Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hope Lies in the Unexpected: An Inspirational Story


I have an inspirational story for you. It goes back to a time many years ago when for me, as for many battle scarred 60's idealists , the future looked grim. Maybe it will help people who feel beaten down by the recent election see some glimmer of hope on the horizon, perhaps from a place they never expected.
The year was 1972. I was having a hard time. The movement i was part of in the 60's had splintered into factions, some which had embraced a kind of violence I could not endorse. Several fomer friends and political associates had blown themselves up in a town house in Greenwich Village; other were on wanted posters you could see in any post office I was glad I never went down the path they had chosen, but seeing their pictures plastered all over by the FBI sent chills through me
Work was also stressful I had just started teaching at Fordham in the Institute of Afro American Studies and trying to figure out how I would navigate being the first white faculty member to teach in a Black Studies Prorgram in NYC, if not the whole country I loved the students in my classes and the people I taught with, but there were some students not in my classes who had been bitterly opposed to my appointment and facing them- and sometimes facing them down- on a daily basis was challenging
My personal life was also a mess. The relationship that had shaped my life for nearly 6 years, with a beautiful Black woman passionately devoted to helping people in need, who had been the first person I had fallen in love with, was breaking up and I was wondering who I would be without her by my side, especially since I had been adopted by her entire family.
In the midst of all this, a friend of mine decided to try to set me up with someone who was sitting in on a class he was teaching at the New School. i reluctantly went along, gave a lecture in the class and after a half a bottle of bourbon decided to ask the person out on a date
That person's name was Liz. As i looked across her at the table of the restaurant where I took her- I think it was Umberto's Clam house- I thought about how different she seemed from the woman I had been seeing for six years. She was gorgeous, but she looked like the captain of the cheerleading team in high school that I had been afraid to ask out Unlike my former girlfriend, the product of a working class Black family in Georgia, she had grown up in comfortable circumstances and had opportunities few Black people and not that many white people, had enjoyed growing up.
It would be hard to have been more skeptical about where this was going than I was the first half hour of our date, yet over time, I would fall in love with, this woman, who had a depth of intellect and character equal to anyone i had ever met. Not only would the former cheerleader captain, who many people know as Liz Phillips turn out to be the best life partner and parent anyone could dream of having, she would turn into one of the great education leaders of New York City, and New York state
In 1972, I feared the most meaningful parts of my life might be ending. In truth, I was on the cusp of a new beginning.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Turning Tragedy Into Opportunity-The Creation of Fordham's Bronx Course and the #BronxHistoryCollaborative


Last Fall there were a series of racial incidents at Fordham that traumatized the University community. The administration responded with powerful statements that condemned what took place and reaffirmed Fordham's commitment to becoming a diverse and caring community, but it was the student response that I found most gratifying. Students in my classes, including captains of 3 important teams- Garrick Lloyd MayweatherMikela Ryan and Danielle Rowe-, came up with a "Zero Tolerance for Racism campaign, complete with armbands and stickers which gave students, faculty and staff a way of affirming their support and solidarity with those targeted by the attacks with visual symbols. At the same time, another group of students decided the University needed to address the underlying layer of contempt for the Bronx and its people that helped fuel the incidents and asked me to create a new course on Bronx History and Culture. Within two weeks, with their help, I was able to create a syllabus for the course which was approved by the appropriate committees and introduced in the Fall of 2016
It has now been nearly three months since the Bronx Course opened its doors and its impact has been profound.With the help of educators involved in NYC's test exempt high schools- the Consortium Schools- we were able to have sections of my Bronx course taught simultaneously in two Bronx High Schools with provisions made to bring students in those course onto campus to meet with my students, and students in my class to come to the high schools to be interviewed by their students or make presentations on their research. . At the same time, the Bronx course alowed me to reconnect with two of the Bronx's and the nation's greatest principals- Paul Cannon and Luis E Torres- and give Fordham students the opportuity to see how they had turned their schools into centers of energy and creativity in some of the Bronx's poorest communities.
And this boundary shattering experience will only continue to grow in influence and important. One of the two brilliant teachers involved in teaching the Bronx course Aixa Rodriguez, introducted the term the #BronxHistoryCollaborative to describe the unique interaction of college and high school students and educators taking place and set up workshops and seminars to encourage others around the city an the nation to follow our example. On March 18, 2017, there will be a Conference of the #BronxHistoryCollaborative at Paul Cannon's amazing school, PS 140. And my Department at Fordham now be offering a section of the Bronx course every semester for the next two years, two of them offered by me, one each by my brilliant graduate assistants, Damien Strecker and Lisa Betty, I will also be turning my Rock and Roll to Hip Hop course into a Bronx centered offering and training my students to be able to go into Bronx schools and talk about the Bronx's role in shaping these two important musical genres.
I offer this experience for two reasons., First to congratulate the amazing Fordham students who pushed me to create the Bronx course- Madelyn Murphy (Maddie Leigh) and Danielle Rowe. Thank you and congratulations. What you set in motion is truly making history, both at Fordham in the Bronx.
But I also offer it as a reminder to those depressed and enraged by the wave of bias incidents that have been dividing the nation during and since the election that bringing people together to repudiate and halt this outpouring of ugliness might actually end up strengthening our communities in unexpected ways.
We cannot go backwards. We cannot stand still when hate stalks the land. Let us use our creativity and ingenuity to bring out the best in our communities.That's what my Fordham students did and the results of their efforts have been profoundly gratifying,.

Friday, December 2, 2016

R.I.P. Marge Borchert


Last night, driving back to Brooklyn from Fordham after a Bronx Education Forum I learned of the sudden death of Marge Borchert, a great elementary school principal in a community near Buffalo who to me and many others, epitomized the passion, creativity and courage that we want in those given the care of our children
I am crushed.,
I never met Marge in person. But she had become someone whose insights and wisdom I had come to count on in private messages on Facebook.exchanged literally hundreds of times in the last four years. We could not be more different. She was small town. I was city. She leaned toward the conservative side' I leaned to the left. But when it came to protecting children from the machinations of the arrogant poicy makers who were deforming education policy in this country, whether housed in Washington, Albany or the offices of large foundations we were as one. I revelled in her stories of getting more than 80 percent Opt Out in her school, her love of nature and its incorporation into her school pedagogy, and her standing up to state commissioner Mary Ellen Elia when Elia visited her district.
Over time, she became a moral compass to me whose insights I depended on almost daily..
I can't believe she is gone. I never knew she was ill. I know her school and community, as well as her family, must be in mourning.
For me, she symbolized the optimistic, forward looking spirit of small town America and the ability of great educators to keep children's interest first at a time when many policians view them through a far more cynical lens.
Never did we need Marge's voice than now- when we are divided, fearful, at one another's throats, and facing even greater challenges than we had in the past.
I will always remember her voice in my ear and try, in whatever way I can, to keep her legacy alive
You may have passed from this earth Marge, but you will always be in my heart and all the children you have inspired will keep your legacy alive.,
Rest in Peace. Rest in Kindness. Rest in Love

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Why Clinton Lost the Election by "George Washington"


                                                            Did Hillary Clinton throw the election?
                                                                            by George Washington

            Looking at the Clinton support from the 2008 Democratic Primary we saw an abundance of support from white working class voters.(http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-03-31/news/0803300390_1_blue-collar-hillary-clinton-voters). Yet throughout the 2016 election Clinton’s support with this group all but disappeared. Not only did the support disappear but Clinton thought it proper to insult the group that gave her so much strength in the primaries. What some call a mistake I assert a sense of something more deliberate.

 “The Deplorables” became not on a calling call for Anti-Hillary sentiment but also led to a movement of sort to make sure she was defeated. Women starting wearing T-Shirts called “Deplorables” to show solidarity with each other and against Clinton. But as BAR journalist Glen Ford points out “deplorables want good jobs too”.
(http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/11/us/politics/hillary-clinton-basket-of-deplorables.html?_r=0)

Hillary Clinton spent a 13 year period as first lady of Arkansas. So it stands to reason she was extremely versed with this population. It also stands to reason that Clinton would have a tangible memory of the importance of this group considering the tough terrain in swing states. In sum politicians don’t make these sort of “mistakes” unless it was deliberate. We move onto the question of strategy and lack of campaign adjustments.

We have an excerpt from long time Democratic Party operative: I don’t have to make the case that blue collar voters are, to put it mildly, less than enthusiastic about HRC’s positions on trade and the economy,” David Betras wrote in his 1,300 word missive, citing her struggles in recent primaries.(https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2016/11/22/daily-202-rust-belt-dems-broke-for-trump-because-they-thought-clinton-cared-more-about-bathrooms-than-jobs/58339cf3e9b69b7e58e45f1b/)


Again we have Clinton abandoning her base from 2008. But wait it gets worse. Clinton was too close to Obama on the issue of NAFTA (her husbands debacle), the TPP, and earlier in the campaign she was fundamentally opposed to Glass Steagall (again another won of Bill’s debacles). And we have  wonderful column by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich: (http://inthesetimes.com/article/18493/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-glass-steagall-wall-street). Clinton was to the RIGHT of Donald Trump on Glass Steagall! Not that I expect Trump to actually reinstate it. Lets examine where Clinton was in 2007 on the question of bank separation. To do this we find one of her important economic policy speeches.

We find clue in this excerpt:
 “Finally, we face new threats that neither the president nor federal regulators have adequately acknowledged or addressed. Take the risk of so-called derivatives and other new financial products that Wall Street is selling.These products offer new opportunities for investors to diversify portfolios and protect themselves against certain risks. For example, a farmer here in Iowa who's worried about the price of corn could buy a derivative that increases in value when the price of corn falls, so regardless of what happens with his crop, he has a chance to break even.But derivatives also create new risks. They can swing wildly in value. It isn't always clear who owns them or how much they are really worth. Owners don't always understand the risks, which is why even the investment banks that created them are losing billions of dollars on these derivatives. And the ripples are being felt from Wall Street to Main Street.”
(http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/21/clinton.trans.economy/)

Clinton slams the derivatives trade but did she go all the way and call for Glass Steagall? Mostly, the following article gives her a close enough. (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/jul/15/hillary-clinton/hillary-clinton-says-she-called-wall-street-regula/)

Lets look at foreign policy. We have the murder of Gaddafi: Hillary Clinton remarks on murder of Qaddafi with no trial, "We came, he saw, he died"...http://www.cbsnews.com/news/clinton-on-qaddafi-we-came-we-saw-he-died/

Then we have the issue of Syria. Many Americans are tired of American interventionism as they no longer see the benefit. The military has been strained as their soldiers come home with blown off limbs, PTSD and other health problems. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has warned against increased engagement in Syria. (http://thehill.com/policy/defense/312675-gen-dempsey-syria-no-fly-zone-could-cost-1b-per-month)

Then behold a few weeks before the election Clinton comes out with another debacle. She calls for a no fly zone on Syria! Clinton also admitted many Syrian would be killed. (http://www.salon.com/2016/10/21/hillary-clinton-admitted-in-2013-that-a-no-fly-zone-would-kill-a-lot-of-syrians-but-still-wants-one/) How many Generals in the military did she piss of with this statement? More than a handful we can guarantee.

HRC was obviously talking to George Soros too much. It is past time to kick George Soros out of the Democratic Party. Soros is famous for crashing currencies. (http://www.businessinsider.com/how-george-soros-shorted-the-pound-etching-his-name-into-financial-history-forever-2010-6)

Finally. The tragic death of close Hillary Clinton friends under mysterious circumstances could have been enough for Madam Secretary to just want to go home and retire. Congressman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (http://www.politico.com/story/2008/08/rep-stephanie-tubbs-jones-dies-012676). Arkansas Democratic Chairman Bill Gwatney. Coincidently Tubbs-Jones and Gwatney died 7 days apart. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/14/us/14arkansas.html). Democratic Party Strategist Kam Kuwata also died under mysterious circumstances. (http://www.politico.com/blogs/ben-smith/2011/04/kam-kuwata-034944).

I don’t believe the above deaths are conspiratorial but I do believe they are enough to add grief and stress for a Presidential Candidate. In Sum combining weak banking policy, weak trade policy, hawkish foreign policy and being too close to wall st., this was a recipe for disaster. In the 2007-2008 campaign we have qualitative efforts of a strong progressive campaign to be President. The 2016 version of the Clinton campaign was 180 degrees to the opposite. We highlight this quote from a recent quote from Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer: (http://www.the99percenters.net/2016/11/20/schumer-we-didnt-have-an-economic-message/) We didn’t have an economic message. Presidential Politics is all about economics. Quoting the great James Carville “its the economy stupid”.  The fact through the whole campaign Hillary Clinton didn’t have an economic message is no accident. The party without a strong economic message and compelling narrative is almost always the loser.

To be fair. Clinton was essentially running on Obama’s policies which have been a dismal failure particularly in the red states. So she was essentially running on Obama’s policies and not her own. To break from Obama would be to break the party. The party which is now the bootlicker of wall st greed has no direction, no policies and no vision. I can only conclude that on a subconscious level Clinton was tired of politics and that she in fact wanted to lose. Sure she can blame the FBI email, (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/13/us/politics/hillary-clinton-james-comey.html) she has to say this for the donors who wasted their money. However this analysis gives us a much deeper view that I believe is worth considering.


George Washington  is a teacher/ union activist living in the Western US

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Join the Resistance


Because Donald Trump has refused to denounce the racist, fascist hate groups who have been emboldened by his election, an anti-fascist, anti-racist resistance has started to grow in this country which will eventualy involve tens of millions of people. It will be above ground and underground, involve politicians, clergy and educators, and will mobilize citizens in all walks of life. It will ultimarly be far bigger than anything we have previously seen in US History. Wherever I go, I see this resistance rising. It will be a powerful force keeping the worst excesses of the Trump administration in check, and will ultimarly give new life the dreams.of Dr King and others who fought to expand the nation's promise to all its people.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Trouble Comes to "My Hometown"; Post Election Race Conflict in the Nation's Schools


One area where the tensions of the recent election are being played out is the nation's middle schools and high schools where I have heard literally scores of stories-through friends- of fights and exchanges of insults between white students and latino students and white students and black students, some of which have led to students getting hurt. Anyone who thinks that the media are inventing this, or that George Soros is financing this, has their head up their ass. If anything, the media is underreporting this. And this isn't about hate groups. This is about kids overhearing their parents conversations and bringing it to school
None of this is new. In fact, it looks more and more like a repeat of what I saw and experienced in the Sixties, something referred to in one of Bruce Springsteen's most powerful songs "My Hometown"
.In '65 tension was running high at my high school
There was a lot of fights between the black and white
There was nothing you could do
Two cars at a light on a Saturday night in the back seat there was a gun
Words were passed in a shotgun blast
Troubled times had come to my hometown
We are heading down a dangerous path. It will require hard work from all over us to keep the violence and hatred from taking even more dangerous forms
And no, covering it up is not the answer!!!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Real Talk About Affirmative Action


At various points in the campaign, commentators have referred to Affirmative Action as one of the issues driving white working class and middle class support for the Trump campaign
There are a lot of misconceptions about Affirmative Action in college admissions which I need to clarify. It always surprises people in my classes when I present them with this information.

When it comes to admissions preferences by universities, especially by elite universities, advantages given to under-represented minorities come in a distant THIRD. Here in order of importance are the way admissions advantages are distributed

1. Admissions advantages given to children from very wealthy families who can pay full tuition and/or make contributions to the school. These advantages used to benefit only wealthy Americans, now they benefit global elites as colleges scour the globe to recruit full tuition payers. For documentation of this read Peter Schmidt's book "Color and Money:How Rich White Kids are Winning the War Over College Affirmative Action." The situation is actually worse now when colleges have gone "global" to seek wealthy students

2. Recruited athletes. Every Ivy League school gives 20% of its admissions sports to recruited athletes, the vast majority of whom are white. They are in sports like volleyball, soccer, lacrosse, sailing, tennis, golf, hockey softball and swimming as well as football and basketball. My children both went to Yale on sports affirmative action- my daughter because she was ranked 37 in the nation in junior tennis; my son because he was a left handed pitcher who threw 85 miles an hour. Both were smart kids, but it was sports that got them into one of the nation's most competitive schools For documentation of this read Bowen and Shapiro "The Game of Life"

3. Underrepresented minorities, a category which keeps shifting over time. Ironically, the vast majority of those recruited for elite schools under this rubric are from middle class families.
Now, if you are wondering why Affirmative Action remains such a source of resentment among many whites, consider this: most working class and middle class white kids fall into NONE of these categories.

But overwhelmingly, their resentment is directed at the SMALLEST group among those getting admissions advantages- those falling into category three.

And so we repeat one of the most depressing themes in US History: economically disfranchised whites are much more prone to blame those below them than those above them for their plight