I said that the Covid-19 school closure situation would greatly help some students, while badly hurting others, well…*

One standardized exam that won’t be cancelled…

College Board on this year’s AP exams: “We’re investing in the development of a new at-home testing option.”

Giving this year’s AP exams in the present Covid-19 school-closure format, advantages some students and disadvantages others. This is one Standardized exam (the liberal woke-folks are not fighting to get rid of by the way), that will not be eliminated.

Allowing students to take “home-based” AP testing options raises a lot of questions about the validity of the resulting grades. After only a small section of the national college admissions scandal was exposed recently; I wonder how many well-educated parents are going to “play fair” and allow their children to not score high enough to earn college credit? Yes, in a perfect world (we don’t live in), everyone would take the test fairly and honestly. And for the disenfranchised AP students who takes the exam, how many have access to ‘experts in the field’ if they even chose (as they should not), to cheat like their advantaged peers? Also, students with documented (IEP’s, 504 plans) disabilities will most-likely not be able to get the “accommodations”, support and assistance (e.g. adaptive technology) they need to have a fair shot at taking or even doing well on an AP exam.

I get that (and have used) these AP exams as an important tool to reduce college student’s debt and to quickly move students up to more advance classes in their college majors, but the testing conditions must be fair to all students regardless of their parents access to financial and human educational resources.

The College Board’s “test security measures” are a joke and can be easily circumvented. Either cancel the AP exams completely, or these AP exams should be given in places like a sports arena, where the seats could be safely placed far distant from each other. Or, the colleges could offer presently enrolled AP students a ‘cost free’ for credit college course in that student’s AP subject area.

The College Board is correct in allowing AP exams like Studio Art and Design to be submitted digitally; but I also see this as a problem. Many schools (I have) put up the money parents don’t have to pay for the AP Art materials and equipment; what if parents can’t afford to pay for their child’s AP art supplies? A further reason why poor kids, kids with parents who are not highly educated, parents who lack financial resources, or don’t have connections to a highly educated and specialized content/subject contact person(s), are at a distinctly severe disadvantage.

Finally, (and this may do the trick) I suspect that many white middle class/working class families are, due to the Covid-19 virus crises, are presently in economic hardship status and can’t support their child’s AP educational needs (e.g. Test prep classes and materials). I get that the College Board is a business and does not want to refund money to districts (or not get paid for exam fees); but they need to fall back here and do the right thing on behalf of American children.

* “Long-term school closures will produce student winners and losers: Sadly, the U.S. Covid-19 virus pandemic will expose and expand the PreK-12 Educational Learning Opportunity Gap… http://majmuse.net/2020/03/24/notes-from-in-house-exile-sadly-the-u-s-covid-19-virus-pandemic-will-expose-and-expand-the-prek-12-educational-learning-opportunity-gap/

Notes from In-house exile: Taking Notes on the Plagues Teachable Moments.

(7) March 24, 2020

Long-term school closures will produce student winners and losers: Sadly, the U.S. Covid-19 virus pandemic will expose and expand the PreK-12 Educational Learning Opportunity Gap… http://majmuse.net/2020/03/24/notes-from-in-house-exile-sadly-the-u-s-covid-19-virus-pandemic-will-expose-and-expand-the-prek-12-educational-learning-opportunity-gap/

• There is the Story of the two Revelatory Plagues; Donald Trump and Covid-19. How someone responds to either or both, tells you everything you need to know about that person’s moral character…

• Rand Paul gets the Covid-19 Virus, is advantaged by his position in government; the hypocritical and immoral Ayn Randian (The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged,etc.) philosophy of callous selfishness…

• I guess economic privilege drives politics in a circle: If you go far enough to the right or left you end up in the same place. The ‘woke’ folks who say that Trump = Biden; but unlike most struggling Americans they have financial options and probably health insurance…

• Whiteness sure has its privileges; I can’t imagine Barack Obama getting away with this level of dangerously ignorant leadership. Initially the ACA website malfunctioned and folks (friends and foes) went crazy with criticism. And now under Trump when people are actually getting seriously ill and dying…

• The futility of hoarding. The history of plagues (for real and in science fiction) suggest that starving desperate people, will most-likely fall-back on their Limbic pre-pre-historic system instincts; which means that they are not going to allow you to stay in your home well-fed, toilet-paper rich, safe and sound while they and their children starve to death…

• The proposal to end the necessary social distancing, and let large numbers of people die in time for businesses to reap the highest Easter shopping profits; reveals the cynical and evil nature of capitalism…

• They keep talking about the “high-risk-elderly”; and I have to keep reminding myself that they are talking about me! Age is sometimes nothing but a number in your head!

• Trump’s still strong approval ratings during what is clearly incompetent leadership behavior in response to the plague; and the way he is normalized and tolerated by those white Americans, including Democrats, who claim to disagree with him; suggest to me that the rest of us need a plan “B”; and I don’t mean reparations; something closer to self-reliance…

• Thoughts on being in ‘so-low’ isolation: (1) I’ll never take hugging for granted again. (2) Thank God for 90 day medication prescriptions!

Notes from In-house exile: Long-term school closures will produce student winners and losers

Long-term school closures will produce student winners and losers

(6) March 23, 2020

Sadly, the U.S. Covid-19 virus pandemic will expose and expand the PreK-12 Educational Learning Opportunity Gap. It seems that many school districts around the nation are closing, for perhaps the entire school year. Let’s just be honest for a moment in stating that even during non-pandemic times, there is a huge formal (things learned in school) and informal (things learned outside of school) Educational Learning Opportunity Gap (ELOG), existing between school districts, schools in the same or different district(s), and even different students inside of the same school building.

This ELOG can amount to conceptual-knowledge and performance-skills learning differences that can stretch over many years, even though two students on either end of the gap spectrum are ‘technically’ in the same grade. Thus, two students in the same 8th grade, but in different schools, could mean that one student has not yet received or is not proficient in the 5th grade curriculum learning standards; while the other student has mastered the 8th grade curriculum learning standards and could in fact be taking high school courses in middle school e.g. Algebra; and yet officially both of these students are referred to as being “8th graders”.

A Gap by its real name…

I prefer the phrase Educational Learning Opportunity Gap as opposed to the more popular “Achievement Gap”; because the “Achievement Gap” suggest, albeit subtly, that the gap is somehow caused by the students themselves. The ELOG however speaks to the inherent capabilities of students who are artificially under-performing academically because they are exposed to inferior school-building leadership and/or ineffective/inferior instructional practices; and of course this ‘under-learning’ is always accompanied by the low expectations of the child’s gifts and talents. And as we now know very well, students will naturally rise or sink to the expectations levels of the adults assigned to educate them.
Now I am sure (having heard it for so many years) that this will send some of my colleagues to screaming about the ‘causal factors’ of: poverty, parent’s level of education, and the level of parent interest in their child’s education.
First, it is my 11 year principal experience that ‘poor parents’, parents who are limited in or speak no English, those who for whatever reason were not able to take full advantage of formal schooling themselves; are in fact, the most clear (not having a great deal of financial wealth to pass on to their children), about the power and necessity of acquiring an education. They may not express it in the ‘perfect-parent’ phrasing format that we professionals want to hear, and they may not know how to effectively play the ‘parent as educational partner’ role; but their desire to see their child succeed academically is absolutely there; and it always depends on how the professional educator ‘reads the situation’.
But educating, encouraging and empowering the emergence of ‘positive-parent-push’ behaviors is part of that highly effective principal’s job, and it is desperately what these students and their parents need; even when those same parents push-back against it.

The most powerful, confidence and competence building service you can perform for a politically and/or economically disenfranchised child, is to make them high academic performers. Which is why that highly effective principal must also strategically design initiatives and programs that can counteract the deleterious effects of poverty and that child’s possible lack of quality informal educational exposures (e.g. museums, cultural institutions, music, dance, art and STEM lessons, etc.) It’s the school-building leadership operationalization praxis of In loco parentis (in the place of a parent).

All of the above leads me to make my unfortunate hypotheses: That those children who already live on the ‘short end of the formal and informal educational stick’, will suffer the most from ‘learning lost’ during this closed down period.
Many parents will have (one or more): the money, time, contacts, information, connections, education and access to hardware and internet technology, that will allow them to provide anywhere from a decent to excellent ‘emergency’ learning experience for their child.
Further, there are vast difference between students in their ‘personality approach’ to the ‘taking of control’ of their own learning concept; you can see it in the eyes and attitudes of incoming 9th graders (others will ‘catch that fire’ in the 10th grade); it is those ‘on mission’ focused eyes that are saying: “OK, I will be here for 4 years, I know where I am going next, I know what I need to do, I’m not here to play, let’s go!” Those students,* who are highly self-motivated, and practice good learning habits will trust me, make a ‘learning feast’ out of this down school time; as they knowledge acquisition sprint pass their less motivated peers; especially in the middle and high schools levels.
Finally, parents exert different levels of authoritative and inspirational power over their children when it comes to home-learning; and so, the school can do a great job in placing ‘school-work’ (and many districts, schools and teachers are doing just that) online; and the child could have an internet computer (or phone) connection; but who is going to make sure that the child is doing the work?

After the plague, what must schools do?

I have given some thought of late as if I was a principal today and what strategies would I employ in this present crises. And of course I always think about how I would be worried-sad about my kids being ‘in those streets’. But when I thought ahead to next year, I imagined my school engaging in an academic recovery and reclamation project on a large school-wide scale; something that we actually employed every year on a smaller scale. And that is how we planned during the summer as to how we would bring students ‘up-to-speed’ who were performing below grade level in middle school; and also how we would address the academic needs of those few students who came from countries outside of the US and were missing significant years of schooling due to war or a natural disaster.
My staff and I would probably come up with some amazingly unprecedented phenomenal plan** to address all of the incoming 9th graders as well as the ‘rising’ 10th , 11th, and 12th graders, who all essentially lost a year of school. The good news is that we would already have the ‘boiler-plate’ plan that was used for those annually arriving under-performing 9th graders; who although they did not physically miss a year of schooling, they definitely arrived missing one, some or a lot of effective learning years of schooling.

________________________________________________________________

*Report to the Principal’s Office:Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership; chapter 28; pg. 441: “Profile of a Good and Effective High School Student”.

** The “School access to supplementary financial and human resources gap” is also being displayed during the Covid-19 school closing crises and will be made even more obvious when schools reopen and attempts are made to seal the learning loss breaches, which will cause all students, regardless of performance level or ‘entitlement status’, to suffer academically. Many schools like my own, had a school 501c3 foundation and a fundraising (‘real money’, not cookies, candy and pictures money) plan, which could supplement the school’s centrally allocated (but always inadequate) district budgets. I would be quite surprised (no, extremely surprised) if after facing this major health crisis, that state governments will have the extra money to give schools what they will really need to ‘fix’ a missed year of learning. Particularly for our severe academically struggling students, and those students with IEP’s who really needed, but did not receive, a modified version or the required support for those online instructional programs.

Notes from In-house exile: A virus without a brain is outsmarting some humans with brains…

Notes from In-house exile: A virus without a brain is outsmarting some humans with brains…

(5) March 22, 2020

I spoke to a doctor-friend who is on the medical front line in ————–, and he is as baffled as I am as to why so many folks are not taking Covid-19 seriously, even though (in his situation) the infections and dead bodies are piling up exponentially. There is of course the total incoherent, incompetent and incomprehensible actions and messages received daily from the arch anti-science POTUS; and so, a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding is understandable. At this point (in contrast with NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily press briefings) I think that the daily White House Covid-19 press briefings are actually doing more harm than good in the battle against this medical siege; as it also sets up Asian-Americas to receive racial discrimination and possibly even being violently attacked.

Unfortunately, in relationship to Mr. Trump the news media is under-performing in this crises. Even today MSNBC (Ali Velshi’s show) is still bringing on Republicans who flat out provide untruths and anti-scientific theories. I understand (sort of) the journalist wanting equal-time “debate”, even when the GOP position is stupid and a bold-face-lie, like Republican “Voter-ID” bills being about voting process integrity, and not what they are really about: Black and Latino voter suppression. But this is a major national health crises where misinformation equals death. It seems that brave journalist like PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor must bear a lonely burden of demanding truth from Mr. Trump and his daily band of mannequin cheerleaders.

But all of the scientific ignorance being displayed by ordinary citizens (many who probably don’t watch the White House press briefings) can’t all be blamed on the ignorance emanating from the White House. Why are so many people not taking this Covid-19 crises seriously? An elected official from my beloved Brooklyn; Assemblywoman Diana Richardson took to social media to express her shock that so many of the boroughs main streets looked “normal”; is there no wonder that Brooklyn is the epicenter of the epicenter of the disease. A few days ago NYC police officers had to put themselves and their families at risk by being forced to break up a large (hundreds of people) wedding reception in a Brooklyn neighborhood that some consider a “hotspot” for Covid-19 infections. I am all for love and marriage; but why not have a small private ceremony with a few attendees safely distanced from each other; and then have the ‘mother of all wedding receptions’ when we get through this plague?

“Perhaps”, I suggested to my medical doctor friend, “one of the things we science educators might want to plan for going forward, is to think about how we teach K-8 life sciences and high school biology. Over the years we have expanded the ‘environmental science’ parts of the life sciences curriculum in response to the existential threat we all face as species, due to the terrible damage we are inflicting on our (only home) planet. We may need to now raise the communicable disease literacy rates in our K-12 schools. Even now ‘science-facts’ challenged “anti-vaxxers” are threatening to not take any Corona-19 vaccine and not allow their children to receive it. Which means that a significant number of us in the community must take the vaccine and hopefully suppress the spread of the disease, as we also save their selfish behinds.

There is no need to “expand” the Life Sciences curriculum because the behavior of the Covid-19 virus is every bit consistent with the already existing Life Science topic/concepts of: Evolution, Life-cycles, Microorganisms, Reproduction, Genetics, etc. But what we do need to expand is the human capacity to understand that the virus is simply “opportunistic” (doing what viruses do!) in trying to survive and reproduce; only with the virus it’s about survival, and it’s not personal. We on the other hand are making this health crises about the personal and not survival.

Notes from In-house exile: Feeling the End of Touching…

Notes from In-house exile: Feeling the End of Touching…

(4) March 21, 2020

“Though lovers be lost, love shall not”–Dylan Thomas

I’ve reduced intimacy to the constant warm feelings of two hands, covered with warm soapy water, engaged in the act of hand-washing (these days you do what you can). As an educator I guess I have always been able to transform some challenging situation into an exercise of practical problem solving. And with the inept and callous efforts by the leader of this nation, I could imagine seeing the end of my life without ever hugging another person again.

One of my former students who is now an educator and is presently working with a class size of one; and by the way is doing a great job with her child’s preschool remote learning class, posted: “Anybody want a 3 yr. old?” … I wanted so bad to say “Yes, me!”. A plague can separate us from our call-to-service; for alas I have a house with a children’s book library, educational toys, puzzles and games, but I am missing a three year old. I know her mother will probably say: “Yeah right, I’ll give him one day with a three year old and…” (But what I want to know Akilah; is why none of you’ll told me about this D-Nice party thing; I could have brought my flashlight—inside SSCHS joke!:-)

It also just occurred to me once again after (ELA skill) comparing and contrasting the White House and NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press briefings; that as a nation we are in serious trouble. But then there is a kind-of-good trouble that I have striven to always get myself into. Andrew Cuomo is like that crazy (good crazy): “I can’t let these folks destroy my children” principal, working in a public school system that is structured to destroy certain children. You can’t wait, you can’t fool around, because your children can’t wait. You must speak the truth, even if it makes people uncomfortable, and act audaciously even as those same people want to maintain the status qua. It is probably a matter of taking matters into your own hands; and then when necessary bend, twist, ‘reinterpret’ and sometimes break rules that work well for some kids, but don’t work well for your students. The only chance a Black and Latino child, or any poor and/or politically disfranchised child of any color, ethnicity or religion will have to succeed, is to have a ‘crazy’ educator take up their cause.

I turn everything no matter how bad, into a reading project. I guess in the midst of any tragedy we must all find some individual small space of a peace process that will help us to cope. It might sound morbid to some, but I just completed my second plague (Covid-19) related reading (Edgar Allan Poe’s: “The Mask of the Red Death”). The great myth that the plague destroys, is that we can somehow separate ourselves from the pain and suffering of others.

There is an equality of aspirational dreaming for all children, regardless of race or economic status. I learned that as a superintendent visiting PreK and Kindergarten classrooms, where all of the children will enthusiastically give you a list of things they want to grow up to be: dancer, police officer, doctor, fireman, nurse, teacher, astronaut, air plane pilot… Often multiple professions in one lifetime! And then they move up in the school system and lose large parts of those dreams at every new grade level (especially Black and Latino boys). Public schools should be dream builders, not dream destroyers. And yet we can make sure our entitled kids receive a quality education (and not lose their dreams); and deny that same level of quality education to the children of ‘others’.

But the Plague introduces a kind of terrible equality; those children denied a quality education (and thus an end to their dreaming); will later be the adults who will bring the plague of their lost dreams onto the heads of the children of privilege; for in a social-economic plague there is no separate place to hide.

Notes from In-house exile: When Battles Are Lost…

Notes from In-house exile: When Battles Are Lost…

(3) March 20, 2020

I am reading Antony Beevor’s: The Battle of Arnhem; but reading these days is different. I can usually get immersed in a book and be totally lost to the world. This is a skill I first mastered back in my elementary school days when the Brooklyn Public Library (Grand Army Plaza branch) served as my unofficial after-school childcare provider until my mother came home from work. Reading was like dreaming, and every day I could experience a different dream: dinosaurs, WW-2 fighter planes, space travel, whales, science fiction…. I could escape and be anywhere and everywhere in time, place or space. My love of reading was so great that my mother ordered me (back then children actually obeyed their parents) to make sure I did my homework before I “started doing that reading!” I did my home work fast, because it was the only thing that stood between me and my reading for fun time. And so, every day as a member of the latchkey kid club, between milk and cookies, I would read until 5:PM and then dare the dangerous Brooklyn streets with arms full of books to take home to continue my dreaming.

But today reading Beevor’s book I find for the first time that it’s hard to keep my mind in the 1940’s. There is something about the existential urgency of the Covid-19 plague; and how we are all at some level participants in its story of isolation, illness and death. A plague is inescapable, even for those of us who could always find refuge from life’s storms in books. Covid-19 is a persistent uninvited guest in our minds; it won’t leave us alone even if we are, as I am at this moment, alone. Thinking as I am reading ‘Arnhem’ (I guess using that ELA reading skill of: “What does this passage remind you of?”) about how the strategic thinking ability and the leadership quality of Generalship so influences the outcome of a battle (again ELA referencing Carl von Clausewitz’s book: On War).

In all of Beevor’s books (e.g. Stalingrad), it does not matter how strategically smart the German command was (and they had an excellent class of highly studied and experienced military leaders, as well as a highly competent group of military scientist, engineers and technicians); their effectiveness would always be ultimately undermined by the immoral and deranged German nation’s leader, Adolph Hitler. Humanity is indeed fortunate that Hitler’s narcissistic and self-absorbed personality constantly got in the way of the decisions of his best military experts. But when a country is fighting a war against a virus pandemic, having an ethically challenge psycho-pathological leader, leads that nation to death and destruction; alas the delusional leader (whether they were only a corporal in the last war; or used faux ‘bone spurs’ to avoid going to war completely) always assumes that they are the best and most capable of experts; after all, did not the snarling and hateful frothing ‘wisdom’ of the masses place them in power?

One of the ideas that motivated my first book: Report to the Principal’s Office is this idea (something I learned as a superintendent) that there is no other more powerful singular force in a school building then it’s principal. An ineffective principal can cause even the potentially best school to under-perform; while a highly effective principal can efficaciously cause a school with the potential to terribly under-perform, to actually over-perform its potential! The quality of leadership matters so much.

And so, how on earth, in a time of great national suffering, collective fear and despondency, did we as a country fall so far down; so as to go from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, to Trumps racist ‘Kung-Flu’ rants? Well, they can’t blame this one on Black folks!

“10 Black Students Got Into N.Y.C.’s Top High School”– But what does that mean?

3/20/2020 –NY Times;This Year, Only 10 Black Students Got Into N.Y.C.’s Top High School :https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/nyregion/nyc-schools-numbers-black-students-diversity-specialized.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage

“Asian students make up a majority of the schools’ enrollment.”

Just Great, what we really needed now, along with the daily POTUS racist insults press briefings; another nonsensically contrived reason to be angry with Asians.

At some point (and I’ll just keep saying this until they put me in the retired superintendent’s rubber room), a significant segment of NYC’s Black and Latino citizenry will come to understand that no test-prep program, regardless of its good intentions and accessibility, can substitute for actual K-8 learning concepts and skills mastery. I have practically run out of metaphors like: giving a nursing certification exam to someone who has not spent a day in a nursing program; giving the Bar exam to people who did not attend law school; giving free shoe shines to people who don’t have shoes. I am not sure what more I can say at this point!

Test-prep is an excellent ‘technical’ and study tool that can absolutely raise the potential score of anyone who engages it. But as a Saturday Princeton Review SAT prep-course coach once warned my students: “I will help you to get a higher score on the exam, but you must continue to study hard!” What she did not say that is also true, is that you must bring ‘something’ to the test-prep process; and fortunately for my students (as the SAT coach offered as a compliment to them at the end of the course), they brought an everyday experience of being exposed to rigorous formal and informal standards based learning activities. Our finals, midterms and weekly classroom exams consisted of questions directly (word for word) lifted from past State Regents Exams, while inviting standards (and above) rigor in non-standardized testing courses. We were accused by some liberals of ‘teaching to the test’; when in fact we were providing our students with the same level of quality instruction their children enjoyed, we were teaching and learning to the standards. That’s how you get Black and Latino children to do well on standardized exams; you actually teach them to the level of standards that the exam will test. You can’t do well on an 8th grade exam, by ‘prepping’ in middle school; the real rigorous learning (aka test-prep) for that exam starts in Kindergarten and consistently continues every year until the 8th grade.

“Some of the schools’ relatively few black and Hispanic students have said they often feel isolated in their classrooms and hallways because of their race.”

Over the next few months we will hear the ‘integration’, ‘segregation’ and ‘diversity’ bell distractedly rung over and over again. Asian-American students will (because of adolescent psychology) feel that they did something wrong, when they have done exactly what the adult society has told them to do— and that is to study hard, sacrifice some ‘fun time’ and apply themselves. They will also be made to feel like ‘outsiders’ in their own city; Black and Latino people (remember “stop and frisk” and “gentrification”) should know how painful that feels, and therefore should be the last ones to engage in that ugly ‘outsidering’ and ‘blame-game’ behavior.

“This year, as last year, only one black student got into Staten Island Technical High School.”

Sadly, this same NY Times article could be used year after year, for the last (and frighteningly next) ten years, all that is needed is to simply change the dates. This is the low-expectations (Black and Latino brains are less than capable) story-line that will continue to reappear until (1) Black and Latino communities push their leaders; many of whom are tied at the waist (or by the neck) to the Teacher’s Union (UFT), and force (by political and active protest) the NYCDOE to provide their children with a quality K-8 education that test-prep programs could truly enhance; and secondly, to expand Gifted and Talented programs to the presently chronically undeserved Black and Latino elementary students who are on or above grade level. It has been demonstrated that many of these Black and Latino non-G&T classes elementary school students are so smart and capable, that they could even pass high school Regents exams; and so where are their G&T programs? (2) I love Public Education, but no community should depend on any public school system to adequately, let alone fully educate their children; especially if you are not part of the ‘entitled class’; something many Asian-American parents seem to get. (3) The beauty of NYC’s size is that a student who really should not go to a specialized high school (for a host of reasons); could possibly have a rich choice of safe and academically strong high school options. There was a time in the not too distant past, when not applying or getting into specialized high school was not a big deal and did not mean future career options death. Restore and strengthened a high school (independent of local school boards) division that lost so many of its accomplished and experienced administrators by way of Mayor Bloomberg’s destructive educational “school-reform” blunders.

“Black and Hispanic enrollment in the schools has plummeted over the last two decades in particular; Brooklyn Technical High School was 51 percent black in 1982, and 6 percent black in 2016. Only 79 black students got into Brooklyn Tech this year, down from 95 last year.”

Finally, disenfranchised communities need an intensive parallel educational system consisting of: An academically rich and culturally confirming pre-school start e.g. Little Sun People; after-school, weekends, school breaks and summer learning enrichment/enhancement programs; these activities should include a standardized test-prep component. Just sending your child to public school every day won’t work. For what part of: “Your children are not a priority”, is missing from your understanding of the public school education problem.

Michael A. Johnson has served as a NYC public school teacher, principal, school district superintendent and as an adjunct professor of education at St. John’s University. His book on school leadership is titled: “Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership.” [http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/]

Notes from In-house exile. So many thoughts in one solitary walk around the block…

Notes from In-house exile. So many thoughts in one solitary walk around the block…

(2) March 19, 2020

Prison must be terribly psychologically damaging place…Now let me state up front that I can in no way compare my self-imposed house-isolation to being in prison. After all, I have a steady retirement income, food that I eat when I want, I have music, books, cable TV, films on video, a computer with internet access, a daily Yoga practice, 5-6 hours of writing/per day routine, phone access to friends, family, former students and colleagues; I have dozens of ‘hobbies’ e.g. organizing my large but neglected stamp collection; and so, to be honest I am in no way suffering having to stay home all day. But putting aside whether an incarcerated person is or is not guilty. I am wondering if we must ask ourselves if we are truly ‘rehabilitating’ for the purpose of reintegration of these individuals; or, are we further (and more deeply) damaging human beings who will return to our society so severely emotionally wounded and employable unprepared, that their ability to effectively integrate back into the society will range from extremely difficult to impossible.

Yesterday I gave myself an outside “vacation” (I live in a low populated area and so I did not encounter anyone else, which was one of my objectives) to walk around the block. This after being inside for more than 3 weeks; which means that if I have Covid-19 and don’t know it, I won’t infect others. I sheltered in place very early as soon as I algebraically and biologically mapped the virus —this, for all of my former students who did not believe that Biology and Algebra were ‘useful’ subjects to learn! I also suspected before being told, that all of my medical “onset” illnesses probably would put me in a ‘high risk’ category— I have an advantage in gathering and sorting out all of the Covid-19 information because I am and educator, and specifically a STEM* educator. Our nation however, lost so much precious time, and is still doing so, by being led by ignorance personify; and he (Trump) continues even in the midst of this plague to mischaracterize and mislead through racist unhelpful misinformation; a virus as should be clear by now is not a citizen of any particular nation or people, but I digress…

Back to my walk around the block. It was the most amazingly wonderful liberating experience. The sun massaged my memory such that I felt like that excited Crown Heights kid entering the wonderful Grand Army Plaza portal of Prospect Park. In Prospect Park my friends and I could safely run, yell, play “Army”, “Explorers”, fly our kites and sail our homemade boats in the (we imagined) rapid streams of the ‘untamed’ wilderness.
But I also thought during my much too short meditation-journey around the block, about all of my students who own businesses, those who work in corrections, sanitation, the post office, transit, EMT-EMS, police and fire departments, and the many STEM, Social service professional, and the many who are working professionals in medical facilities all over this nation; there are so many others who are at their post serving humanity and risking their own personal safety and health; they will always be my heroes; and each step I take as I walk around the block I dedicate a prayer for them, their coworkers and colleagues…

#ifpossiblestayhome

*Science,Technology,Engineering and Mathematics

Notes from In-house exile. On re-reading Albert Camus’s novel The Plague

Notes from In-house exile. On re-reading Albert Camus’s novel The Plague

(1) March 17, 2020

What else is this “locked-down” high-risk senior citizen to do except read! A nation has chosen, yes chosen, perhaps the most unsuitable individual possible to lead this country in a national crisis. (And don’t bother me with the Hillary’s ‘popular votes’ story; enough people saw his putrid personality as their only hope that racism and bigotry could be made great, again); the 2008 election should not have even been close. It’s amazing (but not surprising) that in all of Trump’s Corona-virus presentations, he so mirrors the virus’s disconnection from, and indifference to human feelings; he can’t even summon up the most basic scripted words of compassion and inspiration; it seems that the plague can only take humanity, but it can’t create one.
A plague (like Trump, bail reform and “stop and frisk”) is a revealer and explainer of personal values. Mean people in the midst of a plague will horde their kindness, and others will become wonderfully heroic. This in many ways, is the same way a blank sheet of paper (or screen) confronts a writer, a blank canvas challenging a painter… A plague, any plague, invites and requires a personal individual response, based on the internal qualities of those upon whom the plague imposes its ugly ever-presence; we can neither hide from the plague, nor hide who we are in the plague. Our unique authorship assignment is our choice of who we choose to be in response to the plague; it will not make us something different, only point out and amplify who we truly are when no plague is present; it will only make us better if “better” is already settled and seeded in our spirits. Surely stifle and crush any good in us that is not anchored in serious truth and personal authenticity. The plague will severely test the truly brave and lose. Will we mirror the plague’s detached coldness in our own unique characteristic way? Or, do we become bravely bold in affirming the best and most heroic values any person can summon. Our ‘humanness’ is both our strength and our weakness. This is the hard part, the desire to be selfish; to narrowly define “family”; finding it hard to find the true meaning of “turning the other cheek”; compelling oneself to be compassionate and forgiving; to not find joy in the lost joy of others… to be, what a virus cannot be… to be fully human.