Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Professor Mark Naison
Donald Trump’s comments that Barack Obama didn’t have the grades to get into Ivy League
Schools shows a profound ignorance of the admissions policies of those institutions. According to Bowen, Shapiro et all who thoroughly researched the admissions policies of elite universities in the US ( and whose conclusions can be found in their 2002 book The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values) the greatest admissions advantage at those schools goes not to children of alumni, or underrepresented minorities, but to recruited athletes! Not only are their twice as many recruited athletes as underrepresented minorities at these schools, but the admissions advantage accruing to an athlete, whether male or female, is twice as powerful as those given to a minority or a “legacy”.
We are not talking about a small number of students here. At most Ivy League schools, close to 20 percent of the undergraduates are recruited athletes, and at Williams College, they
constitute 40 percent of the student population. Given the variety of the sports encompassed, which go from lacrosse, to golf, to tennis to sailing, to soccer, to hockey along with softball, baseball, basketball and football, it turns out that the overwhelming majority of beneficiaries of
“sports affirmative action” are white. Not only are these athletes admitted with significantly lower grades and SAT’s than the university mean, but their grades in college tend to be lower than those of their fellow students. Nevertheless, their incomes after college are no lower than those of their fellow students because a large proportion of them go into careers in the financial sector, which go out of their way to recruit “Ivy league athletes” as key components of their work force.
The populist resentment of allegedly “undeserving” minorities who push hardworking white students out of top college- which Trump is exploiting with his rhetoric- turns out to be misplaced. To put the matter bluntly, there are a lot more white hockey and football players who get into Ivy League schools with SAT’s below the school norm than there are Black and Latino students from the inner city. As someone who spent more than 15 years coaching athletes from diverse racial and class backgrounds in Brooklyn in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I know this from personal experience as well as research. One young woman I worked with, a nationally ranked tennis player who was highly recruited by every Ivy League college, actually got a letter from Harvard telling her that her target SAT score for admission was 1100! Another young man from our community, a highly recruited left handed pitcher, was told that his admission target for Princeton was 1200, with an expected verbal score of 600 because “Princeton has a lot of reading.” Needless to say, both of those young people were white!
So much for “undeserving minorities” pushing white kids out of top colleges! To put this in perspective, I have taught African American Studies at Fordham for more than 40 years and talked to hundreds of Black and Latino students about their college recruitment experiences. Not one of them has mentioned being given SAT targets that low for admission to Harvard, Yale or Princeton!
Donald Trump needs to find a new subject for his demagoguery. If Barack Obama got into Columbia with lower grades and SAT’s scores than the college mean, he was only one of many students- the vast majority of whom were white- who fell into that category. And his success, along with so many others so admitted, should be a warning that traits measurable on standardized tests are not the only indicators of talent and potential that should be considered for university admission. When Ivy League schools admit students, irrespective of the scores they register on standardized tests, they almost never drop out, and usually achieve professional success after graduation. Whether these schools should have as much power as they do in American society is another question, but none of the students they bring in are programmed to “fail.”
Columbia College chose wisely in admitting Barack Obama. His admission was only one small part of a broad policy for creating a student body diverse in talent as well as cultural background from which far more whites than ethnic and racial minorities were beneficiaries
Aprl 27, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
Professor Mark Naison
The "birther" accusations seized upon by Donald Trump as his fast track to the Republican nomination are particularly toxic because they conflate the historic fear and hatred of Blacks-with all its awesome, subliminal power- with rapidly escalating fear of immigrants and Muslims. Obama, to birthers, is a "triple threat" who combine all their fears in one- Black, Muslim, immigrant! To more than a few white Americans, Barack Obama's ascension to the Presidency is a nightmare of epic proportions, a sign that good hardworking white Christian people like them have been pushed aside and the country has been taken over by imposters. It is paranoia of the highest order, akin to the fantasies of Jewish control and manipulation spun by Hitler durinng his rise to power in Germany, but it is clearly very powerful if an oppportunist like Trump can seize upon it and move so quickly to the head of the Republican field that Sarah Palin has been pushed out of the headlines. At first, I thought Trump was a joke. No more. His campaign is starting to get scary because it is almost entirely based on racial fears of America's rapidly diminishing white majority. That's why I agree with my friend and fellow blogger Helen Burleson. We need to stike quickly, and stike hard and boycott everything Trump owns.
April 25, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Dr Mark Naison
Last night, I attended the monthly meeting of Community Board 3 in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. I was there to speak in favor of a resolution to place a plaque on Jennings Street and Prospect Avenue to honor the Chords “Sh-Boom,” the first song by an urban harmonic group to sell a million records, and landmark in the history of Rock N Roll. The resolution passed unanimously, with Board members indicating this was only the first step in a campaign to “landmark” Morrisania’s remarkable musical legacy, which included jazz, Latin music, and hip hop as well as rhythm and blues and rock and roll.
But that was the one piece of good news in a very sobering evening. Before we got to speak in behalf of this resolution, I sat through a public hearing on the impact of coming budget cuts on the Morrisania community, a discussion that quite frankly sent chills through me. To some people, the upcoming state budget cuts are an abstraction, but in the eyes of Morrisania residents, their neighborhood, a 99% black and Latino working class community located in the poorest Congressional District in the US, is Ground Zero for Sacrifice.
The first person to speak was the owner of a small apartment building who was about to lose many of his tenants because of the cancellation of the Work Advantage Program, which cut off rent subsidies immediately to 17,000 formerly homeless individuals and families. This action, the speaker, warned, was not only going to throw tens of thousands of people into the street, but potentially bankrupt small building owners like him who were going to lose half of their tenants. The city and state’s answer was to open 70 new homeless shelters! The prospect of thousands of people being forced into shelters from a successful experiment in transitional housing appalled everyone in the room, but there was nothing they could do about it. It was a done deal.
The next speaker got up to denounce the cuts to youth employment and after school programs. She said that past cuts had already increased violence and drug selling in the community, but that the upcoming cuts would make the neighborhood hell for old and young alike.” By this summer,” she warned,” no one over 30 in this neighborhood will be able to leave their house without dodging bullets or picking their children up off the sidewalk"
Other speakers got up to denounce cuts in school budgets, which were going to increase class size and make it much harder to teach and control students and cuts in Sanitation, which were going to bring back a Rat problem which the City had just began to get under control but perhaps the most heartbreaking testimony came from the Director of the Morrisania Branch of the New York Public library, who which was about to experience cuts which were going to bring it back to the dark years following the fiscal crisis of the mid 70’s. His library, he said, had become a great neighborhood success story, serving almost 160,000 people a year, offering more than 600 classes to neighborhood people of all ages in subjects ranging from computer literacy to writing research papers to English as a second language, some of them taking place in Senior Centers as well as the Library proper. All this was now in jeopardy, he said. The new state budget would reduce financing of his branch to 40 percent of what it was in 2008, forcing him to lay off staff, cancel many and go back to the 1980’s schedule of being four days a week.
As I took in the full weight of this testimony, I began to connect the dots- cut jobs and after school programs for youth, force families into the street, increase class size in local schools, and sharply reduce library access and you are setting the scene for nothing less a wave of violence and suffering. Let’s make no mistake about it, Morrisania, a neighborhood who spend twenty years rebuilding itself after a arson and disinvestment cycle destroyed more than half of its housing stock, has been put on the chopping block by heartless politicians in City Hall, Albany and Washington, who are forcing unspeakable sacrifice on its residents, especially its youth, while refusing to raise taxes on America’s bloated upper class.
Knowing this, I will be having trouble sleeping at night. What about you?
April 13, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011
My German Friends
As a scholar, and cultural activist, who has developed a deep affection for the City of Berlin, I would like to urge that the City of Berlin purchase the land on which Tacheles is located at the upcoming auction in April. Tacheles is not only a tremendous economic and cultural resourcefor the City of Berlin, it has been a source of inspiration for arts groups around the world seeking creative use of once abandoned urban space
I have seen this operate first hand when a musical group I helped bring to Berlin, Rebel Diaz, who performed several times at Cafe Zapata in Tacheles decided, upon their return to the Bronx, to transform an abandoned candy factory in the South Bronx into a community arts space. This has been repeated by arts groups around the world. Tacheles is an international symbol of popular creativity in the face of political upheaval and economic hardship. To artists and cultural workers, it is as important a symbol of Berlin as the Tower or the Brandenburg Gate
To allow this incredible cultural space to fall into the hands of developers and be transformed into an upscale shopping center or luxury hotel would
be an unspeakable tragedy, a negation of the creative spirit that has transformed Berlin the premier cultural center in Europe. It would also deprive Berlin of a precious cultural
resource, a center of artistic and musical create and a symbol of a heroic period in the global struggle for Democracy when ordinary people took history
into their own hands
So my German friends, please make sure that Tacheles survives in its current form, as a public resource. Now, with the global economiccrisis creating vacant commercial spaces crying out for creative uses, we need Tacheles more than ever
Mark D Naison Phd
Professor of African American Studies and History
Principal Investigator, Bronx African American History Project
Founding Member, Bronx Berlin Youth Exchange.