Friday, December 31, 2010

Barbour Did the Right Thing . . . Kinda

Kinda. He suspended the sentences of Gladys and Jamie Scott, the two sisters who were each given double life sentences over $11. I'm glad they're free and going home. You can sign a "welcome home" card here with the NAACP.

Suspended sentences.

And, Gladys Scott's release is contingent on giving a kidney to her sister, Jamie, who requires daily dialysis. What the . . .

But I'm happy for the sisters and the family. Not impressed by Barbour. By happy for the sisters.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Revolution Will Be Taught, Part I

The importance of teaching accurate history cannot be overemphasized. It gives children a proper sense of their selves and their communities. What Texas, and Arizona by the way, did to the textbook standards of their soft subjects in racist, egregious, and just plain wrong. Texas's partisan state board of education put forth standards propograting a racist and inaccurate history. I found that insulting as well as disappointing.

So hearing that the NAACP and LULAC are joining forces against Texas’s SBOE gave me incredible pleasure. (h/t Joe @ racismreview):
The Texas NAACP, Texas LULAC and Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education (TABPHE) are holding a press conference, with partnering groups to announce the filing of a request for a proactive review by the U.S. Department of Education and its Civil rights division. The request addresses many aspects of discrimination against minority public school students in Texas, including recent changes to history and educational standards in social studies. Texas State NAACP President and National Board Member Gary Bledsoe said, “Education remains the most critical element in the long term economic and social interests of all American citizens. Reasonable people of good will must guarantee that all students, regardless of race or economic circumstances, be given the tools needed to become successful in a rapidly changing global economy. We must also be held to a high standard of accuracy in conveying historical events to students who will use this information to compete for educational access not only in Texas, but increasingly around the country and world. We must not allow the use of our compulsory education system to misinform and negatively impact the academic capacity of our most important natural resource – our children. Our action today seeks on objective review of the partisan attack on the public education system in the State of Texas.”

State LULAC President Joey Cardenas said, “We were shocked at the actions by the State Board of Education in emasculating our history. It is necessary for our own well-being and that of the people of our State that we do all that we can to ensure that what they have done does not end up being a reality. Our State and nation will suffer from what they have done and emotionally and psychologically it will greatly harm our young people. Dr. Rod Fluker of TABPHE said that one of the things we are most worried about is how this will impact teachers and the kinds of attitudes it will bring to our next generation of young people to move into this field. This is a serious problem.” Bledsoe said that one thing we are looking for is to invalidate the standards so that they do not become a reality. “This is like a criminal assault. The message is that you have no worth. We cannot let this become official policy.” Cardenas added that “we have engaged the State in litigation before and will do so again if necessary.

“In challenging the Standards, the Texas NAACP wishes to applaud State Board of Education Members Lawrence Allen and Mavis Knight for supporting us in this initiative. Dr. Felicia Scott of TABPHE said that it is important to note that the most offensive items were opposed by all 5 minority Board members who voted as a block, “that really says something about how offensive these matters are, and this is from a purely academic and humanistic perspective with no injection of politics.” 
I'll share more of my thoughts later. For now, Professor Kevin Michael Foster, a graduate faculty member in the Departments of African and African Diaspora Studies, Curriculum and Instruction, and Educational Administration, says this (email reprinted with his permission):

Subject Line: Supplemental strategies in light of noxious social studies standards

Greetings all,
On the tail of the complaint [by the NAACP and LULAC] to the Dept of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, I can’t help but again express my thorough frustration with the social studies knowledge (and dispositions) among the Texas-taught undergraduate students I work with at UT Austin. Encouraged by Board Member Knight’s interest in what is taught elsewhere, I’d also like to think about multiple strategies — a program of activities — to see to the good sense education of Texas school children regardless of the “standards” that we end up with.

Joe Feagin alluded to a reality that several of us experience on the collegiate level. My general experience is that the miseducation of high achieving students in Texas is thorough — not simply that they have been undereducated, but that they have been and are systematically miseducated in the sense used by Carter G. Woodson.  Black and non-black, Hispanic and non-Hispanic, huge numbers across demographic groups doubt the intelligence and worth of non-whites as students as UT. It is especially painful to see Black and Brown kids who finished in the top ten percent of their high school classes yet come to UT with doubts about their own intelligence and worth. They have been taught the glories of The Alamo and Texas Independence with no context to bring out (for instance) the historic role of the slavery issue in the region. In defiance of the historical record and decades of historical analyses, they are taught that the Civil War was about “state’s rights” and not really about slavery (as if in this context those two were separable). They are taught that Affirmative Action is among the greatest unfairnesses today — a red herring of the first order — especially for settings like UT, where the only meaningful affirmative action that takes place is for student athletes (and in a context where even there it is not done with adherence to the spirit of the original concept).

By contrast, and to Board member Knight’s query, in my youth I was required to read Souls of Black Folk (Du Bois), Up From Slavery (BTW), The Autobiography of Malcolm XWhy We Can’t Wait (MLK), The Autobiography of Ms. Jane Pittman (Gaines), Mules and Men (Zora Hurston), large chunks of The New Negro (Alain Locke, ed) and other texts. During most of those years I lived on Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue and was expected to know who this important and great woman was as well.  Much of my reading was required in school. That which was not required by the school was required by my father and nurtured by my (former schoolteacher & guidance counselor) grandmother. Today we still need both forces — what the approved curriculum standards require and what we as a community require in addition.

As I raise my 10 year old son and 8 year old daughter, I perceive a profound need for a war on multiple fronts. One front is that of the specific Texas Curriculum Standards. And even here, while there is a need for straight on attack (e.g. “complaints” to OCR), there is also space for battle on the flanks (for instance cataloging and publicly rebutting the problems with the standards and providing parents with talking points for conversations with teachers and principals as they ensure that their children aren’t fully subject to the brainwash education).

Another space for action is to actively create and disseminate a supplemental curriculum, one specifically aimed at correcting for the anticipated (and realized) negative consequences of students (of all backgrounds) being taught histories that validate the indefensible, that force classroom discussion into ridiculous directions, and that undermine true knowledge of self and history among African American students, Latino students and others who find their well-informed understandings (or even nascent yet accurate understandings) of themselves and their world under assault. To take just one example,what if students were expected to read and consider Uncle Tom’s Cabin, easily one of the most important books in U.S. History, gigantically influential in its time, for the longest time second in sales only to the Bible, and a text that raises the paradox of having emancipatory goals while simultaneously cementing damaging stereotypes. There is so much to work with in this highly readable text — for history, for literature, for critical thinking — and yet most students have not read it.

In this sad state of affairs I am sure of at least two things: 1) We must act to alter inaccurate standards; and 2) we must in the meantime produce and disseminate viable supplements to counter the damage that the inaccurate standards are doing in the meantime. For those whose official capacities allow it, proaction should not be seen as an option but rather as a responsibility.

With apologies for the rant, but a deep commitment to not stand idly by, I hope that all have a happy season.


Kevin Michael Foster, Ph.D.

Executive Director, ICUSP Phase II

Graduate Faculty Member,
Departments of African and African Diaspora Studies, Curriculum and Instruction, and Educational Administration
University of Texas at Austin

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Think Outside the "Man Box"

A Facebook friend put this up via CNN (There's also video at the link.):
Why men act out against women
By Anthony Porter, Special to CNN

Editor's note: TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to "Ideas worth spreading," which it distributes through talks posted on its website. Anthony Porter is co-founder of "A Call to Men," a national organization addressing domestic and sexual violence prevention and the promotion of healthy manhood.

(CNN) -- It's time for those of us who are good men to start acknowledging the role that male socialization plays in domestic and sexual violence. As good men, we must begin to acknowledge and own our responsibility to be part of the solution to ending violence against women and girls.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gov. Paterson Got This Right; Barbour Should Do Likewise

Personally, I don't think John Harris White should've been convicted in the first place. Perhaps NY Gov. David Paterson should've pardoned him, but at least he's free and out of prison. And rather than going around denying the experience of black Mississippians and campaigning for 2012, Gov Haley Barbour needs to pardon the Scott sisters.

And speaking of Barbour and his fond memories of his childhood - parched up on his upper-class white male privilege in Mississippi, I'm sure the Civil Rights era was anything but terrifying and violent. That doesn't mean that it wasn't hell for black folks, nor does it mean that he didn't contribute to problem of institutionalized racism.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Progressive Rallies Are so Gay!: Today's Good News, Bad News

(December 9, 2010 - Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images North America)

Activists Rally On Capitol Hill For Congress To Pass Repeal Of DADT

An activist holds a picture of U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) during a rally on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network held the rally to call on the Senate to pass the National Defense Authorization Bill that includes the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" which prohibits gay people from serving openly in the military.
That was just last week, and you know what happened just today?

Homie Don't Play That!

h/t racismreview, 24 members of the Congressional black caucus voted against the tax-cut compromise.

Let's be clear. I have made a distinction between white progressives and progressives of color. I feel people of color have more reason to be upset because the worst is happening to us. To be sure, it’s not all Obama’s fault, and he's not the only one they've taken issue with.

The black caucus has been more consistently critical of Obama in a substantive way. They were equally as critical of W Bush and Republicans. And when it comes to blacks fighting for justice in general . . . how many white people did you see at the Jena 6 protests?

So on to another point in terms of race in the US . . . why haven’t we heard more on this than we've heard on the “woe is us” whining from the white left?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

You Know What? I Think I'm with Pres. Obama on This One

I initially agreed with those who're upset with Pres. Obama for backing down. After watching the president's news conference, I changed my mind. The video below is a segment from MSNBC's Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. Essentially, now I agree with Lawrence and Ezra Klein. Strategy and communication from the White House leave a world to be desired. But the policy, considering the circumstances, isn't all that bad.

And let's not forget several congressional Dems were moving over to the Republican side. Several Dems ran against the president in the recent midterm elections. Several Dems voted for the Bush tax cuts that got us in the mess in the first place. So lets not delude ourselves into believe that this whole mess is entirely Obama's fault. Constitutionally, the president doesn't write policy anyway. If congressional Dems wanna act all bad ass now, they're perfectly free to hold up legislation till they get what they want.

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