All posts by bwmtsc

Jeff

After 40 years in L.A. schools, this outspoken teacher gives the LAUSD his final grade At 10:30 a.m., when all his 10th-grade AP history students had taken their seats, Jeff Horton took care of one last detail before stepping to the front of the class. He pulled on his blue blazer and cinched up his necktie. He does this out of respect for his students and the teaching profession. To him, this is serious business, and there would be no shortcuts on the final week of a four-decade career that has meandered from Los Angeles Unified School District classroom to boardroom and back again. Horton taught at Crenshaw High before becoming a protege of lefty school board member Jackie Goldberg and winning election to succeed her in 1991. He’s no stranger to controversy Over the years, Horton has found himself in the middle of controversies over a plan to break up L.A. Unified (he was opposed), the creation of a less Eurocentric approach to history (he argued that a broader world view was long overdue in multicultural Los Angeles), and on gay rights (he came out while a school board member, supported distribution of condoms, and clashed with critics who accused him of having a “homosexual agenda”). So it’s unsurprising that Horton, a staunch union supporter, has strong views on the ever-escalating trench war over who knows best how to educate children — career educators and their union leadership, or wealthy outsiders and charter school supporters. In Los Angeles, we’ve just witnessed the most expensive school board race in U.S. history, with pro-charter forces spending $9.7 million to score two victories and take control of L.A. Unified. Charter schools are no panacea, in Horton’s mind, even though he concedes some charter schools may work for some students whose parents are engaged and involved enough to seek out alternatives to traditional public schools. “But that’s going to leave behind tens of thousands of kids,” he said. The charter movement follows a narrative, in his mind, of a decades-long attack on public institutions. And now even more resources will be drained from traditional L.A. public schools, which have already been hit by California’s decline in national spending-per-pupil rankings. Don’t parents deserve a choice? Maybe so, but parents like options and students deserve better schools, and change isn’t coming quickly enough in a district that hasn’t been particularly well-run in the 16 years I’ve been paying attention. As I pointed out to Horton, he teaches at an elite L.A. Unified magnet — the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies. Not every student wins the lottery and makes it into LACES, so what would Horton tell the parents of the unlucky students? Horton took me back to the 1990s, when he was on the school board and the “reform” movement of the moment was something called LEARN (Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now). The idea was to decentralize and give schools more power to determine the specific needs of students and come up with a customized strategy — in collaboration with teachers and parents — to meet them. Putting students first always sounds good, but there’s seldom consensus on how best to do that. Improvements under LEARN were neither swift enough nor universal, and in 1999, a new set of reformers came along. Horton and others were ousted when some of the same donors involved in this year’s charter movement (Eli Broad and Richard Riordan) backed a slate of candidates to shake up LAUSD. Horton’s seat was grabbed by Caprice Young, and he returned, eventually, to teaching. “In ’99, our race was the most expensive school board race in history,” said Young, who looks back now on the $1 million spent on her own campaign as “chump change” compared to this year’s windfall. Does either side have all the answers? It leaves one to wonder whether, in 18 years, L.A. Unified will be in better shape, or we’ll be in the midst of yet another reform movement and set yet another record for political fundraising. I’ve got issues with both sides and don’t think either will ever have all the answers. But while Horton may be disappointed in the current direction of public education after 40 years in the business, he’s had the luxury of spending most of his career in the sanctuary of the classroom. There, it all comes down to respect for students and the noble profession of inspiring them, and a good teacher can make magical things happen. “He pushes you to where you don’t think you can go,” Luz Lopez, a 10th-grader, told me before history class began Monday morning. Sid Thompson, who would later become LAUSD superintendent, was principal of Crenshaw High in 1975 when a rookie out of Yale walked in to apply for a teaching job. “He started talking about what these kids need, and how can they go forward if we don’t care enough to make a commitment to them?” said Thompson, who hired Horton on the spot. “He touched so many lives by making students understand they’re valuable and have a voice,” said Florence Saleh, who was one of Horton’s first speech class students at Crenshaw. She said Horton implored students to follow the news, get involved and support good candidates for public office. Saleh said that in 1988, she became the first African American and woman to win a national speech competition in college, and Horton was the first person she called with the news. She’s now a teacher, inspired in part by Horton. “He taught me to see how students were not just students,” Saleh said. “They were my future neighbors, they were community members, and I shared that with them.” On Monday morning, Horton’s students took turns stepping to the front of the class to talk about a historic event that had an impact on a member of their family. A girl told about her grandfather moving the family from Louisiana to California after threats from racists. A boy talked about his family’s flight from war in El Salvador. A girl told about her great grandfather’s exploits with the Russian army in the defeat of the Nazis. Horton, who says he learned a great deal from his students and was constantly re-energized by them, was radiant as history came alive in Room 202. On the wall was a poster filled with tributes from his students. “We will miss you,” said one. Get more of Steve Lopez’s work and follow him on Twitter @LATstevelopez MORE FROM STEVE LOPEZ

Reparations

Gabfest: 6/18/2016

So what’s up with reparations?  Well…imagine you worked for a company for a long time and then found out they hadn’t paid you what you should have received.  What would you do?  Probably sue them for back pay, right?  Now imagine you worked for someone for a few hundred years…and got paid NOTHING, despite working hard every day, six days a week, 52 weeks a year.  Wouldn’t you sue for back pay?  That’s what reparations is all about.  African American slaves worked for centuries with no pay (and then worked under Jim Crow for another century at very low pay) and during that time British and American capitalism prospered as it industrialized based on cheap cotton used to make clothes to sell to the world.  And who grew and harvested the cotton?  African American slaves of course.

So now the question is:  Should the descendants of African American slaves be paid some portion of the wages their ancestors were cheated out of through slavery?  We will discuss the politics, morality, and economics of this issue.  We will send out some suggested reading materials to enrich the conversation, but you can get started with Ta’nehisi Coates magisterial Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations” at http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/

Thought of the day:  Justice delayed is justice denied.

Jeff Horton

“Black Crime” revisited

African Americans have disproportionately been victums of a punitive society and legal system. Did Blacks Really Endorse the 1994 Crime Bill. Here in California I was involved in The initiative called Proposition 47 which was passed to classify “non-serious, nonviolent crimes” as misdemeanors instead of felonies. I also creates a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund to distribute monies to education, victim compensation. A great move, but what happened to cause these problems?

Today political candidates are talking about the 1994 crime bill and the concept that black citizens asked for it (True). They explain that the black as well as all communities wanted change. However the New York Times recently disputed that, ad explored the legislation’s shortcomings and concluded that “punitive crime policy is a result of a process of selectively hearing black voices on the question of crime”.

At the time, calls for tough sentencing and police protection were paired with calls for full employment, quality education and drug treatment, and criticism of police brutality. When “blacks ask for better policing, legislators tend to hear more instead”.

Selective hearing has a deep history. For example, W. E. B. Du Bois wondered in his 1903 classic The Souls of Black Folk. Du Bois’s captured the struggle of African Americans to forge and maintain a positive identity in a U.S. society that reduced their existence to that singularly alienating phrase “the Negro problem.” and during the 1960s, blacks argued for full socioeconomic inclusion and an end to discriminatory policing. Instead, they got militarized police forces.

With the 1994 Crime Billl of 993, black communities pushed back. The N.A.A.C.P. called it a “crime against the American people.” Also, the Congressional Black Caucus introduced an alternative bill that included prevention and alternatives to incarceration. The caucus also put forward the Racial Justice Act to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge death sentences. And so, Black support for anti-crime legislation was highlighted, while black criticism of the specific legislation was tuned out. This led to a compromise which eliminated $2.5 billion in social spending but only $800 million in prison expenditures. 26 of the 38 voting members supported the legislation.

This legislation wanted vulnerable urban communities to be managed through harsh punishment and heightened surveillance.

So, I urge the NA members and allies to be vigilant on making sure history is not rewritted and that they continue to support the struggle for racial parity and fight the mass incarceration of people of color.

Source:
New York Times

Circles

I have blogged on the lack of face to face communications previously, and in a recent New York Times article the concept of the three circles interested me. Remember the idea of the “six degrees of separation”? It is theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. The NYT article talks about, say the first ring the third (called the middle) and the last of these. Thus, the inner, middle, and outer circle of contacts.

Today, we have a political dysfunction which llies deep in society. If there’s truly going to be improvement in this, there has to be improvement in the social context politics is embedded in.

So, when I grew up I lived close to members of a family, my neighborhood, my school, in a a different nation, continent and world. My life had a varied but coherent circle.

Fast forward to my twenties and I am an immigrant to the US. I noticed a community/membership mind-set despite the Vietnam war that was waging I never regretted my move. There was a welcoming attitude. Sidebar: I was still a white person, who was “embedded” in the Peace Movement at Berkely but not completely cognsant of the privilege my skin color granted. Later I dated an African American who slowly and surely educated me on this.

Recently our nation has an individualistic and autonomotous direction and how large companies and rich individuals have restricted individual rights while advancing their power and their own interests.

Which brings me to my earlier writings. I have said “that the NA has a proud history of emphasizing people skills especially at the margins of society, practice being a friend face to face”. and pointed out that this could be “an antidote to the 120 character communications a la Twitter, we often live in”. The problem is that the more people interact with a person or the real world through a screen rather than in real life, the less emotion is attached to the exchange.

Meanwhile, the individualist turn in society has compounded this divide such that the NYT quotes that “47 percent of Americans reported that they knew none or just a few of their neighbors by name”. Even sadder is there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who report that they have no close friends to confide in. And that’s where we as interracial connected men can act.

How can we do that? First learn, as stated above, that there are “Middle-ring relationships”, that can help people become skilled at deliberation. The guy sitting next to you at Starbucks may have political opinions you find abhorrent, but you still may have to get stuff done with him, week after week.

Given that the NA is a cauldron of diversity these middle-ring relationships can diversify your identity. You are also a citizen in a neighborhood in. Sometimes it seems that your neighborhood or, of course, the world is bigotted. However, as you go on our Facebook page with 12,000 members and rant, your middle-ring memberships may be deteriorating causing a lack of deliberation. People then may find it easier to ignore inconvenient viewpoints and facts. We’re good at bonding with people like ourselves but worse at bridging with people unlike ourselves. I am not saying that one should abandon your principles but nurture the local membership web to include diverse political opinions as well as nurture the local membership web that includes diverse opinions ad well as diverse skin colors and sexual identity, Go to your local groups including your local NA chapter, as well as Facebook.

Remeber we may even be happier and more fulfilled. We can reach all of our discrete individual desires if we cultivate those middle rings of our lives. Once again, I believe NA friends and allies tend to the garden of our lives by feeding all three of our rings and not relying on those “six degrees of separation”.

Sources:

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/opinion/how-to-fix-politics.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_degrees_of_separation

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White Identity and Economic Dysfunction

jobs

TRANSCRIPT:
This podcast looks at White Identity and Economic Dysfunction. While the NABWMT is a 501c(3) tax exempt organization, and cannot endorse political candidates, it can explore issues in society. So, today we will look at Donald Trump’s supporters. We do this from the lens of statistics from the Census Bureau and our source is the New York Times*.

As an example, The Times asked Trump supporters who their ancestors where and some respondents don’t give a standard answer like “English” or “German.” Instead, they simply answer “American.” They went on to look at current primary demographics and past elections and elections and found that “Trump counties” are places where white identity mixes with leconomic concerns.

So the NABWMT and it’s members I would guess, instinctively would label Trump supporters as racists, but the data is more nuanced than that. I have also published many podcasts on “White Priviledge” but here this concept is not as germain.

Trump has done well in the North and South, liberal and conservative, rural and suburban. So let’s look the data a little further. Yes they are mostly White, with no high school diploma. They also identify as “American” on the census. However, and here is the factoid that may cut across racial boundaries since they were in so called “old economy” jobs like agriculture, construction, manufacturing, or trade. In addition, their labor participation rate was low. (out of a job of given up looking for a job. They have largely missed the transition of the United States away from manufacturing and into higher technical jobs.

Moreover, they missed the traditional “American Dream” of owning a home and “settled” for living in a mobile home. This may be construed as the stereotype of “Trailer trash” but lets move on from that.

This is not just a recent concern, say the damage from the 2008 financial crisis. Rather, the economic problems that line up with strong Trump support have long been in the making, and defy simple fixes.

An then there is the high proportion of whites Trump supporters without a high school diploma has lasting consequences for incomes, for example. The education pay gap starts small when people are early in their careers before widening over the decades of their working lives.

In the Times analysis, surprisingly, it didn’t show a particularly powerful relationship between the racial breakdown of a county and its likelihood of voting for Trump. There are Trump-supporting counties with both very high and very low proportions of African-Americans, for example.

Clearly these American’s are angry at their situation and feel like they are “losing the American way of life”, and that is understandable. But before we get too sympathetic, there are underlying currents of concern. They have a history of voting for segregationists like supporting George Wallace in 1968.

So the take away from this appears to be: we understand why Trump supporters are angry at the political situation but we must be on guard against candidates that by their votes they empower candidates that could produce policies that promote racism, homophobia and income inequality. So, be careful what you wish for. American society is becoming more diverse and policies that embrace that are likely to align with the NA’s statement of purpose.

Brown Lives

brown lives

Since the Black Lives Matter started after a series of outrageous killings of Black men and women by the police, I have often asked: where is the equivalent Latino group. Where is Brown Lives Matter?

It seems that the outspoken people of color should all have the stage, but it seems to be the Black folks that have the headlines. Given the fact that, according to the NAACP, “together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population”

And let’s not forget that some presidential candidates have talked about “rounding up the field hands and the busboys and deporting them southward, and build a wall. But why do Latinos not have the same rage?

Héctor Tobar in todays New York Times offers some suggestions. He says “almost all the Latino students surveyed objected to using Brown Lives Matter on the ground of cultural appropriation. Black people have suffered enough, they said. Let’s not take their slogan, too”.

There is plenty to complains that Latinos can voice on other matters. Deportation by the US of children from Guatemala, the inhumane condition in the deportation centers, the lack of legal representation for undocumented workers and asylum seekers. And prejudice based on last name.

There are many alternative ways of getting Brown rights. Let’s start with the vote. Univision reports that about 11 million Hispanics voted in the 2012 presidential election, fewer than half of those who were eligible. Activists in both major political parties have been trying to increase that number, through voter registration drives and appeals over issues like immigration and wage stagnation on the left, and economic freedom on the right. The real challenge is to convince Latinos to go out and vote, and presidential candidate Donald Trump is doing that. Young voters are getting involved because of Donald Trump. Not because they like Donald Trump, but because they want to vote against him.

In addition all people at the margins can resist racism in their own way. Young students can get good grades. Of course, eloquent voices of leadership can persuade.