One of the reasons that the public does not believe us (professional public educators), when we say we need more money for schools.

When it comes to children, their education and safety, it is always ‘cheaper’, more efficient and effective to invest on the front (prevention-intervention, pro-action and productive-positive actions) end, rather than on the back (remediation, correction, fix up, cleanup, etc.) end.

“Convened by de Blasio to talk school safety, New York City students tell him his latest solution is misguided”
https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/03/08/convened-by-de-blasio-to-talk-school-safety-new-york-city-students-tell-him-his-latest-solution-is-misguided/

“When it was Andrea Colon’s turn to ask a question at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s town hall meeting on school safety Thursday, the high school senior got right to the point. Why is the city “prioritizing police and metal detectors instead of ensuring we have enough social-emotional and mental health support in our schools?” Colon asked the mayor, who had invited roughly 100 students to talk about gun violence and school safety at the Vanderbilt YMCA in Manhattan.”

The question taxpayers might be asking themselves: “Wait, we are paying a lot of people, a lot of money to come up with the wrong and/or incomplete answers; and here you have a student(s) earning a salary of $0 dollars a year, and she comes up with the most thoughtful, educationally correct and long-term effective answer!”

To increase the possibility of having a safe high school, can we at least do the ‘easy stuff’ first:

To increase the possibility of having a safe high school, can we at least do the ‘easy stuff’ first.

Why School-Based Administrators Should Not Cheat (Children)

The first chapter in my book Report To The Principal’s Office (RTTPO) is titled: “The Ethics of the Principalship”; it is not the first chapter by accident. For if the School-Based Administrator’s (SBA’s) leadership practice is not founded and grounded in, guided and defined by, a set of student empowering ethical principles; then those SBA’s will ultimately do great harm to children. Thus the reason why so many educators, retired and presently working, are so saddened by the reports of principals in fear of, and/or in collusion with the district’s leadership, have made a decision to cheat children out of an education, along with creating the strong possibility that those children will not have a bright and hopeful future.

And to add ‘insult to injury’; the victims of many of these acts of educational malpractice are the students who are at the greatest risk of not being served well by the public school systems of this nation; those for whom a good education may be their only hope of braking a pattern and societal planned trajectory that leads to poverty, disenfranchisement and disconnection from the fruits and benefits of the ‘American Promise’. As a Black educator, and it gives me no pleasure in saying this, my pain is doubly deepened in knowing that in some Black ‘controlled’ cities/districts/schools, these practitioners of miseducation share a cultural and ethnicity link with the very children they have educationally cheated. I know these Black mis-educators must, at some points in their lives, felt the painful stings of racist denial and dismissal; and so why inflict it on children who look like them?

In two of the largest, but by no means only examples of the problem; we see in one case the future of children being choked by those helping (really hurting) them to cheat, or cheating for (actually against) them on standardized exams. In another district, high school students were being awarded ‘graduation diplomas’, even if they fail to show up for the required class (‘seat’) time to hear, let alone learn the course material.

At the core of these ethical fails is that the SBA’s in both cases harbored a deep false belief in the inherent inability of the students to learn. What we usually sum up as ‘low-expectations’. They essentially distorted that popular phrase “All children can learn” into: “Perhaps, all children can learn, but not the ones I have!” Not only do these actions reveal the principal’s expectations; they also speak to the SBA’s lack of confidence in their own professional effectiveness and efficacy. If children arrive to your school with ‘learning-parental support-opportunity gaps’ (and in any Title 1 school that will be the annual reality), then the ethical principal will put programs and practices into place to close those gaps.
And, as is also often the case in Title 1 high schools, some students may be struggling* to get to school every day, and on time; then again ethical school leaders will visit and exhaust all avenues available to get as many students as possible, into school on time and every day. That begins by designing a school environment, where students feel safe, welcomed, educationally challenged and respected. In other words creating a school where students actually want to come every day!

*As a principal I once had a student who lived with two younger siblings. The single parent had to work back-to-back full time jobs (12: AM to 4: PM), in order for the family to survive. This meant that my student had to dress, feed and take the younger siblings to the neighborhood school every day. But the earliest she could leave them made her late for her own school. I reached out to my elementary school colleague, and made arrangements for my student’s siblings to be able to enter the school an hour earlier then the official ‘students admit’ time. Thus less stress on my student, and she was now able to take 1st period classes; and of course I ‘sweetened the deal’ for the elementary school principal as a thank you! (Don’t ask how because I am not telling, but every school as I explain in RTTPO, must have an independent, out of the school district’s control, 501c3 foundation!)

Frankly, I find that making a ‘poverty excuse’ (no matter who is making it), as to why students can’t be successful in a public education setting, racially and class offensive. But worse, it provides a societal wide rational for giving these students our least concern and efforts. That we must ‘cheat and cut corners’ in order for them to succeed. The ethical principal cannot and should not cooperate with that societal denial of a quality education for all children, no matter the career cost.

Report To The Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership

http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/

Available Spring 2018!

Black Child Genius (Like Black History) Is Lost, Stolen and Ignored.

According to some NYC news reports Black History Month celebrations did not go well in some schools:

A poorly supervised and trained NYC teacher offers a lesson on slavery by asking Black students to lie down on the classroom floor, at which point she stepped on their backs to demonstrate to the class “what slavery felt like”… (Thank goodness she did not do a field trip to the New York Botanical Garden and have the Black students pick cotton!)

A student named Malcolm Xavier Combs, is not allowed by his high school to put (his own) and his namesake hero’s name: ‘Malcolm X’ on his senior sweater, school officials considered it “inappropriate”. (Could we feel confident in believing that if the young man was named after slave owner and rapist Thomas Jefferson, that a sweat shirt bearing that name would have also been banned?… Well no, not so confident.)

A middle school principal discourages and exacts penalties for the teaching and learning of Black History in an English Language Arts (ELA) class; and perhaps equally egregious, the principal being pedagogically unaware of the learning linkage between ELA (literature, speeches, plays, and poetry, journalism, public and personal documents) and students studying historiography (The methodological study of history).

All three events taking place in the ‘liberal’, ‘hip’, ‘progressive’, Democratic Party controlled, Northern, Blue city-state, New York City. We can only read these news articles as we cringe and weep…

I so desperately wish that I could say that these incidents were “isolated and rare”; but after so many years in public education as a teacher, principal and superintendent, I must admit that the public’s awareness of these types of horrible miseducation missteps is only limited by the small number of education reporters, interest and space in various news media outlets.

But these examples of Black History Celebrations ‘gone wrong’ are small compared to the vast number of Black (and Latino) students who won’t ever get a chance to make a positive contribution to ‘future history’; because they won’t get the chance to discover and display as adults, their natural gifts and talents. And I am speaking here of Black students who are on every point of the academic achievement level continuum. Including those who have parents with PhDs, and those with parents with no “D’s”! Parents who are unemployed and poor, as well as parents who are in the middle, upper levels, or far beyond middle class income levels. This “Lost, Stolen and Ignored” (LS&I) genius capacity is sadly equally distributed in the Black community, and compels us to redefine and expand the concept of “At Risk” to mean: Any Black child (particularly boys) who enters a public school building!

It is also important to note that this “At Risk” designation of not truly discovering and engaging Black student’s talents is not limited to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); even as the destructive powers of the LS&I policies are the most dramatically displayed in the STEM areas of study. The reality is that Black students with a gifted and genius inclination for Music, Art, Dance, non-stereotypical sports (i.e. fencing, archery, swimming, gymnastics, gulf and speed-performance ice skating); the untapped talent to engage in intellectual-creative competitive activities such as creative writing contest, photography-film, debate, chess, etc. competitions; are also places where these students are under-unexposed, and their skills and interest chronically undiscovered.

It often boils down to a word I hate to hear and depend on in public education: ‘luck’! That is, having the luck of having a ‘pushy’ parent(s)* who will expose the child to a wide spectrum of human intellectual, knowledge and talent rich out-of-school activities; those parents who are sensitive to the child’s display of ‘budding’ giftedness and creative interest, and then actively responding to those early talent inclination signs, parents who are ‘inquisitive’, aggressive and willing to make the sacrifices to put the child into a position; outside of the public school system, and into the informal educational-school system, where the child can receive professional coaching and training. Finally, students will need to be ‘lucky’ to have parents who don’t “ghettoize” the talents, gifts, dreams and aspirations of their children. These parents are naturally and justifiably suspicious of the aims and goals that any US school/school system has for their child. They know, even if it is only in the most rudimentary and without research data way, that when it comes to American education, race is always “in play”! As you can imagine, this ‘luck’ approach to child development, is unable to create a ‘critical mass’ of Gifted and Talented (G&T) discovered and developed students of color who can bring a significant generational change/improvement to their communities.

*I devote an entire chapter in my book (Report To The Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership), to deconstructing and explaining the profiles and practices of these empowering parents!

For sure, beyond race, economic status is a huge factor, (along with a parent’s ability to access the wealth of out-of-school educational information) in a child’s ability to realize the full capacity of their gifts and talents. But Black parents who are financially in a good place, and who have advanced formal educational degrees, could get too comfortable, and dangerously fool themselves into thinking that their child is not “at risk” of not realizing their full learning potential. And to borrow from a popular song: Money (and college degrees) can’t buy you love from your child’s teacher, principal, school or school district.
Teachers and educational leaders (Including incompetent, scared and ‘unwoke’ Black educators), bring ‘themselves’ to the district-school-classroom every day; ‘themselves’ meaning their personal histories, prejudices, cultural preconceptions, expectations, and the experience of living in a nation with many still unresolved race prejudice and discrimination problems. And clearly these problems are not being helped when the chief executive officer of the nation is openly advocating bigoted and white supremacy ideas.

Any Black or Latino parental approach that wrongly assumes that they have an educational ‘temporary privilege pass’; or that schools, the classroom are just, fair and neutral places, where all gifts and talents are equally discovered and developed, are sadly in a state of delusion; and that delusional state moves their child from being “at risk” to seriously “in danger”! Ironically, these well-resourced and knowledgeable parents can best help their own children by advocating for children who don’t have parents with their same level of education, financial resources, or access to information. After all the ‘system’ does not really see a difference in Black students with or without, wealthy and highly degreed parents!

There are some very easy to accomplish small steps by which districts and schools can discover and cultivate the genius of all students in their care:

(1) In the same New York City, several Black and Latino elected officials have correctly called for the expansion of Gifted and Talented programs into the ‘G&T dessert sections’ of the city (Read: majority Black and Latino neighborhoods). There is no reason that their educationally sound and reasonable request can’t be met. The ‘cap’ on G&T programs (and admission criteria) in any school district, is completely invented, arbitrary and discretionary. There are no national statutes, regulations, professional agreement/understanding (standards), as to how we can determine and measure: ‘giftedness’, ‘intelligences’ and ‘natural talents’; to what extent these qualities are acquired genetically (at birth), or can be discovered and developed by way of schooling. As a NYC superintendent of Community School District 29 Queens (CSD 29Q) I utilized my discretion and without central office permission, expanded G&T programs in the district. And even in those schools without a G&T program; the district’s curriculum supervisors and staff along with a team of teachers created a G&T curriculum, and a companion professional development program that could be utilized by any teacher, in any grade in the district. My hypothesis (since there is no professionally unifying pedagogical theory on ‘giftedness’), is that we expose all children to as many intellectually stimulating activities, ideas and skills as possible, and then see what happens!

(2) We need School Based Leaders (SBL) who are conscious, courageous, caring and committed to finding and developing the Gifts and Talents of all of their students. Something I learned as a superintendent; that it is very difficult for even the best and most skilled instructional staff to overcome a poorly trained, scared, strategically weak and pedagogically inadequate principal. The SBL team along with the principal must establish a school building policy that males sure that teachers will receive the support, supplies and professional development they need to engage in rigorous, standards based instructional practices. That means not just ‘passing’, ‘moving along’ and ‘graduating’ students, when these students have not met the required course-grade level-graduation standards. Quality instruction brings out the best budding G&T qualities in children; poor instruction however poisons, hinders and eventually destroys those embryonic G&T qualities.

(3) Schools and districts must stop utilizing that ‘dirty little’ inside secret approach that translates the screening process for elementary G&T programs, into what is really a screening of the parents. We need to ‘discover’ the gifts and talents of those children who don’t come from entitled and privileged households; including homes where English may not be the primary language spoken in the house.

(4) Instructional Time on Task: We need good and effective quality instructional time, link to the task of quality learning. As a principal I was able to raise the level of instructional rigor, by creating a more productive and disciplined school learning environment. This is the only way that effective teaching and learning can actually exist. It’s very simple: If teachers are unable to teach, students can’t learn! The most gifted and talented Black students can be ‘zip coded’ out of a quality learning experience simply because their school environment/classroom produces too many negative lesson ‘stopping and interrupting’ experiences. The SBL team in many of these schools also can’t serve as effective instructional coaches because they are overwhelmed with functioning as ‘highly paid deans’. Student G&T discovery and enhancement is really all about high teacher expectations, efficacy, and the quality and quantity of good instructional practices!

(5) In CSD 29Q we established a district-wide “Readers-to-Leaders” (RTL) program that encouraged students to read books ‘for fun’ all year-round. As a young ‘latch-key’ child growing up in Brooklyn, NYC; my daily after-school “academic and safety childcare service’ visits to the Brooklyn Public Library, along with the books I borrowed for home reading, meant that I could through ‘mental magic’ travel and experience many areas and activities around the world, despite my families limited financial resources. Reading can open a window of intellectual opportunity for children who engage in its rich reservoir of knowledge and information. And beyond the ELA objectives of RTL, the CSD 29Q educators also wanted to expose students to the many inspirational and encouraging future career ideas that can emerge from reading books. Reading can help students to become aware of many different fields of study and possible future career options (i.e. Archeologist, Film director, Ethnomusicologist, Graphic artist, etc.), they might like, if only they knew that they like them!

(6) School Districts should create the opportunity to raise the career aspirational ceiling for students by providing the resources for schools to prepare students to enter Robotics, STEM, graphic and performing arts, dance, chess, etc. local and national competitions. These activities not only exercise and grow the known and displayed G&T’s of student participants; they could also stimulate the discovery and awareness of an unknown gift and talent inside of the student, one that perhaps even went undetected by educators or a parent.

(7) Design and support middle school mathematics: in, after, weekend, school breaks, and summer enrichment programs; in order to get as many students as possible into a position to take algebra, or at the very least completing a strong pre-algebra class by the end of middle school. Mastering pre-algebra (or algebra) concepts prior to attending high school is the single most critical factor in a student being able to effectively address a STEM gift, talent, aspiration, college major and career interest after high school.

(8) When it comes to STEM G&T–Go for it! As CSD 29Q was severely technologically crippled by the largest computer scandal in the history of NYC (the reason I was forced to take over the district in mid year); we decided to turn a problem into an opportunity by deciding to become the most STEM focused and equipped district in the city, including establishing state of the art STEM-Robotics labs, along with specially trained full-time teachers in an early childhood center, elementary schools, and all 5 middle schools. STEM cannot be seen by the students (and faculty) as something that is only limited to the culture of some Americans.

(9) Provide schools with the resources (courses, trips and in school exposures-experiences), so that they can become familiar with different hobbies, careers, sporting events beyond the ‘stereotypical’ sports activities (basketball-football). Insist as a principal that PE teachers actually teach the Physical Education curriculum; which if done properly will expose students to a very wide and diverse spectrum of athletic sporting events.

10) Organize a weekend-evening “Informal Education Fair” for parents where community programs that teach after-school and weekend courses in areas like: the martial arts, scouting, dance, music instrumental instruction, acting, gymnastics, chess, etc. can come to the school and set up information tables. The district and school leadership must raise the funds to offer their Title 1 students scholarships to attend these programs; as well as partnering with these creative community based organizations to hold these programs, classes and activities inside of schools, at the end of the school day and on weekends.

11) At CSD 29Q we also strengthen and expanded the Art, music, drama and dance programs in every K-8 school in the district, insisting that these programs not be sacrificed for less than effective mindless (endless-useless) ‘standardized test prep’ sessions. A lot of educators in and outside of the district (including a few principals) feared that standardized test scores would suffer if students spent so much time doing STEM and ART; but in fact the opposite occurred; throughout every school in the district standardized test scores went up dramatically, and the district as a whole posted some of the largest gains in the city!

These are just a few of the school system programmatic initiatives that can help schools to discover and cultivate student ‘smartness’, giftedness and talents. These are the ‘easy’ lift items; much more difficult is the politically challenging, but necessary effort to increase high expectations, empathy, efficacy and professional practices effectiveness on the part of teachers and school leaders.

Communities of color (COC) can also play an important complementary role in this effort. Many years ago a group of Brooklyn NY educators and STEM practitioners created a Saturday and After-School STEM program called the Science Skills Center, Inc. (SSC). This program’s uniqueness and isolation is the problem. COC need thousands of these SSC’s all over this nation; and unlike the request for G&T program expansion, the communities that set up these vital programs, don’t need to ask for permission or funding from folks who have no real interest or knowledge, in establishing G&T development programs for the disenfranchised. Further, these programs need not be limited to STEM careers, and could include activities like museum-cultural institutions trips, foreign language study, culinary arts, sculpture, instrumental music, creative writing, ‘non-stereotypical’ sports, etc. There should be an overflow of these programs and activities, funded by the huge financial resources led and generated by Black America; essentially we need to ‘tithe’ into the future of our children!

Nothing personal public educators (and as life-long professional public educator I never took it personally), no group of people in America that hopes to achieve ‘generational leap’* with their children, can rely solely on public schools to achieve that objective. Besides having a large number of these community based G&T incubator-nursery programs can also eliminate the ‘informal education gap’; that is driven not by the interest and skills of the child, but rather by the finances and access to information of the parents.

Finally, Black parents/communities need to avoid the anti-standardized testing movement; unless the call is to eliminate all standardized exams (i.e. G&T Admissions Screenings based on the parents, Specialized High School Admissions Exams-SHSAT, AP, SAT, ACT, LSAT, NTE, MCAT, etc.) completely; and/or introduce bias free, fair and authentic student assessments. But until ‘fairness-fairyland’ arrives, these parents and communities must invest in (real) after-school-weekend-summer standardized test preparation programs; as well as insisting that the schools their children attend are places where the learning standards and high conceptual-skills expectations found on these standardized exams, are taught and practiced as the normal-everyday teaching standards in every class.

The above efforts represent the only real way that the public education Black child genius can be fully recognized and developed. It’s the only step, in the only right direction; or we will instead find as we saw with our terrible Black History Month ‘slavery lesson’, educators denying and dismissing students by stepping on their backs, as well as their dreams.

*The ‘generational leap’ concept is: That the financial, social and emotional well-being of your children should be an improvement over, and even exceeding your own. Children should not engage in the same economic, educational, life-career limited options, challenges, false choices, and struggles you encountered as you grew into adulthood. They should realize better social, career-educational choices, options and opportunities then you faced. And if they ‘screw it up’, then that’s on them, you have done your part!

Michael A. Johnson is a former high school principal and superintendent. His book: Report To The Principal’s Office: Tools for building Successful High School Administrative Leadership will be released in Spring/2018. reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/

To increase the possibility of having a safe high school, can we at least do the ‘easy stuff’ first.

Another high school shooting tragedy, this time 17 lives are lost. And millions, starting primarily, and most severely with those students who attend Stoneman Douglas High School, will suffer much long-term psychological pain and suffering. The day after this tragic incident, students all over this nation will get up to go to school and instead of having their thoughts primarily on the upcoming school dance, graduation, college plans, the school play or a varsity sporting event; they will spend a great deal of individual and group time wondering if this day, tomorrow, or next week, is the day they come to school and die. Even in the most academically rigorous high schools; that school experience should be a wonderful break from the cruel and brutal reality of the ‘outside world’; this type and level of violence destroys that barrier, and the student’s sense of safety and security.

And let us not forget school administrators, teachers and school support personnel. They will as is our professional training do their best to establish an atmosphere of “normalcy”. But this type of event is in no way “normal”; and thus the challenge they will face, long after the news cycle has moved on to other topics, is how do you do your best work under these conditions? What are your own children and other family members thinking when you go off to work every day? It should be said, because it is not always acknowledged, that people who work in schools are humans, they know the murdered beyond names on an attendance sheet. They may feel like those students killed, are in a deep way, their own children, their colleagues who were killed, their own brothers and sisters. And every surviving adult in that school building, starting with the principal, is questioning their own judgement: “When did I think that something might go really wrong with this kid, and what did I do (or not do) with those thoughts”

Every person in that school, student and staff person, are now having painful ‘second thoughts’ as to whether they saw or heard something, but did not say and do something. From the NY Times:

In the hours after the shooting, people who knew Mr. Cruz described him as a “troubled kid” who enjoyed showing off his firearms, bragging about killing animals and whose mother would resort to calling the police to have them come to their home to try to talk some sense into him. At a school with about 3,000 students, Mr. Cruz stayed to himself and had few friends but struck fear in some students with erratic behavior and an affinity for violence. “He always had guns on him,” the student, who did not give his name, told WFOR-TV. “The crazy stuff that he did was not right for school, and he got kicked out of school multiple times for that kind of stuff.”…”

The truth we must speak is yes, we have high school students who come to school every day, but who for some reason or another, are isolated and desperately disconnected from the school community.

Those of us who have spent a considerable amount of our professional lives in high schools know ‘the truths’ of high school culture. Just as it is true that high schools are very wonderful, edifying and life enhancing places; it is also true that for some students going to high school every day is a form of a physical and psychological living hell. For several reasons:

•They were unprepared in their K-8 educational experience to do high school work; unable to read adequately, do math or follow the discussions in the classroom. School for these students is not the fun place many of us remember, rather it is a daily, and in every class reminder of why they don’t fit in. These students resolve this problem (by way of teenage thinking methods) in five possible ways. (1) They will seek to affirm their humanity by becoming discipline problems. (2) They will be chronically late and absent, thus plunging them deeper into academic unreadiness and failure. (3) The ultimate affirmative act of personality assertion is that they will simply drop out. (4) They will inflict some form of verbal or physical violence on one or many of the school family members, who they perceive as accepted, successful and happy members of the school community. (5) They will subject themselves to a planned ‘slow’ (drug-alcohol use, risky life-style behavior, drunk driving) or quick suicide.

•I love teenagers, but alas they also have the capacity (like most humans) to sometimes act in a cruel fashion. There is a great deal of “body, appearance and clothing (and sneaker) shaming”, disability and academic underperformance teasing, “in-crowdism” and “cliqueism” behavior in high schools. For those students who live daily in the ‘out crowd’ status, the school can be a most unpleasant place to be. The mistake many adults who work in high schools make is to downplay and dismiss these feelings of alienation. But to teenagers this culture of peer acceptance and rejection is major. On many occasions as a principal I have been forced to pay for ‘stylish’ eyeglass frames because a student would refuse to wear the ‘social service’ issued frames, even though not wearing those glasses was hurting the student academically. Also, at times I had to stop by a student’s house in the evening, reach into my pocket, and pay for ‘hair salon’ or ‘barbering’ cost. Why, because when I called the house to find out why the student did not come to school, either the student or the parent informed me that they could not afford to pay for hair care services until a few days from then; and the student did not want to come to school and be teased.

•Students who are either physical or verbal bullies, are very often the victims of adult bullying and possibly emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse outside of school. Also, students do not shed a troubled, emotionally inconsistent and the absence of an effective adult authority home and family life at the entrance to the school door. Again, a major adult mistake is to expect teenagers to respond to their pain and isolation in a logical and sensible way; it won’t happen. Any serious ‘outside of school’ problematic issue that goes unaddressed and untreated festers, and eventually explodes.

This leads us to a discussion of how we can address the ‘easy stuff’.

•Too many high schools are moving in the wrong ‘providing counseling services’ direction. Departments, programs and professional staff that provide these critical services are being cut and/or eliminated for either budgetary, or, due to the school leadership short-sightedness of their importance in a school (or both). What we need is a visionary-massive Marshall (like) Plan to make sure that all of our schools have a practical and effectively workable student to guidance counselor ratio, as well as providing schools with adequate clinical psychologist and social workers. These services have been cut so badly that in most high schools the student to guidance counselor ratio is the same as the student not having a guidance counselor at all. Despite the ‘newly discovered’ by some, of the drug crisis, most schools are still missing a F/T drug counselor-educator. And clinical psychologist and social worker ranks have been so decimated, that in most schools they can only manage to see students who have these counseling services mandated as part of their IEPs. This leaves the vast majority of students in the school, who don’t have IEPs essentially on their mental health own. We need the same level of commitment and attention we give to ‘post-incident grief counseling’, to ‘preventative-grief counseling’.

•As a culture, public education tends to lean too heavily in the direction of ‘documentation’ and not the problem solving-resolution action arena. Once a student ‘displays’, even in their early stages, seriously troubling behavior, whether it is caused by outside or inside of the school issues; the school administrators and guidance/counseling department must come up with an action plan; that could include in school counseling, cooperation with outside of school counseling and other social support services; as well as law enforcement agencies. In this particular case Mr. Cruz gave a lot of very declarative early signs that his guns should have been taken away, and that he should have been put on some kind of ‘watch list’ (yes schools do that!)

•Give every high (and middle) school principal a F/T Assistant Principal of Administration (called AP of Organization in some school districts). This person will be responsible for the ‘mountain’ of paperwork a principal is forced to do every day. Right now if a principal sensibly wants to be a constant physical presence around the school, they are forced to provide the district with free administrative work labor in the evening hours. Principals should not be forced to choose between being penalized for the late submission of paperwork (which was always my choice!), or being able to actually interact with students, parents and staff ; as well as being able to gather firsthand knowledge and information in their school. Information degrades the further it is away from your direct perception (reception). A principal stuck in his or her office for large portions of the school day is the equivalent of driving a car blindfolded.

•The principalship is a uniquely exhausting, extremely difficult and seriously challenging position. It is made even more burdensome by the fact that the principal is the only person in the school building who does not have the benefit of having their supervisor/coach in the building with them. But as a superintendent it became clear to me as to why it is so important for principals to have leadership support and strategically smart professional development. Now I realize that my access to information for this incident limited, but based on even my limited readings of the statements of students and faculty at Stoneman Douglas High School; Mr. Cruz did everything but walk around the school with a sign around his neck saying: “I am about to explode”. For the most part school districts have done a good job in teaching school administrators what to do once a ‘live shooting’ like incident occurs, or after it has ended. The next important step is to help principals to be more effective in responding to these situations when they are in their early developmental stages. Create the opportunity for principals or counselors to ‘debrief’ concerning a troubling student who is transferred to another school. Presently, when a student is transferred for disciplinary or ‘safety’ reasons, all that happens is that the student’s records are forwarded by the sending school to the receiving school. Finally, support should include giving principals the resources to create pro-active crisis preventative programs and activities, as well as backing them up when they take a strong protective-disciplinary stand for school safety.

•Principals (get out of your office!) and other school administrators must become fully engaged with the student body. There are parents and students who are still angry with me so many years after I served as a high school principal. I was often accused of: “Doing too much”. But in fact, in high schools it is the doing too little, or just enough, that represents the breeding ground for major trouble, and/or a tragedy. As a principal you must get to know your students as individuals, their personalities, the lives they live outside of school. This is not only for the safety and well-being of that individual student; but further, these students who you connect to, and trust you, can serve as sources of informational ‘tripwires’ for other students who are facing a crises. Seek out, and engage ‘quiet’ and less socially involved students (I always allowed ‘shy’ students, or students who felt the cafeteria was too crowed for their liking, to eat in my conference room). What are their interest, talents, skills and gifts? And then get them involved in some school activity where there is an adult serving as an advisor. And so…

•We need to eliminate the potential isolation of high school students (including having a strategy for students who transfer into the school after the 9th grade, or after the school year has started; i.e. providing the transferring student a group of ‘friends’), by creating a school culture of social engagement. This will require the financial resources to have a diverse and rich survey of teams (academic and sports), clubs, dance, music, performing and visual arts. After-school-weekend-school break activities, events, cultural institutions trips (Contrary to common practices, we should continue to do ‘school trips’ in high school!) I have never met a student who did not enjoy, or was not good at ‘something’. Find that ‘something’ for all students, and get them involved in doing it. This approach can greatly eliminate a student’s feelings of isolation, but it also places them in the observation care and protection of other students and faculty members.

No racial, economic, geographic and academic achievement gap here; no parents send their children to school to be seriously injured or killed! But my Republican voting fellow Americans should consider that financially starving public education and social/counseling services; is not just harming children of color, or the ‘inner-cities’. Our lack of commitment to fully invest in our children will continue to inflict grave harm on all children, whether they live in a Blue or Red community.

Violence (verbal and physical), against students and staff in high schools goes beyond guns, and occurs daily without much news coverage. Unfortunately, as in similar mass murder crises, the discussion around this incident will be primarily focused on ‘gun acquisition rights’ arguments. And of course this is a necessary and important question that is in desperate need of a solution. But while we are waiting for the nation to get its ‘gun rights’ act together, millions of students will be attending school every day, and so what can we do to make them more safe, right now?

Michael A. Johnson is a former high school principal and superintendent. His book: Report To The Principal’s Office: Tools for building Successful High School Administrative Leadership will be released in Spring/2018. reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/

The State of the Education Union

New York’s United Federation Of Teachers Rejects and Votes Down Black Lives Matter Position (BLM)

Not really surprised here; the ‘upside’ of the era of Trumpism is that all calculated, casual and careful views on defending the disenfranchised and disinherited children in our nation will be put to a standardized test: “In the age of a disparagement, the demeaning and rejection of people of color, the question is: “Whose side are you own?”

Real ‘Educational Progressivism’ means having the vision, courage and voice to defend and affirm the right of our nation’s least cared for, and little thought about children to learn and intellectually thrive; a good education being the only available and viable path to best alter the negative trajectory that has been planned for their lives.

Affirming that yes, these Black student’s lives matter is the beginning place of a pedagogy of learning liberation and empowerment. And to suggest (even if the speaker is strategically phenotypically black in color) that this affirmation is ‘divisive’ (or harms White children), is to betray the very principles and meaning of an ethically based philosophy of education. Trust me, in our nation’s public school systems the only White children in danger of not being well served are those who are poor.

This very definitive and self-defining vote should at the very least give every Black: parent, educator, political-civic-religious, union and civil rights leader cause to take a short pause, and think about who are your true friends. For true friendship can only be revealed in those difficult moments when the friend is called upon to make a painful and difficult sacrifice, and not a cheap donation of cute ‘throwaway’ rhetorical phrases that pretend, but never produce quality educational equality. It should also concern White parents, because if a system and its largest group of professionals are so willing to disaffirm the learning rights of one group of students; this ultimately lowers the quality of education for all students.

http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/education/2018/01/26/black-lives-matter-debate-splits-teachers–union.html

Michael A. Johnson, author of the soon to be released book on school leadership: Report To The Principal’s Office: Tools for Building a Successful High School Administrative Leadership… http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/

The Moral Learning Curve of Alabamerica…

Nothing (despite Roy Moore’s claim of the opposite) was ‘good’ about the period of American slavery. But if America is to be saved from the Bannons, Moores and Trumps, who demagogue themselves into positions of ‘leadership’, by appealing to the must vile, crude, ugly and primitive expressions of the human personality. There must then be a moral counter-force in our nation that will resist these evil persons call for the building of walls, and the destroying of bridges between human beings. And so yesterday, Black Alabama voters “showed up, and showed out!”

It was amazing to go to my polling place yesterday, and see the look in the eyes, and the ‘praise-pep in the step’ in the many Black voters entering and leaving the polling station. It was as if every voter was on a spiritual mission to strike a blow against evil. In many ways Black voters seem to be marching… This occurring in a state that has raised Black voter suppression to a state level governmental policy.

Perhaps for many of these Black voters this was not just an exercise in civic duty; but also a way of exercising the demons that hold Alabama captive to forever serve as the standard punch line for late night talk show host. It was as if they were telling the world, that Alabama is not just what is represented by the GOP’s political hegemony in the state; that indeed there are good, intelligent and decent people in this state. A state whose political image has been damaged by George Wallace, the recently disgraced governor Bentley, and present governor Ivey, along with the US Attorney General Jefferson Davis Sessions; Yes these people may have come from Alabama but both individually and collectively, they have dramatically failed to display anything resembling profiles in courage, compassion and decency.

I probably would not be wrong if I hypothesize that many of those large numbers of Black Americans I saw yesterday were connected to the Christian faith. And so this was also an opportunity for them to reclaim the faith from those who are ‘conveniently flexible’ around the religion’s tenets when it comes to: pedophilia, adultery, and party affiliated political-worldly objectives. As well as to speak spiritual authenticity to those who only care about women having babies, but then care nothing about the well-being of those mothers, or the health and education of those babies once they are born.

If this election proved anything, it’s that mathematically Black America can’t take on the moral conscience burden of the nation alone. We will definitely need to be in partnership with many other decent and compassionate White Americans, that is, if this nation is to truly live out its true calling and purpose. That great distractor Trump was sent to poison and prevent that movement (Obama laid the groundwork) toward a better and more thoughtful America. And like every evil divider-tempter before him in history, he promises more to the few, while diminishing and dismissing the humanity of the many.

But December 12th was a setback for him, and a step up and into a different and better direction. Yes, the moral (“arc of the universe”) learning curve seems to move very slowly; and sometimes even seems, with the election of a Trump, to move backwards, but it is moving–forward, and it is moving in the direction that won’t allow any lie or evil deed to plant permanent seeds of injustice; because there will always be some good people to pull those injustice weeds up by their indecent roots.

“People who seek solitude are more creative, study finds…”

In a world run by extroverts, how do we accommodate the creative, introspective, hyper-metacognitive, and solitude-quiet seeking students? And since all teachers were once students, school based administrators, who don’t already know, will soon find out (or they won’t); that a little bit of linguistic and behavioral ‘code switching’ is required when supervising music, art, drama and dance teachers, for they absolutely see the world in a very different (good) and interesting way. It is my experience as a superintendent that principals who fail to communicate with design, creative and performing art teachers, inside of their ‘language’ (world view); the results are that the school, and thus their students are unable to take full advantage of these teacher’s talents and gifts.

But back to students; how does this study* inform our pedagogy as to how we think about ‘paired’ and ‘group work’? If one of the learning objectives of the lesson is to: ‘teach students how to successfully and productively navigate working with others’; then this study could make the case that students who enjoy ‘working alone’ maybe telling us that ‘alone work’ is their preferred (most comfortable) learning style, and that it works well for them. It would also suggest that ‘wanting to work alone’ is not a negative or counter-productive approach to learning, and for practicing creativity. And further, being inclined toward introversion-inter-vision, may not hinder that person’s ability to be a good team/group member. Finally, does this study push back against the very popular (and in my view overstated) “peer socialization” criticism of the Home Schooling Community?

Over my 11 year tenure as a principal, without fail year after year, students approached me to complain about their problems with paired or group work. Also true is that their protest was focused not on philosophical-psychological principles; but rather on the unequal work energy and commitment on the part of students with whom they were joined. (Another reason why teachers must perfect that very difficult skill of accurately and fairly assessing individual students working in paired or group learning activities.) Now I would probably need to do a better ‘memory-analysis’ of these students since many of them would definitely score higher on the plus-extroversion scale. But the common factor for all of these students, was not wanting to work with the burden and/or discomfort of ‘others’. The way it was presented to me was that these ‘uneven yoking’ work relationships, could possibly lower their grade point average (GPA), and thus honor roll, class ranking (preferred college admissions and potential scholarships). However, perhaps based at the time on their limited knowledge of human psychology, they never defined their opposition to paired/group work to be based on personality preference reasons. But maybe the two reasons (academic and personal learning comfort preference) are not in conflict, and could in fact be co-related, and even co-dependent.

Every sociopolitical group upon gaining societal-political power, seeks to present its ‘personality traits’ as the aspirational normal state of being. And so in a world essentially controlled and managed by extroverts, because they are so loud and dominate the cultural-linguistic spaces where we live, work and play. Behaviors based on inter-version and ‘quiet reflection’ could be seen as a negative trait, thus the term ‘anti-social’; when in fact these ‘ingoing’ individuals (the researchers call them: ‘unsociables’); could be driven by many deep altruistic social concerns for which they opt to apply their creativity; a creativity that can best be cultivated in aloneness. We clearly understand how this plays out in the art (adult) world with writers, painters, composers, sculptures, etc. But what about the individual creativity and self-reflecting we are seeking to nurture in our classrooms? Are we getting in the way of our own metacognitive seeking learning objectives, and at the same time hindering the independent introspectively inclined learner?

*“People who seek solitude are more creative, study finds”:
http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2017/11/023.html

Until proven wrong, reading to and by young children is a critical key to future academic success.

Most parents (teachers and principals), may not have been exposed to a doctoral level research methodology course. Which is why we must all be very careful not to make parental and professional decisions about educating children on every piece of research (peer-reviewed or not) that comes out. The other problem is that popular magazines, TV-radio shows and newspapers often ‘summarize’ the conclusions of research studies either incorrectly or incompletely. Sometimes even making claims that the researchers themselves have not made! And of course there is no ‘peer review’ process as to the validity and methodology of these studies that is performed by these reporters and commentators working for various media outlets. They are really going for that “important sexy” conclusion the study supposedly asserts, no matter how impotent the research methodology and/or conclusions that are being affirmed.

I read the abstract and briefly scanned this study, sent to me by a colleague, and reported in Inc. Magazine; the source, thus the motivation, also always matters:

“19-Year Study Reveals Kindergarten Students With These 2 Skills Are Twice as Likely to Obtain a College Degree (And They Have Nothing to Do With Reading)”… https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/kindergarteners-with-these-two-skills-are-twice-as-likely-to-get-a-college-degree-according-to-a-19-year-study.html?utm_content=buffer08aa1&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

I plan a little later to sit and read the study in its entirety. But some methodological and theoretical ‘red flags’ immediately jumped out. For example the ‘front end’ data collection relies solely on ‘teacher observation-perception’. But teacher observations and perceptions don’t occur in some objective cultural vacuum. All teachers bring an idea of a ‘model student’ with them into the classroom, and very often that model is the teacher themselves, and/or the affirmation, some form of modification, or outright rejection of their own family-cultural upbringing! Student behavior is often in the eyes of the beholder. For when does ‘self-assuredness’ and ‘self-confidence’, as defined for little White girls; become seen and interpreted as ‘sassy’, ‘acting grown’ and ‘confrontational’, for little Black and Latino girls?

Being ‘compliant’, listening ‘passively’, or for that matter actively-dramatically participating, asking questions, and/or ‘sitting still’ during kindergarten reading time; may in fact reflect the child’s pre-school experience with parental ‘reading to them’ style, or no parental reading to them activities. And so, the format, or absence of the same, of home based pre-school reading activities, I maintain is a critical factor in how the child ‘shows up’ (looks like) to the kindergarten teacher.

A Further technical research problem with the study is that the child would be exposed to perhaps 10-20+ teachers by the time that student becomes a college ready, or not ready senior in high school. And we do know from other studies that children being exposed to two or more consecutive incompetent and/or ineffective teachers in a row; or being in a school setting where they have a competent and effective teacher (i.e. 4th grade) in between two incompetent-ineffective teachers (i.e. 3rd and 5th grades); could in fact be a greater determiner of that child’s college chances, regardless of the ‘behaviors’ they exhibit in the early childhood educational classroom setting.

How many of us as superintendents have visited a school and watched the joy and excitement; particularly in the body language and facial expressions of Black and Latino boys in Kindergarten, only to see those same students look lost, miserable and unhappy when they reach the 1st , 2nd or 3rd grades. In other words what variables are in play between Kindergarten, upper elementary, middle and high school 12th grades that determines a child’s academic options and path? And again, I suggest that a critical factor is reading skills. On a positive teacher note the study also does not measure or account for the Efficacious Quality* of all of the post kindergarten teachers that a child may encounter on their way to the 12th grade!

Finally, and granted I still must read the entire study, the researchers in my view don’t prove that being read to, reading, loving to read and loving books are totally disconnected from the child’s building of their conceptual understanding of the world; the behavioral skills they exhibit once in the Pre-K to Kindergarten setting, and/or the quantitative and qualitative level of their linguistic-vocabulary skills. And these linguistic-vocabulary skills are (according to Vygotsky, and I believe him!) inextricably linked to the child’s thinking and reasoning skills; as well as their moral-ethical decision making skills (Piaget). The young pre-school child who is exposed to book stories, over and over again because they like the book, and then request that the parent read it every evening, and often again in the same evening. These message rich stories that teach values like ‘stick-to-itness’, determination and perseverance, i.e. “I Can’t Said The Ant” or “The Little Engine That Could”; could very well mean that the child is absorbing these values, and incorporating them into their out of the home social setting decision making process.

I could say a lot more, like a standard and proscribe psychological developmental stage does not automatically kick-in on the child’s first day of kindergarten, but I will stop here. But my humble advice to parents is that by all means keep reading to your young pre-school child, and continue to engage and encourage your child (from the cradle to high school) to fall in love with books and reading; until some study (and this one does not seem to be it) comes along to dismiss that approach as the best way of creating an environment where the child will be academically successful when they attend any school.

*The Efficacious Quality in teachers: A belief and skill whereas the teacher essentially ‘takes matters into their own hands’ (capabilities); and does everything in their power to correct academic deficiencies, and past mistakes and misses by their colleagues who taught the child before them; all in a determined effort to make the child academically successful.

We need to close the parent information gap when it comes to choosing the right high school for a child.

Every year as a NYC principal I would get calls from the NYCBOE high school placement office (Jackie Charity, a most appropriate name for a wonderful child advocate!) In Washington DC I would get the call from a parent. Usually after the 2nd or 3rd marking periods of problems. Some young person and their family thought they hit the educational lottery by being accepted to a highly acclaimed admissions restricted specialized high school or program*.

These students were surely academically capable, but for complicated social-psychological-cultural reasons I won’t go into, “things were not going well, and getting worse by the day”. However, there was always a happy ending to these stories as all of these students who transferred to my schools (SSCHS/Phelps), went on to do well in high school, college and professional careers. Sometimes it is as simple as having a school administrator or faculty member who actually knew their name, and constantly checked in, with and up on them. These students were clearly academically capable; for when I looked at their middle school standardized test scores and course grades, their score on the specialized high school entrance exam (SHSAT); I’d say to myself (but not to the parent): “In what kind of crazy school system world are we in that we are not able to get this kid to pass 9th grade biology or algebra?”

Often, all these students needed was to be surrounded by other smart students who looked, talked and lived like them; as well as having culturally aware and efficacious teachers/administrators, for which many of whom they shared a cultural link. In essence we modeled the traditional HBCU mission of seeing student academic success as a political and social activist calling—educating the next generation of servant leaders!

And then there were those students (especially at SSCHS); who were accepted to a NYC specialized high school/or a specialized program in a comprehensive high school, but chose instead to attend SSCHS. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a parent who against the passionate advice of her child’s middle school counselor (one of the few GC’s who mistakenly advocate not for the child, but rather to boost their “placement stats”); decided to send her child to SSCHS and refuse the NYC specialized high school acceptance. “I know my child better than anyone”; she said, “she was the top in her middle school, and one of the reasons was the tremendous support, inspiration and encouragement she received from the ‘old school, in your business’ Black principal, and the diverse caring teaching staff; if I let her attend _________; she is going to be lonely, isolated and get lost”.
The student like so many like her did go on to do extraordinarily well. The point here is that selecting a high school (not an option in most of the nation); should be a carefully thought out decision, utilizing the same strategic thinking and energy that goes into a choice of a college.

Every school (no matter how ‘good’ and ‘exciting’) is not for every child. Which is why the below article and referenced study published by The Atlantic Magazine is so important. The conclusions it presents are very much aligned with the smart intuition of that parent who explained to me why she was turning down a specialized high school seat for SSCHS.

Importantly, it challenges the concept of ‘high performing school’ (which is worth its own posting as a topic); and whether that school is high performing on behalf of your individual child? More pointedly, does that school have the capability (mission-philosophy, operational practices, leadership and staff) to make your individual child a high performing student? Or, do you just become one of those calls a principal receives asking them to now, academically save your child from a specialized high school underperformance performance!

*Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School Of Music & Art and Performing Arts in NYC, and Duke Ellington School of the Arts in DC; are the two schools for which I would not receive calls.

“Why Parents Make Flawed Choices About Their Kids’ Schooling: A new study shows that families act on insufficient information when it comes to figuring out where to enroll their children.”–The Atlantic

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/10/can-parents-really-pick-the-best-schools-for-their-kids/543201/

Being an educator in the era of Trump… Or, how do you explain to students that the national “Role Model-in-Chief” is everything that you don’t want them to be.

As educators we have a commitment to learning, the acquisition of skills and knowledge, to telling the truth, and yet we don’t want to distribute despair in our classrooms.

The scary problem is that Donald Trump is very much America, its tragic past, its dangerous present, and hopefully not its future. Perhaps he is not the “America the Beautiful” that Ray Charles sang so movingly about; but he is still America, at least the ugly parts. The American Slavery part. The decimation and destruction of Native American people’s Nations part. The Chinese Exclusion Act part. The World War 2 Japanese-American Internment Camps part. The treating of a hurricane devastated Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands like they are not Americans, or even human beings part. And although a case could be made that he was voted into office by the moral and mental equivalent of the ‘walking dead’; they were indeed living and breathing US citizens who cast millions of votes for what is essentially a leadership obscenity. Donald Trump, for now and forever is very much a part of America and American history.

I struggled with this at first, perhaps I was lost in my musical memory of hearing both the Ray Charles rendition of “America”, and Marvin Gaye’s spiritually soulful treatment of the Star Spangle Banner at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game (check it out on YouTube).

But the truth is, that the election (and present successful process of normalization) of Donald Trump is not an aberration, mistake, misstep, an event invented by Russian espionage, the ‘Bernie or Bust’ crowd, or the lack of effectiveness of his opponent’s 2016 campaign. The elevation of Donald Trump to the US presidency, was an American aspirational choice.

And although it is so clearly obvious (to at least some of us across the political spectrum), that Mr. Trump is totally unfit to serve in a position that can not only endanger all Americans, but indeed puts the entire world at risk; many US citizens who he has not offended find comfort, or are at least feel comfortable with him as the nation’s leader. We keep hearing about ‘negative polls’, conflicts of financial interest, and ‘flat-out-lies’ coming out of the White House, but where is the ‘tipping point’ of national revulsion; I don’t see us reaching it; we seem to just endure, accept and adjust to the ‘next’ extreme and noxious behavior. What if a principal led a school in the same way that Trump is leading the nation; would there not be a dramatic unified outcry and actionable movement for their removal?

History teaches us that nations (ignorant of history), often make bad choices. Bad and evil people don’t always seize power in a military coup; instead they are often handed the keys to power by a spiritually diminished and morally exhausted populace. The truth is that Trump’s presidency has produced no real surprises (despite the recurring betrayed expectations of the ever hopeful ‘pivoteers’), his entire campaign, from the start, was so unseemly, unworthy, ugly and offensive (to at least some of us); that in a sane and rational world, if he were running against a cadaver, it should have been a landside win, for the cadaver.

As a lifelong educator my natural position is to see the ‘good’ in young people, even when that good is hidden from and ignored by the rest of society, and even, as is often the case, when that good is hidden from the children themselves. The ‘good’ of the 2016 elections has so far eluded me; we now simply careen, on a daily basis, from one piece of bad news to another; much of it affecting people who look like me.

It took me some time and difficulty to arrive at the horrible conclusion that Mr. Trump represents America. Difficult because it pushes against everything I want to believe about this nation in particular, and human beings generally. Sadly this revelation goes against my internal compass that always points in the direction of hopefulness.

That means I am not buying the “discontented and disconnected White rust belt voter” movement that various news media outlets claim propelled him to victory (did all of those millions of votes come from uneducated and unemployed Whites?) And as he puts into place policies that do great harm to poor and working class White Americans; there is no popular White Lives Matter rebellion against him because economics was never the reason for their support of Trump. It was his bigotry, the incendiary and exclusionary rhetoric, the walling in and walling off of people of color; the call for a return to a safe to hate era in America, where Blacks, Muslims, Latinos, Women, Gays and Lesbians knew their places and stayed in them.

Mr. Trump like many evil demagogue leaders before him, has strategically found that ‘sweet collective social-psychological spot’ of combining racist-supremacy nostalgia, the fear of a loss state of privilege, ignorant prejudice, selfishness and a lack of compassion as the sound foundation to launch and lead a toxic political movement. Hitler did not invent anti-Jewish feelings in Germany, he simply cultivated them, and made them an instrument of official state philosophy, policies and practices. If your marriage was failing, or your kid’s underperformed in school, it was the fault of the Jews; if you were dumb as a brick and unemployed, it was the fault of the Jews. The origin and cause of every societal and personal problem can be reduced and found in the presence of the despised ‘other’. Trump did not invent ‘Trumpism’, he simply taped those feelings that were covered over by the US international PR campaign to convince the rest of the world that bigotry, racism, and the foundational elements of fascism, are not part of the American character; well that cover has been blown by the election of Trump, and the world has taken notice.

Trump is an immoral leader, but he is not silly or stupid, even as his own (well situated to know) Secretary of State seems to have described him as “moronic”. He knows what he is doing. In fact he knows that he could verbally insult, brutalize and continue to berate an emotionally traumatized and suffering African-American widow of an American soldier killed in combat and get away with it. Mr. Trump is fully aware that the widow, her children and her fallen in battle husband constitute the nation’s marginalized ‘other’ in the present American zeitgeist; the military service, death and suffering notwithstanding.

And like those coal miners he has fooled into thinking that he can change international economic energy reality; Mr. Trump has successfully mined the sewerage soul of America, found the worse attributes that will offer some false temporary relief to those Americans who have come to hate fairness, progress and change. He is their only path to feeling what they believe as being ‘wholeness’; and that is to: beat up the weak, deny the disenfranchised, belittle those who don’t have the capacity to defend themselves, hate and despise the (Muslim, Latino, LGBTQ, Black) other, than ‘us’.

Mr. Trump knows America, because he is that large part of America that lies to itself and the world, a prejudice laced petulance masquerading as patriotism, reciting ‘Liberty and Justice for all’, while placing limits and conditions on the ‘all’. They are like roaches who go into hiding when a type of Obama-like light of decency enters the public square. And now it is their time, to make America ugly, and ungrateful again for her natural gifts and diverse people resources.

It is easy for educators to teach about despotic and despicable national leaders in other nations and time periods. But what do we do when that aspiring despot and already despicable national leader is in our own nation, and in our present time? The dignity, graciousness and class of the Obamas made it real easy for us educators; we could simply and safely say to all students, regardless of color: just follow the example, and be like Barack and Michelle Obama, and chances are that you will grow up to be a good and decent person! But this…

In any event, I am glad I am retired because this is one of those familiar moments when I probably would get into trouble! High school students don’t miss much, and are just going to come straight out and ask you, “What do you think about Donald Trump Mr. Johnson?” Or, “you have a picture of President Obama in your office, where is Trump’s picture?”, and expect an honest answer!

“Well, sit down young folks and let me explain…”

Or, maybe you don’t explain:

A “got jokes” very intelligent student at Phelps ACE high school mentioned to me once in the hall: “Yo Mr. Johnson, I see you have a picture of Justice Sotomayor up in your office; where is Justice Clarence Thomas?” As he offered his best rendition of the hungry smiling cat eyeing the bird look. But a principal must be quick on their feet. “Not enough wall space for all nine judges”; I responded, “and don’t you have an AP history class this period… goodbye.” Sometimes in education you just let your reading assignments, bulletin board pictures and preterition tell the story!