The Chiara de Blasio video and why I think it is important for young people to see it.

        When I received an avalanche of calls and emails of concerns and questions relating to the (as of this post still not announced) NYCDOE Chancellor’s position. One of the cautions I offered to folks was this: the New York press operates on a completely different level from that of the News media of even our largest American cities. The NYC News media is very engaged (albeit quietly) in “evaluating” the so-called list of candidates. “Bad behavior” that may receive a glancing or no attention, and maybe even be encouraged  in many cities and towns ; would serve as raw meat in a pool of sharks for the New York Press corps. Any high profile public job in NYC requires a high level of competency in order to “manage” the relationship with a very active (dailies, weeklies, broadcast and radio) and investigative press community. They will find out what you eat for breakfast; and if it is the “wrong thing”; they will then eat you alive before lunch. The NY Press corps will show no mercy to a wounded public official; particularly when the wounds are self-inflicted (see Messrs. Spitzer and Weiner); and they can and will deliver the final death blow to the most promising political career.  They also will not do free  public relations work to cover-up a clear blunder (see the attempted appointment of Cathie Black as Chancellor.) A Commissioner, Deputy Mayor or Chancellor would need to “manage well” their relationship with the NYC press. Any hint of: unpreparedness/unqualified (again see Cathie Black), incompetence, corruption, family patronage, etc.; would set off an “investigative scoop” race.

        One  good example of the “muck raking ” attitude of the NY press, is seen in the response of two NY Daily News columnist: Juan Gonzales ( and Mike Lupica (; to the video released concerning  Chiara de Blasio’s ( the daughter of the newly  elected mayor-Bill de Blasio) struggles with depression and substance abuse. It is important to note here that these two guys are actually two of the nicer liberal voices in the news media! I read both of their critical pieces and came away with the idea, that yes, maybe there was some politically strategic thought given to the timing of the event; and perhaps I am losing my NYC critical (cynical?) edge, but I have another thought. Perhaps the good that her honest and surely painful act could produce, greatly outweighs the alleged political intentions. To most Americans who don’t work as a profession with young people are unaware of how many of them suffer from isolation, confusion, disconnection, self-doubt, loneliness, abusive (yes) relationships, difficult family situations (that may look fine to the outside world). And very often they will try to “treat” their depression in ways that are not helpful, and may in fact create greater problems. After spending many years with teenagers up close, I have learned to respect their suffering; listen and seriously respond to their threats of, “running away”, “hurting myself”, and “committing suicide”. Too often we adults want to dismiss their calls for help because we think: “well they don’t have bills, a job or children; and so what could they be stressed about?” We may even think that their response to their pain is silly; i.e. “I am lonely, no one loves me, and so maybe I will have a baby, the baby will love me”.  But their pain is very rational and it feels very much like pain. Unfortunately, like many adults they don’t know how to get professional and positive help; rather than engage in self-destructive behavior that can only worsen the situation. And so I believe that if only a few young people see the video; understand that the pain they feel, others also feel, that they are not alone, and that they don’t have to suffer alone; they can get help and support in overcoming what they may think is a painfully lonely and isolated struggle. It then matters very little about the intentions of the “political handlers”. For as the “old-folks” would say: “The devil can’t see behind God’s back”; and I would add that he also can’t read God’s mind. I believe that God can use any situation no matter how painful or even “a calculated political intention”, to help many who are in a bad situation, people who are in need of attention. GOD CAN TURN ANY INTENTION INTO A GOOD INTENTION TO CAPTURE OUR ATTENTION; IN ORDER TO GIVE ATTENTION TO THOSE IN NEED OF ATTENTION.….

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Our Painful Memories Could Lead to True Gift-Giving

Public testimonies have never been “my thing” but recently, a friend has caused me to at least think about the power of consoling, encouraging and the uplifting of another person, through the telling of your personal story. And so this is as good as it gets:


Excerpt from my journal 12/25/13:

I prefer to move as quickly as possible through these holidays like: Christmas, Easter, Mother’s and Father’s Day. I have so many strong memories and thoughts about these days. I have often wondered about this “gift” of memory that has been given specifically to our species (so we believe). It is very much a gift as we can’t continue to “relearn” aspects of life over and over again. There are many things like: “fire=hot”; for which our memory is important and perhaps even lifesaving. But there is a price for memory (doesn’t anything worthwhile have a price?) which must often be paid when the objects of a good memory are no more. But, guess what; God has not left us alone with our painful memories; there is a way; counterintuitive and illogical to the thinking of this world, that we can transform a sad memory into an education about ourselves; (adversity reveals who we truly are) and a dedication to good works (in difficult times how we treat others is what we really believe); and it is those good works that will ultimately sustain and heal us. I remember my mother driving me crazy as a youngster during the Christmas season. I really thought that Pauline Johnson was channeling Santa Clause (although I did not know the word: “channeling” back then).  She kept a “gift room” and if we brought a friend to the house; and particularly if a young child would visit; she would “disappear” for a moment; and come back “miraculously” with a small fully gift-wrapped gift for the person. How did she do it? It seems that she had some type of coding system that I never understood.  It was probably organized like: “male child 7-12” or “Female child 3-6”, etc. But it was amazing, as she never failed to produce an appropriate gift for a Christmas visitor (and we always had visitors!). And then she would deliver the gift as if she knew all along the person was coming (Oh, the dramatic skill!) and she just had their gift waiting for them. The gift recipient would always be pleasantly stunned. Now this must have been a generational “Mothers of the church thing”, as I also saw Ma Walker pull this same act when one year I went by her house on Christmas to drop off her and Pop Walker’s gifts; I brought a friend along with me; who needed a ride to their grandparent’s house. Sure enough Ma Walker, like Pauline Johnson disappeared for a moment and amazingly came back with a perfectly age/ gender appropriate gift, with the person’s name on the tag!  And of course, she and my mother must have taken the same drama course as she also delivered the gift with the greatest of Christmas gift giving flair. I must confess that even I was momentarily connived that she knew I was bringing someone with me; which, of course she didn’t. Most important in these thoughtful acts of gift giving, the gifts are given with the thought that the giver will never receive a gift in return from the gift recipient.

How amazing are the thoughts and ways of God! This morning I kept saying over and over again; you must get up and move; in order to bless somebody.  The same exact words I delivered to one of my Church members last night who was having a difficult time.  The goal of just being a blessing to at least one person is enough to get us out of bed! My mind traveled back a few days ago when I thought I had finished my shopping; and then I ended up going back to the mall because (and I will explain) I had forgotten someone.  At the checkout counter I was humming: “Christmas time is here…” …as the sales clerk was ringing up the items; when suddenly she snapped and said: “I will be so glad when I don’t have to hear that song anymore”. My initial thought was to call for the store manager in order to ask if it is the stores policy for sales clerks to dismiss and discourage the feeling of a Christmas spirit on the part of customers; particularly when that “sprit” is handing the clerk a credit card! But thank God the spirit of compassion (The Michael for which I am named, pushed that other michael aside) came into me. I asked the sales clerk: “what’s really wrong young lady; it’s really not about the song, is ti?” She replied: “Well no, it’s just that I am so discouraged that so many people don’t  have the right Christmas spirit; they leave Christ out; you should see how nasty and mean they are to us when an item is sold out.” I then relayed to her the reason I was in J.C Penny. I could take the time to talk to her because despite the frantic atmosphere in the store, oddly no one was behind me in the check-out line. I told her that I was comfortable and relaxed at home, I had completed my shopping and happy not to be in the frantic 12/23/13 crowd. When suddenly I realized that I gave a present to the mother of a young lady (which the young lady delivered to her) and the son of that same young lady in my church; and did not give her a gift; and that I felt a sense “righteous guilt”; which I explained to her is translated as “convicted” in the Christian belief system. And so as inconvenient and uncomfortable as it was for me to come out again, I came here to get her something (and since the Lord sent me on a mission, and put some Dockers men’s slippers on sale at the same time; I did not want to disappoint Him. Now if I could only think of a way to wrap them and put them under the tree and surprise myself! :-) In any event; I continued with the sales clerk. I told her that I hardly know the young lady and in fact, I don’t even remember her name! And I don’t want a gift, a card or anything from her in return! She said: “What!”…”You are really doing Christmas the right way”. I responded that maybe if a few Christians do Christmas the right way (seeing that God can work His will with any number); perhaps we can change the world; even if it’s one person’s world at a time. Her entire countenance changed; as if a spirit of despair and cynicism had been lifted from her: “Thank you, so much”; she said.

  I thought; maybe there was another reason for the “forgetfulness that brought me into that store, on that day.  Forgetfulness aside, we will always be reminded of our calling in life. If we fit into the ways of this world then we are not fit to realize our calling in this world. We Christians should look awkward, out of place, ill at ease; in a world that reduces every event, every relationship, indeed every act into a commercial experience. We cannot worry about the numbers of people who are doing right; or more importantly the number of people who treat us right. During Christ-Mass; Christians-Must; look and act different; that’s our gift!

Is Evil Something That We Learn, Or Is It Just An Acquired Taste Acting Unjustly?


“…So someone who wants to know the cause of our learning something really wants to know the cause of our doing good. So let’s have no more of your wanting to hunt down this mysterious evil teacher. If he is evil, he is no teacher; and if he is a teacher, he is not evil”…Augustine

Painfully watching the PBS NewsHour last night, and the difficult task of the French and African national forces, fighting and dying while trying to keep “religious” people, in the Central African Republic (CAR), from slaughtering each other. I am at once struck by the tragic contradiction of “religious people”; taking a directive from their respective god (or perhaps the same god) to kill those who follow a religious tradition different from their own; and I can only wonder if God, is in fact directing either of them. Imagine that, a religious war without God.

The next morning; as an obedient student of a good High School English Language Arts program, I  treat the news report as literature; and then go on to instinctively compare and contrast its “main idea” with two powerful passages from my morning reading meditation. I am reading from: On Free Choice Of the Will by Augustine; he writes in response to a question from Evodius- “But if we do not come to know evil things, how is it that human beings perform evil acts?” And, Augustine replies:

        “Perhaps because they turn away from learning and become strangers to it. But whether that is the correct explanation or not, one thing is certainly clear: since learning is good, and the word ‘learning’ is correctly applied only when we come to know something, we simply cannot come to know evil things. If we could, then they would become part of learning, and so learning could not be a good thing. But it is a good thing, as you said yourself. Therefore, we do not come to know evil things, and there is no point in your asking from whom we learn to do evil things. Or else we do come to know them, but only as things to be avoided, not as things to be done. It follows that doing evil is nothing but turning away from learning…”

And further in the passage:

“…So someone who wants to know the cause of our learning something really wants to know the cause of our doing good. So let’s have no more of your wanting to hunt down this mysterious evil teacher. If he is evil, he is no teacher; and if he is a teacher, he is not evil”


        As an educator I am  pleased to read that Augustine affirms what I have always believed; that ‘learning’ contrary to popular belief is not a neutral act; it is what it can only be, a positive force for good, and for doing good in the world. I have often bristled when hearing someone express: that a person can go to prison and “learn to be a better criminal”. But in fact this “learning to be a better criminal” is actually the absence (if we agree with Augustine’s logic, and I do) of learning. The objective of learning to help human beings to become fully human, to see their own humanity reflected in another, and therefore come to appreciate the humanity of others. Learning is the self-realization of a person’s “specialness” on this planet, to realize ones unique talents and gifts that only you out of all of the billions of people on the planet can offer to the world. Learning is seeing oneself as an instrument of service, and not a cause of suffering. Learning is to find, discover, uncover and develop ones true self; one’s true calling and reason for the time period in which we enter and leave human history, also known as one’s lifetime, our biographical contribution. And so the question is not: “What is in your wallet”; rather, the question is: what contributions are in your biography? A criminal, a person that inflects pain and harm on another, no matter how technically proficient in performing these terrible acts, is a person who has not learned anything about life in general, or most important about their own life in particular. That is why as educators we must never teach a “technical rich” but “soulless poor” lesson. The world is full of technically competent immoral and unethical people, why create more? During the height of the Nazi curse; Germany was producing more than its share of world renown: scientist, musicians, engineers, writers, painters, and yes, theologians. And yet with all of these worldly technical and scholarly attributes; there existed in that country, a terrible absence of learning about what it means to be fully human. I am wondering what absence of learning is taking place in the CAR. I have read both the Bible and the Quran (cover to cover), and I have not found a teaching in either book that suggest that what is going on in the CAR is right or can be justified. More than anything else that country is in need of Muslim and Christian teachers; and to paraphrase Augustine, if they are evil they are not teachers; and therefore cannot teach evil; and if they are truly teachers they are not evil; and can only teach the art of being, and doing good.

Random Thoughts on Nelson Mandela ….4: AM …12/6/13

  • Fear is a primary motivator for the actions and behavior for all of us; the fear of having, not having, not having enough, having too much, having and then losing….. The key to knowing the character of a person like Nelson Mandela; and a key to knowing our own character; is not the absence of fear in our lives; rather it is the productive management of those fears that will produce great works.


  • A personal loss is a path to finding your true humanity, and it is also the opportunity to discover the humanity of others; be they your jailers, tormentors or, oppressors; once you are able to isolate and recognize their behavior as a response to “fear”, you can connect with them on a human level; for you also have great fears you are trying, sometimes more or less successful, to also conquer.


  • Suffering, denial and separation allows you to find out who you really are; not the “who” you tell the world you are; and for some people, the “who” that emerges from this process is better than the “who” they ever imagined themselves to be.


  • The “work” is bigger than you, and you are so much bigger than the suffering that comes as result of the work.


  • Many of the people now praising and proclaiming Mandela a “hero”; once called him a “terrorist”, “troublemaker”, and a “communist”; and they were in many ways the major obstacles to ending apartheid in South Africa. He did not change his principles, he is the same man; it is they who have changed their words. Don’t stray from the path of truth and justice, and somehow a lost world will find you.


  • Revenge is perhaps the most useless and untrustworthy of any human emotion.


  • Revenge can only be nurtured by hate and fear.


  • Forgiveness is perhaps the most powerful and trustworthy of any human emotion.


  • Forgiveness can only be forged by love and appreciation.


  • For Mandela, 27 years in prison is a long time; for Martin and Malcolm to live to the age of 39, seems like a short time. And yet the time it takes for something good to happen, is all the time it will take. Time is not short or long; it is productive or not productive. We only “lose or waste time” when we are pursuing evil; and that is because we must make up time to correct it. And all of your good deeds are your time continuing to act, even after you have come to the end of your physical time.


  • I suspect that most people when thinking about the “family life” of  a Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X; have imaginations of what those families must have look like. And I guess there is nothing wrong with imagination; and I love literary fiction. And of course we expect their family members to present a version of “the family” life that is consistent with our imaginations. But I imagine a family life for these men that were quite different, something that does not fit nicely into our heroic parenting narratives. I imagine that there was a tremendous love and longing to just be home in a very simple family way. We rightfully claim some people as “universal figures” of history; but they have a real live personal history, and their families are part of that history.


  • We feel the most safe when we limit our giving and sacrifice to ourselves, close friends and immediate family. And that is because these “acts of giving” offer the greatest possibility of being appreciated and reciprocated. It is a fear that we have been taught to own. And it contradicts the very meaning of the Cross.


  • I wonder as I read all of the wonderful and well intentioned tributes as to what this means for the lives of the authors of these inspiring words. There is a part of me, a persistent thought that I fight against every day; and that is the belief that most people “admire” people like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela in a very abstract and “other worldly way, (something all three men warned against); and see no responsibly or duty on their part to act, even in the smallest way, with courage. It is almost like the sacrifice of a few people somehow relives many others from meeting their own courageous destiny. We all, it would seem, are required to confront evil; to in a sense, pick up our own Cross; and it is impossible to live that experience through another, no matter how dear or an admiring figure they may be to us.


  • The ultimate danger in our materially decedent world is to become a reason for a day of sales. But before that happens, there is the tremendous effort to strip heroes of heir heroism; to make them less militant, less confrontational, and less objectionable. But history can be a cruel reminder when we forget the truth: The letter that Martin Luther King so eloquently penned from a Birmingham jail cell was addressed not to the chief spokespersons for segregation; but rather to his collogues in the clergy who, if they truly believed in the principles they preached, should have been with him in that jail cell. Yes, history will judge all, and reveal all.



  • With love it is possible to endure any hardship; without love the least setback will put an end to your mission.


  • A Black Attorney in his day, in South Africa, he had: “it made”….. But ultimately it is the ultimate choice that all professionals must face, careerism or heroism; and it must be made, over and over again.


  • There are those moments when you want so much to cling to comfort; but comfort is the enemy of valor and purpose; could there be: “Temptations of Christ“, if there was no temptations? And there are many temptations to soften, or “fast-track” the mission; but the brutality and the feeling of abandonment can’t be avoided. And yet,


  • This material world feels and sounds so good, and why shouldn’t it?


  • We only think of the 27 years of imprisonment in a political context. But in quiet moments when he was, as he often called himself: “A simple man”; it had to be impossible to not see the faces, recall the names, to remember the sound of the voices of family members. All of the things missed: birthdays, holiday celebrations, weddings, births, deaths, or the simple joy of seeing young family members grow up; these things can never be replaced or repeated. It was as if he lived a different family history, not inside of a prison, but inside of himself. This may sound counterintuitive; and does not appear to be true, but those who extend their love of family to a larger human family, are the most in love with their own family; with whom they may be separated; and people can’t imagine how much they suffer from that separation.


  • You can only be held captive by the limitations of courage and creativity in your heart and mind.
  • Regret is a weightless memory of the past, and a burden too heavy to carry into your future.
  • The calling of a human being, a primary purpose is to move from symbolic expressions of love toward, real love.


  • There is an urgency of rectitude one must feel in the core of their spirit to fully appreciate the power of sacrifice; and the inability to avoid it, no matter how hard you try.


  • And when the imagination turns to simple things that most people take for granted……


  • Confronting the truth that determinism and materialism are both false gods; that then leaves us with the only true task in life; to courageous create meaning in calling, we are ultimately called to mean much more than our own individual lives.


  • There is the “possible” reality, and then there is the inescapable possibility. It presents itself as a “choice”; but the “optional factor” is false. The truth is that you are never at ease, never comfortable; and so in that sense it is not a choice. The path of the Cross is the ultimate heroic symbol; it means that you even sacrifice your life for those who sacrifice you.


  • I guess that spiritual maturity is when you stop asking God to make you like: “everybody else”; and you ask Him to make you more like yourself; the self He needed you to be.

“61%” Graduation Rate; I Guess the Public Will Get What it Expects, Even When They Don’t Really Get It.


“Bloomberg touts city graduation rate as it ticks up 1%”—NY Dailey News


 “It’s something we should be very proud of. . . . We’ve done a spectacular job,” Hizzoner said”


         The mayor’s words are a case of pride coming after the fall.  I read somewhere once that: “If you want to hide something from some folks, just put in a book!” I guess a corollary to that assertion, is: if you want to fool, and hide bad news from the public, just put it in numbers. I can only wonder if people reading this non-news story, fully comprehend the translation of  39% into the number of real people, real students that we as a society have failed; and they have not disappeared, they are very much in the business of making all of us (some communities more than others) pay for our failure. At first I thought this was a “spoof” news story; but as I reached the end of the article I realized that the reporters were actually being serious. The “real” graduation rate is a very complex number to calculate and arrive at; the fact that it is a total abstraction to parents and the average citizen is helpful to school districts because news reporters are not going to seriously expend the time and energy to discover the true graduation numbers. For example a place to start is the students who drop out of school somewhere between Elementary and the end of the 8th grad, and never appear in a 9th grade cohort. Thousands of students” transfer” out of state, go into a correctional facilities, or to some type of private school setting, GED/alternative high school programs, etc. If the graduation equation is the number of students who graduate being the numerator, and the total number of students who entered and completed a 9th grade cohort in the denominator; then “losing” students from the denominator will raise the “graduation rate”. The structure of high schools is such that a student can “graduate” a year before, in the middle of their “senior” year, in the summer, in January of the next year, or in their fifth year of high school. One can only imagine the amount of data collection that would be required to arrive at the true graduation rate. Finally, summer school courses are very often suspect as to the level of rigor they provide; particularly when the unwritten “charge” given to summer school administrators and teachers is to: “move those seniors out”, by passing them.  (1) If indeed the graduation rate was as high as 61%, then this is nothing even close to spectacular; and so the question is: Why have we as a society set the bar for “success” so low, and our tolerance for the crushed hopes for so many young people so high? (2) A plus or minus 1% in a system with over 500 high schools is not significant enough to attributed that percentage change to a policy; good or bad. (3) If we pretend for a moment (and I mean pretend) that the 61% is accurate, we would see that in any NYC calculation of graduation rates, that the numbers concentrate negatively in some groups and positively favor other groups; that is, I am convinced that the 39%, or non-grads is concentrated (a high percentage of the 39%) in the Black and Latino student populations. And further, (4) what percentage of the “61%” represents real diplomas that will allow those “graduates” to successfully transition to a post high school career or educational setting?  There are so many ways to truly and authentically measure how well our high schools are doing; that would also be beneficial to the students:

  1. See how well a school does (over a 4 year period) with the actual performance levels the students have when they enter the 9th grade; how well does a school do with “weak” students over a 4 year period.
  2. Just comparing the “graduation rates” of schools with different admission policies i.e. specialized, Application-optional, zoned-neighborhood schools; tells you nothing about those schools. Non-restrictive application schools are unfairly castigated, and restrictive admissions schools are falsely praised; the criteria that determines a schools “success” should be monitored, measured and school specific ex: Is Bronx Science, Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech. performing at a high level, are they underperforming? Well, we (parents and public) don’t really know if the measurement is based on Regents exam scores, and graduation rates only.
  3. Comparing a school’s graduation rate from one year to the next is not useful in the way it is presently being used; i.e.  Giving schools” phony letter grades”. This type of “comparative” data is useful only in a limited context; and is essentially meaningless outside of the hands of those who really know how to deconstruct this information and translate it into improved academic achievement. We need data, but more important we need good data!
  4. Students who get accepted to college (2 or 4 year institutions)
  5. Students who attend college and are not required taking remedial (high school) courses.
  6. Students who actually complete and earn a college degree.
  7. Let’s teach and  test for “job readiness skills” as graduation requirement
  8. The number of students that enter an Apprenticeship or career technical training program.
  9. The number of students who successfully enter the work-force after graduation (this is one of perhaps several factors that people will say that high schools: “have no control”. It is true that public schools can’t control any of the variables that drive the economics of our society. But what we can control, and should be held accountable, is the degree that our graduates are at least prepared in conceptual, skills and behavior knowledge to maximize their chances of success for their lives after graduation.


As I read my own words I am thinking that perhaps the cheering of the “61%” makes some sense. Perhaps a real assessment of a school system’s high schools takes a lot of work, work we are not willing to do. And what would the public say if they knew the real graduation rate numbers, and the huge amount of money being spent for such a small return? What would communities of color say or do if they knew that their children made up the bulk of the lost 39%? And what would students do if they realized that after spending so many years preparing for a post-high school life, they are not really prepared? Maybe it is appropriate to give three cheers for the 61% number; after all who is really counting? Surely not the people who don’t count.

“The New Mayor and the Teachers”- NY Times Editorial ….I am in 98% agreement.

2% Disagreement: “Highly effective teachers should be paid more for teaching in areas with shortages or in high-need schools that have difficulty attracting qualified staff…”

…..We should not create 2 classes of teachers based on what they teach; we should however create two classes of teachers based on how well they teach. Principals, even those in “high need” schools can find qualified teachers if we allow them to make space for them by the removal of unqualified teachers; and the system plays its part by building a strong STEM teacher pipe-line.


       First, treat schools like a High Risk Organization (HRO) i.e. an Aircraft Carrier, Nuclear Power Plant or a Hospital. In an HRO, incompetence is quickly identified and removed, because this incompetence could lead to the death of others. Incompetence is tolerated in Public education because its greatest victims; those who suffer an educational death, are the children of parents who are the most politically disenfranchised members of the city.  If we seriously put the other 98% in place: the “unrealistic work schedule”*, a FDNY-NYPD like job assignment for new teachers, meaning: go where you are assigned, or don’t take the job; let principals and the school Admin. team pick their staff, and then “sink or swim” with that decision; removal of seniority rules, tenure rights, the “rubber rooms, and the “unassigned teacher pool”; teacher salaries can be raised substantially, across the board.  For years the system has carried thousands of teachers (and other employees) on payroll that should not be in a school, let alone near children; many of these employees are on the “high end” of the salary scale. Further, the present salary configuration is terribly skewed against “new teachers”; offer a financial incentive to come into the field, and be able to live in an expensive NYC.  The city should offer a “homesteading” housing loan and residential tax relief for teachers (this will also keep them in the city, thus recycling their incomes into city businesses). Teachers should be provided with free public transportation Mon-Friday; this would also help with driving congestion and pollution problems. Not mentioned in the Editorial is the critical issues of a “best practitioner” in the teaching and administrators ranks; all present labor contracts incline incorrectly toward this idea that all employees in a class are “equally talented and skilled”; this feeds the idea of an endless process of useless and costly professional development and very long disciplinary-removal for incompetence (almost impossible) procedure; meanwhile great harm is being visited upon the children, at a great financial cost to the city. There should be a “master teacher” bonus, based on proven best practices; that would allow this elite group of teachers to mentor new teachers. This group of “master teacher group” is also the pool from which teachers should be recruited to work in the most challenging educational settings. It is simple: The strongest teachers should work with the weakest students. We need a serious professional “internship” program, similar to what exist in the training of medical doctors; a 1st year teacher should not be just thrown into a class to “claw and scrape” their way through the year.  Provide (in corporation with CUNY) tuition reimbursement for teachers to get certified in STEM areas. I don’t think we should pay an Art, Music, social studies or English teacher less than a STEM teacher. This sends the wrong educational message to the staff, and to the students. Create a STEM- teacher program at all 4-year CUNY schools. This is not the usual practice of trying to convert a “science major” into a teacher; rather this will be a “pipe-line” program of STEM teachers who are double majors in their content area and teaching methodology. A commitment to teach in NYC for every year of subsidized tuition should be part of the agreement.  This will attract more candidates to the so-called “shortage areas”, and these “shortages” should disappear.



*At present Principals and Asst. Principals subsidize the system because if they actually worked (or got paid for) the hours they were contracted to work, the system would collapse. It is an “open secret” that these supervisors and other administrators; work daily beyond their assigned schedule. Now I know that some teachers will get confused about this, because of course all good teachers work outside of the school; or stay late in the school working on one  thing, or another. But In this case I am actually talking about an employee being on “official” full duty every day, when they are technically off; this is not a choice on the part of an administrator, rather it is a professional requirement. I am not suggesting that this change (some administrators may disagree here), only that this “work-schedule flexibility”, be part of the requirements for all employees. A principal or AP who arrives to work at 8: AM and leaves at 4: PM; or is crazy enough to leave the building for lunch; is not long for that job.

First Family is First in Setting a Holiday Educational Gift Purchasing Example for all Families

Nice message President Obama…..At least some Books, educational games and toys should be a standard for every parent. This, in my view is what a First Family should be… First in setting a positive example for all families.

(With gratefulness and appreciation to Al Vann and Milfred Fierce; who taught a reluctant teenager about the importance of studying Black History. And to John Henrik Clarke and Kenneth Clark who taught a “knew it all” undergraduate at CCNY, that there was a great deal more he needed to know to call himself educated; thank you all for your patience, with a growing me)

“The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery…..”
–Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”
–Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro


Education can swim against the tide of a life adrift in despair and hopelessness. And it begins with the power of reading; and the reading of powerful books.  This is an initiative that is within the powerful circle of every parent, grandparent, uncle-aunt, neighbor and community religious institution. We can all arm children with the shield and sword of books; no one can stop you. Alas, there is no law now against it! Teach the children a history that includes the struggle for freedom and dignity; and why the ability to read a book, to know and master mathematics, science, writing, technology, the arts, music are the best and most feared weapons in the hands, and heads of the disenfranchised and disinherited. Negative events in history are not destiny. ‘TheirHistory’ can be the compass that guides them in knowing; “It has been done before, and so it can be done once again; I don’t need to invent greatness; I just need to continue it.” And so celebrate this month by (a) Reading a Powerful Book. (b)Teaching a child to read. (c) Strengthening a child’s reading skills. (d) Providing a reading child with a powerful reading level appropriate book.
I ask you the adults to extend your “Gifted Hands” (Ben Carson) and explore “The Souls of Black Folk” (W.E.B. Du Bois); knowing “They Came Before Columbus” (Ivan Van Sertima);in “Precolonial Black Africa” (Cheikh Anta Diop); and “Before the Mayflower” (Lerone Bennett), to understand “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” (Walter Rodney) and thus gave birth to “Capitalism & Slavery” (Sir Eric Williams); And yet we fought to come “Up from Slavery” (Booker T. Washington), and “From Slavery To Freedom” (John Hope Franklin); for “There is a River” (Vincent Harding) and “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” (Langston Hughes) and crossing over into freedom. All this has taught me that “Nothing’s Impossible” (Lorraine Monroe), and that I always have “A Choice of Weapons” (Gordon Parks) to take me above and beyond the “Fences” (August Wilson) and barriers that hold me artificially captive “In the Castle of My Skin” (George Lamming). Nothing worthwhile is easy, and there will be some setbacks. However, “The Struggle Is My Life” (Nelson Mandela), and sometimes “Things Fall Apart” (Chinua Achebe); yet despite “The Wall” (Gwendolyn Brooks), we continue to try; at times, we feel we are the “Sport Of The Gods” (Paul Lawrence Dunbar) and hide our failure inside “The House Behind the Cedars” (Charles W. Chesnutt); and sometimes it is with great sorrow that we still try, for it is “Not Without Laughter” (Langston Hughes), for “Behind the Mountains” (Edwidge Danticat), behind every obstacle is “A Love Supreme” (John Coltrane) and our “Ancestral Memories” (Romare Bearden) of being “Born to Rebel” (Benjamin E. Mays). And we may be “A Long Way From Home” (Claude Mckay); and yet “Here I Stand” (Paul Robeson), knowing “The Measure of Our Successes” (Marian Wright Edelman) is the success of “Other Peoples Children” (Lisa Delpit); not just our own, that counts in the end. This may mean raising a lot of “Cane” (Jean Toomer); drawing and letting loose “The Arrow Of God” (Chinua Achebe) upon the forces of denial; but “In Love and In Struggle” (Alice Walker) we must push on as “The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born” (Ayi Kewi Armah). So “Weep not Child” (Ngugi Wa Tiong’o), for the “Interpreters” (Wole Soyinka) have given great thought as to how a “Native Son” (Richard Wright), an “Invisible Man” (Ralph Ellison) could become “No Longer at Ease” (Chinua Achebe) in the land of his birth. How could a man be convinced to become a “Boy” (Ferdinand Oyono) in the land of promise? And yet “Still We Rise” (Maya Angelou) to every challenge, to every setback. “If Beale Street Could Talk” (James Baldwin) and offer us the “Revelations” (Alvin Ailey) of our sprits, they would say that this is “The Price of the Ticket” (James Baldwin) and the reason “Why We Can’t Wait” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) or get discouraged; for we must “Believe” (Desmond Tutu) and gather “Quiet Strength” (Tony Dungy) from each other; because even in the worst of times there were shining examples of “Blacks In Science” (Ivan Van Sertima) and a “Parable of the Talents” (Octavia Butler);and in those horrible difficult times we saw the brilliance of “Banneker” (Rita Dove). The “Strong Men” (Sterling Brown) and “Our Mothers Who Gave us Birth” (Sonia Sanchez) planted “God’s Bits of Wood” (Ousmene Sembene) that blossomed into “Afrolantica Legacies (Derrick Bell); this gave us the strength to struggle and the “Strength to Love” (Martin Luther King). And so “Lord, the people have driven me on” (Benjamin E. Mays); our great intellectual traditions enshrined in the “Ark of Bones” (Henry Dumas); We keep these sacred truths “On Call” (June Jordan) in our memory of promise. And so I pass on my work in progress, to those “Coming of Age in the Hip-Hop Generation” (Askia Davis Sr. & Jr.) and the generations to follow; I live in, and with the hope that they will always have “The Courage to Hope” (Cornel West); the very “Audacity of Hope” (Barack Obama) that will lift even the “Whispers from a Continent” (Wilfred Cartey); they will then be able to “Lift Every Voice And Sing” (James Weldon Johnson); and they won’t ever, ever “Let Nobody Turn Us Around” (Manning Marable)!