WEDNESDAY: Understanding The Roots of Public Education

3 Oct

BLACKADEMIA – (As heard on TOUCH 106.1 FM in Boston and How We Do It Radio on Blogtalkradio.com) Following my Sept 26th installment, a parent asked me about “Intellectual Enhancements” and why they can’t be provided by the school system? Isn’t this why we pay taxes? There are actually two answers to this question. For one thing, what I’m describing as “Intellectual Enhancement” activities are the kinds of things that many students who attend private school regularly engage in with their parents outside of school. Among those with the resources to pay for their children’s education often comes an understanding that school is only half of the educational picture for your children and the rest is their home environment. The second part of the answer lies in the history of public school, whereby we can understand that enhancing the intellect is not in the root history or precise mission of public schools and the compulsory education acts that sparked them across the country.

Compulsory Education is the act that made attending school mandatory, initially from grades kindergarten to six, eventually up to eighth and now up to grade 12 or the age of 16. In Massachusetts, this act was adopted in 1852 and the objective was to provide youth with the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, a.k.a. “The Three Rs”. This was not so much an act of altruism or Rousseaun enlightenment as much as the fact that we were entering the Industrial Revolution. The writing was on the wall, and the workers of this new phase of American industry were going to need to know how to read it. Booker T. Washington understood the situation, which is why so much of his rhetoric (shrewdly and pragmatically designed to raise funding, support and political influence for himself and Tuskeegee) was geared towards labor and trade as the foundation for Black advancement, as it appeared to be less threatening than Dubois more intellectually driven philosophies. The foundation mission of compulsory education, (regardless of the historic “education will save children’s souls” rhetoric and sales pitches that accompanied it’s lobby) is to make people serviceable to industry through the three Rs and conditioning (sitting in rows, responding to bells and buzzers, etc.), as one might notice that the set-up of a private school classroom is often different from that of a traditional public school.

With an understanding of this history, it’s easy to see that there are certain inherent deficiencies at the philosophica foundation of public education that we as parents truly need to compensate for as we navigate through the K – 12 years with our children. Providing intellectual enhancements for your child is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination, just something that not all parents are aware of or believe that they are capable of providing. Here again, there are resources available to  us through our communities, e often just have to take the time to find them. Libraries, museums, cultural events, “mind builder” activities, and the like are a good way to start.

Just remember: the future of our community is in your hands.

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True Colors: Scott Brown Needs to Own Up To His Black Ancestry

29 Sep

by Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor

In the first debate between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, Mr Brown skirts such the issues as education, social security, and health insurance to zone in on what really matters: questions about Elizabeth Warren’s ethnicity and claims to native ancestry. To me, and many other native people, Scott Brown demonstrated his stupidity with the comment, regarding Warren’s claims of native ancestry, “…you can look at her and see that she’s not…” Aside from it being a remarkably ignorant thing to say in this day and age, In American where many, ethnicities have mixed and mingled and few people look like their legally assigned racial group (btw, USA is one of three nations that have legal definitions of what race a person can claim to be); let’s look at the pragmatic fact that Scott Brown is running for re-election in a region that has two federally recognized tribe of the Wampanoag nation where many of the members DO NOT “look” like the stereotype of Indians.

To add more insult to injury, subsequent to Brown’s seemingly racist comment, you have members of Brown’s staff doing war yells and tomahawk chops; offering the weak explanation that this is not meant to insult all native people, just Elizabeth Warren. Great, Brown and his staff use racism to make fun of Warren. This reminds me of a time in college when a dorm-mate tried to explain that his use of the N-word was not directed at the Black students sitting near him in the cafeteria, but a single student who had upset him. It’s a good thing that Warren never claimed to have an Asian great- grandmother. They probably slanted their eyes and spoken in pigeon English; telling Asian voters that this was not to insult them. If she had said her great- grandmother was Jewish, they would be running around dressed like Orthodox Jews.

I understand that Brown has been calling the leadership of the local native communities to make sure that his campaigns racist attacks on Warren are not meant to insult them. I understand Brown called Cedric Cromwell, Chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (who hung up the first time because he thought it was a prank call) to issue a weak apology/ explanation and was apparently fishing for an endorsement. WHAT??? Proof positive that this man is an idiot!!! Curiously, dogs, horses and Indians are required to have pedigree papers in order to prove that they are really what they claim to be, and like many native people or descendants of Native people and Dr Warren lacks hers. Dr Warren should have claimed that her great grandmother was a Freeman Cherokee, her ethnic background would never have come up for question.

Let us revisit Mr Brown’s ill-advised comments on how Dr Warren is not native based on her looks. If we are going to go by looks, When is Scott Brown seriously needs to own up to his obvious African American ancestry. The dead give away: Look at that nose and compare it to Michael Jackson after his first round of surgery, not to mention those eyes. I bet if you look behind his ears, you’d see that brownish mark that most Caucasoid – Africana mixed kids like him have. Not only does he share a last name with the Godfather of soul, but let’s face it: The Brown clan in New England has family lines in both the African American and Native American communities of New England. I mean, if we are going by what people look like, Mr. Brown’s high- yellow butt isn’t fooling anybody. Historically as well as in the present, many Black people have a relative or two who took advantage of their white looks and passed for white, taking full advantage of white privilege, just like Scott Brown and his family have. But you can’t fool us all, can you Scott? With your Black ass…  Why are you going to call out Elizabeth Warren for reaping some remarkably minor benefits for claiming her ancestry (from oral tradition) when you’ve been fooling people (including your in-laws) for years to get ahead… I say a genealogist needs to dig into his background and find all of those Black folks in the wood-pile of his family tree. Of course, as the uproarious anger of the descendants of Absalom Pierce and Carol Channing’s revelation (and subsequent disappearance from the spot light) reveals, this is a secret that I’m sure Mr Brown and his family would never want to get out. Remember, Mr Brown, according to the American legal definition of race, one drop makes you whole and that one-drop can create an endless line of ‘legally’ Black people.

A photo of Elizabeth Warren’s relatives, the smiths. Notice How “Indian” they look.
Marriage certificate for Warren’s grandparents, illustrating that her grandmother was from “Indian Territory”

Brownballed: Desegregation Without Real Integration Is An Invitation To Dysfunction

27 Sep

Writer’s Note: I wrote this piece in 2004, the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. The Board of Education (Topeka, Kansas) for the Black Commentator. It may have been written eight years ago, but the problems and concerns it speaks to, sadly, are still very relevant today.

In the education of our children there are two vital questions that we must answer: Who is teaching our children? What are they being taught? The future academic success of our students hinges on our thoughtful and serious consideration of these questions. The issues of who’s teaching our children and/or what they are being taught has yet, in my opinion, to be fully addressed.  It is relatively easy and convenient to forget that the public school system in the United States has an explicit racist, sexist and classist history.

As we view the current inadequacies in education within this historical context, it is important to remember, for example, the most widespread challenges to overtly discriminatory practices have occurred fairly recently. Yet, even in light of the “legislation-backed” desegregation efforts and racial, gender and socio-economic-based tracking, American school curriculum is still decidedly Euro-centric and male-centric in content and perspective. This deficit in curriculum is further exacerbated by the continually declining number of black educators as classroom teachers and administrators.

Of late, a great amount of time has been spent on the black parent’s role in education – this attention, by the way, I don’t completely disagree with. However, to belabor parental involvement without properly assessing our present post-Brown educational landscape is not only an incomplete stratagem, but an exercise in futility as well. We must take a closer look at the forces within education, specifically teachers and curriculum, which contribute to the success or failure of our black students.


Brown v. Board: Violent Blow Against Segregation or Trojan Horse of Racism?

“In the end, as any successful teacher will tell you, you can only teach the things that you are. If we practice racism then it is racism that we teach.”- Max Lerner

Let me be perfectly clear, in this essay I do not propose to either applaud or decry the Brown verdict. My goal is an earnest attempt to answer some of the lingering questions that still plague us some fifty years later. To examine some of the side-effects of the decision that have contributed to the on-going inequities in our educational systems.

After Brown, many blacks believed that there would be a brighter educational future for their children. The wall of segregation, that many believed prohibited them from access to a quality education, had been destroyed at last. But has the promise been fulfilled? How much has truly changed since May 17, 1954? Many scholars believe that the Brown verdict has not produced the desired impact because the letter of the law of segregation was addressed in an extremely obscure fashion and the spirit (attitudes) of the law of segregation has gone virtually untouched.

In 1954, about 82,000 black teachers were responsible for teaching 2 million black children. In the 11 years following Brown, more than 38,000 black teachers and administrators in 17 Southern states lost their jobs. These mass firings were made easier because during desegregation all-black schools were usually closed down – making black educators expendable even when their credentials surpassed their white peers.

The National Education Association’s figures from this period show that 85% of minority teachers had college degrees compared with 75% of white teachers. So not only were black children left without the expertise of the more qualified black teachers, but a tremendous psychological and emotional void as well.

Although segregation was an imposed and racist system, blacks were able to create a functional system in spite of it. Prior to Brown, white administrators were more than happy to allow black administrators to run the “black” part of the school system (as long as there were no problems). This semi-autonomy gave black educators an extreme amount of latitude in educating and cultivating the minds of black students. One of the most prominent features of the pre-Brown black educational systems was the belief in the worth of every student. Black educators would refer to their young charges as “Mister” and “Miss” – emotionally and psychologically important titles when you consider that during segregation these titles were denied black adults.

I suppose it could be said that the isolation of segregation also provided insulation against many of the negative forces and racist ideologies that black students would later be inundated with in the post-Brown “integrated” schools (an offensive that our students are still struggling with).

The role that perceptions and self-esteem plays in education can not and should not be minimized. With the loss of black teachers and principals who served as mirrors in which black students, by and large, saw the “angels of their better nature” reflected, a deficit was created in terms of black academic achievement. Although this deficit was by no means total in impact, it was significant.

As mentioned previously in this writing, the public school system in the United States has an explicit racist, sexist and classist history. With that in mind, is it not somewhat naïve for us to believe that a system that has shown that sort of bias towards people of color, would effectively teach our children without a radical educational revolution?

This is not an indictment against white educators, but rather an appeal to the black community to examine the impact of the Brown decision in its entirety. Without entering into a long-winded debate about the pros and cons of Brown v. Board of Education, I believe we have not spent as much time addressing what we lost as a result of Brown as we have what we gained.

The most damaging loss we experienced was the presence of the black educator and their role in the shaping of the self-perception of the black student. To place the importance of student self-perception and its role in education in proper perspective, let us consider the work of Jane Elliot. (I have a copy of the documentary, The Eye Of The Storm, that filmed her class as she conducted the experiment described, below. If you are interested in learning more about the possible impact that racism can have on learning, this is a must see).

In 1968 Jane Elliot was an elementary school teacher in the predominantly-white town of Riceville, Iowa. It was shortly after Dr. King was shot and hearing what she considered to be racist and condescending remarks by white television newscasters as they interviewed various black leaders at the time (“What are your people going to do now that Dr. King is gone?”  “Who is going to hold your people together?”), that she decided to address the issues of race and racism in her fourth-grade class.

She divided the class into two groups: the brown eyes and the blue eyes. Anyone not fitting these categories, such as those with green or hazel eyes, was an outsider, not actively participating in the exercise. Elliott told her children that brown-eyed people were superior to blue-eyed, due to the amount of the color-causing-chemical, melanin, in their blood. She said that blue-eyed people were stupid and lazy and not to be trusted.To ensure that the eye color differentiation could be made quickly, Elliott passed out strips of cloth that fastened at the neck as collars.

Elliott withdrew her blue-eyed students’ basic classroom rights, such as drinking directly from the water fountain or taking a second helping at lunch. Brown-eyed kids, on the other hand, received preferential treatment – this included an extended recess.

Elliott recalls, “It was just horrifying how quickly they became what I told them they were.” Within 30 minutes, a blue-eyed girl named Carol had regressed from a “brilliant, self-confident, carefree, excited little girl to a frightened, timid, uncertain little almost-person.” Contrarily, the brown-eyed children excelled under their new-found superiority. Elliott had seven students with dyslexia in her class that year and four of them had brown eyes. On the day that the browns were “on top,” those four brown-eyed boys with dyslexia read words that Elliott “knew they couldn’t read” and spelled words that she “knew they couldn’t spell.”

Along with their increased scholastic acumen, the brown-eyed children in Jane Elliot’s class began to become extremely hostile towards their blue-eyed peers. Prior to that day in 1968, her students had expressed neither positive nor negative thoughts about each other based on eye color. Although Elliott taught them that it was all right to judge one another based on eye color, she did not teach them how to oppress.

“They already knew how to be racist because every one of them knew without my telling them how to treat those who were considered inferior,”says Elliott. The following day, she reversed the roles with the blue-eyed students as the dominant group. The results were identical to the day before.

For 14 out of the next 16 years that Elliott taught in Riceville, she conducted the exercise (administering several tests throughout the course of the exercise). She decided to send her findings to Stanford University and they were astonished to find that in a matter of a day, the students’ academic ability rose or fell depending on which group they belonged to (“dominant” or “inferior”).

Whether we accept or reject these findings, it still should give us an abundance of food for thought. It should give us more insight into this relationship between student self-perception and education. Which leads to the question: If change in such a short period of time can be so pronounced, what impact has fifty years of indifference and or outright opposition to the culture and history of those of the African Diaspora had on black students?

This question was addressed, somewhat, in Jacqueline Jordan Irvine’s book Black Students And School Failure. In it she outlined eighteen studies where teachers’ attitudes toward and perceptions of black students was compared to those of white students. Researchers of these studies concluded that teachers had more negative attitudes and beliefs about black children than about white children in such variables as personality traits and characteristics, ability, language, behavior and potential.

In one study, Gottlieb (1964) asked black and white teachers from inner-city schools to rate the students they taught. These teachers were given a list of thirty-six adjectives and asked to select the adjectives that best described their students. Black teachers described the (black) students as happy, energetic and fun-loving; their white counterparts described the same students as talkative, lazy and rebellious.

Griffin and London (1979) administered a questionnaire to 270 black and white teachers in inner-city schools in which 90 percent or more of the children enrolled were members of minority groups. The researchers found that 64.6 percent of the black teachers considered minority students of average or better ability; 66.1 percent of the white teachers considered these same children to be of average or lesser ability.

Simpson and Erickson (1983) observed teachers’ verbal and nonverbal behaviors for the independent variables of student race, student gender and teacher gender. The white teachers directed more verbal praise, criticism, and nonverbal praise toward males than toward females.

In contrast, they directed more nonverbal criticism toward black males than toward black females, white females or white males. Aaron and Powell (1982) also found that black pupils received more negative academic and behavioral feedback than did white pupils. By far the most interesting study, in my opinion, was that of Meir, Steward and England (1988).

In it an analysis was conducted of 173 large urban school districts and they found that as the proportion of black teachers in a school district increases, the proportion of black students assigned to special education classes, suspended, or expelled decreases.

These findings are not meant to suggest that all white teachers are incompetent in teaching black students or that all black teachers are exemplary educators of black children. However, these findings do indicate that, as a group, white teachers are more likely than black teachers to hold negative expectations for black students and for anyone to suggest that this has nothing to do whatsoever with the academic future of our children would be reprehensible.

When 85 percent of this nation’s K-12 teachers are white and over 90 percent of its administrators are as well, the aforementioned findings become even more noteworthy. Also, it must be understood that we still live in a society that is reluctant to resolve the issues of inequity and racism that still plague us. Add to that the reality that we have become more segregated as a society in the past 30 years. This limits, profoundly, the cross-cultural understanding that is necessary in educating and teaching children of color.

We Are Not Important Enough To Know About

I would like to introduce the topic of curriculum with an analogy that I have used from time to time. Imagine, if you will, visiting the home you grew up in. Your mother and father (some of us may not share this experience, but imagine it just the same) greet you at the door and you walk through a corridor where the walls are full of plaques and framed certificates highlighting the achievements of your siblings.

Your sister’s perfect attendance award; the brother’s 2nd place plaque for the 5th grade spelling bee…. achievement after achievement, but none of yours are there. You go into a room that is full of the trophies. Your sister’s trophy for winning the softball championship; your brother’s Most Valuable Player trophy for football…. accomplishment after accomplishment, but none of your trophies are there. Finally, you take a look at the photo albums. Your brother’s first step; your eldest brother’s prom; your younger sister’s wedding…. picture after picture and memory after memory, but none of your pictures or memories can be found.

This question must be asked: no matter how vehemently your parents insisted that you did, would you feel like you belonged to that family? I don’t think I am being too presumptuous when I say the overwhelming majority of us would answer that question in the negative. Yet we expect our black students to accept this same dysfunctional educational paradigm.

An individual’s value is judged by what they contribute to their community, society or world (and let no one tell you otherwise). This same value assessment is used when dealing with groups of people. To largely exclude the record or achievements of Africans and African-Americans not only creates an obstacle or void that the black student must contend with, but it gives the white student (and whites in general) a basis to, at best, de-emphasize the accomplishments of those of the African Diaspora or (at worst) disrespect them altogether. These accomplishments, by the way, have not only benefited the black community, but society and the world as a whole.

There are some who say that it is abundantly clear that there are cultural shortcomings in the areas of social studies, history and English, but that doesn’t account for the failings of black students in the areas of math and science. To that I say the whole of education is connected.

If our black students are not validated and challenged in all aspects of their educational experience – if there is an indifference (or even downright antagonism) towards all things African or black – then their mastery of any of their subjects (including math and science) is at-risk. It also would be somewhat naïve of us to believe that adolescents and children will not carry a negative experience in one classroom into the next one.

In his essay, Cognitive Styles and Multicultural Populations, J.A. Anderson touches on this dynamic: “For children of color, biculturality is not a free choice, but a prerequisite for successful participation and eventual success. Non-white children generally are expected to be bicultural, bidialectic and bicognitive; to measure their performance against a Euro-American yardstick; and to maintain this orientation. At the same time, they are being castigated whenever they attempt to express and validate their indigenous culture and cognitive styles. Under such conditions cognitive conflict becomes the norm rather than the exception.”

In our schools’ history and social studies curriculum, through whose perspective are the terms “Manifest Destiny” and “genocide” interpreted? In our schools, who ultimately decides the focus, breadth and depth of our students’ core curriculum? The answer to these questions is fundamental to our black students’ self-perception.

What Can Be Done?

Educators: For white educators, the first step is to examine what issues, biases, prejudices, and assumptions they carry into the classroom and how these inform their curriculum and attitudes towards black students. In fact, they must constantly engage in a process of examining and critiquing their own perspective because this will also affect the way they approach teaching.

Furthermore, it is the role of administrators to insist that this process be as frequent and all-encompassing as necessary.  In the black community we must get about the business of cultivating and developing educators. It has been estimated that in 1950 one-half of all black professionals in the United States were teachers. Compare that to The National Centers for Educational Statistics 2001 data that found of the 105,566 bachelor’s degrees conferred in education in 2001, only 7,394 were awarded to blacks.

Those numbers must change in order for us to have the impact that is necessary to affect real change in educational systems. Those of us who teach at the post-secondary level may have to gently nudge some our students in that direction.

There has been some progress in recruiting blacks into education, however, who have degrees in areas other than education. The number of second career professionals who have ventured into education has grown somewhat in the past decade – these professionals include those from the fields of social services, engineering, medicine and journalism.

Parents: As parents, we should expect excellence from our children and do all we can to help them reach those expectations. Although parent-teacher conferences and making sure that our children stay on-task academically are important aspects of our involvement, equally important is making sure that our child’s educational experience is positive and just. There are still glaring inequities present in our schools.

Recognizing, addressing and combating these inequities falls into the category of parental involvement as well. Challenge the schools that are educating your children to make a greater effort to recruit and retain black educators and to develop and implement a curriculum in which your children will see themselves reflected (and not just during February).

If you haven’t already, or when funds and resources permit, invest in a computer and the internet (we must begin to look at these things as investments and not purchases). There is literally a world of information, which is enormously beneficial to the education of your child, within their (as well as your) fingertips.

I already hear the voices of dissent: “You can’t blame what is happening with black students in education on white educators.” Although I did not write this essay to attribute blame to anyone nor do I blame white educators entirely for the hindrances that black students face, I would like to say this: You can take it to the bank that if we as blacks represented more than 85% of a profession and there were significant problems within that profession, we would be receiving an extreme amount of blame.

Furthermore, it is my opinion that not nearly enough time has been spent on the white educator’s role in our post-Brown educational systems.   Jane Elliot (a courageous soul in my opinion) described racism as a “white attitudinal problem.”

She has stated that the problem lies not with people of color but with whites who believe if blacks would just get “white” then everything would be all right. “For too many years we have been blaming racism on people of color….”  Is there some secret potion that makes white teachers immune to this attitudinal problem?

“It’s been fifty years already, we need to stop making excuses.” That argument would carry more weight if a truly equitable educational system would have emerged after the Brown decision. A tremendous amount of desegregation took place (especially with the dismantling of all-black schools), but very little integration. The teaching and administrative ranks were never integrated (as a matter of fact they became even more segregated) and the curriculum, with the exception of a few minor and recent changes, is just as Euro- and male-centered as it has always been.

The “feelings of inferiority” that were alluded to by Chief Justice Earl Warren in the Brown v. the Board of Education’s majority opinion, have been left fundamentally unresolved. To desegregate without real integration, is an invitation for dysfunction.

“Historically, we have overcome racism and adversity to achieve, why can’t these young people do the same?” I agree that a great deal of time and energy can be wasted if we allow circumstances beyond our control to overwhelm us.

Nevertheless, the flip-side of this observation is that while we reflect upon our past of overcoming, with pride and satisfaction, we still need to question whether our children should have to overcome certain barriers. It is as if we no longer question the injustices that our children face educationally. We must also realize that this present group of adolescents and young adults are, in reality, the first to be born outside of the shadows of segregation and busing. They have certain expectations of fairness and equality, which prior generations did not have.

When these expectations are not realized, should we be surprised by their disillusionment? The fact that some of us make it in spite of the unjust and inequitable obstacles that still exist in our society, does not justify the barriers nor does it excuse us from doing all we can to identify and eliminate those obstacles.

I know there are bound to be some who believe that I am painting some idyllic picture of pre-Brown segregated schools, as if these were schools that had no dysfunctions or difficulties. Let me assure you, I am not. Nor am I disregarding the gains made as a result of the Brown verdict. However, every event has it consequences, including Brown.

What I am attempting to point out is that the best attributes of the segregated all-black schools have never, actually, been integrated into this nation’s educational systems. Racism, in my opinion, is America’s greatest unresolved moral dilemma and it would be unthinkable to believe that its influence has not permeated our school systems.  Our already disproportionate academic circumstances are compounded if our children must tackle the additional “r” of racism along with reading, “writing” and “arithmetic.”

BLACKADEMIA WEDNESDAY: Let There Be Music… Open The Pathways

26 Sep

BOSTON (As Broadcast on Sept. 26, 2012) This is a point that will be revisited several times in this series: The seven arts and sciences are the basic building blocks of a society. Although the exact titles my vary, some version of these seven elements can be found as the principle elements of any society that has ever existed and continued. The one element that does not vary from society to society is music… the universal language and oft ignored bridge for people of different learning styles.

Every generation has it’s music and self- expression; thus I’m not going to knock the current sonic path that music has taken, except to say that it is void  of the complexities and challenges found in the music of older generations. Suffice it to say that the music of today is a cruel, karmic answer to the electronica explosion of the 1980’s causing many musicians of those days to ask, “can music get any blander and more sterile?” Leave it to generation “Y-Not” to prove that it could, but I digress. The point is, listen to some music that stretches and challenges the mind.

Pregnant women are often advised to play music for infants in utero to stimulate cerebral activity prior to birth. While the Western scientists who documented the positive effects of this practices focused on classical music, elements found in jazz, African drumming, Native American, Blues and Caribbean music provide the same stimuli. For example, the parts of the brain stimulated by Bach would also be stimulated by Thelonius Monk, Parliament Funkadelic, and Louis Armstrong; the parts stimulated by Mozart would also be stimulated by Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones… the parts stimulated by Liszt and Chopin will also be served by Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum.

For the visual/ tactile learner, music is the auditory path to both mathematics and logic/ reasoning skill development. The polyhedron for example (a 3 dimensional, spherical object comprised of twelve distinctive, flat sides and twelve lesser sides created by the joining of the larger) is said to be the visual representation of a chromatic (12- tone) scale. The beats in a measure, intervals between notes, and note values (quarter note, half note, etc.), and chord structures are applications of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry; and the pitch and value of tones and notes are applications of calculus.

Unfortunately, many schools and school systems across the country are cutting or have cut their music programs drastically or have gotten rid of them all together. So, as parents it’s up to us to see to it that our children are both exposed to music as well as encouraged to gain experiences with a musical instrument.

During the week, in the evenings for at least 30 minutes a session, set aside some time to turn off the television  and listen to music together. While your favorite albums and artists are fine, take this as an opportunity to challenge yourself and your child and listen to music that is not a part of your routine. Music of different styes and cultures. This is how I discovered that I liked the bagpipes and the kalimba. Mix it up! Play some classical, jazz and punk, or some Afro Latin, Indian and Ska in the same evening. Create a list of musical vocabulary terms (measures, keys, scales, chords, melody, phrases, themes, variations, etc.) and incorporate this into the discussion about what you’re listening to. The same way that all great writers are great readers, all great musicians are great listeners.

For younger children, starting around ages 4 or 5, encouraging them to learn and play hand drums and hand percussion instruments strengthen eye – hand coordination, sequencing, and fine motor skills. If a child moves on to other instruments, these skills are essential; and even if they don’t, these skills are essential in other aspects of their life.

Many folks use the expense of instruments and music lessons as the central excuse to not expose their children to musicianship. Thanks to stores like Target, Wal-mart and Best Buy, such instruments as guitars, keyboards and drums can be purchased relatively inexpensively. Within the last twenty years, pianos have become one of the most given away items in America. The reason for this is the decline in American families having music and the playing of instruments as a staple in American life. As people get older and/or pass on, the old pianos found in their parlors and basements become items placed on Craigslist by younger relatives who see no value in owning one.

As for musical instruction, if the lessons offered at the local music store or community arts academy are prohibitive, a little research and ingenuity can help you find your way around it. There are often older musicians in the community who offer lessons at little or no cost, just to keep their own chops up. There are community- based music programs like bands and orchestras that also offer training and experiences to newcomers. also, thanks to technology there are computer programs, DVDs, and books for beginners in music. See what works for you and your child.

BLACKADEMIA WEDNESDAYS with Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor

Every Wednesday

@ 9AM on 106.1 TOUCH FM http://www.touchfm.org and
@9PM on How We Do It Radio http://www.blogtalkradio.com/howwedoitradio
or at Blackademia.wordpress.com

WEDNESDAY: The Seven Year Plan… Part 2 of Thinking About College

19 Sep

by Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor (MJ Peters)

BLACKADEMIA with Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor –
Every Wednesday @ 9AM on 106.1 TOUCH FM http://www.touchfm.org and @9PM on How We Do It Radio http://www.blogtalkradio.com/howwedoitradio

BLACKADEMIA with Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor – Every Wednesday @ 9AM on 106.1 TOUCH FM and @ 9PM on How We Do It Radio http://www.blogtalkradio.com/howwedoitradio

BOSTON (As Broadcast on Sept. 19, 2012) Looking at societies and communities outside of the USA, it’s not hard to see that we are at the bottom of nations that make education a priority. Americans are in fact a culture of people who are known for having contempt for education and the educated. As we talk about dwindling resources and over-crowded schools systems, students from nations and communities with much less then our worst funded schools system produce students who can come to any college in the USA and sweep the Deans List. As a people, it would be to our advantage to acculturate some of these attitudes and approaches when it comes to our own children’s education.

One key is to start the journey to college by the end of the fourth grade. As parents, we really should start promoting good study habits from kindergarten, but if we have been a little slack (as many of us are) we really need to start focusing by the time our student is reaching age 10. We also need to accept the fact, for a myriad of reasons, that schools in general are not able to provide for the education of our children alone. A lot of it falls back into our hands. The key to producing an academically successful child is your efforts in providing intellectual enhancements beyond the classroom experience.
1) Television is Not The Enemy, Poor Scheduling Is – In short, homework should be done and ‘free reading’ should be completed before the television goes on. In addition, the television your children watch should be mentally stimulating. If there are favorite shows, they can be part of the television time. Cable offers a myriad of educational and education enhancement programming, some can be found even on such channels as Disney, Nickelodeon, History Channel, etc.. In addition, it is possible to by DVD and DVD sets of programs, movies and shows that address reading, writing, critical thinking, and positive social skills in a fun and entertaining way. One process that works is also called “earned tv time.” For every half our of non- homework related reading, writing, or practicing an instrument, a kid can earn an hour of television or video games.

2) Make a weekly visit to the library. For younger kids, many libraries offer stories hours and movies. As kids get older, it’s good get into the habit of going to the library and each of you (yep, you too) take out a book or two. Allow them to select books that speak to their interests but will also challenge their reading levels. Which leads to:

3) Have a vocabulary word of the day. Each day introduce a new word, what it means and how it’s used in a sentence. Hint, pick words found on practice copies of the SAT. The optimum house-hold dictionary is the Oxford. Random House and Webster are okay, but have limitations and the best way to master the language is from the roots.

4) Converse. Regular discussions about various topics: politics, music, arts, history, family stories, memories of your youth, movies, books, television shows, where folks feel free to share and exchange opinions, ideas, and points of view stimulate critical thinking. Studies have shown that young people coming from homes where regular conversation is a part of the environment do better in humanities (English, history, writing, etc.) and social sciences then young people who don’t.

5) Explore after-school programs. In this world, it is not always feasible for parents to be able to dedicate this kind of time on a daily basis due to work and household obligations. However, take a little time to explore the after-school options offered in your community, through the school, community centers, churches and the like. Take the time to find out what the structure and ‘culture’ of the program is. Does it provide some or all of the preceding elements described? Does it have a staff a director who can provide some of the elements that for what ever reason you cannot?

It has been said that if you do something for 30 minutes each day for 21 days, you create a life habit. At least an hour of intellectual enhancements per day for seven years will do incredible things as well.

WEDNESDAY: Thinking About College? Turn It Into A Plan!!!

12 Sep

by Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor (MJ Peters)

BLACKADEMIA with Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor – Every Wednesday @ 9AM on 106.1 TOUCH FM and 9PM on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/howwedoitradio

BOSTON (As Broadcast on TOUCH 106.1 on Sept. 12, 2012) A question on many parents and high school student’s minds is, “When should I start thinking about college?” The answer to that question is: 5th Grade. The study habits that lead to a successful academic career should begin in elementary school, and the preparation for advanced studies should be actively nurtured by the time a student reaches 5th grade (more on this next week) However, it’s never to late!
While traditional college is not for everyone, it appears that there is now a type of college for everyone. One thing to pay close attention to with many colleges: there are a number of trade schools that call themselves colleges but if you check, they do not offer liberal arts degrees or much in the way of majors outside of a given field. Also, there are a lot of programs calling themselves colleges that are not accredited as colleges or universities, in which case a degree from them is really just certification that you took classes in a given area. Most of the websites for colleges and universities demonstrate their accreditation on the site. If they don’t and it’s a school that you’re interested in, call them and ask.
The next question that should be on a high school students mind is, “which college do I want to go to?” tenth and eleventh grade are good time to start checking out colleges and making some choices about which ones appeal to you. Thanks to the Internet, you can conduct a cursory exploration of as many as twenty colleges in a day, and if possible should be followed up by a physical visit to the school during your junior year. If your parents are unable to take you to visit the schools of your choice, look into various community programs that often visit and tour colleges, including the historically Black colleges and universities primarily found in the southern part of the country.
The question that is possibly most pressing on your parent’s minds: How are we going to pay for college? The good news is that there is money out there and a lot of it goes unclaimed. Government based grants and loans are just a piece of the picture and are often not enough to pay for tuition, fees and books; not to mention that many middle- income families do not qualify for many of the government- based grants. The answer is research! Both the internet and the downtown branches of the public library have books and listings of private scholarship sources, ranging from $500 – 40,000 you just need to look for them and apply. Some are based on academic achievement, some are based on interests and hobbies, some are based on ethnicity, or the region that you live in. If you go to Google and type in “college scholarships+ ….” and after the plus size type in a subject, “African American,” “minority,” “[city and state that you live in],” “[hobby, sport, or activity,]” you will find that literally millions of sites will come up. Take some time to look through them and you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.
By junior year of high school, you should have a short list of colleges, universities and/or trade schools that you will be applying to. Another good master list to have in your possession is this one: Free College Applications which lists all of the colleges that waive application fees for qualifying students. This is also a good time to go over your resume and see if document your work, volunteer and hobby activities, including clubs and civic (community, church, etc.) activities. This is a good time to start collecting the applications form the schools of your choice and see what the requirements are, as well as get ready to take the S.A.T. (Scholastic Aptitude Test). On these applications, check out the essay requirements and start outlining your college essay.
The essay is an extremely important element in your essay, as this is an opportunity for admission officers to find out things about you that your grades, SAT score(s) and. resume do not. Not only is this an opportunity to tell your story and talk about your dreams and goals, but it also tells the reader how you think critically and process information, simply by the way you’ve represented your point of view in the essay. The essay can be the difference, for example, between an A student getting rejected from the same school that accepted a B+ student, all because the B+ student represented themselves more clearly and critically in their essay.

Singing Soprano, While Dissin’ the Bass: America’s White Thug Love & Ethnically Acceptable Violence

8 Sep
Image

Dr Edward Rhymes is the co-editor of The Blackademia Today. He is a teacher, lecturer, philosopher, poet, scholar, and social critic.

By Edward Rhymes, PhD

As the popular HBO series The Sopranos came to a close; and the show’s stars made the rounds of talk & late-night shows, I found myself perplexed by America’s fascination with this program. Then again, why should I be?

This is just another example of America’s propensity to embrace the glorification of violence and criminal activity in entertainment when those pulling the triggers and those doing the killing are white—-A&E, which airs Sopranos reruns, just unveiled a commercial promoting the show and it shows a tractor exploding after the driver turns the key, a woman in an convenience store removing a bag of ice from a freezer and revealing the face of a murder victim and two kids beating a bicycle with baseball bats.

This is accepted, ignored or celebrated. And so the decolorization of white violence in entertainment is achieved.

In that same vein, not too long ago AMC (American Movie Classics) was promoting a Godfather movie marathon and the promo consisted of scenes from the Godfather trilogy with gangsta rap playing in the background.

Maybe they were just trying to reach a more contemporary audience, but whether knowingly or unknowingly AMC made a critical cultural & historical connection—a connection made by far too few people in this country. Many people, White and Black, continue to treat gangsta rap (and Black culture as well) as if it were not informed and shaped by the dominant culture’s values.

Even a great deal of my white liberal & progressive brothers and sisters, seem to believe that Blacks in America hail from a different planet than they do—a planet that hasn’t been touched by this society’s long-standing history of glorifying violence and celebrating gangsterism.

Indeed, most Whites believe that only Blacks have influenced Blacks and the diseases that are contracted from the defects in American culture have played no significant role in impairing or impacting the Black folk of this nation.

The Beginnings of White Thug Love

It can be argued that the beginnings of the deracialization of white violence in America began in the colonies when the Native Americans were portrayed as savages for acts that Whites were equally guilty of or acts of aggression that  would have been deemed self defense had the “aggressors” not been Native-American. However, I want to focus on the American romanticization of the white outlaw and gangster in popular culture and film.

One of the most powerful examples of this “whitewashing” of history and criminal activity is found in the legend of Jesse James.  The story of Jesse James remains one of America’s most cherished myths… and one of its most erroneous. Jesse James, so the legend goes, was a Western outlaw, though, in fact, he never went west; was America’s own Robin Hood, though he robbed from the poor as well as the rich, and kept it all for himself; and a gunfighter whose victims, in reality, were almost always unarmed.

Less heroic than brutal, James was in fact a product, from first to last, of the American Civil War; a Confederate partisan of expansive ambition, unbending politics and surprising cunning, who gladly helped invent his own valiant legend. A member of a vicious band of Missouri guerrillas during the war, James sought redemption afterwards.

But as the American Experience production revealed, year by year, he rode further from it, redeeming instead the great and glorious memory of the Old South. In a life steeped in prolific violence and bloodshed, he met what was perhaps the most fitting end; like so many of his own victims, James himself was an unarmed man, shot in the back.

Nevertheless we see his image romanticized time and again through various films (the most popular being the 1939 version starring Tyrone Power) and historical retellings. He is sensitively portrayed as the reluctant outlaw; the Confederate idealist who was pushed into a life of crime—in this description we see the interconnectedness of the media, popular culture and public perception in creating and buttressing America’s time-honored folktales.

This is repeated in the tales of Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and so on.

The American Gangster in Early American Cinema

Of course Al Capone, by the end of the 1920s, was the quintessential symbol of American gangsterism. Capone was accepted as a force in American life that government was powerless to control; his mercurial rise to power in Chicago’s underworld made him not only feared and hugely wealthy but a substantial political influence and an example of how a gangster could make a business asset of his reputation—a popularity and perceived charisma that is imitated in every popular gangster film.

Other figures such as Bonnie & Clyde, the Barkers and Pretty Boy Floyd have all been sanitized and romanticized as well; giving them Robin Hood-like status in popular culture.

The mythologized gangster can only be understood in relation to the wider society, whether he is cast as a villain whose actions confirm the need for law and order or as an outlaw hero admired for the toughness and energy with which he defies the system—the “outlaw hero” perspective has to also be understood in its racial context as well.
Let’s face it, Blacks who were hounded by even harsher social realities than White ethnics, never were or would be cast as outlaw heroes in the early days of film. The gangster films of the early 1930s used the rebellious figure of the criminal and the hierarchical structure of the criminal organization both to challenge and to ironize capitalism and the business ethic.

Having made a career of illegality, the gangster functions as the dark double of ‘respectable’ society, undermining its claims to legitimacy and parodying the American drive to succeed; underworld activities image the injustices and vicissitudes of American economic life, with its illusions of upward mobility, its preoccupation with image-building and its hierarchy of exploiters and the exploited.

Movie gangsters such as Cagney and Edward G. Robinson were heroes of dynamic gesture, strutting, snarling and posturing, possessing a blatant, anarchic appeal. Standing outside the law in a period when Depression America was cynical about all sources of moral authority, they possessed an awe-inspiring grandeur, even in death. At the same time, however, they were a reflection of legitimate society.

Others who were early gangster stars included Paul Muni and George Raft. Three classic gangster films (among the first of the talkies) marked the genre’s popular acceptance and started the wave of gangster films in the 1930s in the sound era.

The lead role in each film (a gangster/criminal or bootleg racketeer of the Prohibition Era) was glorified but each one ultimately met his demise in the final scenes of these films, due to censors’ demands that they receive moral retribution for their crimes. The first two films in the cycle were released almost simultaneously by Warner Bros.:

The ultra-violent, landmark film, Scarface (1931), a depiction of Italian-American immigrant gangsters, included twenty-eight deaths, and the first use of a machine gun by a gangster. It was brought to the attention of the Hays Code for its unsympathetic portrayal of criminals, and there was an ensuing struggle over its release and content.

The disturbing portrayal of irresponsible and anti-social behavior by the gangsters almost encouraged its attractiveness. [In tribute over fifty years later, Brian de Palma remade the film with Al Pacino in the title role ofScarface (1983)].

Eventually, two of the most successful gangland “Mafia” films ever made appeared in the 1970s with Francis Ford Coppola’s direction of Mario Puzo’s best-selling novel, The Godfather (1972), and The Godfather, Part II (1974). Both were epic sagas of a violent, treacherous, and tightly-knit crime family superstructure from Sicily that had settled in New York and had become as powerful as government and big business. Returning war veteran/son Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) had to loyally follow in his father’s criminal path, without questioning its legitimacy.

Both contained a number of brutal death scenes, including Sonny Corleone’s (James Caan) flurry-of-bullets death at a toll booth in the first. Part II was the first sequel ever to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The third and final (this episode received far less critical acclaim than the previous two) installment in the trilogy was The Godfather, Part III (1990).

Director Martin Scorsese also explored the theme of family ties being torn apart by unpredictable violence. His intense films regularly starred actor Robert De Niro. Scorsese’s “crime trilogy” included two mob pictures in the 1990s. The first film in the trilogy was Mean Streets(1973) – the one that established Scorsese’s reputation. It was about the lives of aspiring, small-time crooks in the Little Italy section of New York.

The other two films were GoodFellas (1990) – adapted from Wiseguy, which followed thirty years in the lethally-violent criminal careers of rising mobsters and was based on the life of actual ex-mobster Henry Hill. And Scorsese’s Casino(1995) examined a Mafia criminal dynasty making its presence known in a brutal takeover of 1960s-70s Las Vegas.

Although many of the gangsters in these films met with death and destruction, this did not prevent America’s love affair with them — the glorification of the white ethnic gangster in cinema became an American guilty pleasure. Indeed, the vast majority of these films are considered classic.

Even though these glorified thugs and gangsters flouted the law at every turn and committed despicable acts of violence, they were still cast as charismatic and strangely sympathetic figures. The audience and the American public somehow found itself subconsciously; as well as consciously, pulling for them.

Fade To Black

The late 60’s and early 70’s brought the Black variation on some of the themes contained in the earlier gangster films. These gangster melodramas, with elements of social protest, were dominated by a single (male or female) charismatic personality.

The genre contained stories of the pimp or pusher at a crisis point, caught between the needs of his people (Black Nationalism) and the pressure to sellout from “The Man.” Standout examples are Superfly, played by Ron O’Neal; andThe MackCotton Comes to Harlem (1970) and Sweet Sweetback (1971) has been credited with kicking off the genre—Sweet Sweetback’s Badaaass Song was fierce and uncompromising and deemed inaccessible to whites.

Peebles went ahead and produced it anyway, financing it largely himself. Unable to show the film in many cinemas, he persuaded a few black cinemas in Detroit, San Francisco and New York to show it.

The response was incredible. Black people, in droves, went to see what was, essentially, the tale of a promiscuous black antihero as he made his way towards Mexico evading the white police. Peebles wrote his own score and enlisted the assistance of the newly-formed group called Earth, Wind and Fire who happened to be friends with one of his production crew.

Black Caesar (1973), starring Fred Williamson, was modeled on 1931’s Little Caesar and needed only slight color tweaking to attract a new (and predominantly Black) audience.

Blaxploitation films have been criticized for glorifying criminal behavior and perpetuating negative stereotypes, but the genre seldom gets credit for addressing issues and concerns relevant to the overlooked urban/inner-city demographic.

In the 1990s several Black directors explored issues of urban justice through stories of children growing up in urban America. Films such as Boyz N the Hood brought vivid images of disenfranchised and violent neighborhoods and the obstacles involved in growing up in these neighborhoods.

These films questioned whether the criminal justice system works in neighborhoods isolated from both the creation and the protections of the legal system, and where the rules of the criminal justice system sometimes collide with the rules of the neighborhood justice system.

In this same time period, Hollywood released many more films directed by Blacks, films such as Ernest Dickerson’sJuice (starring Tupac Shakur and Omar Epps), Allen and Albert Hughes Menace II Society, and Spike Lee’s Clockers.

Though some of these flicks have enjoyed cult status, they received castigation and criticism that the “classic” films which portrayed whites as the gangsters, criminals and thugs rarely received—John Singleton’s Boyz-N-The Hoodstands out (and mostly alone) in receiving critical acclaim while portraying inner-city violence.

The Scarface Generation

Perhaps no film has made more of an impression on what would later become gangsta rap than the 1983 film Scarface—the name Scarface, and its many variations, can be found in scores of songs and albums (as well in artist and group names).

It stars Al Pacino as Tony Montana, a Cuban-immigrant who shoots and kills his way to the “top” to become the head of a powerful and brutal drug empire. It also, in my opinion, far-and-away one of the most explosive and bloody films in the history of the gangster-film genre.

Four short years later, LA-based rapper Ice T emerged with his album Rhyme Pays (1987)which depicted hardcore street-life. In 1988 N.W.A.’s (Niggaz With Attitude) underground album Straight Outta Compton firmly established gangsta rap within the American music scene.

Its keynote track F*** Tha Police was considered so shocking that radio stations and MTV refused to play it. Nonetheless, the album went platinum. N.W.A. and gangsta rap’s popularity was compounded with the release of their second album EFIL4ZAGGIN in 1991, which debuted at number two in the Billboard chart with neither a single nor a video and became the first rap album to reach number one.

Snoop Dogg then became the first rapper to go straight to number one with his album Doggystyle (1993). The reliance on crime in the lyrics of gangsta rap fuels much of the controversy surrounding the musical style.

And while it has been criticized for glorifying the negativity of the streets, gangsta rap’s defenders claim that the rappers are simply reporting what really goes on in their neighborhoods. In other words they are telling a story through their specific cultural and experiential lens—this is not an endorsement of gangsta rap, but rather an attempt to properly contextualize the genre.

Conclusion

Granted, the high profile scandals and tragedies that have accompanied some of the biggest names in rap and gangsta rap adds fuel to the charges of it being too violent— such as the trials of Sean “P Diddy” Combs and Snoop Dogg and the murders of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Smalls).

Nevertheless, I remember gangsta rap in its infancy (before any of the aforementioned incidents took place) and condemnations of its ultra-violent lyrics and persona were being voiced even then. Hypocritically, the bloody Genovese and Colombo crime family wars were taking place in New York in the early 70’s (when the first twoGodfather movies were released) and a correlation between that reality and The Godfather was not made.

Neither was any strong assertion made concerning Brian DePalma’s Scarface glorifying and promoting the actual cocaine-financed mafia that was on the rise in the 80’s.

In American popular culture and in the consciousness of the American public, real and media white violence and crime is deracialized. For example, when the tragedy occurred at Virginia Tech there was a flurry of questions about how it would impact people’s views of Korean Americans.

Was that question asked in regard to whites when Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City? What about Columbine? Or Ronald Gene Simmons? For every Cho there is 10-15 Bundys, Gacys, Specks and Dahmers, and yet there is no condemnation of white culture or a feared backlash against whites because of the actions of a notorious few.

The same cannot be said of Black folk and other people of color. Our problems and concerns are usually treated as some sort of racialized pathology, whereas white indiscretions and transgressions are viewed as the innocuous and colorless “societal” or “social” ill—detached and divorced from whiteness. On a related note, Salon.com’s headline story, about the Sopranos, for Saturday June 9, 2007 was titled: “Our Favorite Murderer.

Although, as a principle, I am against a great deal (if not most) of the violent messages that is being transmitted through some films and music, that does not prevent me from gleaning powerful ideas, concepts and perspectives from those same films and forms of music (The Godfather, N.W.A, Scarface and [pre-Barbershop] Ice Cube included).

The sexism and carnage, that I am opposed to, that is displayed in The Godfather, does not blind me to the depth of the characters and the complexity of the plot. Likewise, the misogyny and violence, that I abhor, that is present in the earlier songs of gangsta rap (I can not embrace anything or anyone in the current field), does not negate the fact that those artists did bring to the forefront many issues and concerns of the Black community—such as racial profiling, poverty, gang life and police brutality.

So what is the point that is being made here? I suppose that it is this: that if the problem or concern is violence in entertainment, then make the condemnation of it across the racial and ethnic board—no matter how sympathetic, charismatic or heroic they make the Michael and Vito Corleones, the Tony Montanas or the Tony Sopranos.

Because, if the eradication of violence in entertainment begins and ends with Black faces and voices, then it is a strategy that is bound to fail. Or, if one believes that proper perspective and context must be used in critiquing these popular mafia films and series, that’s fine.

Nevertheless, don’t fail to apply that same drive for context and perspective when judging the music and messages that flow from a Black outlook. And finally, don’t divorce that critique from the long history of White ethnic violence in American cinema and popular culture that preceded and helped to influence that Black outlook.

Back-To-School – The Parent, Student & School… Education as a partnership

5 Sep
by Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor (MJ Peters)
BOSTON (As Broadcast on TOUCH 106.1 on Sept. 5, 2012) – It’s back-to-school time! Education is a partnership and not the job of the school alone. Way too

BLACKADEMIA with Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor – Every Wednesday @ 9AM on 106.1 TOUCH FM and 8:30 PM on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/howwedoitradio

many parents send their kids to school without looking into the environment that they are sending their kids. Most people show more care in buying a car then they do in making sure that their child is getting the most out of their educational experience. As we would not simply send money to a car dealer and hope they give us the best car for the money, we should not send out kids to school and simply hope for the best. Parents and students are accountable for holding the teachers, administrators and staff of the school accountable. For the college student, this tasks falls on you, as you are now an adult. Here’s how it works:

  1. Familiarize Yourself with Policies Rules & Regulations. Time to do some homework.  Visit the web-page for the Department of Education in your state, as it pertains to parent and students rights and responsibilities. Also check out the policies of your school district. Become familiar with them, print out a copy and keep it handy for reference. Unfortunately, schools and districts sometimes rely on the ignorance of parents to push through actions and such that are not in your child’s best interest, but their own.  Also find out about any parent or child advocacy groups or organizations in your area. Not all parents are adept in advocating for their children and these groups can provide wonderful, free resources.
  2. Zone School Are NOT Your Only Option. You may live in an area where you have a zoned school, and the zoned school may not be to your liking or meet your child’s needs. There are a lot of other options out there and you have the right to send your child to another school if you feel it would be of benefit to your child. Schools and school departments may try to discourage this, but DO NOT FOLD. It’s up to you to see that your child is in the right school.
  3. Get To Know The School and Get The School to know you on your terms. Don’t wait for open school night, or a note to come home from school about your child. First impressions are important!!! The principal, assistant principal and support staff (Guidance Counselors, Adjustment Counselors, etc.) should all know you, as you them in a civil context, not just when you are called into school for a meeting or disciplinary issue. Again, if your child has an IEP, you should know and be known by the Special Education coordinator and the IEP Team BEFORE your first IEP (Individualized Educational Plan/Program) review meeting. For college students, utilize your professors office hours just to pop in and say hi. Don’t wait for the end of the semester or when you think you’re having a problem.
  4. Assess The Teacher. Be Nosy. Ask Questions About Curriculum & Lesson Plans. We have a lot of excellent teachers in the public school systems. We also have a lot of lousy teachers in the school systems. We have teachers who are nice, mean, laid-back, strict, well organized, poorly organized, racist, presumptuous, caring, liberal, smart… When encountering a new teacher, ask around for folks who’s child had them as a teacher and what their feelings were about this teacher and their teaching style. Be sure to make contact with your child’s teacher within the first week
    of school. Ask questions, discuss general concerns, if your child has an
    IEP be sure to make sure that the
    teacher is aware of this.Sometimes the teacher might be a great teacher, but not a good fit for your child. Figure this out early in the game and address it early. Also allow for contact grace periods. If you e-mail or send a note to a teacher, allow 48 for them to reply. If the note sent Monday did not get replied to by Wednesday, follow the note up with a call to the school for the teacher. If still no response, a call of concern to the Assistant Principal or Principal is in order.

Again, these steps can be carried out in a manner that is minimally confrontational and unpleasant.  Making the most of your child’s educational experience starts with you!

This transcript is from the BLACKADEMIA WEDNESDAYS featured on The Morning Show with Brother Charles on 106.1 TOUCH-FM in Boston at 9am every Wednesday Morning. The broadcast can also be heard on-line at http://www.touchfm.org

Poetry: ABOVE IT ALL

16 Jan

by D.R.A.M.A. (Devine Righteousness and Mind Ascension)

 

I wear my heart on my sleeve as I grieve
Can I retrieve my Love, Divine Above?
Reflecting, dissecting the pain that Ive gained
I sigh and refrain from the plain
My eyes ain’t blue and my name, it isn’t Jane
Yet still I rise to avoid heart stain
Pure, as ever – clear
Although hate and fear knock by at my door near
I remain grand, standing tall like the Cherokee Chief or Malcolm X with his beliefs

Brutally simplistic and opportunistic with their ways
Testing and pressing without calling names
Distort the blame for fame without shame
Confuse the learn to tame
Attempted mind blow, although and even so
I vent Heaven sent and continue on to flow
Illuminati no, let my people go so we can grow
I crave the Brave, if cannot find
I’m inclined to request
Divine Buddha Bless slows the enter of the stress
I ask the triple k to confess
Reveal faces red once concealed
Once before, you had us on all fours
But never no more
We rise above for sure to endure

Brother man, I say look
Says my hand shook
Problem not to guess so don’t stress
You go on like the flow of the brook
No matter what they took, I’m here for you so take a look
I am caress for your thoughts, strong, without lack
Even after attack , we still rise above the crack, high
Pushing along the track, built up off our back
Choo, choo, blows the whistle like that
The Brother strong wants to bust
Wound up like fists or not to trust
Can I unwind? Release the taught?
Free the mind of our kind, like web, up caught?
Says she: “Killing cried”
Says he: “Survival died”
Store bought thought, not
Swinging hits from fits, soon to explode
Look at what you’ve wrought and drop your load
Hostile overtures from those once pure
Anger carries danger, homicide assured to blur
Our youth clever, will they forever endure?
I am sure
For even as we ride oppressive tides
The beautiful ones
They cannot hide

COPYRIGHT 2012, Sylvia M Jackson

Poetry: “SURRENDER”

16 Jan

by D.R.A.M.A. (Devine Righteousness and Mind Ascension)

Love is a mind trip, always on the edge, asking will I slip
Into maniacal manifestation, is this a revelation?
I hold still the pose with somber hesitation
Emotional contention, tears stroll, loves taken hold
Alive, melodic, never no control
Lips locked, boldly shakes the rock, thirst quenched after shock
Passions overload, God breaks the mold
Methodical parameters, they hold me in a trance
My stance is solid yet I’m able still to cheat a splendid glance
I view perfection; my Love is strong but needs protection
Love is a mind trip, I’m contemplating, estimating
Will I softly slip into a soulful trance?
Full bloom says the bud of our romance
The Love dance shatters diabolical dimensions
Although fear is standing near

My key turns the lock to unblock apprehension
I ask the quest, can I maintain his attention?
Skin sweet sable, lashes long and thick, am I able, unstable
Passionate rhythms explode the grand load,
Souls blossom in full, the Love’s in control
Fingernails gold, taking hold of the bold
Not to mold but caress, we are blessed
I hit pause for speculation, increasing heart beats my erotic stimulation
Quixotic adoration, fingers walk, lips talk, I drink him up, intoxication
Driven mad with desire, we retire with a smile
Sweet thoughts of splendor, vision now clear
I cry out to my love, I surrender!

COPYRIGHT 2012, Sylvia M. Jackson