The Educational Problem With the Kente Cloth Performance.

As a former principal, I fully appreciate the power of positive symbols. And so, I am not questioning the sincerity (hearts) of our Kente adorned politicians, or even their right to wear the attire of any one of the many American beautiful collage of cultural attires, some representing groups who are daily disrespected and denigrated by the present occupant of 1600 Black Lives Matter Way. My concern with the recent ‘Kente wearing performance’ is that it is tragically symptomatic of what always happens in public education, where rhetoric, form, and appearances are offered to the Black community, in place of real educational learning quality substance and authentic change for the children of that community.

Recently in NYC a great deal of ‘storm and drama’ was created by the introduction of that politically hot trigger word, ‘integration’. And unfortunately, NYC’s Asian students (and their communities) were unfairly maligned and castigated for doing nothing wrong except following the rules and conditions that were established in the past and were actually created to help white students and not Asian students gain access to the then 3 academic specialized high schools!

I along with several others informed whoever would listen that in reality, the NYCDOE had complete (total) control over the admissions policies of the majority of ‘specialized high schools’ in the city, as well as the many specialized high school programs (inside of schools), and those high schools with a special admissions process. The NYCDOE could have enacted major, sweeping, dramatic and profound access changes (for Black and Latino children) at 10X the population of the three specialized high schools that formed the center of the integration controversy; and this could have been done without seeking the permission of any state or local legislature (or emotionally beating up on Asian students).
And further, the NYCDOE has the authority to redesign a present high school or design a brand new school that could then essentially become: a Brooklyn Technical High School #2, Bronx Science H.S. #2 or Stuyvesant High School #2; and no legislative body can stop the NYCDOE from doing this.

The best-ignored solution, of course, is to ‘integrate’ great school leaders, quality instructional practices, adequate materials, supplies and equipment, and high expectations and efficacy into any school a Black or Latino child attended; thus properly preparing them for the SHSAT or any standardized exam they will face in life.

In terms of that important ‘Integration’ ‘pipe-line’ to gain access to a high performing high school, also known as K-8 gifted and talented programs. We proved in (2000-2003) Community School District 29 Queens (CSD29Q); that there is no legal or regulatory ‘cap’ on the number of gifted and talented programs that can exist in a local school district (e.g. NYCDOE). In CSD29Q we placed (without consulting the central board) additional G&T programs in a geographical and performance cross-section of schools in the district, thus giving more students who were on and above academic grade and performance levels the ability to receive the rigorous and challenging academic work that met their needs. It is my hope, that out of a very tragic situation for the Floyd family, a legacy of a national and local political action hunger will grow for the realization of serious and not superficial change.

I think the common cry theme we are hearing from all over this nation and the world; is that people want real change, not symbolic gestures. It’s been a ‘nice ride’ for a Democratic Party whose, let’s just be honest, total credibility and legitimacy with Black people is wholly dependent on the Republican Party performing (‘acting the fool’) in the role of first-class bigots and racist; but, that’s not a sound long-term organizing and mobilizing strategy.

Further, the “just vote your troubles away” Black leaders have taken some serious (but not fatal) hits as of late. For example: Black New Yorkers overwhelmingly voted in a ‘northern liberal’ city, for an alleged ‘progressive’ mayor; and yet clearly the NYC police department is not properly operating under civilian control and seems to be immune (inoculated by the various police unions), from adopting any of the modern enlightened and effective policing methods. We only need to look at the Philippines to see what results from a para-military police force not being under civilian and judicial control.

I suspect that the Republican’s racist and bigotry posture won’t change even if Trump is removed. Full disclosure: I’m voting not so much for Biden, but to remove a serious existential threat to the well-being and safety of many citizens in this nation and the world. But I am only one vote, and if I were the Democratic National Committee (DNC) I would be careful and concerned for that day when the Republican bigotry ‘pass’ alone won’t grant the DNC access to the ‘collective black cookout’.

The DNC better start thinking about some real and substantial change actions (not Republican lite projects) quickly. Don’t just show-up but show-out with some meaningful generational improvement economic and educational* change initiatives. And importantly, don’t keep believing that you can also just show-up, year-after-year thinking you’ll get into the collective black cookout by simply wearing Ghanaian, Kenyan, Nigerian, Senegalese, Egyptian, etc. outerwear. I think Black people are beginning to say: “Come real or don’t come at all!”

*would require that the DNC end their unquestioning and unprincipled alliance with teacher’s unions!

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the Noam Chomsky Interview:
https://www.facebook.com/theinterceptflm/videos/861606717583845/