Sean Combs and one very uncommon core curriculum…


“Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs says UCLA kettlebell incident that led to arrest was self-defense”—LA Times

Although the full details of the incident in question has not been fully presented; a particular section from the LA Times article caught my attention; and like any good recipient of a rigorous High School Common Core Education; I thought about some wider issues and implications:

“…Justin Combs, who graduated from Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y., in 2012, accepted a full merit-based athletic scholarship to play football at UCLA…”

And so I did a little research:

“Today, Iona Prep continues to fulfill this vision and develop young men who are exceptionally well prepared for college while possessing the moral core necessary to be a leader in a society that often does not promote Catholic values. Our Christian Brother education, which permeates the entire program at Iona Prep, is counter-cultural. Iona Prep educates young men at a time in which self-promotion, consumerism, selfishness and personal gratification are the most visible values that adolescents see. In contrast, the Essential Elements of a Christian Brothers’ education defines an education which gives our young men the courage, moral strength and intellectual tools to be leaders in today’s society…”

Student: Teacher Ratio 12:1

% of Faculty w/ Advance Degrees 85%

Number of AP Courses offered: 16

Extra Curricula Activities:
Art Club, Bagpipes, Campus Ministry, Christian Service, Film Club, Gael Force (Newspaper), Gaelic Society, Gamers Republic, Habitat for Humanity, Italian Club, Jazz Ensemble, Math Team, Mock Trial, Music Club, Music Ministry, Peer Counseling, Philosophy Club, Photography Club, Prep Players and Stage Crew, Prep Reps, Recording Studio, Rock Climbing, Rock Ensemble, S.A.D.D., Spanish Club, Speech and Debate

Athletic Programs:
Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Crew, Cross Country Track, Football, Gulf, Ice Hockey, Lacrosse, Soccer, Swimming, Tennis, Outdoor Track & Field, Volleyball, Indoor (Winter) Track & Field and Wrestling.

And then there is a strong moral, ethical and spiritual component to the curriculum; that reflects the best progressive traditions of the Catholic church:

“…Proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Permeate the entire curriculum, activities, and all aspects of the educational process with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Encourage young people to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ…”


“…Stand in Solidarity with those Marginalized by Poverty and Injustice. Promote policies and structures that reflect a climate of compassion for the poor and disadvantaged. Include education and advocacy for peace, justice, global awareness, and care for the Earth. Prepare students to work toward the creation of a just society. Encourage ministry experiences that work with and serve the poor and marginalized…”

From what I can tell (without the benefit of a visit) the school is a very strict, but well-balanced, focused, values rich, academically rigorous, and orderly school….Sounds good to me! But I keep returning to this idea that: A lot of “regular” folks are raising their children educationally to be like celebrities, without some academic achievement to celebrate! And tragically, also like non-scholarly athletes. And then I keep discovering these many celebrities (and I praise, and applaud the attention they give to the quality of their children’s education!) who are raising their children like purposeful, well-rounded and focused scholars (who could also be athletes). What’s up with that?


I told a reporter once, when we were discussing this topic; that whoever finds and reports the “real” graduation rate for ________ school district, should automatically earn a Pulitzer!

Ok Mike, not to make excuses for Chicago (“Chicago Public Schools have been mislabeling dropouts, getting them off the books and out of the graduation rate. CPS now says it will stop the practice…”– NPR); but misleading (as in false), purposely obscure and confusing graduation rates, is a national school district: Standard Operating Procedure. And that would include the little known middle school dropout rate, because these students are not usually counted, if they are counted at all, until their cohort reaches the 12th grade. And, as bad as these graduation rates may appear, they are actually much, much worse! The reason school districts are very eager and adept at this art of deception; is the belief that journalist and politicians will just not invest the time and money in finding out the real graduation rate (they might actually be forced to do something about it!).

Also, even though students of poverty, and students of color are the most adversely affected by these huge (real) dropout rates, I think that even the general tax-paying public, finding out the real high school dropout rate, might be shocked and angered into demanding demonstrative change; if not for matters of morality, at least for that fact that a huge amount of their money is being wasted.

But, (sorry, I know I never make these things simple) the misleading dropout rate is only one-third of the graduation rate problem. A school district can offer multiple standards for gradation from: “I am on my way to college”; “I am prepared for some type of career and meaningful employment”; to the “digestive system” student: “I am just passing through to graduation by meeting middle school standards” (you know I had to throw in a little science!)

Further, the “fake” graduation rate would be reduced even more if students were honestly forced to meet true high school (any high school in America) standards. School districts maintain elaborate (and costly) systems of disingenuous “credit recovery” programs; where high school students can earn credits for classes they failed by attending some iteration (summer, afternoon, evening, weekends, etc.) of these programs; and in some cases whole schools have this approach as their school philosophy and procedures. The criteria for passing these classes: (1) the student shows up, and (2) the student has a pulse.

It helps that the students most adversely affected by this travesty, are the children of parents and communities that are the least organized politically to put a stop to this shameful system that is destroying their children. That is why in places like Chicago, they can close a historical percentage of schools, and then be on the verge of bankruptcy! How does this happen? There is just no one Black or White who knows what questions to ask (or they do, and are not asking them!); or, even know if any questions should be raised at all.

But the good news on US graduation rates (I wanted to end on an upbeat tone); is that colleges and business employers, offer public schools a subsidy parachute, by providing high school “graduates” with the skills, and content knowledge that many of them should have learned in high school; and of course, the criminal-social service industry is always ready to pick up the rest of those dream denied young dropouts.

The NYPD recruitment of Black Officers: It is very hard to find what you are not looking for!

“NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton says it’s hard to hire black cops because too many have criminal histories”—NY Daily News

Mr. Bratton and I have the opposite problem. Around the house, I usually can’t find what I am looking for; and in his case he can’t find what he is not looking for. As a former NYC principal I can assure you that there are plenty of Black and Latino young people who are capable and eligible for any type of civil service career. It is just a matter of identification, encouragement, cultivation and preparation.

The cynical Irony of this entire scenario, is that the NYPD along with our Borough District Attorney’s offices are systemically structured to nail young Black and Latino men and women who can’t afford bail even if they are innocent, and then they often “plea out” to a felony charge, with less, little or no jail time; however that decision makes them ineligible, if not unattractive for any type of meaningful employment (civil or otherwise). In a cruel sense, it is policing policies that are creating the very problems that they claim are preventing them from diversifying their ranks. Now, Work with that awhile!


Mr. Bratton only need to travel a few miles north to West Point, or take a day trip to Annapolis; to get some ideas.

The U.S. Military Service Academies have made a serious commitment to diversify their ranks while maintaining their standards for admission, and with no use of a quota system. In particular the Navy has opened its bases, the academy itself, aircraft carriers and even nuclear submarines to minority student visits (I know because I took students from Phelps on these trips). The office of naval research opened its underwater robotics lab to a group of minority students from Phelps, and also was a major sponsor of the Phelps Robotics team. The Navy also conducts a summer program at the Academy for high school students (I had students take advantage of this also) Most important the Navy has assigned specific personnel to do strategic outreach information and recruitment sessions (and it is real solid outreach, not for show public relations stuff!) Everyone I have spoken to including retired Black naval officers agree that these outreach efforts have been successful!

The big difference here is organizational culture, which feeds intent (or lack of). Institutions like the Navy see diversity as part of their strategic mission to defend the nation; and of course, they see Black and Latino Americans as part of that nation! And unless our police departments across this nation adopt that cultural posture; to see people of color as citizens worthy to be served and protected. And to not see Black and Latino communities as areas to be conquered and controlled, they will always fail in the area of recruitment. For what military force, para or full, would want to recruit the enemy?


Dear Jason, thanks, and to your question concerning the article: “3 destructive things you learned in school without realizing it”. Beyond the fact that the “destructive things” mentioned have everything to do with schools reflecting the societal values and principles in the national environment in which they exist. It makes sense that the writer’s high school promoted a materialistic, market driven (the selling of the self), selfishness culture. And as we are told by anthropology, “culture is perfect”, and perfectly all-encompassing. A school can, on its own, only valiantly push back against the twisted virtues of a system that says capital gains is more important than what people gain from the educational experience.

But more importantly beyond the technical flaws in the article. I have read several of these “anti-high school” missives; and in fact commented on one that is very popularly making the rounds on social media (“Things I never stopped learning because of High School”…

First, a bit of Caribbean Mom wisdom I received as a child. I was always taught (and did not fully appreciate when I was young): That just because a parade is coming down the street, it does not mean you must jump in! Find out who is leading the parade, and where they are leading it. I was also taught to be suspect of those who by the virtue of the color of their skin, enjoy the power of forgiveness, a network of connections; an enfranchised and “special conditions” life experience in America.

As a youngster, I hated to be told that: “I had to be twice as good, and three times as careful, then my White school mates”. This rule severely struck my “fairness nerve”. But I must admit, the elders of my youth who although lacking college degrees, were not lacking in common sense; they were on to something about America that was true. As a person of color my: Right and legitimacy (regardless of credentials) to hold a leadership position, will always be constantly challenged and under attack (See Mr. Obama). I would go further to say that a smart young Black man, like yourself, is in reality, the most dangerous (and in danger) person in America. (And not the stereotypical “hoodlum” whose lack of a high school education, and self-destructive behavior, feeds an ever hungry criminal justice industry.)

And so, as I was instructed, so I went on to instruct (you) and thousands of others. You probably still remember my: “Life is not fair!” speech. All of this to say you may indeed find many personal examples of where a high school staff person did not perform their job admirably, or even in a professional competent manner. And as entertaining as these: “My high school did not prepare me (failed me)” stories may be, they can’t compete with the real sociological-economic data. There is an undeniable correlation (by grade) between high school completion, and potential earning power over the course of a lifetime!

For the children of color, for those children of any color who are trying to break out of the cycle of poverty. I say approach these stories with skepticism. Each life is different, and some lives in America are very different from others. We know nothing of the families, social and economic fences that surrounded these “anti-high school” writers. What was their inheritance (social and financial), who gave them a break, who opened a door at the right time for them?

Young folks should not be deceived; public education (with all of its flaws) is still the most efficient and effective journey one can take to improve the quality and positive productivity of one’s life. For the disinherited of our society, a high school education is not their enemy; and I would be very suspicious as to the motives of those who say, and advise otherwise. At the very least, I trust my mother over them!