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Sunday, August 20, 2017

170 years of equity and jusitce delayed in our public schools is White Supremacy


Ask any White Supremacist if Black, Brown, Jewish, and Immigrant children deserve equity and justice in our public schools?

They will answer: NO!
Ask America if Black, Brown, and immigrant children deserve equity and justice in our public schools?
America will say yes, BUT!
America's Policy Makers and Elected Leaders answer. We are working on it, someday. Lately it is until then let the schools that educate Black, Brown, Immigrant, and Poor Children compete against each other for limited resources. That Someday tune, began in the the first days of public education in America. Over 170 years of inequality and injustice, and counting.

Somewhere along the way someday became the rallying cry of standardization. We are working on it. Someday, until then we will use test scores and rigorous standards. America started its love affair with standardization and testing in the Nineteenth Century. Since 2000, education reform policies have added make poor schools compete against each other for limited resources. Test scores and educational standards without equity has been the norm since the National Education Association's Committee of Ten recommended the standardization of  high school curriculum, (1892).
I would argue for the past 125 standardization has provided cover for an America that refuses to do the right time for all for Black, Brown, and Immigrant children?  If it provides cover for not doing the right thing for Black, Brown, and Immigrant children? Then it is racist, and more aligned with White Supremacy than any American educator wants to admit. 

Coretta Scott King said: “I must remind you that starving a child is violence. Suppressing a culture is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical need is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence.”

In Coretta's words above we find this line " Neglecting school children is violence". When we accept equity and justice someday. We are accepting violence against school children today. When I read "Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness", I recognized a School to Prison Pipeline rooted in Jim Crow. 
I would argue, our public-school system is committing acts of violence against Black, Brown, and Immigrant children. We can add acts of violence against poor children and special education children as well, for they too have been waiting for equity and justice. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his 1963 letter from a Birmingham Jail "Justice too long delayed is justice denied" Ascribing it to a "distinguished jurist of yesterday". Let me say this publicly, and make it as clear as I am able. When equity and justice is delayed for over 170 years in our public schools? Then, that system is more aligned with the violent acts of White Supremacy than anyone wants to admit.

Equity tomorrow is justice delayed, and justice delayed is INJUSTICE,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner 

If you like to listen the song that inspire my morning walk this is Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall"

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The liberation begins somehwere between page 1 and the soul

My vacation in the Mountains is coming to an end this weekend. I have fished a little, walked and prayed in the Lord's Cathedral Forest, seen some local theater, walked the streets of small town USA,  wrote a little, and reflected deeply while reading Ta-Nahisi Coates "Between "The World and Me" again. A person who wishes to know themselves must read because, books are our mirrors.

Louise Rosenblatt's Seminole Work "Literature as Exploration" freed the reader from the text: She took us outside the cover of the text: “The reader brings to the work personality traits, memories of past events, present needs and preoccupations, a particular mood of the moment and a particular physical condition."
She views the possibility of reading as a transactional experience offering the reader the opportunity to walk in another person's shoes. That walk becomes a transformation experience that binds the reader to the world, the author, the text, and is unique and different for every reader. It changes us. She opens the door to multiple perspectives, and frees readers from the slavery of those literacy critics exposing their responses’ rule. Those critics who in many many ways are the protector of a Cannon Literature more rooted in White Supremacy than anyone dare admit.

As I read Ta-Nehisi Coates, I know I can't be Black, can't cast off my privilege, but I can walk a little in his shoes. In reading his words: “Then the mother of the murdered boy rose, turned to you, and said, “You exist. You matter. You have value. You have every right to wear your hoodie, to play your music as loud as you want. You have every right to be you. And no one should deter you from being you. You have to be you. And you can never be afraid to be you.” I can begin to understand just a milometer of what it means to be Black in America. I cannot change being White. However I can begin to fathom the evil of an injustice that Black Americans live with from birth to the grave. I can't change the world, but I can change me.

I have marched with my Black Lives Matters brothers and sisters, but my role is not to speak, not to push to the front, but to listen, learn, and support the moral quest for racial justice in America. I cannot be Black, but I can stand with my Black brothers and sisters who have never known justice in America. I can do this, because of the books I have read.

But, books alone are not enough. I was blessed to be the last White Boy in my neighborhood, and instead of feeling isolated, afraid, and alone. I was made welcomed, loved, and embraced by every shade of Black and Brown there is. I was immersed in a world of color and languages that still feed my soul today. God blessed me with the most beautiful extended family any one could ever have. Somehow that experience makes the reading of Ta-Nehisi Coates a perfect bridge to understanding that Black Lives Matter.

Rudine Sims Bishop said “Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of a larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”  So, I am stepping through sliding glass doors, when I read" Ta-Nehisi words:
“The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free. Slowly, I was discovering myself.”

I am discovering this baggage of White Privilege I carry, and the hint of a possibility of becoming something greater.  The library is my personal key to unlocking that White Supremacist jail that has for far too long held White America back from living those words in our nation's pledge " One Nation Under God, with Liberty and Justice for All."

I am a better man, because Ta-Nehisi Coates opened his Black soul to all who dare to walk a mile in his shoes. I am 4 days from returning to the struggle for justice for all. I plan to hit the ground running on day five,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

If you like to listen to the tune that inspire my walk this morning in these woods this's Play For Change cover of "A Change is Gonna Come"

What does Evil in America Sound like

What does evil in America sound like? The link below is to an interview with the KKK leaders members of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Pelham, N.C. They openly state they are glad that Heather Hayer dies, and people were injured. They applaud the actions of young man who killed young Heater Hayer. It ends with one of them purposely twisting the last words of Jesus Christ just before he died from “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing” to Forgive them for they know what They’re doing”. This interviewed may be too graphic for some, but it is the picture of hatred in America. 
I met Elsie Wiesel once in Bayonne New Jersey nearly 40 years ago. We had taken a group of adolescents to hear him speak in a small library. It was a intimate event, a chance to get close to him. There were less than 25 of us there. It was a perfect moment, and a perfect place to learn from one of the world’s greatest humanitarians. After he was done speaking and reflecting on “Night,” one of our young men said that can never happen in America. He said no one could have ever imagine that happening in Germany either before Hitler. He told us Germany was the intellectual capital of the world. It was the hub of philosophy, and it’s universities were temples of tolerance. If I leave you here with one message today, let it be that this could happen anywhere. Be diligent young man, and never be silent in the face of hatred. Hatred is on the march in America, and it offers no apologies for it ugly actions. White Supremacists are celebrating the murder of our daughters and sons. 

As a father, I can think of no greater evil than these people who dream of a race war.
As an American, I can think of no greater threat to freedom and justice White Supremacy.
As a man of faith, I am lost in their lack of remorse, their lack of humanity, and their endless hatred of humanity.
Americans, must fight evil,
Americans, must stand against evil,
Americans, must not be silent,
Justice is under attack in America, and they have taken to killing our daughters,
Americans must reject their hate,
If we shall over come, we cannot stand silent in the face of evil,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner Link to Pete Seeger “We Shall Over Come 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Charlottesville's Teachers' call to action.

In Maya Angelou's Inaugural Poem "On The Pulse of Morning", we find these words:
"For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream." (1/20/93)

The Day, can't break new until we lift up our eyes, and view this back to school year as something more than another same old, same old, go along to get along school year. 

We must face history's wrenching pain, realizing this is not only about after Charlottesville, but about after: slavery, Columbus,  wars on labor, women, immigrants, and people of diverse faiths.  
After Charlottesville, back to school should be, America's invitation to study hatred in America.
After Charlottesville, back to school should be, our invitation to talk about culturally relevant curriculum.
After Charlottesville, back to school must become the undoing of defining education success as higher standardized test scores.
Charlotteville, history should be faced with enough courage to not be lived again.

Valerie Strauss's August 13, The Answer Sheet column we find: "
The first thing teachers should do when school year begins, is talk about hatred in America. Here’s help." Valerie Strauss is asking teachers to make sure that going back to school this year is different. This is a must read for every educator in America.

Let us start:
Perhaps the best place to begin is to reject education reform policies rooted in high-stakes testing, and sanitized curriculum of academic resistance.  I have lived sanitized curricula, resisted it, and learned to teach against it.

Before Charlottesville:
A little over twenty years ago before I became a university professor I taught Native American Tohono O'odham and Pasqual Yaqui Upward Bound students. Many were struggling in their individual Tucson high schools. Schools where the history books and English books did not tell their story.  Instead the text books there denied 500 years of broken treaties, lies, and atrocities against their people.

What many considered academic failure in the lives of Native American students, I came to view as resistance to a curriculum that did not see them, or value their history. At the time, being a young doctoral student, I discovered that academic failure in oppressed communities is well documented in the research in public education. "Resistance theory proposes that students actively or passively resist learning as a way of responding to the oppressive school system.  Resistance theories demonstrate how individuals negotiate and struggle with structures and create meanings of their own from these interactions.” (Bernal & Ramp; Solorzano, 2001, p. 315).

I also discovered in the literature,  Liverpool England (Home to The Beatles) had young people resist similar schooling.  Their so-called academic failure reflected not a lack of intelligence, but a resistance from a public-school system that viewed their parents, the work of their fathers and mothers, and their way of living as undesirable.

I recognized it in my own urban schooling.  Our teachers often told us "You kids live in the ghetto, and school is your ticket out". But, that ghetto was our home; our parents and families were not broken.  They were our working class heroes.
We found liberation from the oppression of public education, blasting out of radios in our kitchens and cars, on the records playing in our living rooms, and Ghetto Blasters on our street corners. In between War's "Wild Rodriquez", The Temptations "Poppa was a Rolling Stone", George Clinton's "Tear the Roof of Sucker" we found the Clash's "This is England". By the time, we found Bob Marley "Trench Town Rock" we were fully immersed in our liberation of resistance. While we did not find our stories in school, we were finding our stories, lives, and views of the world validated in the music calling us from the radio waves coming from outside our neighborhoods and even from across the Atlantic.

I never found academic failure, but then again, I wasn't looking or it.  I was searching searching for academic success. On the journey, I found  academic resistance not failure in my Native American students in Tucson, AZ.  Something well documented in the literature of resistance theory.   Through my Tucson students, I was able to see it in my own school experiences.  I was taught by some of my teachers to "get out" as soon as I could;  not to stay and improve the very streets I grew up on. To this day I  often go back to the streets of my boyhood home, but I don't feel "at home".   I lost something beautiful, a future possibility of making a better life right there in the hood that to this day defines me. A great deal of urban education in improvised commuities is about getting out not staying in. What I failed to see was getting out meant losing some of me. 

Dr. Yetta Goodman took this young urban doctoral student under her wing  at the University of Arizona. More than anyone else,  she made sure I earned my Ph.D.  She once called me "Our Ghetto Doc Jesse".  It was  Yetta  who taught me to use my past in order to build my future. I learned that my past was the fire that could see me home. I would use that fire, and the music of my liberation to feed my research; I would come to understand that much of the academic failure in oppressed communities is in fact academic resistance. Dr. Goodman in taking me under her wing, defines what is best in American Higher Education. The mentoring of one generation of researchers to another. 

For my dissertation "Creating A Transactional Classroom" I had been given the go ahead to shift the focus of readings in my Native American Upward Bound classes from the Classics of Western Culture,  that I had studied in high school, to the readings of Native American culture.  This was not  a simplistic decision.   There is a strong belief among many that a greater focus on the "cannon" of Western Culture helps prepare Native Students for the kinds of reading and writing they will encounter in college. This is true for some educators in all diverse communities. I would examine that belief with the director of the Upward Bound Program, Dr. Angie Listo. She is a member of the Tohono O'odham nation, and like me, she saw her own education in the Literature of Resistance Theory. After deep discussions, research, and reflection, we made the shift.   My dissertation documents the   successful academic journey of these Upward Bound students.   Their success grew out of a change of curricula, one that focuses on culturally relevant teaching.

Where to go after Charlotteville:
American history is not mono-cultural, or mono-lingual.  
It is one of the most diverse histories in the world.   
American history should be the telling of powerful truths, that when faced with courage, will produce the best symphony of diversity ever heard! 
We have within our reach the ability to come to know ourselves like no other people before. When curriculum is culturally, racially, economically, and linguistically irrelevant to learners ~ it fractures hope.
It injures the individual.
It breaks learners. 
Academic Resistance becomes survival.
Schools become the planting ground for dissent.

President Trump needs to know what Makes America Great is not boastful, but the humbling of a public school experience where we come to know each other, come to face our past, and come together as Americans.  What makes America great is not pitting one against the other, but finding what brings us together. We can be a great people if we face history's wrenching pain with dignity, respect, and honor.  

I find truth and hope in Maya Angelou's poem: "On The Pulse of Morning,"  
Live a memory never forgotten, I still hear her reciting
"Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands,
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For a new beginning.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, and into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope --
Good morning."


I pray for the Angels of Justice like Heather Heyer who gave their all.  For the 19 who were injured, for Charlottesville, and for America.   With Peace, Love, and Understanding.
I promise this back to school year will be different in my classes,
I shall be more,
Do more, and
Live the life that Maya Angelou begs us all to live:
Good morning New School Year,
Good Morning America,

If you would like to listen to the tune that inspired my  walk in these New Hampshire Woods this’s The Clash "This is England".
Whose America?
Our America!
Jesse The Walking Man Turner 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Come gather we dreamers, justice calls

In his 1964 Noble Prize acceptance speech Dr. Martin Luther Kind said: " I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality."
I refuse to accept a view of Education Reform rooted in schools for profit,
I refuse to accept that the way to desegregation is through closing public schools, and replacing them with even more segregated Charter Schools,
I refuse to accept that inequity and justice in our public school system is to expensive to fix,
I refuse to accept the political compromises of racism that have weaken 1954 Brown Vs The of Education,
I refuse to be part of an evil silence in the face of racism,
I refuse to accept a status quo that forces our poorest schools to compete against each other for resources,
I refuse to be apathetic when policy makers, politicians, and CEO's reduce education to test scores.

I have no power,
I have no riches,
I have no Wall Street CEOs in my back pocket,
No powerful well funded lobby groups represents me,
I am just one person.
But, I am one person who heard one man speak about a dream,
I am one person who fully accepts that legacy of the dreamer,
I have two legs made for marching,
I have a song to sing,
We Shall Over Come.
The Wealthy, the powerful, and the connected can not dampen that dream planted in my heart by our nation's dreamer,
Rise up keepers of the dream,
Come gather we dreamers together,
Justice calls,
Equity calls,
Hope lives,
And we shall over come.
Jesse The Walking Man Turner has never stopped marching for that reality of a daybreak of peace and brotherhood.

If you like to listen to the tune I listen to walking up the Monadnock mountain in New Hampshire this morning...its Peter Seeger singing "We Shall Over Come"