What message are we sending to black children when we tell them only integration will save them? by Chris Stewart

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A story ran last week from the Associated Press about segregation in charter schools, and, right on cue a lot of my reform-loving friends rushed to their keyboards to bang out rebuttals and register complaints.

While I think most of the article was a wandering fiat against data and common sense, there is one important takeaway to seize. 

Please excuse me while I now turn my attention to black parents for a moment. Black folks, it's time you had the talk with your children.

Not the how-babies-are-born talk or the how-to-stay-alive-when-stop-by-police-officers talk, but the one life-changing talk about race black parents need to have with their children early in childhood.

It won't be easy, so let me help you with it.

First, sit your child down, make eye contact with her, and then make sure she's comfortable because what you're about to say might strike at the core of her humanity.

Start with this: "you know how we always tell you that you can be and do whatever you set your mind to being or doing?"

When she answers in the affirmative, hit her with this:  "Well, that's only true if you attend school with white people. Otherwise, you're doomed."

There. Job done.

You've told your child the truth known by teachers, professors, New York Times writers, and various esteemed thinkers of America's lettered bourgeoisie. 

Now your child can proceed with the knowledge that whiteness is her goal, because, of course, black excellence is a myth and all-black things are inherently inferior.

White water is wetter,. White ice is colder. Vanilla Ice is a rapper.

Absurd? I think so too. 

Yet, the media can't get enough of splashy "new" research blaming poor education results for black and brown children on their "segregation" from white people. The damning deceit in that claim is that it 1) exculpates public education from interrogating its pedagogy, practice, and performance, and 2) it only purports an obstacle to learning only when people of color are huddled together, but never when whites build enclaves and generate exclusive social capital.

When white schools fail school workers rethink everything, including their staffing, budget, curriculum, daily schedule, and so on. They reform. If white kids aren't learning it's assumed there is something wrong with the system and the system is expected to reconfigure.

With black students, the attack is different. If we aren't learning there is something wrong with us, our culture, our parents, and our neighborhoods. It's funny that many people who charge Teach For America with acting like white saviors are the same people proposing we suck down the apogee of all white saviorism: the idea that we are incapable of educational worth without comingling ourselves with whites.

I'm simplifying a complex thing.  I may be an unfair audience to the large body of social science that show positive outcomes for racially and economically diverse schools. It's not because I doubt there are certifiable lifelong benefits to racially balanced schools (those that are truly balanced and aren't merely former white havens that take in a few kids of color and then quickly quarantine them to inferior classrooms in their "integrated" schools).

My question is why would we prioritize research on integration (which leads to an improbable solution: a massive involuntary reordering of the races) over the research on the importance of fixable issues like effective school leadership, quality teacher teaching, and culturally affirming classrooms?

If we care to listen to research it tells us there are red light problems in school systems, including implicit bias against our black students, low expectations, harsher discipline, too few teachers of color, and generally abysmal outcomes that get worse the longer our students stay in the system.

The violent reality before us is this: the teachers are racist, the curriculum is junk food, and the schools are criminalization centers that expedite that path to prison. 

With all of that beating back the potential of our babies, why would anyone train our eyes toward the glimmer of illusory and failed promises of integration while asking us to ignore the fixable issues entrapping our school-aged children right now?

I'm not sure, but integration fundamentalists ask us a different question: "Why are we fiddling around with all these other reforms when we know there has only been one thing that has worked at scale [integration]"?

One answer should be obvious. Integration didn't work at scale. It was a failure. Had it succeeded we wouldn't be talking about it 60 years after Brown v. Brown. Face facts, forced integration lost the social war and more importantly a series of famous court cases. And, the oft-touted voluntary integration plans that did "work" are still challenged by racialized gaps in achievement like everyone else.

At the same time, charter schools show positive gains with urban black and brown students.

A Brookings Institute report puts it this way: "high-poverty, high-minority [charter] schools produce achievement gains that are substantially greater than the traditional public schools in the same catchment areas. This is further evidence that school quality is a primary mediator of academic achievement rather than the racial or economic makeup of a school's student body."

Sadly, they have to constantly defend themselves against institutional attacks on their existence. Their success is a casualty to the idea that school effects are no match for black deficiency.

Where you land on this is a function of belief, not fact. We can argue about the validity of this or that research, or the integrity of the researchers, but that will never overcome your ideas about the potential of black intelligence. 

While some believe us unsavable without integration, I think our better investment is made in teacher preparation, induction, evaluation, and retention; the use of data to understand gaps, drive instruction, and foster accountability; and enabling parent-driven enrollment decisions. 

And, regardless of whatever is written in the Associated Press, or spoken in the keynotes of idealogues, fundamentalists, and associations representing the "workers" in old world factory schools, we should never deflate our children with the gross message that their ability to learn is tied to their proximity to white people.

God made them good on their own merit, and the devil is a lie.

If we are what we eat, then we're classist faux-organic assholes sleeping on bad policy by Chris Stewart

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My kids absolutely refuse to eat the hot lunch at school. Whenever we talk about it, they curl their little noses, roll their eyes, and act as if even considering school food is the funniest joke I've ever told.

They say they resist because the lunch is gross, which it usually is, but I suspect there is something more to the story.

When I visit their school in the morning, I notice a small population of students in the cafeteria eating breakfast. It looks to me that it's mostly poor kids eating.

At lunchtime, it's the same thing. 

I'm bothered by the question about whether or not eating at school has become a marker of class? 

I could be wrong. I might be presuming too much. How do I know the kids are poor? 

When I visit, I bring Subway for my kids, and there are always affirming comments from their friends who are opening up bright colored lunch totes full of deceivingly packaged not-really "organic" foods. (Yes, there are some pre-peeled mini-carrots in there, but often it just looks like more expensive crap with copywriting on the labels meant to make us feel like good parents. "No corn syrup!" "No GMOs" "No artificial colors!") 

Back in my school days when prophets rode dinosaurs, it was the poor kids who brought their lunch from home. When they fell behind on lunch payments, or their parents forgot to turn in paperwork, they would miss out on the majestic grandeur of Thursday's doughy, saucy, tangy cheese pizza that we all coveted.

Maybe this isn't your pet issue. Schools have real issues like violence, bullying, sexism, low test scores, big class sizes, and small overall budgets, so, there's that. It would be nice to improve school lunch - as Michelle Obama (we miss you!) did, but is it a priority worth discussing?

Hell yeah. 

First, as a parent, I know I should work hard to make sure my kids understand class and fight its social trappings.

That's for me to teach. It was easier with my oldest son because he was on the free lunch program, as were most of his friends, so we didn't have to discuss it. I've learned so much since then about how classism kills the dream of public schooling. If communal eating is an issue, it's one we can fix.

Second, the food program itself is a shame-and-blame system.

I'm writing this message today because my wife received a call from our district saying we were behind on our lunch payments. Several times a year we're contacted about a ghost account even though we're not on the program. When you're account is due our district sends text messages robocalls, and collection calls from live humans.

I know they're doing their jobs, but they act like a terroristic bag of dicks when they come for their money. 

Is this really what we're doing these days? Are we ok with harassing poor parents for chump change?

Even worse, in some cases, we're ripping the trays of food out of the hands of children when their parents haven't paid. The food goes in the trash, and the kid gets a cheese sandwich.

That makes me want to cry. 

Can we see a way to feed ALL children in a country that throws away more food than some nations consume? In a country so awash in food that we can fork over billions of dollars to a diet industry, it is a failure of morality and adult politics that we can't do the right thing.

Third, our sub-zero lunch budget traps our schools into buying eatable horseshit. 

The debt our district was trying to collect today was a mere $1.25. A kid in our son's class checked our son's name on a breakfast form instead of his own, and the total was a stinking $1.25. 

What on Earth can you feed a growing child for $1.25 in 2017?

Eons ago when I first visited a central nutrition center for public schools, I found the answer to that question. 

I noticed the district-owned large ovens, soup kettles, and industrial kitchen assets that were collecting dust. In the room, next door poorly paid women with hairnets and gloves were dropping pre-cooked finger foods into plastic trays that moved quickly down a conveyer belt and into boxes headed for schools. 

When I asked about the process district staff told me it was wholly a matter of budget.

The cost per meal needed to be so low that it would attract vendors like Tyson foods who offered such delicacies as hormone-laden chicken nuggets formed into the shape of farm animals. Our average per student meal was below $2.00. Two districts over in Minnetonka that cost was closer to $10.00. They had sushi, fresh fruit, and salads because their students could afford to pay for lunch.

Not only are lunch budgets inequitable between rich and poor districts, but food portions within a district can also be a problem too. 

I met a principal in an impoverished North Minneapolis school who privately told a group and me that she discovered the nutrition center was giving her 8th graders the same portions as the kindergarteners, but 8th graders the district's more affluent K-8 schools were given more substantial age-appropriate portions.

We were incredulous. On top of every other inequity we layer on to schools, we let hungry kids be the hungriest when they're poor? Sadly, it was true.

Finally, the food waste is outrageous, and adults are the problem.

We aren't teaching eating expectations, manners, and skills. The kids I join for lunch start with the sweetest thing on their tray; usually some plastic wrapped bullshit that looks like it came straight from Miss Debbie's factory.

From there they may take a bite or two out of their entree, and then throw away full cartons of milk and untouched fruit. I blame staff and parents for that one.

I've visited schools where the lunch period was an extension of other learning periods. It wasn't a free-for-all. Some parents might fight me on this one, I know. I can hear the protests about how kids need to be kids, and how they need free-time to be wild, loud, and childish.

Wherever you are working today, look at the co-worker who gets on your last nerve. That person had parents like the ones I just described.

I will continue to work on my kids' attitudes about eating at school, and not participating in a class-based demarcation between those who bring home food and those who don't. 

I will keep visiting and modeling lunchtime behavior for my kids, and for their classmates who can't get enough of me (I'm the cool Dad, sorry if you're not) when I join them.

And, for the love of God, I will keep yelping and write about the fact that we feed American children like little prisoners.

Let's stop that.

Only a damn fool complains and thinks they've actually done something by Chris Stewart

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The long discussion being had about education in New Orleans brings to mind a "do-something" rule from one of my past workplaces.

I once had a boss who demanded employees never bring a problem to him without also bringing a solution. It was a smart leadership tactic because is significantly reduced the number of issues direct reports would bring forward. 

It also kept us all in a generative, solutions-based mental frame.

Today that rule helps me cut through all of the dreadful, peeved education commentary written by friends, colleagues, and those who are on the perceived to be on the opposite "side" of school issues from me.

I see lots of griping. Lots of admiration for the problems

Few answers.

New Orleans is home to that situation for now. A fresh batch of test scores that can largely be called a disappointment for the all-charter school town recently hit email inboxes, handing wringing commenced, and the usual blogtastic snipers came hunting for reformers. 

Here's what we do in this situation: we re-litigate the traumatic reshaping of NOLA schools after hurricane Katrina.

We assign universally negative and immoral motives to the people who pushed for changes in education.

And, we offer non-academic, non-pedagogical feel-good solutions that are far weaker than our strident articulation of the problem.

Andre Perry, a former charter school leader, leads in that mode of attack. He has another piece out today that demonizes a generic white-faced reformer who lacks any human characteristics other than a white face, and that reformer is positioned against a blameless class of black semi-professionals who were the heroic casualties of needless school reform.

This paragraph is the standard roux to all of Perry's salty pieces:

Demands for a radical overhaul of the Orleans Parish school system in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were predicated on low test scores. But opponents of the proposed reforms said scores were used to justify the overturning of a black-run system, to fire black teachers, disempower a traditional district and profit from a public good. The cries for reform won out, leading to the dismantling of New Orleans’ school system, eventually resulting in a nearly all-charter school district.

Truthfully, he is right.

In fact, a black-run school system was torn roots, stems, and all from beneath the flood waters and the fields were planted with a dizzying array of new schools. 

Yet, that uprooted black-run school district was the most corrupt school system in the United States with arrests, convictions, and cheating scandals happening with such regularity it became as emblematic to the city as Mardi Gras. 

Other than that, the fact that New Orleans Public Schools were black-run before the arrival of educational colonists (gentrifiers both white and black who came to participate in a district reboot) is a nostalgic sore point easily exploit for rhetorical effect that is wholly immaterial to progress in NOLA.

You can hate me now. I'll survive.

At least Perry is reasonably sober in his writings and not totally betraying his notable credentials, but others show none of his relative restraint.

Such is the case with The New Orleans Tribune wrote an "editorial" so verbose and abusive of logic that I can hardly summarize it for you except to say it was likely written in in long hand using crayon. It's broad comedic point amounts to reform = bad and old schools = good.

The fact that NOLA Ed reforms delivered in terms of student achievement is inarguable for everyone except those pitiful souls so married to permanent protest that they can't admit any success.

They hate change more than they love the truth. 

If you're agreeing with me so far, you just might be a school reformer. My message to you is don't get too smug. You're more on the hook than your detractors are. We are at an uncharted crossroads. We might be lost. What happens next could either hand the biggest victory to our critics, or produce yet another impressive innovation that gets us to the charter district hybrid 2.0.

We must be real. The fact that things are better isn't enough just as an upgrade from pneumonia to the flu is not cause for a parade.

Critics of NOLA reform have a tremendous ace in their cuff and it is this: reform is no longer an outside insurgency against the traditional status quo. More than a decade into the greatest educational experiment of all times reform is the status quo.

For those cold ideologues who afforded no mercy to the old system, it is your turn to answer for short comings. Based on your previous head to toe reading of the previous system, expect your assessment to be doubly merciless.

The recent testing results reveal 30 schools with a grade of "D" or "F," and substantial declines among some of the charter school operators. There is no acceptable collegial free pass for that degree of failure, especially in a "market" where bureaucracy, unionism, and legacy constraints have been removed.

Remember, we are about "no excuses," an edict not directed at students, but at ourselves.

We broke it. We own it. 

So, while I think the incessant and cheap clickbait articles that affix the word "black" to a never ending series of emotive non sequiturs, reform warriors have to be serious about outcomes. That means we can never go soft on failing charter schools.

For my money, my friend Mary Moran's organization, Nuetra Voz, is bring one of the only solutions-based efforts to the problem; she's organizing parents to bring a loud demand to those well-paid leaders most responsible for bad schools.

Their campaign #30NolaEdWatch is asking: "Why should we place confidence in the CEOs of the 30 D and F schools that don't prepare our children for their future?"

It's a question that school leaders need to answer with all the urgency that it took for them to smuggle charter schools into the city back in 2005.

If you want to see a competent and comprehensive look at the achievement problem in NOLA that goes beyond the clickbait and callow pandering I suggest reading Pete Cook's post "The Great NOLA Train Wreck."

 

Black Trump supporters, I'm praying for your emancipation by Chris Stewart

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Dear Lord, make it stop.

I posted this picture on Facebook, and then asked my friends to please explain it to me.

 

Responses ran a predictable course. Obviously the black man shown here is a case study in the proverbial "sunken place."

Some said it's the return of transphobic comedian Dave Chappelle's hilarious and prophetic character Clayton Bigsby.

Or, my personal favorite anti-black magical negro, Uncle Ruckus from The Boondocks.

There were more plausible explanations too. Maybe this brother is exhibiting the depth of "community trauma." Maybe it's a case of brainwashing and self-hate that turns a perfectly good black human being into a Manchurian Candidate.

Maybe.

By far the most hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck raising response was from friends who pointed out I might actually know this dude from years ago.

In another lifetime (called the 1980s) my network included friends who were - and hopefully still are - anti-racist skinheads. They were the Baldies. They ruled Uptown Minneapolis, which was one of few places in the country with a sizable enough population of Nazi hunters walking the streets.  Their presence drew racist skinheads to the Twin Cities, probably not knowing what was waiting for them. Those racist infiltrators who came to stomp out the anti-racist street fighters here were sent home with boot prints on their asses.

I'm old now, so I can't remember any of the names or faces of the racist skinheads, except for one. Sonny from Chicago. A skinny, angry, and....wait for it....black Nazi who wore t-shirts, rode with white supremacists, and sported pro-Nazi symbols in permanent ink on his beautiful black skin.

If the picture above isn't him it's his doppelganger. 

Black faces, White Racists

In the aftermath of Charlottesville Donald J. Trump's showed us who he is by comparing neo-Nazis to and local community members who came to protest them - as if they were the same. There are good and bad people on all sides, including the Nazi side.

Am I wrong to assume black folks won't call any president our president unless he can be trusted to speak with an open throat when the KKK, white supremacists, or neo-Nazis raise come to terrorize communities?

I know, we're not a monolith, but still, shouldn't everyone on #TeamBlack should be clear on that, right?

Apparently not. We have some strays.

Now, I'm not here to condemn any folks who want cut left or right for personal, religious, or practical reasons. 

I understand black folks like Ben Carson, Secretary of HUD must support their boss. Whether we like it or not, that's what the "other-duties-as-assigned" part of the administration's job descriptions mean.

I can also go gently on the black athletes like Mike Tyson, Dennis Rodman, Latrell Sprewell, and Terrell Owens who have supported Trump. Honestly, professional athletes aren't particularly socially conscious and they are never confused with members of MENSA. We know this.

The same goes for fame-seekers like Omarosa, Azelia Banks, and Stacey Dash. Not terribly bright, but ultimately, chasing paper (and winning at it).

And, there is the man-on-the-street Trump supporters. 

Like this guy....

 

and this guy...

 

 

And this guy....

 

Don't hate the player. We have an absurdly high unemployment rate for black folks. Being a conveniently placed and suspiciously well-appointed with talking points in support of a billionaire is perhaps the most interesting addition to America's occupational catalogue.

If it seems like I'm giving a lot of people free passes here, I am. Why? I'm not sure. Maybe I pitty them, which is awkward to say because holding pity for anyone is a sign of arrogance. I'll live with that.

But, we must give folks like Republican apologist Paris Dennard the business. There isn't enough patience in the world for his constant brushing over Trump's lies  (i.e. not knowing anything about David Duke even though video evidence proves otherwise). He is black self-hate weaponized for mass media and his play is always the same: Trump or a Republican does something abhorrent and he deflects with "but Obama," "but Hillary," or "the left does the same thing." 

That wouldn't register if he were white, but from a black man his blame-Obama-first rhetoric is considered doubly profound.

He's not alone. His best helpmate is Brunell Donald-Kyei, the Lord-Jesus-praying black Trumpster and Fox News contributor getting too much facetime these days.

On a recent visit to CNN she took us all back a decade. Chris Cuomo asked her "Do you see those who went there to oppose Nazis [in Charlottesville] as the same as the Nazis"?

She said, basically, yes.

The Nazis had actual permits to march. The counter-protestors did not. You have to expect with trouble when "people on the left" come to cause trouble with white supremacists who are following the letter of the law.

 

 

Her response to Cuomo: "There are a lot of people that are happy with what our president is doing as far as our economy, immigration [apparently pronounce Imma-gra-shun], jobs, NAFT deals."

Before you challenge her, know this: she commissions a much higher power than you. In a Periscope video from last year she prays for Trump as follows:

"Lord we're asking you right now God to protect our vice-president elect and our president-elect, Donald J. Trump... [from] every snake, every Judas spirit coming against them, every high spirit in wicked places Father God, we come against them and rebuke in the mighty name of Jesus."

Because Jesus supports a thrice divorced womanizing money lover who threatens war constantly, uses ICE to heartless break up families, and pushes lawmakers to to take way healthcare and support services from the poor, widows, single mothers, and the least of these?

Negro please.

Let me call Jesus too. 

 

 

You aren't too innocent to know white supremacy is all around you by Chris Stewart

A woman is dead. Be silent. Be still. Let that sink in.

Like me, I pray you are sick of the delusive naivete and counterfeit innocence that wallpapers our national discussions when white supremacy undresses itself as it did last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Heather Heyer. That's her name. Racism killed her.

She lost her life while protesting the influx of sweaty knuckle-draggers who came with torches, "Jew won't replace us" chants, and Hitler salutes.

They were angry about the the city's removal of confederate monuments. That America preserves its symbols of historic white aggression against humanity is that important to them.

Heyer's death, accompanied by the death of two police officers and many injured people, and centuries of deaths and injuries to people with forgotten names, should inspire the president of the United States to get right with his own personal Jesus and to speak decisively with all the testosterone he usually injects (needlessly) into debates.

He didn't do it. He resisted. Apparently his sharp tongue and little Twitter fingers are reserved for Rosie O'Donnell, women at-large, Black Lives Matter, Mexicanstransgender people, the media, Republicans who fail to advance his agenda, and so on.

He goes hard. On everybody. Except, for some reason that's mysterious to many (not me), club wielding, spitting mad domestic terrorists.

Yes, on Saturday Trump denounced the "hatred" on display in Charlottesville, but he tempered his words by denouncing it on "many sides."

Under intense pressure he gave a scripted statement that pointedly said "racism is evil," and he called the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists "thugs" on Monday.

Then, Tuesday, he got stuck on stupid again and went back to his "many sides" argument.

That's a problem. 

Within that insulating false comparison lives a wellspring of plausible deniability. It's a clever gosh-golly-give-us-the-benefit-of-the-doubt brand of white racism that gaslights it's victims and excuses their oppression.

The smartest Republicans jump off the Trump Titantic. Several of them saying the things Trump would say if he weren't concerned with maintaining his bigoted base.

Paul Ryan, Republican and Speaker of the House, spoke out against "vile bigotry" and tweeted this:

Marco Rubio spoke straight with no chaser:

Senator Orrin Hatch really brought it home, saying...

Kudos to them. History will not pee on their legacies when students of the future study this implosion of America's already fragile moral core.

Trump won't be so fortunate.

For now we know his awkward wink and nod to white anger, social displacement, economic stress, and fear of the future, coupled with his bizarre inability to be firm against white nationalism, is old. It's known. You know it. I know it. The Blind Boys of Alabama can see it.

The racist underground can see it too. The day after Trump's non-condemnation of white supremacy Soledad O'Brien tweeted an excerpt of a statement from the Daily Stormer gloating about the fact that Trump had not forsaken them.

If you're reading my blog you probably don't read The Daily Stormer. It's a neo-Nazi online community and hate site that is to racism what snuff films are to cinema.

That site's post about the death of Heyer is an example of how low they go. They derided her as "fat," a "slut," and "a child murderer" among other things (I won't link to it and you shouldn't read it or drive traffic to it).

They also have also issued an alter call for their readers, asking them to protest at Heyer's funeral. Nothing on the left equals that. No person with moral clarity should fail to blunt this hate.

Let me pause. I see what you're about to do. You're going to roll your eyes, fall into partisan baby talk (what about the 30,000 "emails"), and attempt to find demarcation between mainstream voices like the president's and those on the margins of legitimacy like The Daily Stormer and it's readers.

Let's not do that today.

Don't say folks who read, write, and circulate the toxic and violent misanthropy in right-wing Internet sewers like the Daily Stormer are impotent trolls, fully unrepresentative of conservatism or Republicans. Don't play it off like they are a small band of fanatics on the fringes of civilized society.

There is no demarcation. Racism lives on a spectrum. It thrives like cancer because it isn't contained to one portion of the public body. It exists within the bones and guts of American structures, history, law, and education. It is an intrinsic feature of American prosperity, not an abnormality.

The Daily Stormer is only a hop away from Drudge and Brietbart, which are a hop away from The Daily Caller, which is a step away from Fox News. From underground to mainstream, these platforms launder white supremacy and bring a highly refined version of it to market.

Together they manufacture and exploit white fatigue with black grievance, with the brown invasion, and with the militant feminism of women who won't stop demanding to have the same rights as [white] men.

Consider this passage taken directly from The Daily Stormer:

"As a sign of appreciation for enormous economic support provided to non-white population by middle class whites, non-white immigrants, primarily Mexicans, have unleashed a wave of violent crime on their unsuspecting white neighbors. Entire communities are taken over by brutal Central American gangs who terrorize whites until they are forced to leave their hometowns. While Hispanic children are typically not very good at reading and multiplying, they receive preferential treatment in college admissions, while their more able, white counterparts are rejected by state colleges funded by their own parents!"

How is that different from Trump's build-a-wall rhetoric about Mexicans, or the use of "anchor baby" on Fox News, or the gnashing of teeth about how affirmative action work against white applicants to universities in all the aforementioned venues?

A post on the Daily Stormer's site says "you cannot have a first-world nation and a first-world economy with a third-world population."

Now, match that with the words of Republican Rep. Steve King's who said "culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies."

King also questioned what other "sub-groups" had made contributions to civilization equal to what whites did, and was called out for proudly displaying the Confederate flag in his office even though he represents Iowa - a state that fought the Confederate

He also introduced a bill that would prevent the government from replacing Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.

Come on people. 

Many of us live without the luxury of innocence. That vice can be deadly. While others pretend the tiki torch brigade is a line of social losers who should be minimized, our own Federal Bureau of Investigations has reported for over a decade about white supremacist groups infiltrating law enforcement.

And we've watched the most outrageously racist interactions between police and communities of color, too many that ended in death.

Certainly there are faithful Republicans who aren't racist, who don't support racism, and who are offended when anyone suggests otherwise. Many voted against Hillary Clinton, not for Donald Trump. They believe in small government, low taxes, and some approximation of "liberty."  They believe conservatism preserves the best of American values and produces that prosperity we enjoy.

You are not innocent. You are not blind. You are not acting in accord with any reasonable definition of virtue.

To you I say, even if you're that rationale republican voter you'll have to step over a lot of dead bodies to pull that lever and stubbornly pursue your political theories.

Shame on you.

Angry White Teachers On The Internet (and their Colored Friends) by Chris Stewart

In all my writing about public schools you'll find a consistent claim that public schools are insufficient to the task of educating black children. That message angers people, especially those working in district public schools who feel under "attack" by big money school reformers who want to "privatize" public education.

Often I publish a blog post and a special brand of internet activist comes for my head. 

To be frank, the loudest voices depositing electronic sharts into my inboxes are Angry White Teachers. Some I know because they are repeat offenders, others I come across randomly, like Steven Singer.

Yesterday I read Professor Julian Vasquez-Heilig's blog post intended to calm fears that the NAACP has backed off its horribly misguided call for a 10 year moratorium on charter schools.

Whose fears?

In the post Heilig says he had a phone call "with blogger Steven Singer today assuring him that the moratorium has not been rolled back."

Steven who?

He must be important if he can demand assurances that our colored civil rights elders have not gone off-script?

This below the blogger, teacher, activist, union ride-or-die dude, Steven Singer...

Steven Singer, a white teacher doing what they do best: fighting for the rights of white teachers.

Steven Singer, a white teacher doing what they do best: fighting for the rights of white teachers.

He looks like a nice guy.

Kidding. He looks loud, aggressive, and angry.

We are awesome, the kids are jacked up

Singer is like other teachers you'll find protesting, trading battle stories, or taking apart school reformers online.

They're angry because they feel blamed for poor school performance by people who don't teach, don't know how to teach, and will never teach.

They probably feel the way I do about people who have never been a black parent, don't know how to be a black parent, and will never be a black parent, projecting their low expectations onto my children.

The most consistent voices I've seen expressing the teachers' discontent are Anthony Cody, Bruce Baker, John Thompson, Mitchell Robinson, Alan Singer, Peter Greene, Gary Rubinstein, T. Jameson Brewer, and Shaun Johnson.

Singer, Cody, Thompson, Greene, Rubinstein, and Johnson are (or were) K-12 teachers. The others are university professors (including one who has been accused of cooking his studies to favor union positions).

Starting at the top of the list, Singer is a language arts teacher in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Only 15% of black students are proficient in his school (there's a 33 point gap between them and white students).

All student groups in his school are below the state averages for proficiency.

Cody taught in Oakland for 18 years at Bret Harte Middle School where 15% of students are proficient in math, 23% are proficient in English, and 25% are proficient in science.

A fierce charter school critic, Thompson taught at Moon Middle School in Oklahoma city school. He admits Moon was so "troubled" they were cited one year for having an 80% suspension rate.

That school earned a "F" letter grade from the state for it's academic performance.

By contrast, KIPP Oklahoma, a school that Thompson sharply criticizes, earns an "A" letter grade. Though 73% of KIPP's students are on free or reduced price lunch, 92% are proficient in reading and 90% are proficient in math.

Greene, who admits on his blog that he is not a "super teacher," is a veteran educator in Franklin, Pennsylvania. Franklin Area High School where he teaches has mediocre results with a student population that is 92% white (only 4% black and 1% Hispanic).

Rubinstein teaches in a "public" school that filters out students with low test scores during the admissions process. Last year that school admitted 1,000 freshman, but only 13 were black.

None of these angry white teachers can best Shaun Johnson. He is clearly the angriest.

Johnson once peevishly told me that being a black parent conferred upon me no special insight into the educational needs of my children. Only his Ph.D could do that. The problem as he saw it was that too many teachers were allowing do-nothings like me to shout them down in discussions where they were the obvious experts.

At the time was a teacher at Malcolm X Middle School in D.C. which had a whopping 0% of its fourth graders, students Johnson called "poor as dirt" for "lack of a better phrase,"  proficient in math and English.  

This kindergarten teacher, someone we trust with vulnerable students, was quoted by Education Week as saying teachers need to start "cracking skulls" to protest school reform policies.

Talk about channeling the spirit of Trump. I struggle to find a similar level of vituperative enemy imaging in the school reform movement. 

Leading the Badassery Movement

These teachers are part of a national network of angry, fearful, threatened teachers who believe a dystopian future might befall public schools any moment now.

Singer serves as a steering committee member for a group most symbolic of angry teacher activists, the Badass Teachers Association.

They are not here for your school reform bullpoop. They state explicitly they will not be held responsible for educational outcomes with students who are disadvantaged by not being white and middle-class.

At the top of their vision statement, there is this skid mark:

This is for every teacher 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.

Here's a visual of their leadership (I'm not sure this is current, or for what region):

It's interesting how their board of directors, executive directors, and steering committee have only 3 visibly black members, none of whom are black males.

I imagine a conversation with those unfortunate few black folks on this roster would look like a little like this:

Onward.

Singer is also a member of the Education Bloggers Network, which, according to their website, is a "confederation of more than 200 education reporters, advocacy journalists, investigative bloggers, and commentators."

Truth time: the EBN is a collective of teachers unionists who write one message over and over and over.

That message is captured in a recent piece Singer published in Huffpost: "U.S. Public Schools Are Not Failing. They're Among The Best In The World."

Schools are great. Teachers are great. Students are poor. Send more money and stop measuring student progress.

All will be fine.

Study their social media accounts and you'll see why I call them Angry White Teachers. The worst Trump deplorables could learn lessons from them about distorting the messages of political rivals and deriding those rivals as all kinds of liars, stooges, traitors, money hounds, or selfish monsters.

Ask television journalist Campbell Brown. They summoned the powers of Photoshop to depict her as a brainless twit controlled by rich white men.

I know Campbell Brown. Whatever you think of her no person with even limited interactions with her will say she's without agency, intelligence, or her own thinking about education issues.

Ask yourself, what serious, educated person (or group) would produce such trash? Should this be the product of people America trusts with children?

The above sexist and infantile exercise in bad meme making is the product of two union-funded groups, New York Communities for Change and the Alliance for Quality Education.

This is how angry white teachers and their ideologically aligned foot soldiers participate in the national dialogue about improving education.

Another (classic) example: Michelle Rhee, former Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools.

In 2013 she wrote about "a union boss publicly referred to me as “that Asian bitch” and a blogger called me a “dickhead.”

The "union boss" who roasted Rhee with bigotry was Ceresta Smith. For the record, Smith is not an angry white teacher. She is their dream: an angry black teacher who enjoys red t-shirts.

Here's smith is arm in arm with Steven Singer (sporting a credibility inducing black lives matter t-shirt):

Here's the video of Smith spewing racism to a crowd of angry white teachers:

The thing angry white teachers (and the colored people who love them) are good for is keeping the education debate out of their classrooms, out of their schools, and out of their area of control.

They are not responsible and want pay without performance.

If nothing else, that should make us angry black parents.

Don't stop others from having school vouchers just because you don't want one by Christopher Stewart

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Those damn vouchers. It’s the one education issue that departs me from the company of fellow school choice advocates. They're with me on charter schools, but go ghost on publicly funded private school tuition. The "I-don't-think-public-money-should-go-to-private-schools" contingent is legion. They are absolute. And, in my opinion, they are in direct violation of their own progressiveness.

Enter my friend and colleague Beth Hawkins who has a recent blog post titled “A Voucher is a Voucher is a Voucher - And They’re All Wrong." She calls it a rant, which is an apt description for a post in which she boils vouchers in acid and then arranges the bones to say "Hell No."

Her prompt is Minnesota's pending proposal for an “Opportunity Scholarship” that would fund private school tuition for low-to-middle income students. Given the shockingly poor outcomes for black and brown kids in our relatively well-resourced Twin Cities schools, I welcome anything that offers parents an alternative.

Beth isn’t a fan. At all.

“I have long opposed private school vouchers for many reasons–not least of which I think it’s morally wrong to give tax dollars to programs that can legally discriminate,” she says. “Against people like me, a gay woman. And against one of my children, who has an intellectual disability.”

We agree on that. Education should be about liberation, not discrimination.

Yet, we can't fairly debate vouchers without a scan of actual state voucher programs to see if the fears are sound.

Actually, a Voucher is not a Voucher - and some are good

Ironically, some charter supporters resort to making the same arguments that charter opponents make (i.e. "siphons" money from the public system, supports schools that discriminate, diminishes protections students have in district schools, etc.).

For her part, Beth argues “in the case of queer kids and kids with disabilities, taking a voucher to a private school means giving up the protection of the laws of the land that exist specifically to protect people whose needs are costly, inconvenient or uncomfortable.”

That would be bad if it were true.

Alas, most state voucher programs target tuition subsidies toward children in poverty and those with disabilities.

Here are a few examples:

  • Mississippi’s voucher program supports students with Dyslexia or speech-language impairment.
  • In Oklahoma, public school students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) can get a scholarship to attend private schools on the state's approved list. To be approved schools must demonstrate fiscal soundness, comply with anti-discrimination laws, and have fully credentialed teachers with more than 3 years experience.
  • Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship program offers subsidies for students with disabilities, military families, wards of the state, and students who live near “D” or “F” rated schools.
  • Ohio’s statewide program, EdChoice, pays for 60,000 low-income students in under-performing schools to attend private schools. Students with autism or other disabilities can receive larger subsidies depending on the severity of their disability.
  • Established in 1873, Maine has the nation’s oldest voucher program. As of 1980 religious schools have been barred from participating. I don't support that, but it’s an example of how safeguards can be installed to prevent faith-based, discriminatory “pray away the gay” programs.

These scholarships aren’t outliers. Indeed, they are the most common forms of vouchers (here's a state-by-state comparison).

The Goose and the Gander

Beth says “We are talking about sending public money—which people of myriad creeds contribute, because way back when we decided we were one nation, indivisible—to institutions that may decide to flaunt civil rights.”

That argument is smothered in idealism about public schools, and steeped in dogma about private ones.

Truth is, America has never respected a “myriad” of creeds (travel ban anyone?); we have never been one nation; and living in Trump-world is obvious evidence we are only indivisible in the thinnest stretches of our imaginations. When exactly did "we" decide "we were one nation"?

Real talk, without vouchers in the picture we're sending public money to institutions that “flaunt civil rights" all the time. Those institutions are called “district schools.”

The evidence is tucked in Beth's piece. She relays a story about a traditional district school that “pushed out” her son due to an intellectual disability.

In another story she talks about a local school district that experienced a “suicide contagion” due to policies that were hostile toward LGBTQ students.

I could add to her stories. The district where my children attend school settled 15 serious claims of systemic racial discrimination with the federal government.

Not to be outdone, California has 99 school districts that had to settle discrimination cases with the feds.

Get this: The democratically elected school boards of Texas were under suspicion of working with a powerful law firm that train education leaders on how to discriminate against children with disabilities.

I could go on.

If the possibility of discrimination is cause for block funding for educational programs we might as well shut down public schools and start over. It's that bad, and it's the reason so many families want alternatives.

Yes, there are valid arguments against vouchers. Most can be addressed by the way voucher laws are written. But, it's simply unfair to summarily disregard the aspirations of marginalized children and parents who currently make good use of public funds to access educational programs they want and need. They matter. They deserve choices. It's their lives on the line and God bless them for actively seeking better for themselves.

For me, prioritizing their rights and their self-determination over the whims and privilege of voucher opponents is the truly moral thing to do.

1967: Kenneth Clark Answers Questions on Plans for the Civil Rights Movement by Christopher Stewart

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From WNYC: "It is 1967, and Clark has just returned from a "secret meeting" of Martin Luther King, Whitney Young, and other black leaders that was held in Suffern, New York. Reporters are anxious to learn what was discussed in this attempt to "reinvigorate" the Civil Rights movement. Since it was an ostensibly secret meeting Clark is understandably tight-lipped."