Thursday, December 31, 2015

"We Are Not Alone" a Guest Post by Pamela Lewis

It’s a few days after Christmas.  Videos of children frenziedly shucking wrapping paper, ribbon and boxes for the gifts held inside fill my Facebook and Instagram feed with intentions to warm hearts and elicit joy.  My heart yields to the endearing spectacles of cuteness overload, temporarily anesthetizing the nagging ache in my soul that subsides only in moments like this.  Just yesterday, after having had a few days to nurse the feeling almost away, as I had chosen to not spend my well-deserved teacher holiday break thinking about the many instances that would cause such a flare up, it was back at it again.  Tamir Rice’s killer would not be indicted.  I knew I shouldn’t have been surprised, but with all the media attention, the protests, somehow I had been fooled into believing in a different outcome.  Beautifully wrapped presents can be deceiving.  I had been expecting something sparkly, but unwrapped dirt-tasting chewing gum instead. 
Annoyed that I had been forced to confront our nation’s ugliest scar during the most wonderful time of the year, I took to Facebook to bask in some holiday cheer, and as I already reported, the beauty of innocent children prevailed, and my heartache waned temporarily.  Until—yep, there had to be an “until.”  Until, I watched a video of two adorable little white girls unwrapping gifts from “Uncle Seth and Aunt Cynthia,” as their mother stated on the video.  All hope of something sparkly gone at the sight of two brown baby doll faces staring back at them.  The older girl, first genuinely confused, then, obviously irritated at the thought of a black doll as a gift.  Showing the gift to her mother, she tilts her little head, giving her mom a face as if to say, “Seriously, mom?”  When her mom continues with a straight face, she immediately puts on her big girl britches and feigns gratitude, though her disgust makes her portrayal hardly believable.  Her baby sister on the other hand, makes no qualms about her repulsion.  She begins to cry white tears of self-pity, which soon become fury, rejecting the doll all together by throwing it back into the bag.  Included in this video are the sounds of their mother’s guffaws, suggesting that despite Uncle Seth’s and Aunt Cynthia’s attempt toward teaching tolerance, she would use their gift as a gag, a trick: dirt-tasting chewing gum.  Her decision to film their reaction, indicative of her expectation of let down, spoke volumes as to what she taught and didn’t teach her children; her choice to laugh rather than to use their response as a teachable moment toward tolerance and inclusion suggestive of her own belief in white supremacy.   It seemed Uncle Seth and Aunt Cynthia   were well aware of their sister’s archaic ideologies, and decided to confront it, once and for all. 
It had only been the second time I had ever even heard of a white person giving a black doll to a white little girl, yet within that same hour, I’d spotted in my news feed several white dolls under trees inside the homes of black families.  The first time I heard of a white person doing something so “ridiculous” was in a story that my former co-teacher had shared.  As she recalled, her mother bought one of her fellow white classmates a black doll for her birthday.
“What happened when you gave your friend the doll at her party?” I asked, eager to know their reaction.
“They laughed,” she recalled, smoothing her hair, and chuckling a bit herself.  “They laughed.” 
Choosing blackness was laughable to white folk.  Meanwhile, we chose whiteness: dolls for our kids, weave for our heads, contacts for our eyes, bleach for our skin, all of the time.  Though my co-teacher never understood her mother’s purpose for buying a black doll, she, like Aunt Cynthia and Uncle Seth, whether intentionally or not, forced my co-teacher’s classmates to confront the truth about themselves, and the world we live in; gift-giving has that ability.
Still bummed about the video and the lack of indictment, I turned off the television and logged off of Facebook, immersing myself in long abandoned household chores.  The pile of mail that was busting the seams of the bin that contained it was calling my name.  A parcel with maroon Fordham University letterhead arrived.  I feverishly ripped through the envelope, anxious to see what was inside.  I knew the Fordham Press Spring 2016 catalog was due, and I had been informed that my book would be the lead title.  I oohed and ahhed at the cover art of the catalog, which gleamed with images of twinkling lights.   I flipped open my sparkly gift and there my book was on the very first page,  the image I had posed for, my face out of view, just my more casual than business tee-shirt and blazer combination, and the two dolls that my brown hands held up toward the reader.  One can faintly make out the name Phyllis on my shirt, the first on the list of names of black women writers paid homage to in one hundred percent cotton.  Identical in everything but color, and positioning, the dolls stared back at the reader, my take on the Clark Doll Experiment of 1939.  Instead of putting the dolls at equal distances from the reader, however, the doll is thrust toward the reader’s gaze, forcing the reader to focus on her, leaving the white doll behind, the camera lens intentionally leaving the latter a blur.  The words, “Teaching While Black: A New Voice on Race and Education in New York City” and my name in bold white letters.  I knew the catalog had been sent to others.  I imagined their surprise.
This is a special time that we live in, one in which historical moments are being born, deep emotions are felt, and tragic possibilities are imaginable all within surprising moments of hope.  In many ways, we are still held down by a horrid history, trapped in white supremacist thinking.  Yet, we can always find comfort in knowing that there will always be those who seek to confront ugly truths, to challenge tradition, and who fight every day to shed this awful legacy of injustice.  We are not alone.  Rest in Power, Tamir.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Are We Becoming What We Have Been Taught to Fear?

Within the last year, two novels set in Nazi Occupied France- "All the Light We Cannot See" and "The Nightingale"- have become national best sellers. Now, a symbol of teacher resistance in Nazi-Occupied Norway-the Paper Clip- is being adopted by teachers in the US who feel under attack.
Is this accidental? I hardly think so. Many working class and middle class Americans who have watched their living standards plummet and their jobs be destroyed feel like THEY are under a kind of occupation by soulless and greedy elites. While it may be extreme to call it "Fascism," there are elements of that system visible in the convergence of government and corporate power, the militarization of police, the destruction of unions, rapid gentrification in cities, the erosion of civil liberties and attacks on vulnerable groups by people seeking public office. When you add to this the acquittal of those responsible for the deaths of Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin, you have a sense that government and corporate power in the US represent a Colossus that rules over the lives of ordinary citizens, one which they are powerless to resist.
Am I exaggerating? Perhaps. But the popularity of novels and symbols forged in resistance to Nazi occupation, at the very least, should be a warning that something here has gone terribly wrong and that many people in this country feel powerless and vulnerable and fearful.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What Is The Paper Clip Revolution?

The paper clip became a symbol of resistance in Nazi Occupied Norway. Thousands of Norwegian teachers who refused to teach the fascist curriculum were sent to prison camps. The resistance of these teachers, as well as over 200,000 parents caused the government to abandon their plan. We as educators have decided to use this symbol to catalyze resistance to the privatization, corruption and profiteering that threaten to destroy public education in the United States. Hence we are launching "The Paper Clip Revolution"
This group will generate symbols that are easily duplicated and displayed to build resistance and morale among teachers students and parents and to undermine the parasites and bullies who have hijacked education policy We will also propose actions that make use of those symbols to give power back to educators.
One portion of this effort will be Honey Badger Squads, groups of retirees, parents and professors who will confront and challenge superintendents and principals who harass and humiliate teachers and students.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Will Hillary Clinton Throw Teachers in High Poverty Schools Under the Bus?

When I was doing community history projects in Bronx schools -they were all pushed out when the testing mania struck and the Bloomberg Administration started assigning schools letter grades - I met some incredible teachers in schools whose test scores marked them as troubled or "failing." Most of them were women; many of them Black and Latino; quite a few were products of neighborhoods similar to the ones they were teaching in. When presented with an opportunity to add excitement and energy to their classes with innovative history research; they took what I put before them and reinvented it in creative projects that reached students and their families in ways I could never have imagined.
So, when I hear that Hilary Clinton plans to close public schools throughout the nation whose performance is "below average," I think of those Bronx teachers. Basically, she is willing to throw them, and teachers like them under the bus because they chose to teach in high poverty schools. Nothing could be more unfair or more counterproductive. Some of the best teachers in the country work in schools where students don't test well. They nurture; they inspire; they protect and guide students whose lives are filled with hardship. Punishing them for their choice is the height of cynicism.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Race To the Top Redux

When the full accounting of the Obama Administration's Race to The Top is made, the following questions will have to be answered
How many schools were closed?
How many great teachers were fired or forced into retirement?
How many teachers still on the job were placed under a doctors care because test based accountability had destroyed their self-confidence
How many communities experienced sharp declines in the number of teachers of color working in their schools?
How many new charter schools were created which were embroiled in controversy because of financial irregularities or abusive practices?
How many lucrative contracts were extended to test companies and consulting firms?
How many students were deprived of recess, physical education and the arts because they were forced to prepare for tests?
How many special needs or ELL students were unable to graduate because requirements were suddenly raised?
How many families with young children were filled with stress because testing had taken over their lives?

The policy was created with hopes of achieving great equity. As the above suggests, the Collateral Damage may have well exceeded the gains

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Little BAT History from Notorious Phd

Now that the Badass Teachers Association has become a non profit organization, I wanted to review a little BAT history so that my own involvement and disengagement can be more easily understood
1. As the excerpt below indicates, I came up with the idea for the Badass Teachers Association as a fundraising device for a Bronx organization called the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective in early spring 2012, All we did was produce tee shirts for sale. No organization was created:
Rebel Diaz
March 27, 2012 •
You know about the BTA???? FInd out. Its The Badass Teachers Association!!! Here's Dr. Mark Naison explaining it.
BTA t-shirts on sale now help raise funds for The RDACBX
2. The Badass Teachers Association was created as a Facebook page on June 14 2013 by me and Priscilla Sanstead. I certainly had no idea that it would turn into an actual organization. Credit for creating the organization goes to Priscilla and to Marla Kilfoyle who developed the entire organizational structure which allowed BATS to grow precipitously over the next year. I did a lot of the writing for the group, but they were the ones who ran the day to day operations and put countless hours into building it. I could never in a million years have done what they did.
3. I left the BATS voluntarily in the Fall of 2014 after a group of internal disagreements with the other founders. I do not regret leaving the group as it gave me more freedom to work on other issues which were and still are important to me. I DO regret some of the bad feeling which led to my departure and still persists with some people in the organization.
4. The current group of leaders DESERVE to be leading BATS. They did the grunt work to build the group. Moreover, most of them are public school teachers and they are the ones who should be leading an organization which seeks to empower teachers.
5. Even if I had remained in BATS, I would have had to leave when it became a non profit organization because I had some bad experiences with activist organizations which became non-profits. This is a personal judgment rather than a political one. I wish BATS well in its current manifestation and support many of their initiatives,
That's it. I am very happy with where I am! And hope that the hard feelings that occurred when I left BATS will fade over time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Exposing Young People to Beauty Is Giving them Hope:

I was driving in from Eastern Long Island this morning listening to James Taylor and Carol King and when "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "Up On the Roof" came on, I felt tears coming into my eyes.
And it got me to thinking. Rock and Roll songs like those, with their dense and uplifting harmonies, represented my first exposure to real beauty and gave me something to aspire to and guide myself by when maneuvering a rough Brooklyn childhood.
See, there wasn't all that much beauty in my surroundings. My family life was tense, with demanding parents constantly pushing me to my limits, and neighborhood "friends" who were constantly mocking me and provoking me into fights because I did well in school. I was a tough kid with a high pain tolerance, and a good enough athlete so that everyone wanted me on their team, but I basically had concluded, by the time I was 10 , that life was hard, and I was going to have to kick everyone's ass to get by
But then rock and roll hit my neighborhood when i was an 11 year old fifth grader, and it gave me a new sense of possibilities as well as a new sonic universe. Song's like "Why Do Fools Fall in Love' "All I Have to Do Is Dream" :Maybe" and "Teenager in Love" brought harmony into my world along with the possibility of love, at a time when neither seemed within reach. More importantly it made me think that people just like me could actually create beautiful music, because the people singing these songs looked just like a lot of the kids, Black or white, that I saw around Brooklyn.
Soon, I was obsessed with this kind of music. I listened to it, danced to it (yes we slow danced in those days) and sang it whenever I could. Rock and roll started to define me as much as the sports I played. And I found myself become becoming someone who, in the most unlikely of places, appreciated beauty and aspired to love.
What a gift that was. Rock and roll became an integral part of my life and it helped open me up to other things- from civil. rights activism, to powerful friendships, and eventually, to deep romance. Until I was more than 20 years old, i met almost all the women I dated at rock and roll parties or dances and my first love relationship began there too.
So in conclusion. Here is what I hope. That every child, no matter how hard their life. be exposed to beauty so that they can look beyond their immediate circumstances and dream of a better day. If they don't get it at home or in church or mosque or synagogue, let them get it in school.
Treat arts education as a lifeline, not an extravagance. Beauty, as much as knowledge, is at the core of what makes us human

The Hidden Costs of Gentrification and Rising Rents on Educational Opportunity

It is tempting to think with the crack epidemic having passed and violence levels down in most, but not all, inner city and poor communities, we have a precious moment of opportunity to rebuild public schools in those areas, but there is another kind of destabilization taking place, less dramatic, but almost as devastating, in the form of gentrification and rising rents, As investors have discovered neighborhoods they once avoided, hundreds of thousands of families are finding themselves priced out of rental units, forced to double and triple up with other families, take in boarders, or move out of the city entirely. Children living in communities where rent rises far exceed incomes not only have to move on multiple occasions, they are often tense, sleep deprived, and/or fearful of physical or sexual violence that can come from living in crowded conditions with strangers.
The impact on schools is enormous. Not only are there thousands of students who move from school to school or have irregular attendance, there are countless others who come to school tense, fearful, needy and unable to concentrate.
So widespread is this problem that one group of school leaders- largely, but not entirely concentrated in charter schools- has decided that mass suspensions and expulsions of students who create problems is the only way to create a positive atmosphere for learning. But that approach only destabilizes schools which try to serve every student.
The bottom line, there can be no serious progress in achieving education equity without stabilizing the housing market and providing decent shelter for low income families.
And the entire education reform movement based on school closings and charters and test based accountability is destined to not only fail, but make conditions worse.

The Cold Reality Facing Public School Parents

This is the cold reality every public school parent must face.
You love your children. They- and I mean those shaping education policy- don't
They see your children as profit centers, subjects of experiments with software and technology, providers of data points necessary to shape national policy, malleable objects for the pursuit of political ambitions and the shaping of careers in educational consulting and school management..
And that is only now.
In the future, they see your children as the labor force necessary to assure that their children, who almost all attend private school, will not find their elite status challenged or management prerogatives challenged.
Find me a policy maker who loves and cares about your children the way you do.
That is why you are in a war to create and in some cases to defend schools that will treat your children the way you would want them to be treated.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Fordham Alum Comments on How the University has Changed Since the 1970's

Being asked to describe the difference between the Fordham of 1975 to the Fordham of 2015 ,to those in a position to make significant change , was unexpectedly an emotional one. As I answered tough questions which required specific detailed examples, I had to walk through my experience and relationships with not only fellow students,friends and faculty, but the community which Fordham had created for us on and off campus. I lived on campus, worked on campus, participated in social events on and off campus, as we felt as though we were one big family with mutual respect .
As a Biology major,I recall my professors, having an open door policy and were interested in not only your grade,but who you were as a person.My job working with students in local high schools as tutor counselor was because of a program on Fordhams campus,The first Physician assistant I ever met, practiced at an office on the Grand Concourse, where I worked on
Saturdays .I went on to gain invaluable experience about this profession and made friends with the late Dr Milton Reisch and his wife a PA , until his death a few years ago . My challenging Biology degree was reinforced by everything Fordham introduced, exposed and taught us on and off campus . Our education was rich as a result of all of the components which made up the Fordham community.
As I spoke, a senior student present at the meeting looked at me in awe, mentioning that she wished that she had that experience,while the freshman disclosed that she has considered transferring given some of the incidents she experienced .
One thing is clear-something very important and valuable has been lost over time at Fordham We as alumni, faculty, students, and friends of the Fordham community must remain energized, vigilant and intolerant of those things which have blemished the University,as there is so much which could be created out of these opportunities to dialogue with each other , with administration and with the community .‪#‎zerotolerance‬

Monday, December 14, 2015

Abusive and Humiliating Educational Policies Targeting Children of the Poor

The most bizarre and humiliating treatment of children is now being routinely practiced in the nation's poorest communities; ranging from the zero tolerance disciplinary practices of some of the nation's best known charter chains; to the virtual elimination of arts sports and recess by schools taken into receivership and/or threatened with closure. If middle class parents want to see what education profiteers have in mind for their children if they are not vigilant, they should look into what is going on in inner city charter schools or schools in cities like Newark or Camden or Detroit which have been taken over by the state. It is unconscionable that the children of the poor have been used as guinea pigs for educational experimentation which takes the joy out of learning and removes creativity and relationship from teaching. Sadly, this grisly process continues unabated even in states like NY where more middle class districts have won some relief through Opting Out.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Racial Tensions at Fordham are a Harbinger of What Gentrification Might Mean for the Bronx

What is happening at Fordham may be best contextualized in a conversation about Gentrification in the Bronx. Now that Bronx residents and community groups have almost completely rebuilt once abandoned and decayed neighborhoods, and crack era violence has diminished, the Bronx has suddenly become attractive to developers and investors and, along with it, to upper class parents looking for a safe place to send their children to college. Not only does this mean possible displacement of long term residents, it means the arrival of people who do not understand the boroughs history, appreciate its culture, or respect its long time residents. Fordham, in recent years, has recruited students from all over the nation, some of whom live in off campus apartments, who come from homogeneous all white suburbs and look at their Bronx neighbors with ill disguised contempt. Some are changed by what they learn in their courses, or what they experience when performing community service, but all too many go through four years without having their initial attitudes and prejudices affected one iota.
The racial incidents currently taking place on the Fordham campus represent a preview of what is likely to happen in Bronx neighborhoods which experience an influx of high income residents as a result of the construction of market level housing. Nothing we have seen in other boroughs, or at Fordham,suggests these people will be good neighbors and respect the sacrifices so many Bronxites made to rebuild their communities.
They are likely to treat long time residents as invisible or objects of contempt.
It is time for the entire population of the Bronx, including educators, community leaders and activists, to take a good hard look at the sudden infusion of investment capital and wealthy individuals in to the borough and assess what this means for the future of the borough.
Action on many fronts may be necessary to protect Bronx residents and communities.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fordham, Gentrification and the University's Role in the Bronx

Fordham used to have a great reputation in the Bronx because it helped save the neighborhoods of the Northwest Bronx from the arson and disinvestment that swept through the Southern sections of the borough. But as the danger of disinvestment faded, in large part because of the heroic efforts of the community groups Fordham helped, the University gradually shifted its target recruitment area from the New York metropolitan area to the entire nation, bringing in a more affluent student population than it had traditionally targeted. This helped raise the university's academic profile and US News and World Report ranking, but in the process increased the gap, in race and class and culture, between Fordham's student population and the population of the Bronx, a gap symbolized by the gates surrounding the campus and the University's increasingly large and vigilant security force.
Now, the Fordham is at a crossroads. With Gentrification and Displacement, rather than Disinvestment, becoming the major danger facing the Bronx, which way will Fordham go? Will it change course by recruiting more low and moderate income students, embrace the culture of Bronx communities, and make Bronx residents feel more welcome on the Fordham campus or will it continue to bring large number of people who have little respect for the Bronx into the campus and surrounding neighborhoods while doing little to sensitize them to their surroundings?
The economic interests and academic ambitions of the University, not the racism of university administrators- who for the most part are genuinely horrified by recent racist acts- have put it add odds with the interests of surrounding communities. Getting Fordham to change course and truly embrace the people and culture of the Bronx will take heroic efforts over the course of many years
The time to start that effort is now

Friday, December 11, 2015

White Student Yells "Black Sluts Matter" At 3 Black Female Fordham Students

This just was posted by one of my students! Unbelievable. Fordham is in DEEP Trouble!! As is our entire nation
Monica Joy
3 hrs · New York, NY ·
Last night as I was leaving an off campus apartment with two other black female students, a white student began to repeatedly yell "Black sluts matter!" at us out of his window. He proceeded to proclaim "I am a racist!" and curse at us. It's ironic how people's true attitudes come out during a time of consistent organizing and dialogue on race in the Fordham community. When the minority decides to take a stand, the majority will go through great lengths to shut us down-like drawing hate symbols on campus and chanting white power.
It is critical for us to remind ourselves of our oppression. In the words of Assata Shakur, "The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows... But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave." I am no slave, but this society treats me as one as a working class black woman. I refuse to be intimated into silence and inaction. Incidents like these drive me to continue my work for the liberation of my people and that of all oppressed peoples because our struggles are connected. The system that allows for the police killings of unarmed blacks is the same system that supports the occupation in Palestine and the unlivable wages of workers across the world. We must unite and fight back. Fordham students, it is our duty to fight for our justice-do not be afraid to stand up and speak out. ‪#‎fordhamspeaksup‬:

An "Affirmative Action" Story to Bring Us Back to Reality

Just a heads up: the number of alumni children (legacies); recruited athletes ( most of whom are white and play non-revenue sports) and students whose parents pay full tuition far outnumber the "under represented minorities" as beneficiaries of Preferential Admissions Policies at top universities. Yet it is only Race Based affirmative action which prompts outrage and lawsuits.
To illustrate this point, let me point to a real life incident when my son Eric was pitching and winning a championship game against Long Island Lutheran
Eric was having a great day on the mound so the first based umpire said to his coach Walter Paller, "that kid is really good. Where is he going to college When Walter said "Yale" the umpire said "Wow, he must be really smart." The Long Island Lutheran first baseman then entered the conversation " Not necessarily," he said. "My friend is dumb as s..t. But she's a great volleyball player so she is going to Yale."
A book by Bowen and Shapiro called "The Game of Life" documents preferential treatment for athletes at top colleges in excruciating detail. As does a book by called "Color and Money" which documents huge preferences for children of the wealthy
Making it seem like admissions preferences for Blacks and Latinos are the only departure from an otherwise meritorcratic admissions system is not only unfair, it is so inaccurate as to be more like a bad joke.
As i tell my white students, you are much more likely to have been "bumped" from admission to Princeton by a white hockey player from New England than a Dominican student from the Bronx.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Muslims in the Bronx; Rebuilding Communities, Defying Stereotypes

If you want to get a sense of the diversity of Muslim America, and the peaceful atmosphere of most Muslim American communities, there is no better place to do this than the Bronx. There are now tens of thousands of people who consider themselves Muslim living in the Bronx. Appearance wise, they have little in common. They come from Albania, and look indistinguishable from most Eastern Europeans. They come from West African countries like Gambia, Togo and Mali, where the majority of the population practices Islam, as well as Ghana, which is majority Christian. And more and more are coming to the Bronx from South Asian countries like Pakistan and Bengladesh. The arrival of these Muslim immigrants has coincided with a dramatic revival of once deteriorated Bronx neighborhoods and they have contributed to the revival by opening businesses, purchasing homes and sending their children to local public schools, where more than a few have become outstanding students and gone on to attend schools like Fordham. I have been lucky enough to have many of these second generation Bronx/Muslim immigrant children in my classes and their insight and work ethic and compassion for all victims of injustice has been an inspiration to me
Given what I have seen in Bronx schools and neighborhoods, and in my own classes, the attacks on Islam I see in both commercial and social media seem wildly disconnected from reality. There has not been one terrorist incident in the Bronx that has been connected to Muslim immigrants . There is not one recorded incident of Bronx Muslims attacking their Christian ( or Jewish) neighbors, calling them "infidels" or promoting violence against them. In fact there have been many Bronx Imams, led by the brilliant Sheikh Moussa Drammeh who runs an Islamic Community Center near Parkchester, who have been involved in and even led interfaith unity efforts.
Overwhelmingly, Muslim immigrants and their children have had a postiive impact on Bronx schools and communities.. Why should they be tarred with the brush of :"terrorist" or Isis supporter when they have done nothing but try to live peacefully with their neighbors?
One final comment should be made; Muslims in the Bronx like their Christian and Jewish neighbors, do not always practice every tenet of their religion. Many are secular in appearance and diet. Many do not attend Mosque regularly or participate in the daily prayers. Many, when they marry, marry Christians and Jews
In short, they are like very other immigrant group which has come to the US. They follow our laws, attend our schools, become active citizens, and over time change and are changed by the communities they live in.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

On Racism and Xenophobia

The thing about racism, xenophobia and ethnic cleasing that most people don't understand is that while it usually starts out with abstractions which make large groups of people "the enemy" it ultimately comes down to what happens to your neighbor, your co worker, the student in your class,or the owner of a business you frequent who is a member of the unfortunate group being demonized. Will they be harassed, publicly humiliated, deprived of work, placed in camps and detention centers, even killed? Because that is where mass demonization of groups often heads- crosses burned, yellow stars sown on jackets, windows of businesses smashed, people taken off to camps or murdered before your eyes. Do not think it cannot happen here. It DID happen here- to African Americans, Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans- and it is happening to religious and ethnic minorities in many parts of the world now. What I hope for is that people think long and hard about what it would mean for their community and their networks of friends and neighbors if a group of people are singled out by race or religion or national origin as a danger to the safety of everyone else. There is no place I know of in the world where that doesn't turn ugly really fast and present people with moral choices they never imagined when they started down that path.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Why ESEA Must Be Fought by People on the Left as Well as on the Right

There was a time when you needed the power of the federal government to counteract local tyrannies shaped by racist electoral practices and corporate control of local governments No more. Today, it is the federal government which is controlled lock stock and barrel by large corporations, insuring that any federal policy will contribute to their enrichment and an expansion of their power. A defense of federal power is no longer a "progressive" position. In education, it has led to disastrous consequences ranging from the mindless impositions of test driven curricula and assessments, to the destruction and privatization of public education in many of the nation's cities. This is why I am utterly opposed to the passage of ESEA legislation currently being debated in the Senate. Given the powerful corporate interests ready to move into action in every section of the nation to seize the federal dollars this legislation will appropriate, it is incumbent upon parents and teachers to try to prevent its passage and then to organize massive resistance through an expansion of opt out and rolling one day strikes by teachers, whether they are endorsed by unions or not.

Do not trust your elected officials to protect your interests. They are no more immune to the big money interests shaping this legislation than the last two Presidents,

What Teaching Means to Me

I can only do so much to change the course of history at my own University, much less in my neighborhood, my city, my state or the nation. But what I can do is use my classroom as a place where students can discover the power of their own voice, in the light of what others have done before them, and provide an example of a teacher, a parent and a citizen, who deals with difficult issues without fear, and with a commitment to an ideal of fairness that crosses lines of race, gender party and ideology. i am no saint; I am not a model human being. I have huge flaws which almost anyone who knows me can see pretty quickly. But I have a true passion for helping young people become more confident, more inquisitive, more in touch with their own strengths, and more determined to make their mark on the world. And, if I work really hard, and am there through the hard times as well as the good times, my students-- and former students --will not only inspire me, they will make it hard to sleep because I am so excited about what the next day will bring.