“Obama Will Announce Initiative to Empower Young Black Men”–N.Y. Times..How about this…..

Very laudable, wonderful and very nice programs..But how about this: My theory for the most economical, effective, efficient, and able to produce evidence of measurable success plan: is to provide Young Black Men with a strong, high standards based, job and/or career-ready, inspiring and meaningful Pre-K through 12th grade educational experience…. provide young Black Men with  the survivable resources to live like human beings living in the richest, and most resourced nation in the world;  like a national model of the post WW-2 German “Marshal Plan”; or the depression era  Civilian Works Project (and a CWP administration)….. Oh wait, that would remove the need for deficit-thinking, repair, and correctional initiatives…  What on earth was I thinking…….







Now that I have your attention…

Sorry, in the “education business” that title (a motivational strategy used at the start of a lesson, and embedded in the lesson plan and prupose) is designed to get the student’s attention and “set them up and open them up” for a productive learning experience. However, this is not in any way a typical “valentine season of love” gone bad story. But it is a story of anti-love demonstrated by educators who would allow themselves to be pushed to the point where they violate one of our most Prime Directives in professional education: “Under the possible loss of prestige, money, position and yes even your life….Do No Educational Harm to Children!


“A trial in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal is just three months away, and this week a high-ranking former official in the school system pleaded guilty and became what the Fulton County District Attorney’s office calls “the state’s most valuable witness.”- Washington Post


One should surely be aware of your fellow cheating partners, less they turn on you. As with these kinds of things, it boils down to every scoundrel for him or herself! I read and heard somewhere that : “there is no honor among thieves”; and why should there be the expectations for honor to appear, when one is engaged in a partnership to commit a dishonorable act? Its everybody get their own lawyer, as every perpetrator seeks to cover their own tender posterior (the Gluteus Maximus in the  official language of Biology teachers Tiffany and Andrea:-) Folks start to cut deals in order to save their own slimy hides. But the tragedies that can never be fixed or negotiated away are:

  1. The insane way in which we have forsaken the hard work and commitment that would make schools, and the students in them successful. We have been misdirected by “false recognition” for years. School improvement and student achievement are not subject to quick magic show tricks; it takes thoughtful time and purpose rich efforts; the kind of efforts our society is not willing to invest in our children. We have forsaken very effective methods that have been put forward by people like Ron Edmonds, J. Jerome Harris, Lisa Delpit, Asa Hilliard and Lorraine Monroe. In part because their methods don’t fit the model of the “poor, and forever hopeless achievement gap Black and Brown student” But the greatest offense committed by these very smart and thoughtful people is that their theories seriously undermine the huge and lucrative “failing”, “underachievement”, special- needs (never met), “achievement gaped”, “drop-out”, criminal justice driven industries. 
  2. After-School, Saturday, holiday and summer tutorials are of course necessary and ethically required in Atlanta. But we must be honest with the Children, parents and tax-payers; we can’t just “recall” and fix a “malfunctioning educational part” in a child, as is done in the automobile industry. Children not given the proper academic intervention support strategies that standardized assessments (their true, good and intended use) help us to discover, move out of that developmental learning stage, forever. A fifth grade year of instruction  based on a false 4th grade reading and mathematics score, can’t be “done over”; that 5th grade year is lost forever; and “damage control”, must involve a massive amount of educational resources including all of the before mentioned “Out of school time” activities, along with an extended school day and year. Unfortunately, giving children false academic achievement scores is much more serious than the public may be aware; for it causes a great deal of damage as these students move up in grades and find themselves incapable of performing with the “normal” degree of academic competence. The child is frustrated: “I passed my 8th grade reading test and so why can’t I read my 9th grade history/biology/algebra/English text book?” The teacher (in the next grade) is working with bad data, and so she is then forced to first discover the “inconsistency” of the false achievement grade, and then design a strategy to get the student successfully through the course; an extremely difficult task, for even the best and most experienced teachers. Parents are frustrated: “I don’t understand it, you passed your 8th grade standardized exams; and so what is the problem that you can’t keep up with the other children in your class; maybe you are just not applying yourself!”. High and Middle school  building administrators who have designed a strategy for academic  support, enhancement, improvement and achievement; find that their strategic plans for various cohorts of students are made useless and ineffective when they receive a group of students with false standardized test grades; they are forced to improvise, only after the problem is identified, which could take a while based on the experience of the teacher. They must then scramble to design a new academic intervention and support plan based on what has become now known as the children’s true academic status; this is the equivalent of making repairs on a car while it is rolling down the street! ……Note to High school administrators and a full disclosure here. No offense to my many dedicated and honest K-8 administrator collogues: But as a high school principal I never met a K-8 report card grade, test score or promotion that I trusted; I am going to asses all incoming 9th graders, so that I will know exactly what I am working with, and what I need to do! 
  3. When these desperate acts of unethical behavior occur; we professional educators are assisting the downward trend of confidence in our commitment, dedication and ability to properly educate our nation’s children. As a society we have at the least a general sense of “certification” and “competency”. When people visit a Pharmacy, Physical therapist, plumber, accountant or surgeon; there is some expectation on the part of all of us that the professional we are engaging has honestly passed some type of assessment utilizing a standard. Even the least engaged citizens in our country understand the difference between passing an exam honestly; and passing an exam through dishonest (yours or others) methods. How do we begin to earn back the public’s trust? My hope is that anyone who is guilty in this case should also “plea out”; and spare us (and the APS families adversely affected)the pain of reliving this terrible tragedy. 
  4. Finally, and didn’t we learn this in history class: in desperate times the public’s interest is inclined toward the “dramatic”, yet senseless and unprincipled solutions: “these people were professionals with experience and they failed us, and so let’s go with no professional experience” (Yeah, that should work!) These terrible actions only open the door to more and more: corporate (profits before children) entities; to the “quick-fix” snake-oil selling-cure-all lack of experience “educational reformist”, who then go on to wreck greater educational  havoc on our nation’s most vulnerable children, by “playing school”, with real schools, with real children in them. 


A question can generate so many thoughts, and so many questions……

I get an easy, but tough question about my dream…..

(I am working on it Chryssey:-)


A question in its purest form is neither innocent nor guilty; rather it is a worded journey in search of clarification. As I read a piece of fiction I am silently and continuously asking questions i.e.: “Who is the keeper of the author’s voice?”; “What point(s) is the author trying to make?”; “Where is the “message” for me in the story?”; “What other story, poem, scene from a play, dance, music, art object, does this scene/story remind me of?”; “Who am I in the story?” Questions are important, and lately I have begun to pay very close attention to the questions that are posed to me. For questions like “jokes” or “teasing”, are not “value-free”; in fact, they always carry with them the substance (either conscious or unconscious) of the speaker’s values, truths and spiritual dispositions…. I also understand why any creative art expression can drive you loony (but also drive you to a place of healing), because it is synonymous with invoking  questions, both in the artist and the observer of that art form. Writing like any creative expressive form inclines and inspires you toward the asking of difficult and challenging “questions”. The asking of deep questions concerning the questions of life, can open you up to internal and external exposure. It is  very different from writing in the “safe space” of a professional memo. When I think back to my own high school experience, my favorite class of all classes taken, was the elective: creative writing. I think this was my favorite class because it was the only class in which I could craft questions, as opposed to all other classes where one had to write responses to questions posed by someone else.

And speaking further of questions….

(1) It is amazing how a single question; inspired by God, can cause us to reconnect with our humanity… It is also amazing how different a question sounds depending on your state of mind; and/or the State in which your mind is residing! (2) It is amazing how a simple question in the hands of a special person can be so difficult; in part because you feel compelled to speak truth to their power, truth to your own power, and also speak honestly about your powerlessness; you have, as it where, the strange urge to speak without fear. (3) If someone is from your “spiritual tribe” (admittedly, anthropologically unsound:-), they will hear (or read) words that you express, but they will hear it differently from those who are not of your spiritual tribe..And they will ask the “right” questions;(is this a form of “spiritual cultural- linguistics”?) A characteristic of our “tribe” is that we agonize over too little analysis and clarity; we want to get to the “true heart of the matter”; because learning and knowing is what matters most in our hearts. We gather huge amounts of what appears to most people to be disconnected, obscure and unrelated information; but this seemingly “nonsensical” information can be recalled “on demand”, to converge and integrate in our minds, when we want to make, and find a deep sense and meaning  of a phenomena; it is the only viable and essential way that we can make sense of the world* (4) I am fully aware that my former students are no longer teenagers (many of them are the parents of teenagers for goodness sake!); and yet I often struggle with the very honest (and always respectful) questions they may ask me from time to time. I think I have an obligation to be helpful and honestly authentic to the extent possible; and it is in the “extent possible” part that I find myself often challenged. Chryssey’s questions were fair, and as is her intense intellectual style, they are a logical response to  my post; but I somehow feel that if I try to ‘sell” her an answer  that is too less than true, she will see through it, and won’t buy it.. It does not help that I am a very private person, who is totally dedicated to privacy (not to worry about scandal; “excitement” consist of doing something like the binge watching of Kurosawa films, or working on my stamp collection, and now my new passion is baking!:-)…I am going to answer Chryssey’s question (first because I believe that it was divinely inspired); and second she deserves an answer; I just need some time to gather the strength and wisdom to figure out how to answer her.





*I have always suspected over the years that many of our ADD students were in fact representing a specialized group of “information hunters-gatherers”; whose learning and living style we just failed to properly analyze, understand and address. I recently read a chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book; David and Goliath; where he hypothesizes that this skill  may in fact be a form of an intelligence.

The Valentine Gift That Won’t Stop Giving….


        Let me just first confess up front, that I am a willing and happy participant of this activity, less I am posting my future comments from the dog house. As I told a friend the other day; his economic materialism-capitalism analysis of what is driving Valentine ’s Day was theoretically solid; but perhaps this is not the place in which he would want to draw the proverbial ideologically correct line in the sand, (there is but so much space in each dog-house!) But it’s interesting that I spoke to four women last week (totally separated from each other’s thoughts and words); who all spoke to the same theme; the urge and desire to have a Valentine’s Day gift go beyond just purchasing them “something red”. It seems that they were saying that the “commercial” route is too easy, and made too convenient by a “very loud” , persistent, greedy, and yet soulless entrepreneurial class.  And these young ladies also said that they want a “gift” that ask the “significant other” person to expend some degree of emotional commitment, time and concern; not necessarily an expensive gift; but rather a gift that was rich with the aspects of their individual personalities; (“doesn’t he know by now that I am not particularly thrilled about chocolate?”)  Have men discovered a valuable day (for them) to take the least difficult path to “demonstrate” concern (“love”)? “I gave you a valentine’s gift, now can you just pass me the remote and leave me alone! But  these ladies  also spoke of a “consistency of attention” that went beyond one day. This single day dedicated to “love”, runs the risk of trivializing an important divine attribute. A slickly, well-advertised and hyper-sensationalized, or in many cases hyper-sexualized, (even Macy’s and Wal-Mart are  trying to channel Victoria’s Secret!), can’t make up for 364 days of neglect! But without a spiritual foundation and structure in a relationship, all gifts are in danger of being insufficiently symbolic acts made to pretend sincerity because of the commercial connection. A gift should be a small prayer that has the capacity to produce a smile in the other person’s heart. There should be much of you in the gift, and much more of the other person in the gift. People are fully aware (even if they don’t admit it) when a gift comes from the heart, and not solely from the wallet. Habits of the spirit should be motivated by a Godly spirit of service, in this case to one person (the gift recipient) “standing in”, momentarily in time, for all mankind. “gift-giving” then, should be a small model and a reminder of a commitment to societal gift giving. But it should also truly be an act that keeps on giving every day, in acts of ongoing kindness small and large, seen and unseen; and most importantly in making a statement of charity, concern and compassion toward the person throughout the year. How can you go back to your “bad ways” and bad treatment of the other, on February 15? God, it has been said, is love. What then (Tina Turner singing in the back ground), does this one day have to do with it?

When religion goes bad, it goes all the way bad……

One thing about religion (any); is that when it goes bad, it goes very bad… For sure these folks aren’t in the least concerned about winning the public relations side of the war. Really, a “dog hostage”?…..And calling it a military victory granted by God?…Has it occurred to these geniuses that the dog does not know if he is  working for the USA, Japan, Russia or Australia?….We have surely entered the realm of the tragically absurd.

Taliban Kidnap Military Dog, Release Hostage Video……..http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/06/taliban-kidnap-military-dog_n_4742786.html

PhiIip Seymour Hoffman- I hear the acolades, I hear the tributes, and now…….

       I hear the accolades, I hear the tributes, and now I hear of the possible arrest of “drug pushers”.  I guess the story line that I am really waiting to hear, is the action taken by his friends who watched and did not take drastic, dramatic and demonstrative actions on his behalf. Perhaps they did act decisively and vigorously to his “obvious” decline over time; which is why I am waiting for that part of the story. We have truly entered the age of “non-confrontational” friendships. A twisted form of “live and let live”.  A criteria for friendship should be that we don’t have a false peace that allows you to engage in self-destructive behavior, while I watch. And then there is something twisted and shameful in the way our society can watch (and sometime cheer) as “celebrated personalities” engage in self- destructive behavior. The society becomes just another member of the entourage. I will never forget the words Mike Tyson once offered in an interview; he said that one day (in the height of his fame), he looked at some people who had been in his entourage for months (living the “good life” at his expense) and he realized that he had no knowledge of who these people were; in fact, he didn’t even know their names!  There must be some people in your life who like and love you, for you; not for what brings public adulation; for the person you really are; off of the stage. Clearly, despite his professional success this man was in some great psychological pain; a pain that worldly praise could not heal. But who knew, and who cared? “Public people”, are simply people, when they are “off-stage”; that means that they are subject to all of the doubts, insecurities and angst that challenges the peace in all of our lives.  Applause and awards are wonderful; but in this life you need friends as opposed to fans; friends who will go to great lengths to keep you safe and alive. Finally, talent, skills and creativity no matter how creative, is in my view always in danger of destroying its host; that is, if that “gifted person” is not tethered to a spiritual rational and purpose for expressing their expertise. We are all, the publicly celebrated, and the un-celebrated, awarded a gift and talent at birth; but the meaning for that gift of a gift can only be found in understanding of the divine “Gift-givers” calling on your life. The gift is not in the strictest sense, only for you. Rather, it is a gift that you must return; as your unique contribution, in service to the world. This thought, this appreciation, wrapped in a faith understanding; alone could strengthened the will to live.