Monday, October 26, 2009

My Thoughts on Educational "Reform"

My Thoughts on Educational Reform

Speaking in behalf of "students," especially students of color, a whole generation of self described educational reformers have systematically undermined the teaching profession and made graduation rates and performace on standardized tests the sole measure of value for what goes on in classrooms

Has this educational revolution, now in progress for more than ten years, contributed to greater economic and social equality in the United States?

The statistics show otherwise. The wealth gap in the nation, and in New York City, has continued to grow despite the imposition of a test centered
approcah to public education.

Trying to achieve social equality through education, when tax policies, health care politicies, and investment policies move in the opposite direction, will prove, in the long run, to be a Fool's Errand

It not only can't work economically,, it could very easily put students from poor and working class families at a disadvantage by forcing creativity and critical thinking skills out of the classroom in favor of skills that can be easily measured on standardized tests

From the administrative standpoint, it all makes sense- let's look for results that can be easily measured

From the teachers standpoint, it looks like a conspiracy to take creativity and agency out of their profession.and create a new class of administrators who view teachers as pieces on a chessboard.

Dr Mark Naison
Fordham University
October 26, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Applying for Federal Stimulus Funds to Restore Night Centers to New York City Public Schools

Applying for Federal Stimulus Funds to Restore Night Centers to New York City Public Schools

I would like to propose that the New York City Department of Education apply for Stimulus Funds to re-open the night centers in the New York City Public schools, a fixture of life for young people in the City which was eliminated during the New York City Fiscal Crisis of the 1970’s

When I began doing Oral Histories with African American residents of the Bronx in the Spring of 2003 as part of the Bronx African American History Project (, many of the respondents I interviewed, especially those in between the ages of 50 and 70, mentioned night centers in the public schools as important factors in their personal and professional development.

From the early 1950’s through the mid 1970’s, every elementary school in New York City was open 3-5 PM and 7-9 PM for supervised recreation, staffed by licensed professionals who created a safe zone for young people as well as an opportunity to participate in sports and arts programs, play board games, and upon occasion, attend dances and talent shows.

The Center Directors, many of whom were New York City school teachers during the day, became important influences in the lives of young people they worked with. One of my interviewees, Howie Evans, a retired college basketball coach who serves as sports editor of the Amsterdam News, says that a Bronx night center director, Vincent Tibbs of PS 99, not only provided a model for Evans’coaching and youth work, he saved Evans life by blocking the center door to keep him from participating in a neighborhood gang fight. Several people I interviewed speak with equal reverence of Floyd Lane and Myles Dorch, directors of the Night Center of PS 18 in the South Bronx, who are responsible for sending scores of young people to play college basketball and helped hundreds of others avoid trouble and stay in school. In working class and poor neighborhoods filled with gang and drug activity, the night centers were the one place where young men and women could go where they felt safe, felt protected, and interacted with adults who not only taught them skills, but with whom they could talk to about problems with schools, family or their peers

Today, young people growing up in the Bronx, and other hard pressed neighborhoods of New York City, no longer either have this kind of safe zone or regular access to caring and sympathetic adults.

Ironically, the need for this kind of mentoring may be even greater today because family and living situations, for many young people, are more fragmented and chaotic than they were thirty or forty years ago. At a time when large number of youngsters are living in foster care, being brought up by grandparents, or reside in apartments that house multiple families, the need for adult supervised recreation is even greater than it was when the Night Centers were in their heyday. Teachers, preoccupied with test preparation and meeting standards, do not have the time to mentor their students in non academic areas, especially during the school day Privately funded community centers and recreation programs are insufficient to meet the needs of a million plus New York City school children

Reopening the night centers is the only program I know of that will instantaneously change the lives of New York City public schools students for the better. It will give them an opportunity to release tension, meet sympathetic adults, immerse themselves in sports and arts programs, and find a quiet protected place to do homework, while also providing a refuge from drug and gang acivity.
I could easily amass a large group of educators, coaches youth workers and elected officials to argue in favor of this proposal

I could think of no better use of Federal Stimulus Funds than restoring night center to the New York City Public Schools

Mark Naison
October 14, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"The Rat That Got Away" A Notorious Phd Jam in Honor of Allen Jones' Memoir

“The Rat That Got Away”

A Notorious Phd Jam in Honor of the Publication of Allen Jones' Memoir

They call him The Rat that Got Away
From the Bronx to Europe he made his way
His game is wicked and his style is clean
He’s a coach and a banker with a gangster lean

In the Patterson Houses Jones grew up
Where girls were fly and boys were tough
His parents were strong and his coaches proud
But the call of the streets just proved too loud

So he got him some threads and sold some dope
He was clocking dollars but killing hope
His player style won the king his crown
But the streets that made him soon took him down

So he went to Rikers locked in a cell
Reviewing his crimes in his own private hell
But his mother cried out “God save my son!”
And a judge intervened and God’s will was done

When he got out of jail he went back to the hood
What he once used for bad he converted to good
He polished his game and went to school
From Cornwall to Roanoke he kept his cool

Next stop was Europe where success was found
From pro ball to banking his life turned around
But he never forgot his street smarts and heart
Or the Patterson Projects where he got his start