Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Putting Our Worst Foot Forward

 
When I was growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950's, the product of an immigrant family which had pulled itself out of poverty in two generations, there was one image that stood out in my mind that captured most why I was proud to be an American.
It was the picture of a US soldier, walking in a war torn country, with his arm around a terrified child, reassuring him that he was finally safe.
What it suggested to me was that the powerful, wealthy country I lived in was a force for good in the world, using its wealth and power to help people being persecuted and impoverished and save them from dictators. It gave me added motivation to try to excel in school and in sports so that I become part of the leadership of this great nation
I would learn, as the Civil Rights movement erupted and as the war in Vietnam unfolded, that this image was only one part of a much more complicated and troubled history, but the ideal reflected in the photo was one I still kept close to my heart
Now segue to the present. The most powerful image of the US we have been presented with in the last few months is of children in cages and courtrooms, crying as they have been separated from their parents. They have the same haunted look in their eyes as the children being comforted by GI's in the photos from the 1940's and 1950's, but this time it is Americans, including Americans in uniform, responsible for their pain.
What does this image say to my counterparts today, impressionable young people trying to figure out their place in the country of their birth? What does it say to people around the world trying to make sense of what the United States stands for.
Have the people of this country become so cynical and angry that they are comfortable with the United States inflicting cruelty on children rather than healing their pain? Are they prepared for the US to be seen as the latest installment of the dictators we fought in World War 2.
Make no mistake about it, children in cages, and Donald Trump's angry words and contorted face, define this country to America's youth and the people of the world, the way images of GI Generosity and JFK's inspiring image and words once did.
How the mighty have fallen?
Will we fall further still?

Monday, July 16, 2018

The High Price of Using Racism to Fight Liberals and Leftists

I understand being angry at liberals and leftists. But when you are willing to first tolerate, and then applaud open appeals to racism to get back at them, you are walking down a very dangerous path, the path trod by Hitler and his German supporters. Make no mistake about it, those who continue to support Trump no matter what he says or does because it pisses off the "snowflakes" and the "libtards" are not going to be very happy where this all ends up. Everybody loses when a society declares war on its most vulnerable people. Including those who think they were going to be immune to the consequences
Remember: Hitler said that everything he did, including the death camps and killing squads, was necessary to "Fight Communism."
As for the broader consequences, including its impact on those who supported Hitler: When WW2 ended, there wasn't a blade of grass left in the Tiergarten, Berlin's largest park, because every piece of vegetation had been eaten by the starving people of that city.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Tribute to a Great Bronx Teacher on His 80'th Birthday

Tribute to a Great Bronx Teacher on His 80th Birthday:
Hi, this is Dr Mark Naison of Fordham University, When I look back on a career that has spanned nearly 50 years of University teaching, I view Jim Pruitt as one of the ten most impressive educators I have encountered at any level of our educational system. He had a tremendous influence on me when I arrived to teach at Fordham in 1970, and played a central role in providing intellectual guidance to the research project I direct, the Bronx African American History Project, which began in 2003 and has become one of the most respected community based oral history projects in the nation
Shortly after I arrived at Fordham in the fall of 1970 to teach in the Institute of Afro American Studies, Jim was appointed the director of Fordham Upward Bound Program, which had offices across the hall. I quickly saw that he was a force in our Department as well as his own. A tall imposing person, dignified in carriage, precise in speech, knowledgeable about history, passionate about justice, Jim had a profound influence on the Black and Latino young men in his care. Here was someone from the same communities they lived in, who shared their feelings and understood their world, who commanded the respect of powerful white people, from college administrators to faculty to security officials through depth of intellect and force of character. His Upward Bound Students not only listened to him, they watched him carefully, and over time, began to model themselves on him. Thus began the shaping of a new generation of Black and Latino leaders, people who would make an impact on many walks of life from education, to business and the arts. Jim was at Fordham for less than ten years, but he is still in touch with many of the now not-so young people in his charge. I have rarely seen a teacher/mentor command such reverence, and have such influence, on a groups of men from inner city neighborhoods
Now segue to the year 2003 when community leaders asked me to start an oral history project documenting the experience and achievements of African Americans in the Bronx. The Bronx African American History Project, as the initiative was called, began with oral histories of Black women and men who had lived in the Patterson Houses near Lincoln Hospital, but soon began to focus on the largest Black community in the Bronx in the 1940's 1950's and 1960's, Morrisania. I had know that Jim had grown up in that neighborhood and that members of his family still lived there so I called him for advice. It was the best decision I had ever made. Jim not only introduced me to his brilliant sister, Harriet McFeeters, who still lived with her sister Bessie in a row house on East 168th Street, he provided the crucial intellectual framework for understanding the middle class Black community that emerged in Morrisania
Jim explained the path that took Black postal workers and Pullman porters from churches in Harlem like Grace Congregational to an exciting new community in the Bronx. But he also identified key institutions which became the basis of that community as it emerged- St Augustine Presbyterian Church, Forest House, Camp Minisink and Morris High School. Armed with this knowledge, we started recording what ultimately became more than 100 interviews with Black residents of Morrisania, all of which have been transcribed, archived and digitized. People from all over the world consult these interviews, many of which were recommended by Jim and Harriet
So happy 80th Birthday Jim Pruiit. You have truly been an educator who changed the course of history

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

When Privilege Fails to Bring Peace of Mind


I am healthier than I have been in years. I have a great job. I am economically secure. I have terrific friends and a loving family.
But I am deeply unsettled by the state of the country and the pain being inflicted our most vulnerable people.
I cannot be happy while others suffer, especially when that suffering is being inflicted in a cruel, vindictive manner, accompanied by a flood of racist stereotypes
I am not an island. I have Black and Latinx grandchildren. I have students whose families came to the US as undocumented immigrants . I have Black friends, colleagues and family members who have suffered grievously from racial profiling. I work closely with leaders of Bronx Muslim communities and know first hand the fear they feel in this political climate
In Donald Trump’s America, my status as a white male professional confers material benefits, but it does not bring peace of mind
I first experienced true happiness when I started using what skills I possessed to help people less fortunate than I was
I certainly cannot be happy when my prosperity comes at their expense or when I am expected to look the other way while they are being attacked

Sunday, July 1, 2018

My Education Platform for the Next New York City Mayoral Race

 
1. End charter school expansion. Every city with a higher percentage of charter schools than NYC- Chicago, LA, Baltimore, New Orleans, Washington DC- has much higher crime rates than New York.
2. Make sure every middle school and high school in the city has a full complement of athletic teams. Sports are a life line for young people and pathway to college. It is unacceptable that there are small high schools all over NYC which have no athletic teams.
3. Bring back the night centers. Every elementary school in the city should be open 3-5 and 7-9 with free supervised activities, ranging from sports, to arts, to instruction and immersion in technology. Our young people need a haven from tensions in their homes and conflicts in the streets. Night centers are the best gang deterrents we have
4. Bring instrumental music back to ALL our public schools, along with training in computerized music production Let music once again fill the air in our city the way it did in the 50's 60's and 70's when NYC had the best public school music programs in the nation, producing artists like Barbara Streisand, Carol King,Luther Vandross, and Eddie Palmieri

Saturday, June 30, 2018

What Made the Night Centers So Attractive to Bronx Youth of the 70's

 
by Principal Paul Cannon of PS 140
What made the Night Centers so attractive for youths during the 70's is that they were organized and definitely structured around homework, intramural games that were no less spirited than ABA or NBA games in our young minds,evening snacks, ( a treat was chocolate milk)‎ arts and crafts ( occasionally a cool custodian would venture off and challenge the BOE rules around access to shop classes and resources for us during our nightly stays), and definitely mentoring sessions around avoiding drugs and gang banging. In fact, I recall gangs ( Savage Skulls, Young Immortals, Baby Aces, Black Spades, etc) getting their only real lessons in "staying alive" at those centers: They would check their weapons at the door( mostly pocket knives), adjust their attitude towards authority and their peers, and flow with the program. While I would never condone gangs and the ills associated with them, they operated on a very different level from today's misinformed youths that glorify being part of madness without a cause. Gangs back then settled matters for the most part with knuckles and occasionally knives and homemade objects. They also had a degree of respect for babies, elder folk and definitely the disabled. And if you were a kid with hope, promise and a good head on your shoulder, they'd be the first to steer you away from even the most remote thought of following their footsteps.
Lastly, and when a village certainly raised the community (Morrisania in particular) ‎let's not forget about the beat cop who looked like us and felt compelled to do his job to the highest of expectations!! He had a rapport with everyone vested in the neighborhood, especially those educators who also lived in the hood and understood the importance of giving back. As for the night center hours, I recalled Monday through Friday from 6 pm to 10 pm. ( and if you were a great athlete ,( mostly ball player) they person in charge would keep it open a few extra minutes.
Thanks, Mark and keep up the fight because like everything--the world and times are just a revolving circle.
Keep it "old School" with a new school flavor for sure!
Respectfully,
P Cannon( AKA -"The Mayor of the South Bronx")

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Bargain With the Devil


Many conservatives who privately have huge issues with Donald Trump’s character are feeling vindicated these days. Thanks to his election, conservatives will have control of the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary for a generation, shaping the way the courts rule on issues such as abortion, labor rights, immigration, affirmative action and restrictions on voting.
But the price for this victory may prove to be high-a country that is at odds with its allies, that is accelerating climate change, and is rapidly becoming a racial and political tinderbox. Everywhere you look and listen; hatred is in the air and its sights and sounds leave no one untouched.
This is what happens when you make a bargain with the devil. Conservatives may be getting the Supreme Court they want, but will it be worth it if their children feel unsafe in a country where neighbor is pitted against neighbor?
We are in danger of turning into Yugoslavia, a country made ungovernable by ethnic hatreds, which ultimately had to be divided in order to bring violence back under control
And if that happens, Donald Trump will not be the only one to blame. So will be all the people who enabled him to move their own agenda forward , knowing full well the dangers he posed to the health and safety of the nation

Monday, June 25, 2018

Today I Saw The Future at PS 140 Graduation- Where Immigrant Optimism Met the American Dream

Today, I had an opportunity to attend the 5th Grade Graduation of a remarkable school in the Morrisania Section of the Bronx, PS 140, led by a brilliant principal, Paul Cannon, who grew up in and still lives in the community where his school was located
For two magical hours, I not only forgot about Donald Trump and his followers, I began to think that their ascdency is only a blip on the nation's radar screen and that before we know it, the celebration of racial and cultural diversity would return as a major theme in the nation's political life.
Why?
Because the graduation I attended was not only filled with energy and vitality, it was pervaded with an optimism that many would not expect in an overwhelmingly Black and Latino school during the years that Trump was president,
The theme in every single song, in every speech in every single student presentation was that the future belonged to the graduates, that if their talent was accompanied by hard work, nothing could stop them from achieving success in the United States. Some would do it in medicine, some in law, some in teaching, some in business, some in the arts, but for students in PS 140, as one speaker proclaimed "there is no such word as can't". Their talents were so great that if they worked hard and avoided the pitfalls of peer pressure and cynicism, they would have happy and productive lives
There was absolutely no cynicism in the students responses to these message. The students marched into the auditorium swaying rhythmically, to gospel, R &B and Hip Hop. They chanted the Pledge of Allegiance at top volume, thrilled to the singing of the Spar Spangled Banner by a teacher that was so powerful it almost raised the roof, and chanted "I am Somebody" and "Nothing Can Stop Me" every time a teacher or administrator asked them to
And what made this all the most remarkable is that these students were overwhelmingly the product of immigrant families, coming from more than 20 nations in the Carribean, South America, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. That almost none of them were "white" or European ancestry did nothing to dim their conviction that the American Dream was for them. They were convinced that they were so talented, do driven to achieve success, that the world would open up to them.
And you know what, they may be right. Sitting on stage and listening to these students sing, rap, play musical instruments, watching them dance and sway to the music, listen to their valedictory talks, it would have been hard to imagine them being anything BUT successful
Best of all, there was not a single note of bitterness in the entire two hour ceremony, not from the teachers, not from the administrators, not from the parents, not from the guest speakers
It was not only a celebration of a great school, it was celebration of what American society, at its best, means to our recent immigrants.
 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Penalizing Racists in the Age of Trump



Since the Trump Administration has legitimized open expressions of racism in the public sphere, more and more people are developing grass roots strategies for documenting and penalizing racist speech and action through social media. If you are going to be yelling racial slurs, or calling the police on Black or Brown people for actions which pose no threat to anyone, expect to have your actions recorded on a cell phone and broadcast on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And if you are a public official or media personality calling for attacks on vulnerable people, don’t be surprised to have your home and workplace picketed or see companies that sponsor you made the target of consumer boycotts.
In the face of Trump’s cynical mobilization of racism for political gain, anti-racists are teaching those who drink the Trump Kool-Aid that their actions have consequences and that openly expressing racism may compromise your reputation and livelihood.
And this is only the beginning of a wave of revulsion and disgust in response to the politics of division and rage this President has used, and still uses, to fire up his supporters.
The message here is very clear
Voting for Trump is your right under our Constitution. Acting like Trump may very well get you fired.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Moment of Deep Shame


We are now being known around the world as a nation that sanctions cruelty to the most vulnerable of children.
Perhaps the words on the Statue of Liberty should be revised to read
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses longing to breathe free, and we will break up your families and put your children in detention."
This is a moment of deep shame for every American who still possesses the capacity for empathy

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Thoughts on Stuyvesant Admissions



I just spoke at Stuyvesant High School about the rise of hip hop in the Bronx to two New York History classes. There were at most 4 Black and Latino students among the 60 students I spoke to. The students at my lecture, probably 70 percent Asian and South Asian were attentive and asked good questions, but there was little electricity in the air. Frankly, the atmosphere would have been better if there had been a critical mass of Black and Latino students who were immersed in the cultural traditions I spoke about or lived in the neighborhoods where the music arose. And every student in the class would have benefited. Diversity doesn’t just help those who are given new opportunities by broadening admissions criteria, it helps every person in the institution being changed expand their cultural horizons and become better leaders.
I think Stuyvesant would be a better school if it were more diverse. Yet at the same time,I feel tremendous respect and admiration for the students who currently attend. To me, they seemed like a wonderful cross section of one portion of working class, immigrant New York. They were neighborhood kids who worked hard to get there and didn’t have a smug bone in their body. More than a few were the children of Muslim immigrants, people currently in the cross hairs of racists and xenophobes. I don’t like the idea of painting them as “privileged” especially now in a time of ascendant xenophobia.
I would like to see Stuyvesant be more diverse. I would like to see the school, like all schools, have multiple measures of admission. 
That is the moral framework from which I approach this. My support of multiple admissions criteria is consistent with my efforts to make Fordham SAT optional
But I don’t like to see the interests of working class Asians and South Asians pitted against those of working class Blacks and Latinos.
This whole issue is getting ugly in a way that is leaving a very bad taste in my mouth

Monday, June 11, 2018

Who Will Save The Country from a Race to the Bottom?


I should be glowing after spending a magical family weekend at my daughters house in Stone Ridge with  my daughter and her husband, my granddaughters, aged 3-14, and my wife's parents, who are both 91, but I can’t help thinking about the migrant children separated from their parents at the border by this cruel and heartless Administration. I realize that to many people, this is only one of many issues where this Administration has rode roughshod over the nation’s best traditions, but to me, the separation of undocumented children from their parents mirrors the actions of history’s worst dictatorships. It also suggest to me that there is no limit to what level of cruelty Trump supporters will accept from their leader. And that sends a chill through me. There is no self-corrective mechanism at work here. It is up to those of us who have not drunk the Trump Kool Aid to save the country from a Race to the Bottom

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Two Key Areas Where President Trump Ignores Historical Trends


Two key areas where President Trump either distorts historical trends or cynically presents false information for political gain are the following
First, the notion that our “ inner cities are plagued by crime” and face a terrible crisis which liberals have ignored. If this was 1995, those remarks might have been relevant, but in 2018, they show a failure to recognize major historic trends. In the last twenty years, murder rates in most American cities have plummeted, both because of the decline of the crack epidemic and gentrification. The majority of poor people now live in the suburbs and gang issues and poverty related violent crimes have migrated with them. Hempstead and Newburg, for example, small cities near NYC, are far more dangerous, and far poorer than Harlem or Bedford Stuyvesant
Second, the notion that immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, bring crime and violence with them does not conform with statistical information or lived reality. In New York City, mass immigration to the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens has coincided with plummeting crime rates and the rebuilding of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Immigrant workers, store owners, health care providers, and valedictorians of are far more indicative of the immigrants contribution to NYC than drug gangs. MS 13 are outliers, dangerous but despised by the hardworking self sacrificing immigrant majority
I realize that many of the President’s supporters will dismiss what I just wrote as Fake News” but playing fast and loose with Demography and History is the essence of demagoguery and if you are comfortable with that, well, that’s your burden to carry when you look at yourself in the mirror

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Shame of Broward County: Calling Police on Teachers Union Officials who Visit Schools

It is utterly astonishing and appalling that principals in the Broward County Florida School District have been calling the police to escort Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco and BTU VP Terry Preuss out of their schools when they come to visit and meet with members after school hours! It is this kind of DISRESPECT that is fueling teacher uprisings all over the nation.

And think of the message that this is sending to students. If their teachers and their teachers  representatives are treated this way, what kind of treatment is in store for them if they show signs of independent thinking, or decide to protest some decision by school administration?

What makes all this even worse is that the principal's actions occurred only a few months after the Parkland shootings where students, teachers, and administrators all came together in the face of unspeakable tragedy and Browders  Teachers Union leaders, along with many others, worked 24/7 to comfort the survivors and find the strength to move forward

What just happened in Broward should be the occasion for an outpouring of solidarity by teachers and other persons of good will

 I hope some kind of petition or other form of national action can be created which allows teachers all over the country to weigh in to protest this attack on freedom of expression and the right to organize on behalf of people who are some of our most selfless and courageous public servants.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Corrosive Racism That Defines The Trump Presidency



In the last few weeks, we have discovered some new information about how the policy decisions and language of the Trump Administration reflect profound racial biases
Nearly 5,000 unacknowledged deaths in Puerto Rico from the terrible hurricane that hit that island when the official death total being given was 64
1,500 missing children from undocumented families seized and separated from their parents
The employment of rhetoric denouncing members of MS-13 as “animals” while refusing to use the same language for white supremacists who commit mass murders
Looking at these in tandem, we see that Trump Administrations approach to Latinos and Latino immigrants veers between demonization and cynical indifference, depending on circumstances. It creates a toxic, morally corrosive atmosphere in the nation, especially since the demonization of Latinos is a central strategy the President uses to rally his “base.”
Whenever this President is in trouble, he attacks someone Black or Latino. But the racially targeted policy decisions that accompany this rhetoric destroy lives every day

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Tale of Two Grandpas: An Immigration Story


When I think of how I ended up living a long and relatively productive life despite a troubled relationship with my parents, I think back on the influence that my two grandfathers had on me. Each of these remarkable individuals, who came to the US in their teens without speaking a word of English, and whom I saw at least once a week, gave me love without reservation, but also set examples in their own life which had a tremendous impact on me. In terms of appearance, body type, and personality, they could not have been more different, but the person I am today incorporates portions of each of them in ways that from the outside, may seem controdictory
Grandpa Josef, The Scholar Who Sold Herring On The Streets of Brownsville
Josef Nasofsky, my father's father, came to the US from Poland at the turn of the century, He was small and slight, having no more than 130 pounds on his 5'5" frame. But he was deeply religious, with a passion for learning, and had a will of iron. A resident of Brownsville Brooklyn who lived in walk up apartment on Hopkinson Avenue, he was a fixture of the Orthodox synagogue there and practiced his religion every day at home. My most vivid memories were of him davening in his apartment, swaying rhythmically to the prayers he chanted in Hebrew, something he did before every meal he and his wife served for us. He did this with his eyes closed, as every prayer had been memorized. The other thing I remember was him pinching my cheeks with love when he saw me, or when my father, in Yiddish, told him of one of my academic accomplishments Reputedly,. he had been tough on my father, and angry when my father rejected religious orthodoxy, but he was never anything but kind and loving with me. And the more I learned about him, the more impressed I was. He made a living selling herring on the streets of Brownsville, something he did till his late 80's, but read Shakespeare in Yiddish and practiced the violin regularly. From the outside, he was a poor, non-English speaking immigrant struggling to put food on the table for his family, but to me he imparted the lesson that a love of learning is not conferred by titles and degrees, but is something that can be found among people in all walks of life. .
Grandpa Charlie, the Jewish Strong Man and Justice Fighter
Grandpa Charlie, my mother's father, could not have been more different from Grandpa Josef in appearance or personality. Charlie, who came here from what is now Belarus at the age of 12, was a Jewish strong man, 5'6" and 200 pounds of pure muscle. Unlike Josef, he was neither religious nor intellectually inclined; he came from a family with strong links to underground economic activities, both in Europe and the US, and brought in income as a bartender and bootlegger when he was laid off from his "day job" as a presser in the garment trades. But though Grandpa Charlie was was anything but an intellectual, being marginally literate in Yiddish and English, he was a passionate union man willing to risk his life for his fellow workers. Throughout my childhood I was regaled with stories about how Granpa Charlied fought gangsters brought in as strikebreakers in the streets of the garment district, and won! Looking at him, you could see why- he looked like could bend a metal bar with his bare hands. But to me and my two cousins who lived down stairs, he was kindly and loving, cooking amazing meals of steak seared in chicken fat and huge portions of home made french fried which he covered in Kosher Salt. He was also my most reliable babysitter, watching the Friday night fights with me when my parents went out. If Granpa Josef inspired the intellectual side of me, Grandpa Charlie inspired the physical side, helping me become a young person who never backed down from a fight no matter what the odds against me were. Even his death sent a message that has remained with me. When Charlie was stricken with terminal cancer, rather than watch himself waste away, he jumped out the window of his room on the 8th Floor of Brooklyn Jewish hospital. That final act remains with me as much as all that he had done before
It is hard to put in words how proud I am to have been loved and cared for by these two remarkable men. In the course of what has become a long life, I have never met anyone who possessed greater courage and determination than Grandpa Josef and Grandpa Charlie. Two poor immigrants, forced to leave Europe because of poverty and prejudice, came to the United Sates and gave me, and so many others, a legacy to build on, not only in making a life in this country, but in making this country a better place.

Monday, May 28, 2018

New York Is No Longer a Basketball Town: Fordham Should Leave the Atlantic Ten in that Sport

 
Over 20 years ago, Fordham made the fateful decision to leave the Patriot League for the Atlantic 10 in all sports but football. The decision was motivated largely by a desire to have Fordham seek national recognition in basketball, something it had when I arrived at Fordham in the early 70's. This decision has been an unmitigated disaster, in terms of finances, coaches, players recruited and actual record. I tried to tell the administration they were making a huge mistake when they made the move, but they didn't listen. They were so desperate to build up Fordham's national profile through sports that they ignored the lessons of history and sociology, failing to see changes in the demography of New York City that are making it difficult if not impossible to for New York area colleges to be centers of basketball excellence the they way they were in the 1960's and 1970's when St. John''s, NYU, Columbia, and NYU all had nationally ranked teams
The major reason for this has been a huge shift in population, due to immigration, in those outer borough neighborhoods in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, as well as neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan, which once produced the bulk of the city's great players. When I was growing up, basketball was king in working class New York, the sport played dawn to dusk in Jewish, Irish, and African American neighborhoods, and picked up by a significant number of arrivals from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic who, like Italian Americans, played the game even though their main sport was baseball. However, in the last 40 years, all of those communities have been transformed by immigration, much of it coming from places- the Anglophone Carribean, West Africa, Mexico, and South Asia- where the major sport is soccer ( and in some cases cricket!). As a result of this, when you walk around working class New York on a weekend, you will see full soccer, cricket and baseball fields, but empty basketball courts. New York is no longer the place churning out the nation's top basketball players in fierce schoolyard competition.
What does this mean for Fordham? It means that there are no longer thousands of smart, eager kids with high levels of skill looking for basketball to take them to college and help them achieve success in life even if they don't have an NBA career. Those players still exist- witness Desi Rodriguez of Seton Hall- but they are too few in number to have New York schools rise to national excellence by recruiting them,
And this isn;t changing any time soon. If anything, recent immigrants are LESS interested in basketball than the groups that came before, So, it is time that Fordham, which has been attracting better and better students without national recognition in sports, take valuable money away from its basketball program and use it to fund living wages for its adjunct and contingent faculty along with more scholarships for academically gifted young people from immigrant families.
We have had a great experience in the Patriot League in football. That is where we belong in basketball.
Making this move will put Fordham more in line with Jesuit traditions of academic excellence and social justice while affirming its understanding of demographic trends that have transformed immigrant, working class New York

Sunday, May 20, 2018

How A Royal Wedding Exposed the Moral Bankruptcy of an American President

 
Who would have ever thought that a Royal Wedding in Great Britain would, in its rituals and symbols, expose the moral bankruptcy of the Trump Administration as much as any direct protest or critique, but that is exactly what happened yesterday. With the whole world watching, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engineered an event which affirmed the unity of peoples and nations by drawing upon the most powerful African American traditions of prophetic preaching and choral performance and linking it to the ancient traditions of the British monarchy and the church of England. The result was an event which moved many American observers, including TV commentators, to tears, in part because it stood in such contrast to the hatred and rage being spewed by the President and his defenders in the United States, It was a reminder that that the dream of the unity of all peoples, and the celebration of their collective traditions, was still alive and still capable of kindling the imagination and transforming governments and public life. It was also a startling indication how, after the Presidency of Barack Obama, Americans had elected someone who would severely damage the global reputation of the United States by taking us down the lowest of low roads, appealing to the kind of nationalism and raw prejudice that once fueled fascism. Make no mistake about it, the contrast between what took place in Great Britain and what is going on in Washington, was both intentional and powerful

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

My Educaton Priorities

 
Although Education is only one of many issues on my plate in these challenging times, I do have an Education agenda to guide me over the next few years
1. Fight to reduce the stranglehold of testing and standardized curriculum on the nation's public schools.
2. Work to make sure that sports and the arts are available to all students, especially in high needs communities where they have been sacrificed due to budget cuts or an obsession with raising test scores.
3. Work to make community history and culturally responsive pedagogy an integral part of the school experience in high needs communities
4. Try to persuade Fordham, to become "SAT Optional" in its admissions policies
I will be using my position at Fordham, when feasible, to sponsor seminars, meetings and symposia to advance these proirities

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

When Was the Last Time You Saw A Student Carry a Tennis Racket or Saxophone on the Subway?

 
When I attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn from 1959-1962, I was on the tennis team, and was also a member of the marching band, the concert band and a pep band that played at basketball games.
I was a pretty good tennis player. I was undefeated at No 1 singles my senior year and came in third in the NYC indoor and outdoor championships.
However, I may have been the worst saxophone player in Brooklyn. Somehow I made the band, but tried not to drown out the many talented kids who played beside and around me. Nevertheless, I valued being in the band as much as being on the tennis team because it connected me to some wonderful musicians and allowed me to perform at all my school's important events.
It is utterly appalling to me that most young people attending public high schools in New York City no longer have the opportunities that I had in the late 1950's and 1960's. Every day, I went to school carrying my tennis racket and/or saxophone. How many times do you see kids doing that on the bus and the subway in New York today?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Next Steps for Test Critics and Resistors in New York State


Disclaimer! I am not a K-12 Educator. I do not teach in an Education Graduate Program. I am not a member of any Education Activist Organization. I am an historian, specializing in social movements, who has been in regular communication with parents, teachers, administrators, legislators and Regents on issues relating to testing for the last 5 years. PLUS, I am a tenured Professor who is basically untouchable and immune to intimidation
So, here is my candid assessment of what people who think testing in New York State is out of control should ask for
First, that the ELA and Math Tests in grades 3-8 should be one day each, with a maximum time of 90 minutes per day
Second, that the Tests should be diagnostic only, with all stakes for the test removed. Under no circumstances should tests be used to evaluate teachers, schools, or entire school districts, much less to remove teachers or principals, close down schools or put districts into receivership. Their only legitimate use is to evaluate individual students, with the evaluation being something shared between teacher and parent or guardian to help guide future instruction
3. All Test Secrecy should be Eliminated. Teachers, parent/guardians and Administrators should be able to look at individual test results
There are many other objectives that could be fought for, but these three should be the immediate focus as they are all goals that can be won if parents, teachers, administrators and elected officials can unite.
Can we do this?. We have to make change in increments. These changes, taken together, would take the boot off the neck of our State's children, teachers, families, and administrators

Monday, May 7, 2018

Why Testing in New York State is Still Abusive by Amy Gropp Forbes

Today, I asked education activists whether changes to testing made by the NY State Education Department, along with the partial severing of test scores from teacher evaluation by the State Legislature were steps in the right direction. 

Here is the responses I got from a much respected parent leader in Brooklyn Amy Gropp Forbes

1    I  think the change from 6 days to 4 was by far the most important and significant change made to date and I agree it should be applauded, in theory. However, now that the tests are untimed there are kids across the state who sit for between 2 and 6 hours in a single day for tests that the state estimated should take 60-70 minutes for 3rd and 4th graders (80-90 minutes for 5th - 8th graders) per day. This is a clear indication of 2 things: 1. the tests are not well designed. 2. The pressure kids are facing when they take these tests is enormous -- why else would otherwise reasonable and caring adults let any child sit for 6 hours for a test? There was major outcry when the ELA was 270 minutes over 3 days (90 minutes per day)...but now when children take between 120 minutes and 360 minutes in a single day we are supposed to be ok with that?

2.  NYSED tells us that they heard us regarding test length, but the increases in the last 10 years were so great that the reductions were inconsequential in the scheme of things: In 2010 the number of questions on the 5th grade ELA and math tests combined was 61 and by 2016 that number was 117. That is a 92% increase.  . As long as annual testing is mandated federally I realize we are limited, but I do not see any law about the tests needing to be more than 1 period a day, for one or two days. In my circles, no one really objects to content or quality the 4th grade state science test. It is fair and appropriate for the students. The only reason anyone opts out of it is because now it can also be used for teacher evaluations, something it was not designed to do.

3. Regarding teacher evaluation: leaving this to the districts leaves NYC vulnerable. While NYSUT and several local unions have been outspoken about the ills of our testing system the UFT has not. 
In NYC every subway car has the message "IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING" but teachers and principals in NYC feel unsafe speaking out about testing. Teachers are not even allowed to read the test booklets.  When parents report situations that are against DOE policy rather than providing clearer guidelines to all educators and parents, we are asked to give names. We are not interested in seeing individual educators punished for doing what they have been led to believe they are supposed to do! This is a systemic problem, not a few isolated incidents. And the stakes attached to the tests are HUGE for kids in NYC. The law says that test scores cannot be part of a child's permanent record. But when NYC kids apply to middle and high schools those scores are included on every record and they are a factor for some selective schools.

4.    I truly believe that if we want a public education system that is equitable that we need clear statewide policy, not district level policy, when it comes to testing.