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Radical: Fighting to Put Students First by Michelle Rhee -- Book Review

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I share this conversation from Facebook.  It is in reaction to my reaction to Kam's review of Rhee's book.  I thought it would be interesting to share -- since everyone is not on Facebook (for now) and it is a rare occassion when I spark an interesting conversation with smart people (like here).
It is interesting how many of these reformers come in, arguably making things worse, leave and are heralded as great. They go on to write books and secure lucrative speaking engagements. If there is a teacher or administrator from a DC or New York City Public School who believes Rhee has made a lasting, positive, impact please let us know.
Radical: Fighting to Put Students First by Michelle Rhee -- Book Review.  

Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Troy:  Rhee was controversial, and I didn't agree with all her beliefs and
    methods. But she definitely didn't make things worse. Of course, I'm not
    a teacher, just a concerned parent. My kid is in DC public schools, and
    I frequently visit the city's toughest schools through Writers in the
    Schools. I wholeheartedly believe in education reform. Radical education

Tamara Coleman-Brown
I'm not sure about her, but you have to admit that our current educational
    system is failing.We can't continue to do the same things expecting
    different results. What worked yrs ago apparently isn't valid anymore.

Chris Burns
Troy, I've had this conversation so many times, but it always leads to these
    things for me... It is not the school system or the schools that are
    failing, it's the lack of parental involvement, lack of student
    motivation, and teachers who are not capable of engaging the students in
    a more modern way. What I mean by modern is that kids no longer have
    the ability to sit still and be taught without the teacher actually
    being part teacher/entertainer/motivational speaker/entrepreneur
    instructor. A great teacher can overcome the shortcomings in the system,
    a moderate teacher is going to need help and can't be in a situation
    greater than their talents. English courses have to teach Shakespeare,
    but to access it the teachers have to be well versed in current poets
    who actually utilize meter and form. Math teachers have to connect math
    to computer technology and explain why math is the gateway to millions
    of dollars in programming and coding. Kids are enamored by the visual
    culture of wealth and riches and if what is being taught doesn't in some
    way generate a connection to being able to be successful, not just
    knowledge for the sake of knowledge kids tune out. I could go on and on
    about this because while I said it boils down to a few things, those few
    things have roots in deeper issues. However, a strong involved parent
    can counter even the worst school system.

Troy Johnson
   Dolen did you go to public school for your primary education? If so how was it?

    Tamara  I'm not a teacher, though I currently teach a GED prep class and have
    given countless workshops and seminars or a wide range of subjects, but
    it seems to me the problem is that we keep reinventing the wheel. For
    example, schools have changed the way they teaching reading (dropping
    phonics), getting rid of rote memorization of vocabulary words, even
    eliminating grammar in favor of picking it up in the content of reading
    and mixing kids of widely different abilities into the same class. It
    seems students are increasingly victimized by any newfangled idea some
    inexperienced 20 something dreams up. And don't get me started on
    measurement systems like ARIS or high stakes test with completely
    pervert the incentives...

    Chris  I hear you man. But I'm not so quick to let schools of the hook. To
    be clear I lay most of the blame with the school's system's leadership
    not the teachers or even principals. Consider this "radical" thought;
    parental involvement is overrated. Parents don't have to help with
    homework, don't have to show up at the school for every event, they
    don't even have to be educated themselves for the kids to achieve in
    school. It is the unfortunate circumstance we find ourselves in a
    situation such that the parent HAS to be ACTIVELY involved in their kids
    education for the hope of a positive outcome. The problem is most
    parents, particularly in our most needy communities, are not prepared
    for this challenge -- due largely to the educations they received. It
    is a self-perpetuating problem.

Tamara Coleman-Brown
The school system isn't failing?? We have hundreds of students that do well
    in high school, but get to college that can't test out of basic
    educational skills. When special needs programs have tripled, when all
    they really needed was a better understanding.When there's no tutoring
    available unless you're failing a class. Where schools are segregated
    based our income.I can go on and on.. Schools fundamental duty is to
    prepare students for a successful future although where you live is a
    bigger determinant than we believe.

Tamara Coleman-Brown
Troy, I agree.

Troy Johnson
Tamara I guess I should be clear in how I define "failing". In NY City, for
    example, 40% of Black boys get a HS diploma in 4 years. Most of those
    that do are ill prepared for a vocation or college. The best public
    schools high schools have single digit percentages of Black boys; in a
    city where the Black population is better than 25%. This situation is
    reflected in virtually nonexistent corporate exempt employment and
    college graduation rates particularly in the the STEM courses (both
    colleges and employers complain about a "pipeline crisis". I would even
    go as far to say this impacts incarceration rates and the stability of
    families in these communities. So for the community that I can about
    the failure is so abysmal is should be considered a crime.

    go back 40 years in the same NY City environment where the conditions
    were FAR worse financially and the City was one of the most dangerous in
    the country the schools were better. higher graduation rates, more
    Black kids in the specialized high schools, vocational schools, arts
    & music program, more athletic teams, an so on...

Tamara Coleman-Brown
It is a crime but as long as we continue to blame parents and students we
    will forever be blinded from the truth. Institutional racism is alive a
    well, I'm sure you've read, The New Jim Crow where it examines the
    issues we're discussing. So, do you agree that schools need reformed?

Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Troy Johnson: Yes, I went to public schools my entire life. I'm a product of the
    Memphis City Schools, yet another citywide system in dire need of major
    reform. I loved my school largely due to its racial and socioeconomic
    diversity. Even then, I knew these things were important to me. As I
    write this, I'm thinking of our phenomenal principal, who missed his
    calling as a motivational speaker. Without ever raising a paddle (as
    they did in the old days), he was clear that fighting would not be
    tolerated (in those days, guns weren't the issue they are now). Gosh,
    this is such a tough subject, largely because the solutions are
    divergent depending on the region, student body, school culture, student
    needs, and available resources. I say, let's take it one school at a

Troy Johnson
Dolen is say, simply, lets go back and do whatever your public school was
    doing. I'm certain your school was not unique. I feel the same way
    about my high school and Jr High School too; and I went to high school
    in the 70's.

    Speaking of HS violence I think everyone here will be touched by an "This American Life" program on the subject: http://aalbc.it/hhsp2
   Harper High School, Part Two | This American Life

Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Someone just told me about this program today!!!! Now I must watch it.

Chris Burns
To Tamara and Troy, I blame parents and students because after teaching
    for over 17 years at every level except elementary, and in every income
    level, and at the collegiate level as a tenure track professor, I have
    proof of what a great teacher can do. A great teacher is able to
    overcome a poor administration, lack of funding, poverty and the
    systemic issues that are prevalent to run a successful program and
    improve the ability of students who are considered at risk or special
    needs (special needs meaning that people gave up on the kid although the
    kid is capable.) Troy proves my point in blaming parents and kids in
    stating that 40 years ago, in much worse situations, the graduation rate
    was higher and students were attaining an education and learning. Troy
    could even move that to 25 years ago and the numbers would be better
    than today. THE SYSTEM has always been in place and Blacks overcame the
    system to earn their place into society, so your complaint that schools
    are failing and the system is at fault, I consider that a copout. A
    parent does not have to be educated or know the homework a kid is doing
    when a parent is present. 40 years ago fathers may not have been in
    abundance, but there was always someone in the home. Children were held
    accountable. Even in the worst income situations (hood ghetto, whatever)
    children were held accountable and parents SIDED with the teachers.
    Today parents will fight teachers, administrators and stand behind their
    kids before even getting the real story in many instances. Also,
    because of the hell that Blacks went through to be educated, Blacks were
    able to attain jobs and wealth that isn't comparable to the station
    that Blacks were in in the past. Now that Blacks can pursue more income
    or wealth, the children are the ones being left behind and not made
    accountable because there isn't a Big Momma, a father or mother in the
    house holding the children accountable. A great teacher can only do so
    much before getting burned out. Without the influence and care of a
    parent, the likelihood of success diminishes for kids. I am not naive
    about systemic issues, but I'm a realist who has been in the fire and in
    the worst schools in different regions of the country and I know what a
    good teacher can do, when a child has the support of a parent. Blaming
    the system is a waste of time and accomplishes nothing. Throwing money
    at the education system won't help, throwing computers in the school
    won't help. Accountable parenting (which is obviously hindered by
    societal issues) should be the foundation on which reform is made, but
    that is impossible. Sorry for being longwinded.

Troy Johnson
   No worries about being long winded your perspective as a full time, veteran educator in good to read.

    A "great teacher" is rare (otherwise they would not be "great"). We
    cannot hope for a system full of great teachers. We have to work with
    the available resources that will include average and mediocre teachers.
    In the context of a complete institution this is fine. No one will
    argue the benefits of a great teacher.

    "THE SYSTEM" Chris has changed and that is the basis of my argument. I've
    watched lower standards be applied to our kids in the name of
    compassion. I've watched red pens be cast aside as not to offend the
    fragile sensibilities of students. As a result our kids are ill prepared
    to meet the challenges of life

    Lets look at the good teachers: How many good, bright teachers do you know
    who left the job quickly, or who are completely demoralized and burnt
    out due to the bureaucracy itself? Over burdened by dumb initiatives
    and mandates which changes with the administration. Often the
    principals and teachers KNOW these things will not work but they are
    COMPELLED to implement them.

    Do you think Rhee, for example, left DC teachers and administrators better off, happier as a result of her tenure?

    Parents can only do so much. The PTA (remember those) is not going to go into
    walk into a school and demand an art program when the school is mandated
    by the state to get students to pass a standardized test.

    Again the parents themselves are a product of a crappy "school system", as
    were their parents and their parents before them. I'm not saying these
    are bad people, they have been victimized by the government, in much the
    same way millions were victimized by predatory mortgage lenders or
    cigarette companies.

    Parents fight the teachers because the system is perceived as the enemy.
    Understand, it is the same rationale many people in the community have
    for not trusting the police. It is a natural reaction to a system that
    is doing you a disservice -- hostile even. Sure the anger and
    frustration may be misdirected. But the people are not stupid. They
    eventually learn they were done a disservice and they are very angry.
    Does this make sense to you?

    Throwing money at the education system won't help, throwing computers
    in the school won't help. There is ample data to support this.

    This might sound cynical, paranoid even, but I beginning to believe the
    government actually wants schools to fail. So that the public will
    become so outraged that they demand all schools become privatized. Of
    course this would be a financial windfall of corporation and they’ll get
    to educate students to do whatever job they need.

Donna Whiteman
Troy,  thank you. well said and not at all paranoid. Though well spent money
    does make a difference.. Many of the "good" public schools are thriving
    on large sums of parental dollars.

Chris Burns
Well presented argument that on the surface is logical and correct. However,
    the testing and mandated guidelines that have been set forth, only
    appear to lower standards. I can only speak from my experience, but that
    experience extends from being a teacher and high school coach in San
    Diego, in the poorest, most diverse school in San Diego, to the poorest
    rural area in Benton County Mississippi. In the San Diego school over
    70% of the students at this school were second language and all lived in
    the City Heights/Southeast San Diego area of he city which has one of
    the highest gang rates in Southern Cali. These students were immigrants
    were all on free lunch which is the measuring stick for Title 1 funding.
    Anyway, those students had to take all of the tests and they had
    programs removed and still those immigrant students moved on completed
    college in many instances. They did not drop out of school. I'm trying
    to understand why the SYSTEM didn't fail those kids and I don't think
    you can explain that to me. On to my experience teaching in
    Mississippi. If you can find a county or city near you or anywhere that
    is at the same poverty level of the school I taught at in Mississippi I
    look forward to seeing. This school was 100% Black. I chose to leave a
    charter school as a favor to a friend who was terrified of the school
    being taken over by the state due to their test scores decreasing for 3
    years straight by 18%. Mississippi's English State test is hands down
    one of the most difficult standardized test I have seen. It was in no
    way lowered standards. If anything it challenged the students to learn
    as much as possible. At this school I came in at the midway point of the
    year after Christmas break. I was given the book for the test and told
    by my peer/principal to save these kids (basically to save the school). I
    only two months to do so and for the students to get used to my
    teaching methods. I had to actually teach 9-12th grade since it was a
    small rural school. The 10th grade class had to take the SATP. I
    implemented strategies within the framework given by both the state,
    district and the school. However in teaching to the test, I also taught
    the students screenwriting, how to write poetry, how to write their
    research papers and how to use scansion to analyze poetry. I didn't care
    that these kids had people who dropped out before them. I didn't care
    that they supposedly were behind 3 years, I dug in and taught these kids
    like first year college freshman. What does the SYSTEM have to do with
    that? Nothing. Long story short, they took that test and for the first
    year in 4 years they increase 36% passing the test, to 70% passing. In
    the fall, the rest of the students that didn't pass in the spring passed
    in the fall. That class of 2012 was the first class at the school since
    standardized testing to have a 100% graduation rate. I left that school
    after that and went back to the college level. I write all of this to
    say, I used the old raggedy books the school gave me and a chalk board.
    The SYSTEM is a crutch. I know that racism and the commodification of
    the schools are in effect. I know that the barriers are out there, but
    after 17 years of education at every level, I have come to realize that
    if the parenting is not there nothing, nothing will fix the schools. A
    school only has a child for 8 hours out of the day. When they return to
    their homes those are the influences and characteristics that the
    students take on. The lack of nutrition, the culture of poverty, all of
    those things have always been with Black people and for years we strived
    to overcome and accomplish great things. In the last 20 years almost
    every win has been nullified by the crack epidemic, jail system, and the
    nihilistic mindstate of the new Black person. If by SYSTEM you are
    stating that the choices that Black men make in impregnating and leaving
    Black mothers to raise children on their own then I agree. If you are
    saying SYSTEM and you mean the Black family that has made and doesn't
    return to help others then I agree. If you are saying the SYSTEM and you
    are saying these false prophets in the pulpit who are now opening
    schools to get that government funding and still taking tithes and not
    producing jobs for their congregations then I agree. But the schools are
    what they are because the people in them are afraid to be great. The
    kids demonize intelligence. The teachers demonize the kids. The
    administration demonizes the teachers, and the school boards sit on
    their hands with six figure salaries and argue over meaningless titles.
    That part of the system sucks, but you can't tell me that one dedicated
    parent can't make a way for their kids.

Chris Burns
Excuse the mistakes I was typing fast.

Troy Johnson
Chris I'm going to have to print this out and get back to you tomorrow. I'm
    trying to get the February eNewsletter mailed tomorrow morning. Peace

Chris Burns
I understand Troy. I know I'm writing a lot. I'm going to share a paper
    with you in a moment that one of my students wrote when I asked her what
    was wrong with the schools. I think her ideas were right on point. This
    student is about to graduate from Texas Southern and wrote this paper
    her senior year. I'll tag you. Peace

Troy Johnson
Chris,  your experience is terrific and highly commendable. The problem is that your experience however lengthy and varied is merely anecdotal. We can trade personal experiences all day and still not shed any meaningful light on the subject.

    When you related your experience with the immigrants students you failed to account for the fact that they were immigrants. There is plenty of data to explain why immigrants groups do better than native American and how after a generation or two these differences evaporate.

    When you related your successful experience in Mississippi you did not mention anything about the changed behaviors of the parent in raising test scores. You wrote a great deal about what YOU did as a teacher to make a difference. Then you concluded by saying, "... if the parenting is not there nothing, nothing will fix the schools." I think if you truly felt parents were such a big factor you would have shared something about what the PARENTS did differently and what the impact was.

    More importantly, as with the less than effective Teach for America program, you came in for a brief period made a impact and then left. Usually what happens next is things go back to the way they were before often getting worse as a dependency formed is abruptly removed.

    We can certainly agree on two things;

    "The [bad] teachers demonize the kids. The [bad] administration demonizes the teachers, and the [bad] school boards sit on their hands with six figure salaries and argue over meaningless titles. " Yes, that is the system I'm talking about and it starts with at the top.

    "one dedicated parent can't make a way for their kids." I, for example, sent my kids to private school. Do you realize in places like Baltimore and NY City for example anyone with the resources sends their kids to private school?

    you also noticed that the people with the greatest impact on the pubic school systems do not send their own children these shitty schools. If they are not in a private school they live in a communities with taxes and real estate so expensive that the public schools there are indistinguishable from a private school.

    As a result these people have no problems experimenting with our Black kids. We should ALL be outraged, but most of are too selfish to care     about anyone but ourselves...

    Also, Chris did you understand my explanation for why parents give teachers a hard way to go?


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I like Michelle Rhee
I think she sees the problem as it is and is SINCERE (not just playing political games) in her efforts of trying to improve the quality of education so many children are getting in urban America.
I also think the fact that she's Asian American has something to do with this as she doesn't have a vested interest in humiliating Black children or seeing them fail.

Besides being a tax-based system which favors the wealthiest families, the problem with most innercity public school districts is in management.
You have:

a) Too many White people who KNOW what it takes to operate a decent system but drag their feet or flat out refuse to do it because they secretly hope the system fails anyway.;

b  )Too many sincere but unqualified Black and Brown people who want better schools for their children and try little local programs to make a difference but lack the money, power, and knowledge to improve things on thier own.

Ever since Brown vrs Board of Education when the Feds started de-segregating the schools, the right-wing have been trying to destroy the public educational system to maintain inequality in education.
Many of the things they used to teach children in middleschool, you now have to go to a technical college and pay to learn.

If you notice, since the 50s every year more money and programs are cut as they slowly dismantle the system and promote private schools, charter schools, and alternative schools otherwise known as LEGAL SEGREGATION.

M-PACT believes we should do away with the district by district tax-based system anyway and have a nationalized and more STANDARDIZED public educational system.
That way all children will have access to the same opportunity of education despite their income or what region they live in.

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Schools as we know them are obsolete. They need to be re-vamped and made relevant to today's lifestyle. It has become a feasible idea to do away with class rooms that are faltering under the tuteledge of frazzled teachers. 


A child should be isolated and encapsulated.   Alone in a confined pod,  his only tools should be a computer and a set of CDs  containing the sights and sounds of instruction especially devised for this format. Learning should be a self taught trial and error method that allows each pupil to advance at his own pace without any pressure until he has acquired a thorough grasp of the subject he is studying,  and can demonstrate his comprehension by scoring  a  passing grade on a test. Manual skills should also be a part of this curriculum. 


Praise for achievement, and incentives that take the form of recreational pursuits on the computer could be offered as rewards. Breaks allowing students to relax and socialize with their peers in an open atmosphere could also be part of the routine.


In time, as each child's individual abilities begin to emerge, different curricula should be in place, allowing  him to reach his greatest potential by steering him toward the area that he shows an affinity for. 


 Educating children can no longer be left to the ineffective methods that are reflective of a befuddled  system rather than a progressive approach that computers make possible. It's time to take advantage of what has permeated every other aspect of our life  and start  electronically programing our children's minds to become productive and informed  and skilled.  The only way to do this is to put them in a controlled environment, one that will encourage and enable the learning experience by freeing them from the distractions that classmates relentlessly subject each other to. Make learning a solitary experience wherein the student is the prime participant in his own education. 


Since public schools can't depend on parents to step up, as surrogote parents, schools have to adopt a home schooling atmosphere and Montessori techniques to get results.

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Pioneer, corporal punish in the schools is a bad idea because; (1) in the vast majority of cases it is a bad idea anyway; (2) Why would you want to give permission to an individual to spank a child when they have not demonstrated an ability to teach that child; and (3) spanking a kid in 2013 would likely escalate catastrophically as both kids and parents are very likely to fight back in 2013.


Cynique, quite a few school had adopted the concept of a school of one.  Where each student is given the option of several modalities including computer based, tutoring and classroom instruction based upon skill level and temperament.  


Of course individualized, one on one attention is superior to group instruction.  Whether a computer can provide a high level of educations is questionable unless it is a really sophisticated program one that interactive and can respond to questions. 


Sure a program can provide instructions on how to complete a task.  But again real education is much more than teaching kids how to had fractions or memorize dates.  Education includes comprehension and reasoning, I'm not sure a computer can do that.  Computer can not help foster and develop creativity. 


Computer are great tools to help a teacher by supplementing classroom or individual instruction, but we still need teachers.

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The conversation on Facebook is over.  Here is a continuation of the comments I posted here on Thursday:


Chris Burns

Yes. I actually had a conversation with my wife last night and she explained to me that I can not separate the actually things in place from the people who participate in those "things". I actually read your explanation in regard to why parents give teachers a hard way to go, but having been in the situation so often where the parents themselves take pride in their ignorant behavior and watching how one disruptive child can completely destroy the classroom environment. I simply have the hardest time understanding how the Somalian, Sudanese, Congolese students who were in Southeast San Diego and did not speak the language in 6th grade, ended up in the top 20th percentile at the end of high school and became college graduates. These are kids who didn't even have shoes and definitely didn't have enough money to eat regularly in some instances. What they did have was pride and excitement about education. What is wrong with Black kids who have been here? I'm not naive about societal factors, but at what point do our kids begin to take pride in being smart? I agree that there has to be a solution for the masses and I realize that I am the exception. Although I taught high school I was never trained as a high school teacher. I was a college professor first so my engagement in the classroom can not be compared to teachers who were trained in certification programs. My wife explained that to me last night and stated that is the problem with the SYSTEM, I agreed. She went as far as saying that my exception should be the rule and the school system can be changed basically by getting more men into the system as teachers. According to the NCES "Among full-time and part-time public school teachers in 2007–08, some 76 percent of public school teachers were female, 44 percent were under age 40, and 52 percent had a master’s or higher degree. Compared with public school teachers, a lower percentage of private school teachers were female (74 percent), were under age 40 (39 percent), and had a master’s or higher degree (38 percent.

In addition, among both males and females, 83 percent of public school teachers were White, 7 percent each were Black or Hispanic, 1 percent each were Asian or of two or more races, and less than one percent each were Pacific Islander or American Indian/Alaska Native in 2007–08." I think we both are passionate and I know that I am blinded by experience, but I again refer to the fact that the individual has more to do with this problem than it seems. I gave 17 years to the SYSTEM, I think more men need to forgo those well paying careers in various fields and go back into the classroom. I think the system should be changed to allow for work experience to be the basis for teaching which removes the need for "certification" which places a 24 year old white woman in a class with people who don't look like her. I get it now. The SYSTEM definitely has to be repaired. I just don't think it will which means that Blacks have to reevaluate their priorities in regard to their children and sacrifice careers and money to give to their kids so the next generation can be better. That's the way it was and that's the way it should be.

Troy Johnson

We are certainly both passionate about this subject and of course I'm familiar with your work (http://aalbc.com/authors/christopher-d-burns.html). We are all impacted by our experiences but we also understand our experiences don't shed much light on what is actually happening -- beyond our limited environments. Our experiences do help us interpret that data and create stories to explain it.

I understand about African immigrants. I used to go on recruiting trip for Goldman Sachs. I'm a Black guy with graduate degrees in Engineering and Business so they would send me to Howard or some other "black" school. If my degrees with from Ivy League schools I might have been sent o Standford or Harvard (but that is another story). Anywho, Goldman only wanted to see students with 3.5 GPA's or better. I remember the last time I interviewed students, about 7 years ago. My entire slate of interviews were with Black men -- not one was born in the US. They were all Nigerian or from the Caribbean. In this particular instance these cats were smarter than ME LOL!

Trust me when I tell you the unspoken believe was that African Black are actually smarter than American Blacks. I take it to mean if African Blacks can achieve on par with anyone else on Planet Earth, so can American Blacks. Long story short, I saw fewer and fewer American born Blacks in senior roles in the firm. Part is racism, par is class-ism, part is the "pipeline crisis", part is a believe American Black are not very sharp, part is a poor education, it is a convoluted problem but firmly entrenched and virtually impossible to reverse.

As a result, a company like a Goldman Sachs, headquartered in NY City can claim a diverse environment, but have almost Black men from NY City in VP roles or higher. This is not to bash Goldman, specifically, but I worked for them. The other Wall Street firms I worked for were the same.

There is no public discussion about any of this because their are so few people in position to even know there is a problem -- further we have too few platforms to made anyone aware of the issues so we just watch murder rates creep up and graduation rates go down without an apparent ideas on what we can do collectively. So we fend for ourselves...

Now I'm not convinced we have to have Black men in the classroom to educate students, but I do know with so few Black men in the classroom, the potential talent pool is greatly reduced. But the problem is compounded by the fact that so fewer Black men are qualified to teach -- as a consequence of THEIR poor education. But that is not the only problem.

I have three college degrees and a wealth of corporate and entrepreneurial experience. The students in my current GED class think I'm a great teacher. Do you know many hoops I would have to jump through to become a NY City public school teacher -- far more than I'm willing to encounter. Besides, after I become a teacher I'm not sure I can deal with the bureaucracy I read and hear so much about. My wife is a teacher and I know a lot of teachers -- I get an ear full.

So not only does the SYSTEM reduce their potential talent pool with despicable educational outcomes they also discourage talent from entering the field.

Chris Burns

I think this last post is the beginning of a much needed book on education. I'm down to write a chapter. As a Prologue your last post is clear and accurate and completely changes my perception of the discussion; along with my wife explaining a few things to me. I actually owe another brother an apology because I recently ranted against comments he was making in regard to this exact same topic. I think the Goldman Sachs discussion is a microcosm of the problem. Jeramie Tate, I get it a little better now. I guess the final statement is how do we begin to move beyond our conversations. I'm one of the burned out ones and I'm not going back into the classroom. I also agree that the hoops for certification limit the talent pool. What can be done?

Jeramie Tate

@Chris after reading these post. It's amazing how people I don't know expressed the same thoughts and similar experiences. Is there really a so called black community or is it a state of anomie? In either case, how does one survive?


@Tamara black folks are mad at me because I say America was built on white supremacy and racism, which the system still promotes. Black folks never ask why are they taught they are descendants of slaves the day they are born. My son asked me why was Roots on again last week. I told him it was to brainwash people. Chris Burns here is one of my facts Roots is a lie. Alex Haley plagiarized much of it from a story " The Afrikan" I think by Harold Corlander. He won a law suit against Haley, but black folks thinking it's a true story. People won't blame the system or institutionalized racism , but can't see what is out there that make so called blacks hate themselves from day one. They have blacks so twisted that we call FREE people runaway slaves. What type of crap is that?

Troy Johnson

Jeramie, everyone I have ever related the Alex Haley story to including a few educators were completely oblivious to it.

I tend to look at America being built on the premise of an elite class of people. Sure most are "white" but even the racial designation is an artificial construct used to pit the rest of us against each other. Most of the homes lost in the Mortgage related criminal activities belonged to white people.

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Bottom line is that "experience is the best teacher".  The function of schools is to equip the younger generation with the basic skills necessary to survive in an arena where experience becomes the name of the game.  Schools are just one facet of preparing a child to absorb the benefits of experience.  In a perfect world, institutions of learning would produce optimal results.   But in reality, we are dealing with the variables and imperfections  which are embodied in a teacher.   That's why I give great props to the impersonable consistency of a computer.  And acquiring  expertise on a computer,  in itself,  teaches a child how to think. I disagree that computers don't foster creativity; they enable it. 


The modern trend points to a day  when teachers will just be relegated to being supervisers and programmers and coordinators. A child  captivated by a computer doesn't need constant discipline.  


Of course, as in every other area, replacing people with machines has the dangerous potential for mind control.  But computers are inevitably becoming an integral part of progress and you can't stop progress.  We can only consider the alternative and hope for the best. 

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Cynique I'm going to run with my response in a separate discussion as I have some very strong options about creativity computers, education and learning. It may take some time for me to get to it.  But I will.


Basically you really need to know quite a bit before a computer can be a useful tool -- otherwise you are really a slave to it...

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Pioneer, corporal punish in the schools is a bad idea because; (1) in the vast majority of cases it is a bad idea anyway; (2) Why would you want to give permission to an individual to spank a child when they have not demonstrated an ability to teach that child; and (3) spanking a kid in 2013 would likely escalate catastrophically as both kids and parents are very likely to fight back in 2013.


One of the biggest mistakes of reasonable people is assuming that everyone else responds to reason.

Most little children and even some adults don't respond to reason or rational, they only respond to pain and pleasure.  Which means if they do something socially unacceptable they must get some sort of concrete punishment they can feel rather than simply trying to appeal to their sense of shame....or lack there of.

The quality of education as well as the safety of other children shouldn't be compromised for the sake of some ineffective experimental form of discipline that we now know doesn't work and creates little monsters in the class room.

My ideal school is one that acts as a "surrogate" that a parent can trust to teach and discipline their children in their temporary absence.

This includes properly disciplinine them.


We KNOW that most little children need to be spanked from time to time when they misbehave, this isn't rocket science.

Better for the teacher to spank them as children than for the police to shoot them down as adults.

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((Pioneer takes a few puffs on his pipe while contemplating how to say this without getting alienated or possible banned from the site))

I take a totally different position from all of this "corporate conditioning" that focuses on excessive education and the overuse of technology in teaching.

Much of it proves to be a waste of money and resources anyway.

The biblical term of not throwing pearls to swine comes to mind.

This may not be the politically correct thing to say but most people aren't cut out for higher education, they should focus on and be satisfied with a working-class related career that allows them to make a decent living for themselves and their families.

It is for that reason that I think we need to bring certain cognative  tests back in highschool so that we can determine who would be better off receiving further academic training for careers that require higher education like medicine and engineering, who would be better off learning a skilled trade or working in agriculture, and who should be satisfied in the service industry and manufacturing and don't need further education.

Not to DENY anyone who wants to further their education (at their own expense) but so we don't turn out useless degrees like apple-cider mills.


This type of society (post industrial capitalistic) works best when the majority of the population consists of a large thriving workingclass that can support itself.

A society of big headed intellectuals with useless degrees with no one willing or even able to do physical work is a society doomed for failure.

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Pioneer I have not come across an opinion expressed here that would result in getting banned. You have nothing to fear.


I agree with your assessment on appealing to people with reason, as I've at that many times here.  I also know that most people are more easily swayed with emotions or lies that sounds good.  .


Sure you can spank people to get them to behave in a desired fashion on occasion.  But do you really and truly believe that is the BEST way to get a desired outcome?  We also know that spanking does not work on all children or work all the time. 


Why for God's sake would you use the same tactic used by a plantation overseer in the classroom?!  Should we really be spanking some 18 year old female high school senior when they talk in class, fail a test or turn in a homework assignment late?  This 18 year old may even be a parent herself. 


Pioneer there are better ways...  There are many cultures that don;t do it and there is plenty of science to prove otherwise.  I see you continue to reference the Bible, a document you do not fully embrace, in an attempt to justify a point.




Sure some people are better prepared that others for higher education.


The problem I have with your suggestion is that in a racist culture like ours I would not want some bureaucrat to make that decision for my children or yours -- because they will all end up working the lowest skilled, and lowest paid jobs.


Sadly, we effectively have that situation now as the schools in our Black communities prepare no one for college.  In placed like NY they don't even prepare us HS graduation. 


We have lost generations of talented Black people as a result.


Spanking out kids will not fix this--obviously.  The ones doing the most spanking come from poor communities where the graduation rates are lowest.

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There is much attention given to the "no child left behind" goal of  those involved in dispensing a good education to our youth. Going hand-and-hand with that goal is the assertion that "reading is fundamental".  And it is!  Illiteracy is a life long handicap and the main reason some children are left behind.   


 I remain convinced that with a computer that utilizes pictures and verbal instruction a child, going at his own pace, through trial and error and reptitiveness can become self-taught.  Once he figures out how to read, the battle is half won and he's on his way   He can abandon the crutch of a computor and become all that he can be because he has turned himself into a receptacle for all  the knowledge the printed word has to offer. 


 Of course a computer will not turn a person of average intelligenc into a genius, but it can enable him to become a functional member of society. 



Indeed, everybody isn't college material, Pioneer. That's why vocational schools exist.  As for corporal punishment, it looks like we're stuck with the time-out method of controlling the litte monsters who need their butts spanked.  Teachers' can't stoop to the level of their students, and physically challenging older pupils can be hazardous to one's health.

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Pioneer I have not come across an opinion expressed here that would result in getting banned. You have nothing to fear.

Lol....you mean I've been "holding back" for nothing????


I'm not saying spanking is appropriate for ALL students.

Again, some people don't need physical punishment

But I believe the punishment should fit the crime, a violent punishment is often fitting for a violent crime; especially for people who have nothing to lose and everything to benefit from laying up in jail with a warm bed and plenty of food for shooting somebody.

It's the same CONCEPT with some children.

Spanking (or perhaps more like running laps or cleaning and other chores) is the ideal punishment for SOME students because trying to appeal to thier reason or guilt or get them to see what they did was wrong is a waste of time......they don't care.

While you're suspending them or got them in the corner for a "time out" they're plotting and planning more devilishment to get into.

The only reason suspension and expulsion worked in the past is because most students had caring and concerned parents that would whip thier ass for getting in trouble, now with parents who are so busy working or simply don't care.....suspending and expelling children who don't want to be in school anyway is like a vacation, not a punishment.

Physical punishment (not JUST beating but anything that causes temporary but effective physical discomfort) serves not only as a punishment but a deterent so that the person thinks twice before committing the offense again.


Why for God's sake would you use the same tactic used by a plantation overseer in the classroom?! Should we really be spanking some 18 year old female high school senior when they talk in class, fail a test or turn in a homework assignment late? This 18 year old may even be a parent herself.

As I said in other posts that deal with Black sexual virility, we can't allow what racist White men did to and thought of our people in the past govern our behavior today.

If something works....it works regardless of who did it or why.

People have been spanking little children to get them to behave and it has worked for THOUSANDS of years even before White people even heard of America or knew this planet was round, so it's not "their" technique to own. To reference the Bible again, you have an ancient Hebrew proverb that says "spare the rod and spoil the child". This was atleast 2000 years before TransAtlantic slavery.

As I said in my previous post, physical punishment is appropriate for only CERTAIN offenses, usually violent ones or those of extreme disrespect and disruption.






I have with your suggestion is that in a racist culture like ours I would not want some bureaucrat to make that decision for my children or yours -- because they will all end up working the lowest skilled, and lowest paid jobs.

That's assuming that the bureaucrats would all be racist Whites.

I don't believe this to be the case as long as AfroAmericans effectively apply themselves the way they did just 50 years ago. But no system in the world is going to help people who are too mentally lazy and morally inadequate to govern themselves.

In many of the jobs I've worked on I've noticed the same trend.......

Qualified Black people who've been there for YEARS and know the job inside and out but everytime a position for management opens up they refuse because they don't want the responsibility.

They're too busy with their "keeedz" or they want to hang out and drink and party all night and don't want to get up an hour earlier

Always an excuse for not wanting to take the responsibility for being in charge, and when they end up with the crappiest jobs or no job at all....they grumble.

I've always liked telling people what to do....lol....so I've never had that problem, and I've met other Black people like that so I have confidence that the Black people who WANT to succeed will even under that type of economic environment.

As I've said numerous times, there is an orchestrated attempt by the rightwing corporatists to dismantle and destroy the public educational system and create a nation of semi-literate slaves.

However the BIGGEST factors contributing to the failure of so many Black students isn't the educational system itself or thier ability to function in it successfully, it's their will and desire (or lack of it) to learn along with unconcerned parents who won't provide enough support.






Vocational schools still exists but unlike the work-shop and wood-shop classes of the past that were offered free in highschool, now you usually have to PAY a community college or specially school to learn these trades after you've already graduated.

m OK with the idea of not teaching trades while you're still in school because most people under 20 don't know what they want to do in life anyway. However I believe vocational and trade schools should be free and more accessable for all those who qualify.

My idea of a properly executed physical punishment wouldn't be a of some 22 year old female teacher trying to tackle a 200 lbs 18 year old jock, put him over her knee, and spank him, lol.

There would be trained and designated security officers in the office appointed to dispense physical punishment to students while being recorded for legal purposes to curtail abuse.

Infact, adequate security would be a must in just about every public school in my ideal system of education.

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While I'm on the subject of what they USED TO teach in school......

All girls used to have to learn home economics in the public school system.
I saw photographs from back in the 1930s where an entire class of girls would be taken to a park in the spring time to sit in the shade and learn how to sew!

I've noticed that a lot of the domestic skills like proper cleaning, cooking, and sewing that they used to teach ALL girls in public schools were craftily taken out of the public school system with the excuse that it was too sexist.

But these skills are still being taught to some girls at home and in private institutions.

In some communities this has further widened the social divide between the haves and have-nots because now you have a situation where SOME girls are growing up knowing all the skills it takes to be sophisticated young "ladies" and make good mothers and wives, while others grow up vulgar.

Just like now only SOME boys who have fathers or other family in the skilled trades may be able to pick up these valuable skills from their connections while others grow up knowing nothing.

Atleast under the old system ALL boys and girls had an opportunity to learn these occupational and domestic skills.
Again....an organized dismantling and destruction of public education.

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