Calling A Spade A Spade


In the L.A. Beez -- Hive For Hyper Local Ethnic News -- article entitled Feds Eye African-American Performance Gape in L.A. Schools, the predominantly African Americans readership are feed the foolish arguments that the habitual failure of Black children in LAUSD has something to do with "the ongoing budget crunch," seniority of teachers, or the preference of good teachers to go to "affluent neighborhoods." Nothing could be further from the truth. The painful reality is that our society -- whether Black, White, and/or Brown -- we have allowed a coat of endemic ignorance, not stupidity, to be used in defining education without rigor for children of color in this system. While a patina of colored folks have been co-opted into this racist system to give it visual credibility, it is still the American beehive that continues to give children of color the royal shaft instead of the royal jelly.

Good teachers don't go to less affluent neighborhoods because poverty scares them, they don't go because no attempt is made to maintain enough discipline to create an environment where rigorous education can take place. While you wouldn't know it at inner city schools like Audubon Middle School from the burned out and cynical attitude of teachers and administrators, they did not get into teaching in the first place to teach the affluent, but rather as an expression of the idealism and social justice that brightened their own eyes while going to school.

There was little or no affluence in the Bronx when the Muslims created first-rate education for their children when they got tired of waiting and there doesn't need to be in the hood of today. There just needs to be consequences -- good and bad -- for all constituencies: teachers, students, parents, and administrators based on whether they follow or subvert a clear, pragmatic, and specifically defined high quality education program. What there needs to be is a confrontation of the deeply held belief by most African American children that being "school boy" is a negative. When I taught at Dorsey and tried to teach at the same level that I later taught at Palisades Charter High School, I had to suffer the ignorance of my principal who called me into her office to remind me, "This is a Black school." Dumbing down Black and Brown education while talking about how all of our kids are going to college is not just dishonest, it is criminal and should be prosecuted as such. 

Whether or not Russlyn Ali remembers where she and her people came from remains to be seen, but there is one sure way to find out if the Civil Rights division of the Department of Education investigation is for real or just the same old same old- get in their faces with the facts. The following people in the Civil Rights Office in San Francisco are charged with the expanded investigation, but don't seem to be able to find out whether LAUSD is engaging in "intentional or unintentional discrimination."

United States Department of Education
Civil Rights Division
Michael Hing
Jim Wood Civil Rights

These lawyers seem to have forgotten the fundamental idea that intentional is not just overt acts but also the failure to act when there is a clear duty to do so. In discussions with these folks they are constantly reminding me of the limited scope of their investigation, which seems limited to asking LAUSD whether or not they are intentionally discriminating. The guy I talked to reminded me of a male Butterfly McQueen from Gone With The Wind fame, who said, "I don't no much about birthin' [educated students of color]." While even that might be okay, the question remains is he open to learning from people who are having their children discounted on a daily basis by LAUSD.

If the scope of Ms. Ali's investigation is to be limited to English Language Learners, which clearly includes native born African American children - when it comes to standard English - who normally arrive at the school room door "having heard millions of less words than their affluent White counterparts," (Geoffrey Canada- Harlem Childrens Zone) she might consider contacting her colleagues in the Department of Justice and see if they might be willing to bring a Ricco organized crime investigation against LAUSD, since natively intelligent children of color could not continue to do so abysmally in school unless there was a well organized conspiracy to make sure they don't live up to their potential. Educate Latinos, lose your cheap labor source. Educate Blacks, and you destroy the tacit belief held by many Whites and Blacks that Black children cannot compete. Enough is enough already.

Flickr: Jim B L



It's not good for us to exclusively spend our energy as LAUSD's unofficial historian of bad acts. Our time will be better spent this summer in the drafting of a substantive alternative platform for a public education program that can be used come September to offer a viable alternative to our colleagues, parents, and students. Watch perdaily this summer and hopefully enter into the constructive and democratic dialogue to propose something better. If nothing else, being involved in that which is positive is a much more worthy endeavor for teachers than remaining in the negativity that continues to exude from LAUSD at a faster rate than oil coming out of BP's disaster in the Gulf. Also, have a great summer to recharge your batteries for the combat we are going to have to do in the Fall.

With the Internet, everyone who reads this blog and knows what it means to be a pawn (teacher, student, parent) in the district's corrosive, corrupt practices can quickly contact the Department of Education to voice their valid concerns while spreading the word to others to do the same by posting this URL and the e-mail addresses on thier social networks, in e-mails and on the bulletin boards in the teachers' cafe--anywhere our students, their parents and our colleagues have access to the truth.
Lenny, my new hero, has worked diligently to give us all access to the information and resources we need to make a difference, earning his pay while on unfair administrative leave by educating his fellow educators, who, like me, face the same harassment, slander and subversion of his or her civil rights/due process as the district, the union and others abuse us with hyperbole, pay cuts, unreasonable allusions to accountability that is not equitable in an area as socio-economically diverse as L.A., and the demeaning, demoralizing knowledge that teachers are now disposable scapegoats. A few years ago, I began to speak out about this,about the way our funding and school plan were commandeered by this unqualified,uncredentialed principal (promoted to principal my school because he had a stack of grievances, discrimination complaints and other issues as an AP at another but is well-connected),who negated the success of teacher-driven paradigms in our SLCs (no more than a prop now to justify Qeia Grant we will soon lose thanks to him anyway) and issued top down orders that defied our efforts to improve instruction while keeping class size down. As my school administrators and the local district suits drop successful programs, music classes, our phenominal college/career center,as they displace hard working teachers or drive them out, ruthlessly RIF new comers they want to replace with fellow Cronies and bootlickers, and as they make a mockery of our contract, not to mention our mission and vision as public educators, my colleagues wish they were listening when a few of us warned them of what was coming a couple of years ago. They wish that we had not allowed the snakes in suits to divide and conquer what had been a warm, highly functional staff, a thriving school culture and conceded instead of grieving only to end up as we are now: fractured,frustrated,dysfunctional,
frazzled, and at the mercy of "professionals" who have none because for them public education is a "business". We have all been too comfortable and too complacent for too long, so even the best teachers are culpable for these circumstances if they did nothing more than hide behind the door, giving it all to the kids in an overcrowded classroom, adapting to the ever-changing, stupifying test-driven content of our curriculium and tolerating the squirrley, self-serving,scattered scheduling/programing/pretenses of the arrogant, amoral tyrants in charge, but say nothing as our noble calling along with the education of our community's children is being profoundly compromised, which we all know will have far reaching ramifications on more than education as it causes more economic distress in this city, has a negative impact on urban culture and presents devestating burdens to a broken society. All this anti-teacher propoganda has to be answered with a some demanding questions about why our over population of obscenely overpaid, often incompetent bureacrats, bean counters and cold, cunning careerists, along with these bumbling but self-important officials, who blow billions on toxic school sites, con artist consultants, trendy programs and other costly investments (like the new payroll program that cost millions,yet left thousands of us borrowing money from the district that could not pay us but paid the company that sold us the faulty system millions more to fix it while an office of workers is still sorting out the mess) are not being scrutinized in public. Why aren't any of these unnecessary, expensive, ineffecient administrators, officials, officers and office workers being dimissed, displaced or facing pay cuts, furlough days, etc instead of those of us who are in the trenches, changing students' lives by working in one of the most demanding, stressful and exhausting professions there is?
We have to step up, teachers! We have to confront LAUSD, UTLA and the state about the waste; we have to make the public aware of what the real problems are in the local schools, demand that the media invest their energy and power in a more sane, more objctive, more substansially proactive investment into fixing this dysfunctional system. We have to unify, mobilize and make a formidable effort immediately as teachers who care about their students enough to rise up and give the schools back to the community, to the students, to the teachers, who will cut costs, terminate the few deadbeats among us who demean our reputation as public educators, deprive their students of the knowledge they need and steal from us the same way bad administrators and officious educrats do. I know you are exhausted, ready for the relief of the long summer rest you no doubt deserve, may even need desperately and rightously concerned about making seemingly subversive waves in such uncertain times, but if we don't learn everything we can about our contract, district policy, statelaws, school choice, viable education reforms and our other options, if we don't contact the state agencies that can help us, support each other, blow our whistles whenever we must no matter what risk we take by doing so, if we don't form alliances with the communities we work in to ignite change, if we don't do anything and everything to help ourselves, our colleagues, our schools' children and our profession, we are doomed.
Let's make this a historic summer for Southern California schools by bringing the evil empire to its knees!
Thanks, Lenny for giving us a place to start!

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