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Friday, September 22, 2017

It's always been hard times for Black, Brown and Poor Kids

In the Charles Dickens novel “Hard Times” (1854), we find School Master cold-hearted Mr. Gradgrind giving his newly hired teacher Mr. McChoakumchild this advice: “Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them.” It’s an old story of course, much older than 1854, and as current as ever. The setting Dickens creates is Coketown, an urban city, dominated by dark factories, the oppressed black smoke of never ending burning coal fires, and ruled by wealthy men driven by greed and profits. In other words, not much different then dozens and dozens of American cities of today.

Secretary of Education DeVos’s children, have never attended any Zero Tolerance schools, Common Core schools, or testing factory schools. Their classrooms, always had all the bells and whistles. Jean Anyon, wrote about the different in public school education experiences between poor and wealthy students (Anyon, J. (1980). Social class and the hidden curriculum of work. Journal of Education 162, 67-92.) No one is surprise that schools in wealthy communities are better than those in poor communities, or that it’s poor schools feeding our prison population. The children of the wealthy are taught to speak up, ask the big questions, and told to follow their personal inquiries. Be creative, innovative, given plenty of time, plenty of support, learning project based classrooms surrounded by music and the arts. Their classroom sizes are small, and tutors are plentiful. Genius is not test driven, but performance driven. If behavior becomes an issue, you call in an army of counselors, social workers, psychologists, or these days life coaches.

Poor children are told to sit still, stay quiet, only speak when they are spoken to, walk in straight lines, and pack like sardines in classrooms. Music and the arts, well who needs that when all that is expected “
You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts”. If behavior becomes an issue you call the police.

What is surprising is that America keeps chasing the myths of mis-education policies of more rigorous standards and high-stakes testing. We have been on this bandwagon since 1892. If standards and testing worked? Wouldn’t we have seen it by now? We continue to double down on the two very policies that exacerbate inequities between our wealthy and our poor schools. My thinking is change must begin with equity at the very least.

I have even heard some experts state Black, Brown and Poor children learn differently. They need more structure and discipline. Well, I am not buying that. This is what they have had from day one of American public education. Black, Brown, and Poor children are taught differently in a public-school system deeply rooted in inequity and injustice. Michelle Alexander takes us where Charles Dickens could not go in 1854. In her book The New Jim Crow” she details a School-to-Prison Pipeline. The school-to-prison pipeline is a national trend that involves taking Black, Brown and Poor students out of public schools and pushing them into courtrooms, juvenile detention centers and prisons. Rich children get Utopian schools, poor children get prepped for low wage jobs and prisons, and our policy makers and legislators wash their hands in new standards and more rigorous tests.

It always been hard times for poor boys and girls, but these days it even darker, and the last thing the Wealthy, the Powerful, and the Connected want is poor boys and girls in their schools. Black, Brown, and Poor Children don’t learn differently, but their schools are often dens of inequity.
What do we want?

When to we want it?
170 years of inequity, and counting,
Jesse The Walking Man

Turner If you like to listen to the tune I listened to on my walk over the Avon mountain today. It’s Lauren Hill “The mystery of iniquity’

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I reject your standards without humanity

I am an academic, an education scholar, a teacher of teachers. I have deeply studied the literature, and I have found the current education reforms to be extremely harmful to children, their teachers, and our public schools. They have no data to support the wasted billions on the most massive education reforms of NCLB, RTTT, and ESSA of the past 15 years. I have testified, written, and marched against this massive destruction of childhood. I am perplexed by this insanity that is push by the powerful, the wealthy, and the connected. This idea that the only purpose of public schools is to make children college ready, and to leave childhood behind as early as kindergarten.

It is written in Matthew 18:3 "And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

What would Christ say to standardized education standards void of:
And a world where leaders measure childhood not in love, but in test scores?

Children are the same all over the world, they come in all colors, all faiths, and sizes. They are unique in every way, no two are alike, and they are wonders.
If you study them, work with them, and see the world through their eyes?
Everything is beautiful.
I am blessed with eyes that refuse to grow up,
I still like to roll around on the floor,
I still crazy dance,
I still sing out of tune without caring,
I still color outside the lines,
And I pray Lord, our policy makers and political leaders learn to let children be children again.
I am weary of standards that turn children into college ready little adults.
Little college ready adults void of wonder, imagination, and innocence.

Whisper it, in the shadows,
Shout it, out every window,
Call, Wall street,
Call every governor,
Call every mayors,
Call the White House,
Tell the Think Tanks,
Tell it, to every political leader in the land,
Share it, on every village green,
Ring every bell, in the land,
Tell it on every mountaintop,
Ye, you the powerful, the wealthy, and the connected,
We reject your standards without humanity,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

If you like to listen to the tune that this walking man listened to on his morning's "Teach Your Children" cover by Play For Change

Monday, September 18, 2017

I am the Small Axe

I have been fighting for children, parents, teachers, and our public schools for decades. Inequity and injustice is occupying our public school system. What choice do I have, but to fight it? 
Occasionally a colleague will ask do you ever get tired?
My reply is some people think victory is one big thing, one rally, one march, one explosive moment of truth smashing down. That's not the way I see victory. 
I see victory like Bob Marley's song "Small AXE"
"Why boasteth thyself
Oh, evil men
Playing smart
And not being clever? Oh no
I said, you're working iniquity
To achieve vanity, yeah (if a-so a-so)
But the goodness of Jah, Jah
I-dureth forever
If you are the big tree
We are the small axe
Sharpened to cut you down (well sharp)
Ready to cut you down"
Victory is not one mighty swift cut,
Victory is a thousand sharp cuts come to take you down. 
So tired no, 
Disappointed no,
Sad no,
I am the patient lion on your trail,
I am the happy warrior who understands victory is coming,
For, I am the small axe come to cut injustice down,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

" If you are the big tree
We are the small axe
Sharpened to cut you down
Ready to cut you down"

I bet you already know what tune this Walking Man listened to no his walk today...Bob Marley's "Small Axe"