The tragic experimentation with children of color should really stop…

“New York City Teachers’ Union Is Closing Portion of Its Brooklyn Charter School”—NY Times.

“The New York City teachers’ union announced on Friday that it was closing the kindergarten-to-eighth-grade portion of a charter school because of students’ low scores on state tests, ending an experiment intended to prove that such schools could thrive even with strict labor rules.”
“…When the U.F.T. Charter School opened in 2005, Mr. Mulgrew’s predecessor, Randi Weingarten, who is now the president of the American Federation of Teachers, pledged that it would “show real, quantifiable student achievement and with those results, finally dispel the misguided and simplistic notion that the union contract is an impediment to success.”

The only “good” news here is that hopefully this will help people (both inside and outside the profession) to understand that designing, and running a public school is a very difficult task. And it is even more difficult to make that school academically successful. At some point the communities that provide the children who are fed into these negative assortment of badly conceived experiments, would demand an end to these practices. The children of the poor and disenfranchised, need what all children who gain, rather than lose from their public school experience. A positive, safe and productive environment in which to learn; a singular focus on providing a good future possibility for the child, and not employment rights and privileges for adults; continuous access and exposure to high quality instructional, and school leadership practices; the ability to be engaged with the best resources, supplies, equipment and time to ensure a positive learning outcome; a school building where the adults love them, and then translate that love into acts of active, conscience and collective practices of efficacy.

Every time an “ill-fated”, adult orientated educational experiment starts, performs badly and then stops; it is the children who suffer the most. I would be extremely shocked if every one of those 50 “excessed” teachers are not comfortably placed somewhere in the system! The annual tragic and failed experimentation with “certain designated” children in our public school systems, should stop; but who is going to stop it?

“How Liberalism and Racism Are Wed”

This is pretty amazing! Most of the critiques of liberalism that comes from conservatives I find totally unusable, as they are not sincere about helping the working and unemployed poor; and they are definitely not committed to helping people of color. But this sister, approaching it from a progressive perspective, is on point! In public education we are forced to run back and forth between these two camps (liberal-conservative), and our children never get to realize a viable finish line.

How Liberalism and Racism Are Wed
By George Yancy and Falguni A. Sheth
February 27, 2015; N.Y. Times

Falguni A. Sheth, an associate professor of philosophy and political theory at Hampshire College. She is the author of “Toward a Political Philosophy of Race.”

George Yancy: Can you discuss your own view of your “racial” identity and how that identity is linked to your critical explorations into the philosophical and political significance of race?
Falguni A. Sheth: Until 2001, I thought of my identity in terms of ethnicity rather than race. I was an immigrant, and in the American imaginary, immigrants were rarely discussed in terms of race. After September 11, 2001, I tried to reconcile what I saw as the profound racist treatment of people (often Arabs and South Asians) who were perceived as Muslim, with a politically neutral understanding of “racial identity,” but it didn’t work. That’s when I began to explore race as a critical category of political philosophy, and as a product of political institutions. The biggest surprise was my coming to understand that “liberalism” and systematic racism were not antithetical, but inherently compatible, and that systemic racism was even necessary to liberalism. Soon after, I read Charles Mills’s “The Racial Contract,” which supported that view.

G.Y.: In what ways do you see liberalism and systemic racism as complementary?

F.A.S.: There isn’t a simple link. I am seen as a brown woman, but also as racially ambiguous, which has its own set of problems, as Linda Alcoff discusses. Gender is a key component of racial identity. I suppose that if I were less racially ambiguous, I might have been affected by the Asian “model minority” myth, which identifies Asian women as “good” or “docile,” or “smart.” But to both whites and nonwhites (including South Asians), my visible, physical self doesn’t easily lend itself to that stereotype.
The political framework of liberalism, which promises equality and universal protection for ‘all,’ depends on people to believe those promises, so that racial discrimination, brutality, violence, dehumanization, can be written off as accidental … rather than part of the deep structure of liberalism.
Racial identity is also complicated by class: I went to a public high school in a mostly Irish- and Polish-American working-class town with a large emerging population of brown and black kids: Puerto Ricans, migrant kids of Mexican, Colombian, Salvadoran, Nicaraguan, Brazilian and Portuguese descent. I felt more comfortable there with the brown kids than I did in my middle-class grammar school composed almost entirely of white kids, many of whom, as I realized only as an adult, were racial bullies. To this day, I exhibit personality traits which are stereotypically “Jersey working class,” which make it rather awkward to fit into the “genteel academic” circles in which I often find myself these days.
Aside from the cultural hostilities that are foisted upon brown people, my non-ambiguous brownness sensitizes me to the vulnerabilities — the lack of rights, security, safety, legal protection — of being nonwhite in a polity that understands “good” and “deserving” members as being white and upper- or at least middle-class men and women. I remember my mother being treated roughly by police when she was in a traffic accident and again, their indifference when she was targeted by the “Dotbusters,” a self-appointed gang of racial nationalists that was assaulting Asian Indians in northern New Jersey in the late 1980s.
When I was finally granted an interview for U.S. citizenship in December 2000, I asked a relative to accompany me in the event that there was trouble. The interview was demanded by the government during the American Philosophical Association meetings in December 2000 (it was virtually impossible to renegotiate the appointment without a long, punishing, delay). Despite a heavy snowfall, we arrived an hour early. The I.N.S. interviewer was over an hour late in opening up the office, and cheerfully told me that I was lucky he had decided to show up. Conversationally and with a broad smile, he told me a series of stories about the various applicants he had had deported, even if they — like myself — had been in the United States since they were toddlers or infants, even if they knew no one from their countries of birth, and even if they stood to be in danger there. He emphasized how few protections immigrants had, and his message was: The United States will deport without a second thought, and hey, it’s the immigrant’s problem, not theirs.
Through such experiences, I have come to understand identity not as racial, but racialized, through populations’ relations, and vulnerability, to the state, which also is the basis of my book. The political framework of liberalism, which promises equality and universal protection for “all,” depends on people to believe those promises, so that racial discrimination, brutality, violence, dehumanization, can be written off as accidental, incidental, a problem with the application of liberal theory rather than part of the deep structure of liberalism.
Electing one, two, or even 50 politicians or hiring multiple bureaucrats of color doesn’t end systemic racial inequality or discrimination, although it does provide a convenient (if superficial) defense against charges of racism.
My book attempts to show that racism, racial exclusion, racial violence, is part and parcel of liberalism. For example, we see the exclusions in early liberal writings: In John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government,” he discusses the social contract and the equal opportunity to “earn” property for everyone, except the “lunatics and idiots,” women, and “savages.” The treatise also offers a “just war” theory of slavery. Locke helped write the “Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina,” which afforded slave owners complete control over their slaves, alongside representative government. These key ideas are both, “compatibly,” in that document.

G.Y.: When you mention vulnerability to the state, I’m reminded of the American eugenics movement in the early 20th century. Is there a connection here? I’m also reminded of Michel Foucault’s concept of bio-power and its relevance within the American eugenics context. How does your work speak to this sort of policing of certain bodies?

F.A.S.: Certainly, that’s one example. Political vulnerability is intrinsic to any society, but the rhetoric of universal and equal protection conceals the systematic impulse to exclude certain populations at any given time. The groups who are vulnerable are subject to change, depending upon how threatening they are, and/or how useful it would be to those in power to discard them, In the early 1990s, the legal scholar Dorothy Roberts drew attention to how the bodies of American black women were policed. For example, if they were using drugs while pregnant, they were subject to being charged with crimes and thrown in prison. Vulnerability goes beyond bio-power.
Other examples include the internment of Americans, Peruvians and other Latin Americans of Japanese origin during the Second World War, or the deportation of Chinese migrants from the United States in the 1880s, and the disfranchisement of Asians from their United States-purchased land in the early 1900s. And needless to say, the wide-scale disfranchising of Muslims in the post-9/11 United States is but another recent example. In each of these cases, they are deprived of protections because they are perceived as threats in some way, and so they become — explicitly or not so explicitly — subject to laws intended to constrain, dehumanize, criminalize them. It is a gradual process, but they are increasingly vilified, demonized, dehumanized, which then rationalizes the move to strip them of protections under the mantle of “legality.” That is what my work explores.

G.Y.: Given the continuing racial tensions across the nation, how do you see these events as deep problems endemic to liberalism? Or, are such events just a “misapplication” of liberal theory?

F.A.S.: The charge of “misapplication” of liberal theory is, I think, a desire to see selectively — to see only the best possible articulation of liberalism. But liberal frameworks are fundamentally predicated on violence or on rationalizing its effects, such as the conquest of “terra nullius,” of justifying enslavement, or the privation of rights to “idiots,” “savages,” “women.” And it’s not just Locke’s theory that is a problem. Rousseau’s very beautiful “Social Contract” must be read alongside his novel, “Émile,” in which Sophie is raised to support Émile’s political existence as a true citizen. It is a remarkably sexist, if not misogynistic, understanding of women. But even more to the point, for Rousseau, these are not contradictory; they are rather compatible ideas.
While we can make corrections to “ideal” liberal theory, these corrections are at base additive. They don’t fundamentally restructure the foundation of liberal society — namely the promise of universal and equal protections alongside a systematic impulse to violence in the name of “civilizing” the heathens, or for the purposes of maintaining “law and order.” At base, this is what the killing of Michael Brown, and the ensuing encounters between the police and protesters in Ferguson, Mo., have exposed: peace, safety, recognition of one’s humanity, law, order, rights will be doled out — or withheld — only in terms that allow those in authority, those with wealth, to remain comfortable. Consider the recent Supreme Court decision to allow restrictive voter ID requirements in Texas — which hurts the poorest citizens. But — and here’s the kicker — until we confront the repeated incidents of dehumanization as systematic, and not just a proliferation of accidental violations of humanity, we won’t be able to address or challenge the fundamental flaw of liberalism: the “compatibility” between the promise of universal protections for some groups, and violence for others.

G.Y.: The discourse of a “post-racial” and a “colorblind” America has been invoked since the election of President Obama. How do you see white power and white privilege as continuing to operate as sites of white sovereign authority?

F.A.S.: The idea of a “post-racial” United States is quite bizarre, but it seems to reflect a narrative of distraction: Electing one, two, or even 50 politicians or hiring multiple bureaucrats of color doesn’t end systemic racial inequality or discrimination, although it does provide a convenient (if superficial) defense against charges of racism. It also assumes that those politicians or functionaries are actively interested and focused — let alone “authorized” or empowered — to change racially problematic policies. In itself, that is a problematic assumption to make, since racism is systemic and deeply embedded in cultural outlooks, laws, ways of life, traditions.
The political philosopher Charles Mills’s understanding of white supremacy is useful here. Mills uses the term to note that the social contract is predicated on a racial hierarchy where whites are at the top, and blacks and nonwhites below. I want to clarify that, in terms of political institutions, “whiteness” is a category of power based on a general, but not universal, correlation between those in power and general racial identity. In my work, “whiteness” is not about any individual specifically but about groups in power, and it is negotiated and contoured by factors of gender, class, ethnic identity, and institutional and historical factors — such as how certain groups are understood at various moments.
In “post-racial” America, white supremacy continues by ensuring that those in bureaucratic, lawmaking, executive, policy-making functions continue to do what those in the top 5 percent — and others who benefit from white supremacy — need to remain on top: ensure that bankers are not punished; pretend that minorities weren’t duped into taking on subprime loans or balloon-payment mortgages; justify rampant invasive surveillance and warmongering in the name of national security; and arrest and detain immigrants — not just adults, but children! Laws and policies that support these events enable at least two things: the siphoning of money away from poorer, darker, vulnerable, vilified populations who have been subject to racism, violence, police brutality and a distraction from the real, everyday problems that affect those populations.
Even in “post-racial” America, the U.S. government has continued to wage war on Muslims and Arab populations: detainees still remain in Guantánamo Bay without charges. Some of them are still being force-fed, but the United States military deliberately no longer offers updates on their status; the current administration has created the “disposition matrix,” and expanded the drone program, which has killed hundreds, if not thousands of Yemeni, Somali and Pakistani civilians. And there is a noticeable absence of a reprimand for the most recent Israeli attacks on Gaza. There is vocal, visible support for these policies, not through invocations of racism but through appeals to national security or “helping bring democracy” to “backwards” regions, through justifications about saving “women and children” or innocent “civilians.” The institutional effect is that Muslims and Arabs and South Asians are still systematically suffering at a greatly disproportionate rate to any possible “transgressions.” It seems that “post-racial” America continues to racialize and dehumanize.

G.Y.: How does an epistemology of ignorance work within this context — in, for instance, the comparison between the experience of black Americans and Asian-Americans?

F.A.S.:As Mills has argued (and as many feminist philosophers and philosophers of race argue), pervasive racial inequality — understood within the frames of legal, social, political systems — persists because “whites themselves are unable to understand the world that they themselves have made.” Here’s what that looks like: “Slavery’s over. Why are we still discussing it? What does this have to do with poverty? After all, look at all those Asian immigrants: They’re not asking for handouts. They’re doing very well for themselves.”
But such a comparison ignores history and context: Asians who migrated post-1965 to 1985 were a different class of migrants. They were migrating as professionals, or for graduate study, and did not have a history of slavery in the United States, nor a vivid history of racism (ironically, because they were almost entirely prevented from migrating to the United States for 40 years, and therefore were largely invisible). They were not migrating on H1B-visas, as many South Asians do today (which restrict access to the full complement of economic and legal protections that permanent residents are eligible to receive). Such a comparison also doesn’t acknowledge that white wealth was built not only on the backs of black slaves, but on the backs of their “free” and mightily persecuted descendants, nor that whites as a group benefit from not being recipients of racist treatment. And of course, it neglects the very pointed goal of redlining, which was to block the entry of blacks into white neighborhoods, and thereby access to better schools for their children, among other benefits. It neglects the specific history of targeted harassment toward blacks, whether in the South, or after they migrated North, as Ta-Nehisi Coates details in his excellent Atlantic article about reparations.
And perhaps most importantly, such a comparison falsely focuses on poverty and wealth as a consequence of individual character, rather than as the result of policies that benefit those who already have, while hurting those who have little. This is why I think discussing racism as a “matter of the heart,” or individual cultural attitudes is useful but limiting. It inhibits us from considering systemic analyses, and thereby systemic solutions to systemic problems.

G.Y.: There are some theorists who continue to want to reduce race to class. My sense is that W.E.B. Du Bois was correct regarding his claim that even poor whites possess whiteness. Do you think that such a distinction has any relevance in our contemporary moment in American history?

F.A.S.: In “Black Reconstruction in America” (1935), Du Bois discussed the wages of whiteness paid to white workers by the Southern white bourgeoisie — through the vehicle of racial apartheid — in order to divide and conquer the working class, and get white and black workers to hate and fear each other, despite, as he says, “their practically identical interests.” There is certainly truth in the claim for today, but it also depends on context, geography, historical moment, and situation—and the racial perspectives of those in power.
Poor whites won’t be racially profiled by white police, or store clerks, or white or nonwhite landlords to the same degree as darker men across economic classes will be. Yet, thinking institutionally, because economic policies adversely impact those who are already disadvantaged, poor blacks and poor whites will both suffer that impact. However, those in power and positions of authority will most often blame working-class and poor blacks for various moral character flaws. We have seen it countless times: from Daniel Moynihan’s infamous 1965 report which traces poverty to character flaws of African-Americans to Ronald Reagan’s vilification of poor black women who then came to be referred to as “welfare queens,” to President Obama’s multiple admonitions to black men to be more responsible fathers. This is despite the fact that we have ample evidence illustrating that black men are incarcerated six times as often as white men, and that they suffer from racial profiling and discrimination and unfair laws like “stop and frisk,” which collectively inhibit them from finding employment, housing or economic success. Presumably, if poor blacks suffer from “character flaws,” then so do poor whites and other populations of color, but we rarely hear the same moral admonitions directed towards them.

G.Y.: Lastly, from what you’ve argued, engaging in a critical overthrow of white supremacy as a system will certainly involve a systemic approach. Yet, people of color must deal with virulent manifestations of white racism on an everyday basis, even enacted by “well-intentioned” whites.

F.A.S.: Certainly. Those, it seems to me, are but symptoms of institutional aggressions, manifestations of virulent racism that are expressed through the larger structures of our society. How can those aggressions disappear without the simultaneous coextensive reform of our larger juridical, legal institutions, federal laws and policies that, at some level, endorse and approve those micro-aggressions? While it is important to note those micro-aggressions, I think, reform, redress, has to occur at the macro-level, with policies that address socio-economic, political change. Many people take their cues from the laws under which they live; if the laws reflect respect and dignity, then…

Knowledge is power, and is a powerful life-saver, for some of us…

“Knowledge Isn’t Power”… Paul Krugman; NY Times…

A Black or Latino parent would be insane to accept that assertion; because if so, they would be setting their children up for economic and political oppression, and perhaps even, prison and/or death. First, it is important to consider the source: Mr. Krugman to his credit, is a Noble laureate; B.S., M.S. Ph.D. economist; college professor; and NY Times columnist. Well, at first glance, it seems that knowledge didn’t hurt him that much! But now consider the confusing argument. Because some people cynically cast obtaining an education or knowledge in the role of the end all, and be all of acquiring political power, does not dismiss or diminish the power of education in the hands of the nations designated powerless class. There is also the confusing message of conflating the false concept of: American workers who need to be retrained so that they can be rehired (to those good middle class jobs?); with the terrible state of bad and inherently inadequate education that afflicts the poor, and the people of color in our nation. These are those who never had the first job to be under-skilled, out-skilled, out-sourced, out of, in the first place. The huge forgotten number of young Black and Latino males who are, and continue to be forever connected to the criminal justice system; or that Black and Latino teenager who either dropped out, or who received a 6th grade education masquerading as a high school graduation. Will a solid, standards based, meaningful and knowledge rich education propel these people into the captainships of American industry and politics, of course not. But these children (and later adults) can’t begin to think about political power, when they are daily facing a horrific and debilitating way of life. There is a terrible reality that the writer fails to acknowledge. The people with power design a system for their children, and the children who look like their children to have an excellent access to knowledge; that knowledge in turn prepares them to assume the positions of power. The Black, Brown and poor children however must fight their way through an obstacle course of 2nd rate powerless education; they in turn pass on this poor education (and designed to keep them poor) to their children, in the same way that it was passed on to them. The “power trick” here is that they never create enough academic-knowledge winners that would allow them to have a critical mass of critical thinkers, who could really challenge the power and economic structure of this nation.

The southern slave states legal prohibitions against the “book” education of slaves serves to describe education and knowledge, in its most fundamental motivational terms. Beyond the practical aspects of slaves being able to read maps, decipher written messages for: “white folks only”, or to circulate resistance and rebellion information amongst themselves. There was an even greater power in education and knowledge that the slavers feared; and that is when that slave learns to read, and is able to understand the world in an enlighten way, and maybe even read some incendiary documents like the Declaration of Independence; that slave would no longer be fit to be a good and trusted slave; there was always the possibility, that this knowledge would suggest a humanity, a feeling of equality, and most dangerously—a feeling of power.

Perhaps “knowledge is power” (like “no child left behind”) is for some a convenient throwaway line. But for the poor and disenfranchised of this nation (who don’t stand to inherit a billion dollars); education is neither a punch, nor a throwaway line; it is in fact, a very life line to our having a chance at something close to a decent and fundamentally humane life. Maybe, that is something some of our more educated citizens (including liberals), just might take for granted. As for this former Brooklyn kid who went on to become a NYC teacher, principal and Superintendent; education saved me from the negative power of the streets; and so I can’t see it in any way except as a transformational and powerful force. Education may not be the total power we want; but for the survival of Black and Latino kids; it sure is a powerful self-esteem and intellectual building force. And in many cases a possible lifesaving activity. And even if education does not get us the power we want right away, I think our children are better off with it, then without it.

I could see how for many students of color, it would be better off just staying home.

“The Rise of Homeschooling Among Black Families”…

Of course one thought that might emerge: “With the millions of Black American children suffering, not learning and wasting away in our nation’s public school systems; will 220,000 children make a difference, is the effort worth it?

I once visited a poorly functioning high school and had a terrible thought; a thought, that fortunately I kept to myself. In this case I simply took the advice I have offered students for many years: “Just because an idea enters your brain, you do realize that you are under no obligation to express that idea.” For those reasons I never expressed my strategically held “secret” thoughts in my meeting with the school leadership team, after the tour. And so the thought I held secret was this: “Instruction is so poorly delivered and received in this high school, at what point do we stop calling: “not-a-school”, well, not a school?” Students when they did arrive to class, arrived late and disrupted any brave attempt a teacher might try to make at teaching a lesson.” Further, I said (again to myself): “so much of the time of the school’s poorly evidenced instructional and learning practice was lost over the course of a day; that I am not sure that if the students in this school would not do any worse (and might even do better); if they simply stayed home, watched Sesame Street, was given books, science kits and a computer?” “They could”, I mused, “possibly even learn something!” (I admit that was not a nice thought, but it accurately portrayed how I felt at the time!) That memory came to mind as I read this article on the Black Family Home schooling movement. I posted the article on Facebook and the following commentaries emerged:

Chryssey A. Schloss-Allen(CASA): Interesting. I’m sure many people in NYC want to do this especially with such competition and poor school choices left to the black community. Too bad you can’t open a small 3-student home school for people with standard work schedules.

MAJ.: After seeing (for so many years) the amount of harm visited on children of color in our public school systems; I have grown in appreciation of this movement. Even if the parents are “less than experts”, they can do a heck of a lot better than a lot of these schools. Particularly in that critical area of: high expectations. I say that even as I love the unrealized potential of public education; and knowing the pedagogical importance of socialization in the education of the child. Hey at this point, I say: save your children! I am going to do more in supporting these parents.

CASA: Maybe I’ll start a weekend science program in the nearer future. I know enough about basic biology and I can technically teach it up to a point. Most I’d need help with is physics and astronomy. I know where to get inexpensive microscopes and free samples and other kits. I have a telescope and I know people who can teach robotics/computer skills. I actually want more kids to be home schooled or at least have access to supplemental education. Low income does not equal mentally challenged.

Candace Howe: let me know if you need help in chemistry/anatomy & physiology.

CASA: Definitely!

This conversation made me think about something I have learned from my 30+ public education journey. That is, unless the parents and communities for whom the public school systems of this nation has, and continues to tragically fail their children, decide to take an uncompromising stand. The poor, missing, 2nd rate and inadequate educational experiences will continue. Waiting and expecting for help from Black leadership is, to borrow a line from Bob Marley, like: “waiting in vain.” In fact the most current and efficient deniers of a quality Black child educational experience, will more than likely be delivered from the hands of those who look like the children. Black parents may need to be the Black leadership that saves and protects Black children in this nation. This (public education) thing is like a war; complete with victors, losers, casualties and collectors of huge amounts of money despite the overwhelming amount of academic failure. And it is a war that must be fought on many fronts. But I feel that the first, and most important front is the child’s home; and however parents choose to fight on that “front”, I think it is a worthwhile effort. I was reminded of a recent post by Uche Blackstock where she was taking her child on a trip to the Brooklyn Museum. I responded: “Great Job! In terms of student academic achievement. The quality of “informal” educational experiences. are equally as important as the quality of “formal” education experiences.” My mother did not have the level of formal education achievement by the three young ladies I mention in this post; and yet her “mother wit”, combined with a clear understanding of why she left her native land in the Caribbean to come to America; told her to encourage and support my visits to that same Brooklyn Museum; the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the Brooklyn Zoo. All of these places planted a thought (that grew over the years); that there was a big and exciting world beyond my Brooklyn Crown Heights neighborhood; and most important, I wanted to learn about that world! We absolutely need parents with the skills to teach their own children at home. But all parents regardless of their level of education can choose to encourage and inspire their children, starting at home. One single child is important, because in my mothers case, the educational support of one child, led to the educational support of thousands of children she would never see; and who benefitted from her actions long after her death. Yes, saving even one child, or 220,000 children is very much worth it!

Love has absolutely everything to do with it (and us)

“So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

At the heart and art of love is compassion, service and ultimately sacrifice. There is not one day that love is not with us; or available to us; available to be given away by us. Now sacrifice is the least respected course of action in a society that demands that self-reward—self-gratification must serve as the highest value; and yet in some way it remains the most noble (albeit unbelievable) of all human actions. The model of course is the Cross:

“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”

But (and this is the hard part) the decision to save oneself; is the loss of other selves; the irony is that we cannot find our “selves”, unless we lose our selves to something greater than ourselves. Our selves will one day depart this existence; what then can we call our life, if it did not generate many good results for the world!

“The greatest happiness in life is in knowing that others love us, for ourselves, or rather, they love us in spite of ourselves.” –Victor Hugo

The great challenge is that we are called to love actual people; and therein lays the struggle; people (including us) are not always “lovable,” or even emotionally available to be loved; and yet they never cease to be worthy of love. If God loves humans; then why can’t we?

Selfishness is the mother of self-hurt that ultimately leads to the hurt of others. If we cannot cease to engage in self-hurt; than we cannot stop from hurting others; for their presence reminds our selfish-self of what is missing from inside of us; and brings up what we misunderstand as to what is really important outside of ourselves. If we really think about it our suffering is not caused by the other (no matter how badly they behave); rather they are acting as a mirror, reflecting everything we feel is missing from our lives.

The great lie that leads to despair and anger, is that we could possibly be “alone” on a planet that is home to billions of people, who are facing billions of challenges to becoming fully human. The only possible problem is that there is so much work to do, and too little of us.

Waiting on love, is like waiting for a bus that will never arrive; nor is love the destination that the bus promises to deliver us. Love is a good-friend, a God-Friend that never leaves us, or forsakes us; “in spite of ourselves”!

Notes on the Nightly Blues

“Nobody loves me but my mother
And she could be jivin’ too
Yes, nobody, nobody loves me but my mother
And she could be jivin’ too
Now you know why I act so funny with you, baby
When you do the things you do”

B. B. King understood that love could be conditional, and something you can’t always be sure of; a good lesson for all who are forced to sell themselves in the market place of contrived importance. And now, concerning the sad plight and downward flight of the NBC news anchor. It is the strange act of the news industry reporting on, but not really telling on itself. The truth is that the line between news-reporting and news-entertainment was crossed long before Mr. William’s tenure; and to be fair to him, he is (literally) the product, not the cause of the problem. The “news-reporting” industry creates its own false set of narratives like: “broken Washington”, “both the Republicans and the POTUS have a health care plan to critique”, and not calling the planed Netanyahu visit for what it really is; and then they repeatedly cover these stories to reinforce their own interpretations. I imagine that Boko Haram must be wondering: “What level of atrocities do we need to commit, to get serious international press attention”. It is as an insincere effort on the part of corporate journalism, as is their claim to: “journalistic objectivity”. The hypocrisy is the pretending that all of the nightly news programs are not all made up for entertainment purposes. (In my best Claude Rains voice) “I am shocked, just shocked that inauthentic news reporting is going on at NBC!” This world is a circus that is only waiting for the next trick; or the next accidental fall. They both draw an equal amount of applause. And then there are people like Marshawn Lynch and Kanye West who have figured that out; for they both are wise to the absurdity of this society, and play the game to their advantage. The “celebrity” who engages in quiet acts of kind and compassionate service, won’t come near the number of social media “hits” and news coverage they could acquire by doing something stupid, or acting “off the script”. The entertainment business has efficiently trained us the consumers to generously feed at the trough of the meaningless, irrational and silly story; but also important is the story of the famous brought down to share in the miserable existence of ordinary life. Ok, everyone (with an ordinary life) can feel better now. But unlike Mr. Williams the ordinary unemployed don’t have a huge fortune to carry them through a job lost. And there are a lot of people in this nation who are painfully struggling to live each year off of the $20,000 fine Mr. Lynch so casually “grabbed” from his NFL bosses. Act contrary, do the wrong thing, tell a half, or full lie; or don’t speak at all; it can all be made to work in America. Just as long as celebrities know that they are useful only as long as they are marketable; and then you are dumped for the next sellable product. The “counter-culture” is the center, and not counter to this financial culture. This market-driven society ultimately reduces anything worthwhile to “entertainment”; that is its strength, and that is also its sadness. If the culture-controllers were really serious about getting information to us, they would make Jon Stewart the NBC nightly news anchor; maybe then we could get some real news!

Journal excerpt: Miles apart, and yet so close…

February 10, 2015

I convinced myself that “bucket list”* carried with it a negative connotation, as in “kicking the bucket” and so I have stop using it. In a sense (to stay with the kicking metaphor); I am kicking the bucket list to the curb**. I am also yes, working very hard at kicking the habit*** of negative-speak. And so instead of fulfilling a kick the bucket list, I prefer the idea of filling the bucket list (this presumes that we have never completed our work in this life; and therefore our “bucket” is never completely full. Or as I wrote in my creative writing class project (posted on this site); life is like a play and we simply end one act to start another. Somewhere we are convinced that there is this thing called “life”; which we live vigorously and engagingly for a while; and then rest and retire from it. But I am having a hard time seeing things from that perspective. I think that we can be passionate and bold (the real antidote to feeling “old”) about projects that will continue our calling in another format. The only real retirement in my view is death; and then, who knows? But back to my Creative writing class at Miles college. I am so honored, humbled, inspired and energized by the young people in my class. First, because they are so smart, creative, thoughtful and wise beyond their ages. And although we are Miles apart in age and experience; I have become their student as they bring me into a better understanding of how young people see the world. And even as Alabama once again finds a way to be a source of negative national news; these young people seem to be focused on the idea that they would not stand in the door of denial to oppose another person’s definition of love; even if that view was in opposition to their religious beliefs. As one student stated: “Why don’t we just let God handle it!” Now that was an interesting idea; that is, the idea of God being able to handle something! And then we discussed the idea of: who created the hierarchy of sins anyway? Why is denying the poor access to health care in Alabama, not a greater sin, since it is actually (unlike your marriage) does great harm to many other people? Why is committing adultery (defined as any sex outside of marriage) in a heterosexual relationship not sinful enough to deny marriage to any of its violators? With all of the things wrong with Alabama why are resources and energy of the state’s leaders devoted to a nullification effort; and not dedicated to helping (not cutting) education, lifting the poor, and creating jobs for the many unemployed; good questions! I wondered if a simple theology of “good and evil” and “do’s and don’ts” will work with these young people, as they see so many contradictions in the people who claim Christian “goodness”, those who say that they do, but really don’t! I left he class yesterday thinking that perhaps if our species can manage to stick around long enough, we could possibly make this thing work. There is in the hearts and minds of young folk a hope; even if they don’t recognize it as hope, it is there. And so this is what I want to share with my fellow 60+ 2nd actors; take a college class in a subject totally unrelated to your previous profession; take a course in something you have been thinking about doing for years, but never had, or made the time. I guarantee that you will learn much more than what is outlined in the course syllabus. You will learn something about the future, that place where hope in the hearts of the young becomes reality.

*A list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying. From the phrase kick the bucket (to die); Mariam-Webster
** kick someone/thing to the curb–North American Informal: Reject or Cast aside; Oxford Dictionary
*** A habit is something that you do regularly, and if it is not good it is very difficult to change or stop even if you want to do so. The meaning of the idiom to kick a habit is to be successful in stopping it.; Awesome-idioms

A flirtation checked by realty, is over…

Ok, the “flirtation”; and ultimately the relationship is over (“Well”, I can hear LT saying: “That didn’t last long” :-) Two weeks ago I saw what I now know was a “mild” segment of: “Bring it!” (aka: The Dancing Dolls out of Jackson Ms.). I wrote to ______ that I thought it had some very positive aspects; i.e. working hard for a goal, positive mentoring of young people, providing young people with creative vehicles for artistic expression, service to others, etc. But last night I saw the show slip into the “traditional” ghettoization, minstrel reality show antics; complete with the negative and contrived ugly conflicts. The women instructors may be successful at teaching the young ladies good dance moves; but not so good in teaching the qualities of respect, reverence and the responsibility of giving one’s best for the competition, without exhibiting rancor. While watching last night’s segment my mind traveled back to the high school FIRST* Robotics competitions I attended and entered teams. No one who ever attended a FIRST competition could possibly leave that space and not know that the competition was powerful, intense and fierce. And yet there are some very clear ethical guidelines as to how student competitors, adult mentors-coaches, and spectators can behave with their own team, and with the student competitors of other teams. But FIRST takes it a step further. Both before and during the competition a team can earn points by helping another competing team. The idea being that: (1) All teams are in the ultimate “competition” of building STEM capacity for the betterment of our planet. (2) “Wining” is not a fixed and limited concept; winning can mean coming in first in the competition, but also coming in first as powerful moral and ethical practitioners. (3) Scientific invention and innovation best evolve, when it involves science practitioners communicating with each other. And it is that counterintuitive idea in our “beat down the competition’s personhood” society; that says, you actually do better when others do better; imagine that! I honestly believe, with a little more thoughtful effort, that we could teach these young ladies to be fiercely competitive, and at the same time display a recognition that the other competing team’s members in the final analysis are their sacred sisters, who like them are struggling to create sense out of the restrictive nonsense that our society inflicts on talented young Black people. The show also brought out what I now see is a very common trait in a place and people for whom “Church” and “Christianity” is more of a social, rather than a religious and spiritual experience. Here, people can act and be: “full of hell”; and then go directly into: “In Jesus name!” The role models: In places like Alabama and Mississippi there is a dominance of the “religious right” who are in control of the state’s legislative and executive branches of government. They profess to be Christians, at least let them tell it, as they invoke “God” all of the time. And yet there is little evidence of any kind of passion for a Christian compassion on behalf of the suffering poor of these states. Finally, I thought that the creative choreography, the rehearsal struggles & triumphs, the level of intensity and sacrifices on the part of all of the teams in preparing for the competitions, was more than enough drama for me. But then again the show is probably not created with someone like me in mind…. But, at least I watched it, and I tried to “bring it”. The “it” being of course, hope!


Color Conscious, Color and Consciousness… What’s your (child’s) favorite color?


“Is this a museum or a school?”

I have always wondered why even as young child I have been drawn to the color purple. Oddly, as a youngster in the church I waited in great anticipation for the Lenten season, not for theological reasons (for which I had a Sunday school level understanding of the season) but because the altar, the clergy and the interior of the church would be draped and decorated in purple. (And don’t tell my wonderful childhood Sunday school teachers this; but I must admit that as an adult I have always found any woman who is dressed in purple, more attractive! :-)
But thinking seriously and deeply about the color (not the movie) purple, and how I respond to its presence. But also thinking about colors in general. And wondering what implications do “colors” have and hold for pedagogy? Can we learn more efficiently through our “inclination” color? What are the effects of schools being drowned in drab/greyish “intuitional colors”, are we hindering learning and creativity? Delaying the emergence of creative artistic talent in the artistically gifted students? And what of schools filled with “artless” (heartless?) walls? Could we expand the intellectual possibilities for students if we expand the presence of color in multiple frameworks? Does color have the ability to “speak” a special message to an individual student; and to groups of specific students? And how should we deal with the reality that color can work in the opposite way, by over stimulating and distracting certain types of students. And how should we deal with color in special/regular education inclusion-integrated classes? And is there some kind of kinship awareness for those who share a dominant color attraction? What is happening on the “inside”, based on the color “outside”? Perhaps, we need to add much more color to schools (through works of art?) in the same way we think about multiple intelligences(assess and discover a student’s color?); make sure that every day, that every student, and every staff person gets an opportunity to encounter their own color! Did the dominant school color of Science Skills Center, H.S. affect the collective consciousness of the students? Did the Art and Architecture of Phelps ACE, H.S. have the same unconscious effect on those students. I remember so well that once a middle school 8th grade group was touring Phelps; and in the Q & A period a student ask the question: “Is this a museum or a school?” An interesting, and authentically honest adolescent question. First, because it made me think that a museum is very much an informal (but essential) school. And maybe a school and museum should look like each other? But the young man’s question was important for another reason; I think it said so much about how students experience the “look” of a school, and then connect that look to a meaning, function and purpose!

From: What Does Your Favorite Color Say About You?

Purple is associated with spirituality, royalty, creativity and courage. Throughout the ages, royalty and religious leaders wore purple. Roman generals donned purple togas, and today military heroes are awarded the Purple Heart. People who love the color purple are empathic, intuitive, spiritual, strong and imaginative. Wearing purple helps us to go within and takes our meditative practice to a deeper level. Purple helps us feel more loving toward ourselves and others. Created from blue and red, purple is both calming and passionate as it helps us get in touch with our true purpose. If you’re struggling with opening your intuition or bringing your yoga or meditative practice to the next level, try wearing purple. If you love this color best, you won’t be happy working a 9 – 5 job for the paycheck. Your work must have meaning to you. At your heart, you are a humanitarian.


The academic achievement games just keep changing….

“Kentucky is considering the implementation of an enhanced high school diploma, called Kentucky Rising, which could take effect as soon as the 2016-2017 school year. The new diploma would allow graduates to receive scholarships as well as early college admissions through criteria showing their readiness to enter the global work force.”

Sounds innocent enough………

I guess that some folks do believe in a common core of standards after all….. As long, that is, as those common high standards are not commonly applied. When there is a qualitative title change in the definition and designation of a diploma; there is always an associated qualitative and quantitative change in the knowledge and skills that separate the “enhanced diploma”, from the less than enhanced diplomas (or why call it enhanced!) The communities led by leaders suffering from a shortage of educational literacy and interest, will miss the underlying rational for this move. The least knowledgeable and politically disconnected parents will miss it. And the students least prepared to earn this new diploma will probably miss out on receiving it. This new “enhanced” diploma will have a common list of standard content and skills; sounds like a “common core” of standards to me. The truth(open secret) is that a national “common core of standards has always existed; and these standards are measured by the: AP, SAT (PSAT), ACT (PLAN), LSAT, MCAT, GRE, AHPAT, DAT, GMAT, MAT, OAT, VCAT, along with thousands of state based standardized “screening” exams i.e. NYC Specialized High School Exam, etc. K-12 standardized exams presently exist to screen (keep out), and place children (based on the education they have received) into future “life opportunity tracks”. They are not designed to discover student talents, and focus the quality of instruction in an appropriate and effective way. The children and communities who are the least aware of the already existing common core rigorous standards; are the students who are most likely not receiving these high common standards. When I hear folks protest the “common core standards”; what they really mean in many cases is, don’t lower the high common standards to a lower common denominator of standards; and thus slowing and hindering my child’s access to a rigorous educational experience. It is interesting that some of the most agitated “protesting” common core standards states; are states with some of the lowest academic achievement performance levels in the nation. But more to the point; the universal implementation of real high common standards would expose the gross separate and unequal quality of education that presently exist in our public schools; this revelation would be so shocking and startling, that even the most least involved parents would be moved to march to their neighborhood schools, and demand a better education for their children.
See more at:

Meanwhile, the college football game changes not…..New Playoffs, but the same old exploited payoffs…

“Front Row? Too Far Away
Universities Sell ‘Experiences’ That Allow Fans to Connect Directly With Teams”—NY Times

“Some of the auctions have been won for less than $100, others for thousands of dollars. The record price on the site run by CBS Sports was $15,800, for sideline passes and entry to a party before Southern California’s 2008 football game against Ohio State…”

Even in a rotten no good NCAA system, the HBCU’s are at a disadvantage. Yesterday, as always I watched the annual Army-Navy game. It is so enjoyable to watch a real college varsity sports game; being played by true scholar athletes. There is no reason we can’t have true student athletes compete on the college level (oops forgot all of the money being made by everybody except the students!) The good news for all of those playing in the Army-Navy game is that all of these young men have a professional future ahead of them. Unlike the majority of “big time” college football players who will be exploited for their talents for 4-5 years; and then they will be shown the door; they will never see the inside of an NFL stadium except as an admission paying fan.