A racist promposal goes viral, but it should be the least of our worries in the face of an anti-black education system by Chris Stewart


Today's episode of racial stupidity in public schools has us visiting Sarasota, Florida where 18-year-old Noah Crowley, a high school senior at Riverview High School, is collecting hell fire from the internet gods for a leaked Snapchat photo of his racist "promposal."

As you might expect, the story lit up social media timelines, and all the predictable crisis management tactics were executed.

The school put out a statement saying:

"We want to make everyone aware of a student’s social media post that has caused a very concerning situation. It involves one of our seniors and his 'promposal' to another student. It was racial in nature and administration became aware of it last night.

Many who saw the post are understandably upset with its contents as well as the subsequent commentary to the post. Riverview High School absolutely does not condone or support the message conveyed in this post.

The student’s post is under investigation by administration; the parents of the students involved have been contacted and appropriate action will be taken based on the investigation. We are focused on ensuring that Riverview High School provides a safe and secure environment for all of our students and that all students feel welcome and understand the value that they all bring to our school community. Our guidance counselors and administrators are available for any student who wish to speak to someone regarding the issue.

Riverview High School has a wonderful student population and we know our school will use this incident as an opportunity to have productive conversations about respect for one another. We look forward to the start of a new week and know that together, we will demonstrate our pride in the spirit of our school through caring for each other. Thank you."

Crowley issued the standard apology that horrified white parents buy from publicist when their children become internet famous for racism.

What's interesting about his apology is it makes his actions seem accidental or spontaneous, but the sign is pretty damn neat. The meticulous lettering looks like it took a while (albeit, with a stencil). It looks like he had ample time while creating it to ask himself "is this stupid"?

He said:

"I want to sincerely apologize if I have offended anyone with the picture going around. That was not my intention. Anyone who knows me....knows that that's not how we truly feel. It was a complete joke and it went too far...After reading the texts and Snapchat's I truly see how I have offended people and I'm sorry."

And what racial incident would be complete without an obligatory meeting with the local NAACP?

Yes, the Sarasota school district is working with the civil rights organization to show a good faith attempt at investigating and resolving their problem with the color line.

Great. Good stuff. Unfortunately, is solves nothing.

All of the racial theater aside, the problem here isn't Crowley, his message, the hurt feelings of overly precious children, or existence of racism among American youth. God help any individual cognitively impaired enough to be surprised by anti-black racism or endemic white supremacy. Those properties are like air for birds, water for fish, or lies for Trump.

It just is what it is.

But, being the education hawk that I am, there is something important about this story that won't be told.

Here's a picture of it:

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 1.55.27 PM.png

Riverview High School is 69% white, and 31% non-white, which by definition is that elusive "integrated" school so many of my colleagues and peers in education commentary fawn over.

Old integration plans from days long gone capped "minority" student populations to 30% because it was the golden ratio of white to minority numbers that made everyone better educated.

By golden ratio I mean 30% was the high rate of non-minority in a school that could exist before good white people would bolt for less integrated schools.

As you can see by the picture above, there are problems with that theory. In fact, Riverview's black students scored so poorly on state tests they might as well be at the blackest, poorest school in the country. 

Here's a better picture:

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 1.55.05 PM.png

Every student population in this school is outscoring their state at-large, but only 23% of black students are proficient in reading - at the high school level - as compared to black students statewide who are at 33%.

White Riverview students are at a laudable 73%.

We can have long discussions about why those disparities exist. Obviously parents and culture and family income will be summoned as contributors. For some, school funding and class size will explain everything. 

But one thing is certain: we will never improve outcomes for black students if we are perpetually distracted by the facile outrage of the day, or by romantic versions of alternative reality where racial integration fixes everything.

Let's be intelligent people capable of rigorous thought.

Change will only come if we focus less on the picture above of Crowley's dumb promposal, and focus more on the two other pictures above that illustrate the glaring disparities in education that are killing black minds everyday.

Do schools reduce, replicate, or exacerbate inequality? by Chris Stewart



The connection between poverty and test scores seems so enduring that many people talk about it as if poverty is prophecy.

That point is easier to make when you look at "point-in-time" snapshots of proficiency rather than looking at student growth. With the release of 2017's NAEP scores some researchers offered novel, nuanced takes on the results. 

Craig Helmstetter at APM Research Lab looked at Sear Reardon's (Stanford) study and makes the point that schools do matter to the outcomes of students in poverty:

Correlation coefficients range from -1 to 1, and those closer to zero, like -0.13, generally signal weak relationships. In this case, the weak correlation means that third graders in districts with high average reading and math test scores will not necessarily see bigger (or smaller) gains by eighth grade than will third graders in lower-scoring districts.

  • If your belief is that the school system exacerbates inequality—that the advantaged districts that start with high achievers strongly accelerate the educational growth of their students, whereas students of lower-achieving, disadvantaged districts are destined to meager growth—you might have guessed that such a correlation would be strong and positive.

  • If you believe that schools function as a great equalizer, you might have expected a stronger negative relationship.

  • If you believe in the remaining option, however, that school systems consistently mirror the inequality occurring outside of school doors, that is not quite right either.

The relationship between early achievement and subsequent gains is not weak because districts consistently maintain inequality that is brought to their doorstep, but because school districts’ impacts on student gains are inconsistent. As the study’s author, Dr. Sean Reardon, states, “the role of schooling in shaping educational opportunity varies substantially across places.”

In other words, the answer to the question of whether school districts decrease, replicate, or increase inequality is “Yes.” Or, more precisely, it depends on which district you are talking about.

Education Autocrats Got Jokes, and They're All On Us by Chris Stewart


I posted a New York Times article on Facebook yesterday that said Black people still face redlining in housing due to longstanding bank lending practices.

My friend Derrell Bradford responded by saying "Yeah....but....neighborhood schools......"

Allow me to break the first rule of comedy. I'm going to explain his joke. 

In edu- world we constantly hear about the impacts of segregation and poverty on schools. Charter schools are said to worsening segregation because they often serve black and brown students in high poverty neighborhoods.

But, here's the funny part: the same people who make that charge seem to be more significant contributors to segregation than charter schools.

First, let's start with the fact that many of them live segregated professional lives. Some send their children to the least integrated schools in their city (Hello Myron Orfield). Others are the proud products of segregated - albeit, all-white - private schools (Hello Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig and Yohuru Williams). And, a rare bunch choose segregated - yes, black - for their children (Hello Ms. Hannah Jones).

The funniest comedy is about incongruent things, which makes these bawdy anti-school reformers successful comedians.

Second, the antidote to segregation that they prescribe is one unlikely to cure the disease. They preach about the nobility of neighborhood schools (now rebranded as "community schools") but ignore how tying school enrollment to segregated housing patterns continues the problem. 

For educated people to do that is quite funny.

How about the trope signaling a need for "democracy in education" while the push for elected school boards is far from democratic?

Almost nobody votes for the people who supposedly represent the public's interests. Look at their political endorsements and campaign workers, and often you'll find public workers hiring their bosses. 

That's racketeering, not democracy. Again, incongruent things make for great comedy.

But wait, there are more jokes.

The one about how we should value teachers and public education more, but we should acknowledge that teachers and public education can't make much of a difference if students are black, poor, and have parents who are black and poor.


The one about how standardized testing doesn't tell us anything of value, except, of course, when it tells us something we want to hear.

When education establishmentarians like Diane Ravitch and her nation of Ravitchians say "charter schools do no better than public schools, and often they do worse," they're basing their assessment on the same standardized, summative assessments that they criticize.

Here's another good one: the Ravitchian paleopedagogues say those of us who commit ourselves to new schools and alternative education systems are merely profiteers and disaster capitalists who want to tap America's $600 billion education budget.

That's funny because nobody talks about money more than career educrats themselves.

The unions, principals, teachers, superintendents, and virtually everyone drawing a check from the half-trillion- education-trough can't get enough of money talk.

On the other side, the supposedly petty education capitalists obsess mostly about schools, schooling, achievement, outcomes, student trajectory, college, teaching, learning, scope and sequence, content, pathways, pipelines, research, data - you get the picture.

The fact that Mr. Money Bags thinks mostly about education, while Ms. Save O. Schools thinks mostly about money, now that's comedic genius.

Then there is the thing about school reformers being a motley crew of racists and cultural tourists. My experiences tell me that one is super hilarious. When I was on a school board we attempted to negotiate a rule that teachers taking a job in our lowest performing schools would have to give the school at least a two-year commitment so we could stem the effects of churn. The union balked. In fact, their head comedian told us it's a rite of passage for teachers to "shop for better schools and better students as they gain seniority."

Talk about "teach for a while." Knee-slapping funny stuff, huh?

Adding to the same problem, guess who is against rules that require teachers to live in the city where they teach?

Yep, teachers and the comedy syndicates that coolect their dues.

When I FOIA'd the home zip codes Minneapolis Public Schools teachers I found that the majority of them were driving in from the suburbs and exurbs every day to draw a paycheck that would quickly leave the city limits with them on paydays.

But reformers are a bunch of outsiders attempting to profit from local public schools, right?

That makes me LOL.

The next joke is complicated, so stick with me.

The set up says that when a State grants a charter to a nonprofit organization to operate public schools for the benefit of students who States and cities have a hard time reaching and teaching, that is called "privatization."

It takes money out of the hands of "the public" and puts public dollars into the hands of people who are not accountable to "the public."

The previous jokes are of the Andrew Dice Clay model (set up + punchline). The privatization joke is closer to the Steven Wright variety (“Last night somebody broke into my apartment and replaced everything with exact duplicates... When I pointed it out to my roommate, he said, "Do I know you?”).

It's funny because at its root it assumes something absurd to be true. Are schools governed by districts and school boards demonstrably more accountable to "the public"?

I could bury you in examples of district schools who do 90% of their work outside of public view on purpose, knowing if the public knew half of what really goes down in school districts we would have already converted to an entirely different system.

Finally, one of my favorite jokes is that public school teachers have no voice in education.

I point it out all the time that you can't visit any Statehouse in the United States and not trip over several teacher union policy assassins who smile a smug grin as newby legislators introduce school reform policies or school accountability provisions. They smile because they know those policies and regulations will disappear in the middle of the night and a forensic scientist won't be able to tell you where they went.

When you look at the "Nation's Report Card" on education performance that came out last week, and you see numbers that warn us that the future of racial and social justice is dire, the only comedy that seems appropriate is that of Richard Pryor. We need his brand of searing social commentary that makes us laugh because if we don't, we might cry ourselves into a dark, nihilistic corner. 

It's sad to say, but when it comes to the comedy of America's massive education payroll, the joke is clearly on us.

That shit ain't funny.

Here we go again: white Southwest families exploit MPS’ budget crisis to tilt the scales in their favor – again by Chris Stewart


The phrase “watch whiteness work” has never been more appropriate in Minneapolis’ education politics.

More on that shortly, but first the backdrop.

The Minneapolis Public Schools are broke. Between 2012 and 2017 the district busted its budget, spent its reserves and dug a hole that now challenges its very existence. Two years ago Ed Graff, MPS’ superintendent, warned of the district’s looming deficit (which reached $33 million last year) and promised a plan to get the system back to fiscal health.

After over a year of tweaking, trimming, squeezing, plotting, and planning Graff’s financial team delivered a proposal for cuts that was equal parts thoughtful and painful. It was a jagged pill to swallow, but fair people could see how it was necessary.

Unfair people were not as accommodating. Some of them adopted Veruca Salt as their spirit animal.

One group, parents at Washburn High School, home to the child of a school board member, responded by quickly organizing to make sure budget cuts did not take away any of their ponies.

Here’s a spoiler: they won. Whiteness always does in Minneapolis.

Funding (white) Privilege

Washburn is the lowest poverty and whitest school in Minneapolis, and the majority of the money cut from their budget was from a special fund given to them by a previous superintendent to subsidize their wide array of elective classes that poorer schools didn’t have.

Washburn and South High schools got the money in 2015 so they could move from six-period to seven-period days. The funds were presumably intended to ease their transition with the expectation that the schools would make budget adjustments to pay the continuing costs.

They didn’t make the adjustments and instead treated the special funding as mad money. Last year Washburn gave up their seventh period but they still want the money.

Schools that already had a seven-period day, like Roosevelt High School, didn’t get the same bump in funding that Washburn did which meant they were paying for something that the superintendent was subsidizing for wealthier schools (using money from the general fund).

In short, the funds being cut by Graff from their budget was money they shouldn’t have received in the first place. But, when you are privileged, losing anything seems like oppression.

(White) Parent Power



The power of Southside parents was evident when Director Rebecca Gagnon introduced a surprise resolution that took her school board colleagues and district staff off center. It called for $6.4 million of “time-adjustment” funding to be restored immediately, with some or all of that money coming from future revenue earmarked to restore the district’s anemic reserves to the level specified in board policy.

The district is supposed to reserve a fund balance that is 8% of total expenses to weather unforeseen events like a government shut down. The current board voted to suspend that policy for one year so they could draw from the reserves to solve past budget shortfalls. Since then the reserve has since dwindled to a dangerous 4% for the fiscal year 2018. That means Gagnon’s resolution could drive MPS into statutory operating debt and make it a budgetary red-light district under the watchful thumb of Minnesota’s Department of Education.

To that point, Ibrahima Diop (the district’s Chief Financial Officer) said at a recent school board meeting that the reserves could only cover two weeks of expenses if there was an emergency. Gagnon’s response was to suggest the district get outside financial advice to second guess Diop’s understanding of the budget.

Everyone who encounters Diop says the district doesn’t deserve him. Almost no one considers Gagnon a cognitive champion.

A tough process

At the front end of the budgeting process district leaders must predict how many students will be enrolled, how much money that will come from local levies, referendums, and property taxes (along with state and federal sources); and how much money is needed to keep district commitments to staff, programs, schools, and special student populations.

The state only chips in $6,067 per regular education student, but some students fit into special categories that generate substantially greater funding. For example, students struggling with poverty, those that are learning English as an additional language, those that qualify for special education services, and those needing gifted and talented programs generate additional funds on top of the basic formula.

MPS also gets $16 million for integration efforts, $9 million for extended day learning options, $20 million in state grants, and $41 million in Federal support for programs mostly aimed at addressing poverty.

Altogether this means a school’s fortune is tied to how many students they attract and the number of its students qualifying for special categories.

Feed the rich

Clearly, Minneapolis’ high schools with the largest number of affluent parents are the winners of Gagnon’s resolution.

Washburn would get have its time adjustment funding returned along with $241,800 in one-year bridge money, and Southwest would get an even longer bridge at $293,000. The former would end up recovering the majority of their budget cuts, and the latter would actually see a budget increase over last year. The majority of MPS’ poor schools can’t say the same.

Gagnon has said she feared failure to pass the resolution that organizers at her school wrote for her would cause them to bolt the district or actively work to kill the upcoming $30 million referendum.

That’s hardball.

So, who are the losers? In short, we don’t know yet. How Graff squeezes the proverbial blood from a stone is a mystery. MPS staff agonized for months on how to obtain a structurally balanced budget (one where projected expenditures are less than projected revenue), so it isn’t as if there is an unseen pain-free way to produce $6.4 million.

22 of the schools prioritized in the new budget have greater than 70%. poverty, far higher than Southwest’s and Washburn’s rates. They may get a small increase in funds upfront, but they should brace for a kick in the ass later.

For example, Patrick Henry’s budget reduction was greater than Washburn’s (1.9 million vs. 1.6 million), but their share recovered ($550,605 vs. $787,248) from Gagnon’s resolution may not cover other services the Graff may be cut to fulfill it. This includes custodians, English Language Learner services, support for struggling black male students, and minority teacher recruitment.

That’s something Gagnon’s crew omitted when courting Henry and other schools to join forces with Washburn.

The question we all should  ask once the details of Graff’s new budget are announced is how did a board with a majority of representatives from communities of color allow one white school board member and a handful of white parents act as a shadow government and privately rewrite an urban school district’s entire budget merely to save a few dollars for their own kids?

The answer is that Gagnon endorsed them all during their elections, something we should remember as she seeks another term on the MPS board this year.

Empathy for teachers won’t stop us from demanding systemic changes in public education by Christopher Stewart


It would take you a few minutes of scanning my years of writing about education to conclude I’m pretty tough on teachers. Because of that, you might be surprised about what I write next.

Watching teachers in Oklahoma and other states protest for their right to reasonable pay, and adequate school funding isn’t driving me to be reactionary, or to denounce their walking out on children. In these cases, the evidence is clear: the pay and supports they receive is an insult.

This thing that I’m feeling is called empathy. Given what I write you might believe I have never encountered it, at least for teachers, but that’s not true.

Here’s what I know: every morning America’s 3 million teachers wake up before you and me, and they get themselves to our schools in time to be mentally, physically, and professionally ready for our children.

They are the people who prepare each generation to run the world.

Teachers can’t be doing it for the money because — as Oklahoma proves — pay in public schools is the surest sign our government dislikes children.

Teachers evidently don’t teach for the prestige because teaching has none. Telling people you’re a teacher more often draws pity or fake reverence than sincere appreciation.

And, they aren’t in education for the high levels of respect because — although every poll ever taken shows the public adores its teachers — educators certainly don’t feel the love when people like me belabor the many ways public schools must improve.

I can see how they feel targeted, misunderstood, and scapegoated for not reversing what they say are more massive societal problems better addressed by social services, health care, and economic reforms.

They have other news for us, too. Our kids aren’t the angels we think them to be.

Classrooms and schools are a hot breath away from devolving into Lord of The Flies at all times. There are hazards galore. Sick kids. Bullies. Inattentive and disrespectful students who know their parents won’t reprimand them if school staff call home with reports of bad behavior.

As dedicated educators, many of you work very hard. The task of teaching our children who come from incredibly diverse backgrounds requires you to be an expert strategist, an adept caregiver, and a pedagogical wizard.

Who can do all that while serving the gods of data and bureaucratization in a hyper-hierarchical system that leaves you more punch drunk than energized?

Real talk, I couldn’t.

I empathize. So, you may ask, why does this empathy rarely finds its way into much of what I write about teachers in blogs and social media?

Imagine for a moment that we ask activists for criminal justice reform “why don’t you write more about the positive things law enforcement does?”

In light of a “stop killing us” era that would sound like Pollyanna dipped in cold milk.

Apply that to teaching. Though I have empathy for many teachers — especially those teaching my kids today — that doesn’t preclude activism against the ways that teachers contribute to the oppression cycles we see in other systems (welfare, prison, unemployment, etc.).

Maybe your heart is in the right place, but your unions fight relentlessly for more money and less accountability but are mostly silent about widespread implicit bias in teaching and racialized low standards held by teachers for low-income students in far too many classrooms.

And then there is that terrible narrative teachers broadcast about our kids. People, the awfulizing must stop.

Maybe it sounds like compassion in your ears to go on and on about how traumatized, starving, poor, and broken down black kids are, but it’s racist and gross. I wonder if you ever consider the possibility that our children are brilliant and human and capable of a full range of attributes that defy the labeling you do of them in public?

Sure, not all of you do it, but consider the 50,000 plus member Badass Teachers Association’s mission statement that sums it up well:

“This is for every educator who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning.”

That Badass message is all wrong. If you can’t see why ask a friend to help. If they can’t see the problem either, reconsider your friendships.

Parents of marginalized children are right to distrust government institutions, such as schools, and to demand measurement of the deep inequities in student outcomes. You can’t intervene in problems you have no proof exist.

When we ask teachers to focus intently on improving instruction; and ask principals to evaluate teachers, and ask districts to use data to improve students outcomes, that is very different than blaming teachers for the failures of society. It’s asking them to be responsible for their part of the problem, the part we pay them to solve.

f you want an honest exchange of ideas, you can’t label all inquiries into classroom practices an “attack” that is meant to “destroy public education.”

Instead of deflecting, you should fess up to a few critical problems in the “profession.”

Please admit the bar for entering teaching is too low and that when teacher candidates fail basic skill tests, the response from the “profession” is to lower the bar again or scrap the tests?

Consider the research that says the majority (58%) of college students with high GPAs said they would be more likely to consider education as a major if standards were higher.

Focus on the empirical evidence suggesting teacher bias criminalizes black girls and lowers expectations for black boys.

Yes, people like me need to admit that teachers labor beneath dummy-proofed policies that may unduly assume they are poor educators.

We need to admit that although everyone agrees on the importance of great principals, almost no one has figured out how to produce those great principals at scale.

And, we must be honest about the fact that too many superintendents report to elected or appointed school boards made up of well-meaning people who couldn’t competently govern a book club if Kindles were free.

As people who push for better schools and better teaching we can admit all of that, but, we need a profession of teachers to meet us where we are.

We need teachers who refuse to blame our children for the problems of the inequitable education systems that put the worst teachers before kids who need the best.

We need teachers who are capable of calling out bad teaching in the way we expect good police officers to call out their own when injustices are done even if that bad teacher is the one that looks back at you in the mirror every morning.

We need teachers who want to be accountable — not for miracles — but for seeing the potential in our children and moving them quickly toward it.

And, we need teachers to stop pretending our only motive for pushing so hard to reform public schools is not because we love our children and our people and we’re determined to change the game for our communities, but because we’ve joined some weird global neoliberal plot to trade our schools on Wall Street.

After all, empathy is a two-way street paved with reciprocity and respect.

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


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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