Posts Tagged ‘culture’

While I waited for my daughter to finish her breakfast so we could begin another school day Monday, I sludged through page after page of beautiful men in the latest issue of GQ magazine, confounded that such beautifully airbrushed creatures actually existed on this planet. Whew!  Quite an eyeful.

And then, BAM, it hit me, the editorial by Jim Nelson, editor-in-chief of GQ.  Someone expressed in a wonderfully delicious, acerbic style, what I had been thinking for some time. 

Let me connect the dots.  An “old-school” song came on the radio as I was racing to pick up my child from school recently.  Eminem’s “Slim Shady” song.  Perhaps you’ve heard it, yes? I had a general disdain for the song when it was popular a few years ago, because I love music so much and his type of anger didn’t do it for me.  But on this particular day, I was exhausted by the same ten songs on the radio stations, and I’ve given up on finding the stations that used to play Barbra Streisand songs (sigh), which have faded into endless nasal tunes by Rihanna.  Hah! How often does that happen in one lifetime — a sentence that mentions Barbra and Rihanna.  I’m on a roll…

I digress.

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cause I’m only giving you
Things you joke about with your friends inside your living room
The only difference is I got the balls to say it
In front of y’all and I don’t gotta be false or sugarcoated at all

I heard these lines, which I had never heard before.

And these.

And every single person is a Slim Shady lurking
He could be working at Burger King, spitting on your onion rings
[*HACH*] Or in the parking lot, circling
Screaming “I don’t give a fuck!”
With his windows down and his system up
So, will the real Shady please stand up?

Maybe I tuned it out when I heard the line about how every child will know what intercourse is by the time they’re in the fourth grade.  It just may have been too much for me to handle then. And it’s so easy to tuck our heads down and plow along, in denial of what’s right in front of our faces, aren’t we?

My daughter is in third grade now.

I thought to myself, now that I’m 43, I feel like a “Slim Shady” because I finally stood up to the system, finally stopped playing the fake mommy game, finally stopped giving a damn what other people thought of me, expected of me, or saw in me.  See, good Catholic girls who were reminded daily, Jonathan Edwards style, that Hell is just around the bend, learned how to be humble, how to adopt a Francis of Assisi state of mind…or else.  

I watched the movie, “Antwone Fisher” last night and it reminded me of my “Slim Shady” thoughts again, as I considered how Mr Fisher had become so filled with anger that it spewed out of him like a geyser due to the incomprehensible treatment by his foster family.  

Our childhoods are so powerful and etch deep grooves into our future adult personalities.  Today it feels like a cloak, a heavy brocade and lined cloak, pressing on my shoulders, that I long to toss off in a very Hollywood Oscar nominated film kind of style, and proclaim, “This is who I am.  I will not apologize or make excuses or say ‘I’m sorry’ anymore. I am Slim Shady too.” 

The very image of that in my mind gives me butterflies. 

Imagine my utter glee to read such a spot-on editorial by GQ editor Jim Nelson this morning. 

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In, “So Very Deeply Madly Sorry,” Mr. Nelson humorously delves into what he calls the “dawn of an apology culture — a strange, self-feeding loop of screw-up and regret that has us all riveted” (GQ 72).

It was brilliant.  I laughed out loud when he said, “As a country, we’ve never been sorrier.”  These words were so true. We suck up news pieces of government officials and celebrities who let their real thoughts slip, only to be forced into an apology by pressures from the people.  

Consider this:  if the federal government has task forces that spend millions of dollars chasing down internet pedophiles in this country, can we really expect that some of those pornography addicted men are not in public offices, and celebrities? I’m just saying. 

It’s a great piece.  If anybody in the world reads this blog, perhaps you should look it up yourself.  Apparently this is the March issue of GQ, not February.  I’m sorry. (Dope! — Homer Simpson voice).

Check it out.  

Now, here are two terrible confessions, which I’m NOT sorry about, even thought I did apologize for one of them.

1. Whenever a new GQ issue comes out, I secretly toss the old one to recycling, because…he never really reads them anyway.

2. To my last principal, who is an incompetent ass, when I told you to shut up, it was because you are indeed insufferable, and I couldn’t tolerate another second listening to your programmed administrative drivel.  And I’m not sorry, because, well, quite frankly, you deserved it. 

Jim Nelson feels this new apology driven society has manifested from our “own issues about sincerity.”  Think about it.  Everything around us these days if superficial, from our Instagram feeds, to our Facebook posts, to our Snapchats.  I watched a moronic mother at my daughter’s multi-cultural festival on Friday snapping pictures of herself, while student performances were going on, and it looked like she was getting ready to post to some social media site all about what a great mother she was, standing in the back of the auditorium to see her baby girl that she was so proud of.  Yeah…to proud to put the damn phone down and pay attention to baby girl no doubt.

We’re obsessively driven to capture it all and it looks like we’re missing everything.  When will the real Slim Shady’s please stand up? Please…stand up.  

 

 

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In Durham Public Schools, the White kids are missing.  Even though they make up over 50% of Durham’s population, only 19% of White kids attend the public schools.

Not to mention, the racial makeup of traditional public schools are reflecting Durham County’s racial makeup less and less. Durham County is 53 percent white, 38 percent black, and 13 percent Latino, yet 51 percent of the children in the Durham Public Schools system are black, 24 percent Latino and only 19 percent white.  http://www.thedurhamnews.com/2013/12/31/3494508/durham-public-schools-looks-to.html

According to Mr. Alexander, the author of this news article, Caucasians are populating the growing number of charter schools approved by the state’s school board.  These students are the children of Duke professors, UNC professors, etc.  Either the giant purple blob of the ’50s is living in the public schools of Durham, or they’re running away from something else.  Shall we take a guess at what they’re running away from?

Yes, the White people of Durham know what’s going on behind the closed doors of their neighborhood public schools. They know they don’t want their children in an academic environment that is far from anything that can even faintly resemble a learning institution. These Durham schools are filled with kids from families who don’t seem to give a damn, who are more concerned with their drink, their cars, their weaves, or the latest reality shows on tv.  They don’t read to their children, their children stay up far too late on school nights, and they are the two out of three who are not proficient in reading yet…in the third grade. In fact, the local papers in the area frequently feature school personnel gingerly stepping into the projects to deliver books to needy children, or deliver school supplies to them.

I’m not afraid to say what this article comes short of writing. The days of dancing around the truth are over for me. The White people are on the run and I certainly don’t blame them.

When we were on the run from exclusive Chapel Hill, hoping for more diversity and less Stepford-ville living, we listened to the advice of others who were more familiar with Durham.  The one that struck me the most came from the principal of the school where we sent our daughter.  I looked her square in the face, and asked her to tell me, not as a principal, but as a mother, whether she would place her child in the school she runs. She replied confidently, a resounding yes, absolutely, positively, this school is very diverse and an 8 out of 10, 10 being amazing.

With a deep breath we rejected the charter school spot reserved for her, and plunged ahead into the neighborhood school she was zoned.  Our family’s experience in summary, follows.

  • Day one: the front office staff barricades themselves from the parents.
  • A good measure of the quality of any school is the car rider line. During the first week I witnessed cars driving over the curb at high speeds to cut in front of other parents in the line. Others were virtually running over the other walking parents who were taking their kids to the door.  Parents in front of me were yelling at the staff to come around to the other side to get their child out of the car, instead of the parent putting their child on the correct side for quicker exiting. Staff members opened the door to our car, mumbling how many more years they have until retirement.  Yes, very encouraging.
  • A classmate (3rd grade) passed a note to my child offering to give her oral sex.
  • 5th grade girls on the cement block where the kids were allowed to “play” (the brand new playground was off-limits to the students) walking up to my child, wanting to jump her for no discernible reason.
  • Third grade teachers were brawling in front of the students during recess. Don’t get me started about the staff.  Every single form that came home to us had typos, grammatically incorrect sentences, misspelled words, incorrect dates on them.  Staggering ineptitude.
  • We witnessed staff members at the awards ceremony for good grades laughing at the students names as they pronounced them incorrectly. These were the staff members who were at the podium, in front of everybody.

There’s more, but what’s the point?  Can anyone offer a better explanation as to why the White families have taken their children elsewhere?

The limits of our endurance came when our child’s teacher was abruptly moved out of her classroom, to go teach a 4th grade class permanently, with no notice to the parents, nothing.  Then the student teacher who was in the classroom suddenly became as the permanent teacher.  The STUDENT teacher.  Yes, that’s right.

According to a comment by the school board chairwoman, Heidi Carter, “We need to be sure that we have the confidence of the parents in this community that our school system can provide excellent educational opportunities for their children,” Carter said. “The strengths of Durham Public Schools lies in our people that are in the classrooms or in the school buildings leading and teaching every day.”

Would this inspire confidence for any parents?  Maybe because I am a former educator I simply expect too much?  No, I don’t think so.  With my first four children I met hundreds of teachers at several schools.  This situation, for my child’s critical 3rd grade year, was unacceptable.

She no longer attends that school.  After battling with the principal, and being denied a transfer, I had to reach out to the school board and superintendent’s office.  The first question from one member of the superintendent’s team when I explained our concernsm, was, “So what exactly do you want?”

What did I want?  I wanted what I thought all parents wanted: for my child to receive the basic instruction to help her grow into an educated young lady, a productive member of society. We would do the rest.  I wanted staff members who were professional, who didn’t treat us like we were felons when we arrived to pick up our cookie dough fundraiser garbage to help support the school.  I wanted the community I remembered when I grew up.  But those times have changed.

So, as in any major inner city school system, the White people are on the run away from the rest of the residents, who are mostly minorities.  Mr. Alexander’s article goes on to discuss the needs of the minorities while the comments from the district office is the polite and safe but meaningless jargon about poverty and their efforts.  Here’s the reality:

The African-Americans and Latinos are two cultures that are neglecting their responsibilities to their children. I don’t believe it’s all about poverty.  I watched (remember the car rider line) these “poverty-stricken” families rolling up in cars with the fancy spinning rims, while their kids stepped out the vehicles in cold weather with no coats on, shirts that were riding over their protruding bellies, hair that hadn’t seen a comb in days, and flip-flops on their feet, and in warm weather like they’re going to the club. Their priorities are all screwed up.  The dads are missing.  The grandmothers are trying to raise their grand kids when they should be enjoying their golden years.  Let’s just be honest here:  The African-Americans have lost sight of all it took to get them the freedom they deserve and unfortunately not all the Latinos are quite the success story of Emilio Vicente.

See: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/02/08/3603256/for-uncs-emilio-vicente-an-extraordinary.html.

More money isn’t going to fix this cultural breakdown.  This is the plight of all inner city schools across the nation.  Seeing Barack Obama win the presidency in 2008 may have sparked a few temporary tears for many minorities in this country, but it didn’t create the wave of sudden optimism to break the chains of stereotypes.  There’s been no radical swing in upward mobility by enough minorities to show America a different face.

I didn’t come from people with money.  I came from hard-working Hispanics.  But every day when my parents stepped out of their apartment to go to work, their clothes were clean, freshly pressed, and they were neat.  My mother always told me that just because a person is poor doesn’t mean they have to look like they’re poor.  I have plenty of relatives living in projects, but once you get up to the 96th floor and into their residence, you could eat off the floor it was so clean. Poverty in this day, with all the services being offered, is no longer an excuse for ignorance.

In 2014 ignorance is a choice.

So, what do the Whites do?  Keep running.  Keep making more money working for large pharmaceutical companies or food manufacturing companies that are poisoning Americans with too many drugs, addictive junk foods, all while keeping the ignorant down, so they can afford the private schools and segregate the South once again.

My second child is an excellent server in a restaurant called Outback Steakhouse, while she is attending college.  She has a great value for customer service and takes great care of all her patrons.  She shared a story with me on Sunday night after her shift which has been stuck in my mind ever since, and it resonates with the problems as I see them, among minority students in this country.

My daughter had a party of ten coming in and one person in the party was what I tend to call, “the angry Black woman.”  She was angry at the world, angry at my child for some imaginary slight she perceived that was perpetrated against her in another life perhaps.  Using my finely honed Criminal Minds skills, based on my daughter’s description of her, she clearly felt the world owed her something too, because she wanted to make sure she got “extra” of everything Outback offered its patrons, i.e. extra bread, honey butter, not regular butter, extra extra dressing, and croutons, and cheese, and more extra dressing on her house salad, which was her dinner.  This in itself was surprising because she weighed at least 300 pounds.

She ordered a frozen margarita and when my daughter placed it on the table, demanded to know where the bread was.  Then she went outside to take a call.  When she returned, the margarita was no longer frozen and naturally, that was my daughter’s fault.  She yelled at her, “What’s this?  I ordered a FROZEN margarita.  This ain’t no frozen margarita!”

To which my daughter explained, “It was frozen when I brought it to you.”  Probably not a good idea, but she wanted to let the lady know that she did order the correct drink, and it was a warm restaurant and science can explain the rest.

Well, that was the end of an otherwise lovely evening.  Not only did that woman proceed to make my daughter’s life a living hell, she ruined the dinners of all the patrons north, south, east, and west of her loud mouth.  The rest of the party said absolutely nothing, some of them her own children.  One has to wonder, who would impregnate such a horror show?

So, after misery and embarrassment, my daughter finally brings the woman her portion of the check (yes, separate checks are Satan’s creations) and on the check it offers the suggested tip, as it is protocol for a party of eight or more.  The woman threatened my daughter with, “Do you like your job?” and “How long have you been working here?” and “I need to see a manager right away.”

Then she proceeded to ream the manager out, a young guy no older than 30, for at least twenty minutes.  She yelled and cursed obscenities at him in stereotypical “angry Black woman” fashion.

Other patrons in the vicinity of this verbal onslaught had complained to the same manager throughout my daughter’s hellish experience with this woman and told him how horribly the abusive woman was treating her.  My daughter is a tiny little thing and avoids confrontations at all costs.  She was determined not to let that woman defeat her and see her cry.  The woman wanted all the owner’s contact information and assured them, and the entire restaurant that she would be in communication with the owner immediately Monday morning and that my daughter would no longer have her job once she was done with her.

Beyond all the disgust I felt, and the ugliness of the entire debacle, the thought running through my head was, “What were those kids thinking and feeling and absorbing from watching their mother’s antics?”

Would they grow up to be just like mom? Would the daughters become angry Black women, feeling the same sense of entitlement in a world that owes them nothing?

I don’t know what the woman’s problem was, and as it was definitely not an episode of “What Would You Do?” as John Quinones did not come out with a camera crew at any point, it ended with a gut-wrenching, nerve-rattling, slightly bad taste left in the mouths of all those involved, along with the witnesses.

So what is it about minority cultures such as the Black one, that keeps them from performing equally or better than their White and Asian counterparts in the arena of education?  Marilyn Rhames, an educator and journalist, wrote an article in an EdWeek Teacher blog discussing the “myths” of education in America, based upon an article by Michael Lind.

I don’t know who Michael Lind is, but he contends that America’s claim that the public schools are failing is all a lie perpetrated by those who want vouchers and more money.  Further, he wrote that there is only 35% of America’s students who are failing  in public schools, namely Black and Latino students, and they are the guilty ones who are pulling down America’s schools.

Lind also argues in his article, that those Blacks and Latinos are “poor or culturally damaged.”

Here’s the entire article, so you can read Rhaymes’ counter to Lind’s assertions:

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/charting_my_own_course/2012/08/reforming_the_myths_about_american_public_schools.html

Do you think Johnny can’t read because he’s black or poor, or both?

Well, I can’t buy the poor factor.  Yes, poverty is a huge challenge, but other countries, third world countries, dusty, dry countries, where resources are even scarcer than the worst project in the Bronx, these countries don’t let poverty stop them from giving their children a desire, a spark, something that ignites them into knowing that they will get out of their poverty through their education.

It’s a cultural thing.  My very black spouse tells me every time I try to debate educational theories to him, “It starts at home, with the parents.”  Thus, if we operate from this premise, than whether rich or poor, resources or no resources, parents have the ability to instill a love of learning and work ethic for education to their children.

In the Black communities where I have taught, the kids were the same.  Their conversations were focused on celebrities and athletic superstars, not on the essay they wrote the night before, or the book their mothers read to them.  And I don’t want to hear the stale mantra about single mothers having to work two jobs and being unavailable to read to their kids.  First of all, I was a single mother, and I raised four of my six children on my own.  I taught all day and most nights (not every one) I would snuggle up with them and read whatever they wanted to read.  Secondly, it’s more than just a kid reading.

Kids need to witness their parents reading, wanting to read, finding it interesting.

So, it all returns to the home as I have been told so often.

The culture that surrounds Blacks and Hispanics is about booty-shaking, half-naked women, money throwing, saggy pants wearing and women-chasing men.  As I have said before, I don’t care how many foundations Ludacris supports and funds now with his millions.  If he keeps perpetuating a superficial, demeaning product (his music) than little girls will want to grow up to be big sluts, little boys will want to grow up to be wanna be thugs, who don’t value the magic and nurturing abilities of women, and the “minority problem” will remain the same.  Girls will grow up wanting to use the assets between their legs and dangling from their torso, figuring it might make them rich and famous one day if they shake it to the left just right.  Boys will be convinced making it rain is their goal and they’re all going to get into the NBA and NFL and have the fancy cars and latest booze in their hands.

And White people will continue to look at and treat minorities in a condescending fashion, will try to escape to the neighborhoods where there are no minorities, and they will move as soon as the minorities move in and the chase will go on and on.  The blame will continue to fall on the minorities, regardless of the thousands and thousands who do work hard and succeed academically and professionally.

At Outback, even the Black servers were trying to console my daughter after angry black woman left.  They said people like her make all Black people look bad.  My partner just shook his head and muttered, “My people, my people…we have so much farther to go…”

 

 

 

Yesterday, I read a post on Diane Ravitch’s blog regarding the term “achievement gap.”  Apparently it is considered offensive to African American and Hispanic groups.  See: http://dianeravitch.net/2012/11/08/a-plea-stop-using-the-term-achievement-gap/

Dr. Carmika Royal claims the comparison between Whites and Blacks is “demeaning.”

When did America become so ridiculously sensitive?  As Christina Yang told Meredith Grey last night on Grey’s Anatomy, it’s time to “BUCK UP.”

Let’s pull back the curtain and be transparent for a minute.  The fact is, there IS a very real achievement gap and it exists primarily within the African American and Hispanic communities, in any given city or suburb, and it’s all over the United States. Is it pretty?  No.  Is it a hard pill to swallow? Absolutely.  As a Hispanic woman, with a Black partner, we both acknowledge it to be true, but it doesn’t mean we like it.

At the last school where I taught, the disparity between the population of White students and the the aforementioned groups was huge.  They were treated differently.  And there’s reasons for that which I don’t have time to break down.  Yes, Dorothy, there is still very real racism in America.

Back to the achievement gap.

Teachers are the usual suspects in a situation like this.  The government and its “lack of resources” also gets the finger-pointing.  You know how it goes…oh, the poor inner-city minorities get less funding, less qualified teachers, etc. etc. etc.

But that argument has no substance when you look at the Black and Hispanic students in a community like mine, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, where affluence oozes through the cracks in the concrete.  Here, the achievement gap is still rearing its ugly head.  The local paper, which is controlled by the superintendent (he and the editor are good friends) and the school board members (they’re all members of the same churches) publishes a reflective piece every year when the state releases its data, and the achievement gap persists year after year.

You don’t need a PhD in educational philosophy to see the implications.  Heck, there aren’t any IMPLICATIONS because it speaks very loudly to the core of what teachers have been saying forever.  The success of a student does not happen alone.  The other huge, monstrously obvious factor is their home environment, which includes economics, cultural norms, and parentage.

In the Black and Hispanic cultures, money is the dominant carrot. The television is the parent of many of these kids whose parents are either absent for personal issues or working.  Guess what’s on t.v.?  Jersey Shore, Pimp My Ride, celebrities gone wild, living extravagant lives, and more than I know about.  Let’s not forget reality shows which dominate the networks.

Then there’s the athletic realm, including guys like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and other players for other teams and other sports, who made their claim to fame, inspiring every inner city kid who can spin a ball on his finger to dream of a similar landscape in his life.  Unfortunately, the odds of making it to the professional leagues are pretty small.

I saved the best for last:  music.  As I have told my students numerous times, everyone loves music.  The human brain is predisposed to respond to rhythm.  It’s in our nature.  Children who grow up dropping it like it’s hot by the time they are three years old, and seeing rappers like Nelly swipe a credit card down the crack of a woman’s behind, or Beyonce and other megastars half-naked on the screen, showing more than anyone needs to see, develop an understanding of how the world works.  Sex sells.

Young girls in particular grow up with the knowledge that their bodies are their tool, their weapon of choice, to achieve their goals.  Do we wonder why there are so many young single, unwed mothers in the African American and Hispanic communities?  We are pumping it to children all across this great nation.  When I was a teenager, when MTV aired its first music video, the content wasn’t so borderline pornographic.  Why, we weren’t allowed to watch John Ritter in “Three’s Company” because it was considered indecent and immoral.  A guy living with two gorgeous females?  Are you kidding?

Over the decade of my tenure as a teacher, I taught students whose parents went to the club with them, who furnished alcohol for them at their parent-sanctioned parties, and I taught students who were one of eight or nine children, all with different “baby daddies” because the welfare checks would be greater the more children that were  listed in the household.

In the suburbs, I would bring extra snacks in my lunch tote for the students who were perpetually hungry and played sports after school because teenagers are always hungry, as everyone knows.  They often said there wasn’t much food in their houses and after practice they would have to go home and find something to eat as their parents weren’t home.

The bottom line is this:  education isn’t just a mess because of bureaucrats.  Education isn’t a consistent failure to millions of minorities across the country due to poor resources and poor teachers.

Education is a team effort.  Teachers can’t do it alone.  Parents can’t do it alone either.  Our entire nation, the culture that is evolving along with technology must recognize and be held accountable for its messages to our youth.  We don’t have to become an uptight “Footloose” nation once again but let’s let kids be kids.  And let’s establish boundaries of behavior and permissiveness.  I firmly believe if parents let go of the guilt and start holding their kids to task, and tell them every day if necessary, of how vital a decent education is, then teachers will have all eyes on them and be able to do what they need to do.

Perhaps it is too oversimplified, but the debate and discussion on education reform has become too twisted and complex, filled with pedagogical explanations that are over most Americans heads.  At the end of the day, I believe parents, teachers, and students just want a solid education and it can happen if the entire community works together.

A few years ago I read an article by a journalist named Randy Salzman (I think).  He explored the world of these young girls in the Middle East, who risked their very lives every day to read books in secret, because the Taliban did not permit them to do so.  He marveled at the contrasting picture in America, where we casually toss books aside and over there, the young girls risked it all.  They didn’t have budgets of thousands of dollars per child to educate them.  Their budget was zero.

Why can’t our country, ALL OF US, create a burning desire to read and learn, a quest for knowledge as Socrates believed, instead of glorifying the dollar?  Why would any kid want to pick up a book when nobody’s reading on t.v.?  They’re all just having sex or fighting, or making babies, or trying to win a million dollars.

It’s not the teachers who are screwed up, or the charter schools that are the anti-Christ.  It’s the message.