Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Kaepernick, Charlottesville and National Anthem Protests


The NFL owners who have collectively refused to sign Colin Kaepernick in the hope of avoiding protests which divide their fan base may have miscalculated or misread the political climate.
Following the Charlottesville "Unite The Right" rally where Neo Nazis and White Supremacists came out in the open in ways which frightened and appalled many people, the National Anthem protest which Kaepernick initiated- and few NFL players initially followed- has started to spread.
First sixty current and former NY City Police officers- including 81 year old Frank Serpico- took the knee during the National Anthem at a ceremony in a Brooklyn Park.
And then yesterday, nearly a dozen Cleveland Brown players-
including tight end Seth DeValle, who is white-took a knee in prayer during the National Anthem during their pre-season game with the Giants.
Given the growing sense of revulsion, not only with the Charlottesville protests, but the President's response to them, I have every expectation that the National Anthem protests will grow in size and number, especially if Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned.
I may be wrong about this, but as someone who has sensed growing anger among friends and colleagues about Kaepernick's exclusion from the NFL, I fully expect my prediction to hold.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Why There is a Movement to Remove Confederate Monuments


The movement to remove Confederate monuments is only one part of a much larger project forcing the country come to terms with the legacy of slavery, something it never has done. This also involve exploring how some of our major universities were built on proceeds derived from slavery and the slavery trade ( as Fordham Grad Craig Steven Wilder did in his book "Ebony and Ivy"); exposing how prevalent slave markets were in almost every major Southern city; and creating exhibits throughout the South and the nation which explore how central slavery was to the economic development of the nation and how cruel it was in its daily functioning, especially in terms of the systematic breeding and sale of slaves. This movement is being driven by the brilliant young race scholars who are now on the faculty of almost every university in the nation. It is not going away. It is only going to gather momentum in coming years. And it is likely to lead to local, and possibly national efforts, to compensate the descendants of its victims

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Lonely Places Champions Are Made


At 10:30 this morning, on a cloudy day, I headed over to the tennis courts adjoining the local elementary school to practice my serve. The courts were empty, and filled with puddles that still hadn't dried from the morning's rain. Nevertheless, I served by myself for a half an hour, determined to sharpen the direction and depth of my serve for the singles semifinal I had in a week, against an opponent who had excellent ground strokes and good service returns.
And as I struggled to find the right rhythm, I thought of all the lonely moments I had spent as an athlete and a parent trying to perfect my skills or those of my children
Like the times I went to the little park near my apartment building at Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30 AM, practicing layups, set shots and hook shots before the big kids arrived for the day's pickup games. I did this religiously from the time I was 8 till the time I was 12
Or the times I took my daughter Sara, when she began training for junior tournaments, to courts where you needed your own net, on 7 AM on spring and fall weekends so we could practice uninterrupted for 2 hours, something impossible on public courts where you needed a permit, or impossibly expensive at private courts. To one of those courts, on McDonald Avenue and Avenue S, I needed a broom to sweep away discarded bagels, broken glass and occasionally dead pigeons. That was the only way I could keep Sara competitive with the suburban kids who had public courts everywhere or the rich Manhattan kids who could afford lots of private coaching
And when my son became a serious baseball player, who needed to excel as a hitter as well as a pitcher, I would take him at 7 AM to Prospect Park where I put him in front of the pitchers mound to hit hundreds of tennis balls I threw to him into the backstop, teaching him how to make contact with two strikes by shortening up his swing, and training him to the ball to the opposite field on outside pitches.
This is the unseen work that made all three of us into college athletes, going from the schoolyards and parks of Brooklyn into the fierce and glorious world of Division One College Sports.
Some may call this a form of sacrifice, but I see it as the heart and soul of the athletic experience, the place where the courage and persistence of champions is forged.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Danger! Personalized Learning!


The new danger word in education policy is "Personalized Learning." Whenever you see that featured at a conference, a seminar, or on the website of an organization, you should put your guard up, as the influence of billionaire investors is behind the scenes promoting this attempt to put every child in front of a computer and reduce classroom instruction to computer tending, all in the name of respect for individual aptitudes and abilities.
The goal here is to completely remove relationship building in the classroom, whether between students and teachers, or among students themselves, and transform data accumulation on students into a daily task, shredding civil liberties and personal privacy. It is a pathway into a Brave New World of manipulated students, manipulated employees and manipulated citizens.
So, put "Personalized Learning"on the top of your list of education policies which threaten democracy and enlightened citizenship, along with "Data Driven Instruction," "Data Walls" and "Common Core."
It is starting to pop up everywhere! So watch out! And fight back!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Backfire!! The Attorney General's Missteps on Affirmative Action


Sometimes, bold policy initiatives can have exactly the opposite impact of what was intended. No better example of this was the suggestion that the Department of Justice was considering suing universities accused of discrimination against whites in their admissions policies. The main result of this was not a groundswell of sympathy for aggrieved white applicants, but an outpouring of commentary pointing out that the major beneficiaries of college admissions preferences were children of the rich! More remarkably, one of the most quoted examples of this unseemly pattern was how the admission of Jared Kushner, the President's son in law, to Harvard was engineered through a 2.5 million dollar contribution from
his father to the school
As someone who has been arguing this for years, based on solid research that I have shared with my students, I was astonished to see this analysis go public with such force and visibility. And I have to thank the Trump Administration and particularly Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for creating a climate which allowed this important discussion to get a public hearing.
One of the titles of the books I use speaks volumes on the subject "Color and Money: How Rich White Kids Have Won The War Over College Affirmative Action"
Thanks to Attorney General Sessions, the subject of Affirmative Action discourse has shifted from Favoritism to Minorities to Favoritism to the Rich.
This is the perfect example of a policy initiative backfiring!

Affirmative Action Check List For High School Seniors!


If you are looking at your classmates in the fierce competition for admission to elite colleges, the following are the advantages conferred on applicants in approximate order of their importance:
1. Being a highly recruited athlete, not just in football or basketball, but in ANY sport including tennis, crew, golf, lacrosse etc, This holds for women as much as men.
2. Coming from an extremely wealthy family. If your family is willing to make a large contribution to the school immediately, this advantage may even exceed that accruing to a highly recruited athlete
3. Being a member of an underrepresented minority. Although this category is always shifting, it includes, at most institutions, being Native American, of African descent ( which encompasses African Americans, West Indians, and Africans), Latino, or coming from the Pacific Islands.
4. Being the child of an alumnus. At some schools, the importance of this can exceed being from an underrepresented minority, and some schools it doesn't.
The vast majority of the attacks on Affirmative Action, and most of the resentment of it, focus on category 3. However, at most elite colleges, the percentage of people admitted via 1, 2 and 4 far exceed the percentage admitted under 3.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Celebrating the Great People Working in Public Education


After spending an afternoon at the Eastern Long Island Freedom School Session headed by Bronx principal Jamaal Bowman, where everyone in the room was a great public school educator in their own right, I am convinced that it is time to take the offensive and celebrate the amazing things happening in our public schools and get that information out to parents, elected officials, foundation officials and the media.

 Our public schools are filled with heroes- innovative teachers, department heads, principals, even superintendents- who are performing miracles with students from a wide variety of backgrounds. 

Heroes like Keri Lynn of Riverhead, fighting off Stage 4 Cancer, who has a rocking chair in her kindergarten classroom because she believes  her students, many of whom come from immigrant or high poverty families, need to be loved and cared for before they are taught and begins and end her school day with circles of caring and gratitude

Heroes like Jamaal Bowman, principal of CASA Middle School in the Bronx, who gives every parent in the school his cell phone number and has made dance a required course in his school because he believes self-expression and the arts are as important to student development as Math and Literacy and infuses his school with symbols of Hip Hop Culture because is was music which, in its Bronx origins, celebrated the ability of young people to overcome obstacles.

As a society, we will only be able to thrive together if we unleash joy and creativity in our young people and encourage them to continue to express themselves as they grow into adulthood

Where that creativity is being nurtured in our public schools, we must identify it, name it, publicize it an insist that it become the standard for excellence in ALL OUR SCHOOLS, replacing the testing and rote learning that is being promoted today.

It is time to take the offensive in the battle for our children and grandchildren's future. Let's celebrate our public education heroes and showcase what they do best

Starting right now!