh leave them, you don’t want to be the weird mom.” Can you imagine that happening in the states? The image of 8 very tall teenage black boys walking to the park and not one black mother worried.

The second and equally amazing thing that happened was I met an off duty officer/ basketball coach. Now I didn’t know he was a cop at all, he didn’t have any of the tell-tale American signs. Now not saying all cops do this but they show the signs typically one way or the other regardless of race- carrying a weapon or badge, looking around or on edge. I have friends who are cops and they can’t turn it off. Now here is what had me floored, he asked the lady of the house if he had to move his car into her driveway because he didn’t want to get a ticket. Now in most of the residential neighborhoods we went to in Canada, after a certain time of night your car should be in or in front of your driveway. Not sure why but that’s what I was told. But the fact that a police officer was worried about a ticket in the neighborhood he works in had me amazed. Not saying all officers do not follow and uphold the laws they protect but some of the ones I know and have known, don’t always do. They know that the sticker on their dash will protect them so they bend and break some of those rules and they have never worried about a ticket.

There is a stark difference between the police and the minority community in Canada, than there is here in the US. I asked about police brutality, everyone I talked to said, it could never happen here. They did tell me about racial profiling that may happen to people who are black and drive nice cars but it typically happened in Toronto so now they are starting a body camera pilot program. I had to look up more on the cases in that area and there were so few in comparison to the US. So few in Toronto compared to NYC that it makes me want to move there. It seems as if Canada is still a sanctuary to this day. There is something to be said when a place fills you with hope instead of fear in just a few days. I plan on going back later in the summer for vacation because I enjoyed my time there so much.

Well, who knew? I think that once you pray; God takes the prayer, and the prayer no longer belongs to you (Now, that’s a good reason to let all fear go!) We can never predict the message, or the messenger!