Wednesday, November 14, 2018

No Music at Brandeis! No Soccer at Roosevelt! The Crime Against NYC Student of Color!


Yesterday, a Fordham alum named Michael Campanelli, a Guidance Counselor at the High School For Green Careers, took three of his students to sit in on two of my classes. In the course of class discussion, his students revealed an astonishing fact- that none of the four high schools in the building their school is located in, which was once Brandeis High School, offers music to its students! There are no bands, no orchestras and no music classes, even though there are hundreds of musical instruments in the building left over from the time when Brandeis HS had a great music program
I found this as depressing as it is appalling. In a city which continues to showcase and produce some of the world's best music, you have four schools, located in the heart of the Upper West Side, which offers NO MUSIC AT ALL to nearly 2000 high school students, virtually all of whom are students of color from working class immigrant families
But it is not just in the arts where criminal neglect of students take place. It is also in sports. The schools at Roosevelt HS, heavily drawing upon students from soccer loving countries in Africa and South and Central America, have no soccer teams. Worse yet, when one of the schools at Roosevelt, Kappa International, tried to create a soccer team, they were unable to get field space for this from Fordham.
As someone who came from a working class family and attended public schools in New York City in the 1950's and 60's, I find this even more reprehensible. During my junior high school and high school years, I played on school teams and was a saxophonist in school bands, even taking my instrument home with me on buses and subways
. That students today lack the opportunities that I, and my counterparts in the Bronx, had when we were growing up filled me with despair. The great sports and music programs that were shut down in the City Fiscal Crisis of the late 1970's were never restored in most of the city's schools, especially those serving immigrant children and children of color.
It's time we brought them back NOW!
What i propose is that the budget for testing be cut in half, most standardized tests eliminated, and that the funds saved be used to bring back the music and bring back the sports,
Our schools and our children will be a lot better off with less testing and more creativity!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

My Election Day Pledge



“If my students, colleagues, friends, family members and neighbors come under attack because of their race, religion, immigration status, sexual orientation or gender, I will defend them with every ounce of energy I have and put my body on the line to come to their aid. I will not stand by while vulnerable people are victimized by racists and bullies. Their struggle is my struggle. I refuse to normalize a political climate where they are turned into targets and scapegoats. I will fight every day to make this country a place where they are respected and treated with dignity”

Will You Take This Pledge With Me?

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Great Cause of Our Time

There are going to be a lot of people who are going to wake up November 7 shocked at how many people voted for candidates who embraced a message of hatred and division.
I won't be. I am an historian of race and immigration in the United States. Electoral majorities passed the Jim Crow laws, the Chinese Exclusion Acts, and draconian immigration laws of 1921 and 1924 which sharply restricted immigration from from Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America for over 40 years. Moreover, all of these electoral campaigns were marked by violence against the groups targeted
There will be signs of hope in the coming election- great victories, great candidates coming forward with positive messages. But many people will look around at who their neighbors and family members voted for with horror and dismay.
It will take years, maybe decades to undo the damage being done to our communities and our country by those promoting fear of Blacks, immigrants, Muslims, LatinX people, Jews, and LGBTQ people. In many parts of the country , those who want the US to be a beacon of unity in a world filled with hate may find themselves feeling very alone
But no one said this would be easy.. It is our job to challenge those promoting of fear and division every day, where we work, where we live, where we worship, where we gather with friends. For as long as it takes
This effort will define us as a nation for the foreseeable future.
It will be the Great Cause of our time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Power of Sports


I am currently working with a brilliant young man from a white working class Southern family who spent several years in the military before coming to Fordham. After we discussed of our very different upbringings, I gave him a copy of “White Boy: A Memoir” which he just finished reading. He had many questions for me after reading the book, but one question stood out the most “How did you keep from getting discouraged when so many things you worked for and believed in seemed stalled?”
I thought for a while before giving an answer and then replied “Sports. Sports got me through. Because of the athletic skills I had developed when I was growing up and honed in high school and college, I could head to the tennis court, basketball court, squash court or baseball/softball field when I was feeling down and have my abilities and character validated” 
I went on to tell him not only about the games and matches I played at Fordham during my first 30 years there, but all the friends I made doing that -among students, faculty, administrators, coaches, even members of the Jesuit community. Those friendships helped me advocate for my Department and my students, while keeping my morale up,
This vignette helps explain why I am so passionate about making sure every high school student in New York City has an opportunity to play on a team in their chosen sport. This not only strengthens their connection to school and enhances their chances of going to college, it gives them skills which will last a life time.
We need to see this opportunity is available in every high school in the Bronx, especially in the five high schools across the street on the Roosevelt Campus.
Currently, it is not.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A City of Romantics- A City of Dreamers



Every time I hear Laura Nyro sing, or hear Felipe Luciano speak, I get back in touch with the romantic side that was always there underneath my gritty exterior. When you grew up in a tough New York neighborhood, especially in Brooklyn, Manhattan or the Bronx, you learned to cultivate a tough exterior to ward off bullies and aggressors, but there was always something else there. You see, New York is a city of dreamers. You had to be a dreamer to cross the ocean or the border and come here from a distant land. And that quality of dreaming, of hoping for something better, of wishing for love and acceptance was passed on to the children. Even children who joined gangs, or fought every day going to and from school ( yes, girls as well as boys did that, right Maria Aponte?) So in tenements and housing projects, in school yards and alleys, where people were playing stick ball or jumping double dutch, there were always poets,, singers, painters, cartoonists, hoping they could find a safe place to unleash those talents, Some of our best music and best art came out of those places. And that romantic impulse is still there if we dare to find it, recognize it and support it.
Just remember
It was there when Laura Nyro joined to sing doo wop in the 167th Subway stop of the D Train with two Puerto Rican friends.. It was there when Felipe Luciano, former gang member/ Young Lords Founder, came together with Black revolutionaries to form the Last Poets and put poetry over jazz riffs and drum beats. And it was there when young people all over the Bronx, deprived of art and music instruction in financially strapped public schools, covered subway cars with bold, colorful images and created a new music with two turntables and a mixer.that would sweep the world .
In a city of Dreamers the Bronx has often been Ground Zero for romanticism and creativity

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Brett Kavanaugh in Me, And So Many Other Men


Looking and listening to Brett Kavanaugh testify before Congress, and especially looking at photos of his face contorted with rage, I would like to think that I have nothing in common with him.
The truth is much more complicated. The Brett Kavanaugh Face-now preserved for all time in countless articles and memes, is one women are all too familiar with. It is the face men use to intimidate women when they are frustrated, cornered, at a loss for words, or trapped in a lie.
How do I know this? Because when  my wife Liz and I were first getting together, she called me on it! Whenever we got in an argument that I felt I was losing, I produced a "hate look" which Liz refused to accept.
"I will not let you intimidate me," she told me.
She also told me, later, when she decided that we had enough in common for us to spend a life together ( something many people think qualifies her for sainthood) that the hate look was the thing about me that upset her the most.
If Liz, one of the strongest and most confident people you will ever meet, felt this way, you can imagine how many millions, if not tens of millions of women, have had similar experiences with visual manifestations of male rage and frustration, and have equally strong reactions to Brett Kavanagh's testimony.
All throughout this nation, in response to Christine Ford and Brett Kavanagh's testimony, people are revisiting deeply personal experiences, reviving awful memories, and reliving bad times
The strong negative reaction by so many women to Brett Kavanagh testimony arose not because he was an outlier, but because his words, behavior and affect were all too familiar.
The tension and anguish this has produced is not going away any time soon

Monday, August 6, 2018

Why I Support Multiple Measures of Admission to New York's Specialized High Schools

 
When people ask me what I think of proposed changes in the admissions requirements for Specialized High Schools, here is what I tell them
First, I support multiple measures of evaluation for colleges, jobs, sports teams and anything else I can think of, why should I support a single test as the sole standard of admission to specialized high schools.
Secondly, at a time when more and more colleges are becoming SAT/ACT Optional, it is in no one's interest, other than test companies and those involved in data mining, to put so much emphasis on standardized tests. You are not preparing students for higher education by using a single test criteria for top high schools- you are not preparing them for today's workplace either. Social skills, intellectual curiosity, cultural breadth are among the array of traits that employers in all walks of life look for; that is why they have interviews, or group sessions which expose prospective employees to real life situations
So, while I think testing is a legitimate element in admission for institutions such as Stuyvestant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech, especially given these schools long and distinguished histories, it is time to make their admissions standards more broad based.
An excessive emphasis on testing is the bane of public education. Test skepticism, not test reverence, is what we need to deal with children's multiple aptitudes and to create healthier communities