The side of public education that the public does not see…

Think about this the next time someone makes a negative comment about: “Our schools”… A lot of folks in public education are fighting with all that they have, with all of the entire strength of their hearts!

From Teacher Anthony Swann:

“So this week I experienced something I have never experienced before since I’ve been teaching. One day this week, I got a knock on the door. I was asked to step outside. It was then that I was informed that one of my students had lost his father VERY unexpectedly. I was instructed not to tell him. Well, I followed directions. I was torn to pieces within! I watched him all day long as he was smiling and laughing throughout the day knowing what he was going to face when we dismissed school that day. Well yesterday, his mom called me and told me he had a really rough time and she wanted me to spend time with him. Well…I did. I took him out to eat and then we went to play video games and watch movies! All he kept saying was, “I can’t believe I am chilling with my teacher!” That’s all he kept saying was that. Finally, I say, “Why do you keep saying that?” He says, “Because I love you!” I could’ve cried right then but I didn’t! I know he really needs me and I plan on being there. Mom even asked me to walk him in during the funeral! WOW! (This is why I teach! This is why I serve! I love my children! God gets the glory!)”

This so much reminded me of the children who were playing and reading in my office after the 9-11 terrorist attack. They were talking, laughing, acting in all of the wonderful ways that children act when they are fed their favorite fast-food, have uninterrupted access to educational toys, and interesting books. And yet behind our forced smiles and held back tears, was the frantic and saddened thoughts; as we desperately tried to find out the fate of their parents who worked in or near the Twin-Towers…
An important part of education (particularly in high school) is to prepare young people for the reality of the “real world”; but the other important part is, to the extent we can, to shield them from the pain of that world for as long as possible. The crisis for many children in our nation; is that they never get a chance to be children; the “bad” things of the world hits them hard, early and continuously, until every ounce of childhood is squeezed out of them… And then we expect them to come to school and act as if everything in their lives is wonderful. The good news (and there is always “good news”) There are many wonderful people waiting to meet, help and educate them at the point of their pain!


The Laquan McDonalds of this nation face the official Macroaggressions of Despair and Death

“For a moment, lying on the ground, he moves but then is still after he appears to be shot several more times. An officer kicks an object away from his body. The video shows none of the officers on the scene offering assistance to the teenager, Laquan McDonald…” –NY Times 11/25/15

This does not seem to ever end, even as the animal hunting seasons have a beginning and an end. And if not for an independent journalist (note the word “independent”) and the act of a fair judge; we may have never seen an indictment of the murderer. One watches the video and wonders: “What could the prosecutor be looking for, that would take a year?” We have reached the point where for Black Americans, your only shot at justice (after you are murdered) is if there is a video record, and even then, as in the case of Eric Garner murdered in Staten Island, there are no guarantees.

For many people in this nation the terror they fear the most is not somewhere in a Middle East country, a terror that is led by a group of crazy religious misinterpreters. At the very least, these fatal ISIS fanatics follow a “non-discrimination” clause in their murderous behavior. Most Americas are still not aware (and not being told) that the vast majority of the victims of ISIS are Muslims.

What Black young Americans, must face inside of the US is the ongoing terror of life in their head, hearts, homes, the potential for terror just outside their door. They must duck the official organized terror of society, and the deadly fratricidal terror the society has organized in the minds of other hopeless young men, who look and live hopelessly, like them. They are driven mad by the daily weight of bearing the daily terror of psychological and social suffering, brought on by joblessness, poor physical and psychological healthcare, inadequate and ineffective educational systems that offer no way out of their terror filled lives; their mis-education only prepares them for a future terror of hopelessness (and the only option is to inflict their hopelessness on themselves, and on those around them). If young Black people don’t have a chance to survive on a street, or a classroom, then what chance do they really have?

No amount of training, no matter how well-meaning and professional is going to rid the heart of hate. And what critical number of “bad apples” must fall off the tree before we say that there is a systemic problem of institutional racism deeply secured in the cultural roots, trunk and branches of the tree? And so I ask (And I will keep asking, while we wait for hearts to change): “What are the areas in society where we can take control of, right now, to affirm and protect the present humanity, and the future positive possibility of our young people?”

The steep teaching-learning curve that Bernie Sanders faces in explaining “Socialism” to America.

Let us first lay out a few (25) “learning challenges” that exist in the general population:

1) The # of people who think that it is ok to give a professional football team a name that is derogatory to, and disrespectful of Native Americans.

2) All of the people who live in towns with only one traffic light; who recently called their congressperson because they feared that Syrian refugees were coming to blow up their one traffic light.

3) The number of Americans who believe that it makes more economic and social sense to incarcerate young Black and Latino kids, then to invest half of that money, and reduce the level of public pain, by properly educating them.

4) The amount of folks in places like Alabama; who have not come to the realization that the Right-wing only wants woman to have children; but then they enact laws and policies that psychologically and physically kill children.

5) Those Tea-Party recipients of: Social Security, VA benefits and Medicare who were chanting that they want the: “government out of their lives!”

6) The huge number of local, state, and national civil servants, and skilled professionals, who think that “undocumented” people are coming across the Mexican border to take their jobs.

7) The number of former high school students in this nation, who either: flunked, were absent, cut class, or they were sitting in the dean’s office when world geography-history topics were covered; thus they have no idea where places like: France, Lagos, Iran, Mali, Syria, Jordan, Greece, Belgium, etc. exist on the world map. (And forget about the historical-cultural literacy about these places)

8) And the other former student in an American history high school class who either avoided, or got completely wrong, the: “Explain, giving examples of: the origin, policies, personalities and programmatic objectives and outcomes of The New Deal” essay question.

9) All of those Republican Presidential polling participants who put Messrs. Trump and Carson in the lead positions.

10) The percentage of people who believe that there is widespread voter fraud, such that Black voting rights must be legally and statutorily suppressed.

11) The number of Americans who believe that Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush really care about Syrians, Christian or otherwise; and not their own selfish political agenda.

12) The number of people who don’t question the male civic, political, and faith-based leaders, who are unfaithful husbands; and yet they are leading the movement for “traditional marriage”.

13) The # of people who don’t know that the 9-11 hijackers entered the US utilizing standard travel visas and passports. And in fact the US refugee resettlement program is a very robust and multilayered screening program; and the path (because of the length of time and the intensity of review) that would be the least useful to ISIS or AL-Qaeda terrorist.

14) The entire Fox News viewership…

15) The number of American citizens who are quick to say: “Thank you for your service”, to returning military men and women, and then show a tremendous disregard in areas of providing quality healthcare, housing and employment for them.

16) The huge unfortunate number of (soon to be disappointed) Black male teenagers who think they are going to: “Buy their momma a house, when they get to the NBA or NFL!” As opposed to utilizing their athletic and/or intellectual talents to get a real and meaningful college education and then: Buy their momma a house!

17) The # of people in many Republican states who say: “I don’t have no healthcare insurance”, but “I hate Obamacare” (Because the name Obama is attached to it!)

18) The number of Americans who are not: “doomed to repeat history”; because they never learned about things like the US Japanese-American internment camps, The Salem witch trails, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, in the first place.

19) The # of Americans who can’t balance in their brains, the two non-conflicting ideas of having and appreciating effective and good policing; without having police brutality and police misconduct.

20) (A) The persistent large number of Americans who still believe that Mr. Obama is a Muslim. (B) The persistent large number of Americans who actually believe the underlying “given” presumption, that being a Muslim is actually a bad thing.

21) The percentage of Americans who think that Don Lemon is really a serious journalist; and that Raven Symone actually has something to say.

22) The number of male elected officials (including those with “incomplete” female anatomy and physiology information), who actually believe that they should be in control of women’s reproductive healthcare and rights.

23) The number of Black American citizens who continue to allow their children’s education to be deformed; by a never-ending parade of faux educational reform movements; after each unsuccessful exercise all you hear is: “just kidding” (“fool me once shame on you, fool me…”)

24) There is a very popular museum that displays exhibits where dinosaurs and humans are in the same time period. Places in this nation where the Common (to them) Core Curriculum is anti-intellectual, and reeks of terrible “invented history”; like slavery was a Confederate jobs program.

25) All of the people in America who don’t know the difference between Karl Marx and Groucho Marx. The difference between Communism and Socialism, Capitalism and Socialism, between a Liberal and a Conservative, between the Right and the far Right. (If John Boehner is a conservative, then who are the people who ousted him?) Bernie would probably need to explain why a great deal of what is labeled as “conservatism” by the intellectually lazy American news media, is in fact proto-fascism (And thus that raises the question: What is fascism?). An understanding of Democratic Socialism requires an explanation of both Democracy and Socialism; a very tall order in a so-called democratic society that is so comfortable with compromising the voting and civil rights of its Black citizenry. Don’t get me wrong, I admire Bernie’s high expectations; but there is just too much material he must cover, in so short a time period; and for an audience that is so easily distracted with the overwhelming noise of triviality. There is some discomfort that is associated with facing things as they truly are; and I am not sure how you successfully market discomforting truths as a political platform? In any event, good luck Bernie!

“Black Male Educators Are an Endangered Species”– By Stephen Jackson

Washington, DC — Over the past seven years, DCPS (DC Public Schools) stood as the epicenter of education reform. District residents have seen marked improvements. Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s Capital Commitment Campaign is in full swing and enrollment is steadily climbing. Most recently, Henderson with the mayor’s full support, announced the Empowering Men of Color initiative aimed at serving the population that has experienced the least amount of success, historically, in our school system. This is not only a strong statement acknowledging the District’s need to support Black and Latino men (in the same fashion they have every other subgroup in the city), it tells every household of color that their presence and existence is valuable and necessary to the foundation and diverse culture the city has grown to become. Ironically, DCPS has a major challenge: How to achieve the goals of the Empowering Young Males of Color initiative without having a solid and significant cohort of strong Black male educators?

Research shows that there is a strong link between the lack of male educators of color and the academic and behavioral performance of male students of color. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, 1.7 percent of the nation’s 4.8 million public school teachers are Black men. The majority of Black boys never have the opportunity to be taught by someone who looks like them or to experience an African American male role model in their classrooms. Recently, the Albert Shanker Institute, a research think tank, endowed by the American Federation of Teachers released a report stating that they saw a drop in the number of Black teachers in nine cities including Washington, DC. According to the report, the largest drop of Black teachers took place in the district between 2003 and 2011. The percentage of White teachers more than doubled from 16 percent to 39 percent. Black teachers in the district dwindled from 77 percent to 49 percent. A 28 percent decrease in the number of Black teachers in a system that has over 67 percent Black students.

While DCPS and other school districts around the country fail to recruit, retain, and develop Black male teachers, DCPS also has another serious challenge: retaining and developing Black male administrators, which includes principals and district level leaders. Over the past 24 months, as the principal of the historic Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, I have watched more than two dozen competent and capable African American male principals and central office supervisors leave DCPS under the current leadership. They include: 16 principals, 2 instructional superintendents, and 10 central office directors, managers and specialists. Unfortunately, most of the principals were replaced with White or Black females. A few were replaced with a Black male principal or an assistant principal that were already in the system. In addition, two Black male instructional superintendents were replaced with a Black female and a White male.

Black male administrators are disappearing in school districts like DCPS at extremely high rates. The “great White hope” syndrome has taken over urban school districts across the country, sending a message that male educators of color are not needed to properly educate and lead young men of color. New York City, Newark, New Orleans and other urban centers across the country are strong examples of this diseased phenomena in which Black male educators are disappearing and becoming invisible. The question is: Does DCPS leadership believe that it is necessary or particularly beneficial for children of color to be taught or led by educators of color? ‘If “Black lives matter,” how can the district successfully lead and turnaround urban school systems when Black men are absent and invisible?

The glaring lack of cultural competency at the executive level has taken over urban school districts across the country. Interestingly, there are no Black male educators in senior leadership on the DCPS Executive team- including Dr. Robert Simmons, Chief of Innovation and the leader of the EMOC initiative, the most recent district office leader of color to disappear. What is DCPS’s issue with retaining and developing Black male leadership?

In speaking with nearly all of the principals, instructional superintendents and department heads who left DCPS, a vast majority have cited a lack of respect for their opinion.

They shared their personal experiences of being pushed out or encouraged to seek employment elsewhere; others were terminated. Most of them left on their own accord. All expressed frustration and a lack of support from DCPS’s District level leadership. Each shared similar stories regarding the lack of interest from central office staff in supporting the truly effective practices to drive student support. Many Black principals reported being told that they are “going off the reservation” by district leaders when they strongly advocated for the schools they led. This was often given as a thinly veiled threat to the principal that their job was in jeopardy when they brought up issues around staffing, autonomy, equitable funding or even school readiness for August openings.

I recall in one of our Principal Leadership Academy meetings where Chancellor Henderson was excited about the new initiatives she had planned for the school year. In a most enthused and animated speech she told a room full of principals, “I charged my executive team to ramp it up. I challenged them to build a DCPS that they would send their children to!” Then she asked her leadership team to stand up; that’s when it hit me, there was not one Black male educator on her leadership team. As a matter of fact, there was not one person of color standing.

On Saturday, October 10, 2015, the 20th reunion of the Million Man March took place right here in Washington DC. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Reverend Willie Wilson, DC Councilman Vincent Orange and others gave powerful speeches that supported the million men on the mall. Additionally, Minister Farrakhan spoke about the importance of education and the role that Black men play in educating our children. It’s hard to ignore what is taking place in the District of Columbia with regard to Black male educators.

The lack of diversity in DCPS and other urban school districts has become a pervasive issue that few want to acknowledge or attempt to address. It has turned out to be the “elephant in the room” with regard to school improvement and turnaround efforts. There seems to be very little support for and confidence in the Black male educator. He is not valued nor seen as an asset. He is not given a platform or a voice to affect young men of color on a large scale. He is often overlooked and undermined. His greatest advantage is often used against him. In many cases, it’s the reason why he isn’t considered the “chosen one” when it comes to educating Black boys. The fact that he is an educator of color disqualifies him from being a part of the movement to empower young men of color. The irony is that the annihilation of the Black male educator is happening right here in Washington, DC. This is a major challenge that DCPS leadership must address. I implore DCPS to realize that losing African American teachers and administrators furthers cripples and marginalizes young Black men. Every effort must be made to hire, retain and develop Black men in school and district level leadership positions. We cannot empower them if we don’t hire them.

Stephen Jackson is the former principal of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School of Washington DC — the first public high school for African Americans. As a seasoned educational leader with over 30 years of experience, Jackson has been hailed at the local and national levels as a trailblazer in the education reform movement. Known for turning around tough schools with his keen eye for quality instruction, he has the uncanny ability to mobilize people with an inspiring vision. Follow him on Twitter at @sdjackson9