Why am I not shocked by the behavior of that SC school resource officer; students of color face many forms of violence in our public schools every day.

“The authorities in South Carolina are investigating an encounter captured on two videos that went viral Monday afternoon that show a white school police officer in a Columbia classroom grabbing an African-American student by the neck, flipping her backward as she sat at her desk, then dragging and throwing her across the floor….” –NY Times 10/27/15

First of all the entire idea and rational behind having the position of a “school resource officer”; is that this is a person who by emotional make up and specialized training is supposed to be the kind of officer who can lower the atmosphere for violence and confrontation in a school. Students of color are often subject to daily incidents of psychological, educational and/or physical acts of violence in public schools (sometimes from other students, and sometimes from the adults in the building). A large part of what is wrong with underperforming schools is the high number of Instruction interruption events that take place over the course of a day. These disruptions actually add up to weeks and months of lost instruction time; negatively affecting for what is in many cases students who are already struggling academically. In too many schools students must struggle through a violent environment; and then sometimes by accident, try to actually learn something. A large number of adult acts of violence go unreported; at least the way the incident factually took place. Tragically, schools can have their own professional “wall” of staff silence when it comes to holding adults responsible for bad behavior; especially when there are no non-staff witness present (“Who are you going to believe us professional adults, or this kid?”) A Further sad note is the adult physical and psychological mistreatment of students is easier to perpetrate in the K-8 setting, as opposed to high schools. Unfortunately, younger students are often unable to advocate for themselves (the reason the parents of these students should be ever alert as to what is going on with their child in school!) These acts also often go unrecorded and not publicized; however in this one incident it was:

I find this so hard to watch….

This felony assault on this student, is one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen in a school. It was good that the students in the class exhibited a calmness, by not putting themselves in danger of this clearly disturbed officer; and yet they knew they had to record it. Five things that are critical for me here:

(1) I believe that how this incident was handled is probably a reflection of how students of color are treated in other parts of that school’s operation (academic expectations, course assignments, counseling, discipline procedures, etc.) The question for me is, how can we get parents and communities of color to be equally appalled and upset by the psychological-educational violence that is inflicted daily on their children.

(2) A student sitting in her chair; even one who is refusing to leave the room; is not a physical thereat to hurt anyone; and so a physical forced removal has no place here (and particularly the type of force used in this situation.)

(3) In every school there is “some adult person” in the school building who can get a student to “calm-down” and comply with a directive from an adult. As the student was just sitting, the school had time to get that person to intervene in this situation.

(4) The “arrest” of the student is not only part of the standard officer exoneration plan; it also speaks to how students of color are viewed and treated in that school. Since I think that it is the rare situation when a confrontation of this nature occurs and race is not a factor. One is forced to think how this non-violent “refusal to move”; may have been handled if the officer saw the “refusing” student as a human being, someone who could be his child, as citizen worthy of respect, honor and protection.

(5) I hope the parents get a good lawyer (to inflict serious monetary damages on that school district); and that lawyer consult with a retired school administrator to buttress their case that this is not the way to handle this type of situation; in fact it was handled in the worst possible way. No, I am not shocked by this (latest) incident; but I am shocked and saddened, by the fact that I can no longer be shocked.

Well, Good Luck With That Mr. President!

“President Obama defends Black Lives Matter movement…” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/president-barack-obama-defends-black-lives-matter-movement/

Well, good luck with this Mr. President! And I understand and appreciate that one of your job descriptions is to serve as Intellectual commander and chief of complicated ideas and concepts. But unfortunately we find ourselves in the age of anti-knowledge and counter (as in contrary, not covert) intelligence. And if the Republican presidential primary polls are to be believed, at least 50% of those polled, prefer a candidate who will offer them the most thoughtless, unimaginative, offensive and crude suggestions as to how our nation should be led. Unfortunately, starting off Mr. President, with a 50% class cultural-illiteracy rate, presents a unique set of challenges, even for the skilled educator and chief.
Further, I am sure that there are many White citizens who are part of the nations unemployed, the working poor, and the “one check loss, or one serious illness away from poverty” middle class; who (like many of us) are watching as 4+ million dollars of tax payers money is being spent on the (comical if it were not so costly): “Get Hillary Benghazi-Email” Political Action Committee (PAC), in-(silly)action. It really requires a large less-than-adequately informed segment of the electorate to pull that political scam off. And thus, an additional major teaching and learning hurdle for the Professor and chief.
We have the modern confederacy states, starving their schools of resources and rich learning content; avoiding high national standards; while at the same time introducing curriculum and supporting textbooks that are anti-factual in history courses, and anti-science in science courses. Not the best recipe for building an enlightened population, who can navigate and process complicated theories and ideas.

I just think, Mr. President, that the complex concept of: “Black Lives Matter”, is an intellectual bridge too far, for too many Americans. All Educators know that one of the hardest lessons to teach, is to get students to hold “two valid truths”, in their minds at the same time; without seeing them as statements of negation. The French Revolution was historically speaking a good thing; however there were also some things that emerged from that effort, that were not so good. The important ecological role of lions in nature of helping to control the overpopulation of wildebeest—a good thing; lions entering human habitats, and attacking humans a not so good thing. If we say we need to reduce the national rate of Black unemployment; it does not mean we want to raise White unemployment. And the call for: “equal pay, for equal work”, in behalf of American women; does not mean exploit the labor of men, and pay them less than women.

Saying that a special wrong requires a specialized response; sounds simple enough, but not so to the simple-minded; and the resistant to complicated information closed mind. Or, a mind that has been poisoned by centuries of a sense of racial entitlement. And then I can’t imagine; someone saying in response to the movement to save endangered elephants in the world: “Forget it, no, we should save all four-legged animals!” Or, interpreting the movement to save these endangered elephants; as a movement that is calling for the hunting and killing of all other animals. The “All Lives Matter” movement is, if we are to be honest, a nice way of saying that: “No, Black Lives Don’t Really Matter”; because the obvious general statement suggest that the specific statement is unnecessary; that it is a false concept, something, as the President alluded to, as something: Black folks just made up!

And that is why my diminishing tolerance for foolishness (along with my seniorhood, and how I now want to efficiently use the rest of my time); I won’t invest any time in trying to explain BLM to my White friends and colleagues; or to any, amazingly still confused Black person; who insist on equating the Black criminal element in the Black community, to that of the responsibility of those who are officially sworn to serve and protect that community. Black Lives Matter less because of systemic and pervasive societal racism. And that overarching cultural dismissal of Black lives, equally infects both Black and White citizens (Read Franz Fanon’s: “Black Skin White Masks”). I don’t know why people find it is so strange, that in a society that is so invested in undermining the value and humanity of Black people; people are shocked that Black people would want to kill other Black people! When a K-12 mis-education (and a distorted advanced formal education), has conditioned a Black person to look into a mirror each morning, and believe that they are looking at the image of their number one enemy in the world. Forget about the violent “gang-banger”, what about what we (non-gangbangers) allow to happen to our children in our public schools. The extent to which our public schools damage, and commit daily acts of intellectual and self-esteem violence inflicted on our children; that are in many ways the most severe, damaging and long-lasting examples of : “black on black” criminal-cultural-emotional violence.

The fact that a mere non-radical and non-violent call for the affirmation of Black American Life, is met with resistance, diversion and derision, alone speaks to what does, and does not matter in our nation. And there is something strange about petitioning those who would deny your personhood; when in fact your de-personalization enhances the quality of their entitled personhood. If you are forced to make a case for your humanity; I suspect that those who are denying that humanity, will not be moved. We need to (as we demand respect for our lives), also affirm and assert our own meaning and sense of mattering.

And we could start in a place that does not require the permission of others…. And that is taking control of the education of our children’s lives as if those lives mattered; by political force and affirmative resistance in public education (An educational rights movement!). And in our neighborhoods, civic, social, religious organizations, and homes by personal force. It would matter greatly, and greatly matter to their sense of mattering; if Black children could receive a quality and self-affirming education.

Charter Schools, a Choice for Black Parents?

“Why Don’t Suburbanites Want Charter Schools?” —Laura McKenna; The Atlantic Magazine; http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/10/why-dont-suburbanites-want-charter-schools/408307/

Probably because they prefer real choices for their children!

First, let me say I deeply respect those Black charter school parents, who are operating out of the best instincts and interests on behalf of their children. I have nothing but admiration for those parents, who are fighting with whatever weapons they can get a hold of, to save their children from the demoralizing ant-Black academic achievement public school systems of this nation. And in particular those parents who have come to understand that our public school systems, have neither a plan nor interest in providing an appropriate education for Black students who are either “on, or above grade level.” The world of public education is the opposite of NPR’s Garrison Keillor’s students who attend the mythical Lake Woebegone school district; as far as US public education is concerned all Black students are all incapable of high academic performance; and the tricky thing about education, is that you tend to get what you expect.

But I hesitate to call Black parents “choice” of charter schools, an educational choice in the way I understand the words: “education” and “choice”. While reading this article I wanted to at least start with a little honest vocabulary, and say: White communities and parents, instead of the, “nice”, safe and careful word: “suburbanites”! I fully understand that the average American (including journalist and commentators) would rather spend 5 minutes in the ring (or is it a cage?) with Ronda Rousey, then to have a painful, honest and authentic discussion about race and education in this nation. But on this topic, and others like it in education, “race” as a main discussion focus, is desperately needed. The fact that charter schools are presented as a “choice” for Black parents (Can we also be honest and agree to call Black kids: the “targeted population” of the charter movement?) is itself misleading. White parents (our “suburbanites”) may be actually choosing to pass on charter schools; but for sure the optional choice in Black communities to “select” these schools is not an example of a ground swell of affirmation that emerged naturally and independently from the Black community. It is in many ways like poor people without health insurance having “a choice” of receiving primary care in the hospital emergency room, or nothing; some choice!

And so when is a choice not really a choice in the full meaning of the word? What is an educational “choice” apart from an informed decision; without self-determined-defined-developed options? How does it feel to have a “choice” that is disconnected from power? To experience a “choice” that is in fact a result of a decision made outside of the Black community (“You can choose but you can only pick option A or B of two bad choices”?)
And let us not forget the racial apartheid that characterizes the profile of the funders and ownership class that controls charter schools; and how does that reality affect the cultural and self-esteem needs of the children and the community where they live. The charter school movement leadership; seems to in many ways to mirror the racial makeup of public education’s ‘reform’, and ‘anti-reform’ uninformed folks in the traditional public school system. In an interesting way the limited choices Black parents are forced to make, reduces them and their communities to live in a culture of constant compromise; never really being able to practice and project their true humanity; to affirm their parental ideas as to what they think their children need. And perhaps, if given a real choice Black people, may in fact choose charter schools, but that is not what is going on here; the real choices are only being made by the “suburbanites”!

Why don’t we call charter schools what they truly are; beyond their commercial importance in a slowly recovering economy. They sadly represent a surrender, a failure and a cowardly choice on the part of our political, education and civic leaders to confront, and dispense with a public education system that fails children of color by maintaining the primacy of adult employment and happiness in our public schools. Why can’t we get rid of restrictive and anti-academic rules and regulations, right now in our public schools, and save millions of children, right now! Why can’t Black parents have the political power to insist that their schools not become liberal carpet-bagging training centers for drive by educational saviors, on their way to lucrative consultant contracts and “suburban” school districts? Why are the schools that serve the poor and children of color allowed to be essentially controlled by labor-organizations (who generously fund and own politicians) that treat public schools as if they were some type of factory producing inanimate “widgets”; rather than a place that is charged with nurturing future animated and willing human being that we care about? Why can’t Black educators and communities have a say in what is the best ways to educate their children; why can’t they have a say like “suburban parents and communities”?

Over the years I have seen so many examples of this false educational choice made by Black parents: theologically committed Baptist and Methodist sending their children to Catholic parochial schools; Black parents living down the block from a low-performing public school, scraping together their very limited resources to send their child to a private school; and finally the latest growing wave of Black Homeschoolers; who are trying to save their children from both charter and traditional public schools. When will these people really have a choice, like their White counterparts, to just send their child to the neighborhood school knowing that they will be safe, academically challenged and cherished as essential human beings?

My experience as a teacher, principal and superintendent has taught me that Black parents, like most parents are pretty much focused on the bottom lines of:

-“Is my child safe?”
-“Can my child learn and progress academically in this school?”
-“Is the school committed to high standards and high expectations?”
-“Is my child’s success a requisite priority in this school”
-“Do the adults who are in charge of the district, and those who work in the school honor, and really care about my child?”

Missing from the list; and something I have never heard in more than three decades in public education, from either Black or White parents is: “I wish for my child to be turned into a commodity and sacrificed on the altar of conservative political expediency, and educational entrepreneurship!” “That the only way to improve a school is to close it!” Or, “that my child should be the product of the never-ending policy and organizational churn (masquerading as reform) that characterizes public education in communities of color.
I think that Black children, parents and communities, could really stand a long period of absence of both liberal and conservative “educational reformers”; whose political wars continues to leave huge numbers of an entire population of young people firmly in the classroom to cell block pipeline. I tell parents that if either a liberal or conservative walks into a room and says: “I want to help your kids”—Duck and Run!

Black parents want what suburban parents enjoy–the ability to choose a good option for their child. Or the choice between two good options, like a TAG program and a very rich non-TAG school program. The real choice between a specialized-magnet school; and a really good neighborhood school! And this real choice (if we chose to make that choice possible) could exist without the need to create a brand new school system; that has even less accountability, then the first school system; and is based on a profit motive; after all, based on recent events, it is not like the business community has such a stellar record of achievement! And if you can only produce modest gains by skimming children of the most active and aware Black parents; by removing “troublesome” and low performing students; excluding large numbers of ELL and special education students; then clearly this latest experiment in “privatization” is not the answer.

There are some very good reasons that public education in any society, is not a profit making enterprise, and that is because the education of a society’s young people is viewed as an investment in the future. When we as a nation (well, at least large numbers of us) decide that Black children have a place and role in the future success of this nation; there will be an end to wasteful and non-productive experimental projects; that in the end always seem to leave some people in our society a little richer; while at the same time leave the children and parents of color with a lot of impoverished hope.

“Triangulation” as the strangulation of sound and principle thinking.

Hillary Clinton’s decision to support a no-fly zone in Syria…

“Hillary Clinton is not half-baked in terms of her approach to these problems,” Obama said at a news conference at the White House. “But I also think there is a difference between running for president and being president.” –Mr. Obama is being extremely generous and gracious here; “half-baked” would be granting her plan too much credibility.

Let’s see what we have so far. One won’t allow a Muslim to be President; one (living only to Cruz to bruise) would shut-down the government, and defy the Supreme Court, if he does not get his way; another will round up all of the Mexican undocumented men, women and children (he describes as: drug dealers, rapist and murderers—yes all of them!) and ship them back to Mexico! And now we have the John McCain-Lindsey Graham school of international politics (let’s just arm anybody, and go to war with anybody!) inspired plan for creating war with Russia. This presidential campaign has opened the door to so much reckless posturing, racism, anti-immigrant “scape-goat” mongering, rank opportunism, and the most un-presidential positions imaginable being taken.

There must be a better way to select a person for what is one of the most important jobs in the world! Unfortunately this political theater (dare I say comedy), plays well to the vast don’t know, don’t want to know, “short answers” requiring public. The dishonesty of some politicians, and the intellectual laziness of journalist; to keep insisting that the more than a thousand (yes 1,000+!) of “Anti-Assad” groups fighting on the ground are easily and clearly divided into Islamic extremist; and those “pro-American” groups and fighters advocating for a democratic Syria. Nothing, could be more disingenuous and disconnected from the truth. And even further, the Ignoring of a major “fact on the ground”; that a primary factor in this conflict (A proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia) in Syria, is a centuries old war as to how to define Islam; and we should step into that?

The POTUS is correct to not go for this right-wing (and now HRC wing) fiction that we can just wade into what is both a complex and contradictory war zone, and magically make it right. Here Mr. Obama is taking the right approach: Stay focused on: (1) The removal of Assad; and (2) the degrading and destroying of ISIS. Unlike our “allies” in the region like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who both prefer to fight the people who are effectively fighting ISIS!
Let Mr. Putin dig his own second Afghanistan. Russia’s last big adventure in the region ended really badly; with the loss of a great deal of money, credibility and the lives of a lot of young Russian soldiers (Estimates range from 33-38 thousand killed and approximately 35,000 wounded!) Let him overextend his material and military resources between Syria and the Ukraine, even as his national economy disintegrates; let’s see how that will work for him, after Russia is forced to ration Vodka!

Meanwhile back at home, we need a principled grownup like Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren to save us from having to make a choice between a Dumb and Dumber candidate for POTUS.