Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Face of America to the World

When Donald Trump's face is contorted by hate and rage- which is often- that is the official face of the United States of America to the world. It is also, whether people want to admit it or not, the face of everyone who elected him and still supports him. No President in our recent history, no matter what they did with their power, has ever allowed themselves to look like that in public- not Jimmy Carter, not Ronald Reagan, not Bill Clinton, not either George Bush, not Barack Obama. In our last Presidential election, voters selected someone whose facial expressions resemble Hitler and Mussolini, or a Southern demagogue from the Jim Crow era, more than any American President. And that face will be forever be preserved in our history books as symbols of a time when America lost its bearings and embraced some of the worst impulses in its history.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Toast to the Bridge Builders Among Us

 
It's been a brutal week, a time when many people have lost faith in the decency of the nation they live in, or at least those leading it. It has led to disillusionment, despair and rage among many who have spent their lives working for justice.
In this difficult and challenging time, I want to raise a glass- of Jack Daniels to be specific- to everyone who has spent this week crossing barriers, building bridges, disregarding gates and creating ties of community with people who differ from them in race, religion, nationality or economic status. In particular, I want to toast my students at Fordham, who were incredible hosts to two student groups from the Bronx, one from PS 140, one from CASA Middle School, as well as the teachers and principals who arranged for their visit. You showed Fordham, the Bronx and the nation what real unity is about and set an example that all of us need to follow.
Salud!
Peace!!
To A Better Future!!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What Many Trump Supporters Are Thnking and Not Always Saying

What Many Trump Supporters Are Thinking And Not Always Saying
"Get real liberals! As long as you keep attacking Columbus Day and tearing down Confederate statues; desecrating the flag and the anthem; attacking our police and ruining The NFL, and denouncing everyone who disagrees with you as “racists,” we are going to keep electing assholes tough enough to keep you in your place- which is down, out and on the defensive. This is war and Trump is our warrior. If he wasn’t cruel ruthless and crazy, we wouldn’t have elected him. And yes, liberals, we are making war on you!"
This is so realistic that some of you are worried that I am a secret Trump supporter, right? Don’t worry, this is me summarizing the arguments in the hate mail I get as well as what I overhear in random conversations
When Trump goes there will be others to take his place. Trump MARKETED white rage, he didn’t invent it.
This war for the soul of our country -and yes, it is war- won’t be ending any time soon

Monday, October 9, 2017

The President and Race


The President is someone born to a wealthy family, privileged even by white standards, the recipient of the kind of “ affirmative action for the rich” at top colleges that dwarfs admissions advantages given to Blacks or Latinos. It is utterly astonishing to watch him try to intimidate Black players in the NFL who not only have both the lived experience and historic memory of multiple forms of discrimination, but who for the most part grew up in far harsher circumstances than the President did. That he is doing this for temporary political gain makes it all the more reprehensible. His actions will be seared into the memory of this generation of African Americans and of all people who care about Racial Justice. Mr Trump will not be treated kindly by historians of the future; his racially provocative actions assure that result. We are living through a shameful period in US History.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Wake Up Call


The way I see it, Donald Trump is boxing a lot of good people into a corner where they find themselves defending things in their heart of hearts they know is wrong. It is very sad to see this. Because it not only divides friends and family members, it leads the nation down a moral precipice where unacceptable behavior becomes normalized.
I have tried to convince people that they had to stop this juggernaut of racialized nationalism before it swallowed them up and took them to places they really didn't want to go, but few listened
I just don't have time for those conversations any more. I am just going to say what I have to say and do what I have to do and let others figure things out for themselves.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Children Are Listening: Boy Culture in the Era of a Boy President by CarolynJohnson Ed.D.


 

This analysis is more anecdotal than scientific, but as an educator and mother of teens, I am concerned about the deteriorating boy culture I see in the New York/New Jersey suburbs. The Don Draper “Mad Men” vision of manhood my teen students, daughters and neighbors have shared with me is no longer a passing phase, but has taken root and is flourishing in our current climate. It is no longer entertaining.

 

In​ the two-year election campaign cycle, and in the wake of the election, many middle and high school aged girls who dared sport Hillary pins or SWAG, or voice divergent opinions in class or online, were publicly ridiculed by loud individuals or mobs of pro-Trump boys.

 

This taunting and teasing has been relentless and exhausting: it sucks the life, enthusiasm and creativity from hearers. ​I know a self-possessed young woman who gave up a beloved extra-curricular activity in her last year of high school because of the harassing taunts of a few boys about her support of Hillary and feminist issues. Even at her progressive private high school, the Sanders and Trump supporters bullied Hillary supporters loudly, and used misogynist, foul language, e.g. “choke on a (male body part).” It is pervasive: in the classroom, lunchroom, gym, hallways, buses, social media, forced small workgroups, football games, and Main Street, boys can be seen chanting with an in-your-face loudness that diminishes anyone who disagrees and threatens their voices at a critical developmental age. These young boys march in the town parades in their “Make America Great Again” hats and sweatshirts, and are seen stealing dozens of opposing lawn signs from neighbors after school. They are emboldened daily by their role model world leader. He bullies immigrants, people of color, and women; they follow like toddlers in parallel play.

On November 9, boys chanted at Hispanic students in their school during lunch, "Trump won. You are getting deported, you are going back to Mexico." These matters are taken seriously in many well-run high schools filled with mostly well-meaning people. Yet, how do we learn to be respectful humans, citizens, friends, and partners?

This boy culture appears to be fostering a greater divide between the sexes ... a phenomenon of less dating, romance, intimacy, and love in a country where campus rape is normalized, as is racism and sexism, and other biases. I know of a brown-skinned boy who reads Breitbart, shaved his black hair, and tries to blend in with the white skinned boys at school. Otherwise he'd likely be scapegoated, or alone, which is death to a high schooler. A girl of Palestinian descent was called a terrorist as she rode the bus to school. To counter this daily onslaught of toxicity, a group of girls asked a teacher to start a club to support each other. They're looking to create a safe space for themselves and their voices. 

Politics is dividing people by gender because many girls don’t feel comfortable being with boys who are so pro-Trump and its associated “grab her by the pussy” behavior. Many boys don't seem to know how to coexist with empowered women, so they end up diminishing girls to enhance themselves and hide their own insecurities. How do feminist and other boys navigate this terrain?
I asked a few large closed Facebook groups I belong to if they noticed this trend. A teacher responded:

“Absolutely. Last year, I heard an 8th-grade boy shout at an 8th-grade girl, ‘Feminism is a cancer.’ I'd never heard any boy in my school say anything like that before, and I've been there 13 years now. I was also told by a group of girls that when they made and wore shirts that read, ‘Girl Power,’ they were mocked by some boys and called (among other things) 'feminazis.' This is an affluent, left-leaning town. Please don't use my name.”

Other women who had shared similar stories declined to comment publicly. If adult women are forced into hiding in secret Facebook groups, imagine how hard it is to speak up if you are a teen.


The media is covering this President 24/7 because he is Commander in Chief yet his behavior befits more the Spoiled Boy in Chief. The ubiquitous coverage of his every tweet and rant has made him a role model for our youth whether we like it or not. Before we disregard his behavior as the fleeting attention-grabbing antics of an entertainer as president, perhaps we should pay mind to the words of Stephen Sondheim from “Into the Woods:”

“How do you say to your child in the night?

Nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white

How do you say it will all be all right?

When you know that it might not be true? What do you do?

Careful the things you say

Children will listen

Careful the things you do

Children will see and learn

Children may not obey, but children will listen

Children will look to you for which way to turn

To learn what to be

Careful before you say, "Listen to me"

Children will listen

Careful the wish you make

Wishes are children

Careful the path they take

Wishes come true, not free

Careful the spell you cast

Not just on children

Sometimes the spell may last

Past what you can see

And turn against you” Into the Woods soundtrack

 
Carolyn Johnson Ed.D. is a graduate of Fordham University and the Founder of Not So Common Application  https://notsocommonapplication.org/

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Why Attacking the NFL and its Black Players Was Vintage Donald Trump


I don't want to be too much of an amateur psychologist, but it looks to me like what floats Donald Trump's boat the most is attacking people. He is fairly ecumenical in his choice of targets. He goes after Republicans almost as much as Democrats. He goes after the press. He goes after Hollywood and people in the arts. But what gets his "base," most excited is when he goes after people who in liberal circles were defined as off limits- Blacks, Latinos, Muslims and immigrants. His overwhelmingly white supporters LOVE IT when he throws "political correctness" to the winds and risks accusation of racism to go after Black Lives Matter protesters, Mexican immigrants, Muslim refugees using language the most people could not risk airing on their jobs
Donald Trump knows this. It is one of the main reasons he was elected President. So it is no accident in the midst of a humiliating health care defeat, and rumors of the Russian influence investigating heating up he calls Black NFL players who took a knee to protest police violence "sons of bitches" and demands that NFL owners fire them. Trump doesn't only do this because he enjoys attacking people-- which he does-- he does it to get his base all excited that they finally have someone for who speaks for THEM as President, saying things they can only say among trusted friends.
Having a President who airs the subaltern racial resentments of America's white people so openly and crudely is new for the United States- Presidents, at least since the Civil Rights movement, normally appealed to white racial resentments in veiled language.
But so effective has  Mr Trump been in  using this for political gain that I expect he will have many imitators
And those of us who are the targets of this resentment are going to have a very bumpy ride for quite some time.

You Can't Run A Country Just with "Angry White People"


Angry White People were the core group that drove Donald Trump's march to the Presidency and remain his most loyal constituency. They are the people who hail his travel ban, who support his attacks on kneeling NFL players, who echo his disparaging remarks about Puerto Rico, who want him to "Build A Wall" to keep out Mexican and Central American immigrants,
Their anger was enough to elect Donald Trump and may keep him in the White House for 8 years
However, we live in a multiracial society becoming more multiracial everyday, There is no major institution I know of in this country that can run effectively using only the labor and skill of Angry White People and that includes
Our Military
Our Schools
Our Law Enforcement Agencies
Our Farms.
Our Hospitals and Nursing Homes
Our Factories
Our transportation system including our buses, trucks, subways and taxis
The people building and maintaining our infrastructure
The NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer
and Big Time College Sports..
If you got rid of all the people Angry White People are mad at- Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Undocumented Immigrants, many of these institutions would grind to a halt
The only major institution I know of that would not skip a beat if everyone but Angry White People left would be NASCAR. And you don't have to worry about anyone "Taking a Knee" there
The rest of the country would be crippled by racial and political conflict if people spoke and acted like Donald at their workplace.
That's where we may be heading if this keeps up....

Monday, September 25, 2017

NFL Players The Nation's Least Pampered Millionaires

When people mock NFL protesters as pampered multi-millionaires, they forget that among the many multi-millionaires in this country, NFL players  are the only ones:
1. Who grew up in poor and working class families and got into the ranks of the wealthy through hard work and sacrifice, unlike the vast majority of multi millionaires- like Donald Trump- who grew up in wealthy families and benefited from class privilege and "affirmative action for the rich," the major form of affirmative action in the nation's top colleges
2. Who sacrifice years off their life, and their future health, by playing a dangerous game that crushes their bodies and damages their minds.
NFL players are acutely aware of where they came from and the fragility of their health and economic status, which makes their protests all the more risky and meaningful

Why This White Man Takes A Knee

 
Black people have been in this country since its creation. They have been enslaved, sold, whipped, beaten, raped, Jim Crowed, lynched, segregated, deprived of every civil liberty this country prizes, stripped of wealth and property when they acquired it, and finally when, through years of struggle, they achieved full civil and political rights, found themselves facing a criminal justice system that weighs on them far more heavily on them than it does on most other Americans. Given what Black people have gone through, and are still going through to get where they are now, it is astonishing to watch the President of the United States think he can intimidate Black men and women, in the NFL or anywhere else, who are standing up, or kneeling, for their rights
. This white man, who has studied US history  for fifty years, and who has grand children who are Black and Latino, will not let Black protesters stand alone. To quote my friend Timothy B. Tyson, another white scholar who has grappled with how racism and white supremacy have deformed the history of the United states, he will stand, or kneel with his Black sisters and brothers, as circumstances require

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review of John Gennari's "Flavor and Soul"

“With the publication of Flavor and Soul- Italian America at its African American Edge,"John Gennari has written an eloquent book about Italian Americans and race that carves out new space in our increasingly polarized national debate about whiteness and racial identity. Gennari, like me, is a white race scholar who is  frustrated by a reductionist  discourse on white privilege that erases class differences and history,  while being appalled by the re-emergence of racism and xenophobia as a force in national elections. His deeply personal, and evocative portrait of spaces where Black and Italian American culture and style intersect does two important things: it complicates the national discourse on whiteness, and gives Italian Americans a way of affirming their love for their culture in ways that link them to African Americans rather than separate them. It is a powerful work of healing and imaginative reconciliation that is even more important now than it was when it was first published, especially in the light of the orgy of ethnic stereotyping that followed the  appointment of Anthony Scaramucci to a position in the Trump White House. Gennari, writing about things that most of us hold dear, music, food, film, and sports, rescues Italian Americans from the box many Americans have placed them in (and some Italian Americans have placed themselves)  to point the way for people to cross racial boundaries in a spirit of joy and mutual discovery.”

Look for my review of Flavor and Soul in a forthcoming issue of the Italian American Review—here’s a link to the journal: http://qcpages.qc.cuny.edu/calandra/publications/publications
Excerpted by permission of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Queens College, City University of New York.
The book is available now from all booksellers. Here’s a link to it at the publisher, the University of Chicago Press: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/F/bo25094688.html

Saturday, August 26, 2017

If Fordham is Any Example, Millennials are not "Dictatorship Material"


One of the reasons I am confident that Donald Trump will not take us on the path to dictatorship or authoritarian rule is the refusal of young people to be intimidated by authoritarian figures in their lives, be they parents, teachers or school and university administrators
I have seen this first hand at my own university in the past year. In three separate instances, students have mobilized to protest what they consider unfair or inappropriate action by different wings of the university, risking suspension to get their point across.
The first example took place when Dean of Students Office refused to give club recognition to "Students for Justice in Palestine" after every student and faculty committee which evaluated the matter suggested it be given such recognition. Students not only organized rallies, vigils, and protest marches to challenge the decision, they brought the matter to the press and are now suing the University in court to challenge the decision.
The second example took place when the University refused to recognize or negotiate with an organization of contingent and adjunct faculty and even claimed a religious exemption from such negotiation. Students not only organized rallies and marches in support of contingent faculty, they tried to march on the President's office and demand he begin negotiations, an action which led to a confrontation with Fordham security guards that led to some injuries and disciplinary action against the students. Following the incident, which caused widespread distress among faculty as well as students, the University changed its position and agreed to negotiate with the faculty group
Finally, and more recently, the Dean of Students made a presentation on Campus Sexual Assault to Resident Advisors that some found so offensive that they interrupted the presentation and walked out of the room. Following the protests, several students issues a public statement on the presentation demanding that remedial action be taken and last night, the University said it was launching a formal investigation
In all my years of Fordham, I have rarely seen students challenge actions by the administration so forthrightly and effectively.
I suspect this is part of a national, and generational pattern. If Fordham is any example:
Millennials are Not Dictatorship Material!.

Friday, August 25, 2017

How I Respond to Critics of My "White Supremacists by Default" Comments on CNN


  

 In the last two years, I have watched Neo Nazis and the KKK rise to a level of influence and visibility that they have not had since the 1960's, possibly not since the the Great Depression. And  I have been horrified
that they have given credit to Donald Trump as both candidate and President for their renewed influence
'
 I count many Trump supporters among my tennis partners and people I work with the national anti-testing movement. And I have some Trump supporters in my family. When I saw this happening, I begged them to speak out and get Mr Trump to decisively repudiate this array of extreme racists who were using his candidacy to elevate themselve

 With few exceptions they declined to give this matter much attention, either because they wanted to prevent Hillary Clinton from being President, or because they saw the issue as tangential

 However, to many people in the country, especially African Americans, this matter was hardly tangential as it brought up tragic circumstances in their history which they hoped they had left behind

 Now we are facing a face off in many of our communities which has reach dangerous proportions.

Following the election of Mr Trump, there were numerous incidents in schools in Eastern Long Island, Ohio and other places where white students chanted at their Latino classmates " Build A Wall" and "We Will Deport You."

I have also witnessed racially provocative behavior on the part of white students at Fordham that we have not had since the late 1980's. In fall of 2015, when Mr Trump was starting his candidacy, a group of white students at a swimming team party chanted, so that other students in their building could hear them "White Power"  "Barack Obama is a Nigger" and "Martin Luther King is a Nigger"

 I used this forum of the CNN article to raise the alarm about a rising tide of White Racism  which is anything but abstract to Blacks, Latinos, Muslims and other targets. I am hoping that decent people of all political persuasions, but especially conservatives, clamp down hard on the Neo- Nazis and White Supremacists who have sought cover in their movement.

Turning away and ignoring the powerful impact of this on our social fabric will only make things worse

 I see some signs that people are waking up And am willing to take the heat for ruffling some features to get things moving in the right direction

All the Best

Dr Mark Naison

PS  This survey was brought to my attention recently.  It suggests that I was not exaggerating

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Kaepernick, Charlottesville and National Anthem Protests


The NFL owners who have collectively refused to sign Colin Kaepernick in the hope of avoiding protests which divide their fan base may have miscalculated or misread the political climate.
Following the Charlottesville "Unite The Right" rally where Neo Nazis and White Supremacists came out in the open in ways which frightened and appalled many people, the National Anthem protest which Kaepernick initiated- and few NFL players initially followed- has started to spread.
First sixty current and former NY City Police officers- including 81 year old Frank Serpico- took the knee during the National Anthem at a ceremony in a Brooklyn Park.
And then yesterday, nearly a dozen Cleveland Brown players-
including tight end Seth DeValle, who is white-took a knee in prayer during the National Anthem during their pre-season game with the Giants.
Given the growing sense of revulsion, not only with the Charlottesville protests, but the President's response to them, I have every expectation that the National Anthem protests will grow in size and number, especially if Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned.
I may be wrong about this, but as someone who has sensed growing anger among friends and colleagues about Kaepernick's exclusion from the NFL, I fully expect my prediction to hold.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Why There is a Movement to Remove Confederate Monuments


The movement to remove Confederate monuments is only one part of a much larger project forcing the country come to terms with the legacy of slavery, something it never has done. This also involve exploring how some of our major universities were built on proceeds derived from slavery and the slavery trade ( as Fordham Grad Craig Steven Wilder did in his book "Ebony and Ivy"); exposing how prevalent slave markets were in almost every major Southern city; and creating exhibits throughout the South and the nation which explore how central slavery was to the economic development of the nation and how cruel it was in its daily functioning, especially in terms of the systematic breeding and sale of slaves. This movement is being driven by the brilliant young race scholars who are now on the faculty of almost every university in the nation. It is not going away. It is only going to gather momentum in coming years. And it is likely to lead to local, and possibly national efforts, to compensate the descendants of its victims

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Lonely Places Champions Are Made


At 10:30 this morning, on a cloudy day, I headed over to the tennis courts adjoining the local elementary school to practice my serve. The courts were empty, and filled with puddles that still hadn't dried from the morning's rain. Nevertheless, I served by myself for a half an hour, determined to sharpen the direction and depth of my serve for the singles semifinal I had in a week, against an opponent who had excellent ground strokes and good service returns.
And as I struggled to find the right rhythm, I thought of all the lonely moments I had spent as an athlete and a parent trying to perfect my skills or those of my children
Like the times I went to the little park near my apartment building at Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30 AM, practicing layups, set shots and hook shots before the big kids arrived for the day's pickup games. I did this religiously from the time I was 8 till the time I was 12
Or the times I took my daughter Sara, when she began training for junior tournaments, to courts where you needed your own net, on 7 AM on spring and fall weekends so we could practice uninterrupted for 2 hours, something impossible on public courts where you needed a permit, or impossibly expensive at private courts. To one of those courts, on McDonald Avenue and Avenue S, I needed a broom to sweep away discarded bagels, broken glass and occasionally dead pigeons. That was the only way I could keep Sara competitive with the suburban kids who had public courts everywhere or the rich Manhattan kids who could afford lots of private coaching
And when my son became a serious baseball player, who needed to excel as a hitter as well as a pitcher, I would take him at 7 AM to Prospect Park where I put him in front of the pitchers mound to hit hundreds of tennis balls I threw to him into the backstop, teaching him how to make contact with two strikes by shortening up his swing, and training him to the ball to the opposite field on outside pitches.
This is the unseen work that made all three of us into college athletes, going from the schoolyards and parks of Brooklyn into the fierce and glorious world of Division One College Sports.
Some may call this a form of sacrifice, but I see it as the heart and soul of the athletic experience, the place where the courage and persistence of champions is forged.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Danger! Personalized Learning!


The new danger word in education policy is "Personalized Learning." Whenever you see that featured at a conference, a seminar, or on the website of an organization, you should put your guard up, as the influence of billionaire investors is behind the scenes promoting this attempt to put every child in front of a computer and reduce classroom instruction to computer tending, all in the name of respect for individual aptitudes and abilities.
The goal here is to completely remove relationship building in the classroom, whether between students and teachers, or among students themselves, and transform data accumulation on students into a daily task, shredding civil liberties and personal privacy. It is a pathway into a Brave New World of manipulated students, manipulated employees and manipulated citizens.
So, put "Personalized Learning"on the top of your list of education policies which threaten democracy and enlightened citizenship, along with "Data Driven Instruction," "Data Walls" and "Common Core."
It is starting to pop up everywhere! So watch out! And fight back!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Backfire!! The Attorney General's Missteps on Affirmative Action


Sometimes, bold policy initiatives can have exactly the opposite impact of what was intended. No better example of this was the suggestion that the Department of Justice was considering suing universities accused of discrimination against whites in their admissions policies. The main result of this was not a groundswell of sympathy for aggrieved white applicants, but an outpouring of commentary pointing out that the major beneficiaries of college admissions preferences were children of the rich! More remarkably, one of the most quoted examples of this unseemly pattern was how the admission of Jared Kushner, the President's son in law, to Harvard was engineered through a 2.5 million dollar contribution from
his father to the school
As someone who has been arguing this for years, based on solid research that I have shared with my students, I was astonished to see this analysis go public with such force and visibility. And I have to thank the Trump Administration and particularly Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for creating a climate which allowed this important discussion to get a public hearing.
One of the titles of the books I use speaks volumes on the subject "Color and Money: How Rich White Kids Have Won The War Over College Affirmative Action"
Thanks to Attorney General Sessions, the subject of Affirmative Action discourse has shifted from Favoritism to Minorities to Favoritism to the Rich.
This is the perfect example of a policy initiative backfiring!

Affirmative Action Check List For High School Seniors!


If you are looking at your classmates in the fierce competition for admission to elite colleges, the following are the advantages conferred on applicants in approximate order of their importance:
1. Being a highly recruited athlete, not just in football or basketball, but in ANY sport including tennis, crew, golf, lacrosse etc, This holds for women as much as men.
2. Coming from an extremely wealthy family. If your family is willing to make a large contribution to the school immediately, this advantage may even exceed that accruing to a highly recruited athlete
3. Being a member of an underrepresented minority. Although this category is always shifting, it includes, at most institutions, being Native American, of African descent ( which encompasses African Americans, West Indians, and Africans), Latino, or coming from the Pacific Islands.
4. Being the child of an alumnus. At some schools, the importance of this can exceed being from an underrepresented minority, and some schools it doesn't.
The vast majority of the attacks on Affirmative Action, and most of the resentment of it, focus on category 3. However, at most elite colleges, the percentage of people admitted via 1, 2 and 4 far exceed the percentage admitted under 3.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Celebrating the Great People Working in Public Education


After spending an afternoon at the Eastern Long Island Freedom School Session headed by Bronx principal Jamaal Bowman, where everyone in the room was a great public school educator in their own right, I am convinced that it is time to take the offensive and celebrate the amazing things happening in our public schools and get that information out to parents, elected officials, foundation officials and the media.

 Our public schools are filled with heroes- innovative teachers, department heads, principals, even superintendents- who are performing miracles with students from a wide variety of backgrounds. 

Heroes like Keri Lynn of Riverhead, fighting off Stage 4 Cancer, who has a rocking chair in her kindergarten classroom because she believes  her students, many of whom come from immigrant or high poverty families, need to be loved and cared for before they are taught and begins and end her school day with circles of caring and gratitude

Heroes like Jamaal Bowman, principal of CASA Middle School in the Bronx, who gives every parent in the school his cell phone number and has made dance a required course in his school because he believes self-expression and the arts are as important to student development as Math and Literacy and infuses his school with symbols of Hip Hop Culture because is was music which, in its Bronx origins, celebrated the ability of young people to overcome obstacles.

As a society, we will only be able to thrive together if we unleash joy and creativity in our young people and encourage them to continue to express themselves as they grow into adulthood

Where that creativity is being nurtured in our public schools, we must identify it, name it, publicize it an insist that it become the standard for excellence in ALL OUR SCHOOLS, replacing the testing and rote learning that is being promoted today.

It is time to take the offensive in the battle for our children and grandchildren's future. Let's celebrate our public education heroes and showcase what they do best

Starting right now!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Race to the Bottom: How Charters Have Undermined Public Education


Advocates of charter schools have long argued that public schools would improve if they faced competition from charters. In fact, the opposite has occurred. Public schools, to compete with the best financed charter chains, have become more rigid, authoritarian and test centered. All over the nation, arts, science, history, and physical education have been sacrificed in a single minded effort to raise scores on Math and ELA tests. What we have seen, in the name of competition, is a systematic degradation of our education system that has squeezed the joy and creativity our of our classrooms and has demoralized our best teachers. Because the competition has not been focused on who can have the best arts programs, or who can best motivate children with special needs, but on who can produce the best results on high stakes tests. Which has triggered a Race to the Bottom in terms of student engagement and quality of teaching

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Letter to SUNY Charter Committee Protesting Proposed Lowering of Teacher Standards

Dear Chairman Belluck and CUNY Charter Committee

      I am a Professor of African Studies and History at Fordham University, who has been a teacher, coach and professor for more than 50 years, and has spent the last 15 years doing community history programs in Bronx schools. I have watched, with some dismay, the emergence of disciplinary practices and employment practices in New York's best known and best financed  charter schools which violate the rights of students, teachers and families, and which also undermine what I have become convinced are best practices in the education of high needs students.  Foremost among the issues I have encountered, not only through first hand conversation with people in charter schools, but through research conducted by my own students, is high rates of turnover among charter school teachers due to excessive demands made on them by authoritarian administrators, and intimidating styles of management which discourage teachers from speaking honestly about what takes place in their classrooms. The result of this is that students in those schools do not have access to teachers who stay in their jobs a long time, who can be mentors for long periods and  and who have the courage  and standing to speak out against disciplinary practices which violate their professional conscience.

      Right now, charter school teaching is too often a revolving door career for recent college graduates who rarely come from the same background as the students they teach. That is something that needs to be changed, not reinforced. Students in high needs communities need teachers with extensive training, student teaching experience, and employment protections which allow them to speak out against excessive testing, zero tolerance disciplinary policies, and discrimination against ELL and Special Needs students, all of which can be found in too many of the best financed charter chains.  The current proposal moves us in the opposite direction from much needed oversight and reform in the Charter Sector in New York State. 

      The SUNY Charter School Institute should reject the proposal to lower standards of teacher certification in charter schools, and instead start designing measures designed to improve teacher quality, retention, and ethnic and cultural sensitivity in the Charter schools of New York State


Sincerely


Mark D Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University
Founder and Director
Bronx African American History Project

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Why We Need Freedom Schools Now


This summer, I decided to use the Freedom School model from the civil rights movement to promote solidarity among people looking for inspiration and direction out of frustration with the many social media groups that I was part of and in some cases helped to start. Don't get me wrong, those groups played and continue to play an important role in our political life and in the lives of many individuals
But in the face of the despair so many people felt during and after the Presidential election, and the challenges many experience as a result of events at their schools and workplaces, I felt face to face encounters were needed to give people the energy and support they needed to move forward.

So I decided, as an experiment, to organize three meetings at my home with great speakers, talking about important subjects, with lots of food and beverages to make people feel comfortable. The sessions were:


Michael Partis on "Bronx Hip Hop and Bronx Communities"
Jamaal Bowman on "Revolutionizing Public Education"
Melissa Castillo-Garsow on "The Radical Mexican Diaspora in NYC"


The results were extraordinary. All the sessions were filled, with a multiracial audience that varied markedly in age and life experience, with discussions that were inspiring, honest, sometime painful, and deeply appreciated. On each occasion, people stayed long after the scheduled time and not only created valuable connections; in some cases they started new friendships

When word of this got out, several friends in Eastern Long Island asked to create Freedom school sessions there, and the first one held there, featuring Justin Williams talking about Race and Immigration issues in Long  Island Schools and Communities, was, if anything more powerful than the ones in Brooklyn! People, many of whom had only met for the first time, stayed for five hours and probably would have slept there if they had been offered the opportunity.

Clearly, this model has met a powerful need. Not only do we have another session scheduled in Eastern LI, we have an entire set of Freedom Schools organized in the Bronx, by Aixa Rodriguez, a session organized in Livingston, New Jersey, and sessions being discussed in Buffalo, :Lower Westchester, and Danbury Connecticut.

For those of you who want to spread the movement to your city I have the following suggestions

1. Organize your sessions at someone's home, or at a comfortable public venue where people can let their hair down
2. Make sure you have a subject that will attract a multiracial audience, and a speaker with a proven ability to cross racial and cultural boundaries.
3. Make sure there are food and beverages at the event
4. Encourage people to bring high school and college age children to the event.
5. Advertise the subject of the talk publicly, but only give out the address of the talk to people who PM or email you, especially if the even it held at someone's home.

Doing this has given energy and purpose to me and many other people.

Let's build the movement!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Crime Against History: A Crime Against The Bronx: The Demolition of St Augustine RC Church


"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot"
Joni Mitchell
Today, as i was taking Fordham College Dean Maura Mast on a tour of the Morrisania neighborhood, one of the sites I had planned to show her was St. Augustine RC Church, once site of a vibrant predominantly Black parish in that community, and a place where I had once celebrated mass with people from its sister church in New Orleans shortly following Hurricana Katrina. I knew the parish had been closed, but wanted to show Dean Mast the building and explain some of the parish's noble history of serving African Americans in the Bronx largest Black community. But when I drove by the site of the church on Franklin Avenue and 167th Street, what I saw filled me with anguish and rage.
THERE WAS NO CHURCH THERE!
The church had been knocked down and an apartment building- and an ugly one at that- was being erected in its place.
How did that happen? Why did it happen? Why did people allow a beautiful building, first erected in 1853 through pennies saved by German immigrants and which, in another era,became a cultural as well as spiritual home for the Bronx's Black Catholics, get knocked down. Where was the Landmark Commission? Where was the Archdiocese of New York? What kind of world do we live in that a church of such beauty, and with such a history, can be DEMOLISHED.
I cannot accept this. What kind of city do we live in? What kind of country? If we do this to buildings, what will we do to people?
The picture below shows us what the Church looked like

Image may contain: sky, tree and outdoor

Sunday, July 16, 2017

When Anti-Immigrant Hysteria Swept the Land

During and after World War I, anti-immigrant hysteria swept the nation, focusing largely on Catholic and Jewish immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. Some of the results of that hysteria were:
The Prohibition of alcoholic beverages by Constitutional Amendment
A Red Scare resulting in the jailing and deportation of thousands of immigrant radicals
The resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan as an anti-Catholic, anti-foreign and anti-wet organization as well as an anti-Black one.
The passage of draconian immigration restriction legislation, favoring immigrants from Norther Europe, which restricted total immigration from 1,100,000 in 1919 to under 100,000 by the late 1920's.
The same era also saw pogroms and massacres directed at Black communities in East St Louis Missouri, Elaine Arkansas and Tulsa Oklahoma, including the torching and aerial bombardment of the wealthiest Black community in the nation in Tulsa.
If you want to read a novel which captures the wave of rage and fear sweeping through the nation in that era, read Dennis Lehane's "The Given Day."

Sunday, July 9, 2017

How Charter Schools Have Stifled Educational Innovation and Fought the Opt Out Movement


Although charter schools were originally promoted as a vehicle to encourage educational experimentation, their meteoric growth in influence has actually coincided with a REDUCTION in innovation in schools because those promoting them most have also pushed for national testing and test based accountability measures for rating schools. In New York City, for example, the largest charter chains have fiercely opposed the opt out movement, and used their political influence to support state testing at all grade levels and the continued use of testing to rate teachers and schools. They have also virtually eliminated all instruction outside ELA and Math and used high test scores as a selling point, putting pressure on local public schools to raise their test scores to compete with them. They have helped create a political climate, in New York City and New York state, where teachers and principals in high poverty communities feel they might be subjecting themselves to a state takeover and eventual closing if they do anything to serve their students that doesn't translate into higher test scores. Make no mistake about it, the Charter Lobby welcomes such an atmosphere. It is their version of educational entrepreneurship, even though its results are toxic in high need communities which need arts, sports, community history, and caring teachers and counselors to help students stay and thrive in schools.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Why I Am Against Raising the Charter Cap in NY or Anywhere Else


I am against against raising the charter school cap in New York State because charter schools systematically try to undermine public schools through their lobbying and political activism. They fear strong public schools because their best teachers would all leave if they had the option of moving to a quality public school. They NEED public schools to fail and do everything in their power to assure that they do. They are a toxic force in educational policy in NYC and around the nation, supporting the most abusive forms of testing and test based measures of school accountability. There are individual charter schools which promote creative instruction, but the most powerful and well financed charter chains promote test based pedagogy, draconian discipline and scripted instruction by inexperienced teachers

Why The Bronx Leads the Way


They wrote us off for dead- from the halls of Congress, to the offices of banks and media conglomerates, to the announcing booth at Yankee Stadium, but we
Created a new form of music, Hip Hop, that inspired the world
Rebuilt neighborhoods devastated by fires with town houses, apartment buildings and shopping centers
Offered homes and opportunities for immigrants from every portion of the globe from Africa to Eastern Europe to Latin America and South Asia.
Became the place where those pushed out of gentrifying neighborhoods ended up settling and raising families
Showed how Muslims, Christians and Jews can live and work together in peace.
Sustained great public schools like PS 140, PS 55, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom HS and CASA Middle School in spite of school closings, charters and vicious attacks from leaders of both parties.
We never listened to pundits. We never gave up. We created our own future
The nation has much to learn from the people of the Bronx.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Confidential Conversations With People Who Work in NYC Charter Schools


During the past few months, I have had several confidential conversations with people who work in some of the major charter school chains in New York City. Here is what I have come away with from those conversations.
1. There is a systematic effort to drive away families of children who pose discipline problems in the schools. One method is suspensions, but a more common method is constant harassment of the parents of children identified as troublesome through phone calls whenever those children "act out."
2. The burnout rate of teachers is enormous. It is very rare for a teacher to remain in their job for more than five years and most of the best teachers would leave if they could get a position in a good New York City public school.
3. There is tremendous waste of materials, with basements filled with extra lap tops and books that could be donated to resource starved organizations, including public schools which often occupy the same school buildings
4. The only subjects which get taught, especially in elementary schools and middle schools, are those which are tested-- ELA and Math. Science, social studies, and the arts, are not given any weight in the curriculum, and the schools become test prep factories in the weeks before State Exams, with students drilled relentlessly to make sure their scores are as high as possible
5. There is a great emphasis, on all levels of the institution, on pleasing those who fund the schools, who include some of the wealthiest individuals in New York City.

If you examine these comments carefully, you will see why charter schools can NEVER be a credible substitute for public schools in New York City, which are designed, at least in theory, to serve all students and families. If they have a role to play, it is comparable to what Catholic schools once did for upwardly mobile families living in the city's working class, immigrant neighborhoods

Sunday, June 25, 2017

How The Democratic Party Fatally Damaged Itself By Attacking Public Education


Ever since the Clinton Presidency, the Democratic Party has been an advocate of top-down school reforms whose goal has been to make the nation more economically competitive and reduce inequality.

 Not only have these policies failed to achieve their stated objectives, they have destabilized communities where Democrats have traditionally found support, created widespread distress among teachers and parents, and given credence to the conservative critique of the DP as the province of technocratic elites who impose policies on people without really listening to them


Every Democratic politician who has promoted the following education policies, I would argue, has been complicit in the Party's decline


1. Promotion of national testing and test based accountability standards for public schools.
2. Closing of schools which are deemed "failing" and removal of their teachers and administrators.
3. Preference for charter schools over public schools, especially in high poverty areas.
4. Support for programs like Teach for America which de-professionalize the teaching profession.


These four principles have been pillars of the Democratic Party's education policies on a national level, pushed by President Obama and supported by virtually every major Democratic politician in the nation including figures on the left of the Democratic Party such as Elizabeth Warren, Patti Murray and Al Franken.


What have been the results of these policies?:


1. The have inspired a national parents revolt against excessive testing
2. They have produced a sharp decline in teacher morale and inspired the creation of teacher activist groups like Save Our Schools, BATS, and the Network for Public Education
3. They have promoted an mass exodus of the most talented veteran teachers and led to a sharp decline in the percentage of Black teachers in cities like Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where teacher temps from programs like Teach for America have become the predominant labor force in the newly created charter schools.
4. They have accelerated the gentrification of the nation's major cities and diluted the political power of working class people, immigrants and people of color.
5, The have accelerated the shrinking of the Black and Latino middle class, and the weakening of the nation's unions.


If you are looking for an explanation of why the power of the Democratic Party has declined sharply in a state and local level during the past eight years, the promotion of these disastrous education policies has to be part of the explanation.


No better example can be found of the Party's adherence to the voice of billionaire contributors and technocrats over its traditional constituency into working class and middle class Americans than its disastrous foray into School Reform.


And unfortunately, the current leadership of the Democratic Party shows no willingness or ability to change course.""