I can’t believe that after so many high school graduations…

I can’t believe that after being so many years into my retirement. And after participating in so many graduations. I still can’t help not crying (even when the ceremony is virtual) during the high school graduation ceremony. I guess I think back to how every past graduate I’ve known and the present 2020 graduating class, all represent a unique story-journey and victorious triumph. Especially for those young folks who faced many obstacles and challenges; and also those whose ‘lives-did-not-matter’ as our society designated them at birth as disqualified from receiving the “American dream” inheritance.

The pandemic sought to make the graduating class of 2020 sad. But I believe that there is another, more powerful, and good transcendent plan in motion. I think that the 2020 high school graduation distinction will be worn like a medal of honor, and over time it will make these young people powerful advocates and activators for bringing goodness and kindness into the world! That’s my hope and prayer for them and our world.

Out of school and out of learning opportunities…

In America even a plague stimulates the nation’s core racial and economic discrimination values. I sure hope that some of the folks on the many state and local “open-up-education” committees around the nation bravely advocate for the children of disenfranchisement and ask: “What will public education look like for these students when schools open (in whatever format) in the new school year?” Because it’s sure not looking good for them now!

“…The Washington Teachers’ Union surveyed its teachers last month to determine student participation. Fifty-seven percent of the 2,000 teachers who responded — around half of the teacher workforce — said less than half of their students are participating. Teachers at more affluent and more selective schools said attendance has been strong during remote learning…”—Washington Post

Superintendent: ‘I lose sleep at night’ about the ‘logged out’ kids whose top priority is ‘survival’ — not remote learning: https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/05/08/superintendent-i-lose-sleep-night-about-logged-out-kids-whose-top-priority-is-survival-not-remote-learning/

The Ahmaud Arbery story: I am so tired of American racism hiding behind Donald Trump.

I am so tired of Donald Trump being portrayed as an aberration, a ‘deviation from the norm’, not-Republican, not-a-true-conservative, not-Mitch McConnell, not Susan Collins (aka “adults in the room”). That he is not the pre-trump era: attempts to dismantle and limit the expansion of healthcare to the poor, of blocking Obama judges, GOP “southern strategy”, Black voter suppression, convincing and manipulating poor/working-class whites to act in their racially-bigoted and not best economic interest, GOP gerrymandering to politically disenfranchise Black citizens; that he is not what America is truly about. His “style” is a little different, but he is in essence every bit of the above pre-trump GOP behaviors and he is very much American…

I am so tired of the news media, professional political thinkers and the cable news ‘talkers’ not recognizing that even a 40+% (plus those large numbers who for a lot of reasons won’t publicly declare) endorsement, support, encouragement, ‘likability’ rating, for someone like a Trump signals a defeat for what people pretend America stands for. Accounting for a 1% standard racist-nutcase cohort in any society; his favorability count is 39% too many people for a nation that wraps itself in the “Liberty And Justice For All” slogan…

I am so tired of a gutless and rudderless Democratic Party, who couldn’t find their way to becoming a ‘real’ opposition party if they were standing in the middle of it (and Yes we must ‘hold-our-collective-noses’ and vote for Joe Biden in the same way we try to save as many children as possible in public school systems that are designed and operating to destroy them; until we gather the collective courage and political will to make a real and meaningful change of those systems)…

I am so tired of talking and listening to white liberals/progressives/independents/conservative “never-trumpers”; who want to lay all of America’s ugly national commitment to the sins of bigotry and discrimination, on the shoulders of Donald Trump. Their political-operational slogan should be “Defeat all Versions of Trump and all American Expressions of Racism & Bigotry!”…

I am so tired of the unbelievable multiple ways (violence, poverty, housing, healthcare, public education, another young black person, law enforcement, ……..) that a young Black life and body can be destroyed alive or dead…

I am so tired of the pre-COVID-19, during Covid-19, (and most likely) post-COVID-19 horrible racial mistreatment of Black people in every area of the pandemic, from healthcare to the policing of the safe-distancing regulations…

I am so tired of professional educators (many who are black) pretending on both the social and news media platforms that this school-closure “distance-learning” thing is actually working well; when there are so many reports from all over the nation that a large number of all-ready underperforming students in the most educationally underserved (read: Black, Latino, poor white kids) zip codes are essentially and totally “missing in distance-learning action”…

I am so tired of professional educators (especially the phenotypically Black ones and the ethically/culturally identifiable Latino ones), who incredulously behave as if “back to normal” Public Education in any form, was in any way working effectively for the overwhelming majority of Black and Latino students…

I am so tired of people with good steady incomes, stock and investment options, nice places to live, plenty of good food to eat and first-rate health insurance, who then demand that Joe Biden basically becomes Bernie Sanders or that he pick a black vice-presidential running mate, or they will join the ‘never-Biden’ club. First, there is nothing Biden can be or do to make them happy; because (full-disclosure like me) 4 more years of Trump won’t hurt them personally; even as those additional 4 years will inflict a great deal of pain and suffering on people who don’t share their (our) privileged lifestyle of having a choice of living well and comfortable under Trump…

I am so tired that once again Black so-called Americans find themselves pleading for the fundamental right of not being killed by any random white citizen or law enforcement agent while: picnicking, walking, jogging, driving, standing, breathing…

I am so tired of fake-progressive white elected officials who automatically feel obligated to apologize to one group for inconveniencing their right to ignore the social-distancing statutes, while they ignore the pain of other groups who are violently over-policed for minor violations of those same safe-distancing violation…

I am so tired of the coward and cowered (with a few exceptions) black elected, religious, and civic leaders who allow the mistreatment and denial of Black people and Black business in the governmental response to this Covid-19 pandemic. Why won’t they do something beyond simply asking for “Black casualty reports”…

I am so tired of living 69 years of perpetual and unrelenting tiredness…

NYS Gov. Cuomo ask the Gates Foundation for help in ‘Revolutionizing’ Public Education…Let’s explore this idea.

All of the things that have gone wrong in my life can be traced to a single lesson I failed to effectively learn. This lesson was first presented to me by a Brooklyn Caribbean-American mother trying desperately to see her young son survive and thrive into adulthood. Over the years I would hear the same message from many of the wonderful elders that guarded and guided my upbringing. That message simply in many different versions was: “Everyone who presents themselves as a friend is not a friend!” Simply being anti-billionaire does not automatically make you my friend (or a friend to Black people generally).

There are some politically-woke-folks who ‘knee-jerkedly’ reject any idea or initiative that is associated with “billionaires”. But the 40+% consistent support/endorsement for the bigot-in-chief Trump (and I actually think that the 40%+ number is an undercount) could not numerically consist of a majority of “billionaires”. And even in ‘liberal and enlightened’ NYC, we are witnessing a dramatically different police response to those in violation of the social-distancing statues, blatantly taking place under the leadership of an anti-billionaire Democratic ‘Progressive’ Mayor. Thank-you, but I think I will trust no one completely, thus protect and pursue my own survival interest; and so, I need to see more of the details of the Cuomo/Gates Foundation education plan before I summarily reject it.

As a principal I set up one of the first Distance-Learning-Labs in NYC in cooperation with Columbia’s Teacher’s College (I did the same at DC-PHELPS ACE to facilitate school partnerships between CISCO, the Peoples Republic of China, and South Africa). I also pushed as both a principal and superintendent the introduction of web-based Applied Technology Labs; and at Phelps created a team (Cyberforensics) that competed completely online as we also had the CISCO certification course taught (by CISCO engineers) completely online. Schools must, where appropriate embrace the good pedagogical uses of technology as we work hard to close our national technology access/education opportunity gaps.

One of the problems in public education is that you could go back in time (science-fictionally speaking) and transport one of my 1950’s elementary school teachers, and place them in any modern elementary school classroom and the ‘architecture’ and structural format of the classroom would look extremely similar and familiar; we need to change that. Covid-19 or no Covid-19, it is clear that public education in its present format is not working for the majority of our nation’s Black and Latino children (unless ‘working’ means going to prison).

One of the lessons I took away from my observations of the PHELPS-ACE online CISCO certification courses was that neither the students nor the instructors could see each other. This I noticed meant that the instructors had high standards and expectations for the Black and Latino students they were instructing and could not see; there were no assumptions about the student’s capabilities, families, or the neighborhoods where they lived. The students were graded and evaluated based on the quality of their work-product only. Distance (“blind”) Technology could be one way (since our school systems will not do it) to eliminate the prejudice and bias institutionalized culture of low expectations.

This nicely leads me to my next point. A former colleague-mentor (now deceased) from my 1990’s Brooklyn High School principal days once offered this statement. “I ask every white teacher I interview, if they like Black kids, and then I probe their response!” Shocked I blurted out: “But you can’t do that, it’s illegal!” He responded: “You can’t do it but I (white) can, and I will because I don’t want any teacher in this building who does not like and care about Black kids!” For those who reject the governor’s idea, simply because they don’t like his proposal partner, or perhaps because they fear modernity and change; my comment is simply this: Let’s not pretend that the present or pre-COVID-19 configuration and organization of public education is working for (forget all) most children; it’s not.

The Overtly Subtle Plague of Racism

OK, so let me understand this:

Denzel Washington does an interview (that left the interviewer, in her words: “shaken”) and attempts to do something very human; which is to not act in actor mode, and actually present himself as himself. This causes a response assessment from the interviewer that he is “overreacting”. What I saw was that he was desperately trying to say that “I am more than acting, more than what you see on the screen”—I am a person, I am human.
I recently watched a very good interview with Joaquin Phoenix who was essentially saying the same thing. He constantly pushed back against these standard ‘celebrity’ questions; seeming to say repeatedly: don’t totally define me through the lens of acting or so-called “celebrity”. Many, including myself, hailed the Phoenix interview as brilliantly honest. And so, my question is: why can’t Denzel express those same views without being defined as ‘hostile’ and “misunderstanding the questions”?

And then there is this:

Armed men and women enter the Michigan Statehouse and threaten the governor and state lawmakers; based on the photos they appear to all be white; and besides I can’t imagine a Black person deciding to arm themselves, even legally, and then walk into a public building, thus committing suicide to get more coronavirus exposure.
Then, these white rioters are referred to as “protesters” by the news media; which suggests they would have fit in well with the peaceful civil rights marches led by people like Dr. Martin Luther King; except for the guns, threats, and aggressive actions! The riot is also referred to as a “rally”; which sounds like something nice that colleges do before a major varsity sports event. Everyone including the Trump rioters knew that they were safe because their whiteness insured that safety; and further, every act of indulgence, reserve, and patience would be granted to them as bonified US citizens. Many white Americans are for the first time experiencing via COVID-19, a small piece of a painful plague that the unwelcomed, disinherented and despised ones must live through every waking moment of our lives.

It might be up to ‘entitled’ NYC parents to fix this “distance learning” mess; well good!

“…Some parents at highly-regarded Forest Hill elementary school PS 196 said their teacher has gone weeks without personal interaction with their child…” — NY Post

I have spent enough years in public education (at multiple levels), to fully grasp the apartheid of quality educational learning opportunities that form the basic framework of America’s public school systems. Anyone who says different is either an enabler of that discriminatory system, or, well, I not sure what to say that would be nice.

When I became a superintendent in 2000 I inherited an ‘unofficial’ NYCDOE policy. It seemed that teachers who won their arbitration cases (and there were a lot of them), against principals who were trying to rate them ‘unsatisfactory’ were somehow sent to specific districts and schools (you can’t send them back to their original school for a lot of reasons). To be specific, they were sent to Title-1 school districts and schools. I only found out about this ‘process’ because one of my principals called me practically in tears one day saying: “Superintendent Johnson, we are working so hard to turn this school around; and we are making tremendous progress; please, I can’t take a teacher that’s going to hurt us!” She was right, this was a school that had one of the highest concentrations of homeless students in the city; and yet we were making some demonstrative academic achievement progress. I called in the Director of HR and she confirmed that indeed she had directed the teacher to that particular school. “Why?” I asked, “Clearly that’s a school we are investing a lot of resources (e.g. teacher center, extra AP & staff-developer, STEM lab and F/T science teacher, art & music programs, etc.) to turn-it-around; at this point, we can only send good instructional practitioners into that school!” (beside we would ‘own’ that tenured teacher next year!) Her honest and sincere answer was painfully startling as it was enlightening. “I know you are doing everything possible to fix this district and a lot of people are fighting against you, and so if I sent that teacher to P.S X, Y or Z; the parents would raise hell and give you problems.” I thanked her (at times as a leader you must focus on the ‘good intentions’) and then directed her to “send the teacher back”. This led to my receiving a call from an official from central who proceeded to explain to me “how things work in community school districts”; a not-so-subtle dig at my having come from that less politically driven “High School Division”. I listened politely, and then informed the official that: “This process does not work for me, and therefore I am not taking her; and will not take any like her in the future.” I continued, “the Chancellor charged me with turning around what is in everyone’s estimation the most underperforming district (CSD29Q) in the city, and that’s what I am going to do!” “I would be happy to meet with you and the Chancellor, and if he directs me to take the teacher I will!” Never heard from him again and the process of ‘dumping’ (from both bad ratings and rubber rooms) personnel into our district stopped! I did not celebrate over this victory because I was fully aware that my stand meant that my colleagues/friends in places like districts: 9, 12, and 16 would suffer.

School systems nationally, not just NYC, have different ‘response modes’ for different communities. I and many others have said from the beginning that this “distance learning” thing was more effective public relations then efficacious public education. And further, this school closure crisis, if not addressed in a radical and strategically smart way, would produce dramatic learning losers and learning winners*.

In fairness to the NYCDOE some of that learning winning and losing can’t be controlled by any school district. Those children who have parents with the financial resources, education, information, and time, will gain during this school closure time. And it would be professionally unethical to ask (even if they would listen) those parents to decelerate their home instruction program. But if the official ‘distance-learning’ program is not working in more ‘entitled’ schools; then perhaps (and unfortunately but true) NYC’s elected officials will be forced to take some affirmatively drastic actions to fix the situation. And this could greatly help those communities where distance learning is also not working and could very much be inflicting long-term educational harm.

*“I said that the Covid-19 school closure situation would greatly help some students, while badly hurting others, well…”: http://majmuse.net/2020/03/26/i-said-that-the-covid-19-school-closure-situation-would-greatly-help-some-students-while-greatly-hurting-others-well/

*“Long-term school closures will produce student winners and losers”: 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/

The invisible—visible people…


“…When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me…”–Invisible Man; Ralph Ellison

When I heard that a “bat-wielding” suspect was shot dead by police in a Walmart outlet; my mind immediately said: “The alleged bat-wielder must be Black!” (I was right)

When I read that “dozens were arrested” by NYPD at an event that violated the social-distancing ordinates instituted by the governor; I somehow suspected that the arrested violators were Black. (I was right)

When I heard that in multiple states armed men and women gathered on and in public state properties (advocating for more coronavirus exposure); my first thought: “They can’t be Black citizens gathering and armed on public property!” (I was right)

When I read that one of the largest school districts in our nation had not heard one contact ‘peep’ (as in nothing), or any type of response to the district’s ‘online-digital-instructional’ school-closure program from thousands of its students; I knew (before the writer told me) the zip codes and the Black and Brown profiles of those educationally ‘missing’ children. (I was right)

When I read that the governor of Georgia essentially handed the largest metropolitan cities in the state like Atlanta, a group death sentence; I immediately surmise that those large cities must be heavily populated with Black citizens. (I was right)

When I read the Emancipation Proclamation it says to me: “Black folks, you are on your own!” (I think I am still right!)

I finally found an analysis of the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign I like…

And it could not come at a better time, as I watch the psychopathic narcissist in charge of the nation call on his MAGA-Militia to rebel, resist and disobey those Democratic (DNC) governors who are desperately trying to save their citizens during this terrible pandemic; these are indeed very dangerous and deadly times.

Once again I am reminded of why I so admire Noam Chomsky and his expansive use of history and linguistics to eloquently simplify the complex, while at the same time critiquing the intellectual laziness of those whose ideology is based in the practiced simplification of some very complex conditions. He makes a strong social-scientifically based case for voting for Joe Biden; and his reasons harbor no illusions about either Biden or the politically ineffective DNC.

I have always believed that you can’t seriously serve the people if you don’t seriously love the people; and love (including agape) is one of those things that should force you out of your comfort zone. And make no mistake about it, those on the left who believe that many of us are ‘bamboozled’ by the DNC, are themselves bamboozled by their reckless self-righteous belly gazing rhetoric. It’s never okay for the people we purport to serve to suffer and die, to make a political point or to send a message.
Chomsky makes it very clear that the (my words) feckless, incompetent and pathetic excuse for an “opposition party”, the Democrats, is in word and practice a weak champion for the desperately working and unemployed poor; and Black Americans don’t rank high in the category of their actual (not verbal) concerns.
The DNC operational standard is to simply appear sane, decent, not be aggressively racist and bigoted, as their ‘philosophical-working-ceiling’ is to limit the Republican’s ability to inflict severe damage on humanity and the planet. And if Biden and the DNC believe that large numbers of those voters (some who risk their lives in Wisconsin) went to the polls because they wanted to vote for him, and not against the total death and destruction of the nation and world, then Biden and the DNC are in for a very rude surprise in November.

But beyond the very sound and thoughtful commentary; another reason I like Chomsky’s deconstruction of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign is that unlike so many other reflections, he affirms the intelligence, wisdom and political sophistication of Black voters. The popular news media and cable-tv talking-class view is to always default to a dismissal position of Black DNC primary voters (e.g. “they were fooled by the DNC establishment” or, “they know and like Joe”), reveals that there is a very deep viral strain of racism that is very much alive and is persistently plaguing our nation. This ‘racism of low expectations’ is alive, widespread and working in our public schools; but it also extends to the parents of those same school children. And unfortunately, these racial low expectations feelings crosses many different political ideologies (far left-liberal-moderate-conservative-far right); and dare I say, is even promoted (albeit often subtly) by some African-Americans themselves.

Finally, Dr. Chomsky also presents a dire picture of what it will look and feel like if we are subjected to what he calls the “malignancy” of Trump’s second term. Utilizing historical models, he points out how the ‘talking left but acting right’ crowd can dangerously incline toward a tendency to act in the role of being the progressive-purity police; he rightfully calls them out to at least be honest and openly say that they are for the reelection of Trump.

Here is the Noam Chomsky Interview:

A Plague Can Bring a Lot of Clarity…

A plague clears up the myth of: “A land of equal educational opportunity and prosperity”. Valiant public educators efforts notwithstanding; the technology divide many of us have been talking about for years; definitely will not be closed during this national emergency. Also, the stark differences in COVID-19 educational responses and capabilities when you go from school district to school district, and in many cases the dramatic differences between schools inside of the same district, are tragically stunning. When we return to some level of ‘school-opening- sanity’ after these massive closures have ended, we will have learning winners and losers.

On another front I am deeply worried about something...

I am 100% all on board for Joe Biden (as I would have been for any of the Democratic nominees). But the Trumpsters are holding large demonstrations in some states demanding that they receive greater exposure to the coronavirus is scary; these people are suicidally committed to him. On the other hand, we have the ‘woke-privileged’ folks (they have good ‘options’ that allow them to remain ‘politically pure’; they have stable incomes, a place to live, plenty of food, health insurance, and a home library of ‘radical books’) who don’t have a problem having Trump serve another term. Not to get too theoretically complicated here; their theory is based on two false concepts put forward by Marx. (1) That workers of all races will see their common interest and unite; well we know how the white working-class feel about that in America (This is why the focus of one campaign was on ‘billionaires’ and the ‘oligarchy’, and not on the everyday people’s racism and bigotry that elected and sustains Trump). (2) Further, they (cynically) believe that as the suffering and dying of “the masses” under Trump increases ‘the people’ will be pushed to some ‘critical tipping point’, where they will become ‘radicalized’. Nope, another term of Trump will mean that a lot of Black, Brown, White, etc. poor and working poor people will suffer and die without becoming ‘radicalized’; as they are dying now because Trump mismanaged the COVID-19 crisis.
One historical thought from liberation movements the world over is that if the people are facing an existential threat(e.g. Fascism), perhaps some temporary uncomfortable alliances may be necessary. A movement that calls for the masses to face greater suffering and dying is problematic for me; and further, you definitely can’t raise the consciousness of a dead person!

And speaking of working and ‘class’…

A plague separates those who have the “power” to work from home; and those who must overexpose themselves daily to the virus.

More to the personal…

If you live alone, how much of yourself do you like (or can you take) alone? And if you live with another person, well…

A person who loves reading and has access to books; and someone who can engage in some kind of creative art activity at home, will have a ‘maintaining-sanity-advantage’ during a home quarantine situation.

You don’t need to be a “great and famous” person during a plague; just being a regular good humanitarian person is a wonderfully great thing to be.

I’ll never take hugging, closeness or compassionate touching for granted again! … Part 10

A Plague will bring out the best, the beasts, and the not so brilliant…

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

April 11, 2020

“…Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone…” — W. H. Auden

There are just too many unbelievably unhelpful stories… The NYPD had to enforce distancing regulation at a beauty supply store yesterday! Can we all agree to give ourselves a ‘Covid-19 Beauty Pass’ for the duration of the stay-home-stay-safe quarantine period? And Gov. Cuomo could you please issue an executive order declaring every New Yorker as Beautiful for the duration of the crises(and then we can go back to that: “In the eyes of the beholder” thing)! My goodness…

Yesterday, because I am a chronic learner (or a glutton for intellectual punishment), I painfully watched the entire 2-hour White House Covid-19 briefing/update yesterday. Trump spent the majority of those two-hours bashing an assortment of ‘enemies’ (including past presidents) along with a long, rambling and sometimes incoherent hour blaming the Chinese for everything except the war of 1812. I kept saying to myself, who (what kind of person) would think that this type of behavior and presentation is appropriate from a national leader during a moment of national crisis? Which leads me to my next point…

I tried to imagine really hard, as to what is in the minds and hearts of the 40, 60 or whatever percent of Americans who are approving of his behavior. The present historical situation is only helpful in this sense. After reading the biographies of people like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot; one essential question that insist on being heard: “In each case the leader is in every clinical sense of the word obviously dangerously insane; and so, why are so many people willing to follow his evil and destructive leadership?
Normally, I would default to my favorite: ‘lack of education’ as the reason position; but in the case of Hitler, Germany (like America today) was an intellectual center of learning, STEM, theology, and the creative arts. And further, Trump’s 40-60% of ‘approving’ Americans can’t all be be people whose education ended after the first grade.

No I think Trump has figured “it” out; “It” being the social-psychopathology of ‘bad-acting’ social movements.
It’s the ugly bullying of various groups and individuals; the bigoted attacks on people of color like the Chinese, that endears him to people who are somehow disconnected from our evolved ability to make intellectual, moral and empathetic decisions.