Thursday, June 23, 2016

Official "History"

Recently while on a trip to Washington, D.C. and NYC with my wife, I was painfully reminded about how "we" and even official "historical" tour guides romanticize about (while perpetuating fairy tale myths) and attempt to sanitize American History.

Top 5 "truths" (believe me there were more than no particular order) heard (or not heard...ignored) on the trip:

1. While standing at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial and hearing dozens (including teachers with student groups) repeat the mantra of "Lincoln as The Great Emancipator...the Savior of the slaves, etc." while having no clue of his plans of colonization, his racist rhetoric and tone, etc. while hundreds trampled over (without notice or recognition) the plaque commemorating the place where Dr. King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

2. While visiting Teddy Roosevelt's home at Sagamore Hill (actually a great tour)...the tour guide throws in (IMO to placate the people of color) during the last 5 minutes of the tour how progressive President Roosevelt was on race because "he was the first President to invite a black man to dinner at the White House."

But, what about Roosevelt's belief in racial eugenics, referring to Africans as, “ape-like naked savages, who prey on creatures not much wilder or lower than themselves" and stating that whites were “the forward race destined to raise the backward race[s] through industrial efficiency, political capacity and domestic morality"...his implicit cover-up of contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers during the Spanish American War, etc.

3. A tour guide at Arlington National Cemetery referring to Robert E. Lee as a "great American general" whose property was "rightfully returned to the Lee family in December of 1882 on a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision" which stated that the  confiscation of the property lacked due process...."and Congress eventually purchased the property from Lee for $150,000."

All this without one mention of Lee being a traitor, Freedmen's Village and the thousands of slaves who fled, lived, died, and were buried at Arlington during and after the mention of Medgar Evers or many other important people of color and women buried at Arlington.

4. The same tour guide at Arlington National Cemetery giving a very cursory and inaccurate history of the Iwo Jima Marine Memorial without a mention of the first flag raising, cost of life for government propaganda, etc.

5. Listening to a tour guide eulogize Thomas Jefferson and his "great belief in freedom and all men are created equal" while failing to note that TJ owned slaves, raped Sally Hemings, called Native Americans "Noble Savages", etc.

As Edourd Glissant suggests...

If only we dared "to abandon the absurd catalogue of official history".

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Literacy = Freedom


Not an unusual story across our nation...

Mary Willingham (a learning specialist and tutor) was in her office when a basketball player at the University of North Carolina walked in looking for help with his classwork. He couldn't read or write...even about himself in the local sports page!

"I kind of panicked. What do you do with that?" she said, recalling the meeting.

Willingham's job was to help athletes who weren't quite ready academically for the work required at UNC, one of the country's academically elite public universities. But she was shocked that one couldn't read or write.

And then she found he was not unusual:

35% of Americans read below a 5th grade level.

19% of high school graduates (how did they this immoral?!?) can't read...This is on top of the fact that 22% of students nationwide do not graduate from high school.

An estimated 20% of college athletes read below an 8th grade level.

33% of high school graduates never read another book after high school.

In the USA, the average person spends 4 hours per day watching television and less that 20 minutes reading.

One of the functions of The National Association of Adult Literacy is to measure the English literacy of adults across the United States. They define literacy as the ability to “search, comprehend, and use information from continuous texts,” and categorize literacy into four levels:

Below Basic- the most simple skills ranging from non-literate to being able to follow simple written instructions. (14% of population)

Basic- the ability to perform simple everyday literacy tasks like reading and understanding simple texts and documents, being able to read the TV schedule, etc. (29% of population)

Intermediate- the ability to summarize, make simple inferences, compare and contrast, determine the author's purpose, locating information in complex reading materials, identifying locations on a map, etc. (44% of population)

Proficient- skills to perform moderately challenging and complex literacy  such as reading lengthy abstract prose, integrating, synthesizing, and analyzing multiple pieces of information, making inferences, etc.

In an extensive NAAL survey, only 13% of adults attained the proficient level (compared to estimates of 20% in 1776).

We must do better...these statistics are an unacceptable truth!

How to improve your reading:

1. Find something interesting to you and at or slightly above your current reading level.

2. Find a quiet place where you can read.

3. Have a regular routine/ schedule to practice your reading.

4. Take your time, concentrate, sound out words, look up difficult words (it is a good idea to read while listening to the audio version...this especially helps for pronunciation).

5. Determine context clues, implied messages, symbolism, and reread if necessary.

6. Keep reading...soon your vocabulary will become larger and more sophisticated, your ideas and imagination will broaden, and you will notice your grades change for the better in school. You will also become a better writer due to your more advanced vocabulary.

7. Have fun...because reading is fun!

Some of the books I plan to read this summer!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My Top 20 "Summer" Songs

As another school year ends (my 31st in teaching)...I share with you my very subjective  "Top 20 Summer Songs".

Enjoy and let me know what I "forgot"!

1. Everybody Loves the Sunshine...Roy Ayers

2. Summertime...Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong

3. We Don't Need No Education...Pink Floyd

4. Dancing in the Street...Martha and the Vandellas

5. Feeling Good...Nina Simone

6. Hot Fun in the Summertime...Sly and the Family Stone

7. Heatwave...Martha and the Vandellas

8. Lovely Day...Gil Scott-Heron

9. When the Levee Breaks...Led Zeppelin

10.Fire and Rain...James Taylor

11. Bicycle...Queen

12. Schools Out...Alice Cooper

13. Gloomy Sunday...Billie Holiday

14. Sun is Shining...Bob Marley

15. In the Good ol' Summertime...Billy Murray

16. Summer Breeze...Seals & Crofts

17. Dog and Butterfly...Heart

18. Everday Sunshine...Fishbone

19. Flight of the Bumblebee...Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

20. Moonlight Sonata...Ludwig van Beethoven