Wednesday, November 23, 2016


To attempt to understand/ ponder on this post, you will first have to read this very short short story entitled "Sweetness" by Toni Morrison.

Here is the link...

Beyond the obvious message on colorism, parenting, etc...I also hear W.E.B. DuBois (double consciousness, the veil, the color line) in this story.

But as I try to grasp at the soul of Morrison's story, I find White America in the first paragraph:

"It's not my fault.  So you can't blame me.  I didn't do it and have no idea how it happened."

Our family didn't own slaves...I didn't kill Emmett Till...I didn't beat Rodney King...I'm not a racist...I'm not responsible for Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and the names go on and on and on.

Can we really make any progress in America until we acknowledge the sins of the past and present...the true history of the African Diaspora...discard the controlling messages of those in power...revolutionize the mis-education and indoctrination of our youth...realize that human dignity and freedom is all of our responsibility?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Wings of Atalanta and "Education"

In my 30+ years of teaching, I have rarely heard an honest conversation on "what is success" in public education, only simple solutions before even understanding the problems...

In 1903, W.E.B. DuBois used the story of Atalanta and Hippomenes to illustrate the deep divide between a "modern" education and what he believed were the true ideals of education. He mused that the "modern" education was focused on preparing workers and making money over the virtues of learning Goodness, Beauty, and the pursuit of Truth.

"It is a hard thing to live haunted by the ghost of an untrue dream of material prosperity (high GPA, graduation rate, addition!) as the touchstone of all success instead of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Already the fatal idea is beginning to spread."

As widely reported in the media, an "Urban Prep" School in Chicago brags about the fact that 100% of its 55 students graduate from high school and 100% are accepted into four-year colleges (a slick marketing ploy) while:

  • failing to include the 100+ students who left the school in their data
  • dropping from 17.2% to 14.7% in its "MCA" proficiency scores
  • averaging 16.5 on the ACT exam

I suspect that many students have:

  • been conditioned to fear failure/ not see struggle as an opportunity for growth
  • accepted the effortless "perfection" of good grades over the joy of learning
  • avoided challenging and engaging classes in order to minimize effort

IMO (and DuBois'), the over-emphasis on measurement of standardized data, GPA, failure rate focuses our students and teachers on the scoreboard instead of "keeping their eye on the ball" of a true education. 

For students who find high school relatively easy, "staring at the scoreboard" can be quite affirming and for those who struggle on the scoreboard it can be depressing...and when they struggle later in life students begin to doubt, believe they are not smart, give up, etc. instead of  struggle as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Read Carol Dweck's study on the principles of fixed vs. growth mindset!

I believe that when we allow students (and teachers) to question, become truly curious/ engaged in critical thinking, value the true "joy of learning" (aka keep their eye on the ball of a true education) and not worry about their grades, keeping up with the common core, vertical and horizontal alignment...then they will be begin to develop a critical consciousness of empathy for humanity and a heart for social action (and they may even improve their GPA, increase graduation rate, and excel on standardized tests).

Then, America will begin to become great (not again) for the first time!

Thursday, November 10, 2016


In his book Souls of Black Folk (chapter IV), W.E.B. DuBois ponders the meaning of Progress in America by using his life experience as a young teacher in Black, rural Tennessee.

He starts with realizing his own educational privilege and how very hard/ almost impossible task it was to get out of extreme poverty and illiteracy caused by Jim Crow racism and government policies:

"If you wish to proclaim your power...send out your angels, the immortal, the pure ones, who are unsentimental and do not weep! Do not choose a delicate and tender soul.

In chapter IV he discusses his lifelong love and relationship with his former school and students and how Progress looked (after 10 years) for his former/ their community.

DuBois was perplexed by American Progress because in this community it only represented an increased love of capitalism and decreased freedoms...some more land, a "better" job, a little more money, increased family debt, a boarded up school, families dying from hard work, KKK violence, and strife, the Jim Crow section, etc.

But, he still finds life and love in all of it!

"How hard a thing life to the lowly, and yet how human and real!  And all this life and love and strife and it the twilight of nightfall or the flush of some faint-dawning day?"

These are the words I am trying to share with friends as we consider election day and beyond...

This is a new day and our journey toward true progress has only just begun, let's do it with life and love (and action)!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Rigged Election

During this (and past) election cycles we have heard candidates talk of big money influence, backroom collusion, computer malfunctions, voter fraud and intimidation, etc. all in the name of "rigged elections".  Although there is very little evidence that the 2016 presidential process has been rigged (with the exception of the DNC working against Bernie Sanders in the "democratic" primary), many still believe there is the potential for a rigged election.

1876 Presidential Election Map

So let's talk about a truly rigged election...

In 1876 (just 11 years after the conclusion of the Civil War), Republican Rutherford B. Hayes lost the popular vote to Democrat Samuel Tilden, who had the overwhelming support of Southern White/ Democrat voters aka former Confederate/ White Power organizations. 

The electoral college vote, however, was vigorously disputed. Hayes claimed victory based on his "wins" in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina (those states were under Republican/ federal military control aka Military Reconstruction). Democrats submitted alternative election totals in those three states that discounted Black/ Republican votes and claimed a Democratic victory.

 A contentious election crisis ensued.

Congress (controlled by Republicans) set up a special commission to resolve the crisis.  Not surprisingly, the special commission (making a backroom deal) declared Hayes the winner of the election, in what has come to be known as "The Compromise of 1877." 

In the deal, Democrats agreed to give Hayes a victory they clearly believed he had not won. 

In return, Republicans agreed to:
  • Remove federal troops (and protection for African Americans and Republican candidates) from the South.
  • Support tax appropriations to rebuild southern railroads, levees, and other infrastructure. 

This rigged election effectively invalidated the "Civil War/ Reconstruction Freedom" so hoped for by African Americans and Radical Republicans, as southern state governments and white power terrorist organizations began a systematic renewal of the southern slavery system...denying the right to vote, imprisoning thousands of African American men in work prisons, developing Jim Crow "laws", sharecropping and debt peonage, and lynching thousands.

Much like 1877, the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed have been pushed to the margins of  2016 America by the neoliberal economic beliefs of the Democrats and an election that is truly rigged against them.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Election 2016:Why I won't vote!

A question I have pondered lately...

Why are you considering not voting or why are you voting the way you are?

In 1956, W.E.B. DuBois gave an impassioned protestations for not voting...this is particularly interesting since millions of African Americans (and others) had been historically denied the right to vote and it draws eerie comparisons to our current milieu.

He starts with a brief history of his previous voting record and then begins the crux of his argument:

"In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no "two evils" exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party. On the Presidential ballot in a few states (seventeen in 1952), a "Socialist" Party will appear. Few will hear its appeal because it will have almost no opportunity to take part in the campaign and explain its platform. If a voter organizes or advocates a real third-party movement, he may be accused of seeking to overthrow this government by "force and violence." Anything he advocates by way of significant reform will be called "Communist" and will of necessity be Communist in the sense that it must advocate such things as government ownership of the means of production; government in business; the limitation of private profit; social medicine, government housing and federal aid to education; the total abolition of race bias; and the welfare state. These things are on every Communist program; these things are the aim of socialism. Any American who advocates them today, no matter how sincerely, stands in danger of losing his job, surrendering his social status and perhaps landing in jail."

As DuBois pointed out in 1956, there was no real difference between the two major political parties...both bow at the feet of big money...and both candidates "aren't as bad as the other."

Later in the article he continues:

"Negroes hope to muster 400,000 votes in 1956. Where will they cast them? What have the Republicans done to enforce the education decision of the Supreme Court? What they advertised as fair employment was exactly nothing, and Nixon was just the man to explain it. What has the Administration done to rescue Negro workers, the most impoverished group in the nation, half of whom receive less than half the median wage of the nation, while the nation sends billions abroad to protect oil investments and help employ slave labor in the Union of South Africa and the Rhodesias? Very well, and will the party of Talmadge, Eastland and Ellender do better than the Republicans if the Negroes return them to office?  I have no advice for others in this election. Are you voting Democratic? Well and good; all I ask is why? Are you voting for Eisenhower and his smooth team of bright ghost writers? Again, why? Will your helpless vote either way support or restore democracy to America?"

Is the refusal to vote in this phony election a counsel of despair? No, it is dogged hope. It is hope that if twenty-five million voters refrain from voting in 1956 because of their own accord...this might make the American people ask how much longer this dumb farce can proceed without even a whimper of protest.

Is this despair and hopelessness talking or is it a dogged determination to see a true democracy to be born in America?

No!  It is "voting" by not voting...a true sign of protest!

He concludes:

"...we remain in the same mess. I will be no party to it and that will make little difference. You will take large part and bravely march to the polls, and that also will make no difference. Stop running Russia and giving Chinese advice when we cannot rule ourselves decently. Stop yelling about a democracy we do not have. Democracy is dead in the United States. Yet there is still nothing to replace real democracy. Drop the chains, then, that bind our brains. Drive the money-changers from the seats of the Cabinet and the halls of Congress. Call back some faint spirit of Jefferson and Lincoln,and when again we can hold a fair election on real issues, let's vote, and not till then. Is this impossible? Then democracy in America is impossible."

I wonder what DuBois would write in 2016?