Rebels With a Cause … Public Education, a Cause in Need of More Rebels.

After observing, as a principal and superintendent, countless numbers of world and US history classroom lessons, one of my key take-aways is that power exists in the power of definition. The American Revolutionary War is not a 1775 violation of the sovereign law and order of the British nation; instead, it’s now defined as a righteous and just struggle. I could imagine some London newspaper columnist proclaiming: “My word, those British (subjects) colonial ingrates are destroying their ‘own’ colony!” The violence of the American Revolution was initiated only after many peaceful and lawful unsuccessful protestations that were made to (and ignored by) the British Government. To put it in a modern context, the colonist took a non-violent plea for justice knee during a professional football game; and then the act was ignored, scorned, and banned by the NFL.
The ‘bad acting exploiter’ always seeks to ‘flip-the-narrative’, such that the causes for any Righteous Rebellion are ignored and downplayed, in the effort to demonize and marginalize those who have taken up the cause of Rebellion.

Staying with Historiography…

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. And so, now in the spring of 2020, the ‘primary-concern’ is about African-Americans “destroying their ‘own’ neighborhoods”, and not why African-Americans don’t own (like other Americans) the neighborhoods where they are the numerical majority. And by “own” I mean having the political capacity, leverage, and power to truly receive: Professional (and real) protect and serve treatment from their police departments. Not being the last on the list of the least, in receiving quality healthcare services (pre and present pandemic), that is commensurate with living in one of the most powerful and richest nations on the planet. (And my personal disappointment) Having public school systems that leaves their children under-prepared, their gifts and talents undiscovered and undeveloped, as these public schools also damage their children’s hopeful future aspirations. And yet these same school systems are amazingly efficient in preparing Black children for social-psychological destruction, and prisons. And to be painfully honest there are many Black and Latino ‘leaders’ who represent and reinforce this system of political Black child educational dis-ownership by the larger society.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was not a document that affirmed the humanity and human rights of those 1800’s Africans being held in cruel and inhuman captivity. And if we are to be truly honest, the Emancipation Proclamation was not a morally courageous act, it was in fact a strategic military tactic. It’s true underlying message to Black US enslaved persons was that: “We don’t care about you, and you are on your own!” In the last presidential election (and as the present normalization of ‘Trump-culture’ confirms and continues), America sent a similar message: “African-Americans, we don’t care about you; and you are on your own!” The question is then: “When will we take ownership of our ‘own’ correct readings of these two very clear messages?”

There will always be some significant number of white Americans who driven by politics, morality, decency, conscious or spiritually; who will step-up and step-into the idea of wanting to live in a nation that truly practices liberty, justice, and freedom for all. Freedom, however, can’t be subcontracted out or based on any form of ‘good-hearted’ reparations; the people who are to be freed must take ownership of their own ‘freeing’ process.
But our sitting idle, year after year, watching and waiting for public schools to make Black students competitively competent (and express shock when these children are not); and this after so many (Asa Hilliard, John Henrik Clarke, Lorraine Monroe, et al.) have warned Black America that our public school systems ‘are working’, by not working for large numbers of the ‘American Dream’ disinherited student populations.
Therefore, not fighting for the educational empowerment of Black children (all, not just the ones living in your house); means that we are in essence burning down and destroying our own, and their future possibilities.

I think I am developing Covid-19 quarantine ‘grouchiness syndrome’…

Symptoms: shortness of patience, low-tolerance for Bulls&%$, a propensity to just call things what they are, the inability to suffer quietly; and don’t give a D#&@ what people think! I am going to check-in with my former students in the medical profession to get a proper diagnosis!

34.5 Million, I’m sorry I really can’t…

“Shaun King Keeps Raising Money, and Questions About Where It Goes..”*—The Daily Beast

Note: The Daily Beast is not a right-wing rag; and in fact, I found the article well-researched, fair, and balanced; and offered Mr. King more than (the usual) ample opportunity to provide counter and clarifying narratives and explanations for the many charges leveled against him.

I don’t know if it’s the result of a quarantined life-style or just some naturally age-time acquired “crankiness” (or a combination of the two); but I find that I am losing what little mental-space-patience I had for foolishness. I am so sick of the black traffickers in Black pain and misery industry. Who I believe secretly want a Trump reelection because they have turned Black suffering into a marketable commodity. The other reason is that they are personally financially capable and secure (also having good health insurance) to make it through 4 more years of Trump; meanwhile, a large number of Black folks (especially children) and many of Trump’s targeted for destruction ‘others’ won’t survive or will survive irreversibly broken after 4 more years of his and the GOP’s rule.

I know, I have been told on many occasions throughout my life that I can’t say many of the things I say because: “White people will hear/see it!” (Like ‘white people’ don’t know that public education systems are tragically not meeting the needs of the majority of Black children!) And further, count it as either a strength or weakness, to be honest, my work efforts (no disrespect) don’t take into account what ‘white people’ see, think, or feel about the efficacy or direction of my work. But if I am to step further into honesty, much of the best support I have received over the years (up to today) has come from ‘white people’. I will never stop praising the courage and vision of the late Dr. Donald Scherl (Former President; SUNY Downstate Medical Center), who in the face of a lot of opposition, allowed people like Dr. Gerald Deas, George Leonard, Tiffany Harrison and myself to essentially turn a medical school into a dynamic summer medical science learning program for middle and high school Black and Latino students.

34.5 million!

I am thinking of all of the wonderful public school teachers and administrators who annually ‘donate’ to an unofficial ‘school supplies, materials, and helping students and their families support tax’ out of their own pockets; monies that will never end up as donations on anybody’s IRS tax forms.

If these woken and much spoken on radio, print and cable TV people, who make a career out of Black people’s suffering taught some Black children (other than their own) how to read, bought them a microscope or a computer and then taught them how to use it, and then helped those same young people to master algebra, and thereby unlocking and opening wide the ‘gate’ to a future STEM career; I could half-way respect them, but all of this only ‘telling white folks off’ mess, I find tiring. I was so proud to see Brooklyn’s Concord Baptist Church actually ‘do something’ substantially significant (Paying off $4 Million dollars of Medical Bills Amid the Coronavirus crisis) to relieve the Covid-19 suffering of our people; but if they wanted more ‘news-media-time’ for their wonderful efforts they probably would have done better to have a press conference and call Joe Biden names!

And this is why in my view, that great supporter of education, scholarship awarder, and a builder of schools LeBron James, is statistics and ‘GOAT’ documentaries notwithstanding, one of the greatest celebrities of all time!

*https://www.thedailybeast.com/shaun-king-keeps-raising-money-and-questions-about-where-it-goes-3?fbclid=IwAR3ovD3Du2abtEX-JKZPa7L3uD8emKDBEkgbZjVRrqzU0ZJdCr-mdsFsXgA

Why I think this idea of Black people being ‘tricked’ by the DNC into voting for Democratic candidates is dismissive and disrespectful.

(Full Disclosure) I have spent a great deal of my adult-professional life discovering and uncovering the inherent gifts, talents, and immense creative intelligences of Black children. I never did and never will believe that Black children, (and by extension Black adults) are in any way academically ‘naturally inferior’ to any other people on the planet; and I include capabilities in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Any so-called K-12 Black related ‘achievement gaps’, ‘academic under-performance’ or poor standardized test results; are all purposely and artificially created and crafted by public school systems that don’t honor and respect the right of Black students to receive a quality education, when that honor and right interferes with the rights and benefits of adults who work in public education.
I get it, it’s politically more convenient and safe to blame the ‘under-performance’ of Black students on standardized exams by saying the test themselves are racist; when the truth is that not preparing Black students to perform well on standardized exams is the real racism!

Unfortunately, this low to no expectations of Black students is extended and attached to their adulthood, and sadly this ‘down-grading’ of Black American thinking ability is now being pushed by ‘black-celebrity-talkers’ under the guise of ‘wokeness thinking’.
I was physically in many southern states that voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden During the recent Democratic primary.
In Alabama in particular I did not see any indication (I’m talking a post-card, flyer, campaign office, church fan, a person walking around in a sandwich sign, billboard, lawn sign, etc.) of a “Biden for President” promotional effort. What I think occurred was not an act of DNC ‘strategic-brainwashing’, instead the Black voters in Alabama and other states exercised their ‘mother-wit’, intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge (much of which gained through personal experience) of American racism, prejudice, and bigotry. Black voters are the most strategically smart voters in the US. And so, this is why they have and will support Joe Biden; wealthy celebrity militants notwithstanding:

(1) They don’t believe the polls and estimate that Trump’s positive poll numbers are closer to 50%+ of white American voters. And,

(2) When you combine those numbers with Black voter suppression, intimidation and ‘misdirection’ efforts, his numbers become even more potentially dangerous.

(3) They also don’t believe that Trump’s horrible response and performance in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic; as well as his immoral, corrupt, and incompetent leadership will necessarily deter large numbers of white American voters from seeking to return him to office; and that’s because of his ‘pact’ with white supremacist ideas and policies.

(4) Black voters correctly I believe, hypothesize that poor working and unemployed white Americans, who continue to vote their fears and prejudices; and not their economic interest, did not receive the type of quality education that would allow them (and many other Americans for that matter) to effectively distinguish between a ‘communist’, ‘socialist’ and a ‘democratic socialist’(and thus the no Black vote for Bernie Sanders).

(5) And following the historical ‘prejudice rationale’; Black voters believe that there is an ideological link that binds a significant number US white citizens to embrace both anti-Jewish and anti-Black feelings (another reason why Black voters believe that a significant number of white US voters won’t vote for Bernie Sanders)

Nowhere I visited in the south during the Democratic Primary did I witness any: “Boy, do we love Joe!” private or group energy (or even the discussion of the same). My sense was the decision to vote for Biden was a calculated move based on the above-mentioned variables. The outcome Black voters desired was not crafted by some magically presented plan by the DNC (really, come on folks the DNC?) This was simply Black voters voting their existential survival interest. “Who” they ask unemotionally, “can defeat the ‘every word out of his mouth’ is (and never apologizing for it) racist and bigoted Donald Trump!”

Black leaders should stop denigrating the people they purport to represent. Black voters have essentially designed a ‘hierarchy of people who don’t care about us and will actively seek to hurt us’; and right now the racist Trupublicans are at the top of the list; that could change (it has in the past—study US history!)

What is needed is a Black leadership that is not waiting for the never-enough few crumbs to feed Black people that fall from either the Republican or Democratic Party tables. We need independent projects and programs that can create in those things and areas we can control; the kind of efforts that would produce educational and economic generational progress leaps!
And there is no freedom worth having that could be granted (and therefore taken back) by our giving our votes to any political party or person; we need to create our own freedom!

In my Principal Johnson voice: “Stay Focused!” … In my Al Green voice: “Let’s Stay Together!”

Now all of you’ll can front if you want; but I am just going to be honest here and admit that Joe Biden’s comments on “Black Trump Voters”, is a thought that enters my mind every time I hear a black person extol the virtues of or speak of supporting the policies of Donald Trump. I mentally cringe and disinvite these individuals from Blackhood! In fact, Biden’s comments were much more PC then my own. And please (step back from the keyboard) spare me the “everybody can vote for whomever they want lecture”; these are only my thoughts and I am very familiar with the US civics syllabus; and so unlike Republicans, I am not engaging in the suppression of any voters, including black people who want to vote for Trump.

However, if I were advising Mr. Biden I would share with him an admonition I have given students who were sent to my office because of some inappropriate and ‘off-task’ comment they made in a classroom. I tell those students the following: “You know that you are under no obligation to share with the world an idea, just because it came into your head!” And further, “The truth is not always sacred, and in any event, even that which we call and agree to be ‘the truth’ must be properly managed by wisdom!” (And in this particular case Mr. Biden (who is white) should probably not take on the extremely difficult and perhaps impossible task of determining the ‘degrees of righteous blackness’)

But beyond Black voters, I also raise similar questions about any Americans who have supported or will support Donald Trump, like:

• Any working poor and not-working white American.
• Any middle-class or not rich white American.
• Any American without health insurance.
• Any American hurt(ing) by Trump’s ‘bungling’ of the Covid-19 crisis.
• Any Latino American.
• Any Buddhist American.
• Any Asian American.
• Any Liberal American.
• Any Jewish American.
• Any American Woman.
• Any American who at some point in their lives read a book.
• Any Native American
• Any Sikh American
• Any Conservative American.
• Any Muslim American.
• Any LGBTQ American.
• Any Christian American.
• Any Progressive American.
• Any Hindu American
• Any American who remotely cares about the well-being of our environment.
• Any American (especially educators) who care about the well-being of children.
• Any American who in any small way believes that they are a decent human being.

How could any of the above Americans in good conscience, support a POTUS who is so lacking in competence, compassion, and decency?

I am going to follow one of my favorite principal sayings of: “Stay Focused”; and we should all follow Al Green’s advice of “Staying Together” and voting out the: unfit for office, ignorant, racist, and bigoted excuse for a human being—Donald Trump; who I believe presents a grave danger to the peace and survival for all of America and the world. I harbor no illusions about the faux ‘opposition party’ DNC. I am not marrying Joe Biden (I think of it as temporarily dating), I am voting for him. And although I have a personal preference; and there is something I like ‘electability wise’ about each of his potential VP candidates; to be honest, I don’t care if he selects the Bride of Frankenstein as his VP; I am still voting for Joe Biden!

Those of us who have spent most of our adult lives in public education (especially Title-1 schools) know that it is extremely rare when we can choose between the ‘perfectly-perfect’ and the ‘perfectly-imperfect’, and to borrow from my ELA colleagues most of the time we are in “Catcher in the Rye” mode; where we are trying to save as many kids as is humanly possible. It would be easy from my position of privilege (decent civil service retirement income, a nice home, great health insurance, stocks, and savings, etc.) to not care who is president; but I am not voting so much for Joe Biden, but rather for all of those Americans who are less privileged and are now suffering horribly; it is for them that I will be voting for Joe Biden; and I really wish the folks running his campaign would get that!

Eight Grade Algebra Gives Students an Important College/Career STEM* Start

Eight Grade Algebra Gives Students an Important College/Career STEM* Start

“Entire Bronx Success Academy class aces statewide math exam”: https://nypost.com/2019/07/01/entire-bronx-success-academy-class-aces-statewide-math-exam/

Deng Xiaoping the former architect of China’s present ‘market-economic’ system once said: “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice.” And so I am not engaging in the traditional vs. charter school battle here. For sure, I am extremely happy for these young people and their teacher. My focus is on something that many of us have been saying for many years. (I talk about this in my book) And that is the advantage that many students have in this nation over less-advantaged (but equally capable) students when they enter high school; and this is because the advantaged children have taken a high school level Algebra 1 course in the 8th grade. The first advantage is that these students are able to take Algebra 1 under very favorable and less-stressful middle school conditions (1) Adults don’t realize this, and most 9th grade students don’t articulate it, but transitioning into a high school setting creates various levels of stress for most students (e.g. new teachers, less ‘nurturing’ environment, the school’s size, they move from ‘top to bottom dog’, etc.).(2) Offering Algebra 1 in the 8th grade means that this course could be offered in an extended format (e.g. double periods, after-school, weekends, etc.) and a ‘comfortably familiar’ place, without competing with a full-program of ‘tough’ high school courses. In fact, we proved at the Science Skills Center pre-high school after-school program, that even earlier then 8th grade students, who are not facing extremely challenging courses in their regular school can focus large amounts of their intellectual powers (and do well) on a high school course and standardized exam for which they have been prepared. And on that note, (3) As was the case with Ms.Karina Mateo the Algebra 1 teacher for this great class, it is very easy to convince pre-high school students to take on the course as a mission of self-empowerment; especially when it is hinted that “people” don’t expect them to succeed. They very much want the ‘bragging rights’ to say to every high school kid they know and the entire world: “I conquered a high school course!” They will approach the mastery of the content material as if it was a personal and group challenge. (4) An additional important benefit is that these 8th grade Algebra-1 high achieving students are perfectly on track to take a regular high school or AP calculus course. This will then place them in an excellent position to not only do well in high school physics, but to also be prepared to hold their own in any post-high school college STEM major course.

We have known for many years that Algebra-1 is the ‘great gate-keeper’ either into or away from a STEM college career. But the ‘gate’ shuts early and often for some students. The problem is that students cannot take, let alone do well in Algebra-1 if they don’t receive a first-rate pre-Algebra arithmetic experience. And in my view the ‘planned’ real segregation of thousands of very capable Black and Latino students from access to a quality pre-Algebra mathematics experience (especially when it is offered in a gifted and talented program), is the real and explicit “bias” and ‘racism’ that should be addressed and eradicated by the NYCDOE.
The only hope for these children is if the Black and Latino communities focus, organize, agitate, and force their leaders to act as if they were not rhetorically hypnotized into only wanting a few specialized high schools symbolic integration seats for a few kids of color; but instead demand the removal of the real (and not meaningless ‘made-for-dramatic-effect’) discrimination barriers that prevent Black and Latino children from receiving a first-class K-8 mathematics education. We know the NYC mayor can quote Che Guevara, now let’s see if we can get him to follow the words of Jaime (Stand and Deliver) Escalante!

“If we expect kids to be losers they will be losers; if we expect them to be winners they will be winners. They rise, or fall, to the level of the expectations of those around them, especially their parents and their teachers.”— Jaime Escalante

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

*STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics