Archive for January 2010

What's best for our kids?   3 comments

Just as I was thinking about the topic for my next blog, inspiration came from a few places. I have been seriously considering applying to Harvard’s Doctorate in Educational Leadership program for a few reasons. First, the university covers tuition and provides a stipend. Secondly, if you take a close look at all of the people who are ‘allowed’ to shape and change educational policy, a large majority of them are Harvard graduates, whether they hold MBAs or PhDs. This sends a very clear  message. The fact that our president has a Harvard Law degree does not hurt either. Add to that the fact that I have a soon-to-be 15 year-old son. We have had the ‘What do you want to do after high school’ talk several times and I think we will have the extended version over the next few weeks. Here’s the dilemma: If he does decide to go to college, then Harvard is out of the question for me. At least for the next few years. If he decides that he wants to attend a community college instead, then game on!

The other inspiration was Maureen Downey’s ‘discussion‘ on whether Georgia’s kids are better served by single or multiple track high school programs. One of my Twitter colleagues replied to the link and said he supports multiple tracks, as do I. But as we continued to discuss, I mentioned how some students were taking courses towards a Technical Diploma Track (now defunct) and did not realize that they could not apply to 4-year colleges and universities after graduating. This was more prevalent with students who had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). My colleague and I disagreed on this. He stressed that student are more responsible for choosing what is best for them. While I agree with student responsibility, I also believe that many students are lured by the ‘graduating in 4 years’ carrot, without any real idea of plans after high school. Again, I have actually met and taught some students who were under the assumption that they would be eligible to apply to colleges and universities their senior year. Unfortunately, many of those students were working on a Technical Diploma track and, therefore, were only eligible for technical or community colleges. Why is this important? Because, although I had only taught the students for a semester or a year, I had to be the bearer of the bad news. Not a pleasant experience, to say the least. Despite the advent of email, IEP meetings, using the telephone, or pulling a student out of class, some of these kids did not know their options. This is troubling, especially considering that SWD have the lowest graduation rate among all AYP subgroups. But we must also consider the unspoken correlations: (1) A large percentage of SWD are not completing high school in 4 years. Yes they are guaranteed a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) until the age of 21, but realistically, many do not stay beyond the age of 18; and (2) Those who do not graduate in 4 years are very likely to be among the thousands of Georgia high school dropouts each year. If we are to seriously ‘entertain’ (that’s all we are doing right now) this ideal of decreasing the dropout rate, we need to start asking our district and state education officials some tough and uncomfortable questions: Namely, what is your district doing (that actually works) to decrease the drop-out rate? Perhaps this responsibility needs to rest with separate entities. After all, if the districts cannot keep tabs on their students while they are in school, can/should we really expect them to do so once the students leave? Furthermore, many students who drop-out usually report boredom as the motivating factor. Fact: If you can’t keep them engaged, they will find something that will. I believe this is where those multiple track programs, as well as career exploration opportunities, will prove beneficial. Traditional programs and teaching methods DO NOT work for all students, those with disabilities and otherwise. Not all students learn in the same way. Unless we start addressing those needs in the classroom, we will continue to see the drop-out rates raise. Wow. This sounds a lot like the common sense approach to closing the achievement gap.

Effective for the 2008-09 school year, Georgia implemented new graduation requirements for all students entering high school for the first time. The new graduation requirements:

Area  (Units Required)

  • English (4)
  • Math     (4)
  • Science   (4)
  • Social Studies  (3)
  • CTAE/Mod Lang/FA  (3)
  • Health & Physical Education (1)
  • Electives (4)

Georgia’s high school students need a total of 24 credits to graduate, in addition to passing all sections of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT). You may be thinking, “O.K. what’s the difference between the new and the old requirements?” Georgia removed the ‘track’ titles, e.g. College Prep (CP), College Prep with Distinction (CP+), and Technology/Career Prep (TC). Also, former tracks had a minimum of 22-24 credits; now all students are required to earn 24 credits to graduate. Although the state no longer makes distinctions between diploma types, the class titles are still the same. Students on the CP track do not take core courses with students working on the TC track. The names have all changed, but the programming is still the same.

If you would like to look at Georga’s actual (not average) graduation rates, check out the article I wrote last October. While I am impressed by the improved average graduation rate for Georgia, the AYP subgroups (Blacks, Hispanics, ELL, SWD, and FARL) still lag behind Whites and Asians. For the 2008-09 school year, Georgia’s average graduation rate was 78.9%, up from 75% last year. Here is the breakdown for each group:

  • Black 74.1%
  • Hispanic 71%
  • Students With Disabilities (SWD) 41.4%
  • English Language Learners (ELL) 55%
  • Free and Reduced Lunch-eligible (FARL) 72.9%
  • White 82.7%
  • Asian 91%
  • I will not deny my concern about the huge and noticeable failure of our public schools to graduate more English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities. Before you launch into a ‘People need to learn English’ or ‘How can students with an IEP not graduate’ tirade, let me make a few things clear:

    1. English is a very difficult language to learn. I didn’t realize how difficult until I started taking Spanish classes in high school. I will say, Spanish is the easier language. When you factor in the possibility that parents may not speak English in the home, it makes acquisition that much more difficult.
    2. My heart is, and always will be, in Special Education. Yes, even after days where a student was having a bad day and decided to cuss-out everyone (myself included), I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences. I have dialogued with some teachers on Twitter about how to ‘fix’ Special Education. We all have our own strategies and opinions, but we all agree that it is in horrible shape (trying to stop cussing on here). Special Education programs, understandably (to a small degree), differ from state-to-state; however, when you have noticeable disparities within a state and between district A and district B, there are serious consequences. Don’t believe me? Just look at the 41.1% graduation rate. That number does not include students with Severe and Profound Disabilities or other groups not required to earn a traditional high school diploma.

    New requirements are in place; however, we will not have any comparison data until the end of the 2011-12 school year. But I am certain that, at the end of this school year, our DOE will boast that graduation rates have improved, without emphasizing average or the fact that some student groups have yet to break the 50% threshold. Sometimes I wonder if I am over-simplifying the solutions, or if people are making things harder than they have to be…… Your thoughts?

    What’s best for our kids?   3 comments

    Just as I was thinking about the topic for my next blog, inspiration came from a few places. I have been seriously considering applying to Harvard’s Doctorate in Educational Leadership program for a few reasons. First, the university covers tuition and provides a stipend. Secondly, if you take a close look at all of the people who are ‘allowed’ to shape and change educational policy, a large majority of them are Harvard graduates, whether they hold MBAs or PhDs. This sends a very clear  message. The fact that our president has a Harvard Law degree does not hurt either. Add to that the fact that I have a soon-to-be 15 year-old son. We have had the ‘What do you want to do after high school’ talk several times and I think we will have the extended version over the next few weeks. Here’s the dilemma: If he does decide to go to college, then Harvard is out of the question for me. At least for the next few years. If he decides that he wants to attend a community college instead, then game on!

    The other inspiration was Maureen Downey’s ‘discussion‘ on whether Georgia’s kids are better served by single or multiple track high school programs. One of my Twitter colleagues replied to the link and said he supports multiple tracks, as do I. But as we continued to discuss, I mentioned how some students were taking courses towards a Technical Diploma Track (now defunct) and did not realize that they could not apply to 4-year colleges and universities after graduating. This was more prevalent with students who had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). My colleague and I disagreed on this. He stressed that student are more responsible for choosing what is best for them. While I agree with student responsibility, I also believe that many students are lured by the ‘graduating in 4 years’ carrot, without any real idea of plans after high school. Again, I have actually met and taught some students who were under the assumption that they would be eligible to apply to colleges and universities their senior year. Unfortunately, many of those students were working on a Technical Diploma track and, therefore, were only eligible for technical or community colleges. Why is this important? Because, although I had only taught the students for a semester or a year, I had to be the bearer of the bad news. Not a pleasant experience, to say the least. Despite the advent of email, IEP meetings, using the telephone, or pulling a student out of class, some of these kids did not know their options. This is troubling, especially considering that SWD have the lowest graduation rate among all AYP subgroups. But we must also consider the unspoken correlations: (1) A large percentage of SWD are not completing high school in 4 years. Yes they are guaranteed a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) until the age of 21, but realistically, many do not stay beyond the age of 18; and (2) Those who do not graduate in 4 years are very likely to be among the thousands of Georgia high school dropouts each year. If we are to seriously ‘entertain’ (that’s all we are doing right now) this ideal of decreasing the dropout rate, we need to start asking our district and state education officials some tough and uncomfortable questions: Namely, what is your district doing (that actually works) to decrease the drop-out rate? Perhaps this responsibility needs to rest with separate entities. After all, if the districts cannot keep tabs on their students while they are in school, can/should we really expect them to do so once the students leave? Furthermore, many students who drop-out usually report boredom as the motivating factor. Fact: If you can’t keep them engaged, they will find something that will. I believe this is where those multiple track programs, as well as career exploration opportunities, will prove beneficial. Traditional programs and teaching methods DO NOT work for all students, those with disabilities and otherwise. Not all students learn in the same way. Unless we start addressing those needs in the classroom, we will continue to see the drop-out rates raise. Wow. This sounds a lot like the common sense approach to closing the achievement gap.

    Effective for the 2008-09 school year, Georgia implemented new graduation requirements for all students entering high school for the first time. The new graduation requirements:

    Area  (Units Required)

    • English (4)
    • Math     (4)
    • Science   (4)
    • Social Studies  (3)
    • CTAE/Mod Lang/FA  (3)
    • Health & Physical Education (1)
    • Electives (4)

    Georgia’s high school students need a total of 24 credits to graduate, in addition to passing all sections of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT). You may be thinking, “O.K. what’s the difference between the new and the old requirements?” Georgia removed the ‘track’ titles, e.g. College Prep (CP), College Prep with Distinction (CP+), and Technology/Career Prep (TC). Also, former tracks had a minimum of 22-24 credits; now all students are required to earn 24 credits to graduate. Although the state no longer makes distinctions between diploma types, the class titles are still the same. Students on the CP track do not take core courses with students working on the TC track. The names have all changed, but the programming is still the same.

    If you would like to look at Georga’s actual (not average) graduation rates, check out the article I wrote last October. While I am impressed by the improved average graduation rate for Georgia, the AYP subgroups (Blacks, Hispanics, ELL, SWD, and FARL) still lag behind Whites and Asians. For the 2008-09 school year, Georgia’s average graduation rate was 78.9%, up from 75% last year. Here is the breakdown for each group:

  • Black 74.1%
  • Hispanic 71%
  • Students With Disabilities (SWD) 41.4%
  • English Language Learners (ELL) 55%
  • Free and Reduced Lunch-eligible (FARL) 72.9%
  • White 82.7%
  • Asian 91%
  • I will not deny my concern about the huge and noticeable failure of our public schools to graduate more English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities. Before you launch into a ‘People need to learn English’ or ‘How can students with an IEP not graduate’ tirade, let me make a few things clear:

    1. English is a very difficult language to learn. I didn’t realize how difficult until I started taking Spanish classes in high school. I will say, Spanish is the easier language. When you factor in the possibility that parents may not speak English in the home, it makes acquisition that much more difficult.
    2. My heart is, and always will be, in Special Education. Yes, even after days where a student was having a bad day and decided to cuss-out everyone (myself included), I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences. I have dialogued with some teachers on Twitter about how to ‘fix’ Special Education. We all have our own strategies and opinions, but we all agree that it is in horrible shape (trying to stop cussing on here). Special Education programs, understandably (to a small degree), differ from state-to-state; however, when you have noticeable disparities within a state and between district A and district B, there are serious consequences. Don’t believe me? Just look at the 41.1% graduation rate. That number does not include students with Severe and Profound Disabilities or other groups not required to earn a traditional high school diploma.

    New requirements are in place; however, we will not have any comparison data until the end of the 2011-12 school year. But I am certain that, at the end of this school year, our DOE will boast that graduation rates have improved, without emphasizing average or the fact that some student groups have yet to break the 50% threshold. Sometimes I wonder if I am over-simplifying the solutions, or if people are making things harder than they have to be…… Your thoughts?

    Do you keep pushing when others can't (or won't) 'see' your vision?   4 comments

    Approximately 1.5 years ago our organization, Millennium Scholars Academy (MSA), submitted a charter petition to the Gwinnett County Board of Education. We proposed to open the first K-12 Visual and Performing Arts (tuition-free) charter school in the county. At the time that we submitted our petition, we had enrollment commitments for 160 students, ranging from grades K-9; we even had parents whose children were not school-age who asked us to consider adding a Pre-K program!

    The board denied our petition, citing several reasons, including the following: (1) looping/multi-year classrooms were already being implemented in schools throughout the county; (2) our plans for the arts program was too extensive to do during the traditional school day (Kennedy Center Arts Edge Standards); and (3) Understanding by Design was not research based. As required by the state, I responded to the board’s deficiencies. I even went so far as to imply that looping implementation must be based on the zip code of the school because, to my knowledge, none of the schools in my community were participating. Guess whose daughter is now in the only looping classroom in the entire school? I also emailed Grant Wiggins and asked him what he thought about the board’s response to using UbD. He responded as I expected a well-educated and well-respected educational researcher would. I got a good laugh out of his response!

    This year’s charter petition deadline is March 25, even though the state’s Charter School Division requires districts to follow its guideline (SMH). I am still debating whether or not to submit the revised petition and pay for 20 copies of a 100 page document, when I know that no matter how much research I cite to support our instructional model and curriculum, it all boils down to whether you assuage the superintendent and the board members. My alma mater did not (and still does not) offer degrees in ass-kissing). Several months ago when I thought about taking a different approach, I contacted the school system to request demographic information for the Gifted and Special Education programs. I was curious. I wanted to know who was being served in each program, by the numbers. After being transferred to the wrong person three or four times, I finally got connected with the correct person. He told me that the district did not have that information readily available; therefore, they would have to create a ‘special’ report to the tune of $400. I thought to myself: Yeah right. Me, being the resourceful person I am (and watching 20 years of Law& Order) decided to submit the same Open Records Request to the Georgia Department of Education. Glad I did! I got the same ‘report’ for $48. People will sure find create a way to keep the public from obtaining damning information.

    Now that I have this data, I am debating on whether to use it as evidence that we (the people in the southern area of Gwinnett County-Snellville, Lilburn, & Loganville, mostly minority) need a charter school within reasonable distance from our homes (less than 45 minutes). Gwinnett County is the largest district in Georgia, serving approximately 160,000 kids. There are currently only 3 charter schools in the entire district: (1) Ivy Prep Academy-an all-girls’ charter school; (2) New Life Academy of Excellence; and (3) Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, & Technology-which came under scrutiny because it resembles a magnet school more than a charter. Ivy Prep is unique in that it is the first and only all -girls charter school in the state. The local board denied the petition because they were ‘cautious’ of the potential legal challenges that a single gender school could bring. I guess they hadn’t gotten around to reading that former President George W. Bush authorized single gender education, especially when it was used to address significant achievement disparities. Seeing as how this is a red state, I just knew they were up on his legislation. SMH

    So here’s the dilemna: Should I use the data in the petition since our school will implement the Accelerated School model, created by Henry Levin? This model was created as a way to close the achievement gap (long before it became a catchphrase) for minority kids and those from low-income families who did not have access to rigorous curricula and Gifted Education programs (see statistic above about high percentage of SES students in Special Education). Of the 22,138 students served in Gwinnett County’s Gifted Education program last year (2008-09), here is the breakdown:

    • 12.9% African American
    • 6.5% Hispanic/Latino
    • 1.9% English Language Learners
    • 18.8% Free & Reduced Lunch eligible (no break-down of race)

    This means that 59% of Gifted Students are either White or Asian. Since Gwinnett’s Asian student population is very small (11%), it is safe to conclude that the majority of students in Gifted Education programs are White (non-minority, if that makes anyone feel better). For the same school year, African Americans and Hispanic/Latino students accounted for 28% and 22% of the district’s total enrollment, respectively. So if our kids aren’t represented in Gifted Education programs, then where are they? Let’s see who’s representin’ in Special Education. For the same academic year, Gwinnett County had a total of 21,202 students in Special Education, with the following breakdown:

    • 33.7% African American (but we are only 28% of total district population)
    • 20.2% Hispanic/Latino
    • 7.8 % English Language Learners
    • 56.4% Free & Reduced Lunch eligible

    Well the minorities are certainly in the majority, but not in a good way: African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos account for more than 50% of the Special Education population. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that parents should resign any hope for their children and accept the odds that their children are more suitable for Special Education (remediation, in some cases) than advanced learning opportunities, or even age/grade appropriate learning opportunities. Especially troubling is the fact that district officials (superintendent, special program coordinators, and even state officials) are aware of the disparities, but have done nothing to address them. Hiring a few tokens to work at the district office does not count, FYI. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

    The more I think about this data, the negative consequences (to those of us who care about our kids being told they are mediocre and should not strive to be anything other than that), and the fact that NO ONE has the cajones to call these people out..the more disgusted I become. I am disgusted with these states and their paltry, half-assed attempts to address the achevement gap by allowing profit-hungry vultures (e.g., some EMO/CMO groups) to open charter schools in ‘the poorest communities,’ but deny those same opportunities to people who actually live there, not just those who commute into the communities. I am equally pissed about these false claims of restructuring education in Race to the Top applications. No one addresses the enrollment disparities of minority students in Gifted and Special Education programs. Even though the research is more than 20 years old, no one says a thing. As if ignoring the problem will make it go away. Unless districts start taking responsibility for perpetuating these exclusionary practices and states do better to hold them accountable, we can forget about making any significant dent in the achievement gap. Period. End of discussion.

    Damn. So much for Brown v. Board of Education, huh?

    Do you keep pushing when others can’t (or won’t) ‘see’ your vision?   4 comments

    Approximately 1.5 years ago our organization, Millennium Scholars Academy (MSA), submitted a charter petition to the Gwinnett County Board of Education. We proposed to open the first K-12 Visual and Performing Arts (tuition-free) charter school in the county. At the time that we submitted our petition, we had enrollment commitments for 160 students, ranging from grades K-9; we even had parents whose children were not school-age who asked us to consider adding a Pre-K program!

    The board denied our petition, citing several reasons, including the following: (1) looping/multi-year classrooms were already being implemented in schools throughout the county; (2) our plans for the arts program was too extensive to do during the traditional school day (Kennedy Center Arts Edge Standards); and (3) Understanding by Design was not research based. As required by the state, I responded to the board’s deficiencies. I even went so far as to imply that looping implementation must be based on the zip code of the school because, to my knowledge, none of the schools in my community were participating. Guess whose daughter is now in the only looping classroom in the entire school? I also emailed Grant Wiggins and asked him what he thought about the board’s response to using UbD. He responded as I expected a well-educated and well-respected educational researcher would. I got a good laugh out of his response!

    This year’s charter petition deadline is March 25, even though the state’s Charter School Division requires districts to follow its guideline (SMH). I am still debating whether or not to submit the revised petition and pay for 20 copies of a 100 page document, when I know that no matter how much research I cite to support our instructional model and curriculum, it all boils down to whether you assuage the superintendent and the board members. My alma mater did not (and still does not) offer degrees in ass-kissing). Several months ago when I thought about taking a different approach, I contacted the school system to request demographic information for the Gifted and Special Education programs. I was curious. I wanted to know who was being served in each program, by the numbers. After being transferred to the wrong person three or four times, I finally got connected with the correct person. He told me that the district did not have that information readily available; therefore, they would have to create a ‘special’ report to the tune of $400. I thought to myself: Yeah right. Me, being the resourceful person I am (and watching 20 years of Law& Order) decided to submit the same Open Records Request to the Georgia Department of Education. Glad I did! I got the same ‘report’ for $48. People will sure find create a way to keep the public from obtaining damning information.

    Now that I have this data, I am debating on whether to use it as evidence that we (the people in the southern area of Gwinnett County-Snellville, Lilburn, & Loganville, mostly minority) need a charter school within reasonable distance from our homes (less than 45 minutes). Gwinnett County is the largest district in Georgia, serving approximately 160,000 kids. There are currently only 3 charter schools in the entire district: (1) Ivy Prep Academy-an all-girls’ charter school; (2) New Life Academy of Excellence; and (3) Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, & Technology-which came under scrutiny because it resembles a magnet school more than a charter. Ivy Prep is unique in that it is the first and only all -girls charter school in the state. The local board denied the petition because they were ‘cautious’ of the potential legal challenges that a single gender school could bring. I guess they hadn’t gotten around to reading that former President George W. Bush authorized single gender education, especially when it was used to address significant achievement disparities. Seeing as how this is a red state, I just knew they were up on his legislation. SMH

    So here’s the dilemna: Should I use the data in the petition since our school will implement the Accelerated School model, created by Henry Levin? This model was created as a way to close the achievement gap (long before it became a catchphrase) for minority kids and those from low-income families who did not have access to rigorous curricula and Gifted Education programs (see statistic above about high percentage of SES students in Special Education). Of the 22,138 students served in Gwinnett County’s Gifted Education program last year (2008-09), here is the breakdown:

    • 12.9% African American
    • 6.5% Hispanic/Latino
    • 1.9% English Language Learners
    • 18.8% Free & Reduced Lunch eligible (no break-down of race)

    This means that 59% of Gifted Students are either White or Asian. Since Gwinnett’s Asian student population is very small (11%), it is safe to conclude that the majority of students in Gifted Education programs are White (non-minority, if that makes anyone feel better). For the same school year, African Americans and Hispanic/Latino students accounted for 28% and 22% of the district’s total enrollment, respectively. So if our kids aren’t represented in Gifted Education programs, then where are they? Let’s see who’s representin’ in Special Education. For the same academic year, Gwinnett County had a total of 21,202 students in Special Education, with the following breakdown:

    • 33.7% African American (but we are only 28% of total district population)
    • 20.2% Hispanic/Latino
    • 7.8 % English Language Learners
    • 56.4% Free & Reduced Lunch eligible

    Well the minorities are certainly in the majority, but not in a good way: African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos account for more than 50% of the Special Education population. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that parents should resign any hope for their children and accept the odds that their children are more suitable for Special Education (remediation, in some cases) than advanced learning opportunities, or even age/grade appropriate learning opportunities. Especially troubling is the fact that district officials (superintendent, special program coordinators, and even state officials) are aware of the disparities, but have done nothing to address them. Hiring a few tokens to work at the district office does not count, FYI. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

    The more I think about this data, the negative consequences (to those of us who care about our kids being told they are mediocre and should not strive to be anything other than that), and the fact that NO ONE has the cajones to call these people out..the more disgusted I become. I am disgusted with these states and their paltry, half-assed attempts to address the achevement gap by allowing profit-hungry vultures (e.g., some EMO/CMO groups) to open charter schools in ‘the poorest communities,’ but deny those same opportunities to people who actually live there, not just those who commute into the communities. I am equally pissed about these false claims of restructuring education in Race to the Top applications. No one addresses the enrollment disparities of minority students in Gifted and Special Education programs. Even though the research is more than 20 years old, no one says a thing. As if ignoring the problem will make it go away. Unless districts start taking responsibility for perpetuating these exclusionary practices and states do better to hold them accountable, we can forget about making any significant dent in the achievement gap. Period. End of discussion.

    Damn. So much for Brown v. Board of Education, huh?

    Tonight, 'My Dungeon Shook'   2 comments

    DISCLAIMER: This writing my seem disjointed but it’s been another one of those weeks where my heart has been heavy and my mind has been lacking in solutions. Just had to get this off my chest.

    Those of you who are fans of James Baldwin, understand the magnitude of that title, taken from a letter he wrote to his nephew. If you are not familiar with Baldwin, I highly recommend that you read his work. To say that the past 10 days have been eventful, traumatic, and inspirational would be an understatement. In fact, such a statement would not do justice to the events that have occurred in Haiti. What started last Tuesday afternoon with a 7.0 magnitude earthquake has turned into a never-seen-before tragedy of epic proportions. I am certain that the people of Haiti will never forget this day, especially those who saw loved ones perish before their eyes. My mind cannot even fathom what they were thinking when they saw the ground open up in front of them. Sounds like a scene from some futuristic Hollywood movie. Then reality set in: It didn’t happen on a soundstage, some remote, unheard of country, or in some high-tech computer. Nope, it happened in Haiti. By all intents and purposes, Haiti was an unheard (or unthought) of country until last week.

    As I watched the telethon and interacted with my friends on Twitter, I couldn’t help but feel sad, happy, and amazed all at the same time. I didn’t even understand why Baldwin came to mind while I watching. All week reports have been retweeted about the number of deaths ‘expected.’ I refused to receive those predictions. Call me crazy or in denial, but I was (and still am) not ready to call it quits just yet. You see, the past few years have really been learning years for me. I have learned (or forced myself) to stop trying to analyze everything and rely on my faith to ease my pain and comfort me during times that other people would have lost it. Sometimes your faith is the only thing you have. If you don’t believe me, watch the footage of the woman pulled from the rubble after 8 days. She didn’t ask any questions. She didn’t complain. She started thanking God and singing. Ha! The reporter couldn’t understand why she was singing. I laughed. Not at her, but at them. They just don’t get it. No amount of explaining will help them get it either. Kinda reminds me of something our pastor always says about working on being better Christians. No amount of talking will convince people that faith is real and belief in God is a powerful thing. The only thing we can do is show them with our actions.

    Listening to the news last night, someone said something about rescue efforts coming to an end soon. That scared me. I thought the relief workers were going to give-up looking for survivors. I prayed really hard last night. I asked God to continue supporting and keeping the people of Haiti safe, especially those who were working to find people, with limited resources. “God I need you to show the people that You are real and You do things that we cannot explain. If You can make sure a 16 month-old baby survives being buried in the rubble, You can do any and everything. If you can keep a woman alive after 8 days with no food or water, You can do any and everything.’ I went to bed feeling better and optimistic that today would bring more good news. Since I didn’t log-on to Twitter until early this evening, I had no idea of the progress made in Haiti earlier today. When I learned that a little girl was pulled from a house TODAY, after being trapped for 10 days….you either feel that or you don’t. I can’t make you feel the significance of that. Something divine; luck had no hand in it. I’m not concerned about what people think about my belief because I KNOW God heard my praying last night and I asked for something for someone else; nothing for myself. He knew I needed that. We all needed that today.

    As I sit here writing this, I realized the irony in referencing Baldwin in a post, mostly about my faith. I read ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain’ in college and it had a great impact on me. In fact, it made me rethink my view on ;organized’ religion. For those of you thinking that I purposefully chose the quote and this topic, you give me way too much credit! This has been an ‘off’ week for me…lost my mo-jo. Too many other important things going on for me to dedicate space to my usual topics, e.g.,  the education ‘experts’ in Georgia. Matter-of-factly, I am trying to figure out how I can get involved with rebuilding the educational infrastructure (not just buildings) in Haiti. Why not? I have spent that past 3 years fighting the good ol’ boy network to bring arts-based education to my mostly Brown and Black community. Why not someplace where my intelligence and abilities won’t be challenged by some old decrepit White man and handful of ‘good’ Negroes?

    Tonight, I realized that “The very time I thought I was lost, My dungeon shook and my chains fell off,” (Baldwin) And it felt good.

    Posted January 23, 2010 by moniseseward in Uncategorized

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    Tonight, ‘My Dungeon Shook’   2 comments

    DISCLAIMER: This writing my seem disjointed but it’s been another one of those weeks where my heart has been heavy and my mind has been lacking in solutions. Just had to get this off my chest.

    Those of you who are fans of James Baldwin, understand the magnitude of that title, taken from a letter he wrote to his nephew. If you are not familiar with Baldwin, I highly recommend that you read his work. To say that the past 10 days have been eventful, traumatic, and inspirational would be an understatement. In fact, such a statement would not do justice to the events that have occurred in Haiti. What started last Tuesday afternoon with a 7.0 magnitude earthquake has turned into a never-seen-before tragedy of epic proportions. I am certain that the people of Haiti will never forget this day, especially those who saw loved ones perish before their eyes. My mind cannot even fathom what they were thinking when they saw the ground open up in front of them. Sounds like a scene from some futuristic Hollywood movie. Then reality set in: It didn’t happen on a soundstage, some remote, unheard of country, or in some high-tech computer. Nope, it happened in Haiti. By all intents and purposes, Haiti was an unheard (or unthought) of country until last week.

    As I watched the telethon and interacted with my friends on Twitter, I couldn’t help but feel sad, happy, and amazed all at the same time. I didn’t even understand why Baldwin came to mind while I watching. All week reports have been retweeted about the number of deaths ‘expected.’ I refused to receive those predictions. Call me crazy or in denial, but I was (and still am) not ready to call it quits just yet. You see, the past few years have really been learning years for me. I have learned (or forced myself) to stop trying to analyze everything and rely on my faith to ease my pain and comfort me during times that other people would have lost it. Sometimes your faith is the only thing you have. If you don’t believe me, watch the footage of the woman pulled from the rubble after 8 days. She didn’t ask any questions. She didn’t complain. She started thanking God and singing. Ha! The reporter couldn’t understand why she was singing. I laughed. Not at her, but at them. They just don’t get it. No amount of explaining will help them get it either. Kinda reminds me of something our pastor always says about working on being better Christians. No amount of talking will convince people that faith is real and belief in God is a powerful thing. The only thing we can do is show them with our actions.

    Listening to the news last night, someone said something about rescue efforts coming to an end soon. That scared me. I thought the relief workers were going to give-up looking for survivors. I prayed really hard last night. I asked God to continue supporting and keeping the people of Haiti safe, especially those who were working to find people, with limited resources. “God I need you to show the people that You are real and You do things that we cannot explain. If You can make sure a 16 month-old baby survives being buried in the rubble, You can do any and everything. If you can keep a woman alive after 8 days with no food or water, You can do any and everything.’ I went to bed feeling better and optimistic that today would bring more good news. Since I didn’t log-on to Twitter until early this evening, I had no idea of the progress made in Haiti earlier today. When I learned that a little girl was pulled from a house TODAY, after being trapped for 10 days….you either feel that or you don’t. I can’t make you feel the significance of that. Something divine; luck had no hand in it. I’m not concerned about what people think about my belief because I KNOW God heard my praying last night and I asked for something for someone else; nothing for myself. He knew I needed that. We all needed that today.

    As I sit here writing this, I realized the irony in referencing Baldwin in a post, mostly about my faith. I read ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain’ in college and it had a great impact on me. In fact, it made me rethink my view on ;organized’ religion. For those of you thinking that I purposefully chose the quote and this topic, you give me way too much credit! This has been an ‘off’ week for me…lost my mo-jo. Too many other important things going on for me to dedicate space to my usual topics, e.g.,  the education ‘experts’ in Georgia. Matter-of-factly, I am trying to figure out how I can get involved with rebuilding the educational infrastructure (not just buildings) in Haiti. Why not? I have spent that past 3 years fighting the good ol’ boy network to bring arts-based education to my mostly Brown and Black community. Why not someplace where my intelligence and abilities won’t be challenged by some old decrepit White man and handful of ‘good’ Negroes?

    Tonight, I realized that “The very time I thought I was lost, My dungeon shook and my chains fell off,” (Baldwin) And it felt good.

    Posted January 23, 2010 by moniseseward in Uncategorized

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    Tomorrow we honor a man and his 'Dream,' but then it's business as usual   2 comments

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    As millions of people across the country prepare to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I can’t help but wonder: How many people truly believe that we are better off because of his efforts and the Civil Rights Movement? How many people will use this one day, out of 365, as an assurance that they are keepers of the dream when in reality, they are dream killers? I am sure that I will strike a few nerves with this post, but c’est la vie! As the saying goes: A hurt dog will yelp. If you cringe while reading this or stop midway then, well..you know.

    Almost 8 years ago I made the decision to move to Atlanta. Misguided and misinformed, anxious to leave South Bend, IN behind, I actually thought Atlanta was the place to be! After all, it is the birthplace of Dr. King so of course I expected to meet and interact with some professional, educated, and socially conscious people, Black, White, and everything in-between. (Enter reality, stage left). To say I was and still am disappointed by what I have seen would be an understatement. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that I had stepped inside the DeLorean and traveled back in time by say, oh…..at least 200 years.

    Reality #1: Despite legislation, minority law makers, and the educational attainment of many of the African Americans who live and work in the metro Atlanta area, we still have some of the most segregated schools in the country.

    Reality #2: Considering the above example, no one is doing anything to change this.

    Reality #3: Many high-ranking education officials are aware of the disparities and played-out ‘achievement gap’ but are slow to react, if they react at all.

    Reality #4: Too many people are content with their titles, Benz, and house in the burbs. Once they leave the city, they forget about everyone else.

    Reality #5: African Americans who admonish others for speaking-up against ‘the system’ for the sake of securing a future in said system. I was once told by an African American administrator, “If you want to move-up in this system, you need to watch what you say.” I explained that I had no desire to move-up in that system. It wasn’t her fault; she didn’t choose how or where she was raised. That’s how I compartmentalized a lot of African American people I met who were raised in the South: They are victims of their stifling and submissive upbringings.

    Add-up these realities and the final result = A disgrace to King’s ‘Dream’

    Make no mistake: There will never be another Malcolm, Martin, Medgar, Rosa, Huey, Angela, Hosea, etc., but that does not mean the struggles are over. If anything, they are almost as bad as they were back then. Racists and anti-Semitics hide behind media outlets, social media, judges’ robes, bibles, badges, state capitol buildings, etc. They continue to instill fear and ignorance with their off-the-wall claims that people here illegally are stealing jobs from citizens or that minorities are exhausting the welfare system. Those of us who know better need to remain vigilant. If you have been on the fence up until this point, take a stand! As my Granny used to say: S&%$ of get off the pot! You have to choose. Alone we can do so little, but together we can hold people accountable, expose abuse and misuse of public funds, and expose the ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots in terms of Education, Employment, Healthcare, and other basic human rights.

    Let us not forget that Dr. King was not just a champion of Civil Rights for people of color (that includes Latinos and Jewish people too), but he also fought for equality for women and the poor. Given the events of the past 16 months or so, there are now more of us in the ‘poor’ category then any other. I ask you, will you commit to ensuring that everyday you live is in honor of Dr. King, or are you too preoccupied with getting your next promotion or latest E-Class? Are you a dream keeper or dream killer? Tomorrow is not just a day off, but a day of respect, remembrance, and re-commitment. Remember:

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
     
    If you say or do nothing, you are just as guilty as the perpetraitor.

    Posted January 18, 2010 by moniseseward in Uncategorized

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