What I am learning (to remember) from Yoga

           I really adore my Yoga Teacher (Sariane Leigh). OK, come back some of you wandering minds!  Now this is an old-fashion word that is either slipping away (from its old usage), from lack of use; or having lost its power by its continued use in a minimalist way, as in: “I adore your outfit”; or has drifted away from  its true meaning as it serves as “just another word” in some of our favorite love songs.  I like the “old version” of the holding someone in high regard, in high esteem, in a place of great respect and honor. The context/meaning I am using “adore”, is the feeling you have for a person who gives you something that is greater than a gift of money, silver or gold. The gift they are giving you can’t be brought at any price; after encountering this person, you are simply, and essentially, not the “same” person. She is very much a master teacher because (For you professional educators I offer the “pedagogical rubric”), although I am aware that I am in a class of 20+ people; I always feel like I am the only student in the room, alone, and learning from the teacher. Yesterday we had a wonderful workshop on promoting a healthy lifestyle (my title). The question of quantitative and qualitative goals came up. After spending 30+ years in a heavily quantitative educational professional setting; I realized that I have always “pushed back” to open the door for an equal representation of qualitative measures; which I think are equally important. For example:  “Do students feel safe and honored?”; Do you the principal know them as an individual student, not as just the “student body?”; “Do parents feel welcomed and appreciated?”; “Does the staff and faculty feel supported, do they feel you care about them as individual persons; not as just faceless position holders?”  One of the most important qualities of an educator is “Efficacy” (essentially what we as adults are willing to do,  to sacrifice in order to make a student successful) I am not sure how to quantify it mathematically; but I can immediately recognize its elements in a teacher, and students also know it when they see it!             And even at this point in my career I am still not completely sure as to how you professionally develop efficacy in an educator. I saw “efficacy” in the eyes, and heard it in the voice of a teacher I met at a conference in San Francisco, many years ago. That gentleman (Jaime Escalante; the real guy ,not the “Stand and Deliver” actor) was overflowing with the spiritual fire that ignited his expectation that he would be successful with all of his students, no matter what it would mean for him personally. You left his presence with the sense that he would exhaust all of his personal resources to push his kids to a win! There is a belief (I believe) that every educator must bring to the battle. The idea that God has presented, and charged you with a divine being (not just a classroom of beings); and it is your responsibility to assist that student to realize their full possibility and calling in this world. And when we fail at this mission (which we do from time to time); that individual is not the only one harmed; in fact harm is visited (by that individual) upon someone else, or upon the entire planet; in fact, upon all of humanity; yea, the entire universe. I have found on many occasions that the his-story line of a student “bully”; is most often himself a victim of psychological and/or physical bullying at home (sometimes it is 5 minutes into the parent conference and you say: “OK, I see where this child’s anger is coming from!”)

        I always think about the power of a student encountering an educator that embodies efficacy, after a Boston Marathon like tragedy. Perhaps this is just my personal bias concerning what I believe to be the “Power of Education”. I think that at some point in the past these two perpetrators were children in somebody’s school. And what if some teacher, custodian or cafeteria worker could have opened their hearts to the idea that, no matter how painful, or even possibly justifiable their grievance, it could never justify the hurt and harm inflicted on innocent people.  What if some educator taught them to think like Nelson Mandela; that under the most harsh and oppressive conditions, you have the power of not denying your own humanity, by seeking to deprive others of their humanity. I imagine that if we could just get people who because of their personal pain, choose to respond to that pain by inflicting pain on the world.  If we could only get them into a loving, meta-cognitive, self-actualizing and nurturing classroom.  A place that is driven by the powerful spirit of adult efficacy; we could, I believe, greatly reduce the amount of tears in the world. Is this wishful thinking? Is it, in the words of The Temptations: “Just my imagination”?  I hope not, as I so adore, and despite our many failings, hope for the better, and best from the members of my species. 

Boston; and all I have are questions…

By habit and interest, I (for better or worse) see the world through the lens of education. Who are these Boston Bombers? At what moment does one arrive at a decision that a “cause” (any cause), a “belief” (any belief), justifies the killing of innocent people, the killing of people you don’t know, people who may in fact be sympathetic to your cause, people who may share your beliefs? What is the psychological evolution that leads one to a mental state that justifies the random murder of other human beings? Where did the idea start that says: “we have no responsibility to the other members of our species?” What kind of “leader” (sacred or secular) teaches inspires and directs people to engage in this level of senseless destruction? How did they reach the place of the “turning” off of basic human feelings? How does the Boston Marathon and its spectators threatened your: family, religion, cause, political belief; your way of life?  What force is powerful enough to drive out any memory you may have of simple/basic human compassion? Did they ever experience the nurturing love in a family? To commit this type of act does one need to disbelieve that all of the potential victims are somehow people without families?  I know these bombers were children at some point; did they encounter the loving concern of a teacher? Did someone (a non-family member), perhaps even a stranger ever show them kindness? Can the definition of love be so twisted, that it is only recognizable to some as inflicting suffering on others? Can you create such an impenetrable barrier that you no longer recognize the divinity in other humans (regardless of what they believe); and worst you can’t find the divinity in yourself? If one makes a decision that every person (and any person) is a combatant; then what kind of war are you fighting? If the people injured in Boston were according to the bombers “combatants”; where is there an opportunity for them to surrender? What is war if all distinctions between civilian and combatants are erased; what then is victory? Does victory become the death of every person on earth who is not them? And since killing and murder is their mode of communication, their method of resolving conflict; it would only be left then, for them to kill the “less pure” amongst themselves; until no one on earth is left.  My Reading (take-away) of the President’s speech yesterday is that the U.S. can’t engage in an asymmetrical war with these types of fanatical actors. Marathons, other sporting events and venues, parades and other large public events can’t serve as battle grounds. If we are to believe one of the axioms put forth by Carl von Clausewitz (On War); “…War is an act of violence pushed to its utmost bounds; as one side dictates the law to the other, there arises a sort of reciprocal action, which logically must lead to an extreme. This is the first reciprocal action and the first extreme with which we meet (First Reciprocal Action)”. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto of the Japanese Imperial Navy(1884-1943); warned his comrades after the Pearl Harbor attack that celebrations may be premature, as all the Japanese military has done is awaken a powerful giant. Women, Native-Americans, Japanese-Americans, African-Americans, Latino-Americans, etc.; will shift their primary concerns, to the defense of the nation. I think our numerous political squabbles can lead some to misread and, underestimate American resolve, and the resolve of all Americans to come together and defend itself when she is attacked. It’s about, to get real serious for these folks……

Wow..What a crime against children…..

Wow..What a crime against children; what poor oversight; what a rip-off of the taxpayers. Is this just another example of the movement toward the commercialization of public education? At what point do you “contract-out” the very essence of your mission?  This over reliance of the goodwill of  “pedagogical profiteers” will result in these types of very predictable endings. A fraud of this magnitude was surely aided by the dismantling of  Community School Districts(CSD). CSD’s would be responsible for monitoring these external service providers. The SED is just too far away (Albany) to provide proper oversight. These children are extremely vulnerable as they are not old enough to properly covey information to their parents about their experience. And many of the parents have limited English language proficiency; or don’t have adequate knowledge of the complex regulations connected to Special education services. This was  strategically, a “perfect” crime where the victims may not have even been aware that they were victims. The very purpose and reason for the much admired “Pre-K Special Education intervention services” program, is to identify, and hopefully address disabilities and/or deficiencies early in the child’s life, so that we can give that child better odds of being a successful student in later grades. The stealing of the money is one thing; but the theft of “opportunity” is another. How can we make-up for the intervention services these children should have received, but did not? The idea of this “early intervention” is a very sound principle in education. It succeeds educationally and (except in this case) also saves taxpayers money; as intervention becomes more expensive over time, and in the upper grades. These people violated those principles in the most unethical way. It is very disheartening to see this level of evil greed. This is very sad..… I must however give the NY Times some credit; to call out this major defect and deformity in the much vaunted “new reform movement”…  “The lavish spending and questionable performance of a company that provided therapy to young children underscores problems in a segment of New York’s special education program”… http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/12/nyregion/for-special-ed-contractor-huge-fees-and-shoddy-care.html?ref=education

A Case Study: How to Go From Good, to Bad, to Worse.

‘Ben Carson: White Liberals Are ‘The Most Racist People’ ; The Huffington Post ; 4/2/13


(Or as one student once told me: “The main character in this novel is going from worse to worser”)


          Dr. Carson is magnificently transforming himself from a model of Black perseverance and academic excellence, into a  2nd rate right-wing minstrel side show; destined for a very short run. In the end, his newly discovered conservative friends are simply going to walk away, and search for the next contradictory “model-minority” performer. A racial pretender who can disingenuously confirm the right-wings  love and concern for the darker American others. The less intellectually gifted among them have even deluded themselves into thinking that people like Dr. Carson or Mia Long represent the true face and voice of Black America; if only they (Black America) were “liberated” from those terrible White liberals. This is the working definition of: “Going from good, to bad, to worse”.                         

         Full disclosure here: for many years as an educator I promoted Dr. Carson’s Book, Gifted Hands as a powerful inspirational story for young people (I have purchased thousands of copies). But there is something very dangerous about fame and adulation that seems to push our sense of importance to destructive lengths. It does not help when people like me (Further disclosure: I once gave Dr. Carson an award and brought him in as a speaker) convey our sincere praise and appreciation for your work. It is at that moment that we truly need a “centering” mechanism in our head and heart that can whisper to us that: “You ain’t all that”. Without moral breaks we seem to speed toward the title of one of my favorite films: “A Bridge too far”. There is the very terrible danger of getting ahead of our calling; of getting ahead of God’s plan for us; and the risk of getting behind stupidity. Success can breed delusions of grandeur. We are at that moment cast in the roll of Jesus being shown all of the kingdoms of this earth. “All of these things can be yours”; says satan. But this terrible decision to choose the “glory and praise” of a materially full but spiritually empty world condemns us to a loss of our true calling; simply because it does not offer enough to satisfy our ever-growing with hunger ego. The final descent is being drawn into a comic self-delusionary state; where something is true simply because, we think it so. We in esscence live in the unreality we have created in our imaginations; encouraged of course by the false adulation of an insincere fan base; they wait earnestly for our next joke; and you of course provide the punch-line not realizing the joke is about, and on you.                    

           The main criteria for any Black role in the Republican party is to simply be “anti-Obama”; not be for something that could truly change the plight of Black Americans. The limited casting rules and roles should lead any intelligent person to say: “wait, something is wrong here; I am more than the anti-Obama chocolate flavor of the month; I can think!” Dr. Carson’s description of : “Liberals as the most racist”; not only seeks to turn history on its head (the good guys become the bad guys; and the bad guys show up as good). It further mocks the contributions and sacrifices of an entire class of people who set out to make sure that our Nation could realize it’s true calling to be fair and just to all of its citizens. Many of those “liberals” left the safety of White Privilege” and lost their lively hoods and in many cases their lives in our struggle for freedom and equality. Who in the world is Dr. Carson speaking about: William Lloyd Garrison and other abolitionist? The thousands of union soldiers who lay buried all over the south far away from their place of birth? Viola Liuzzo, Andrew  Goodman, Michael Schwerner and other liberals killed in the civil rights struggle? The liberal White freedom bus riders or that Democratic Liberal president Lyndon B. Johnson, who move to codify and put into law much of the goals of  the civil rights movement. Perhaps more time with brain psychology, as opposed to brain physiology would inform  Dr. Carson that Black Americans are not stupid. They know what they see  when they see it. And what they see is a very racist national effort by his conservative collogues to hinder and deny them the right to vote. That is racism.

        For sure all of the efforts of “liberals” have not always been totally helpful; and the Democrats have a long way to go in building up enough courage to again speak openly of building a “Great society” where all can enjoy the possibility of realizing their full human potential. But I would take a misguided White liberal any day (there is at least the hope of redemption), over a right-wing conservative who is philosophical dedicated to the denial of my human and civil rights.   

              Dr. Carson come back; be the wonderful model you were destined to be; inspire our young people to greatness; reject the false call of the glitz and glitter of this world. An ego satisfying illusion that only seeks to pull you away from your (good/best) self.

Black corruption is a crime against the most innocent and defenseless victims.

       The clear sense of the operational definition of: “Something’s terribly wrong here”; is in full display. With Black mayors, elected officials and educators dropping “like flies”; where does that leave the led? When did leadership so shift from public service to self-service? These twisted values lead sadly to many young people being left twisting in the wind of neglect. The most weak and vulnerable in our society are in desperate need of the strongest and most principled leadership, and yet we have……

        What do you do when your worst enemy is not a mindless puppet; but is in fact the author of their own foul deeds. The rational: “Well the other folks are doing it too”; doesn’t work for me. Also falling far below the rational mark is: “I was set up, or they are picking on Blacks”. But knowing how the race card is played in this country; why provide the opportunity, why entertain the thought? Clearly some Black folks have their own definition of empowering and enriching the family. I have said to students for so many years that, if you’re thinking about an event is very different from how the majority views this event; then at the very least you have an intellectual responsibility to view and review your interpretation. It is a scientific process of balancing daring and innovative thoughts; with serious reality checking into a possibly flawed theory of practice. And maybe it is even worth an encounter with that fictional Sherlock Holmesian axiom, that said: when all possible reasons fail, what is left is indeed: “the answer”. After reading about the arrests of Black elected and appointed officials across this nation, I wonder how we could even begin to effectively take on all of the challenges that face people of color. My mind goes back to when I met with every Black Elected official in Southern Queens. This is after being appointed to replace a convicted and corrupt superintendent. In private one-one-one sessions they all confessed that “personally” they liked and supported the work I was doing in the school district; but as if reading from a standard cue card they proclaimed “But, I can’t support you publicly”. This corrupted “political Club” approach I believe led to the Southeast Queens community’s inability to protect the powerful educational changes and gains we were able to accomplish in 3 years. All of the good work achieved in CSD 29 was swept away in a sea of mediocrity. The corruption of the spirit leads to the corruption of the mind; that mind then plans and nurtures further corruption. In all of this the children are left defenseless. For sure these folks are truly “post-racial”; for them the outcomes of leadership are personal.