Do You Hear What I Hear? It’s The Sound of Fear-Mongering and Parent-Shaming

The Associated Press’ story blaming charter schools for re-segregating schools has the ed reform community in a tizzy. Thought-leaders, policymakers, and advocates have lit up Twitter, and rightfully so, crying foul about a story that supports the tragically irresponsible claim made by the NAACP and AFT (American Federation of Teachers union) last summer.

I get it. People are afraid. As more charters experience success, the greater the potential for the closure of traditional public schools, thus, job loss. So the strategy to label charter schools agents of segregation is a pretty desperate attempt to save jobs, maintain control of marginalized families, and protect the business of masking shit as free and appropriate education.

The AP story was careful to keep the premier teacher’s union and the NAACP out of the spotlight, but the remnants of this summer past can be detected in each line. Remember when AFT chief Randi Weingarten called charter schools and vouchers “slightly more polite cousins to segregation?” And the Reverend Al Sharpton had to chime in:

Maybe it’s a coincidence that the AFT, NAACP, and AP are all calling charter schools segregationists. I wonder if they also believe the audacious accusation that schools full of kids of color cannot succeed. “‘Desegregation works. Nothing else does,” said Daniel Shulman, a Minnesota civil rights attorney.”

Many of my grandparent’s generation lament desegregation as they blame it for breaking up the village. The tight-knit community of professionals and laborers and artists formed to defend the volatile world around them. Schools and churches were the beacons of these communities and no child was left behind. Enter Generation X, one generation removed from real segregation as Chris Stewart defines as “the state-enforced separation of races and the assignment of minorities into inferior conditions.”

As a Gen X-er, I was forced to attend schools in the suburbs with middle-class white kids and, in turn, forced my kids to do the same. I believed that black and poor kids could only succeed by attending school with white, wealthy kids in their neighborhoods.

But today’s parents of color have figured it out and those accustomed to controlling our narratives are terrified. Clearly, for charter school parents diversity is not the priority as they walk towards educational options that fit. Their steps are loud and the message is clear “This school meets my child’s needs. Period.” More importantly, with their feet, traditionally marginalized parents are sprinting from efforts that work to ensure they stay in the margins. 

There are so many shades of wrong coming out of this AP story, but the most egregious act committed is the attack on black and brown parents. Shamelessly shaming them for doing what every white and wealthy parent in America does – selecting the best educational situation for their babies.

The NAACP, AFT, and AP-types should be ashamed of themselves.

And, by the way, we cannot talk racial isolation and segregated schools without discussing housing patterns. So where do you live and how is that working out for your children? 

 

Guest Blog: White People, Time to Get Louder

In my most recent post You Wanna Fight About Education? Meet Me Outside…  For Coffee, I wrote of olive branches and efforts to achieve peace over coffee. I wrote that our children deserve our best efforts.

Published just a few hours before the Charlottesville devastation, I’ve since had little to say. Since invaded by images of fearful white men wielding fiery torches that match their ire for anyone not fearful white men and the women who cover them. My anger is too raw to share –immature and, possibly, irrational. No invitations to coffee are in motion at the present time. I need a moment. 

Incidentally, I’m grateful for friends like Erika Sanzi who recognize their own privilege and uses it to inform privileged others while spreading love to those in her world personally affected by the effects of a racist America. 


White America, Time to Get Louder

by Erika Sanzi

There is a special kind of cognitive dissonance when on the very day I head away for a few long awaited days on a lake in Maine, Charlottesville, Virginia is under siege by white supremacists and anti-Semitic people, mostly men, who have us all wondering how this can be happening in 2017.

Except it isn’t all of us who are wondering. It’s those of us who haven’t been the victims of discrimination because of the color of our skin who are most surprised. Black and brown folks have been telling us forever that they see and feel racism all the time. And while we may have believed them, we didn’t have to see it. Or feel the pain of it. Or explain it to our children as a way of protecting them from harm.

You see, I can quite literally take a vacation from racism because I’m a white mom of three who lives in a suburb and drives a minivan. I get polite warnings when I have a tail light out or make an illegal left hand turn. I reach into the glove compartment or under my seat while the police approach my car and to this day, no one has ever escalated or screamed or pointed a gun in my face. I get profiled as someone who isn’t a threat. Or dangerous.

I did nothing to deserve that profile.

I can’t think of a more quintessential example of privilege than being able to take a vacation from the hate that is on on the march in Charlottesville this weekend. And the truth is, I don’t want to stop thinking about it. In fact, I want to make more people think about it. The images coming out of Virginia are a huge wake up call to all of us who haven’t raised our voices enough, as white Americans, to condemn and fight against the hate that others who look like us feel emboldened to spew in the public square and on television in 2017. The hatred that would drive someone to drive a car, full speed, into a crowd of people (photo below). We are so quick to rail against ISIS without a second thought so how is this any different? ISIS plows vehicles into crowds of people too. ISIS hates Christians and these white supremacists in Virginia hate Jews. And Blacks.

Yet there is a silence this weekend that is deafening from those who have been so loud after other forms of protests and acts of terror. Those who couldn’t stop talking about Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem now seem to have nothing to say. How can that be?

I don’t pretend to know the answers but I do know that white America must be a much louder, braver, and stronger force in standing up to the hate and racism that has always existed and is now bubbling up into public view where we can’t pretend we don’t see it.

Let’s not avert our eyes. Let’s not try to explain it away. Let’s have the courage to call it what it is even when the moment is an uncomfortable one. Let’s come together to put pressure on our lawmakers to actually take action that will begin to chip away at the systems and institutions that continue to discriminate against our fellow Americans.

And then let’s imagine how lonely and betrayed we’d feel it were us and our families who were under attack and nobody – not even our friends – showed up to stand beside us and fight back.

We’ve got to be better. Let’s start now.

And let’s say a prayer for Charlottesville too.

Netflix Series ’13 Reasons Why’ Strikes Nerve with Parents

Netflix has done it again. Doing what it does best by creating a series sure to build up a buzz and bolstering its already ridiculous viewership. This time, though, its parents of impressionable adolescents who are talking about the new series 13 Reasons Why. Bad group to offend.

Here, mom, former teacher and education blogger, Erika Sanzi warns that the new youth-targeted series based on the novel of the same name inadvertently glamorizes suicide and parents should watch with their children.

The entire post by Erika Sanzi originally published through her blog Good School Hunting can be seen below.


Middle schoolers and high schoolers across America are buzzing about the now controversial Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” which attempts to tackle the painful issue of teen suicide.  Despite its “Mature Audience” rating and despite the serious themes and graphic rape and suicide scenes, many parents are finding themselves behind the eight ball, unaware that the series even exists let alone that their children are watching the thirteen episodes on their phones and tablets, totally cut off from the adults who love them most.

I watched the entire series and while I found it gripping in ways, I became extremely concerned about how tweens and teens who I knew had to be viewing it as well. I did a bit of digging and discovered that indeed, middle schoolers are watching it in droves and others are asking their parents if they can watch it.

This series is no joke. A tenth grader takes her own life, on screen. The scene is graphic and hard to watch. And it is bloody. The premise is that before ending her life, she records 13 cassette tapes for the 13 people she blames for her feeling so hopeless that the only solution she can see is to commit suicide.

The audience sees a series of flashbacks throughout and is able to see what was happening in her life at home and at school before she dies. They also watch the drama that unfolds in the aftermath of her death once the tapes begin making their way through the 13 people she describes.

Mental health experts and suicide prevention groups are already expressing grave concern about the series, claiming that it downplays the issue of suicide and even glamorizes it in a way that could be very dangerous for some kids. They worry about “suicide contagion” too.

Suicide contagion is the exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one’s family, one’s peer group, or through media reports of suicide and can result in an increase in suicide and suicidal behaviors.

Articles and television segments about the series are popping up all over the place and resources that provide conversation starters, fact sheets, and tips for parents and educators in dealing with the series are readily available online. Facebook is full of threads of parents discussing the series, expressing concern, and debating whether or not their kids should be allowed to watch it. 

A mental health expert on Good Morning America describes this series as an ‘entry-point’ to the conversation around teen suicide and says that if a parent decides to allow their child to watch the series, they should “co-view” it, with the parent not only watching the show but also watching their child’s reactions to watching it.

The Superintendent of schools in Bedford, New York sent a letter home to all parents in the district. His letter is worth a read since, at least at this point, most parents in America have not received any communication from their children’s schools about the Netflix series.

I am writing today to share concerns about a television series students may be watching. While many consider the video streaming service, Netflix, as “just another TV channel,” it is a paid subscription service and therefore not subjected to the same FCC regulations and content rating system as broadcast TV.

Netflix recently began airing an original series entitled, 13 Reasons Why, based on the young adult book with the same title by Jay Asher. The novel was intended for young adults; however, 13 Reasons Why contains mature subject matter including graphic depictions of rape, substance abuse, cyberbullying, bullying, voyeurism, and suicide. 13 Reasons Why is about a teenager who takes her own life, but before doing so methodically records audio messages for the 13 people she feels in some way played a role in her decision to commit suicide.

This series has been available on Netflix since the end of March. Former Disney child star, Selena Gomez, is credited as a producer. With her name attached, 13 Reasons Why may reach a much younger audience than anticipated. Middle and High School students are likely aware of the series and may have even watched some, or all, of the episodes.

It is important for you to be cognizant of its availability, allure, content, and popularity. The series romanticizes suicide as a viable option, portrays school support staff as being non-responsive to students in need, and does not offer any appropriate responses or advice for students who may be in crisis.

Producers are portraying the series as an “important dialogue.”

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) cautions that its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to sensationalize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies.

Caring for the well-being of young children and teens is most effective when schools and parents work together. This letter is written with the hope that with informed guidance from parents and trusted adults, students will make healthy decisions regarding their young lives. Series such as this can be thought-provoking but, they can also do harm. It is highly recommended that if your child is interested in the program, you consider watching it with them in order to give the supporting guidance that suicide is never an answer, and the blame for suicide does NOT belong to others.

If you wish to have a dialogue with your child(ren) about 13 Reasons Why, I have listed the following resources from mental health organizations to assist you in your discussion. I have also included two trailers for the show that you may find useful in becoming fully informed about this series.

Saturday Morning Re-Mix: EdStories from March 6 – March 11

Taking a look at the stories from the past 5 days…

Chance the Rapper is serious about education

The 74 sets record straight on charters schools’ servicing of special needs students.

Vouchers are headed to Tennessee

 

Antioch Students Walk Out

Antioch High School students participated in an organized walk out this morning to bring attention to a lengthy list of demands stemming from dissatisfaction with school administration.

Honoring International Women’s Day

Seven women with Education Post share what it means to be a woman in the age of Trump. 

Erika Sanzi: We Don’t Celebrate Women By Closing Schools and Leaving Our Fellow Women in the Lurch 

Volume and Light: How We Do Women’s Day on the Hill

 

 

The MLK Day Commemorative March of Today Must Replace Ceremony with Intention

Today, I am not in the mood to march.

My former self would have clapped back with brute force at such a selfish statement. Armed with $100 worth of guilt, I would have said “What if Dr. King would have said ‘I don’t feel like saving Negroes today?'”

But today is a different kind of today. The black people of yesterday knew their enemy, understood their prospects, and were clear on how to overcome. Unlike today. This today is strangely unsettling for we know neither the form nor degree to which today’s hate will manifest.

We are on the precipice of an era that will, undoubtedly, redefine our nationhood. Strikingly, the American people have hired the most emotionally fragile, uncaring, arbitrary, impolitic male to lead our country. The filthy rich stand to reach stinking status and the stinking is in position to rule. So, where are historically marginalized groups in this narrative?

Herein lies the motivation for my current mood.

We are in a state of emergency

Let’s take a look from 50,000 feet at the burning landscape, shall we?

Dismantling affordable healthcare:  House Republicans nearly tripped over themselves to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Oh, and they have offered no alternative. Let’s not forget the campaign to defund Planned Parenthood.

Birth-to-prison pipeline made simpler: Senator Jeff Sessions. The senator’s record precedes him. Sessions is known for calling the Voting Rights Act “intrusive” and famous for prosecuting three black voter registration workers on trumped up charges of voter fraud in an effort to intimidate and discourage future registrants. Thankfully, the “Marion Three” were exonerated, but Sessions would go on to extend his hate agenda to immigrants and the LGBTQ community.

“If you have nostalgia for the days when Blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) said in a statement issued after Trump tapped Sessions for attorney general. “No senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants and people of color than Sen. Sessions.”

Doctoring up affordable housing: Lawdy! Dr. Ben Carson was tapped to lead Housing and Urban Development because he once lived in public housing. This nation’s love affair with poverty continues thanks in large part to increasing housing costs and decreasing access to affordable housing. By the way, the ‘Dr.’ that precedes his name represents MEDICAL DOCTOR. One would think that if a person is brilliant enough to perform neurosurgery that just about anything else is a piece of cake. Not so much. See Dr. Ben Carson, candidate for President of the United States.

“Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay.”

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Finally, but first, education: The jury is still out on Education czar nominee Betsy DeVos. Daily, I fight the urge to call her Billionaire Betsy. President-elect Trump loves billionaires and clearly trusts them which produces mounds of ill-will within me. I’ve written about DeVos a few times, even leading my own counseling session to justify giving her a chance and supporting friends like Erika Sanzi who writes so eloquently on her behalf. It can never be said that I didn’t try!

But this shit is big! If we cannot get education right, we are doomed. This should absolutely be America’s top priority and I’m afraid with the incoming administration it will land just short of last. While I share DeVos’ appreciation for choice, we part at the point of her radicalized free-market approach to education. We do not want billionaires and their lesser counterparts, millionaires, buying up education real estate and peddling mirages to unwitting parents.

There must be controls. Our children, very simply, are not for sale and are too precious to be used as scratch paper.

So, I’m feeling a bit anxious today, because today’s today warrants the kind of anxiety that propels you to do something.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham jail

 

 

#YesOn2MA – Extending the Love to Children of Color

Dear Massachusetts voters:

Thanks to social media the line of demarcation between the North and South is virtually nonexistent, so your battle to place a cap on charters makes me feel right at home.

While Tennesseans enjoy a legislature that is friendly to charters, those of us living in the capital city of Nashville stand ready to jump the next nonsensical hurdle; or thinly veiled attempt to cap charters. For those of you fighting for #Yeson2MA – I feel your pain.

At the heart of the fight for charters across the country is a movement to increase high quality choices for children of color and of limited means. However, the pictures coming out of MA relating to the fight for caps show a side of your great state that is alarming to this Southerner. All white people. Fighting. To cap charters. Yikes!

Not even being on this side of the the Mason-Dixon line prepared me for the #NoOn2 images. Interestingly, I’m not alone…

So, not only are they white, but affluent, too. Double Yikes!

If charters are working for families on the fringes, how does one explain pouring resources into a battle that works against them? Are your charter schools hurting children?

So, you have the highest performing charters in the United States effectively changing the lives of children of color and in poverty.

I’m sorry, what’s your fight about?

YES ON 2!