Monthly Archives: November 2016

Liberty’s Re-teachable Moments

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“Struggle is a never ending process,” said Coretta Scott King. “Freedom is never really won– you earn it and win it in every generation.”

And so it was on September 11, 2001, when America woke up from its gentle malaise to a very uncertain new world order and a decade of endless war.

Similarly, the election of Donald Trump on November 8, 2016, has scorched the landscape for– among many others– our children of color.

Our first African American president will be replaced by a blustering bully appealing to the worst nature in all of us. 3 steps forward. 5 Steps back.

imagesAs educators, we don’t know what it is all ultimately going to mean. But we know what he has said. He called Mexicans “rapists”, advocated for a ban on all Muslims, argued that a federal judge was unqualified because he was a Mexican, and questioned the citizenship (and thus the legitimacy) of our first African American President throughout his two terms of service. “Why won’t he show us his birth certificate?” asked Trump– as if he were citizen/slavemaster.

And of course, he promised to send millions of immigrants back to whatever hopelessness they fled to get here. “I’m gonna build a wall,” he promised. “I’m gonna send em all back.”  That’s what our children heard. That’s what they saw. And for many, he’s talking about their parents and grandparents.

And we know what his actions mean too.

His first appointments as President-elect included a governor who passed some of the nation’s most discriminatory laws against the LGBT community in his home state; an avowed white nationalist; a Southern KKK sympathizer who has challenged the Constitutional principle of birthright citizenship; and a retired general who has echoed Trump’s own threat to ban an entire religion from US soil.

All of this…while the nation’s most respected media outlets intensified their light on conflict of interest laws, international business ties, and the specter of an American president mired in graft and corruption. Trump’s response is to rail against the messenger. Indignant. Entitled.

And even children begin to wonder why he wanted to be President. Why he wants to be King.

We can’t predict the future or how our nation will move to protect its citizens. We only know what we know:  that the civil rights of others can be sold for votes. And in the 15 days since the red states spoke— we know, that Coretta Scott King was right. Again.

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What The Red States Teach Us

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I’m at the tail end of the election-induced grief cycle… and that grief has yielded to action. So I have dusted off this blog page to channel my rage and trepidation– for however long it roils.

I hate what our country did on Election Day. I hate the fascist monster that was elected, and the frightening nest of characters he is weaving in to critical roles… and I will fight every day to the protect the civil rights of my friends and students.

But today… I looked in the mirror and realized just how complicit I may have been in this debacle. We learned that this was–in part, at least–  a revolution of disaffected voters who put their own economic interests ahead of the moral and cultural arc of our nation.

Their disaffection must be profound. And it is. And at least on one level, it is owed to the schools they attended– because their disaffection was, at the core, as much about job preparation… as it was about disappearing jobs.

Alvin Toffler said:  “Our job is not just to prepare students for the future… it is to prepare them for the RIGHT future.”

And this is where my epiphany lies.

In 2014, I founded Bayfront Charter High School in the heart one of the most economically depressed pockets of Chula Vista. 95% of my students are children of color—90% are Latino and 85% qualify for free and reduced lunch. A healthy percentage of those are the subject of the country’s rage about immigration and building walls (which by the way we already have.) This school is organized around preparing our students for College and Career pathways that they might not have otherwise discovered in the other overcrowded neighborhood high schools. And that’s the backdrop for this election.

In the run-up to Election Day 2016, I was, like most Americans, shocked and outraged (and at times amused) by trump’s antics and vitriol. I tuned in every night for the latest daily outrage waiting for him and the Republican cabal to implode.  Then, just as we settled in to celebrate the election of America’s first female President and dismiss trump to the footnotes of history, the nightmare unfolded. I was numb. And livid. I had dismissed trump’s backers as bigots– but that was too simple an analysis.

So I started connecting the dots…

This is the electoral map:

 

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Bayfront Charter High School sits squarely in the blue on the southwest corner of the United States. All that red? Those are the middle class/working class voters we heard so much about. The white, male, non-college educated citizens of Michigan, Alabama, rural Florida and points in between. The ones that were so angry about lost jobs that trump could have thrown babies off a roof top on one of his reality tv shows and they still would have voted for him. It’s the economy, dumb ass!

The problem, however, isn’t necessarily the scarcity of jobs in that red sea.

It’s a lack of jobs that align with the skill sets and education level of the available work force. In fact, according to America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have Nots, 2016– published by the Georgetown Center on Education and The Workforce, “a quarter-century of U.S. economic growth under Democrats and Republicans alike has added 35 million net new jobs.”

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But the number of jobs held by Americans with only a high school diploma or less has fallen by 7.3 million. The disparity is striking. The country has experienced a doubling of jobs for Americans with a four-year college degree, while the number of jobs for those with a high school diploma or less has fallen by 13 percent.”

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This trump can’t bring jobs back to an unskilled or undereducated work force. But that’s his problem.  And theirs.

Meanwhile, the large swath of blue on the two coasts is not coincidental. California is the largest state in the union and the strongest driver of our nation’s economy… fueled by rapid innovation in technology, energy, and STEM in general. And many of the companies driving that growth—can’t find enough skilled candidates—American or otherwise—to keep up with the job opeings.

It’s not just a demand for folks with a specific degree– it’s the degree plus some very distinctive skills: like the ability to adapt, solve problems, collaborate, make stuff, innovate, and exercise creative and critical thinking.

Those skills. Soft skills. The ones we have been talking about since the SCANS report of the 1990’s. The ones that the Common Core actually demands and develops. And the ones that are still not front and center in our schools. The ones required in every community of America that can’t quite figure out how to reinvent itself– short of importing a regional arm of Amazon.

So at Bayfront, we are sharpening our focus around preparing our students for the right future.

Yes, they live in a country filled with racism and intolerance that has bubbled to the surface– and at least for the moment it is personified by our bigot-in-chief.  They are the very students who trump wants to deport and to whom he would deny fundamental civil and constitutional rights.

But we intend to fight; to launch our own counter-revolution to assure that the cultural direction of our high school positions our students to compete in an entrepreneurial economy.  We intend to prepare every student to achieve whatever they imagine…whether its a career in Silicon Valley, or their own community,  or one right there in the White House.

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Napalm in the Mourning

I’m pissed.

I’m disgusted.

Americans have elected a monster and they are jubilant.

The adjectives are endless. Authoritarian. Racist. Bigot. Mysogynist. Narciscist.

Dangerous.

He has come from the same party that gave us George W. Bush and the inevitable world chaos that spun from 9-11 into an endless war that had been planned long before he became Cheyney’s puppet.

He has been elected by otherwise good people who would wave this ugly flag with the sole objective of denying Hillary Clinton the presidency.

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The republican party has aligned itself around a man so vile that even their own leaders are repulsed. They pushed a few predictable candidates out on the stage and Trump annhialated them by saying things that—in previous years— would have lead to instant revulsion and elimination from serious contention for any public office—let alone the Presidency. Think George Wallace. Think David Duke.

Anything to deny Ms. Clinton.

The entire party is complicit in this. They smeared Hillary with every possible lie they could muster—as they would have even if one of their other weaklings would have been selected: Vince Foster, Whitewater, Lewinsky, Benghazi, emails. Hundreds of millions of dollars, senate investigations, and

Liar… criminal… unethical… unaccountable… above the law…

So she will not be President. Trump will be. And I am disgusted. I hate that this has happened in our country. This is beyond politics.

When Americans voted for George W. Bush, they did so fully knowing that he was maleable and not real bright. But he ran on the illusion of family values and the right to life and all the platitudes of phony evangelicalism— in spite of the Constitution’s commitment to the separation of church and state. When Cheney appointed himself vice president, and the right wing arm of the Supreme Court anointed them all in 2000—we should have known we were in for trouble. And it started on September 11.

When Obama was elected in 2008 Republicans vowed to block him at every turn and undermine and emasculate his presidency—and they stayed true to their promise. To justify their treasonous opposition they peddled the lie that he wasn’t an American and that his Presidency was illegitimate. He served 8 years and made some mistakes—but led our nation out of the deep deep ditch into which Bush ran our nation.

He succeeded in spite of them. But he succeeded because he is honest, intelligent and deeply committed to serving all Americans—including (and especially) the haters.  Obama has righted the ship in the face of very public opposition—not opposition to his ideas as much as to his race. So the counter-response is Trump. The birther.

Friends, we are all accountable for the votes we cast. If you voted for Trump, if you made an “informed and rational” decision that he is best suited to lead our nation, then whatever happens next is on you.

You knew full well that he promised to build a wall on our Southern border, to deport millions of American born children, and to ban immigrants from the United States on the basis of their religion and you voted for him anyway.  You heard him express disdain for woman, people of color, veterans, judges, media, elected senators and congressmen of both parties, and you voted for him anyway. You know he simply refused to illuminate the concerns raised by trusted journalists about the state of his financial affairs and his international ties and you voted for him anyway. You heard him bully and bullshit his way through debates and interviews and you voted for him anyway. You heard him claim to know more about our enemies than our generals do and you voted for him to be our Commander in Chief.   You listened as he defiled and embarrassed our country and you chose to award him with the presidency. You heard him threaten to use nuclear weapons, because, “that’s what they’re there for.”

And maybe all of this will be ok some day. But when democracy is at its weakest, when people are deluged with so many lies, conspiracies and hoaxes that they begin to believe them– and when a strongman is given power he has not earned, we pave the way for fascism.

So while republicans celebrate and wave their flag and shout jingoist chants about the good old USA—it all repulses me now.  We are now supposed to respect the democratic process that he was contemptuous of.  We are supposed to suspend judgement, give him a chance, get behind the new president-elect…while he quickly assembles a transition team of alt right renegades who are as deplorable as him.

I won’t fly or salute or even possess a flag that flies above this shit pile. I wont stand or even listen to the National Anthem again until I am convinced our country has the courage to protect its own people and that the Constitution—upon which it was founded—is not trampled on by this cartoon character that poses such an existential threat to our national security and civil liberties.

This is not my America. This monster will never be my President. I’m with Kapernick.

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