Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Why the Wrath of Middle Class Mothers Will Neutralize the NRA- A Lesson From Common CORE

One of the reasons why the Common Core Standards failed- despite their support from powerful politicians and foundations- is that they targeted middle and upper middle income school districts where parents were happy with their child's education as well as high poverty districts where parents were dissatisfied with schools. As word got around about the amount of testing the Standards required, middle class parents, especially middle class mothers, became convinced that their children were having their joy in learning smothered to make them guinea pigs in a huge national experiment. Thus aroused, they helped build a huge opt out movement that ultimately forced politicians, even those who had taken contributions from wealthy supporters like Bill Gates, to back away from the standards. The wrath of middle class mothers proved more powerful than Billionaire dollars.
Now something similar is about to happen with gun regulation. Up to the present, the NRA has been able to prevent any effort to limit access to assault records from gaining political tradition, But the massacre at Margery Stoneman Douglass High School, an elite upper middle class public high school, has changed the equation. Middle class parents throughout the country now feel that THEIR children are in grave danger from unstable people possessing assault weapons. And they will respond the same way they did when they saw uncontrolled testing threaten their children. They will organize and mobilize until something is done to restore their sense of security in their children's safety and well being. In the face of their wrath, the NRA's money and political muscle will shrink in significance in a way once impossible to imagine
The wrath of middle class mothers will take the NRA down a notch the way it did Common Core Supporters like Eli Broad and Bill Gates.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Game Changer in the Gun Debate

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School may well go down in history as a "game changer" in the gun debate in the United States.
First of all, it took place in one of the best public high schools in the state of Florida, a school with over 3,000 students which every parent in Broward County, if not the state, would love their child to be in. From a parental point of view, the message was chilling. If their children weren't safe at Douglass, they weren't safe anywhere.
Secondly, for the first time, it mobilized STUDENTS as an independent force in the struggle for gun safety. The Douglass student body is not only brilliant and capable, it is diverse in a way that makes it a microcosm of the nation's young people. Almost immediately, students at the school responded to the catastrophe that befell them by organizing protests against the proliferation of assault weapons, demanding that policy makers do something to protect them. Their speeches and interviews were so eloquent that they immediately became figures on national media, not only giving a new and formidable face to the struggle for sane gun restrictions, but spawning plans for national student walk outs and marches on Washington. '
We now have a national movement for gun safety that large numbers of middle class and upper middle class people see as protecting THEIR children and families; and a group of brilliant new leaders who refuse to just be victims and are demanding that new state and national policies assure that nothing like this ever happens again.
I have been deeply moved by the speeches and comments of the of the brilliant young women and men of Margery Stoneman Douglass High Schools. about what needs to change in this country.
Though the NRA has ruled the debate thus far, they haven't faced young people this eloquent and determined, given strength by intolerable pain, fighting for their dead and wounded friends as well as their future.
We may have finally turned a corner and are ready to join the other advanced nations of the world in taking practical measures to assure school safety and reduce gun related deaths.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Clash of Two Rights and an Epic Struggle About to Unfold

What we have in the US today is a conflict between the historic right to bear arms, forged in 18th and 19th century political conditions, and the right of the nations teachers, students and families to feel safe from disturbed individuals armed with assault weapons. Though the right to bear arms has a long history and is deeply rooted in the culture of many families and communities, like all rights, it is subject to modification when it conflicts with other equally important rights ( Remember; the nation once affirmed the right to own slaves). We have now reached a point where a majority of the nation's school population feels unsafe because of the proliferation of assault weapons in the hands of unstable individuals. The people who work in our schools, predominantly women, are mobilizing to protect themselves and the children under their care. They are not going away. And they have the model of multiple women's mobilizations from the women's marches in the early days of the Trump Administration to the #metoo movement. This time, the NRA will be facing a gun control movement infused with the energy of a struggle for women's and children's rights. If it captures the imagination of the nation the way I suspect it will, the NRA may not be able to defuse it the way it has movements in the past. An epic struggle is about to break out on the American political landscape.

A Suicide Path

The way I see it this country is on a suicide path.
First of all, the people shaping education policy in this country, during the last twenty years, have done everything possible to create more wounded children like Nikolaus Cruz;
They have deluged schools with standardized tests that squeeze every ounce of joy out of classrooms
To pay for the tests, they have cut back on counseling, libraries, the arts, sports, physical education, all activities where young people in trouble can find refuge or a place to express themselves
They have deprived more and more students of meaningful social interaction, either with teachers, or one another, by having them sit in front of computers all day.
They have adopted zero-tolerance disciplinary policies and throw out students who cannot adopt to the test and punish regimes that dominate more and more schools
The result, more and more students who have emotional issues or learning disabilities are given little support, little mentoring and few outlets for their emotions or talents, and are pushed out or pushed aside
And then, if they are angry, what is there to greet them
Easy access to drugs
Easy access to guns, including assault weapons
We are creating an army of outcasts and then arming them to the teeth
And unless we do something about both issues, a rigid, test driven education system, and easy access to guns, we are going to see more and more acts of terrifying violence in our schools and communities

Sad Thoughts on a Friday Morning

As I walked through the Fordham campus this morning in early dawn, I thought about the beauty of the place as well as the wonderful students and colleagues I have encountered here over the years and was filled with a warm feeling.
And then I thought of something. What if the teachers who worked at Douglass High School in Parkland Florida felt the same way about their school as I did mine? After this shooting, they will never feel this way again. Images of blood and death and trauma will always invade their thoughts when they come to work.
As my heart went out to them, i realized this could happen at Fordham. It could happen anywhere. We are all vulnerable. The beauty we are surrounded with could be taken away in an instant.
Which is why we must not only show solidarity with the teachers, students and families in Parkland, we must try to do something about the conditions which make tragedies like this all too normal in our country,
There is time for mourning. There is time for tears. But eventually, there has to be a time for action.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Something I've Got To Say That No One Wants To Hear

Of all the school shootings, the one that just took place in Broward County scares me the most.
Here's why. Every school or sports program I have worked in has a kid like Nikolaus Cruz, a young man so angry and disturbed that even the toughest teacher or coach couldn't handle him. In my days coaching baseball and basketball in Brooklyn, I took pride in taking boys and young men under my wing that no one else could handle, but there were occasionally kids who were too difficult even for me, and with great reluctance I had to throw them out of the program. In one instance, a young man I threw out came back with an ice pick and threatened to cut me up, but with help, I was able to handle that. But what if he came back with an automatic weapon. If he did, I and several other people would have been dead.
Basically, that's what happened in Broward, A disturbed young man who was thrown out of his high school returned with automatic weapons and killed 17 students and teachers. And here's my point. There are tens of thousands of Nikolaus Cruz's all over this country. Give them easy access to automatic weapons and they are a massacre waiting to happen.
This isn't a mental health problem--there is no therapy program that cure the rage inside every wounded, bitter young man. It isn't an education program- there are some kids even the best trained, most compassionate, street smart teachers can't reach.
It is an automatic weapons problem. You put automatic weapons in the hands of every adolescent loose cannon in small town and suburban America and you are setting yourself up for massacres of students and teachers.
No one in those communities wants to hear this.No program anyone has ever developed will defuse the rage in the Nikolaus Cruz's of the world. You want your children to feel safe? Take the automatic weapons out of their hands

Saturday, February 10, 2018

On The Spousal Abusers in the White House

Sexual and physical abuse is something which crosses lines of class and race and ideology- it is not something that can be placed at the feet of any one occupational group or political party. Nevertheless, it is telling that two high level figures in the Trump White House who were close to the President, first Steve Bannon and now Rob Porter, had a record of physical abuse of spouses.
I do not think this is accidental. I strongly believe that the way men approach power in all aspects of their lives spills over into how they deal with women, both those they are in professional or personal relationships with, and those they meet in random encounters. If you create a culture at your workplace where weakness is despised, strength is exalted, and compassion is seen as the province of fools, as Mr Trump apparently does, you are likely to attract people who apply those principles to their personal lives.
I have often said that if Donald Trump is to be neutralized and discredited, it will not be Russia that will be his downfall, but his attitudes towards and relationships with women. Surrounding himself with spousal abusers is one part of a disturbing pattern of cynical behavior towards women that reflects a worldview which transforms all individuals and groups perceived as “weak” into objects of contempt. Most people, if they thought about this pattern honestly, would be very uncomfortable having a person with such views as their leader, whether in their community or the nation.
Donald Trump may well complete his first full term in office, but the toxic features of his leadership style are gradually getting exposed in ways which will permanently tarnish his Presidency