Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Drug War: A Brilliant Strategy to Divide People Along Racial Lines When All Boats are Sinking

During the last thirty years, working class incomes in the US have fallen sharply The vast majority of income gains in the US during those years have accrued to people in the top 20 percent of earners and in the last ten years to people in the top 1 percent. The once proud US industrial economy has become a shadow of itself. A starting auto worker now makes half of what his ( or her) counterpart did in 1947 and 51 percent of all jobs now pay $30,000 or less. More than 2/3 of new jobs being created are at or slightly above minimum wage and many Americans have to package together several jobs to pay rent or support a family. There are few low or moderate income communities in the country where people are not living doubled or tripled up, or renting out rooms because the expense of living space has outpaced incomes

This decline in living standards has been remarkably broad based, affecting rural areas and small towns as well as cities, and affecting whites and Asians as well as Blacks and Latinos.

But rather than creating unity among America's diverse racial and cultural groups, this decline in living standards seems to have increased tensions.

One reason for this is the emergence of the drug war as form of police state surveillance and control for some and a jobs program and economic development strategy for others, largely though not exclusively along racial lines.
A well financed war on drugs, largely focusing on drug sales in urban Black and Latino communities, has led to a significant expansion of the nation's police organizations, and a huge expansion of its prison population which grew from 330,000 in 1980 to over 2 million by 2000. To hold this new inmate population, state and federal government financed a wave of prison construction, much of which was concentrated in depressed, largely white, rural areas. To put it bluntly, prison construction became a job creation strategy for rural whites whose economic prospects had been shattered by factory closings and the destruction of family farming by agribusiness.

What political elites had created, through this policy initiative, was a section of the population who had a deep rooted economic interest in keeping a regular supply of inmates flowing to state and federal prisons located in their hometowns. And to a largely degree, this meant a built in interest in prosecuting the drug war in Black and Latino neighborhoods. No better example of this can be found than in New York State. The majority of the state's 62 prisons are located in small, largely white, towns in upstate New York, while 80 percent of the inmates come from 7 neighborhoods in New York City.

Given this economic reality, it is any wonder than many low and moderate income whites feel threatened by protests against aggressive, and occasionally deadly, policing of Black and Latino communities. For them, law enforcement has been the one secure form of job creation in their communities, the most viable alternative to working at near minimum wage in Wal Mart or Autozone. When you attack police, when you raise questions about the viability of the drug war, you are not only questioning the actions of their friends and relatives, you are threatening their livelihoods and quickly eroding grasp on the American Dream

This country has always been brilliant at using race to pit the have-littles against the have-nots.

And that is what is going on now if people take the time to look at how those monopolizing the nation's wealth have managed to get people who are ALL losing ground to see those who are of a different culture or complexion as their most dangerous enemy

Police Stops in Berkeley California and Ferguson Missouri- Guest Post by Valerie Trahan

Valerie Trahan
2045 Emerson (Lower)
Berkeley, CA

Attorney General Kamala Harris
Attorney General's Office
California Department of Justice
Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550


Title: Is Berkeley more racially biased than Ferguson Missouri?

There has been much media coverage about the racial biases and negative police practices associated with Ferguson Missouri. In light of the recent articles about Police Stops in Berkeley, CA, I took it upon myself to see if the disparities were in fact as biased as advertised. I was also curious to see if in fact police stops in Berkeley, CA were more prevalent than in the much publicized practices in Ferguson Missouri.

For my inquiry I used the legally recognized One Proportion Z Test Statistics Calculator. The calculation measures expected results based on population with observed results. The calculator also converts the query in to standard deviations to measure for disparate treatment results or (happenings no attributed to chance).

I started with the East Bay Express Article (regarding Berkeley,CA) on police stops to gather my data. To make sure my query was honest I subtracted 557 police stops from the total to get my total of 4658 stops. Keep in mind the African American Population of Berkeley is 8% .I also want people to keep in mind that Berkeley is a University Town and does get traffic from other visitors from other cites. Berkeley has Oakland to the south and San Francisco across the bay. However, my statistical findings were astonishing. Based on the African American population of Berkeley the expected number of stops for African Americans was roughly 373. (372.64 rounded up). However the observed proportion of 30.5% or 1421 detained African Americans is probative evidence of bias.  The Z-Test showed 56 standard deviations! (anything over 5 is considered intentional discrimination;( I also used the legally recognized binomial probability method (heads or tails test) and computed an equally astonishing 0.000001 % probability of a random event. In other words the data suggests that Police are targeting African Americans while in Berkeley.

We move onto Ferguson Missouri. Ferguson Missouri is 67% African American. According to the article in The Atlantic blacks in Ferguson amounted to 86% of all police stops. Again the expected number based on the sample size of 5384 was 3607 stops. However, observed stops for African Americans constituted 4630. This is 1023 more stops than expected. The Z-Test Standard Deviation number computed to 29.649 standard deviations. The Binomial(heads or tails test) also came to 0.000001. The Ferguson numbers while horrific dont compare to the disparity in Berkeley, California. I have lived in Berkeley all my life and have recently retired from teaching at Berkeley High School. The empirical question must be asked: Is Berkeley, California more racist than Ferguson, Missouri?
Valerie Trahan
Masters Degree in Education; Harvard University
phone: 510-689-6123
DATA and ARTICLES are attached.

Monday, October 26, 2015

How Dominant Education Policies Help Shrink the Middle Class

The erosion of the American middle class and the relentless attack on the standard of living of the American work force is dramatized by two dominant tendencies in education policy:
1. The dependence on low wage adjunct instructors- many of whom are as qualified as tenured faculty- to do the bulk of the teaching in the nation's colleges and universities.
2. The privatization of public education and the use of test based teacher evaluation, invasive management and charter school promotion to create a teacher work force which is unstable, non-unionized and not around long enough to collect pensions.
The net result is that our most talented college graduates can no longer realistically view university or public school teaching as careers which can provide stability, security, autonomy and high levels of job satisfaction.
Ironically, both of these trends in education policy and management are promoted and implemented by administrators who, following the CEO model in the private sector, compensate themselves extravagantly.
This is not only our future, it is for all to many teachers and teachers in the making, our present.
If I were graduating from college today, there is no way someone with my personality and skills could imagine becoming a teacher, much less a professor. I could not accept the humiliating conditions of employment that most people entering the profession, at every level, are forced to accept

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Why Teachers are Fair Game for Ruthless Politicians and School Officials

I just had an epiphany. The reason school administrators have license to, and indeed can be ordered, to abuse teachers beyond acceptable limits is..... because they can!
The economy has so few jobs that provide decent incomes, job security, and humane treatment, that if teachers quit, they are unlikely to find other jobs which provide the income needed to meet their responsibilities. much less the respect that has been taken from them
Teachers are basically trapped. Many are single parents. Others have spouses or partners who have irregular incomes. More than a few could lose their homes if their family incomes dropped.

Plus, and this is also important, younger teachers have huge student loans to pay off.
If the rest of the economy provided real alternatives, teachers could tell their supervisors that they will leave rather than commit professional malpractice or accept daily humiliation.
But since most jobs in the nation are now part time and without benefits and since 51% of jobs pay $30,000 year or less, teachers can't just pack up and leave.
And since teachers unions seem to have lost the will and power to fight back, teachers are being crushed psychologically, physically and morally by heartless public officials who take advantage of their economic vulnerability

Is Great Hip Hop Compatible With Broken Windows Policing? A New York Story

When you look at videos from the Golden Age of Hip Hop in NYC, whether it is from Gang Starr, MC Lyte Eric B and Rakim,and Public Enemy, or slightly later,Jay-Z, Nas, Wu-Tang or Biggie, you will see scenes of young Black man and women gathered in large numbers in streets, and schoolyards and in front of stores in ways which would never be tolerated in today's gentrifying New York. Gatherings of that size by young men and women wearing hoodies or thick jackets, looking fierce and defiant, would be broken up by police, whether in Red Hook, Harlem,Bed Stuy, Soundview or the Stapleton section of Staten Island. The Cypher, where MC's test their skills against each other in publc settings, sometimes in front of crowds, would have a hard time surviving the vigilance of Broken Windows Policing with a hugely expanded NYPD. It would also not find much of a welcome in schools which are far more heavily policed than they were 30 years ago, and where the model of zero tolerance disciplinary policies have spread from charters into many public schools
But that raises a question. Can you have great hip hop where young people of color can't gather in large numbers without being arrested or told to move by police? Where you can't have spontaneous cyphers in schools or in the streets? Where in fact there is no place where young people of color can feel is their own without the heavy hand of authority imposing on their space and stifling their voice.
So if you wonder, where is the next Jay-Z, where is the next Biggie, where is the next Nas, where is the next MC Lyte, you might want to consider how we police housing projects, schools and neighborhoods where poor and working class people in New York City still live
Although to tell the truth, the very presence of such people in New York City is itself at risk given housing and investment policies that raise rents and home prices out of their reach and now propose to make even public housing land fair game for developers

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Wrong School Policies for Hard Times

These are hard times in the USA. According to the latest report, 51% of jobs pay $30,000 a year or less. Homelessness is growing in most US cities and families are living doubled and tripled up all over the nation even though foreclosures have left millions of homes empty. Young couples find it hard to purchase a home and many older workers and senior citizens live in fear of losing theirs.
Young people are feeling the pinch. There is a heroin epidemic sweeping through small town and rural America and gang issues plague many urban areas. Gentrification has intensified racial profiling and police monitoring of low income youth. For some young people, avoiding violence, whether in their homes or in the streets is a daily challenge; for others, looking at what is happening to the adults around them, the future looks extremely grim.
In circumstances like this, where so many young peope live with stress and danger and worry, you would think it would be national policy to make schools suportive and nurturing places. There would be push for smaller class sizes, more counselors, time for excercise, sports and the arts. Multiple paths to graduation would be developed and vocational and technical programs created for those who are not ready or able to go straight to college Teachers who love, comfort and inspire their students would be valued; and special incentives created to encourage teachers to stay in their jobs for a long time and teach in the communities they live in .
instead, policy makers are doing the exact opposite. They are deluging schools with tests.. They are raising class sizes and cutting sports and arts programs to make room for the testing and test prep they insist must be the core of the school experience. They are slashing vociational and technical programs, insisting all students master a common curriculum, raising graduation requirements,. and in all too many schools, subjecting students to punitive discipline
And while all this is happening to students, they are using test based evaluations and almost daily observations to force teachers to commit educatonal malpractice by neglecting relationship buiilding for test prep and forcing students into a one-size all approach to learning. And to clear the way for this mechanical teaching style, which Reformers without irony call "rigorous," they are doing everything in their power to drive out the best veteran teachers, the ones who have committed their lives to guiding and nurturing students.
Students who need encouragement get tests.
Students who need counseling get tests.
Students who need exercise get tests.
And Students who need teachers to love and inspire them get teachers who test them and bark orders at them
Given the direction our economy is heading in and the social tensions this is creating, the dominant approach to Teaching and Learning our elites are imposing is Cruel, Destructive and Dangerous.
I hope we have enough sense to change course; but until we do, it is our duty to resist this insanity by any means necessary.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Society That Treats Its Children This Way Is Failing Badly

When you erase caring, supportive relationships from people's work and school experiences, you endanger the precious balance that allows them to live fulfilling lives.
The style of management that has swept through our workplaces and invaded our schools, depending heavily on fear and intimidation, is steadily eroding the social fabric
As more and more young people who can't and won't accept being tested, barked at, punished for minor infractions, and deprived of recess arts and sports are pushed out of or drop out of school before graduation, and others graduate with a deep sense of pessimism about their futures, we find ourselves facing a youth heroin epidemic of disturbing proportions in suburbs and rural areas.
When you couple that with the gentrification, gang violence, and relentless police surveillance that characterizes the life of young people in low and moderate income urban areas, you get a picture that no one in our political leadership seems ready to face.
When the primary face of authority our young people face consists of testing, punitive discipline, and round the clock surveillance, is it any wonder that the response is rage, and despair.
If you standard for judging a society is how humanely we treat our children, we are failing badly.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Who Are The "Disposables?"

My friend Joe Lieb just called for a "Revolution of the Disposables"
Who are the Disposables?
They are the more than 90 million Americans of working age who are not in the labor force and do not have regular jobs
They are the millions of teenagers who dropped out or were pushed out of school in cities like Detroit and Memphis and New Orleans and Los Angeles and Chicago and have disappeared from view because the divisions between charter schools and public schools have made it impossible to develop a coherent strategy to make sure no child is lost.
They are all the people who graduated from college with huge debt and can't find a job with benefits so they package together three or four jobs to make ends meet whether they are living with their parents or living with groups of friends
They are the rural heroin addicts that no one knows how to explain and no one knows what to do with because they don't neatly fit in anybody's idea of what kind of country this is
Will all these folks ever find common cause with one another and demand that some form of economic security and decent schooling be available to all?
Or will we continue to sink deeper into poverty and stagnation.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Eight Years of Education Activism

I am not, by training, an historian of education, or a teacher educator. My degree is in American History, and most of my research has been on African American history, labor history and the history of popular culture. I only began writing about education issues when the community history projects I was working on in nearly 20 Bronx schools were pushed out by a testing mania that swept through the Bloomberg Department of Education in 2007/2008, and when the wonderful teachers I worked with became the subject of a campaign of demonization in the media. These teachers, mostly women, many Black and Latino, quite a few of whom grew up in Bronx neighborhoods, found themselves blamed for every ill that beset the public schools of the Bronx, and by implication, growing inequality in the entire society. I was so enraged by these attacks on Bronx teachers, which were coming from politicians of both parties- with Mayor Bloomberg leading the charge- and a startling array of pundits, that i began speaking out in their defense.
Nothing I have seen in the last eight years suggests that I was wrong in speaking out. It is convenient to blame teachers and public schools for inequality in educational performance, and the failure of our society to overcome vast gaps in income and wealth along racial lines. It is also morally wrong- as is any attempt to find scapegoats for complex problems- and profoundly counterproductive. When you ramp up the stress on teachers by making them a convenient target for public attacks while taking away their autonomy and on the job protections, you remove a precious source of inspiration, guidance and comfort for children. And ironically, the children you hurt the most are those growing up in poverty, who need that guidance and inspiration the most.
It is hard to think of a major leader in American public life who has not, in some manner, contributed to the toxic atmosphere in which the nation's teachers work.
So as much as I would like to return to the research I have devoted my life to, I cannot do so, in good conscience, any time soon.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Don't Let Gentrification Be The Main Consequence of the Reclamation of the Bronx's Cultural Legacy

It is great to see the cultural landmarks of the Bronx, such as the street jazz great Maxine Sullivan lived on, be officially recognized by the New York City Council. And great to see the incredible musical legacy of the Bronx honored by programs like the Bronx Music Heritage Center of WHEDCo.
But it will all go to naught if the Bronx becomes a hot tourist site, is discovered by developers, and rents start to skyrocket, so that current residents are forced out and the young people who now live in the neighborhood will not benefit from the inspiring history that is being uncovered and shared.
Given what has happened in Park Slope, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Williamsburgh, Harlem and the Lower East Side, and given what is starting to happen in Bushwich, Bedford Stuyvestant and Washington Heights, that scenario is hardly a remote possibility.
The late Morgan Powell warned us what was coming when he sounded the alarm about the market rate housing that was being approved for the West Farms area, and those alarms should go off extra loud given the luxury towers slated to be built across from Harlem near the 3rd Avenue Bridge.
The many people who have worked so hard to gain recognition for the diversity and resilience and cultural creativity of Bronx neighborhoods before during and after the disinvestment cycle hit the borough did not do so to make the Bronx a site of real estate investment and cultural tourism that would leave its working class and immigrant population out in the cold, or displaced into nearby suburbs.
But unless its residents and community leaders and elected officials mobilize NOW to make sure Bronx communities remain affordable and prevent displacement, the worst is sure to come

Turn Maxine Sullivan's House into a Cultural Center Honoring the Bronx's Jazz Traditions

Today, I had the honor of participating in a street naming ceremony to honor the great jazz singer, radio personality, and community leader Maxine Sullivan. Neighbors, elected officials, jazz musicians and educators came from all over to pay tribute to this giant in the world of jazz who opened her home to neighborhood children, became chair of her local school board and in the middle of a time of devastation in her Bronx neighborhood opened a community center - The House That Jazz Built- which became a safe haven for neighborhood youth.
The renaming of Ritter Place in honor of Maxine Sullivan is part of series of initiatives to publicize and reclaim the musical heritage of the Morrisania and Hunts Point communities, who during the 1940's 1950's and 1960's produced more varieties of popular music than any place in the US with the possible exception of Treme in New Orleans.
But there is an irony in this process of cultural reclamation. Now that the once devastated areas of the Bronx have been rebuilt, and the Bronx's great musical heritage is being recognized, not only here, but around the world, there is a danger that developers might come in and push out the very people who created the music and rebuilt the communities that were once endangered.
Today, we all felt that threat when we saw for sale signs outside Maxine Sullivan's beautiful house-818 Ritter Place. And in response, the great jazz pianist and educator Valerie Capers came up with an idea- Why doesn't the Bronx Borough President buy the house and turn it into a cultural center to honor the Bronx's jazz traditions.
I think this is a GREAT idea. And through this post, I am inviting all people who love the Bronx, love its people, and love its culture, to work together to make this happen
If you are with me on this, weigh in here and contact your elected officials- including the Borough President- to help make this a reality!!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Harsh Truth About What Is Happening to Teachers, Students and Schools

Teachers all over the country are shell shocked at the speed with which their jobs are being ruined, eliminated or destroyed. Whether it is scripted curriculum, demeaning observations, test based teacher evaluations, or the threat of their schools being closed and replaced with charters, our best veteran teachers are being asked to commit professional malpractice as the price of losing their jobs. Some can't take it and quit. Others put themselves under a doctors care and need medication to get through the day. Others just suffer sleepless nights because they know what they are being asked to do in their classrooms is wrong
Unfortunately, none of this is unintentional. The powers that be in this country have decided that veteran teachers, especially unionized veteran teachers, are too expensive for our schools to afford. Their plan is to plan to replace them, in most of the country's schools, with teacher temps, and fresh out of school teachers, or TFA Corps members who work 12 hour days until they burn out and leave.
And if students suffer, what of it. Since over 70 percent of the new jobs in the country are going to be at or near minimum wage, without security or benefits, we don't need caring inspired instruction in our public schools. All we need is caretakers and disciplinarians who teach students to sit at computers, absorb and regurgitate information, and obey orders. Why? Because that is what they are going to be asked to do in the workplace.
In short, what is happening to teachers is no accident. It fits with our elite's vision of where the society is going, and the niche where most of our young people, especially those growing up in poor and working class families, are destined to inhabit in the workforce of the future.
We need teachers to have grim present to prepare students for a grim future.
Is this scenario too cynical?
You tell me.

Some Historical Ironies Regarding Elite Support for Charter Schools in New York City

One of the main reasons why many parents in low and moderate income communities send their children to charter schools- in spite of the scripting, intimidation, and rigid discipline many feature - is that most of these schools keep children from 7 AM to 7 PM. This is a huge boon to working parents, especially those who work more than one job to make ends meet. Neighborhood public schools who do not have fully funded after school programs cannot compete. Parents in the city's poorer communities need schools to be child care centers as well as centers of instruction. In New York City, charter schools provide this more effectively than public schools. And they are able to do this because they force teachers to work far longer hours than public school teachers for the same pay.
What is ironic about this situation, given the enthusiastic Hedge Fund and Celebrity support for charter schools, is that ALL New York City public schools once provided excellent after school programs for the city's children. From the late 1940's through the Fiscal Crisis of the late 1970's, every New York City public school was open 3-5 and 7-9 for supervised activity. These after school centers and night centers were beacons of hope and activity for New York City children as well as places to escape the gangs and violent streets you had in some neighborhoods. They featured sports programs, arts and crafts, music and talent shows. World famous athletes and musicians, some of them living in the city's poorest neighborhoods, were products of these programs
What happened?. In 1976, when New York City was put into receivership to avoid bankruptcy, with fiscal decisions make by a banker controlled Emergency Financial Control Board, huge cuts were mandated in the city's educatiom budget Within a year, ALL of the great after school centers and night centers in the New York City public schools were shut down, along with the great music programs you had in the city's middle schools and high schools. They were deemed too expensive for the taxpayers of New York to afford. These programs were NEVER restored! New York City public schools only have a fraction of the after schools programs and music programs that they had in the 50's and 60;s and those often have to come from outside grants.
Now, through the medium of charter schools, bankers are restoring SOME of what they took away from the city's children in the 1970's. But they are not doing it for all the city's schools and all the city's children. They are only doing it schools where teachers lack union protection and work 12 hour days, and where
school administrators have the power to summarily fire teachers and remove children who don't test well or conform to rigid discipline.
In short, elites are restoring much needed services to children and families only if they can be done far more cheaply than they were in the past, and if they reinforce the kind of intimidation they are trying to foster in the workplaces they own and control.
As a result, parents in poor communities are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they want to keep their children safe and supervised during 12 hour work days, charter schools may be their most viable choice. Even though the teachers in those schools are browbeaten and intimidated and transfer that intimidation to their children.
If you think this is a sad commentary on the cholces we provide to children of the poor, you would not be the only one.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How to Deal With the Charter Onslaught- A Short List

1. No charter expansion until all empy seats are filled in existing charter schools
2. Prohibit charters from expelling students without hearings before an impartial board
3. Fully fund pre-school, after school, sports and arts programs in public schools before any additional funds are given to charters.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Silver Lining in the Appointment of John King-These Are Perfect Conditions for Revolt!

These are perfect conditions for revolt!
Education Activists! What are you waiting for?

It is hard to applaud John King's appointment as Interim Secretary of Education to replace the much hated Arne Duncan. In New York, he was legendary for openly displaying boredom, even contempt, when teachers, parents and students spoke out at open hearings held around the state on the newly unveiled Common Core Curriculum and the tests aligned to it. Moreover, his experience with public education was almost as limited as Duncan's consisting of three years as a charter school administrator before he moved in the New York State Education Department.
However, there is one positive aspect to this appointment. Because Dr King never had to go through confirmation hearings by Congress to get appointed to his position, and because he left his Commissioner position in New York at a time of unprecedented teacher and parent unrest, his ability to launch any new initiatives is severely compromised. At best, he will continue administering Duncan's policies, but even there his ability to defend existing initiatives, or penalize those resisting them, will be far less powerful than Secretary Duncan would have been able to do.
What does this mean on the ground?
That local and state education officials who disagree with Department of Education mandates, whether on testing of special needs students, use of tests in teacher evaluation, or closing low performing schools rather than helping them, can openly defy them with less chance of retaliation.
University faculty and administrators can do the same with burdensome assessment protocols imposed on their schools.
Duncan had limited credibility, but much power. King has almost no credibility and far less power.
These are perfect conditions for revolt!
Education Activists! What are you waiting for?

Friday, October 2, 2015

To Every Teacher Whose Job is Being Undermined

To all the teachers whose experience is being destroyed by ambitious politicians, greedy test makers, and frightened or ambitious administrators:
No, you are not crazy
No, you are not incompetent
No, you are not responsible for the trauma your children experience outside school.
No, you do not deserve to be mocked, demonized and insulted on a daily basis

You represent the best this country has to offer, not the worst-- kindness, compassion, patience, love for children.
If these virtues are going out of fashion, the fault is not yours. You are the forgotten and discarded conscience of a society in free fall.