Monday, April 30, 2018

Even The Hate Mail I Get Reveals The Contours of White Privilege

My Black friends have always told me "Mark, if you were Black, saying the things you do, acting the way you do, you would have been dead a long time ago."
If you think they were exaggerating, read the article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the death threats and insults the African American philosopher George Yancy is repeatedly deluged with when he comments about issues in commercial media. The great Fordham Theologian Father Bryan Massingale has had a similar experience, as have my friends Johnny Eric Williams and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor who teach at two of the nation's top colleges. This is startlingly different from what I have experienced when I comment about race in America for CNN, or other media outlets. I get hate mail. I have scores of people telling me I should never be allowed to teach. But I have NEVER received a death threat or a rape threat or an email that begins "Dear N.....r Professor."
Black people in positions of academic leadership, commenting on the issues of the day, bring out a kind of insecurity in too many whites that is easily transferred into violent fantasies, and in some cases, into violent actions.
No one should underestimate the power and prevalence of White Rage in this country. It is quite literally life threatening to Black people, even when they reach positions of influence through their talent and hard work.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Why I Am So Dangerous

When it comes to transforming this country, I am much more dangerous than George Soros, even the George Soros of Fox News imagination! That George is transforming it from without; I am transforming it from within. And doing it in the most insidious way—by getting young people to question the racism and xenophobia they were exposed to in their families and communities and allowing them to imagine a different way of thinking and living. Not only have I been doing this for fifty years, but the thousands of students I have influenced, many who have become teachers themselves, have found their own ways of advancing this mission.
So while you are worrying about George bribing people to protest , you need to start worrying about me and people like me influencing the next generation. We are everywhere; not only in schools and universities, but in town councils and legislatures, in the media, in non-profits, businesses and government agencies.
And we don’t need to bribe anyone to convince them the country needs changing. Our weapons are information, discussion and a moral framework that elevates love and compassion over hatred and fear.
Good luck trying to silence us. History is on our side

Friday, April 20, 2018

Immigrants, Not Donald Trump, "Made New York Great Again"

Donald Trump thinks he is the right person to "Make America Great" because he imagines he was responsible for New York’s revival after the Fiscal Crisis of the 70's, but when you closely examine commerce in city neighborhoods outside of Manhattan, you realize that the very people Trump is attacking, IMMIGRANTS are the ones who did most to bring New York back from disinvestment, arson, redlining, fiscal crises and drug epidemics
For every Trump building in Manhattan
There are thousands of bodegas and small delis owned by Dominicans and Yeminis
Thousands of Chinese take out spots
Hundreds of gas stations and Duncan Donuts franchises owned by South Asians
Thousands of nail salons owned by Koreans and Hair Braiding Salon owned by Dominican and West African Women
Along with countless fried chicken spots, coffee shops, clothing stores, and small restaurants owned by people from all over the world
Immigrant commerce is the lifeblood of NY City neighborhoods. Attack immigrants you attack all of us.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Why I Continue to Boycott NY State ELA and Math Tests by Amy Gropp Forbes

OPT OUT 2018
My reasons to keep boycotting NYS ELA and Math tests:
1. These tests are used to label children, teachers and schools as failures. This happens most in high poverty communities and in communities of color. This promotes racism, contributes to segregation, and sets up a tiered system where children from different backgrounds are given different and very unequal educational opportunities.
2. The law requiring teachers to be evaluated by test scores is still on the books in NY state, even though it is no longer required by the federal ESSA law (the current moratorium in NYS will expire in 2019). As long as this is the case test prep will dominate in lower performing schools robbing children of a well rounded and enriching curriculum.
3. Our schools are not being fully funded. The money being spent on testing would be better spent reducing class sizes and providing schools with culturally responsive curriculum, school libraries, arts, etc.
4. The tests (as well as the year-round education that the high stakes promote) are developmentally inappropriate,  disproportionately affecting English Language Learners and children with disabilities. Only 5% of ELLs and 9% of students with disabilities were deemed proficient on the 2017 ELA.
5. The stakes attached to these tests have had dire consequences on early childhood education as well -- the push to do reading and math in kindergarten (to "prepare" kids) is not supported by research and has virtually eliminated developmentally appropriate play-based learning in many schools.
6. The tests themselves are incredibly poor quality -- much has been written about this but nothing has changed.
7. Computer testing will soon replace paper tests. This means even more data mining. It will also shift classrooms away from project-based hands-on learning and towards digital learning platforms.
8. Even though the vast majority of high school students are passing high school Regents exams and graduation rates are on the rise, only about 40 percent of grade 3-8 students are proficient on the tests. You can also see massive fluctuations in NYS test scores when you compare them to the steady performance levels on the NAEP test. These tests are clearly not measuring student performance and proficiency levels accurately.
9. High-stakes testing is the mechanism for privatizing education. Corporate interests are driving test-based accountability. Millions of dollars have been spent lobbying for these tests. We need education policy to put the interests of children first.
10. Opt Out is responsible for the minor changes made to date -- most importantly reducing the time spent on the ELA and Math tests from 3 days each to 2.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

It is OUR Country, Not His

One of the things saving the nation from complete disaster is Donald Trump's short attention span. In any given day, he will be attacking China, Mexico, NFL players, Amazon, CNN, the Mayor of London, Muslim immigrants, Robert Mueller, the Governor of California, sanctuary cities, even his own Attorney General. He flits from one bout of Twitter Rage to another, rarely introducing legislation to back up his tantrums. It is exhausting and infuriating, but I have concluded that this President is best described by a quote from Shakespeare.
"Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
He is a gangster, a bully and a serial philanderer who rose to power by using racism and xenophobia to unite one group of Americans against the rest, but we are learning that the damage he is inflicting can be contained if we organized and stand up for the things we believe.
I am angry that he is President, but am determined to keep his provocations and policies from corrupting and polluting the many communities I am part of.
It is a lot of hard work, but it has been successful thus far. It is OUR country, not his.