Tag Archives: Paulo Freire

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form of racism that once oppressed minorities is over, and that the traditional grievances used by Blacks are outdated.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

School District Turf War: Capitalist Pimps vs. Marxist Hustlers

by Christopher Paslay

On the surface, the battle over school closings and the expansion of charters is about the kids.  In reality, it’s about money and power. 

Here are some facts about the residents of the City of Philadelphia:

  • 21 percent over the age of 25 have not graduated high school
  • 78 percent over 25 do not have a college degree 
  • 21 percent speak a language other than English at home
  • $36,251 is the median household income
  • $500 million are owed in delinquent property taxes
  • 81 percent of students attending public schools are economically disadvantaged

What do these facts indicate?  Simply stated, they show that the engine driving Philadelphia’s public schools—families and communities—is weak and sputtering.  Unlike the more affluent suburban districts where families use their knowledge and clout and power to micromanage nearly every aspect of their child’s education—successfully influencing policy and arranging for the dismissal of teachers, administrators and school board members if things don’t go according to their wishes—the majority of families at the core of the Philadelphia School District are, to put it bluntly, passengers instead of drivers. 

Unfortunately, this leaves the district and its families open to all manner of opportunists looking to funnel money or push political agendas.  In broad terms, these opportunists fall into two major categories: Capitalist Pimps and Marxist Hustlers.   

Capitalist Pimps

The main goal of the Capitalist Pimp is short term: to make money, and lots of it.  Their mindset is to get in and get out.  Profit comes first, even before politics, even before power.  In fact, politics and power only matter in terms of the net effect they have on money.  The bottom line is the bottom line is the bottom line.  Such is the mind of the pure Capitalist Pimp.   

There have been a number of Capitalist Pimps who’ve managed to extract large amounts of cash money from the Philadelphia School District in recent years (and some continue to do so).  I won’t name names, but I’ll give a basic character description: they are in positions of power, either lawyers, politicians, business owners, private consultants, charter operators, or academic elites.  They have a knack for showing up at just the right time, and schmooze and manipulate their way to lucrative paydays.  They always promise big results but end up delivering the status quo (or worse, they destroy what they were claiming to save).  They are of all races, genders, and political affiliations.  Their motives are simple, linear, and direct.  They are curt, shrewd, and standing in plain sight in front of our children and schools.    

Capitalist Pimps have brought us the following: corrupt charters; ineffective education management organizations (EMOs); out-of-touch consultants; scripted curriculum; a “Facilities Master Plan” that recommends closing 40-50 District schools in the near future and ensures that charters make-up 40 percent of the PSD; performance pay; achievement networks; a Shared Services Organization that cuts the pay of union workers; outright union busting; a proposal to end teacher tenure and seniority; and the Great Schools Compact, among other goodies.     

Marxist Hustlers

The main goal of the Marxist Hustler is long term: to sow his political oats in such a manner as to lay claim to the land for eternity.  Their aim is to grow roots and infiltrate the school system with orthodoxy.  “Social justice” comes first, and drives every decision, every breath, every movement.  The kind of curriculum taught in school is rooted in social justice, the types of tests given are about social justice, pedagogy and instruction stem from social justice.  Grading is about social justice.  Discipline is about social justice.  The spoken word itself is about social justice.  And yes, even thinking is about social justice.  Social justice is, of course, a means to an end: power.  Power to control curriculum, testing, pedagogy and instruction, grading, discipline, speaking, and thought.  Why?  Because the Marxist Hustler at his core is a guilty elitist (and privileged) control freak who thinks he knows better than everybody else. 

What does the Marxist Hustler think he knows?  That things are unfair, and that everything—everything—must be done to make things “equal.”  The Marxist Hustler operates out of a postmodern perspective that preaches there are no universal human truths, that all things are a matter of cultural perspective and the result of a social construct, an oppressive construct that is ultimately dominated by 1.—the Rich, and 2.—the White Western Establishment.  The Rich and the White Western Establishment are inherently the root of all injustice and must be deconstructed at all costs (any skeptic of the Marxist Hustler agenda need only to enroll in any university multicultural education course or read academia’s educational canon of Paulo Freire, Jonathan Kozol, and the like).

Since the early 1990s (until the Capitalists Pimps showed up, that is), Marxist Hustlers have ruled the PSD and its surrounding communities.  I won’t name names, but I’ll give a basic character description: they are the radical grass roots activists who block traffic and engage in political street theater; they are the civil rights advocates who habitually pull the race card; they are the academic elitists who push postmodern progressivism; they are the privileged whites who romanticize ethnic poverty and whose guilt drives a well-intentioned yet patronizing interaction with the disenfranchised; they are the bleeding heart law firms that have a fetish for the incarcerated.         

Marxist Hustlers have brought us the following: a toothless school discipline code that puts the rights of the unruly few over the rights of the hardworking many; detracked classes; student-centered instruction; fuzzy group work; A.P. classes that take non-A.P. students; gifted classes that take non-gifted students; the erosion of real deadlines; the erosion of real grammar; the erosion of real math; the erosion of real literacy; fuzzy project-based learning; hip-hop in place of real science; credit recovery; grade inflation; the erosion of respect for authority; the erosion of family, religion, and traditional values; Ebonics; Whole Language; ethnomathmatics; the erosion of student accountability; identity politics; the fantasy known as “coded racism”; race-based school discipline; and an all-round socialist education system that attempts to make everyone equal, keep all students and their families “on the plantation,” and attacks any outsider who challenges their collective suffocating group-think mentality. 

No Winners

Unfortunately, the turf war between the Capitalist Pimps and the Marxist Hustlers for the hearts and minds (and dollars) of Philadelphia public school students and their families will wage on for years to come.  Who comes out on top remains to be seen.  Although both sides will ultimately tell you that they are fighting for the good of the people, there are no winners; the kids are the ones who suffer.  Until our children and their families accept change on an individual basis (and adopt the principle that all change is self change), they will remain the raw materials that the aforementioned pimps and hustlers are fighting to possess.

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Filed under Achievement Gap, Charter Schools

Teaching in Black and White: Thoughts on Race and Education Reform

Notebook blogger Samuel Reed and I go toe-to-toe on issues of race and education reform.  

Yesterday, public school teacher Samuel Reed (who wrote a very insightful review of my book The Village Proposal) published a blog post on the Notebook headlined, “Education reform sparring match with Christopher Paslay.”  Although the two of us have corresponded via email over the past several years, I finally had the pleasure of meeting Sam in person at a recent teacher leadership event; it was there that Sam pursued his idea of having an honest and friendly education reform “sparring match” between the two of us. 

Here is an excerpt of Sam’s post covering our discussion:  

I finally had a face-to-face chat with Christopher Paslay at an end-of-the-school-year celebration with the Teacher Leadership Professional Learning Community (PLC). We agreed to put some padded gloves on and have a sparring match on education reform.

Samuel Reed: Chris, in your response to my review of your book, The Village Proposal, you state, “To my chagrin, not a whole lot of people gave a crap.” Why should people care about education reform?

Christopher Paslay: Schools and education do not exist in a vacuum.

Everyone is part of schools and education — teachers, students, parents, administrators, community members, business leaders, clergy, lawmakers, etc. Yet somehow our society seems to think schools are cut off from all this, that they are some free-floating entity that operates independent of all these factors.

Politicians talk of “broken schools,” as if they aren’t the ones writing the policy.

Parents speak of “low achievement,” as if they have nothing to do to with helping their children complete assignments and practice new skills.

Community leaders speak out against “school violence,” as if the drugs and crime in their own neighborhoods do not carry over to their schools.

The fact is, everyone is part of schools and education, which is why everyone should care; schools stem from communities, not the other way around.

Reed: I received many comments offline responding to our discourse about social justice. Some folks are not buying that we should strive for a color-blind society. What’s wrong with confronting the impact race and class issues have on teaching and learning? . . .

Click here to read our discussion in its entirety.

Thanks for reading.

Christopher Paslay

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Filed under Multiculturalism, Parental Involvement

Pushing School Reforms That Have Failed Us Before

“Youth United for Change, an organization of young adults advocating for better public education in Philadelphia, recently released a report titled “Pushed Out: Youth Voices on the Dropout Crisis in Philadelphia.” It argued that many city students don’t voluntarily quit school, but rather are forced out by boring teachers, an irrelevant curriculum, and a prison-like school environment.

To keep kids on the path to graduation, the group argues, education must be made more interesting, engaging, fun, and hands-on. Group collaboration, project-based learning, problem-solving, and creativity should be favored over traditional lectures and teacher-led instruction. Students should play a bigger role in choosing their courses and shaping the curriculum, with electives that address topics relevant to the lives of young people.

While some of the ideas in the report have merit, school leaders should not fall into the trap of emphasizing entertainment over instruction. Progressive education reformers have made that mistake before.”

This is an excerpt from my commentary in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “Pushing school reforms that have failed us before”.  Please click here to read the entire article.  You can respond or provide feedback by clicking on the comment button below.

Thanks for reading.

–Christopher Paslay

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Filed under Inquirer Articles