Monday, December 3, 2018

Testimony to NYC City Council Education Committee About Discrimination in School Sports

My name is Dr Mark Naison. I am a professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham who has written extensively on Race and Sports in US History. But more important, for purposes of this hearing, I was a graduate of New York City public schools who ended up as captain and number 1 singles player on the Columbia University tennis team, and who had two children, Sara and Eric, who attended New York public schools and played varsity tennis and baseball at Yale University, None of us would have had that opportunity had not we played on public school teams in middle school and high school. It is simply unconscionable that many students in New York City public schools, the vast majority of whom are Black and LatinX, attend schools which have a tiny number of school teams or no teams at all.

Not only does an absence of school teams undermine student morale and academic engagement, it maximizes discrimination against Black and LatinX students in college admissions. As James Shulman and William Bowen point out in their book "The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values" being a recruited athlete is the single most powerful admissions advantage in getting into the nation's top colleges, having more than twice the impact of being an under represented minority or a child of an alumnus. Since 20 percent of students at Yale, Harvard and Princeton, and 40 percent of students at Williams, are recruited athletes, lacking access to sports puts Black and LatinX students in New York City at an added disadvantage to those they already experience due to race and class

As my mandated two minutes of testimony comes to a close, let me talk about a specific school where this criminal denial of educational opportunity takes place. On the Roosevelt Educational Campus across the street from Fordham, there are five high schools which have no men's and women's soccer teams, even though a good portion of their students come from West African and Central American countries where soccer is the major sport, What this means is that there is a whole generation of future Fordham, Columbia and Yale students in the Bronx, students who only differ from me and my children in race and class, whose talents and opportunities are being suppressed because of lack of access to athletic teams

This discrimination has to stop NOW. Every New York City public high school student must have, at the very minimum, opportunity to play on school teams, in soccer, tennis, track and field, baseball and softball,  baketball, volleyball, and swimming, Until that happens, New York City is not only out of compliance with Title Six of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is out of touch with the egalitarian values this City claims to stand for to the nation and the world


Jerome Krase, Ph.D.
Emeritus and Murray Koppelman Professor
Brooklyn College
Former Football, Baseball and Track Team Member, Brooklyn Technical High School 1956-1960

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Luis Torres and Steven Ritz- The Heroes of PS 55

When the NYC Department of Education put a Success Academy elementary school on the 4rh Floor of PS 55, an elementary school located in the middle of the poorest and most decayed public housing complex in the Bronx, the Claremont Houses, they probably thought they were dooming the public school in the building. Their expectation was that the charter school would siphon off enough parents that the public school's enrollment would shrink to the point that the charter school would take over more and more floors and eventually get the whole building
What they didn't count on was the brilliance, creativity and tireless determination of the PS 55 principal, Bronx born and raised Luis Torres. Under his guidance, not only has the public school in PS 55 blossomed, it has become a center of educational creativity which people from all over the world come to visit!
How did Luis Torres do this? It was through a combination of old school administrative skills-bonding with teachers, students, and parents- and the kind of new school educational entrepreneurship that is needed in today's hostile educational climate. Not only did Principal Torres fund raise tirelessly with local business like the New York Yankees to bring in funds the school needed for better technology and equipment, he was determined to give his children everything schools in wealthy areas have plus programs catering to the special needs of youth in the Claremont neighborhood.
And here, in addition to bringing in instructors to organize dance teams, basketball teams and a tennis program, he decided to create a home for another resident Bronx genius viewed with skepticism by the NYC DOE, Steven Ritz, the founder of the great science and urban agriculture program, the Green Bronx Machine. Ritz, pushed out of a Bronx high school where he began his remarkable program, was not only given a huge lab on the third floor of PS 55, he was given a large area on the school grounds for an outdoor space to grow vegetables. What Ritz was able to do in those spaces was nothing short of miraculous. Not only did he grow enough vegetables and greens- both indoors and outdoors- to help feed the more than 500 families who attended the school, he created a hands on science curriculum based on his gardens which energized teachers, inspired students, and uplifted the morale of everyone in the building
If you go visit PS 55, as I have done with my students, you will see an oasis of energy, health, and creative activity in the midst of one of the poorest communities in NYC's poorest borough. Vegetables growing out doors and indoors, a full service medical clinic, a schoolyard resurfaced for softball, soccer, and tennis, special programs for immigrant students, and an atmosphere filled with hope.
Luis Torres has created a school that is a gift to the children, parents and people of New York City. But let us not forget that it was once a school designated for failure.
We need more principals to follow Luis Torres example and for the DOE to transform public schools, not charter schools, into showcases for educational innovation

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Importance of Bring "Brave"

There were many great reflections by the four wonderful panelists at the Town Hall Forum on Fordham and the Bronx held two weeks ago, but the one comment that stayed with me the longest is when Michael Partis, FCRH 2008 grad and executive director of South Bronx Rising asked students to "be brave." Only by getting out of their comfort zone, only by taking chances, only by risking things which might lead some people to dislike them, could students change things, at Fordham and in the country, which they thought were wrong.
What made this remark so powerful is that it is something students are rarely told at Fordham or any other university. They are told to care about the suffering of others. They are told to work for justice. But they are almost never told to put themselves at risk, even in small ways, to make the institution they are part of serve the cause of justice better than it does now.
When Michael Partis said that, it helped me better understand how I have approached teaching this semester. Never have I done more unconventional things with students than I have this fall. I have taken them on walking tours of the Bronx, held a class at a beach, played golf and tennis with them, brought food in to class almost every week, introduced them to 
guest speakers ranging from a newly elected state senator to Regional Chief from a West African country, and invited them to have a class with, and then go to a party with, rappers, dancers and beat boxers from Paris and Berlin.. Tomorrow, I top it off with a full court basketball game and a dinner at a great Bronx restaurant "South of France."
Why have I done all these things? Part of it is that I have the most adventurous, intellectually curious group of students that I have taught in some time. But part of it is the demands of the moment. Our country is more divided than it has ever been, facing daunting racial and political conflicts, made worse by an acceleration of Climate Change that threatens the future of life on the Planet. If young people do not take action we and the world are in deep trouble
But telling them to take action, by itself, is meaningless. I need to provide an example of taking action, of breaking rules, of doing things that no one else dares do, things that bring joy, things that educate, things that build community. And that requires a little bit of "bravery."
So I am doing things that everyone tells me is crazy, ranging form inviting students to a dance party at my home to having a class which involves wading in the water at a public beach, to playing full court basketball with them
But if my students look at me and say "Naison is crazy, but he doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk", then my message
and Michael Partis' had gotten across.
You can't change an institutional culture without being brave, without taking changes
Thank you Michael Paris, for putting words, on something I intuitively understood, but couldn't articular with such clarity

Why Trump Supporters Hate Liberals by Wilma DeSoto

Liberals are the cause of making it socially unacceptable to call Black people N****rs to their faces. 

ALSO Liberals forced White people to have to work with Black people AND not call them N****rs to their faces. That's ALL it is.

They LOVE Liberal programs, Social Security, Medicare, (remember the Tea Baggers with hands off my Social Security and Medicare), The GI Bill, FHA creation of suburbs, Interstate Highway System, etc.

Why do you think so many White people are bent of shape by Black people using the slang word, "N***a" in Hip-Hop music and say, "YOU can say that but I can't because that would make ME a racist?"

Why do think there's been such an upsurge in the humiliation and denigration of Black folk since the 2016 Election? Calling the cops just for existing not to mention the use of racial slurs to their faces?

The President has made it fashionable again. The chains are off. He says out loud what they been all along. They love it! That is worth more than their grandchildren's future to them.

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.