Monthly Archives: January 2013

U.S. Department of Education Pulls the Race Card on Itself

by Christopher Paslay

For Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education, using racism as a tool to forward agendas proves to be a double-edged sword. 

Early in 2009, Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education, under the direction of President Obama, enacted a reform plan for America’s public schools nicknamed the “National Reform Model.”  The model, which in large part called for failing schools to be shut down and overhauled with new teachers and principals or reconstituted as charters, was the catalyst for the recent reform of public schools within Philadelphia.

Four years later, the School Reform Commission has decided to close 37 schools in the city, many of which are in disrepair and running at less than half capacity.  Ironically, now that the school closures have been set in motion, it’s the U.S. Department of Education that is crying foul.   

According to a January 29th Inquirer article headlined “Activists gear up against planned Philadelphia school closing”:

[Activists] will announce that the district is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation into the racial patterns of its 2012 closings.  In a recent letter The Inquirer obtained, the U.S. Department of Education confirmed to the activist group Action United it would investigate its claim that the “district adopted a school closing and consolidation plan . . . that has a disparate, adverse impact on African American and Hispanic students, and on students with disabilities.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is fond of saying that “education is the civil rights issue of our time,” and that we must act now to reform our failing public schools—many of which serve African American and Hispanic students.  Interestingly, when school districts such as Philadelphia go ahead with the reform model Duncan has been pushing for the last four years—moving to close or overhaul those failing schools that happen to service mostly African American and Hispanic students—the U.S. Department of Education conducts an investigation over a possible civil rights violation because the closures disproportionally affect minorities.

It’s racial discrimination if you do, and it’s racial discrimination if you don’t. 

Such behavior reminds me of the 1977 Dr. Pepper commercial “I’m a Pepper,” except in this case it would be called “I’m a Racist”:        

I pull the race card and I’m proud

I use to feel alone in the crowd

But now you look around these days

And it seems there’s a race card craze

I’m a racist he’s a racist she’s a racist we’re a racist

Wouldn’t you like to be a racist too? 

Even the Philadelphia left-leaning media agrees that this race card pulling has spun out of control.  In an editorial headlined “By the Numbers: Closing schools is painful, but it’s not discrimination,” the Philadelphia Daily News argues that blaming the city’s public school closings on discrimination is absurd:

It’s hard to wrap our mind around the concept of a black mayor, a black superintendent and a School Reform Commission headed by a Latino public-school graduate conspiring to commit acts of racial discrimination. It’s harder still for opponents to face the reality of the closings.  It’s not discrimination, but powerful demographic forces that are at work.

Powerful forces such as the violent culture of certain neighborhoods, the breakdown of community and family, and the lack of parental involvement, perhaps? 

Tragically, race and racism are too often exploited and used as a tool for advancing agendas.  Beth Pulcinella, a teaching artist and activist working at the Attic Youth Center, wrote a commentary last fall for the Philadelphia Public School Notebook called “What I learned about successful organizing from Chicago teachers’ strike leaders”:     

I have been following the situation in Chicago with keen interest for a couple of years now, since members of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) won enough union elections to gain control of the Chicago Teachers’ Union. But how was the union able to organize such a massive and publicly supported strike?

Pulcinella named several reasons CORE was successful, one of them being:

Members of CORE have not been afraid to discuss the ways that race and racism have created an educational apartheid in this country, a place where the term achievement gap is code for the gap between white students and students of color.

In other words, CORE wasn’t afraid to pull the race card to forward their agenda. 

Education activists and civil rights groups seem to be taking a page out of CORE’s playbook.  Some have gone as far as to call Obama’s education agenda, which has been blamed for school closings in major cities all across the country, racist.  The Huffington Post writes in an article headlined “School Closures Violate Civil Rights, Protestors Tell Arne Duncan”:

The standards-based education reform movement calls school change “the civil rights issue of our time.” But about 220 mostly African American community organizers, parents and students from 21 cities from New York to Oakland, Calif., converged on Washington Tuesday to tell U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan he’s getting it backwards on school closures.

Members of the group, a patchwork of community organizations called the Journey for Justice Movement, have filed several Title VI civil rights complaints with the Education Department Office of Civil Rights, claiming that school districts that shut schools are hurting minority students. While most school closures are decided locally, the Education Department’s School Improvement Grant gives underperforming school districts money for shakeups or turnarounds, including closures.

Now, the U.S. Department of Education, which wanted to end “discrimination” in public schools in part by pulling the race card, is forced to investigate itself because someone on the outside has pulled the race card on them.  

Us race card pullers are an interesting breed

To control the resources is what we need

Ask any race hustler and they’ll say

We’re the true racists for acting this way

I’m a racist he’s a racist she’s a racist we’re a racist

Wouldn’t you like to be a racist too?

The 37 school closings recommended by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission may or may not be justified; this is still a matter of public debate.  As Timothy Boyle rightly talks about in his recent commentary in the Notebook, the public still doesn’t have enough information to okay the SRC’s decision to shut down three dozen public schools; more detailed explanations are necessary. 

This, however, doesn’t justify pulling the race card, which cheapens true complaints about legitimate discrimination, and makes us all look like we’re simply crying wolf.

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Filed under Arne Duncan, Multiculturalism

Breakfast Participation Barely Up, Despite Holding Principals Accountable

by Christopher Paslay

Despite the opinions of child hunger advocacy groups, principals cannot replace parents.   

For child hunger advocates, it’s not enough that the Philadelphia School District offers free breakfast to every single child in every single city school. Principals must do more to coax the students into eating it.

In 2009, former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman enacted a policy that held principals accountable for the number of student breakfasts eaten in each school. Ackerman and child poverty advocates reasoned that including breakfast participation in a principal’s performance rating would significantly increase the number of students taking advantage of these free meals.

Nearly four years later, the percentage of school breakfasts eaten by Philadelphia public school children is up only 10 percent.  In 2009, about 30 percent of students eligible for a free breakfast took advantage, which is compared to about 40 percent today; 52 percent of elementary students, 42 percent of middle schoolers, and 28 percent of high schoolers eat the free school breakfast, according to an analysis released last week by Public Citizens for Children and Youth.

There’s no denying that nutrition has an impact on a child’s ability to learn. I’ve been teaching in Philadelphia for 16 years, and when my students are hungry, they have difficulty focusing on the lesson and staying on task. If I had my way, every child in the district would eat a hearty breakfast, complete with vitamins and dietary supplements to keep their minds sharp and their growing bodies strong and healthy.

But nutrition should not be the responsibility of school principals, despite the fact that groups like Public Citizens for Children and Youth argue otherwise.  Kathy Fisher, a director at PCCY, called for principals to get more involved in school breakfast participation.

Fisher Stated: “To just say, ‘Oh, well, the kids don’t want to participate,’ is not an acceptable answer to us.”

Interestingly, the role of parents doesn’t factor into the equation with groups like PCCY, or with the Philadelphia School District as a whole.  Historically, it seems as if the District has written off parents and the community altogether, deeming them too irresponsible to provide even the most basic guidance and care to their children.

Several years ago, to keep better track of subsidized school meals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture wanted to change the rules of its Universal Feeding Program, the free breakfast and lunch program offered solely in the Philadelphia School District. The program didn’t require students or their families to fill out applications to get subsidized meals, and USDA officials wanted to start requiring the forms for accounting purposes.

The School District and advocacy groups went berserk over the proposal. They insisted that forcing students to fill out an application for a free meal was too daunting – that parents of impoverished children were too overwhelmed to deal with complicated forms. The USDA ultimately relented.

Philadelphia School District officials are constantly talking about “raising the bar” when it comes to education and making academics more “rigorous.” Meanwhile, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has announced that the education reform train is leaving the station and everyone must get on board. Why, then, aren’t parents being asked to contribute?

I understand that filling out applications can be intimidating to some people, but why didn’t the District call on its parent ombudsmen back in 2009 to help struggling mothers and fathers learn the skill? So many things in life require an application – a driver’s license, a checking account, a credit card.

But the District didn’t want to be bothered with the inconvenience of working with parents. It’s better to keep students and their families in their comfort zone – quiet, pacified, hopelessly dependent.

Unfortunately, this is the attitude the District has taken when it comes to feeding students free breakfasts. The right thing would be to work with the community and educate citizens on the importance of nutrition. Free meals could be promoted on a grassroots level in Philadelphia’s impoverished neighborhoods, encouraging moms and dads to take part in their children’s health and schooling. Then, maybe, more kids would skip the Pepsi and bag of Doritos at the bus stop in the morning and get to school in time for the free apple juice and bagel with cream cheese.

But, unfortunately, District officials like Ackerman thought it was easier to blame the principals.  They thought wrong; the fact that breakfast participation has only increased a modest 10 percent – 60 percent of students still skip the free school breakfast – is proof.

Children rise to the level of expectations. If we made a true commitment to our students and their families, we could put a real dent in the cycle of poverty.

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Filed under Meal Programs

Commenter Calls Me ‘A Dangerous Presence in the Political Discourse’

by Christopher Paslay

Instead of addressing my arguments, “social justice advocates” attempt to bully me out of the debate. 

Several days ago I posted a blog headlined “Inventing Racism in America’s Public Schools” which explored the notion that there are folks, mainly on the political left, who exploit race and racism in education for their own benefit; the Philadelphia Public School Notebook went on to link the piece in their January 23rd “Notes from the News.”  The blog also talked about the existence of racism in public schools, data on achievement and discipline, and linked no less than 17 sources as evidence—a book on racism, a speech by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, five education policy reports by Princeton’s Educational Testing Service (ETS) that spanned 25 years of American public education, an interview with a NYT bestselling author on racism, eight newspaper articles, and two public school related websites.

My conclusion was that although episodic racism still exists in isolated cases in classrooms, systematic racism is dying and other causes of the racial achievement gap—such as culture and home environment—should be explored.

Geoffrey Winikur, a White Philadelphia public school teacher, social justice advocate and facilitator for the Philadelphia Writing Project, publicly commented on my blog that I was “a dangerous presence in the political discourse” and claimed I made my arguments “without offering a shred of evidence.”  I guess 17 sources, including five from ETS covering 25 years of public education, isn’t “evidence.”  Winikur also said, “I love it every time you write a new article, because I know I’m in for a good laugh.”  Yes, a highly intellectual response to my arguments indeed.

This, of course, is nothing short of bullying—the kind of thing that happened to Samantha Pawlucy at Carroll High School last fall, the young lady who was asked to remove her Mitt Romney T-shirt by none other than her own geometry teacher because, allegedly, the teacher claimed “this is a Democratic school.”

Ben Shapiro analyzes this topic in his recently released New York Times bestselling book Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans.  In his introduction he highlights how on March 10, 2011, President Barack Obama led a White House conference on the crisis of bullying:

The strategy here was simple. Obama and his friends in the media and on the organized left picked the one thing all Americans can agree on: bullying. They strategically placed President Obama at the head of the anti-bullying cause. Then came the brilliant gambit: they appropriated bullying to apply only to anything remotely conservative.

The Tea Party? A bunch of bullies. Religious people? Bullies. Global warming unbelievers, defense hawks, venture capitalists, fans of voter identification or traditional marriage, opponents of affirmative action, right-to-work advocates, supporters of Israel, haters of Glee? Bullies. Those who dislike President Obama? They were the biggest bullies of all. Liberalism and anti-bullying, it turned out, were—miracle of miracles!—one and the same.

Their twisted logic was deceptively easy. Liberals claim that they are all about protecting victim classes from bullies. Conservatives oppose liberals. Therefore, by definition, conservatives must be bullies. And bullies must be stopped.

The irony here is that the true bullies are the ones who callously attack those who disagree with their worldview, like Winikur’s statement that I’m “a dangerous presence in the political discourse.”

I’m not sure why fighting for colorblindness in society—judging people by their core values and not their skin color—is dangerous.  I’m not sure why treating minorities as equals and not as enslaved and oppressed is so worrisome.  I’m not sure why teaching young people that they are the captain of their own ship and not the victim of a corrupt system is a cause for alarm.  Or why the notion that there exist universal human values that transcend race, gender, sexuality and culture—values such as honesty, respect, integrity, loyalty, and hard work—is “Eurocentric.”

The lack of manners from disapproving social justice advocates didn’t stop with Winikur.  Another commenter wrote, “You’re doing what’s called ‘blaming the victim’ and it’s lame.”  The irony of this statement is that the issue of “blaming the victim” was addressed in the video interview I included with my blog post by NYT bestselling author of The End of Racism Dinesh D’Souza.  Interestingly, neither Winikur nor any of the other commenters took the time to click on the link and watch the video (one did, however, reference an article in The Daily Beast that smeared D’Souza because he had the audacity to respectfully challenge President Obama’s policies in a recent documentary titled “Obama’s America: 2016”).

Since none of the commenters took the time to even listen to what D’Souza had to say before smearing him, I’ll include his quote about “blaming the victim”:

“For a generation, people have said you cannot point at these problems because to do so is blaming the victim.  When Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his report on the Black family in the sixties, the illegitimacy rate for Blacks was 25 percent.  He said it was a national tragedy and people said ‘you’re a racist, stop talking about it.’  And he did.  He hasn’t said a word about it since, and the illegitimacy rate for Blacks today is close to 70 percent.   So when these problems are ignored, they metastasize and become far worse . . .”

Another objection made by Geoffrey Winikur (the White uber-liberal teacher who publicly commented that I was a dangerous presence in the political discourse) was one of cultural relativism, that my idea of “colorblindness” was really an effort to push America back to a Eurocentric state.  This was not only a humongous misinterpretation of what I argued constituted colorblindness (I don’t know how judging a person by their actions and values instead of their skin color is “Eurocentric”), but Winikur didn’t bother to click on the link to the D’Souza interview either, which already addressed this objection.  To quote D’Souza:

“That’s the legacy of cultural relativism . . . which says in effect that all cultures are equal and no culture can judge another by its own standards, and cultures should not impose values on each other.  I argue that this relativism played an important historic role . . . relativism was a way to undermine the old racism, which was based on a hierarchy . . . but it’s created a new problem.”

The new “problem” D’Souza explores is one of the functionality of culture, and how relativism has come to hide the dysfunction of some cultures.  Although it may be argued that no one culture is inherently better than another and that one culture cannot judge another by its own standards, things such as quality of life and manageability of life do exist.  I don’t think anyone would disagree that certain cultures in America as a whole have a better quality of life and have lives that are more manageable and functional than other cultures.  The racial achievement gap is one example.  The wealth gap is another.  So are homicide rates within cultures.  So are incarceration rates.  Out-of-wedlock birth rates, quality of nutrition, literacy rates, dropout rates, and the rates of college graduation are still other examples.  (To read the ETS reports on this click here, here, here, and here).

To suggest that all cultures are equal in terms of quality and manageability of life is ridiculous.  To suggest that the differences in quality and manageability of life among cultures is primarily the result of racism is also ridiculous.

In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Americans were “a nation of cowards” because we were afraid to talk about race.  What he seems to have meant by this was that not enough Americas were willing to talk about how White people oppress minorities.  I’d like to take Eric Holder up on his proposition.  Let’s talk about race in America, but let’s really talk about it—dirty laundry and everything.

But to truly talk about race would mean many folks, like Geoffrey Winikur, would have to address opposing arguments head-on and refrain from attempting to demonize those they disagree with.

Tragically, with the exception of publications such as The Philadelphia Public School Notebook—who have recently had the courtesy and open-mindedness to link my articles in their “Notes from the News” to open-up the much needed avenues of discussion (I’d like to publicly thank them for this, by the way)—it doesn’t appear as if honest and frank talk about race and racism in America is going to happen anytime soon.

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Filed under Achievement Gap, Multiculturalism

All My Babies’ Mamas Reveals Liberals’ Opinion of Blacks

by Christopher Paslay

Conservative African American writer Lloyd Marcus exposes liberals’ typical bigotry of lowered expectations regarding minorities.

From “All My Babies’ Mamas Reveals Liberals Opinion of Blacks” by Lloyd Marcus, published today on American Thinker:

As a teen in the 1960s, I idolized Jim, my slightly older street-smart cousin who lived in a tough area of Baltimore. Murders were common at the bar on the corner from his home. I was Jim’s nerdy, naïve preacher’s-kid cousin who visited from suburbia. Sleepovers at Jim’s home in the city were exciting. “Downtown, where all the lights are bright…” You know the song.

Walking from the Yakamee joint, “Casanova” Jim coached, “Just say you love them.” While I wanted my experience to go beyond the stimulation of excessively close slow dancing to Marvin Gaye songs at un-chaperoned dark basement parties, lying to a girl to have my way with her did not set well. Doggone home training! I was nagged by the truth that it is wrong to use someone solely for my pleasure, not caring about how it affected her.

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). In college, I tried to muzzle my conscience with drugs and alcohol. Fortunately, I did not produce any children out of wedlock.

Tom, another cousin of mine, had babies all over town, which destroyed his life. He was incarcerated numerous times for non-payment of child support. In those days, serial impregnators were considered dishonorable men.

Today, in 2013, the liberal Oxygen channel had planned to celebrate dishonorable behavior as representative of the “hip” modern black experience with a new reality show titled All My Babies’ Mamas. Canceled due to public outcry, the star of the show was a rapper whose serial sperm-donating produced eleven babies by ten women.

All My Babies’ Mamas is characteristic of liberals’ typical bigotry of lowered expectations regarding minorities. Liberals accuse black conservatives who reject liberal racist stereotypes of being traitors to their race, trying to be white, and “selling out.”

Long-suffering courageous black conservatives offer blacks real empowerment: liberation from crippling victimhood and entitlement mindsets. Due to liberals’ resentment/hatred for America and traditional values, they are repulsed when black conservatives encourage blacks to get an education, work hard, revive traditional black community morality, and go for their dreams.

In the 1950s, most black kids grew up in two-parent households. Today, most black kids grow up fatherless as a result of liberal policies that destroyed the black family. Only half of black males graduate high school. Clearly, something is wrong in the black community, and it ain’t the white man’s fault. . . .

To continue reading, click here.

God bless Lloyd Marcus for having the courage to reject today’s suffocating and racist groupthink coming from the American left.

 

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Filed under Multiculturalism

Obamacare Forcing Colleges to Cut Teachers’ Hours

by Christopher Paslay

To avoid penalties under the Affordable Care Act, adjunct professors at some universities will not be assigned more than an average of 29 hours per week.

Philadelphia School District officials are not the only ones facing tough economic times.  Across the country, America’s colleges and universities are struggling financially, especially now that the Affordable Care Act has gone into effect.  To avoid new requirements that they provide healthcare to anyone working over 30 hours per week, many colleges are cutting the number of hours worked by adjunct professors.

As stated in American Interest Magazine: “This is terrible news for a lot of people; 70 percent of professors work as adjuncts and many will now have to cope with a major pay cut just as requirements that they buy their own health insurance go into effect.”

According to The Wall Street Journal:

In Ohio, instructor Robert Balla faces a new cap on the number of hours he can teach at Stark State College. In a Dec. 6 letter, the North Canton school told him that “in order to avoid penalties under the Affordable Care Act…employees with part-time or adjunct status will not be assigned more than an average of 29 hours per week.”

Mr. Balla, a 41-year-old father of two, had taught seven English composition classes last semester, split between Stark State and two other area schools. This semester, his course load at Stark State is down to one instead of two as a result of the school’s new limit on hours, cutting his salary by about a total of $2,000.

Stark State’s move came as a blow to Mr. Balla, who said he earns about $40,000 a year and cannot afford health insurance.

“I think it goes against the spirit of the [health-care] law,” Mr. Balla said. “In education, we’re working for the public good, we are public employees at a public institution; we should be the first ones to uphold the law, to set the example.”

Maybe some of these adjuncts can brush-up on their accounting skills and apply to the IRS to supplement their hours.  Word has it the IRS is hiring 16,500 new agents to enforce Obamacare’s tax code.

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Filed under School Budget, School Resources

Inventing ‘Racism’ in America’s Public Schools

by Christopher Paslay

“Social justice” advocates create the illusion of discrimination in America’s classrooms in order to maintain the status quo and control resources.  

Today is MLK Day.  This summer—August 28th, to be exact—will mark the 50 year anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”  One of the key points of Dr. King’s address was about judging a person by his values, not by his skin color:

“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Interestingly, the concept of judging a person by his character—by his beliefs, choices, and most importantly, his actions—has been systematically abandoned by so-called “social justice” advocates claiming to have the best interests of minorities at heart.  In fact, the attempt to create a colorblind society is railed against by multiculturalists because in their view, the failure to analyze every word and deed in terms of race is to allow discrimination to go unchecked.

I have an M.Ed. in Multicultural Education.  I have read the standard books by Kozol, Anyon, Freire, Howard, and the like.  I have sat through hundreds of hours of lectures by Marxists education professors on “White privilege” and other such guilt-provoking topics.  All of this has taught me a cold hard truth: The left is not interested in any way in colorblindness. Why?  Because the left has a monopoly on the exploitation of race and racism in America.  Race and racism, real or manufactured, are too powerful a commodity for the left to give up.  They will do everything they can to keep it alive and kicking, so they can use it for their own political, financial—and yes, educational—advantage.

In 1995, the Indian-born bestselling author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, former president of King’s College, published a book titled The End of Racism.  In it he argues that the debilitating systematic form of racism that once oppressed minorities is over, and that the traditional grievances used by Blacks are outdated.  D’Souza states in an interview that African American failure is not the result of discrimination but stems primarily from a breakdown in culture:

I reject the liberal view, which holds that Black failure is largely or mainly due to discrimination . . . I focus on cultural differences.  And I point out for example that on virtually every measure of academic achievement or economic performance we find not just Whites but immigrants . . . Cubans, West Indians, Koreans . . . leap-frogging ahead of American Blacks and claiming the fruits of the American dream.”

In his article “Obama and the End of Racism,” D’Souza reinforces this point:

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that racism does not exist. This is a big country, and surely one can find several examples of it. But racism, which used to be systematic, is now only episodic. In fact, when I ask young blacks on the campus today whether America is racist, many say yes. But if I ask them to give me examples of how that racism affects their lives, they are hard pressed to give a single one. The best they can do is to mention “Rodney King” or provide some well-known, recycled horror story.

D’Souza explored this topic with Jesse Jackson in a 1988 debate on Stanford’s campus, questioning the existence of the kind of debilitating systematic racism that liberals continually claim is causing African Americans to fail.  Jackson responded by explaining that racism in America has changed, that it’s no longer overt but covert—that it has gone underground and now exists in subtle coded forms.

The interesting thing about “coded” racism is that it’s not what a person says or does that’s racist, it’s what they were thinking when they said or did it.  Thus, to ultimately prove coded racism, the accuser has to be a bona fide mind reader.  Coded racism reminds me of a skit by the late great comedian George Carlin when he poked fun at a brainless football referee haphazardly officiating a game: I call it the way I see it, and if I don’t see it, I make it up.

This is exactly what social justice folk on the left do when they want to explain away the educational failures or chronic misbehavior of minorities in America’s public schools when there is no legitimate systematic discrimination to use as an excuse: They make it up. Why?  To keep the status quo in order to control the raw materials that go along with pubic education.

They do this systematically (ironically enough) in four stages:

First, social justice folk deliberately misrepresent data.  They use a classic propaganda technique known as using correlation to prove causation.  Example: 84 percent of America’s public school teachers are White.  Studies show that Black students are three times as likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their Whites counterparts.  Therefore, Blacks are being unfairly discriminated against, consciously or unconsciously, by racist or culturally insensitive White teachers.

This, of course, is not the case.  There is a third variable that liberal “research studies” refuse to address—a lurking variable: Poverty.  Black students are three times as poor as their White counterparts, and poverty has a devastating effect on academic achievement and behavior.  Black students are also much more likely not to have a father in the home, not to have books in the home, to watch excessive amounts of television, have poor nutrition, regress academically over the summer, and have parents who are not involved in homework and school.

These are cultural and environmental issues, not matters of racial discrimination.  But this doesn’t keep the New York Times and the Huffington Post from running stories about “harsh discipline” of Blacks in Mississippi and the “racial segregation” of minorities in gifted programs in New York City.  It doesn’t keep U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan from pulling the race card, either.

Sure, episodic racism still exists in American classrooms in isolated instances (although actual documented cases are practically nonexistent), but debilitating systematic racism—the kind that has a direct impact on a student’s education—is a thing of the past.

Second, social justice folk promote White guilt and generate resentment in minorities.  At Delevan-Darian High School in Wisconsin, progressive educators offer an American Diversity course that teaches students that minorities are disadvantaged by White oppressors.  The course also teaches “White Guilt” as well as “White Privilege.”  According to The Huffington Post:

Yet another assignment asked questions of a lecture by anti-racism activist and writer Tim Wise, inquiring, “Why is the colorblind model of America ineffective,” “Why is it important to talk about whiteness in America,” and “Explain the irony of the phrase ‘United We Stand.’”

Race baiting and identity politics are hardly the way to bring people together and close achievement gaps.

Third, social justice folk preach victimhood and create a grievance culture.  As D’Souza noted in an interview about his book The End of Racism:

Blacks are always marching on Washington, looking to the government for answers.  Meanwhile, other groups are setting up entrepreneurial associations, rotating credit systems, and within a generation their daughters are valedictorians and have moved to the suburbs.

Case in point: Officials in the Philadelphia School District have recently enacted a plan that calls for the closure of 37 schools.  The majority of these schools are in predominantly African American neighborhoods and disproportionally affect Black students.  With that said, however, many of these schools are also in disrepair and running at less than half capacity.  The students in many of these schools have high rates of STDs, lead the city in assaults on teachers, assaults on fellow students, weapons charges, drug possession, and unwanted pregnancy; the students in many of these schools also have some of the lowest SAT scores in the entire state.

How do the families and communities react to the closure of these schools?  They play the role of victim and turn to what they know best: the grievance.  They march on School District headquarters, waiving signs and shaking their fists—engaging in street theater and using outrageous hyperbole to convince School District officials and all else who will listen that they are victims of an oppressive, unjust system.

The Philadelphia Student Union recently lead such a march.  Several dozen teens, spurred on by the agendas of their adult mentors and organizers, converged on Philadelphia School District headquarters dressed as zombies acting out a scene akin to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” titled “Student Apocalypse: A Brainless Future.”  According to the Philadelphia Public School Notebook which covered the protest:

Chris Riley, a 12th grader at South Philadelphia High School said, “This event symbolizes what would happen if they go through with the school-closure plan.”

Instead of protesting, why not spend that time and energy campaigning for the improvement of their own community?  Why not call for more parental involvement at school?  For neighborhood men to father their children?  For city residents to pay the $500 million they owe the School District in delinquent property taxes?  Why not do a creative dance about literacy rates and the need for mothers and fathers to read to their children, say no to drugs, stand up against violence, and make education the community’s main priority?

Lastly, social justice folk move in and seize control of resources.  Marxist hustlers, after successfully maintaining the status quo, are free to divvy-up the money and wealth to their own people—friends, vendors, politicians, etc.  From 2008 to 2011, the Philadelphia School District went through nearly $10 billion dollars of mostly state and federal funds with amazingly little to show for it (besides a gargantuan budget deficit and across-the-board cuts to legitimate education programs).  Where did the money go?  Can you say Foundations Inc.?  Universal?  IBS Communications Inc.? Duane Morris LPP?  Trujillo Rodriguez and Richards LLC?  Can you say Queen Arlene?  Robert Archie?  Dwight Evans?  Kenny Gamble?  Chaka Fattah Jr.?  Need I go on?

Tragically, as evidenced by the fact that the racial achievement gap in the United States stopped closing right around the time the multiculturalism and social justice movements came into full bloom—when their toxic postmodern mantra of “cultural relativism” was naively adopted by well intentioned educators—things aren’t getting much better for minorities in American public schools.  Nor are they getting better for American minorities financially; the wealth gap continues to grow and poor minorities continue to fall further behind.

This begs the following question: Is social justice style race-baiting and identity politics really the best thing for America’s children?  Somehow I think Dr. King would call for a totally different strategy for empowering the poor and disenfranchised, perhaps one that acknowledges that the only real change is the kind that comes from within.

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Filed under Achievement Gap, Multiculturalism, Parental Involvement

Should Philly Schools Ban the Burqa?

by Christopher Paslay

After kindergartener Na’illa Robinson was abducted Monday from Bryant Elementary School, some have questioned the safety of adults picking children up from school wearing Muslim garb.     

According to a Daily News column by Helen Ubinas, the recent kidnapping of five-year-old Na’illa Robinson has caused some citizens to question whether an adult woman showing up at school with her face covered to pick up a child is a legitimate safety concern.

Ubinas wrote:

You want to talk about the burqa and whether it should be banned—as France and Belgium have done—in the name of public safety or gender equality or integration? Bring it on.

Ubinas feels religious freedom supersedes safety.  What do you think?  Take the poll below:

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Arne Duncan Staying on as Secretary of Education

Arne Duncan

by Christopher Paslay

President Obama’s Chicago basketball buddy will continue setting policy for America’s public schools.

According to the Huffington Post:

An Education Department official says Secretary Arne Duncan will remain in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet into a second term.

The official disclosed the decision Monday on the condition of anonymity because a public announcement has not been made.

Duncan, a former head of Chicago public schools, was widely expected to stick around. He is a former college basketball player who often joins Obama on the court.

Besides shooting hoops with President Obama, Duncan has fought to:

  • Increase the use of data and standardized tests to define student achievement and teacher effectiveness.
  • Use performance pay to compensate teachers based on student performance on standardized tests.
  • End teacher seniority to give principals the autonomy to pick their own staffs.
  • Turn “failing” schools into charters.
  • Overhaul entire staffs of teachers and principals at failing schools.
  • Reduce suspensions and expulsions to deal with unruly and disruptive students.

Duncan knows what it takes to reform public schools not because he has a degree in education (he has a bachelor’s degree in sociology) or because he has experience as a teacher (he never taught a day in a K-12 classroom) but because when he was a little kid, Duncan and his brother and his sister all went to his mother’s after-school program every day on the South Side of Chicago.

“From the time we were born, my brother, my sister, and I all went to my mother’s after-school program every day on the South Side of Chicago,” Duncan said in a speech last February at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Duncan also said in the speech that when he was little, the older students tutored the younger kids, and as he grew up, he tutored the younger kids.  He said his mom always tried to have students teach and be taught at the same time:

“When we were little, the older students tutored the younger kids.  As we grew up, we tutored the younger students. My mom always tried to have students teach and be taught at the same time.”

After Duncan was done his studies and chores, he said, he played basketball:

“After we were done our studies and chores, we played basketball.”

At Harvard, where he earned his sociology degree, Duncan co-captained the varsity basketball team and was named a first team Academic All-American, after all.  He also participated in the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game, scoring 17 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing-out five assists.

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A Look at the Philadelphia School District’s Top Earners

by Christopher Paslay

The Philadelphia School District’s top 655 earners (less than one-third of 1 percent of employees) make a combined $88 million in annual salaries.    

According to a Phillymag.com article by Larry Mendte published last June, there were 655 individuals working for the Philadelphia School District in 2011-12 making over $100,000.  Surprisingly, there were 98 teachers on the list.  Principals, who on average make $106,046, flooded the list and accounted for five of the District’s top 10 earners.

Not included on the list are this year’s newly minted one percenters, such as Superintendent Dr. William Hite ($300,000 annual salary), Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn ($210,000 salary), and newly appointed Chief of Family and Community Engagement Evelyn Sample-Oates ($129,162 salary); Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen who was receiving $25,000 a month in 2012 (for a grand total of nearly $300,000), did make the list although is not listed in the top 25 below because he’d only racked-up a nifty $122,988.48 when Mendte published the article last June. 

When totaling up all the 655 salaries over $100,000, it comes to $88 million.  This means one-third of 1 percent of the workers (the School District has 20,309 employees) gobble-up over 10 percent of the money (the District’s 2013 adopted operating budget allocates $879 million for salaries and wages).

Here were the top 25 earners working for the School District in 2011-12 according to the article by Mendte:

  1. Arlene Ackerman, Superintendent of Schools: $804,668.67
  2. Leroy Nunery, Special Advisor: $206,283.52
  3. Michael Davis, General Counsel: $171,247.48
  4. Penny Nixon, Chief Academic Officer: $170,096.13
  5. Michael Masch, Special Advisor: $168,840.82
  6. Debora Borges, Principal Empowerment School: $157,102.79
  7. Renee B. Musgrove, Principal Empowerment School: $151,776.93
  8. Donald j Anticoli, Principal Renaissance School: $151,161.70
  9. Edward Penn, Principal Renaissance School: $150,531.86
  10. Ethelyn Payne Young, Principal Renaissance School: $150,319.66
  11. John W. Frangipani, Principal Empowerment School: $149,645.96
  12. Otis Hackney, Principal Renaissance School: $149,147.04
  13. Charles Staniskis, Principal Empowerment Schools: $147,765.82
  14. Thomas Koger, Principal Non High Needs School: $147,687.99
  15. Mary Dean, Principal Renaissance School: $147,529.67
  16. Michelle Byruch, Principal Non-High Needs: $147,049.39
  17. Christophe Johnson, Principal Renaissance School: $146,809.37
  18. Amish Shah, Teacher: $145,743.55
  19. Woolworth Davis, Principal Renaissance School: $145,652.42
  20. Karen Kolsky, Assistant Superintendent: $145,423.45
  21. Lissa S. Johnson, Assistant Superintendent: $145,423.45
  22. Benjamin Wright, Assistant Superintendent: $145,333.45
  23. Francisco D. Duran, Assistant Superintendent: $145,333.45
  24. Linda Cliatt Wayman, Assistant Superintendent: $145,333.45
  25. Emmanuel Caulk, Assistant Superintendent: $145,333.45

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the 2,700 workers represented by SEIU 32BJ Local 1201, who provide cleaning, maintenance, and transportation services to the School District.  Nearly all of these workers make less than $40,000 annually—some as little as $25,000 a year.  The School District recently shook-down these hardworking blue-collar folks for an estimated $100 million in labor concessions over the next four years.

According to the new contract between the Philadelphia School District and SEIU 32BJ, which extends to August 31st, 2016, SEIU 32BJ members will contribute between $5 and $45 (depending on salary) to the School District each week, and agree to forgo planned wage increases in the future and freeze wages for the life of the contract.

This, of course, didn’t stop the School District from recently giving 25 non-union workers $311,351 in increases, which average $12,454 per year.  31-year old Christina Ward was given a 17 percent raise and promoted to Deputy Chief Financial Officer, and will earn $138,420 a year. Joseph D’Alessandro, now the Chief of Grants Development and Compliance, was given an $18,000 raise (16 percent) and currently makes $130,270.  And newly appointed Chief of Family and Community Engagement Evelyn Sample-Oates, who earns $129,162, was given a whopping 49 percent salary increase.

How will the School District cover the pay raises?  No one knows.  Not even the $100 million in labor concession squeezed from the District’s janitors and bus drivers will cover the tab.  According to projections in Dr. William Hite’s Action Plan v1.0, “The District has recurring expenses that exceed its revenues by over $250 million per year, amounting to a $1.35 billion dollar deficit over the next five years.”

And I thought only big corporations and greedy Republicans maintained wage gaps and pimped the working class.

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Filed under Dr. William Hite, School Budget

Dr. Hite’s Plan is Light on School Safety

by Christopher Paslay

Dr. Hite cannot “reset” the School District until the problem of school violence is realistically addressed.   

Action Plan v1.0, the Philadelphia School District’s latest reform blueprint for “resetting” our city’s troubled school system, is exactly 33 pages in length.  There are two main “anchor” goals contained within the plan: to improve academic outcomes for students, and return financial stability to the School District.  Most of the fuss up to this point has been about the ways the District plans on balancing its finances.  Here’s a closer look the academic side of things.

Listed in the plan are five strategies to improve student learning.  Contained within these strategies are 45 “actions.”  Of these 45 actions, one targets safety and climate.  On the bottom half of page 15 the plan states:

A. Improve school safety and climate. Reduce violent incidents, enhance climates for learning, and establish a culture of acceptance and respect in all schools by strategically implementing and sustaining evidence-based school-wide climate and culture programs, and training school administrators on creating safe and constructive climates.

The way to achieve this is through “restorative practices.” The plan states:

Fortunately, we know that when holistic climate and culture programs are embraced by an entire school community and sustained year after year, these challenges can be overcome. The significant drop in violence and suspensions at West Philadelphia High School following implementation of restorative practices in 2008 is one compelling example of the impact of this type of approach.

The plan cites a 2009 study from the International Institute of Restorative Practices Graduate School to show that restorative practices are a cutting edge, data-driven way to deal with safety and climate issues.  At West Philadelphia High School, serious incidents were down 52% in 2007–2008 compared to 2006–2007, and there were only two fire-alarm pulls; according to the report, “two very small pieces of paper were set on fire.”

Serious incidents at West Philadelphia may have been cut in half because of restorative practices; or they may have been down simply because only half as many were actually reported.  Regardless, Dr. Hite’s reform plan and the success of restorative practices must be examined in a much broader context.

Consider these facts: From 2005-06 through 2009-10, the district reported 30,333 serious incidents.  There were 19,752 assaults, 4,327 weapons infractions, 2,037 drug and alcohol related violations, and 1,186 robberies.  Students were beaten by their peers in libraries and had their hair pulled out by gangs in the hall.  Teachers were assaulted over 4,000 times.

In the 2007-08 school year alone, there were nearly 15,000 criminal incidents reported in Philadelphia public schools.  According to data published in the Inquirer, 1,728 students assaulted teachers, 479 weapons were discovered inside elementary and middle school hallways and classrooms, and 357 weapons were found in high schools.

Tragically, almost half of the most serious cases were not reported to police.  Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham wrote that “the most serious offenders—including those who assaulted teachers—were neither expelled nor transferred to alternative education.”  She also added: “Just 24 percent of the 1,728 students who assaulted teachers were removed from regular education classrooms, and only 30 percent of them were charged by police . . .”

Anyone familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs understands that until safety and security needs are met, a “system of excellent schools” is but a pipedream.

Unfortunately, Dr. Hite and the School District recently revised its student code of conduct and have eased-up on discipline; under the guise of racial inequality, suspensions and expulsions of persistently unruly students are now frowned upon.

Loose translation: the rights of the violent few are more important than the rights of the hardworking many.

Until the fundamental issue of school safety and climate is legitimately addressed—not with feel good “restorative practices” and politically correct positive behavior supports, but with real alternative school placements—the goals outlined in Dr. Hite’s Action Plan v1.0 will never come to fruition.

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