It is always important to: “compare and contrast” when analyzing competing ideas. It seems (Full disclosure), in my view that Mr. de Blasio (https://www.facebook.com/bill.deblasio) has invested a great deal of smart and strategic thought into making public education work for a large number of the city’s children. Children whose mis-education has been neglected and transformed into a spring board into employing casual-drive by “educators”; and a platform for money making enterprises. Clearly his educational plan is comprehensive, bold and visionary. Mr. de Blasio plan seems to pursue a path that will not lead to the failed policies of the past; and at the same time keep our children off of the faux reform path to education failure. NYC’s children could be tragically caught between “rubber rooms”, and corporate money-making schemes; in both cases their educational hopes of entering the productive mainstream of American life through education, will be lost. All the research I have read clearly supports Mr. de Blasio’s assertion that a strong Pre-K education can have a powerful and demonstrative effect on a student’s future academic success. We could, through strong full day universal pre-K programs (that included Art, Music, Science, technology, and out of school cultural experiences/ trips); break the curse of the real gap; which is not academic ability; but rather the gap in parent resources (both financial and informational). Central to any educational plan should be a plan to neutralize and destroy the deleterious effects of poverty on a student’s ability to learn. Diminish, as a factor the unfair (unfair because children can’t choose their parents) influence of the attainment level of parent education, or mastery of English. If people are afraid of the concept of “two- educational cities”; then perhaps it is because their children live in the educational city with: highly skilled and visionary school building leaders; a school that is well resourced, and staffed with highly talented-experienced teachers who know, and are strong in content and know how to effectively deliver that content; teachers who have high expectations for themselves, and for their students. Although it was not specifically mentioned, I am hoping that having “smart and articulate” children (look under, not at the Afro; listen to how well Dante expresses himself), would provide Mr. de Blasio with an opportunity to think, and plan for an educational initiative that would address the identification and nurturing of children of color who are near, on and above grade level. We need to extend the definition of “at-risk” to Black and Latino students who are presently doing well academically; for they are truly at risk of being relegated to the back of the low-expectations class room. The educational “ghettoizing” of Black and Latino students in a permanent state of “failure”, “underachievement”, who are forever in need of “fixing”; has historically framed these students in a never-ending, never-productive ,permanent, “closing the gap” defeatist model. In the 1990’s-2000; high schools like Science Skills Center, Medgar Evers, A. Philip Randolph and Frederick Douglass were creating school cultures that affirmed and enhanced student strengths. There is a need to create viable learning spaces where young people are safe; and safe to be smart. We need to close the gap between the high capabilities, and the low expectations of Black and Latino students in NYC. Would a Black mayor be a nice visual role model, perhaps? But I am now so over “Black symbolism”, and I yearn for substance over the symbolic. Langston Hughes said it best, as only he could, in a poem. When speaking about the great African-American international diplomat Dr. Ralph Bunche: “I love Ralph Bunche, but I can’t eat him for lunch”. And as the old folks would say: “Tell the truth, and shame the devil”. It took me awhile (a lot of effort and a lot of disappointment); but I have finally been cured of my chronic illusion that a Black person (phenotypically speaking), in the position of power, is going to do the right thing for children; even if the majority of those children look like them; it may not happen; if it requires a great deal of vision built on a foundation of great courage.
And as a former leader of the PRC Deng Xiaoping once expressed: “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice”; so here are three candidates educational plans: