The invisible—visible people…

When…

“…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:
https://www.facebook.com/theinterceptflm/videos/861606717583845/

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.

And…
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.

I’ll never take hugging, closeness or compassionate touching for granted again! … Part 9

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

April 7, 2020

Aloneness is wealth, loneliness is poverty…

“The cure for loneliness is solitude”— Marianne Moore

A dear sister-friend sent this: “…Social distancing and sheltering in place…of all the people I know this is probably easiest for you…” Oh if only I had the emotional-superpowers people often attribute to me.

I think that bonafied extroverts (who rule the world in part because they are better at communicative-social-networking), get to define the world of bonafied introverts; after all, when you rule the world, that’s what you do. The truth is, ‘social-distancing’ (for which I am in complete compliance), is in fact very difficult for me. An isolation that is forced is never good or pleasant; it’s an imposition on the self, not an act of self-affirmation.

The “Extros” interpret the world in the quantity and frequency of social-contacts; The “Intros” on the other hand only seek the qualitative-deepness of a few social-contacts; they also enjoy investing time and effort into their #1 friend—themselves! But, the secret meaning of Introversion (what Extros define in their worldview as ‘fear’ or ‘pathology’), is that Intros love and care so deeply for others, that they are unwilling to waste that energy by sharing it casually with the undeserving or prematurely with the unready…

Black folks please be careful of both the Covid-19 virus and the viral disease of racism…

OK, I have now been made aware of three situations (I know the individuals personally) where three highly educated, smart and articulate African-American men (one a PhD. who reviewed my book) who have entered a commercial establishment correctly wearing a Covid-19 facial protection mask, only to have the store employees and/or a fellow white customer assume that these individuals were there for the purposes of committing a crime. Fortunately, none of these scenarios ended tragically. I suspect that there are other instances in the nation of which I am unaware.

Look, I know that many of you have received, and in some cases adopted the US ‘post(Obama)racial’ story-line. But I am going to give you the same old-fashion Black elders advice I received as a youngster. This is the cautionary instructional lesson that I ‘upgraded’, rephrased; and then gave to all of my Black (and Latino) students over the years; even when they did not want to hear it.

To be honest, I hated as a child every time a family member, neighborhood or a church elder told me that: “Because you are a Negro (or Black), you must work twice as hard as a white person, because of prejudice!” I felt that those conditions were extremely unfair; and since I spent most of my childhood school days at the top of my classes, and ended up being placed in gifted and talented programs; I felt that I was already, “smarter” then most of my white student peers, without having to work too much harder. In fact, I spent many countless days/hours in the Brooklyn Public Library, The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and The Brooklyn Museum, reading books at home; essentially competing against myself (not white kids) in acquiring vast amounts of knowledge. But back then (1950’s) you had to actually listen to adults and could not argue back. But, over the years I have come to be less critical of and more appreciative of the elders of my youth.
Their approach probably did not meet my pedagogical standards for teaching a lesson. But they were doing the best they knew how in trying to protect us from the horrible reality of the societal and US cultural wide practices of discrimination, low expectations (still very much in play in our public schools today) and biased negative perceptions.
The elders of my young days did the best that they knew how to do; and their wise observation and assessment of the true identity of America was correct then, and it is with some small modifications, for the most part still true today.

We should not get it twisted, or confused; whether you like it or not; living in a nation that is built on, thrives in, and is powered by racism and bigotry, your Blackness is your ultimate existential reality. For over forty years I have pushed and supported young people by way of education, to realize their highest aspirational career dreams. There is no record of me ever encouraging a young person to work below their potential; and in fact taking that position has caused me a great deal of personal, financial and professional pain. But let’s be clear, it does not matter if you are a MD, PhD, Ed.D., JD, DD or no D; rest assure at some point, in small or large aggressive ways, you will over and over again encounter the ‘black group treatment’ of prejudice and discrimination. And please note, that many of the pathological racially damaged black persons in our nation, could also be the very individuals who will inflict this racial prejudice mistreatment on you.

I am proud to have served as a public school principal and superintendent; but I can also say that not one day ended without someone, a parent, public or district official, one of my peers or even the people I supervised; failing to remind me that they saw me as no different from any Black person who was at the bottom of the school or district staffing chart.

Two of my best friends are highly accomplished Black physicians; and they both have numerous stories of being on the receiving end of racial aggressive actions, including from white doctors they were training! One, a trauma surgeon was told by a white patient arriving to the trauma center after a car accident: “Can I get a real doctor?” (I told him that he was a better person then I, because I would have said: “Sure, in fact he stared in a James Bond movie and his name is Dr. No-doctor!”)

Every prominent Black American thinker, artist and educator (W.E.B. DuBois, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Lorraine Monroe, Ralph Ellison, Asa Hilliard, to name a few) has made this point: That against our will, and not requiring our consent, awareness or agreement, we Black people are forced, by virtue of our US residency to live in two separate and unequal political world realities. And any misunderstanding or misinterpretation of this edict, will always lead to loss, pain, suffering and perhaps even death.

Remember, that the poor national government response to the coronavirus is very much in part due to the large numbers of white Americans who wanted (and still want according to polls) a president who is clearly unfit and incompetent; but who would work hard to make bigotry and prejudice great again.

Referees warn boxers before a fight: “Protect yourself at all times!” And so, despite the bad ‘medical advice’ being provided by “science experts” on social media platforms, Black people are not immune to coronavirus.
We must at all times, in the best ways that we can (e.g. staying home!) protect ourselves and others from this dreaded disease. But at the same time we must be of ‘two-minds’ and be proactively and protectively aware of that other American chronic and untreated deadly viral disease of racism, for which no vaccine has ever been employed.

I’ll never take hugging, closeness or compassionate touching for granted again! … Part 8

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

April 5, 2020

When I Think Of Home (WITOH) I…

(My sincere apologies to ‘The Wiz’ fans!)

WITOH: I don’t think of a place of quarantined-isolation. Where I’m reduced to dialoguing with an air-fryer!

Me: “OK, how are we doing?

(After another month of a solo-quarantined existence and the air-fryer will start answering me back).

Air-Fryer: “It’s almost done sir, give me 7 more minutes.

WITOH: I think of a NYC where I was born and raised, and served as a superintendent during “9/11”. I learned then about a city that was overflowing with love, patience, perseverance and the determination to come back better and stronger…

WITOH: And living in a nation that would (with all of Hillary Clinton’s very human flaws), select one of the most unqualified, amoral, unimaginative, uninspiring, unethical (did I miss anything–Just fill in the blank), and ___________ person to run this country. And tragically, for all Americans (including his supporters), to lead a nation that is presently facing one of its gravest challenges.

WITOH: I think of a present world-wide place and time, where the plague’s pain will reveal the best people, as well as revealing the best in people; including the emergence of extra-ordinary people, who in this moment of collective suffering, will reveal their best extraordinary gifts of human-kindness service.

There is no Greater Leadership Love…

“Navy fires USS Theodore Roosevelt captain days after he pleaded for help for sailors with coronavirus”

The first question I posed as superintendent/instructor to the participants in both of my (2000-2003) NYC CSD 29Q: “Teacher to AP” and “AP to Principal” courses was: “Why do you really want to be a school-based educational leader, really?” I did not acknowledge hands in both rooms. Because (as I said then) I believe that question is best answered in the private solitude of each aspirer’s heart. (And deciding to go forward, the next conversation you aspiring to school leadership person should have is with your family—For they will absolutely be drawn into/be part of, your challenging school leadership journey!)

I once took a group of students on a field-trip aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier. My first observation was that it looked and acted a lot like a city. And further, as someone very interested in organizational leadership; I hypothesized that there is perhaps no more dynamically and multilayered complex, dangerous (e.g. the nuclear elements) and challenging leadership position that one could sign up for. Unlike what does not happen enough in our public schools; there seem to be a collective understanding in every area of the ship, that the casual acceptance of failure could lead to catastrophic events. ( I experienced that same ‘professional understanding’ on a student trip aboard a USN nuclear submarine–But that’s an amazingly different story for another time!)

On that aircraft carrier visit I met with various members of the flight deck crew and the Naval Tomcat pilots in their briefing room; where they all described to me what sounded a lot like: “a wing and a prayer” plane take off procedure from the ship, and what essentially seem to be a “controlled crash” scenario when those planes returned to land on the ship (fully armed). Personally, having experienced the massive complexity of an aircraft carrier, the multi-skilled and diverse-knowledge required by its commanding officer; I did not then and do not now believe that the Navy would assign a “flake” to be captain of a “Nimitz Class” USN aircraft carrier. And so, any White House attempts to discredit the quality of Captain Crowley’s leadership abilities, somehow rings conveniently contrived and dishonest. And hopefully, a presidential change in November could lead to restoring this brave man to his rightful and well-earned position. But maybe there won’t be a change election in November and instead our captain will be further punished and damaged, at least for four more years.

A lot of folks like to profit from, play at and “sugar-coat” leadership. Many ‘educational leaders’ spout brave and courageous educational rhetoric on social media; but in their daily practice they do nothing to fight for the children and communities who can’t fight for themselves. Bookstores all over the nation have sprouted whole large book sections on the topic of “Leadership”, and I guess in a ‘motivational-technical-knowledge’ way that’s fine. But what a lot of very articulate “personal-power” consultants don’t tell you is that engaging in true and authentic principled leadership, could mean sacrificing oneself for the good and survival of the many. That’s the true nature, of the true and authentic leadership standards of practice that I wanted my CSD 29Q teachers and assistant principals to contemplate. The “price” of seeking to provide the disenfranchised children of our nation, with the same quality learning as their enfranchised peers, is not just an increase in your paycheck; rather it is an increase in the risk of losing everything.

Knowing what I know about the Navy, this man was probably on the “Admiral Career Track”; but there is no greater expression of leadership love then sacrifice. For he found himself standing between the safety of his crew and a crazed US president, who is doing everything in his power (for purposes of reelection), to minimize the horrible magnitude of the coronavirus plague that he so badly managed from the start. And as Captain Crowley watched his crew grow sicker and sicker each day, he made what I believe was the only choice available for an ethical leader—and that was to save a group of people, who despite their military titles, are also human beings and members of families.

As a leader you can easily reject the easy low-hanging ethical-practices fruit, like not stealing; but the challenge is when you consciously give up power, wealth, a cherished position; those ‘somethings’ you worked hard for, those ‘things’ you really wanted and honestly felt you deserved.

There is leadership ‘style’ and then there is leadership substance; and the latter defines the quality (and the quantity of that quality) of your character. That’s why I purposely led off with: “The Ethics of the Principalship” in by book: Report to the Principal’s Office.1 Because if you don’t get the Leadership Ethics part right; then nothing else really matters; since your leadership won’t really matter in the learning lives of children.

The curse of the common-core-careerist…

Without a powerful ethical/moral compass to keep you on the ‘higher best (not necessarily the easiest) path’, then you are just a person solely committed at your core to common careerism. The ‘common-core-careerist’ (public education is flush with them), are like most of those ‘leadership-management books’, they could be technically ‘competent’; but ultimately a leader will be tested and proven at the point of possible personal sacrifice. It is when you either act or don’t act on behalf of those who for whatever reason, can’t defend themselves against a system structured to destroy them. And it is in those character defining moments, that the confirmed common-core-careerist will either run out or sell out.

“Navy fires USS Theodore Roosevelt captain days after he pleaded for help for sailors with coronavirus”… https://news.yahoo.com/navy-fires-uss-theodore-roosevelt-210606455.html


1. Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Leadership. http://majmuse.net/report-to-the-principlas-office-tools-for-building-successful-administrative-leadership/

Note: At Phelps ACE high school, Washington DC, we were able to forge a partnership with the US Navy that included things like trips for students to many different Naval facilities and active duty vessels, support for our FIRST Robotics and Cyberforensics Teams and a hand’s on study experience at the Naval Research Lab with underwater robotics.

I’ll never take hugging, closeness or compassionate touching for granted again!… Part 7

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

April 3, 2020

The Plague as a metaphor for political oppression…

Yesterday I read (after swearing not to) another of those post-mortem analysis of the Bernie Sanders campaign; this time (I thought it would be different) written by a former Bernie “black campaign worker”. I must remind myself that time spent in coronavirus prison is extremely valuable. I promise (again) to not read another: “What went wrong with Bernie’s campaign” article. The problem with all of them is their subtle and sometimes overt disrespect for Black voters. When did Black folks become the “Democratic Party Establishment”? Even Obama was careful to ‘tip-toe’ around any specific Black related issue.

What’s causing our nation to suffer beyond the necessary under this pandemic; and what hurts America in many areas of human life (the part that Bernie and crew don’t get), was not produced by Black voters. Our present national suffering under the rule of a pathological narcissist, and a Republican Party that is slightly better at hiding its malicious-malevolence; was created by large segments of (non-billionaires) white voters, voting to reconfirm that the US should preserve a white-power apartheid structure. In that way they are like those self-destructive citizens who continue to gather in large groups in the midst of a highly-communicable disease.

What the plague has taken away from us—collectively experiencing the live performing arts…

Lynn Nottage: “I love that theaters are getting creative about streaming live performances, but somehow the experience always feels a little like eating food without being able to fully taste it. I miss the visceral experience of sharing emotions with an audience.

So true, (and I would add all live artistic performances), there is nothing like the experience of live theater! The plague in all of its evilness is teaching us a great deal, by what it takes away from us.

We are born to be hunters of the secrets of our hearts;
and the performing arts gathers those sacred secrets for us;
and then presents them to us in the most creatively beautiful way…

But we shall all return, artist and audience…