Category Archives: Inquirer Articles

Trayvon Martin Supporters Call Me ‘Racist Creep,’ Make Threats

by Christopher Paslay

After opening a discussion about communication and holding teens accountable for their behavior, Trayvon Martin supporters flood my blog with threats and verbal attacks.  

I woke up this morning to the following comment by a person named “Kenny” in response to my 7/17/13 blog post titled, “Trayvon Martin and Violence in Urban Schools”:

You are a freaking racist pig. The photo you posted of Trayvon martin is repulsive. It is also a fake, you right wing freak! I’m sending this to his atty. What kind of “teacher” attacks the memory of a dead child?

You are a total, utter creep and I will contact the Inquirer to let them know you are a fraud.

Good luck with the book, dickhead.

Sounds like “Kenny” is a real peaceful guy, interested in communication and solving problems in public education and minority communities.

After this warm and heartfelt comment I was greeted by the following post on the Philadelphia Inquirer’s comment board by a person hiding behind the pseudonym “Wellwhatdouknow” responding to a commentary I published on 7/18/13, headlined, “Teach teens to communicate”:

I hope people visit the website of this “teacher” and see the racism that is all over it. He has posted a fake picture of Trayvon Martin (which was outed as fake last year) and his blog is basically a place to rant about how ugly and evil this dead kid was. It is preposterous that Philly.com would give this man a platform. I shudder to think this man is a teacher in philly. I’m going to look into which school, because his administrators might want to know what he is doing online and that he just MIGHT be a racist creep!

The threats and attacks didn’t stop there.  A person named “Manse” called for my termination from the Philadelphia School District, claiming that I run a website “that is inciting racial division and publicly attacking a dead child.”  He states:

I find it amazing that one of your teachers is openly attacking the memory of Trayvon Martin and has published previously discredited and very inflammatory pictures of him that first appeared (in 2012) on right-wing websites. In addition, people are finding this through an essay he penned for the Inquirer today that links to his website and the thinly veiled attacks on a dead, black teenager.  Christopher Paslay apparently has taken it upon himself to publicly and brazenly attack Trayvon Martin and his family. I cannot imagine that you would want to be associated with such an awful, racially charged publication.

Now, let’s calmly and peacefully analyze these aforementioned comments, one at a time.

First, the idea that the pictures I initially posted on my blog post titled “Trayvon Martin and Violence in Urban Schools” (two of which I removed because I wanted to double check my sources) are  “fake” and have been “discredited.”  In fact, each one of them has been released by George Zimmerman’s defense team and subsequently published by CNN, and WESH 2 News in Orlando, among many others news and internet outlets.

I will repost them here in this context for the purposes of this article, now that I’ve once again verified their authenticity:

FingerCell Phone Pics

Next, the idea that I’m a “racist creep.”  I invite “Kenny” and “Wellwhatdouknow” and “Manse” (people who, unlike me, do not write under their real full names but hide behind usernames) to take a good long look at the 296 articles I’ve published on this blog since 2008, and to take a trip to the library and look-up the 40 or so educational commentaries I’ve published in the Inquirer, Daily News, and City Paper, among others.  See what I stand for, what I fight for: I’m a teacher, tutor, mentor, and coach—all in an effort to better the lives of students in the City of Philadelphia.

Next, the idea that I’m “openly attacking the memory of Trayvon Martin” and “inciting racial division and publicly attacking a dead child.”

Nothing I wrote in my 7/17/13 blog about Trayvon Martin was false or inaccurate. It’s been documented in the New York Times and other publications that Trayvon was suspended from school not once but three times; was caught with a marijuana pipe and a baggie with drug residue; was kicked out of school for graffiti after he was caught with a “burglary tool” and a bag full of women’s jewelry; had texts on his Twitter account describing an attack on a bus driver; had a video on his cellphone of two homeless men fighting over a bicycle; had pictures of underage nude females on his cellphone, as well as pictures of marijuana plants and a hand holding a semi-automatic pistol; was staying at his father’s girlfriend’s house because he’d been kicked out of his mother’s house for getting into trouble; and, according to the verdict of the jury, chose to attack and beat a Hispanic man mixed-martial-arts-style instead of simply walking away and going into his house which was not even 70 yards away.

If anyone is making “false claims” and inciting racial division, it is the American media who, ironically, doctored fake evidence against George Zimmerman, including the fact that the 28-year-old Hispanic neighborhood watch captain was first described as “white” and then, bizarrely, a “white-Hispanic.”

Consider the following:

  • NBC fired a producer because they edited Zimmerman’s 911 call to make him sound racist (click here to read the article).
  • CNN backtracked after reporting that Zimmerman used a racial slur on his 911 call, which was later proved to be a mistake: Zimmerman said “cold” and not “coon” (click here to read).
  • ABC News revised their story that initially reported that Zimmerman had no visible injuries on his head, which he did (click here to read).

Amazingly, it seems to be okay to completely fabricate evidence to make George Zimmerman appear racist, but when people seeking to make a comment on the life and background of Trayvon Martin, publishing accurate, documented information on the teen in an effort to bring awareness to urban life (in an attempt to admit and recognize problems so we can eventually solve them), this is vilified as “racist.”

To Kenny, Manse, and Wellwhatdouknow: you are the bullies and cowards.  It is because of your refusal to acknowledge the facts that kids like Trayvon Martin are not adequately reached and properly educated in public schools in the first place.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Free Speech, Inquirer Articles, School Violence

Teach Teens To Communicate

There is a valuable lesson to be learned from the death of Trayvon Martin. It is not about profiling or racial bias, which the Martin family attorney has stated had nothing to do with the case. The lesson to be learned from the needless death of the unarmed 17-year-old African American male is one of communication, a lesson I hope to instill into the minds of my 10th-grade students this coming school year.

If George Zimmerman or Martin made more of an effort to communicate with one another on that rainy winter night, there’s a good chance Martin would be alive today. From the evidence presented during the three-week trial, we can conclude the following: Zimmerman spotted Martin walking around in a hoodie in the rain. Because there had been numerous burglaries in the neighborhood by people fitting the description of Martin, Zimmerman got out of his truck to observe the teen and locate a street address. . . .

This is an excerpt from my commentary in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “Teach teens to communicate.”  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

5 Comments

Filed under Free Speech, Inquirer Articles

K-12 cuts and consequences

The results of Pennsylvania’s annual standardized tests came out recently, and it seemed everyone was pointing fingers. Math and reading scores are down an average of 1.5 points statewide – 8 points in Philadelphia. Teachers’ unions are blaming cuts in education funding for the slump, and they have a point.

Last school year, Gov. Corbett cut $860 million in funding for K-12 education, or about $410 per student. This hit impoverished school districts the hardest; in Philadelphia, state education funding decreased by about $557 per student. “When resources are pulled from our schools, scores drop,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan.

This is an excerpt from my commentary in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “K-12 cuts and consequences.”  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

Leave a comment

Filed under Inquirer Articles, Standardized Testing

Annette John-Hall, Voter ID, and the Bigotry of Low Expectations

by Christopher Paslay

A recent column by Annette John-Hall can serve as a valuable teaching tool on propaganda, voter integrity, and the soft bigotry of low expectations.

This coming week I have decided to use Inquirer columnist Annette John-Hall’s article “A retired CEO can’t top voter ID hurdles” as part of my lesson on persuasive writing in my 10th grade English class.  Below are three issues we will cover, including questions for class discussions.

Voter ID and the Integrity of Our Electoral System

In September of 2005, the Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former president Jimmy Carter, issued a report titled “Building Confidence in U.S. Elections.”  In order to prevent voter fraud and rebuild American confidence in our electoral system, the commission made five recommendations, one of which was to require voters to show ID to vote:

To make sure that a person arriving at a polling site is the same one who is named on the list, we propose a uniform system of voter identification based on the “REAL ID card” or an equivalent for people without a drivers license. To prevent the ID from being a barrier to voting, we recommend that states use the registration and ID process to enfranchise more voters than ever.

The Supreme Court of the United States agreed.  In 2008, the court upheld Indiana’s photo ID requirement, ruling that it was a non-discriminatory means of protecting the integrity of elections.

Despite the opinions of Jimmy Carter and the U.S. Supreme Court, Annette John-Hall insists calling for voter ID “is really just a political dirty trick [by Republicans] to enact one of the harshest laws in the nation, intended to suppress votes under the guise of combating fraud that doesn’t exist.”

According to a story in USA Today by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, however, voter fraud does exist:

In Texas, evidence of voter fraud abounds. In recent years, my office has secured more than 50 voter fraud convictions. Those include a woman who voted in place of her dead mother, a political operative who cast ballots for two people, and a city council member who registered foreign nationals to vote in an election decided by 19 votes. Voter fraud is hard to detect, so cases like these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Still, supporters of voter ID laws insist that one case of voter fraud is all it takes to spoil the integrity of our electoral system and justify voter ID laws.

Discussion Questions: Are voter ID laws needed to protect the integrity of our electoral system?  Is one case of voter fraud enough to justify these laws?  Why or why not?

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

“Some say it is unfair to hold disadvantaged children to rigorous standards. I say it is discrimination to require anything less–the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

These were the words of George W. Bush in a 1999 speech on improving education.  The same can be said of voter ID laws and the need to educate Americans on the importance of voting and acquiring the proper ID to do so.  Helping the poor and disenfranchised get an ID is much broader than simply voting; it is giving them the documentation necessary to both navigate and participate in 21st century society.

Currently, a valid ID is needed to cash a check, apply for working papers, apply for a marriage license, apply for a mortgage, fly on a plane, get a credit card, buy a car, rent a car, rent an apartment, rent a post office box, buy alcohol, cigarettes, a gun, take out student loans, take out home equity loans, leave the country, get back into the country, get car insurance, get life insurance, get home owners insurance, etc.  One would think those interested in empowering the poor and disenfranchised–those interested in helping struggling people better their lives–would do everything they could to help those in need secure a valid ID.

Interestingly, people like Annette John-Hall rail against voter ID and all its transformative benefits like the plague.  Instead of pouring their energy into getting the needy up to speed, they spend their time trumpeting to the world and all who will listen why the poor (and the young, and the old, and students, and minorities) CAN’T comply.  Can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t.  No way.  Impossible.  Just too hard.  Too daunting.  They engage in laborious studies on why a minute group of Americans can’t overcome basic challenges, like the Brennan Center for Justice’s report “The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification.”  How much money was spent on this report, and more importantly, how many thousands of IDs could have been acquired and given to indigent Americans in its place?

The Brennan Center claims the ID laws are “restrictive.”  John-Hall calls the ID laws “suppressive.”  Others, like the Inquirer, compare the laws to Jim Crow and insist they amount to the equivalent of a “poll tax.”

Why?  Here are the three best arguments against voter ID laws to date, as concluded by the Brennan Center: state ID-issuing offices have limited hours, long lines, and in some cases, require the use of public transportation.  This is what people like John-Hall call “Jim Crow.”  Those minority of Americans (less than 11 percent of the population) who want to vote and don’t have an ID have to take a bus, wait in a line, and coordinate both of these activities to fit into a time when the ID-issuing office is actually open for business.

Most Americans (75 percent) support voter ID laws and believe it is by no means unrealistic (or discriminatory) to expect Americans to be able to perform these aforementioned tasks.  Many will argue that assuming citizens are unable or unfit to do so is condescending, counterproductive, and a hindrance to their well being and growth; some will argue that such low expectations are the true source of voter suppression.

Discussion Questions: How might Annette John-Hall’s low expectations of the poor and disenfranchised influence their ability to vote?  How might these low expectation hurt society as a whole?  Does John-Hall have any underlying political motives or agenda for opposing voter ID laws and voter education?

Dishonest Journalism and the Use of Propaganda

In her article “A retired CEO can’t top voter ID hurdles,” Annette John-Hall uses a propaganda technique known as a “red herring” to convince the public that voter ID laws are harsh and suppressive.  Her article tells the story of Anthony DeCarlo, a 72-year old life long voter and recently retired CEO of a billion dollar company.  DeCarlo was recently (and mistakenly) alerted by the Commonwealth of PA that the name on his driver’s license (Anthony DeCarlo) didn’t match the name on the voter rolls (Anthony J. DeCarlo) and that “he might have a problem.”

Well, as it turns out (as it is revealed near the end of John-Hall’s article), DeCarlo didn’t have a problem; his ID is fine, his voter registration card is fine, and he will be able to vote in November, just like he’s done for the last 50 years.  So why is John-Hall’s article headlined “A retired CEO can’t top voter ID hurdles”?  Doesn’t not being able to “top voter ID hurdles” mean not being able to vote?

No, it doesn’t.  This is the convoluted and misleading game played by John-Hall and her editors–a propaganda technique known as a “red herring.”  The voter ID hurdles DeCarlo wasn’t able to clear involved going down to a DMV office and dealing with a “bureaucratic shuffle,” receiving a bit of frustrating misinformation from a clerk that was later rectified; if people like John-Hall simply cooperated with voter ID laws and voter education instead of railing against it, perhaps DeCarlo may have known that, according to votespa.com, “photo IDs do not need to exactly match their voter registration, but the names must substantially conform.”  DeCarlo may have also known that as a senior citizen, he could have simply cast an absentee ballot.

But to those busy readers who only happened to skim John-Hall’s headline (or only read the intro to the piece), one would think DeCarlo had his right to vote “suppressed.”  Of course, nothing of the sort happened.

In PA, the state has spent millions on voter education and has set up a website to assist anyone interested in voting to acquire an ID (in many cases free of charge), register, and get to their polling place to vote.  Even if a person doesn’t have a photo ID, or they are indigent and unable to obtain one without payment of a fee, they can cast a provisional ballot and will have six days to provide their photo ID and/or an affirmation to their county elections office to have their ballot count.  Senior citizens, the disabled, and others unable to get to their polling place can cast an absentee ballot.

Discussion Questions:  Is Annette John-Hall’s article propaganda?  Is her use of a red herring dishonest journalism?  How might this misleading information harm the public’s trust of voter ID laws and negatively impact the integrity of newspapers?

4 Comments

Filed under Inquirer Articles

The injustice schools ignore

According to The Inquirer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Assault on Learning,” Philadelphia’s public schools have a bit of a violence problem.

From 2005-06 through 2009-10, the district reported 30,333 serious incidents, including 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. Teachers were assaulted more than 4,000 times.

So how has the School Reform Commission responded? By easing its student code of conduct and other disciplinary policies. In particular, the commission wants to cut down on out-of-school suspensions. . . .

This is an excerpt from my commentary in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “The injustice schools ignore.”  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

2 Comments

Filed under Inquirer Articles, School Violence

City schools need reform, not revolution

Like Veterans Stadium and the Spectrum, the Philadelphia School District is about to be blown up. The School Reform Commission announced plans last week to close 40 schools next year and two dozen more by 2017. It also plans to allow outside organizations to make proposals to run groups of schools.

The idea of breaking the district into smaller, more manageable chunks is not new. Former schools chief David Hornbeck broke the system into “clusters” in the 1990s. Unfortunately, that created all kinds of unintended bureaucracy, which is why the next schools CEO phased them out.

This is an excerpt from my commentary in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “City schools need reform, not revolution.”  Please click here to read the entire article.  It serves as a brief counterpoint to School Reform Commission chairman Pedro A. Ramos’ commentary in yesterday’s Inquirer headlined “Phila. children deserve better.”  You can respond or provide feedback by clicking on the comment button below.

Thanks for reading.

–Christopher Paslay

7 Comments

Filed under Charter Schools, Inquirer Articles

Congratulations to the Inquirer for Winning the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service

by Christopher Paslay

The subject of violence in Philadelphia public schools is back in the national news, but this time in a good way.  Earlier today it was officially announced that the Philadelphia Inquirer won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for its “Assault on Learning” series, which documented the underreported violence in the Philadelphia School District.  Congratulations to Inquirer reporters John Sullivan, Susan Snyder, Kristen A. Graham, Dylan Purcell, and Jeff Gammage who worked on the story, among other editors and photographers.    

Mike Armstrong covered the win in his story “Inquirer wins Pulitzer Prize for school violence series”:

The Inquirer’s investigation of the climate of pervasive violence in Philadelphia’s public schools Monday won the Pulitzer Prize for public service, the profession’s most prestigious honor.

The award is the 19th Pulitzer Prize for the 183-year-old newspaper and its first since 1997.

The seven-part series, “Assault on Learning,” revealed that violence in city schools was widespread and underreported, with 30,000 serious incidents over the last five school years. Those findings were later corroborated by a Philadelphia School District blue-ribbon panel on safety, spurred an overhaul of incident reporting in the district, and prompted the hiring of a state-funded safe-schools advocate.

Shortly after 3 p.m., journalists in the newsroom erupted into applause, hugs and whoops when the announcement came that The Inquirer had won.

In its announcement, the Pulitzer committee said the series used “powerful print narratives and videos to illuminate crimes committed by children against children and to stir reforms to improve safety for teachers and students.”

Read the full story by clicking here.

Again, congrats to the Inquirer and all those involved in winning this very prestigious award.

Leave a comment

Filed under Inquirer Articles, School Violence

Clearing the Record: Abington School District was Not Named in 2009 PSSA Audit

In my 3/14/12 Philadelphia Inquirer commentary, “Is city a scapegoat in cheating probe?” I mistakenly named Abington as one of 39 districts cited on the forensic audit of the 2009 PSSA exam for possible cheating.  The correct school district should have been Abington Heights in Lackawanna County.  This same mistake was made in my 3/3/12 blog post titled, “State Has Double Standard When It Comes to PSSA Cheating.”  Again, the school district should have been Abington Heights, not Abington in Montgomery County.  The post has been updated to reflect the correct district.  The Inquirer article has also been corrected and updated.          

I apologize to the Abington School District and its community for the misunderstanding.

Christopher Paslay

Leave a comment

Filed under Inquirer Articles, Standardized Testing

Is city a scapegoat in cheating probe?

“The word is out: Philadelphia’s teachers and school administrators are cheaters. Or so state Department of Education officials believe, which is why their investigation into suspicious results on state standardized tests has been expanded to include 56 city schools.

But is the state treating all school districts equally? Or is it shining a spotlight on Philadelphia in an effort to downplay the hanky-panky taking place elsewhere in the state? . . .”

This is an excerpt from my commentary in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “Is city a scapegoat in cheating probe?”  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

Leave a comment

Filed under Inquirer Articles, Standardized Testing

The mighty testing juggernaut

“There’s an old saying that weighing a cow doesn’t make it fatter. When it comes to educational testing in Pennsylvania, however, Gov. Corbett may beg to differ. His proposed 2012-13 budget calls for a 43 percent increase in funding for educational assessments, to $52 million, even as it keeps school funding generally flat and cuts spending on state-related universities.

The timing of this increase is interesting. Last year, a forensic audit of the 2009 state exams flagged 38 school districts and 10 charter schools for possible cheating; nearly half of them are still under investigation. This prompted state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis to order audits of the 2010 and 2011 tests and to require the Philadelphia School District, which had 28 schools flagged for suspicious results, to conduct an internal investigation. . . .”

This is an excerpt from my commentary in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “The mighty testing juggernaut.”  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

Leave a comment

Filed under Inquirer Articles, Standardized Testing