In my Samuel Jackson voice: “Who is teaching your children?”

(A secondary question for Principals: “Who is teaching in your school?”)

A former full-time, and now substitute teacher’s Facebook post (unedited by me), that led to her removal from the substitute teachers list:

“Everyone gets to read my opinion on FB!! (No this doesn’t happen very often) It is stupid to remove landmarks because they offend people!! Look at the eclipse and go blind and you won’t have to see any of it!! Wars, battles, victories and defeats stand for something!! Its HISTORY people!! We each sat in a class and learned about events that took place at different eras of time. If we find it fiting to remove statues and pieces of concrete that offend “a black race”, then we sure as hell need to remove the Martin Luther king jr, rosa parks, your civil rights institute!!! I recall learning about museums and houses that were dedicated to black history!! The whole month of Feb to honor you can be dismissed because we don’t need to single anyone out, however that is exactly what your doing by destroying parts of history today!! Why don’t you take your happy asses to Africa and live in the deserts and starve to death and be happy!! America will not lose any sleep over letting you go!! You can all be equal there!!! I’m sure Mr. Trump will get you a boat ready!! I vote don’t even make you pay for the ride!! I’ve never been so sick of hearing poor me I’m black in my life!! If it’s that bad then paint yourself white and shut up about Have a great day!!
* if this offends you too then please by all means delete me!!!”

Geneva Co. Superintendent Becky Birdsong released a statement to the media in response to the post:

“I have seen the Facebook post making the rounds on social media and frankly find it disturbing. The person who made the post is not currently employed by Geneva County Schools. She was employed last year as a Pre-K aide/auxiliary teacher before being non-renewed by the board in May 2017. She also served with us for a half day as a substitute employee through Kelly Services on August 8, 2017. As of this morning, I have asked Kelly Services to remove her from the substitute list. Geneva County Schools is a school system that believes in community, diversity and equality. Moreover, we firmly believe that education is one of the best tools we can use to overcome the relics of hateful and divisive beliefs.”

I guess I was not that far off the mark with my question: “Racist Neo: Nazis-Confederates working in a public school near you?”…

Neo: Nazi-Confederate March in Charlottesville, Va. A Very Teachable Moment…

I hear that some principals, on their own, or by a superintendent’s directive, are discouraging teachers from “touching on” the Neo-Nazi-white-neo-confederate-white supremacist march that took place on 8/11 in Charlottesville, Va.
First of all I am sure, that most students particularly middle and high schoolers are fully aware that this “situation” took place; simply based on the huge amount of public and private information related to this tragic event that is being produced. And so like many “worldly” events that occur outside of school, the question is: do we want the professionally trained educators and counselors to lead and guide the conversation; or (never works), let the students informally organize their own unstructured responses? The latter “plan” could lead to student to student conflicts, and/or student–faculty/administrators/staff unnecessary confrontations. Or, even angry students acting on their own outside of school, could find themselves (or someone else) injured, killed, or having a negative interaction with law enforcement agents.

My understanding of how to handle these types of major societal events is that just “pretending” they did not happen is a recipe for disaster. CSD 29 Queens NY, an urban school district which serves one of the largest number of Muslim students in NYC; received universal acclaim and praise, for our pedagogically thoughtful and healing response to the 9/11 tragedy. The peace that followed in the district was not by accident; or by our hoping “nothing bad will happen”. School leaders must act, and not act solely on hope!
And further, utilizing these types of moments is exactly what schooling is all about. Perhaps if some of those Nazi swastika flag waving folks learned about the tremendous scale of human suffering and sacrifices (including possibly their own family members), that was needed to defeat Nazism; perhaps they would not see that flag as an instrument of honor and celebration.

Now to be sure a school cannot approach these types of events without some strategic plan of action; like where (which classes) it will be discussed, the what and how the lesson plan objective-talking points will be developed and delivered, and (really important) by which teachers; are critical parts of the process. Not all teachers are prepared and/or suitable to teach this particular lesson (and this has nothing to do with race); which is not the same as saying that they are not great teachers with the regular content curriculum.

I would probably utilize the History or English departments; and select teachers to co-teach the lesson with guidance counselors. These would be the educators who can keep the lesson: well-managed, “on script”, on task and focused. Some of the key objectives you want to achieve through a guided, ground-ruled based discussion/lesson:

(1-3 year principals, you will probably need some mentoring and guidance before undertaking this effort. And for all principals, if the district gives you a plan, script and/or talking points, follow them to the letter!)

1) You don’t want the students to do anything harmful to themselves and others; and you don’t want the students to engage law enforcement in a negative and unproductive (for them) way.

2) You don’t want students to be depressed, in despair, feel “paralyzing” afraid, and destructively angry. Allowing for a safe space and place for students to go to express how they feel about the incident outside of the classroom.

3) The constitutional facts around protest and free speech. As well as the rights of counter-protestors, should be explained. (principals you should have on call volunteer “specialist”, in this case attorneys, in your resource rolodex )

4) The students will probably (even by way of their parents, religious leader, etc.), be aware that Mr. Trump has not exactly been a beacon of reconciliation and restoration in this situation. Don’t dwell on it; and students should read the more situationally appropriate comments made by many other elected and civic leaders, across a very vast political and philosophical spectrum. You can present Mr. Obama, or any past president’s response in a similar situation; but don’t in a partisan way, “politicize” the event. Present the facts, and if the lesson is conducted right, the students will “naturally” arrive at the best moral and compassionate place they need to be.

5) Comparing and contrasting the event with literary work (i.e. The Diary of Anne Frank; Dr. M.L. King’s: “Letter From A Birmingham Jail”; or New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Speech About Removing Confederate Monuments)

6) Historical references for example: “Why has Germany been so strict (by law) on outlawing all signs, symbols, expressions, movements, organizations, etc. that present Nazism as a positive and proud heritage-historical event?”

7) Correct any “bad, not well thought-out”, emotionally driven ideas. I.e. “all white Americans are Nazis” or, “Colleges in the south are not safe to attend!”

8) Create some creative outlet, project for the students to express how they feel. That can be letters to elected officials, an intergenerational oral-history project, and letters to the victims of the car assault, drawing-painting, music, drama, essays, poetry, short stories, dance, or acts of service.

9) Finally, send a carefully crafted note to the parents explaining how the school addressed the issues (lest students, as they often do, go home and tell their parents their “creative” version of what happen). And let parents know that if they have any questions and concerns, please don’t hesitate to call you, or visit the school without an appointment; and then don’t hesitate to take-return their calls, and really meet and talk to them! (Send a copy to your superintendent, and whoever handles “parent complaints” at the district office; surprise is usually a problem!)

Let me state up front that I would never advise a principal to disobey a directive from their superintendent. I know both as a former principal and superintendent that the people above us on the supervision organization chart, who have “big picture” as part of their job description, can often see dangers and problems we are unable to see in the “trenches”. But I also know that if schools run away from addressing the tough and difficult moral and ethical issues of our time; then we run the greater risk of producing adults, who may have “competencies and skills”, but who lack an internal compassionate guidance system. Remember: 1930’s-40’s Germany was an international: STEM, Art, Intellectual, Philosophical and (yes) Theological powerhouse!

If a principal is given the green light to develop a “plan of study” in response to a terrible and traumatic societal event, then by all means do it with a strategic vision and smartness; a strategy that keeps your school safe and together; and that also protects, and intellectually strengthens the individual students.

Low Performing Schools Can’t Be Fixed?

“What should America do about its worst public schools? States still don’t seem to know.” — Washington Post

I won’t employ the now overused and often (by Trump) misused: “fake news” label here. But the assertion that we don’t know how to fix underperforming public schools, is just not true. We know now, and we have known for a very long time. Granted we took some really bad privileged “Nouveau school reform”, off-purpose detours; that further hurt our public schools, and specifically harmed children of color. But even throughout the glory days of the “school reform” debacle in places like NYC and DC; there were, (and still are), educators who knew exactly what to do.

Presently, there also exist a racial apartheid system, that has effectively excluded (or severely limited) access for professional educators of color, from the very lucrative “school improvement” industry; thus culturally and theoretically limiting the list of possible workable solutions available to schools and school districts. But in spite of all of the “faux reform” distractions, and the misplacement of school improvement funding; the true school reformers and improvers still always knew exactly how to effectively educate all of the children in our care. First, to the archives, and a 1979 quote from a true school reformer Dr. Ron Edmonds:

“It seems to me, therefore, that what is left of this discussion are three declarative statements: (a) We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us; (b) We already know more than we need to do that; and (c) Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.”

And so, “not knowing” is an untruth. And the question of “how”, is really not the question. Rather it is a matter of “why not”, and the will to implement the effective measures and practices on behalf of all children in our public school systems. And in particular, on behalf of those children, parents and communities, who are not sufficiently politically organized well enough to force the public school system to “know” and “remember” how to educate children.

“What should America do about its worst public schools? States still don’t seem to know.”— Washington Post

How to get away with murdering the intellectual growth of children (My apologies to the great and talented Viola Davis!)

“School librarians are all but ­extinct in Harlem. The Department of Education has failed to provide librarians at 87 percent of Harlem schools that are legally required to staff them…”— NY Post; 8/4/17

A Brooklyn elder once said to me: “If you want to hide something important from some folks, just put it in a book!”

It’s not like students of color don’t have enough societal hurdles to overcome on their path to realizing a positive and productive adult life; and now we must include inadequate school library services? These are more than likely the children who live and attend schools in Gifted and Talented programs “deserts”. They are probably zip coded into schools that have never started, budgetarily starved to the point of ineffectiveness, or completely eliminated their: (not for test-prep purposes) technology i.e. robotics-coding, informal education trips, professional artist visiting (or in residence) serving the school, Performing and Graphic Arts, Dance, Music, Creative Writing, and any other intellectually stimulating programs that can get in the way of the: “all test-prep, all of the time”, school culture.
And I know this, because I heard the excuses for this line of decision making, so many times as a superintendent: “it’s the budget—it’s standardized testing!” But my push-back to principals has always been that when you reduce your students’ access to these mind-thinking-creativity expanding programs and activities, you are in fact reducing your own capacity to raise student academic achievement, including their performance on standardized exams!

School Libraries are no different. In the elementary school years, the primary learning objective of the properly certified librarian, is to serve as an “educational cupid”, and encourage the children to fall in love with books, reading and libraries. That “love affair” should continue and be solidified in the middle school; where those librarians are helping students to become bona fied readers for fun, enlightenment and learning.

The middle school (MS) librarian can also play an important developmental psychological counseling role. For middle school students, both the external and internal worlds they experience every day can be extremely confusing. The MS librarian can provided these students with special sections (i.e. “who am I?”, “what is happening to me?”, “why do I feel this way?”, “what’s going on with my body?” etc.) of “student friendly”, exciting and interesting (for them), enjoyable fiction and non-fiction books. These books can help these young people navigate through this most challenging and conflicting of human developmental periods. In both the Elem. and MS libraries, there is also the “hidden curriculum” of allowing children who may not have access to well informed, information rich, and/or well-resourced parents; the opportunity to at least dream, imagine and explore the world outside of their community, through the rich resources of books. The Elem. and MS librarian can also serve as a bridge and liaison to the public library system surrounding the school.

I believe we should rethink how we have organized high school libraries. Most in my view, are incorrectly just bigger models of the K-8 school libraries. But at each level the school library should take on new and different set of missions, while maintaining some core objectives, i.e. information and knowledge acquisition. I think that high school libraries should serve more in the capacity of Information, career-college development, and research and project development centers. Hopefully to compliment a research and project based driven school-wide instructional philosophy. I also think that high school libraries should invest more of their resources into stocking different versions of course subject textbooks (students can often grasp a difficult concept when they read it in a book other than their assigned text book), reference books, biographies, magazines, journals and external web-based internet information sites and services.

And, I guess my most controversial proposal, is to move works of fiction and poetry directly into easy student “reach” (access); that is by placing these books inside of high school English subject classrooms. Yes, classroom libraries in high school ELA classrooms! My experience is that students actually end of reading more fiction books for fun and enjoyment; particularly when you combine these classroom libraries with a reward producing school-wide reading for fun program/competition; in my case that program was “Readers to Leaders”.

School librarian’s extinction is the students learning destruction…

Finally, it should be said that K-12 school libraries are not just “throw-away-spaces” in the school building; whose sole purpose is to provide schools with “coverages” for teacher lunch and prep periods. Rather the school library program should be thought of by a smart and strategic principal, as a core component of their raising and maintaining academic achievement plan.

Therefore, a F/T skilled, talented and certified librarian, is required to manage this important school resource. And they are also critical and essential to helping the school to realize the maximum contributions of the school library to the school-wide academic mission; and no school (that calls itself a school), should be without a librarian!

Parent (Mother): “I didn’t raise no punk let them fight”… What is a principal’s smart and strategic response, when parental help is not helpful?

“Huntsville Councilman shares personal Facebook video after attempt to break up a neighborhood fight”— WHNT News 19

Councilman Devyn Keith says: “Things must change”

“These two kids are fighting over something about basketball,” describes Keith. “We grabbed two of the main agitators and we talked to them and we explained to them that you can’t make a bad decision like this because it will truly affect your life. For a moment, we connected. This little kid understood what I was saying. I saw him look at me and understand that I was telling him that this decision could affect the rest of his life.”
But that connection abruptly ended, Keith says, when the young man’s mother pulled up.
“A parent pulls up in a car and almost hits the crowd explains Keith. “She jumps out of the car, sees me holding her son and yells to me, ‘Let go of my son.’ I understand that she doesn’t know what’s going on. I eventually say to her, ‘We’re stopping your son from a fight.'”
Her next words to him took him by surprise.
“She says to me, ‘I didn’t raise no punk, let `em fight.”

As a principal one of my end of the day/evening (Yes, principals with any sense stay late into the evening; because if you do your administrative paperwork during the school day, children will fall through the support net, and be lost forever!) reflections was always accompanied by a sigh: “We are going to really need to do better if we hope to survive and thrive collectively as a nation”. This feeling almost always occurred after having a difficult parent conference on that day.
“Difficult” meaning, not only was the parent and I not on the same page; we were not even in the same book!
Now this has nothing to do with finances, level of formal education, mastery of the English language, or single parenthood. Some of my greatest and most successful (for the child) educational partnerships were made with parents who were poor, limited formal education, and little to no mastery of the English language; and in many cases the parent (mothers and fathers) were raising the students and other siblings alone as a single parent. On the other hand I have had 2 parent families, with access to more than adequate financial resources; who were formally and ‘credentially’ well “educated”. But whose mis-education actually caused them to listen and believe that crap in college when some professor told them that it was a good idea to: “just let the children be (whatever that means) themselves!”
For the children of disenfranchisement, meaning those students in this society who are born with a target on their backs, and many social-political hurdles in their path; letting them “do their own thing”, is a future-success death sentence. Parents need to know where their child stands politically (racially, economically, zip code, etc.), in this nation, and then adjust their approach to parenting appropriately.
There is after all some survival sense making to the throughout all of animal nature process (see: bears, hippos, apes, etc.) of providing a teaching and learning parental guidance experience. Not really a deep intellectual process here, which is the reason for the existence of non-thinking “instincts” as the driving force. The primary purpose of this natural process is to increase the odds of the offspring successfully surviving into adulthood. Have some parents in our society lost, or misplaced their natural parental instincts? How did they lose them; and how can those necessary for species survival instincts be reclaimed and restored, is perhaps a topic for another blog post!

A politician runs smack into a reality for which every principal of non-entitled (and title 1) students is familiar… It is that moment when that parent encounter goes terribly wrong!

“I didn’t raise no punk let them fight”

Let me first get a pet peeve out of the way: This is just another example of why all elected officials should seriously consult with, and sincerely listen to experienced and practicing educators before making education policy decisions. And not just the “pro forma” (going through the motions) stuff that usually happens!

It is unfortunate in this particular case, but many former and present principals could have at least prepared this clearly dedicated and concerned elected official for the shock and pain he discovered from that encounter with a parent as he tried to break up a fight in the neighborhood. I could have provided him with a list of the “greatest hits” of foolishness that I have heard over the years coming from the mouths of more than a few parents sitting in my office. Sometimes I just sat there and wondered: “There is something wrong with our society when we place such strict requirements for acquiring a driver’s license; while at the same time requiring no pre-parental instruction as to how to properly raise a human being.” After a parent would say something like the above statement to me, I thank them for coming in. But the next day; truly actualizing the “In loco parentis” (in place of the parent) principle we were taught in our supervision and administration program; I would pull the child aside in the school and say: “You don’t need to worry, I will never call your mother up to this school again*…. from now on you will be dealing with me direct and personal; consider yourself a member of my personal interest and responsibility club”! This is the last thing they wanted to hear. Upon hearing this, one young man once responded: “Oh no, if I get in trouble can you still call my mother to come up?”… My response: “Nope, that ship has left the dock; welcome aboard son!”

*For practicing principals (or teachers), one example of a strategic response to a “no parent help situation”: To deliver the full psychological-change of behavior desired effect; pause for 2 seconds after the initial: “You don’t need to worry, I will never call your mother up to this school again”; and also have a: “I am defeated, you win” look on your face. The student will initially do a happy (and relieved facial expression) dance; thinking: “No more parent conferences, I can really “act the fool” now, this is my lucky day! The 2-sec. creative pause allows you to then effectively and dramatically “drop the other shoe”. The student’s facial expression will quickly change to a frown-sadness face, as they come to the full realization that the principal (and you need to be known as appropriately, situational and more important, effectively “mean”), is now pinch-hitting (taking the place of) for their parent! This then signals a very unlucky day, and days ahead for them. Since by their own confession-intention, thoughts are things pronouncement: “If (when) I get in trouble…”, means they plan to get into trouble again; thus a thoughtful intervention is needed to move the student, with or without parental support to a successful graduation.
You then place the student on a direct principal’s supervision plan. Including randomly observing them in classes. Announce when you enter the classroom: “Good morning Ms. ________; I am here to observe some students”. You need not, and should not look at, or mention the child’s name, but the other students will often give him or her the: “oh-oh, you are in trouble look” (Teenagers have no chill-brakes, and besides, they know who their behavioral challenged schoolmates are!) Have short “stand-up” (you as) parent-teacher conferences during the school day, with the students and their teachers; congratulate them, hug them (and make a big fuss), when they receive a good report! Give these students a daily check off list-form for: attendance, punctuality, conduct, academic performance, positive class participation, homework completion and quiz/test results for every class (Make sure you visit P.E., Art, Music, and other non-standardized testing classes!)
The students should deliver these forms directly to you at the end of the school day. Make them search the building for you; this creates some peer-pressure to behave, since their friends are inconveniently forced to wait for them! They can give the form to your secretary if you are out of the building, “Lord help the child who leaves the school building without turning in that form for the day; because that could generate a principal’s home visit to pick up the form, and that is guaranteed to not make me happy, or them, for these are not the students who look forward to home visits. And they also know that my unhappiness for having to pick up those daily school performance forms from their house, means I will be very creative over the next few days in making them very unhappy! Forgive me for pausing to laugh here, but it was funny. Teachers would come to tell me when sometimes these jokers, after having a not so stellar class, would be reduced to begging teachers to give them a good review in a category; because they knew the price of failure in any category, in any of their classes, meant a continuation of the “pain-plan” I would inflict on them. One being their continuing to be (extending the time) under my strict and direct supervision. Don’t underestimate “extended time” as an effective teen punishment. For teenagers naturally (organically) crave the independent distance from adult oversight.
And for reasons I have not yet fully explored (although I have some ideas), the daily-reporting classroom form is not as effective for high school girls; for non-parental help girl situations; you must take a completely different approach (A theme for a future blog?) For middle school principals, good luck. The success of the “extended time tactic”, literally depends on the child’s personality and the day; some days middle schoolers will be clinging children, and on other days, they will be push you away teenagers!)

But this comprehensive daily-classroom reporting procedure gives teachers some “bargaining leverage” in promoting academic achievement; and it is also an effective way to empower and support (particularly new) teachers in the area of classroom behavior management.

Huntsville Councilman shares personal Facebook video after attempt to break up a neighborhood fight


Ever wonder about the kind of things that keep principals up at night, and the source of their “bad dreams” when they finally do fall asleep?

You’re going to force the worst teachers in the system into the schools that are struggling the most.”–NY Times

“The city will place up to 400 unassigned teachers into vacancies at public schools whether principals want them or not…”—NY Daily News

It’s that moment when you are being asked to make the proverbial educationally sound “bricks without straw”. As a principal you are always being ask to raise academic achievement levels (aka: test scores); but then so many obstacles are (politically) placed in your trying-path, as you seek to achieve that objective.

For this latest “staffing decision”, the defeat for some kids are in the details. And that is why this type of decision is a primary nightmare for all principals who are trying to secure a safe and productive learning environment for their students. And trying to accomplish this in a system (school board or mayoral control), that is very often driven by political, and not educational aims.

The all teachers are the same myth…

First, let’s not fool (some in) the public into thinking this is simply a group of “excess” teachers, who are really great, but who had the misfortune of working in a school that closed and/or consolidated with another school. For a few maybe this is true, but not the majority. Principals have had these folks in their buildings, as either short, or long-term subs. Or they had them on staff, and “excessed” them; and then proceeded to “hide” the vacancy; perhaps in order to hire a much better, and truly qualified untenured teacher. (This tricky process would itself take an essay to explain; and I am not going to reveal the techniques principals utilize to save their kids!) And so principals have seen the teachers in this “excess” pool, and in the words of our Co-POTUS Vladimir Putin, they say: Nyet! (Translation: “I don’t think so!”)

Finding, “snatching” at almost any cost, an effective teacher is an unwritten primary job requirement for any principal who hopes to be successful; either because they deeply care about children, or for the more fundamental survival reasons of just wanting to keep their jobs. Every “educationally woke” principal will go to great lengths to sniff out, search out, track down, and hire a good teacher. Trust me, good and effective teachers don’t hang around un-recruited for long.

Principals will go to great lengths to find and hire an effective teacher!

Once as a principal, as I was preparing to attend a district “teacher hiring fair”, I was alerted by one of my ‘undercover supporters’ in HR, who loved my school and knew my standards; that a great qualified teacher, with a wonderful-powerful: resume, recommendations and a strong personal presence, had just arrived for the hiring hall teacher candidate’s orientation. My person in HR knew I had a vacancy in this teacher’s hard to find content area, (I keep telling principals I mentor to show a lot of love and respect to the HR folks, you really need them on your side!) And so in response to the HR call I said: “Pull her (and her paperwork), and if you must, hide her in an empty classroom; but under no condition let her go inside of that hiring fair as an ‘unrestricted free agent’!” (Looking back I can’t believe some of the stuff I did for my children. And I never asked, but that poor teacher must have thought at the time, that public education was a crazy place. I can imagine her thinking: “I came here to get a teaching job, and they are now asking me to hide in a classroom!”) But she kept the faith, and once I got there, interviewed the teacher, filled out the necessary paperwork, and hired what turned out to be a great teacher! A principal-friend, who also had a vacancy in that same subject area. Found out and (Jokingly) never forgave, or let me forget my move on that day. But I ain’t mad at him, because he would have done the same thing!

The other terrible nightmare (for some schools)…

As a former superintendent I am of course sympathetic to the tremendous budgetary pressures these “unassigned teachers”, particularly those who are on the high-end of the salary scale, place on an already strained district’s budget (And to be quite honest, as a principal I did not care about the central district’s budgetary problems, and was singularly focused on my school and kids!). But it is also true that principals have contributed to this present problem by not taking the tremendous time-energy required (most often unsuccessfully), as well as suffer the political backlash from the teachers union, to deny the underserving teachers in this pool, tenure; or when it was appropriate to put in the huge amount of work in order to rate them “unsatisfactory”. There is enough blame to go around; but at some point in public education, we must decide if we are going to stop being a societal effort that is primarily focused on adult employment, and make student access to a quality education the #1 objective.

And as always race, wealth, zip code, political power and entitlement are in play here…

The question is: What will determine to which schools the most questionably qualified teachers in this pool be sent? The answer is (always): The quality of the school principal’s political leadership: savviness, cleverness, courage, creativity, and how much “credibility credit”* the principal has with the central district’s leadership. Also a determiner is the level of a school’s parent and school community’s political awareness-organization; as well as the courage and independence of the school’s city, state and federal elected officials; and how much pressure can the school’s parents and community put on those elected officials. Please forgive me if I am not optimistic about the prospects of schools that serve a majority of children of color in the city coming out of this process well. As is often the case in public education (and the opposite of what happens in most professions), the children who are in the most need of the best qualified, and most experienced instructional practitioners, don’t get them. And at some point this political, and not educational practice must end.

*Highly effective and successful principals can cash in their good practitioner “credibility credit”, to minimize, bypass and/or completely avoid the deleterious effects of a “harmful” district, or labor contractual policy. Which is another piece of information I stress with the principals I am working with: That being a good principal can earn you the “political-power currency” to become a great principal!

“400 unassigned city teachers could move to permanent jobs under Education Department’s new policy”

Trump and the Republicans should not play games with the Russian Bear.

There is a reason that wild Bears don’t make good house pets… because they stay true to their feeding agenda…

“Former Russian military intelligence officer attended Trump Tower meeting”– LA Times

Trump and the Republicans should not underestimate, and play games with the Russian Bear! In the world of the FSB (KGB) “Former” and “intelligence officer” is an oxymoron. Death or retirement to a quiet dacha in the country is their standard exit strategy. They can’t have people like him (with all of the important classified information in his head) running around in the US exposed to FBI counter intelligence officers. I truly believe that “Lobbyist” was his cover, and that this guy was definitely: “on the job”!…

Trump and the GOP are playing a dangerous game here; and playing with a man Putin, who plays by a completely different set of rules. They want to win elections, appoint right-wing judges and pass reactionary bills, etc. The Russians are aiming (higher) at restoring themselves to international super power prominence and influence… Trump and the GOP are not going to be able to just walk away from this anti-US, anti-patriotic alliance they have made with Putin… For the Russians this is about “business”, not friendship… Just saying.


Utilizing the tools of history, a nation’s people must choose its leaders wisely or suffer… And this is one of the many answers to that annual high school student question: “Why are we studying this old stuff!” Teachers of history must be able to clearly, confidently and convincingly be able to answer that student question, on the first day that classes begin.

The truth of history can hurt, but it can also heal. And so the question is: what do real people do when unreality overpowers and supersedes reality?

First, an amazing “prophetic word” from Historian Daniel J. Boorstin’s great must read 1989 book: Hidden History: Exploring Our Secret Past. ; Chapter: “A flood of Pseudo-Events”; pg. 283.

“Pseudo-events thus lead to emphasis on pseudo-qualifications. Again the self-fulfilling prophecy. If we test Presidential candidates by their talents on TV quiz performances, we will, of course, choose Presidents for precisely these qualifications. In a democracy, reality tends to conform to the pseudo-event. Nature imitates art…”


“Once we have tasted the charm of pseudo-events, we are tempted to believe that they are the only important events. Our progress poisons the sources of our experience. And the poison taste so sweet that it spoils our appetite for plain fact. Our seeming ability to satisfy our exaggerated expectations makes us forget that they are exaggerated.”

The great misconception about the study of history is that it is the single act and purpose of “looking backwards”; studying old events and people who have long been dead. But learning about the “ancestral” and evolutionary aspects of our customs, beliefs, cultural practices, and ideas, is of major present and future importance.
For, how do we deconstruct, for purposes of understanding our present world, without understanding how it was constructed overtime? And how do we plan to go forward, without an understanding of how poor and misinformed planning in the past created bad outcomes in the future. Whenever I visit and frustratingly try to drive in Atlanta, I always think how different it might be if past political leaders planned roads and highways in anticipation of a clearly foreseeable explosion of new “car driving” residents, emigrating from other US cities? (Sorry, voicing a personal vexation here!)

There is however, another important value for studying history, and that is for its predictive value. By now we should have learned (from history study), that certain ideas and behaviors lead to terrible, and perhaps even horrific outcomes; and we know these things because history has taught us through a pained reality. For example:

• That artificially constructed walls (physical or psychological) built for the purposes of exclusion, discrimination and diminishing the humanity of the “other”. Beyond not working, does greater spiritual and intellectual harm to those on the “good side” of the wall. An example can be found in the biblical story of the “compassion wall” placed between the “clean and good religious people”, who passed by, and did not help the injured traveler. The injured man was ultimately assisted by the “unclean and unrighteous” Samaritan. The message for our purposes here is that those who separate themselves, and refuse to help the suffering victims of injustice; have in effect done themselves a great spiritual disservice, by way of the sin of religious hypocrisy. Walling off our neighbors and fellow humans, ultimately walls us off from our own humanity; and stunts our own faith growth. The walls of separation you build between yourself and those who are suffering, are the walls of your own spiritual tomb.

• History teaches us that “scapegoatism” always ends tragically. Once we say that: The reason I don’t prosper financially, I can’t lose weight, my wife and kids don’t love me, I am, or have too much, or too little of something; is because of some identifiable “other” (Black, Jews, Latinos, Armenians, Muslims, the LBGTQ, Women, liberals, people who read books, those who actually believe in the fundamental principles of science, etc.); stands between me and a happy life. The “natural” next step then is to eliminate those human barriers to my happiness; by punitive and exclusionary laws, and ultimately by acts of lawful and unlawful violence.

• A false and invented historical narrative that suggest that there is a “we” who were once great (Now in America, was that before or after the US Naturalization Law of 1790; where the “enlightened powers”, before and after the law excluded large segments of the population from US citizenship!) And that somehow this “greatness” would still be in place, if not for the previously mentioned “problem” groups (Who keep insisting that their humanity and lives matter; which I interpret as my life mattering less!); along with those other ungrateful developing nations; who no longer accept economic exploitation as the normal way of doing business.

• That the simplest, uninformed and most ignorant solution path is the best way to go. If we pretend that climate change is a plot orchestrated by an international “cabal” of scientist; then why take it seriously. The Russian czars and the guillotined French monarchy; would probably present a lesson in how not to follow a: “don’t know, don’t want to know path”. Also known as the Evillene (of ‘The Wiz’ fame) Principle: “Don’t nobody bring me no bad news!” Historically, ignorance creates a dangerous, not neutral state of existence.

• And what happens when: ignorance, fear, cowardly acts, along with the moral deficiency and absence of the most fundamental collective beliefs in decency, shared concern, empathy and (agape) love, don’t become the driving principles of a national psyche. A leader will emerge, in roach-like opportunism, who will both personify and articulate all of the negative attributes known to man. This leader will in every way successfully represent and promote the very worst of all human traits. And the morally weak will do all in their power to define his behavior as both necessary and worse, normal.

Speaking historically, “bad and evil political leaders” traditionally don’t like:

•A free and independent press.

•Civility and Kindness.

•Any type of public accountability. (Their taxes and business dealings are secret)

•Religion (unless it can be twisted to their needs: See US right-wing Christian Evangelicals)

•Literature, books and reading.

•Real History (they replace it with a fake history narrative).

•Laws and an independent Judiciary.

•The least protected and disenfranchised members of the society.

•Voters (citizens) who think (Thinking is bad).

•Science (that does not support their aims).

•Performing and Creative Art (That does not lie about or glorifies them).

•Information or facts.

•Peace (Because war encourages citizens to ‘rally’ around them); thus the need to have,

•Flexibility in determining enemies (The novel “1984”: “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”)

•The enemies of the nation are not necessarily their enemies (See: Russian-Trump 2016 elections)

•Fiction-Poetry (Every expression of the leaders depraved personality is found on their pages).

•Anything that questions their legitimacy (especially if their rise to power is illegitimate).

•Standard Dictionaries (because they prefer to invent and reinvent new twisted word meanings).

•The absence of adoration and unprincipled loyalty, to themselves. (See most of GOP leadership)

•Questions (about their behavior and policies).

•Any good works or projects of a previous regime. (“Kill Obamacare why. because it’s called…”)

•Patriotism that does not equate the leader (and his needs) to the state.

Now what part of the present US political picture did the study of history not prepare us for?

And so, one of the jobs of historiography, is to help us as a society to avoid anointing and elevating these ethically morally flawed people to positions of leadership; and then compassionately get them the psychotherapeutic help they need; but under no condition elect them to some local or national political office.

History teachers, you have a lot of important work to do over the next four years; we failed as a nation this time around; but you truly could help America to earn a better grade in the future, by teaching why the era of Trump should never be repeated; and that’s the important history lesson plan of our present age.

Creating Real Changes In How High Schools Prepare Their Graduates

There is a major qualitative difference between a good and effective press event; and good and effective educational policy.

A response to a question on a previous post concerning the Faux (and possibly illegal) Mayoral/Chicago Public Schools plan to make certain post high school task “requirements” for receiving a diploma:

Stop the games and gimmicks, and just educate people’s children!

Thank you ______________, yes you are right. As public school educators we absolutely have a responsibility in what happens to students after they graduate from our schools. And as a 11 year high school principal I made sure my college-career office empowered every graduate with a post-graduation plan (i.e. we also taught students interviewing techniques, how to dress (and in some cases purchased the clothes) for an interview, helped them to design a standard resume, taught business world “soft skills”, etc.). Finally, whether they were going to college, or not we had all of our seniors apply to a city and state college. The difference between our school plan, and what the Chicago mayor is doing, is that we made sure all students were attitudinally and academically prepared to pursue multiple post-graduation options. The CPS proposal in my view is just one of many “for show” pronouncements I have seen in public education over the last 40 years. High standards and expectations must be on the front, and not back end of the high school (and K-8) process. Students must be authentically equipped, socially & academically in order to have real choices after high school. School districts need to stop (and educators of conscience, and communities of color need to stop them), making our children the dogs, ponies, and worst of all the “jokes” of the education for show game! — MAJ.

Stop the games and gimmicks, and just educate people’s children!

“Emanuel wants to add a CPS graduation requirement”

“The mayor’s office said the new requirement would start with the class of 2020.” … “Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants Chicago public high school students to show they have a plan for what’s next before they can get a diploma.” … “Emanuel’s proposal would add one more big item to the graduation checklist for high school seniors: proof they’ve been accepted into college or the military, or a trade or a “gap-year” program. The requirement would also be satisfied if the student has a job or a job offer.”…

Well, at some point we really need to move beyond “gimmickry” and truly educate people’s children. After all, we know enough at this point as to how to make all students academically successful; what is missing is the resource commitment, and the will to implement those policies and procedures that seriously take on and defeat those things that prevent (get in the way of) student learning. How about doing something real, like designing a high school system where all students are prepared to either go to college, enroll in a (Career Technical Education) CTE apprenticeship program, and/or enter the workforce upon high school graduation. Now that’s something worth announcing!

Meanwhile, Chicago education law attorneys should saddle up. Now I know it has been awhile since my supervision and administration school law class; but I’m not sure if you can deny a student a diploma for “post-high school conditions”; that are actually out of the student’s control; particularly if they have met all of the academic and statutory conditions for high school graduation. This is in essence having the government make a decision about your post-graduation life. The surely soon to come lawsuits will further drain a cash strapped school system. And for what, a fun press release that gives the impression that some significant educational change has actually occurred.