Am I really preparing my kids for the world, or sheltering them from it? by Chris Stewart

crust.jpg

My kids are sitting at the kitchen island waiting for the lunch I'm preparing. Before me are three plates where I will carefully arrange three different assortments of tasties that I hope will pass their picky test.

I wash and slice each grape individually for my Babygirl. 

It's toast with no butter for the Babyboy (he hates butter). 

And, for the oldest of the three, a peanut butter sandwich with the crust cut off.

That last one, crust-free sandwiches, sparked a problem for me.

"Mom doesn't cut it like that," he said. The others laughed. Apparently, Daddy is a poor stand-in for mom's culinary artistry. I cut sandwiches into four pieces to make them child-sized, but mom cuts them in half (still child-sized, but it doesn't make them feel like babies).

Can I get a little slack? I was their age in the 1970s when kids could eat grapes without choking. I ate butter on toast if the toast came with butter on it. In my time, crust on bread wasn't disposable.

So, when my kids gave me the business I wondered if I'm getting old and starting to say things that old people said to be back in the day. My elders were fond of saying "Y'all don't know how good you have it - we didn't have no McDonald's in our day!"

I used to laugh and think "that would suck." Then I'd pity them for not being modern.

Those of us who grew up knowing what it was like to be thirsty longer than five minutes (the great soda rationing of 1975), and how to live without air conditioning or cable or gadgets for extended stretches of time; maybe we have so internalized those shortcomings of past days and turned them into a cause for spoiling our precious offspring who can't be bothered with the indignities of our dark past.

Maybe it's a sign of how much we've "made it" that we raise our kids to be mainstream and familiar with the middle-class privilege we've come to see as the common markers of class. Our past lives of perceived scarcity might feed our drive to give conveniences and advantages to our kids and protect them against feeling less-than in a world where less-than might as well mean social exile.

If so, that's more about our unresolved wounds and our medicinal signifying, and less about giving kids what they need to survive in the future.

I'm the first to admit my struggle. If the charge is spoiling and indulging, damn, lock my black ass up and forget about bail. I am not my parents, who, while doing their own bit of spoiling (I once had 9 cats), can only scratch their head about the next-leveling overcompensating that happens these days. I spoil, therefore I am.

Still, I worry about it even as I do it.

In the back of my mind, there is a dark thought that loiters in my recesses, moving about without much acknowledgment but present and haunting nonetheless. "Am I raising soft children of color who will crumble the first time they are tested by the unique challenges of a world that won't always cut the crust off the bread for nonwhite people?

A story from yesterday's news brought that challenge into focus for me again.

Two young women who were accused by white employees at an Applebees in Independence, Mo. of dining and dashing the night before. That's when you eat and flee the premises without paying, and these two young ladies knew they were nowhere in the vicinity when the crime happened.

Police officers came and grilled them with paternalism and white license; in the background, a sheepish looking white employee stood firm in her recollection of these two black diners as petty criminals.

The video of the event when viral and the Applebees employees were fired. That might seem like a satisfying outcome, but I found one thing unnerving. The two young ladies cried during the event; one called her mom to whimper and whine about the incident. The young woman feigned disbelief that such a thing could be happening.

I was bothered more by her tears than the assault itself. I don't feel good about that, but it's true. 

Not to belittle her, but her response calls into question the preparation we provide for black and brown children.

Are we preparing them for the world we want them to have, or the world as it actually exists, corrupt, inhuman, and racist AF?

In the same situation, I can see my three babies (and their older siblings) faltering too. My 50 years of living have trained me to expect racism, to distrust white authority, and to never feel fully "in" this country, but I've attempted to train my kids to expect to be treated as human beings, equal to any others.

What happens when they encounter an Applebee's situation? Will it shatter illusions I should have never allowed them to adopt?

We've put our kids in piano and dance lessons; sent them to camps where they blend in with kids who have different cultural backgrounds and we have traveled with them far and wide to expose them to the world beyond their bubble.

And, yet, our parental program is missing the tough mudder, the thing that will test and train them to be indefatigable in the face of adversity. 

What about self-defense? What about being strong and kicking ass and believing in your power, your people, your skin, your history?

Without a doubt I want my daughter to call me first whenever she is in trouble (my boys too), but I also want to know that she feels capable enough to fight for herself, and trained enough to do it effectively. I'd prefer she know here constitutional rights and understand that America's history of racism is ongoing. In situations like the Applebees debacle I'd prefer she not cry in the face of her oppressors, but to deliver a message from all of our family members - dead and living - who've taken far too much inhumane abuse from the white world.

In short, my children should channel their ancestors rather than break apart like some child actors on an after-school special.

I worry about doing my part to make them strong, informed, and capable if it means exposing them to discomfort, but how much can I teach them about their personal strength if I'm slicing their grapes and removing crust from their bread?

I'll have to keep thinking abou that problem. For now I have to make a run to the store to pick them up somehting for Valentine's Day so they won't feel left own tonight.

Oi.
 

Minnesota charter school is solving the rural childcare problem by Chris Stewart

echo.jpg

From the Advocate Tribune:

Like many small communities in Greater Minnesota, Echo has struggled with a dearth in childcare providers. Across the region, parents grapple with where to send their children, with many young families ultimately making the decision to move to a different community.

The crisis in childcare has prompted a variety of different solutions. In Clarkfield, the city is funding and overseeing the construction of a public daycare center, while in Granite Falls, Minnesota West is leasing space on campus to a private provider. Both projects expect to open later this year.

In Echo, the Every Child Has Opportunities (ECHO) Charter School is stepping up to provide their own solution to the childcare shortage problem. They are now in the final stages of opening a full time day care center located on site at the school, known as Bottle Rockets Child Care.

“It’s been an arduous process, but we’re very close,” says ECHO Director Helen Blue-Redner. She explains that they are currently working on ensuring compliance with the Minnesota Department of Health regulations. “It’s all intended to make sure we’re not just housing children, but educating them,” she said.

Black Panther, Black Lightning, Black Parents, and White Barriers by Chris Stewart

bp.jpeg

I can't wait for the opening night of Marvel's Black Panther, which, if black folks have anything to do with it, will be the event movie of the year.

For half a century I've waited to see a black superhero that wasn't a sidekick or a diversity consolation prize. My time is almost here, but until February 16th, the day I have pre-purchased tickets for my family, I'll have to settle for lesser heroes. 

And, that's where Black Lightning comes in.

This addition to CW's portfolio of comic revivals came to my attention by accident on YouTube TV. By my low standards for TV, it's a true winner. 

But there's one thing I didn't catch until just now. In this YouTube review of the show (below) we discover that not only is Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning) a school principal by day (I knew that), but he's a principal at a charter school.

Wow. Didn't see that coming.

PIerce is my second television sign of the mainstreaming of charters. The first was in The Foster's, a show about a San Francisco lesbian couple that adopts foster children and puts them in Anchor Beach Charter School where one of the moms works. I love the show, but whenever it makes statements about the school being a charter it's silly. There should be a laugh track. (like the episode where Jude was almost expelled for not passing a standardized test).

Back to Black Lightning.

It's dope. The world needs more thoughtful and broad representation of black people the way Lightning portrays us.

Most people of good will would agree, but the addition of a charter school in the story causes trouble. It hit a nerve with Steven Singer, a hype man for the Badass Teachers Association (a group of bad teachers who've found common cause in defending bad teachers).

He's pissed. He wants to know why the CW felt the need to make Garfield High a charter school?

Why, CW!? Why put your hero at the head of a charter school?

In the original DC comic book on which this television series is based, Pierce is a principal at Garfield High School in the fictional city of Metropolis.

When the writers moved the setting to New Orleans and made the hero a charter school principal, they were making purposeful changes to the mythology.

Why?

What does it add to the series with the inclusion of this extra detail?

Yes, Jefferson Pierce is African American. It’s about time we have more black superheroes. Marvel did an amazing job with its Netflix show based on Luke Cage, a character also created by writer Tony Isabella.

Listen, Pierce is black, which is good, but he's one of those blacks, the kind who fail to drink from the white progressive well.

That's a bad black. Dare we say uppity?

Now, that Luke Cage, he's better. He doesn't offend teachers' unions. He just dodges bullets, fights black politicians, and bumps fuzzies with Rosario Dawson. 

Good boy. Heel.

Here comes Singer's real trump card:

But charter schools are not uniquely black. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a moratorium on charter school expansion just last year. The national civil rights organization has been publicly critical of charter schools’ impact on children of color since 2010.

Sorry Steve, that dog don't hunt.

I feel like Effie on that episode of Project Greenlight when Matt Damon sought the Heisman of whitesplaination awards by explaining to her why diversity on the show was unimportant.

In a state of aw-hell-no-ish-ness all she could say was "Wow. Okay."

Singer plays the role of Damon here. He explains to us what black is and what it is not.

The 700,000 black children in charter schools, not black.

The fact that charters have more black principals than government schools, not black.

Black parents who prefer charter schools over government schools, nope, they're not black.

The countless black families sitting on waiting lists like Willy Wonka waiting to get their golden ticket, not black either. 

Who does Singer consider really black? The NAACP.

Someone should remind him that the NAACP has never been a black organization. Since it's founding it has been decidedly multi-racial.

Now, if Singer wants to know what black civil rights groups think he should look to the UNCF and the Urban League. They've been black since jump. Both of those organizations have not joined the anti-school-choice moratorium that was written by white teachers' unions for their various afroplastic grantees.

What's So 'Black' About Charter Schools?

Does anyone ever really ask the parent who chooses charter schools why they do it? Does anyone care or is it all a political battle between interests groups who all want to claim ownership of the voiceless, but they want to do it without listening to the voiceless?

A study in the Journal of Negro Education from 2012 called "The Black Charter School Effect" researched reasons for a higher rate of black families choosing charters and found there is something situationally unique about black parents' motivation. 

Results indicate that the main reason parents withdrew their children from the local traditional public school was to improve the quality of education their students were receiving. Parents defined "quality of education" as smaller class sizes, better teachers, teacher familiarity, a sense of belonging, one-on-one attention, and supportive staff. Parents were more influenced by a better-disciplined schooling environment than by better academic achievement. 

[...]

Charter schools that serve large proportions of Black students have very distinct characteristics. These schools tend to vary tremendously from the cultures and practices of traditional public schools, and in many cases, have achieved success. There were five commonalities among the literature that constitute the characteristics of these schools: (a) a defined mission statement that emphasizes academic performance, (b) a culture of high expectations, (c) a college-going atmosphere, (d) a focus on standardized tests and the use of regular internal evaluations, and (e) longer school days and extended academic years.

Getting an education for our kids shouldn't require Black Panther-like acrobatics where we lie about our address or apply for multiple scholarships, or dance for the magnet school enrollment committees, or beg principals to sequester our kids into special programs away from the general population. 

But it does require that level of effort. 

There is something uniquely white about ignoring the reasons black families look for advantages, options, alternatives, and pathways out of their redlining into government schools. 

I hope Singer will do less whining about fictional superheroes, and more explaining of his real-world white obstructionism to black education.

 

Additional reading:

Seeing the speck in the charter school eye while ignoring the beam in the district's by Chris Stewart

columbus-city-schools-2014-large.jpg

There is a national movement that aims to pass legislation across the country to make charter schools more transparent. Teachers' unions, the NAACP, foundations, and various strategic communications folks are pushing the narrative that charters are running amuck, awash in fraud, mismanagement, and questionable leadership practices.

People with integrity will have no problem with anything that makes entities receiving public dollars accountable to the public; so the push for accountability in charters isn't the end of the world.

But it isn't an honest push and the people promoting it lack integrity. Let's call things what they are.

What I called "a national movement" above is actually a strategic plan for supporters of traditional district schools. They want to stem the growth of charters as a competitive response. 

Nothing makes that claim more visible to me than the lack of any interest on the part of the charter accountability hawks when it comes to misdeeds in traditional districts and schools.

I was a school board member. I know how the bodies are buried.

I know how serial meetings can skirt open meeting law; how to post meetings at the last minute so interested parties won't attend; how to have board retreats in place that journalists aren't likely to come.

Here's today's contribution to that story. It comes from the Columbus Dispatch:

The Columbus Board of Education has not only been interviewing a secret list of candidates to become the next district superintendent, but it has added names not on the list of 19 applicants it released in December.

The board also has been allowing a consultant to keep documents to avoid the Ohio Public Records Act and has been making official board decisions in potentially illegal private meetings, district emails — released to The Dispatch under a records request — reveal.

After promising a transparent process, the board scheduled interviews for seven potential superintendent candidates that occurred between Jan. 8-10. According to emails, they included: current Acting Superintendent John Stanford; former district deputy superintendent Keith Bell, who later took a post in suburban Cleveland; Errick Greene, chief of schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and David James, superintendent of Akron City Schools.

But the board also held get-togethers with three candidates whom the district did not name when it released the list of applicants in December. The board called those “meetings” rather than “interviews,” the term they used for the four candidates who actually applied.

The district released applications from new candidates, some with dates before the Dec. 8 deadline but who weren’t on the list of candidates that the board released Dec. 11. New applicants include: Robert Haworth, superintendent of Elkhart Community Schools in Indiana; Michael Conran, superintendent of Global Education Excellence in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Corwin Robinson, principal of St. Tammany Parish Schools in Mandeville, Louisiana; and Jesse Pratt, academic improvement officer for Indianapolis Public Schools.

Read the whole story here.

If Yo Gotti can convince young people to graduate from high school, what's the problem? by Chris Stewart

yo-gotti-5.jpg

Southern rapper Yo Gotti is in the middle of a public education controversy.

The 37-year-old father of three drew criticism after the Shelby County Schools put him on billboards in a campaign to urge young people to graduate from high school.

The campaign announced him as "Product of Public Schools." Gotti graduated from Trezevant High School in Memphis.

The Atlanta Black Star reports the billboards have been dragged by incredulous parents:

An online debate is brewing after Yo Gotti’s image was featured on a billboard to promote the Shelby County School system in Memphis, Tenn, his hometown. “Product of Public Schools,” the signs read next to a photo of the rapper.

Many people questioned whether or not the school made the right choice in selecting the rapper for its marketing campaign.

“So dropping my son off at school this morning, I’m a tad bit confused by this billboard Shelby County Schools has up,” wrote Ben Frazier. “Someone please help me understand the intentions of this message.”

Gotti grew up North Memphis' Ridgecrest Apartments, where he says hustling was the only way of life.

"We ain't see no doctors unless you went to one. We only seen them in uniform, we didn't know what he drove in or how he lived. We didn't know no professional athletes. All we knew was the big homies from the hood, who had the Cadillacs and the jewelry, big chains, mink coats."

You might think rising up from those beginnings, and becoming world famous might earn him some hometown credibility as a role model for those left behind.

Maybe not. 

Giving a shout out to respectability politics, Erica May, a guest columnist in the Commercial Appeal, wrote "In Memphis, we have no shortage of successful individuals who would be perfect to represent our school system on a billboard. Shelby County Schools Supt. Dorsey Hopson and Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings are two that quickly come to mind."

Others followed May's lead, suggesting Gotti makes for a terrible example.

A Tweet about the story the billboard by WMC News 5 asked: "what do you think of it?"

Some of the responses were predictable and trolling.

"If you[sic] child aspires to be like him, then our future is in trouble," one tweet said.

"Really unbelievable that could get approved and paid for," said another.

But one graduate of SCC schools, Daniel Watson, wasn't buying it.

He said in a Facebook video he thinks the strategy of getting someone that resonates with young people is a good one:

"If I'm investing in a billboard I need to be able to reach people with someone that resonates with them to get them to do the one goal which is to graduate high school...[Gotti] reaches millions," he said.

Tami Sawyer, a candidate running for a seat on the Shelby County Commission agrees:

Yo Gotti has 1.6 million Twitter followers. He owns a record lable, Collective Music Group, and in 2016 he signed a deal with Jay Z's Roc Nation.

Gotti has an estimated net worth of $3.5 million. 

 

I won't be watching your president tonight, but enjoy it by Christopher Stewart

trump.jpg

Tonight at 8:00 p.m. central time Donald J. Trump will enter the United States House chamber to deliver his state of the union speech.

I won’t be watching. Neither will my children. That’s a shame, but that’s where we are as a country a year after a race fueled backlash elected a white-rights president.

Trump is your president, not mine. That’s not my opinion; he has made that clear. My people are “sons of bitches.” My relatives are “bad hombres.” My neighbors are to be banned from the country, and my sisters are little more than targets for groping.

I am not white, male, and angry about losing privilege. I am without a representative in what has become the whitest house in the history of white houses.

Tonight, I expect he will praise himself for an economy that is working well for everyone except the Carrier employees who elected him.

He will likely value-signal toward a military he avoided all of his privileged life; praise law enforcement as a reflexive counter to the bothersome movement for police accountability, and he will - once again - attempt to scare the bejesus out of Americans about dangerous immigrant gang members.

All the while he will be holding the lives of a million or more undocumented immigrants hostage, somewhat like the Joker in Gotham giving Batman to either save this group or that group, but not both.

And, many of you will normalize the abnormal, the immoral, the ridiculous. You will say he sounds “moderated” and more presidential than ever. His bar is so low he could stand at the podium in silence and it would earn praise as an improvement from those of you too callow to analyze further.

Trump is a resetting of all the social, racial, and economic contracts we’ve negotiated through democracy for generations. Many before him have dreamed of unwinding gains by non-white people in the way he is doing, but few were brave enough to give decent people the language and rationale for dehumanizing everything nonwhite.

How clear is the reset?

Trump has turned Evangelists into porn defenders, USA patriots into Russia apologists, and the few good men of the Republican party into pandering subordinates.

This is your president. This is your moment to shine and show yourself to be all that you’ve secretly been for years, but couldn’t admit.

Welcome to the hate of the union.

 

Let's not have a double standard for unpublic schools that do dumb things (and apologize for it) by Chris Stewart

Is it time to beat up on private schools again?

Is it time to beat up on private schools again?

Those damned private schools. They are so discriminatory.

Did you hear about the school in Wisconsin that asked students to offer three good reasons for slavery?

Outrageous!

In response, Jim Van Dellen, the principal of Our Redeemer Lutheran Schools, had this to say:

Our Redeemer regrets deeply an unjustifiable assignment on slavery earlier this week…. [The church and school] work hard to promote the human dignity of all people, and this assignment did not reflect our core values or practices.

I can think of two reasons this makes a good story:

  1. The school is private and this example gives a mighty hammer to people who oppose school choice;
  2. The school is religious and there are a significant number of people who hate Jesus.

So, let's say you're a public school activist who believes public money should never be used to support children and families who want to be educated outside of the district system. A story like this comes along and it's your moment to stick it to those callous fools who think private schools can be as transparent and accountable (hahahaha) as district schools.

Well, slow down there skippy.

Yes, it was a dumb assignment that I wouldn't appreciate if my kid were in that class.

But, you're not going to make the argument that district schools are somehow above racially problematic assignments - are you?

I hope not.

Here in Minnesota, where I live, we've seen this before.

Like, the time a black girl was asked to create the best way to colonize Africa.

Or, the time Minneapolis Public Schools used a curriculum from PBS that literally gamified slavery and made students slaves.

Or the time that the same district purchased reading curriculum that many in the community thought were racist.

Now, don't get smug and think this is something that happens up here in Fargo-land.

Consider the teacher El Paso, Texas that gave students a true/false test that included these jewels: “Asians are small people” and “Black people eat chicken.”

Or is this from Charlotte, NC:

A taxpayer-funded high school in North Carolina has come under criticism from local parents because a history teacher gave students a blatantly racist assignment involving a bomb shelter and an impending nuclear war.

The unidentified teacher distributed the assignment at Olympic High School in Charlotte, reports local CBS affiliate WBTV.

The assignment — called “Bomb Shelter Activity” — forces students to use skin color and ethnic background to choose four strangers who will be allowed enter a bomb shelter prior to a nuclear attack.

All of this happened in those good old-fashioned traditional, bureaucratized, industrialized, unionized cornerstones of democracy that you call "public" schools - not private schools.

I could bury you in other examples, but I leave you with a classic from 2012:

In a bold comparative analysis of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Jada Williams, a 13-year old eighth grader at School #3 in Rochester, New York, asserted that in her experience, today's education system is a modern-day version of slavery. According to the Fredrick Douglass Foundation of New York, the schools' teachers and administrators were so offended by Williams' essay that they began a campaign of harassmentkicking her out of class and trying to suspend her—that ultimately forced her parents to withdraw her from the school.

Are we all clear now?

 

Black, poor, and gifted? Hopefully you're not in Wisconsin. by Chris Stewart

WEA gifted.jpg

Anything a state does to open new pathways for black people to get out of education deserts and into the domain of educational opportunity raises my antennas. 

So, today, Wisconsin has my attention.

Three legislators in America's cheese capital are proposing a grant program that would offer high achieving students in low-income families access to public and private programs they currently can't afford.

Most states have plans in the works to bolster low performing students, but high achievers - especially those who are poor and nonwhite - are a forgotten lot.   

But, there is an increasing focus on them.

Last year the National Association of Gifted Children expressed concern about the scant number of low-income students of color reaching advanced levels of achievement.

We are particularly concerned with what’s happening at the high end. There we find not only far too few students reading (or doing math) at the top level, but also a reprehensible shortage of poor and minority youngsters within the ranks of those who do. A mere 2 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch reached the Advanced level in twelfth-grade reading last year, versus 8 percent who aren’t eligible (i.e., who are not so poor); in twelfth-grade math, it’s 1 percent versus 4 percent. Likewise, twelfth-grade black and Hispanic students reach NAEP’s highest reading ranks at rates of 1 and 2 percent, respectively (versus 9 percent of white kids and 10 percent of Asian kids). In twelfth-grade math, only 1 percent of Hispanic youngsters do so, and the percentage for black students rounds to zero (it’s 3 and 9 percent for white and Asian students respectively). The picture is much the same in the fourth and eighth grades.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the Wisconsin proposal would support 2,000 students who score in top 5 percent of standardized tests or those identified as "gifted and talented" with publicly paid "tuition, textbooks, payments to a licensed or accredited tutor, payments to purchase a curriculum, tuition and fees for a private online learning program, fees for Advanced Placement exams, private music or art lessons, according to the bill’s analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau."

Here comes a shocker, not everyone is on board. 

The Wisconsin Education Association Council have slammed the program because they say it doesn't "meet the needs of all students," and "elected officials should provide stable funding for public schools and include educators in developing solutions instead of fragmented approaches that siphon more from public schools to fund private [programs]"

AllLivesMatter (except black gifted lives, of course) and public education funding is not for individual children, but for the people who make a living on the backs of children.

There is such a dishonest foundation to that argument. No program address the "needs of all students," and families are wise to seek programs that work for the specific needs of their children. And, yes, the government has a compelling reason to fund the development of each child to their potential. 

Having traveled to Wisconsin last week and having talked to people on the ground, I can tell you there is zero shame in the white "progressives" there. They would allow black and brown kids to perish before shifting their ideology a single notch to the right. I'll write more on that soon.

For now, know that Wisconsin is home to the worst white-black student achievement gap, worst science achievement gap, worst white-black graduation gap, and, the nations worst "well-being" gap between whites and blacks.

Too bad the state's teachers' union cares more for dollars than sense.