This blog focuses on issues and solutions to racism, culture, cultural difference(s), and social injustice(s) for Black and Hispanic students as they develop in families, schools, and communities. RACE (Racism, Achievement, Change, Equity) is a forum for exposing injustices, but also sharing stories, examples, practices, ideas, theories, models, and research for change.

Preface to one of books…

On the fringes of most school environments gathers a shadow population of students whose motivation and achievement are stymied. These are the marginal students who are not being well served by our public schools. Precious little attention is given either to the needs of these young people or to their assets. They are viewed as deviants from the ‘regular’ students, outsiders who are not productive members of the learning community. This persistent problem of increasing numbers of students who are not succeeding must be attacked because youth who fail on the margins as deserving as those who thrive in the mainstream.
                                                                                         –Sinclair and Ghory (1992, p. 33)
            The seeds for this book were sewn several years ago, while I was still in formal schooling — a ninth grader. In 1976, I received an academic scholarship designated for bright and promising economically challenged students. I remember sitting in the auditorium where the entire school gathered for this important event — taking the exam for the scholarship entitled ‘A Better Chance.’  Within a few months, my mother and I were summoned to the principal’s office, at which time we were informed that I had been awarded a scholarship. I was given a number of private high schools options from which to attend. Too many of my classmates were less fortunate. Those who suffered from test anxiety, who succumbed to peer pressures, who believed negative stereotypes about Blacks, who did not take the test seriously, and who had other priorities, for example, did not score at the designated level to receive a scholarship. I did.
            After some discussion with my mother, I chose to attend a local private high school located not too far from my family and friends. I had never been away from my mother and sisters, so staying close to home, commuting each day, was best for me. I thought this was the best choice for my family and myself – close to home meant that I’d be in a safe haven. This is where my story begins, for my life changed forever. Everything plummeted — my grades, self-esteem, academic self-concept, racial identity, and my dignity. My most pleasant memory about school was the food. I gained over 50 pounds that year.
            I attended a private school for females. In grades 9 to 12, there were only four Black females, including myself. I was the only one on scholarship and poor. I quickly learned that one could face discrimination based on not just race, but also socio-economic status. I could not identify with my wealthy White classmates. They spoke a language foreign to my ears – vacations, housekeepers/nannies, inheritances, personal jets, swimming pools, yachts, jacuzzies, Porsches, Jaguars, and Mercedes. I, literally, carried a dictionary with me to translate. I understood the language of my Black classmates, but they, too, had little in common with me. While not rich, they were well off but they were lost racially and culturally, as will be discussed later; I was on scholarship. Further, they were, on the surface or superficially, part of the ‘community’, having attended the school for a number of years. I was truly the proverbial fish out water – I connected with neither the more privileged White girls nor the Black ones. I was low income, others were not. That was at school.
            Back home, there were other trials and tribulations. My ‘friends’, whom I’d known for years, resented my being at that ‘uppity, White’ school. I was now deemed a ‘sell out’, a trader, who was ‘acting White’ and disowning my community and sacrificing my racial identity. Survival guilt weighed heavy on me as a teenager. I contemplated the myriad of sacrifices I was making to become successful as a gifted Black student who was also female, and low income and (but?) ambitious – and wanting so desperately to be accepted, affirmed, and to fit in… somewhere.
            I remember vaguely my teachers, for I have a tendency to push to the subconscious unpleasant memories and thoughts. My English teacher had the most significant and negative impact upon me. She violated my trust and respect in her as an educator, professional, and responsible adult. One of our class assignments was to read The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne. For the first time in my life, I learned the potency of bibliotherapy, of the catharsis one can get from identifying with a character. Being in this school, I now realized that I, too, had a scarlet letter — the color of my skin. Some 30 years later, and five decades after legalized and legislated desegregation via Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, KS (1954), I still get frequent reminders (sometimes daily reminders) that, because I am Black, little is expected of me, and I should expect little. However, unlike Hester, Hawthorne’s heroine, I committed neither a sin nor broke the law; I was born into my circumstances – this was not a choice.
            I wrote about my ‘scarlet letter’ for the class assignment. I analogized that my scarlet letter was being black – it was a curse, along with being poor. My teacher was so ‘surprised that I could write so well’ and was so ‘insightful’ that she requested that I share it with the class — a group of 15 or so rich White females who had I had so little in common with, females who lived in mansions, who drove the most expensive cars, who had personal drivers, personal planes, and yachts. I refused. My teacher’s request eventually became an order and ultimatum. The A+ eventually became an F for ‘lack of cooperation and comradeship.’ My teacher simply did not understand – and maybe did not care to understand. The reading and writing assignment had been a welcomed relief, a mental and physical catharsis and implosion. I was able to vent, rant, rave, scream in text; I felt relief but not vindicated. My paper was like sharing a piece of my soul and my diary, but it was me, a teenager, against an adult.
            The school administrators are also fuzzy images. They often searched my person, my possessions, and my locker when money, jewelry, or other items were stolen or misplaced. They violated me in almost every respect – psychologically, physically, academically, and more.
            It was not long, perhaps a month after school began, that I began to withdraw, to show classic signs of educational disengagement or burnout — daydreaming, procrastinating, turning in incomplete assignments, and coming to class late or not at all some days. Eventually, I committed the ultimate act of educational disengagement and apathy; I dropped out of ‘schooling,’ not physically, but socially, psychologically, and emotionally. This disenchantment and disconnect revealed itself in my lowered motivation and grades, which plummeted from As to Cs. I had never made a C in my life. To say the least, my mother was worried and distraught; but I blamed the low grades on everything else but the truth. I never told her about the academic and social and emotional hell and torture that I had to endure for 280 days. My mother (my number one fan) believed that the school meant or guaranteed a promising future; the first step on the upward and social mobility ladder. I could not and would not disappoint my mother by telling her about my daily trials and tribulations at school.
            After a year, I dropped out of that school and transferred to my neighborhood school – low income and overwhelmingly Black. I needed to be affirmed socially, culturally, intellectually, and academically. Had my mother insisted that I return to the private school, I would have dropped out completely. I felt like a soldier must feel after battle – both battle fatigue and survival guilt were common to me. I was suicidal. My self-esteem, academic self-concept, and racial identity had been shattered. I needed to be among students and teachers who shared my struggles, who looked like me, who talked like me, who understood (or wanted and tried to understand) me. These students and teachers did not have to look like me, they just had to care.
            My less-than-rigorous neighborhood school had its share of problems. I remember being taught in the 11th and 12th grades what I had learned in the 10th grade at the private school. As I reflect, it is clear that I received what some educators and researchers consider an inferior education at my neighborhood school. Yet, the teachers (all White) were wonderful — caring, humanistic, energetic, and skilled. Over time and slowly, my love for learning and motivation began to return.
            As with many adolescents, I also experienced a dilemma, a conflict between my need for achievement and my need for affiliation — the latter won out. Although teachers were caring, I felt unchallenged in school and was fearful of doing well; many of my Black classmates (male and female) accused me of ‘acting white’ and threatened me physically. It had been too easy to make the honor roll, top easy to change the Bell curve, too easy to win writing scholarships, and too easy to become President of the National Honor Society.
            I graduated from high school with several academic scholarships; I decided to attend, on a full academic scholarship, a local, private university where I was majoring in mathematics/ engineering. Before the semester ended, I dropped out. Two professors had convinced me of three things. First, I did not belong in math because I was a female. Second, and more importantly, I did not belong in math and science because I was Black. Third, I would never earn a degree from that university — they would see to it. Again, I found myself underachieving and flight from academics was the only option I could see. I also found that out that I would be a young mother at the tender age of 18.
            I stayed out of college for one year, got caught in the vicious cycle of being a single mother, and trying to envision life without a college degree, life without a career with engineering or math. My mother, barely 40 years old, eventually gave me the most important ultimatum of my life — get back in school or else… I was blessed! She agreed to take care of my son, her grandson.
            In 1980, I enrolled in a different university. After changing my major four or five times (maybe more), I graduated within four years with a degree in both communications and Spanish. I barely had a 3.0 grade point average, and Cs were familiar and even comforting to me – at least I had not failed.
            In 1986, I applied for and was accepted into a Master’s degree program. I worked hard and excelled academically, but I felt incomplete, still searching for who I was and what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was unfulfilled academically and did not think that a Master’s degree was enough to make an impact. I sought a doctorate. Even though my grades were excellent as a graduate student, I had barely scored at the mean of 1000 on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). I felt lucky to have been admitted but also believed that the college would benefit in some way from my presence and experiences.
            It was not until I entered the doctoral program that I began to feel comfortable and confident on personal, racial, and professional levels. I began to feel empowered. I majored in urban education and was challenged to explore education in the context of urban life; the focus on social justice was refreshing. I could identify with the issues discussed in class — underachievement, the achievement gap, tracking, low teacher and deficit expectations, irrelevant curriculum, achievement-affiliation conflicts such as peer pressures, poverty, racism, sexism, and other ills that permeate society and plague its schools. I learned to consider, appreciate, and respect the importance of multicultural education or culturally responsive education, teacher diversity, gifted education and AP classes, comprehensive educational and counseling services, family/caregiver involvement, and motivation for success in school and, ultimately, life.
            While my story has a positive ending, albeit not the kind that movies are made of, the told and untold stories of so many others are not. This is 2010, and while there are books, studies, speculation, and comprehensive treatises on underachieving students (including gifted students, and racially culturally different students), there is no such work on gifted underachieving Black students beyond what I wrote in 1996. This is, again, an ambitious book, but not overly so. It was developed with multiple audiences in mind — educators, administrators, counselors, parents/caregivers, researchers, and practitioners. It is relatively comprehensive because it focuses on the psychological, social, familial, and cultural factors that influence the achievement of Black students who are gifted or potentially gifted – but also underachieving. It focuses on the respective and collaborative roles that families, educators, and children themselves must play in promoting the academic, social, psychological, and emotional well-being of these particular students.
            Several premises guide this work. In defining giftedness, I have adopted the inclusive definitions espoused by the United States Department of Education (1993), Howard Gardner (1985), and Robert Sternberg (1985). These definitions and attendant theories contend that giftedness is a context-bound and culture-dependent construct that requires multidimensional and multimodal assessment measures and strategies. Equity and excellence are at the heart of these works and what drives me to excel and advocate for the rights of gifted Black students. They acknowledge the impossibility of a ‘one size fits all’ test to capture this elusive and complex construct, and that tests are academic electric chairs for far too many students.
            A second premise is that no group has a monopoly on giftedness, regardless of its form and the group. It is illogical and statistically impossible for giftedness to be the prerogative of one racial, gender, or socio-economic group. Nonetheless, gifted programs and AP classes represent the most segregated programs in public schools. They are disproportionately White and middle and upper income or class, and they serve primarily intellectually and academically gifted students. If all gifted and potentially gifted students are to receive an appropriate education, gifted programs and AP classes must become desegregated.
            Third, predicting potential is as problematic and difficult as predicting the weather. Despite sophisticated instruments (e.g., intelligence, achievement, and aptitude tests), mistakes are still made. Children score higher than we expect, others score lower. Tests touted to be highly correlated with school performance and high in predictive ability show huge discrepancies for some students. Students do well in college whose test scores predicted otherwise, and students with the highest test scores, can and do drop out. I was such an example.
            A fourth premise is that all school personnel (e.g., teachers, psychologists,, psychologists, counselors, tutors, etc.) have a professional, moral, and ethical responsibility to help students reach their potential in school; no child should sit or learn on the margins, feeling either physically, culturally, psychologically, or socially isolated from the rewards of learning and educational challenge.
            A fifth premise is that parent/family/community-school collaborations are essential to students’ school success. Parents are children’s first teacher; teachers are children’s surrogate parents or caregivers. Separating parents and primary caregivers from the process of schooling is tantamount to removing oxygen from air. Without oxygen, air does not exit. Without parents and other primary caregivers, like grandparents and aunts, schools and students have a challenge succeeding.
            The next premise is that educators must focus not only solely on identification and/or assessment; they must also take great pains to recruit and retain Black students in gifted education and AP classes. It is not enough to place Black students in these programs; efforts must be made to keep them once placed. Recruitment is comprised of screening, identification and assessment, and placement; recruitment is comprised of the learning environment, programming, and supports.
            Finally, underachievement is not a ‘sickness that can be cured’; however, underachievement can be reversed. Underachievement is learned and can be unlearned. No child is born underachieving! Deficit perspectives and blaming children for their failures do little to resolve underachievement. The potential and motive to achieve is inherent in all children. No talent or potential should be allowed to atrophy.
            A preface permits the author to describe not only what a book is, but also what is not. Given this license, I shall end by dispelling any misconceptions about the goals and objectives of this book. The book does not cover the entire range of issues related to underachievement among gifted Black students. Even though I am updating this book after more than a decade, the literature on this topic is still too modest for this task. Nonetheless, it seeks to present a comprehensive and thorough discussion of the issues raised. The book discusses the educational plight of Black students, but it is not an attempt to castigate or indict the educational system for these problems. In fact, finger pointing would represent a significant waste of time and paper. Instead, I make a proactive, consistent attempt to emphasize that underachievement is a multifaceted phenomenon whose etiology is equally multidimensional and complex. I hope to unravel some of its mystery.
            Personally and professionally, I have witnessed Black children, many of them gifted but not formally identified, floundering in school. We all see events through the lens of our personal ideology, but only those with myopic and near-sighted vision can overlook the crises facing Black students in general education, gifted education, and AP classes.
            Racially and culturally different students are at the greatest risk of being forgotten and discounted in the context of gifted education and AP programs. Gifted Black students are a minority within a minority–an anomaly in gifted and Advanced Placement programs. That is to say, the gifted population comprises a numerical minority of the school population, and within this minority is yet another minority, namely, Black students. As a gifted Black student, I walked in and endeavored to negotiate two worlds. Illustrated, one could put my school experiences into a Venn diagram. Teachers had a difficult time understanding me for I was gifted and Black and poor — I was an oxymoron to then; just as gifted underachievement appears paradoxical. The gifted part of me was supposed to be conforming, hardworking, obedient, and academically outstanding; the Black part of me was supposed to be disobedient, lazy, defiant of authority, and academically poor. The poor part of me was supposed to also be of low intelligence, low achievement, low motivation, and poor behavior. No child should experience this hellish confusion. No human being should.
            As a gifted Black student who learned to underachieve in the aforementioned private school, I needed several things to ensure a healthy, effective school experience. I needed teachers and other school personnel to acknowledge and appreciate the changing demographics of students, and to respond by:
·       Seeking substantive preparation in both gifted and multicultural education;
·       Changing curriculum and instruction to reflect diversity and cultural differences;
·       Understanding that racially and culturally different students have a number of battles to fight. These battles include such social ills as poverty, racism, prejudice, and stereotypes that interfere with motivation and inhibit equal and equitable learning opportunities;
·       Conducting more studies on the dilemmas confronting underachieving gifted Black students; and
·       Developing theories, and professional and personal views of giftedness that are sensitive to and responsive to culturally and racially different students.
       In gifted education years ago as a low-income Black student, I was an ‘oddity’, just as many Black and economically challenged students are even today. This book speaks to the paucity of research, theory, and practice currently available on Black students (gifted and potentially gifted) and determinants of their underachievement. Without adequate research and subsequent prevention and intervention, many gifted Black students will continue to underachieve and, thus, fail to reach their academic potential. This book is offered as a contribution to the limited data available relating social, cultural, familial, and psychological factors to achievement among Black students. Research that seeks to understand and then address social, psychological, familial, and cultural barriers to academic achievement is in great demand in our schools, gifted programs, and AP classes.

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The more we know about others, the less we make up.

 

http://www.jbhe.com/2013/09/stanford-study-finds-that-sharing-cultural-experiences-can-reduce-intergroup-prejudice/

Love Letter to White People

Why Teachers Must Join the Fight for Public Education. Now.

 

Anissa Weinraub, Teacher Action Group- Philadelphia

We are at a tipping point in Philadelphia.

I say this as a teacher, fully committed to the promise of public education for all the young people living in this city I love, who has felt the repeated stab of the School District’s systemic dysfunction and the State and City’s structural abandonment.

I say this as a teacher activist, who is engaged in the community-wide fight for public education.  I am a part of Teacher Action Group-Philadelphia (TAG) a member-run grassroots organization of educators working to strengthen our influence on the decisions that most affect us – how schools are run, funded, and governed – so that community control, equity, and fairness are back at the center of public education.

I say this as a community member, voter, and taxpayer, who is incensed by the political games being played to advance a neoliberal agenda that seeks to dispossess students of their right to a quality education and safety, communities of their public institutions and neighborhood stability, and workers of their hard-earned wages and workplace protections.

Indeed, we are at a tipping point where parents, students, teachers, and community members can no longer trust in a fantasy that the State, City, or School District have our best interests in mind.  We are waking up to see, instead, that the priorities of our so-called leaders are not our priorities, and therefore we find ourselves forced to take a stand and work collectively in ways that are very new to all of us.  

The Wake-Up Call

Here are a few snapshots of our most recent wake-up call:

  • On March 7th, 2013, contrary to the direct opposition of thousands of parents, students, educators, and citizens across the city, the School      District voted to close 23 schools in majority Black and Brown, working-class neighborhoods across Philadelphia, with another added to the list later in spring, bringing the number to 24.
  • On May 30th, 2013, against its own recognition of the harm it would cause hundreds of thousands of children in Philadelphia, the School District voted to pass a “Doomsday Budget” that would essentially eliminate all counselors, assistant principals, support staff, classroom aides, secretaries, art, music, sports, paper, books, planning time, and the list goes on, in every single school across the city.
  • On June 7th, 2013, knowing full well the impossibility of running a school with only a principal and some teachers, the School District sent out layoff notices to 3,783 teachers and staff members, eviscerating school communities and rendering them unable to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of students.

 

These are just a few of the most recent decisions made by our School Reform Commission (SRC), the appointed body who rubberstamps the operations of the School District of Philadelphia.  Indeed, these decisions amount to a calculated and continued acquiescence to the corporate education reform agenda by a body installed 12 years ago by then-Governor Republican Tom Ridge (of George W. Bush’s Homeland Security fame) to ‘manage’ our underwater District. Despite the promise of fiscal responsibility, the reform agenda has since driven us into an unprecedented budget deficit.

Indeed, under colonial-style State-control, our city school system is facing a manufactured fiscal crisis, ushered in through decades of inequitable funding, massive debt service, unfettered charter school expansion, and incredible mismanagement. The state and city are using this crisis as justification to continue its ‘shock and awe’ tactics of mass school closings, continued privatization of schools, and the gutting of nearly 20% of all the people who work every day in schools with our city’s young people.

Politicking with Children’s Lives

And how does this new political economy of urban education shake out where it really matters, with the hundreds of thousands of children desperately trying to get an education?

Until my most recent layoff – yes, I am one of the nearly 4,000 faces of the layoffs – I was teaching English and Expressive Arts at Bartram High School in Southwest Philadelphia, a school educating mostly African and African American, low-income teenagers.

Without wanting to fall into the stereotypes of “the comprehensive neighborhood school,” often painted by outsiders without any relationships within those schools, it is still important to recognize that the strains of generational poverty and institutional racism have a very real effect on my students.  They face having parents who are incarcerated, jobs that are scarce, housing that is shoddy, drugs being sold nearby, STD rates skyrocketing, healthcare that is unaffordable, and bullets being fired outside their windows.  Many of my students are living with very real trauma, few opportunities, and very little room to make a mistake.  And yet they are deeply funny, smart, insightful, compassionate, talented, and critical of the world around them.  They are indeed resilient.  And normal.  And extraordinary.  Just like teenagers in schools all across our city.

Working with my 11th and 12th grade students, I can see without a doubt the consequences of the past 13 years of NCLB’s accountability-without-resources policies, the push toward deprofessionalizing teaching and standardizing learning, and the sophistication of the mechanisms and infrastructure of the school-to-prison pipeline.  By and large the curriculum my students generally face (the curriculum that many of my colleagues are mandated and resigned to teach) does not ask them to think with the freedoms and creativity needed for deep academic engagement. They have to endure hours of mind-numbing test-prep during class time, and days of high-stakes testing for weeks of the year.  They have been socialized into low-order tasks, the very stuff of their schooling, and mistaking that for education.  Many thirst for something more, but they often get shut down by the brick wall of boredom or a punitive reaction against them “acting out.”  Mix that with a heightened school culture of criminalizing and policing them, and there’s no wonder why so many of our young people have become increasingly alienated from their own educations.

Said plainly, they have not had the educational opportunities that many of their peers across the country, or even just 10 miles outside the city, have had.  Not because they don’t deserve it, but because their very real needs have been overlooked and deemed unimportant by those who write the budgets.  They are being consigned to failure.

In Philadelphia in 2013, as the Governor, State Legislature, City Council, and Mayor all slash the funding that our kids need and deserve, and then try to balance their budgets on the backs of our students’ lives, our school communities, and the future of our city, their abandonment of democratic responsibility is egregious.   

Theirs is a failure of leadership.  And we are going to have to be the ones to wrestle back control.

The Growing Movement

This crisis has been caused by the misplaced priorities of profit over people which have thus far dominated our elected officials’ economic and political decisions, and it is up to all of us – parents, students, teachers, and citizens – to work together with a common vision to change our schools so that they serve and prepare all of our young people for their lives today and tomorrow. More than ever, we need the next generations of young people to be receiving real educations in safe and healthy schools, where they can build their skills and come up with creative ideas to solve the problems of the world they are inheriting.

And that’s why I say we’ve reached our tipping point.  We must pay attention, connect the dots, and not sit idly by while politicians, hedge fund managers, eduphilanthropists, and other corporate ‘experts’ dismantle public education forever. Too much is at stake.

That is why we’re seeing a growing movement take shape in Philadelphia. Thousands have been engaged in public protest – from student-led school walkouts to citywide pickets, from the takeover of many public meetings to hunger strikes.  Thousands more have been involved in crafting a community-based plan for the future of our school system.  And thousands more have been reached through community organizing strategies –  petitions, campaigns for directed political pressure, local community meetings, doorknocking, online hubs like facesofthelayoffs.org and #phillyeducation #underattack, and through everyday conversations between actual stakeholders.

We are, indeed, building the political awareness, shared consciousness, and ongoing strategies for a broad base of Philadelphians to get involved in engaging with the fight for community control of our public education system, and, ultimately, in determining the future direction of our city.

Fighting Back as Teachers

At the Teacher Action Group, we are working to cultivate teacher leaders who can participate to shape the fight in multiple ways – in our classrooms, in our schools, and in the broader community.  We are continuing to develop a broad membership of reflective, dynamic, and aware educators who possess a strong political analysis and the tools for collective action.  TAG’s work spans peer professional development through our political education programs, collective study groups, and public events; advocating and building coalition through Decarcerate PA and the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools; and direct organizing campaigns across the city and in individual schools.  After a few years trying to teach, organize, and fight back to save our public school system, we have learned vital lessons that underscore our work. The following is a synthesis of what we’ve learned:

We need a positive agenda.
We have to get honest that our public schools have been under-serving and miseducating our young people and their communities for decades.  To merely call for ‘saving our schools’ or ‘stopping privatization’ doesn’t speak to the larger need for an overhaul of our schools in order to be sites of democracy and fairness.  We need to stop the corporate takeover, yes, but it can’t all just be reactionary; we need to be working to build a positive vision for what schools can look like.  When we place the issues that our students, their families, and our colleagues care about at the center (like curriculum, true safety, and restorative approaches to discipline), then we’ll be able to create stronger alliances among us all.

We need new leadership.
From the State’s shameful budget priorities, to the City’s unwillingness to fight for the funding our students deserve, to the District’s complicity in the decimation of our public schools – our leaders have failed and abandoned us. Therefore, true leadership is going to have to come from us.  The sooner we get clear that no one is coming to save us, and, in fact, that so many are here to harm us with their political brinksmanship, we will have a much better chance taking back control at all levels.  We need to realize our own power to push elected officials to make different decisions, or we need to elect them out of office and grow the kinds of leaders who will.

We need to understand the larger picture.
What we’re seeing is an extension of a privatization agenda bought and paid for by some of the richest individuals in our nation. We need to do our homework to understand who is pulling the purse strings and shaping the destruction of public education; who is coming in from outside our city to engage in modern-day carpet-bagging, dispossessing our young people of their right to a quality education; and, who is getting money and favor while our poor children are relegated into substandard, under-resourced schools.  Further, we need see the decimation of public education in the larger political economic context of contemporary United States where private interests are aiming to break the strength of all types of public sector unions nationwide, eliminate well-paying jobs by downsizing and forcing lower wages, and usher in the hand-over of public services to private companies.

We need to work with a framework of Anti-Racism.
Fifty-nine years after Brown vs. Board of Education, we in Philadelphia are still facing the continuation of the historic fight for civil rights. We must rekindle the fight for racial justice and push back against this current form of segregation and its locking-in of a tiered system of education where it is a privilege to go to functioning schools.  From the systematic disinvestment in low-income Black and Brown neighborhoods to the criminalization and disproportionate incarceration of people of color, our students and communities exist within a broader landscape of institutionalized racism.  Therefore, to build the alliances we need in order to build the world we want, our work must be grounded in the larger project of fundamentally changing these systems of power.  This means grounding our work across issues – like linking the funding of the prison system to the defunding of our school system, pushing back against the increased profiling and breaking apart of our immigrant students’ families, and supporting neighborhood efforts for community control of land use to stop gentrification and the displacement of our students’ families. 

We need to see ourselves as organizers.
Let’s be honest.  Most of us didn’t become teachers because we wanted to organize against international capital and neoliberal elites; most of us love young people, the joys of discovery, and getting better at teaching and learning.  Unfortunately, the truth of this moment is that there is a coordinated agenda to strip our city’s neighborhoods of their public schools and force our students’ (and our own) ‘failure’ as a justification for their takeover.  To stop this agenda, we are going to have to build up the numbers of people actively involved, make demands that force the hands of decision-makers, and ultimately shift the power structures in our education system.  This means thinking of ourselves in new ways to bring our colleagues, students, and school communities into the fight: injecting new ideas into our staff meetings and building committees, helping facilitate empowered spaces for youth voice in our schools, connecting people we have relationships with to the larger movement that we’re growing, and choosing curriculum that connects our classrooms to the larger issues affecting Philadelphia.

Public Schools Mean Our Schools

We have reached the tipping point. A movement is growing in Philadelphia, and teachers are a part of it. Teacher Action Group will continue our work to develop the kinds of teacher leaders who are engaged in the fight at every level, so that we can look back and see that the Summer of 2013 was indeed the moment when the levees broke, we awoke the sleeping giant of community power in Philadelphia, and parents, students, teachers and community members reclaimed control over our public schools. 

Get in touch with Anissa:  @MsWeinraub or anissa.weinraub[at]gmail.com
Check out TAG’s work: @TAGPhilly and  www.tagphilly.org and http://www.facesofthelayoffs.org

Anissa Weinraub is a teacher / organizer / artist / full-time-pep-rally who lives and works in Philadelphia.  For the past 7 years she has taught at two different Kensington High Schools, Science Leadership Academy, West Philadelphia High School, and Bartram High School, but is currently facing her second lay-off from the District.  She is a Core Member of the Teacher Action Group-Philadelphia.

 

http://www.urbanedjournal.org/archive/volume-10-issue-1-summer-2013/why-teachers-must-join-fight-public-education-now

State of HBCUs

CARMICHAEL SPEAKS TO STUDENTS

Two nights after peacefully demonstrating for the right to bowl in a segregated Orangeburg, S.C. bowling alley, Robert Lee Davis lay on the blood-filled campus infirmary grasping for life.  Years later he recalled, “The sky lit up.  Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! And students were hollering, yelling and running. I went into a slope near the front end of the campus, and I kneeled down.  I got up to run, and I took one step that’s all I can remember.  I got hit in the back.” Davis was one of the fortunate survivors that night, now remembered as the Orangeburg Massacre, which took place on February 8, 1968 on the campus of South Carolina State University.  Twenty-seven other students shot that night survived. Three students including, Sam Hammond, Delano Middleton, and Henry Smith did not.  These students gave their lives for the movement.  Undoubtedly, the legacy of students…

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Racism by various countries!

The World’s Most and Least Racist Countries

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Updated Thursday, May 16, 2013, at 3:57 PM

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We’d say answering “people of a different race” to a question about who you would not want as neighbors is a good enough measure of intolerance. And that’s the World Values Survey data the Washington Post‘s Max Fischer used to create a color-coded  global map of racial attitudes across the globe.  Check it out up close here.

Some of the findings: 

 Anglo and Latin countries most tolerant. People in the survey were most likely to embrace a racially diverse neighbor in the United Kingdom and its Anglo former colonies (the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and in Latin America. The only real exceptions were oil-rich Venezuela, where income inequality sometimes breaks along racial lines, and the Dominican Republic, perhaps because of its adjacency to troubled Haiti. Scandinavian countries also scored high.

• India, Jordan, Bangladesh and Hong Kong by far the least tolerant. In only three of 81 surveyed countries, more than 40 percent of respondents said they would not want a neighbor of a different race. This included 43.5 percent of Indians, 51.4 percent of Jordanians and an astonishingly high 71.8 percent of Hong Kongers and 71.7 percent of Bangladeshis…

• Racial tolerance low in diverse Asian countries. Nations such as Indonesia and the Philippines, where many racial groups often jockey for influence and have complicated histories with one another, showed more skepticism of diversity. This was also true, to a lesser extent, in China and Kyrgyzstan. There were similar trends in parts of sub-Saharan Africa….

• Pakistan, remarkably tolerant, also an outlier. Although the country has a number of factors that coincide with racial intolerance – sectarian violence, its location in the least-tolerant region of the world, low economic and human development indices – only 6.5 percent of Pakistanis objected to a neighbor of a different race. This would appear to suggest Pakistanis are more racially tolerant than even the Germans or the Dutch.

 

Read more at the Washington Post.

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