April 23, 2014

Hate Bill Gates’ Plans for Education? Got a Better Idea?

About a week ago our illustrious founder, Kristina Daniele, posted an article by Huffington Post reporter Gary Stager entitled, “Who Elected Bill Gates?” Normally I would just read an article such as and go on about my day. But something about this piece got me a bit intrigued, especially with all the recent discussions about failing education in our country, so I decided to share my views here at We of Hue.

From the start Mr. Stager starts off on the wrong foot by categorizing Bill Gates as solely a “philanthropist” with nothing better to do with his time and money. That and he also believes Mr. Gates’ plans are “demonic” as he is also likened to Charlie Sheen as they both need an “intervention.” Let’s be frank, calling Bill Gates “just” a philanthropist is like calling Michael Jordan “just” a basketball player. Yes, if you want to nit-pick, in every sense of the word Bill Gates has been VERY philanthropic with his billions of dollars over the years. But have we forgotten that he is not one who inherited his money? If my memory serves me correctly (insert a large dose of sarcasm here), isn’t he  the man who kinda-sorta, maybe, a little bit, in a round-about sort of way revolutionized the ENTIRE WORLDWIDE COMPUTER AND SOFTWARE INDUSTRY WITH A LITTLE COMPANY CALLED MICROSOFT!!?  If there’s a person who we should listen to and who is probably capable of offering up a plan on how to best ensure our children eventually compete on a global scale it’s “philanthropist” Bill Gates. There aren’t many people in this world who have a good idea what type of workforce and leaders we will need in the coming years to keep our country competitive, while at the same time who have the $$$ to make those ideas come to life; one of those men is you guessed it, Bill Gates.

Love him or hate him (and truth be told, I’m a Mac guy), but the man puts his VERY large bank account where his mouth is in reference to education and many other causes such as AIDS research, agricultural development, and global health. From millions of dollars in scholarship money; to the KIPP Prep Academies in which he is a major contributor; to numerous speeches and presentations on the subject; to financing the movie “Waiting for Superman”, Mr. Gates seems to get it. We all know what needs to be done, but when you have billions to spend you can actually get it done. One thing money allows you to do is to cut through all the bureaucratic nonsense, do it yourself, and put forth an initiative YOU believe in regardless of what the status quo has to say about it. No need to go through mounds of paperwork and countless telephone calls to get something done. As a teacher, you have a good idea on how to teach a group of student’s physics? Go for it! You have a plan to get your students more involved in literature? Do it! It’s as if we have sucked the creativity from our teachers and refuse to let them do what they do best…TEACH! Mr. Gates fully understands it’s about getting back to educating and developing critical thinking skills and not just focusing on standardized test taking, which is what education has become in recent years. And don’t get me started on decaying schools, high dropout rates, the U.S. lagging behind many third world countries in math, science, and even English! Please, I’d jump on the chance to have my child in KIPP Prep! And don’t think I didn’t try! Just way too far away and., wait for it….there is a HUGE waiting list!

But what perplexes me to no end is why so many folks are afraid of change (I know, I know, probably because it’s change stupid, Duh!)? But seriously, I continue to hear the arguments on how privatization of education is so wrong. Is it really? I doubt that Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and members of the Walton Family (Wal-Mart) sit around a big table wringing their hands (insert evil laugh here) as they try to figure out the best way to dupe the public, while they take over the countries educational system and make money doing it.  I mean are there still some of you out there who believe that the “public” in public education still means anything?

Our public schools have been in the hands of “private” industry for years. If it’s not the multi-billion companies such as McGraw-Hill and Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt who determine what our children learn (or don’t learn) by selling text books by the bulk, it’s the way they “help” shape lessons plans as well as standardized testing at the state level in order to ensure it’s their company’s books that are used and not the competition. And less we forget companies such as Sysco who provide much of the most non nutritious, yet cheap food to our cafeterias. Our schools haven’t been “public”, or for that matter locally run for DECADES!  Think about it, when was the last time planning, funding, testing, or a major policy was decided SOLELY at the local level?

I’ll wait………(cue Jeopardy theme music)………………… EXACTLY! It doesn’t happen anymore!

Teachers and school districts across the nation are forced on a daily basis to be “reactive” instead of “proactive” due to the various cuts to their budgets. Instead of pushing the envelope and pushing their students to succeed they are busy trying to keep the ship from sinking. You CAN’T teach or educate in that type of environment! In my humble opinion, this is also one of the reasons that not only has the discussion for privatization risen in recent years, but so has the clamor for “non-traditional” methods of education. Charter schools, Montessori education, and yes, even homeschooling have all had a boon recently due to the fact that government officials and so-called education professionals have been trying to “fix” this system FOREVER and parents can’t afford to wait any longer. This is also why prep schools have been around for so long. People with “means” don’t worry about the public education debate because they send their children to prep schools; yep, just like the fictional Bel Air Academy on Fresh Prince. But all joking aside, one of the statements that troubled me from Mr. Stager is how he accused Mr. Gates of not sending his own children to the KIPP Academy’s because obviously they aren’t “good enough”.  Really? The man sets up some of the most technologically advanced and forward thinking schools in the nation (which by the way rival even some of the best prep schools in the country) and you want to kick a gift horse in the mouth!?!? These academies are the closest thing to a prep school that most regular everyday folks without “means” will see. I’m not going to get into unions, teacher tenure, etc… BUT by spending his billions to open his own schools, Mr. Gates can EASILY bypass much of the red tape drama that far too many school districts are drowning in. His money, his ideas, his way!

And just to take this discussion one step further, I’d like you to think about something for a moment. You know what doesn’t get talked about too much? It’s that the “establishment” is counting on a little thing called time. They have plenty of it, and we as parents do not. Our children continue to get older in a lackluster system because they know all too well that one day our children will be old enough and OUT of “public” education (K-12). Usually by the time many of our children have (hopefully) moved onto college we have lost the want, need, or desire to concern ourselves with how K-12 public education continues to decline. It’s as if, “Whew…I’m done, let the next group of parents deal with this nonsense!” Many of us are too tired, busy, stressed, and pulled every which way on Monday-Friday to focus on fighting the good fight, AND THEY ARE COUNTING ON THAT!

We all want what is best for our children, but let’s face it do any of us really have the means or the where-with-all to fight a system which has been playing this game since at least the 1950’s? NOPE! The status quo is counting on us not getting involved. One of the ways they achieve this is making it damn near impossible for us to find, or even enroll, our children in some of the best public schools in our own communities. And trust me I know of what it is I speak as I’m currently fighting the good fight with our local school district to get what I believe is best for my family. But In the end, they are counting on our eventual and continued APATHY to it all. If they put up enough stumbling blocks, sooner or later we will go away and they will continue to chug along.

Like Bill Gates? Hate Bill gates? Agree with him, don’t agree with him? But the facts are pretty clear if not for him, and others like him who are tired of the way our children are being educated we would not be having a serious discussion today on the future of education in America. Movies such as Waiting for Superman, The Lottery, etc… and program’s such as The Harlem Children’s Zone all have brought to light what many have been trying real hard to keep in the dark. I, for one, applaud the efforts of folks like Bill Gates and Gary Stager who are doing what they believe to be right on behalf of our children.

I think we all can agree that we want the best education for our children and that (for many) the education they are receiving is sub-standard at best. I also think we all can agree that some major changes need to be made, that none of the problems are going away anytime soon, and an open, honest dialogue where all views are respected is paramount. So if I were Mr. Stager, instead of insulting the man (I’m still trying to figure out the Charlie Sheen analogy) I’d get in line to see if I too could get a bit of the Gates Foundation money and find away to work together (yep, didn’t I mention that Mr. Stager has his own education based organization called The Constructivist Consortium!?). Because just like this problem, the money and clout of Bill Gates isn’t going away anytime soon either.

Just my two cents, what say you?

James Higgins

James Higgins

Nothing special about me at all, I'm a happily married, college educated (Go Bison!), stay-at-home father of two wonderful children. Just trying to keep myself, my wife, my children, and my cats sane as we navigate through this journey called family life.

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I’m NOT an Adoptive Parent; I am a Parent!

OK, I’m HOT and I admit it! If there is one thing that can easily make the top-5 on my “You Have Just Crossed the Line and Really Pissed Me Off!”  list it is being called an adoptive parent. Along with that title comes the notion that anyone who chooses to adopt is just “playing house” or “babysitting.” People often approach the subject with foolishness like, “well they aren’t really yours and you could give them back.” (yes, I have heard that come out of someone’s mouth on more than one occasion). Some believe we love our children less and/or that we don’t protect, care, nurture, and sacrifice for our babies simply because we didn’t throw on some Barry White, dim the lights a bit, and go about things the “traditional” way. So, yes it ticks me off when, inevitably, I get the condescending laced question, “Oh, you have adopted children?” or, “You’re an adoptive parent?”

Let me make it clear for everyone; while my babies may have come into our lives via adoption, they are NOT adopted children, they are OUR CHILDREN! My wife and I are not adoptive parents, WE ARE PARENTS! Period, plain and simple! Have No need to add adjectives or hyphenate the love we have for our children and make us feel like less than you and yours. It is beyond disrespectful. All you are going to get is a verbal lashing from me, and you really don’t want one of those, especially in front of your family and friends.

I think this stems from ignorance about adoption. People who have never inquired about adoption have no clue all that it entails. It is no picnic ladies and gentlemen. Many adoptions involve researching agencies, training, doctor visits, physicals, travel, failed placement/match (before the child is born or ever placed in our home), more research, mandatory parenting classes, cpr/first aid classes, sleepless nights, unreturned phone calls, daily arguments over stupid stuff with your spouse, attorneys, more doctors, home studies, early mornings, social worker visits (some unannounced), birth mothers who change their minds, baby shower…oops, another failed match? Need to have a baby shower for a girl now. And don’t get me started on the mounds of paperwork for each state/county and for each agency. What? Another failed placement? Does that mean more paperwork since the new agency is in a different state/county? YES!  What if you are adopting via foster care and the child is in a county other than the one you are residing? Unless your agency has a license to work across the state, you AND the child are out of luck! Oh, you finally have a child in your home? Guess what you’ve won? More visits (again, some unannounced), more travel, and just when you thought the paperwork avalanche was over? NOPE! From having to document every single visit to the doctor; to having to keep track of every little bit of baby aspirin your little one has to take when they have a cold; to making sure the hot water temperature in your house doesn’t go above 140 degrees, yep just more and more fun. Want to go on a vacation or leave the county? You need prior approval, which in some instances must be done months in advance. Worst of all, there isn’t a thing you can do about any of it!

Remember when we were kids and we were always told to take care of our toys and they would last forever? And remember how you would do extra chores around the house and maybe even odd jobs around the neighborhood in order to save up enough to get that remote control car or doll house you wanted? It may have taken you a year, but YOU do it all by yourself, and cherished that toy more than anything else. The very same principle applies to people who go through the adoption process. It’s not an easy journey. In fact, it’s a gut wrenching process that tests not just your faith, but tests your commitment to each other in your marriage, not to mention your relationship with family/friends. But on the flip side, because of all the trauma and turmoil that adoptive families go through, the end result is also the most rewarding and gratifying experiences one could hope for. Would I feel the same way about a biological child? I would hope so, but that is not my reality. My reality is that (especially as a man) it took a lot to get me to the point of actually adopting, and I wouldn’t trade my “adopted” children for “biological” children EVER!!!!

Now, I am NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, demeaning or belittling those who have children by the traditional Barry White method, I just want the same courtesy for my family that you DEMAND of yours. A child is a child no matter how they came into this world or became a part of a loving family. No child who has ever been born has “asked” to be here, and in my mind each and every child is a gift to be cherished. My family has the same stresses, ups/downs, late nights, early mornings, and LONG days as the next family; not to mention the fear (yep, I said fear) of the eventual discussion we will have with our children on where they came from. All parents (regardless of how they became parents) have struggles and I, for one, can attest to many of them and would argue that while this is the most stressed I have been in my entire life, I would also argue that it is also the most satisfied and fulfilled I have been in my entire life. Just when I think I can’t get any more stressed/fulfilled, my kids come through and prove that I most certainly can. Those that know me know that I love my little chocolaty nibblets and that when they were born I then had an answer for the question, “What are YOU willing to die for?”

If some parents (as well as those who like to say that adoption is not the same as having a child of your own) were to take a hard look into the thought, preparation, time, and emotional stress in the families that pursue adoption they may think differently, and may not make such flippant remarks about who is a “real” parent and who is not. I would also add that if some of these same folks had to go through all of this, they may not have thrown on Barry White to begin with. So yes, I take this lifelong journey VERY seriously. I enjoy all the ups, downs, and sideways because I know what it took for us to get to this point and I don’t take any of the gifts lightly nor for granted. Can all the Barry White fans say the same? Just my two cents.

James Higgins

James Higgins

Nothing special about me at all, I'm a happily married, college educated (Go Bison!), stay-at-home father of two wonderful children. Just trying to keep myself, my wife, my children, and my cats sane as we navigate through this journey called family life.

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Real Talk Wednesday: Where’s my GPS? We are SO lost

Unless you’ve living on a deserted island, had your head in the sand over the past few weeks, or just didn’t visit any one of the 100’s of web-sites geared toward the African-American market, I am quite sure you heard about the “uproar” in the Black male community over the latest movie by Tyler Perry entitled For Colored Girls. This new updated version of “Hollywood/Tyler Perry Hates Black Men” sentiment harkened me way back to my sophomore year in high school when a little movie called The Color Purple (which coincidentally just had its 25th Anniversary special on Oprah) hit the screen. I was like, “Wow, same song, just 25 years later!” Just as things were back in the mid-80’s with The Color Purple, brotha’s were UPSET over their portrayal in For Colored Girls (as many of my brethren are about most Tyler Perry films, yet our anger and disgust was/is pretty much non-existent when the discussion of the numerous movies/reality shows/videos that denigrate BLACK WOMEN are brought to the table…but I digress).

The truth of the matter is that, I don’t want to debate the validity on the claim that all Tyler Perry movies denigrate or don’t denigrate Black Men, nor I’m I here to make the argument that The Color Purple did (did not do) the same thing 25 years ago. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t; personally I enjoy a couple of Mr. Perry’s movies (especially Daddy’s Little Girls) although his tv shows are a bit too coonish for my tastes. And when it comes to The Color Purple? Well, easily on my Top 5 all-time movie list. But my question to all of the men out there is: For Colored Girls?? Seriously!?! THIS is what it takes to get us “mobilized”, fired up and pissed off!? When did a handful of movies by Tyler Perry become Public Enemy #1 in the minds of Black Men? When did a movie other than let’s say “Birth of a Nation” become the apocalypse? When did we as men lose our way and get off the beaten path to find ourselves in this predicament? I mean, c’mon when did we become so damn sensitive? Better yet, when did we take our eye off the ball to the point where a movie could actually define who we are as men, husbands, and fathers?

With all the issues we face in our community none of this Hollywood or celebrity dribble should EVER crack our Kasey Kasem Billboard Top 100 countdown! At the end of the day, does criticizing and being up in arms about a handful of movies address our failing schools? Graduation rates? Poverty? Teen pregnancy? Foster children? Single parent households? NO, it surely does not! Sorry my brothers, we do not have the luxury of wasting our time, energy, and talents complaining about such nonsense. Our families and our communities expect & demand better of us (notice I said US!).

Do I have all the answers? NOPE! But, we must start somewhere, and if that means at minimum reclaiming our households, so be it. It is paramount for us not to just be present in the lives of our children and our spouses/significant others, but we must also be active and engaged as well. It was just this past weekend when I literally lost count on how many little Black faces I saw at a holiday event for kids; plenty of Mothers, Sisters, Aunts, and Grandmothers, but I could count the number of Black Men on one hand. And don’t get me started on the countless times I hear brotha’s say, “I have to babysit my kids today.” Um, Babysit? You don’t babysit YOUR kids! There is a mentality that many of us can’t shake, and it’s about time we did. Ask yourself, when was the last time you went to your child’s school, read them a book, gave them a bath, feed them dinner, took them to the doctor, or picked them up from karate class? If you can’t answer any of those  questions correctly, then I’m talking to you. And before you ask, “Well, aren’t you a stay-at-home Dad? So obviously you have plenty of time to do all of this?” it’s not about being home all the time, because trust me I was at school, doctors appointments, bath time, etc… before I was laid-off. It’s about making time for what is TRULY important.

I can hear the choir now, “Yo Bruh, you need to get off your soap box!” Well, maybe I do, BUT me getting off of my soap box isn’t going to change our collective state of affairs is it? For years, our priorities have been all out of whack and now, somehow, a handful of movies are to blame for our lot in life?  I’m not buying it! The fact is the poor choices we have been making are now coming back to bite us in the a%^. It’s time for us to stop blaming the messenger and get to work earning the respect of our wives and our children. Leave the trivial nonsense/blogging of being “dissed” in a movie to others and let’s get to work fellas. It’s due time, and time is way past due…

Next time on Real Talk Wednesday’s, “Boy, I Just Said NO!”

James Higgins

James Higgins

Nothing special about me at all, I'm a happily married, college educated (Go Bison!), stay-at-home father of two wonderful children. Just trying to keep myself, my wife, my children, and my cats sane as we navigate through this journey called family life.

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Real Talk Wednesday: Hello We of Hue!

Hello WorldHELLO WORLD

You may not realize it yet, but you are actually part of a historic & monumental occasion at this very moment! No, I didn’t win a million dollars (and, well, neither did you) BUT you are here to witness that I, James Higgins, have finally arrived on the Internet article circuit!! Yep, this is article one of what I hope to be a very positive experience for all involved. My family and friends have mentioned plenty of times over the past few years, “You REALLY need to write the occasional magazine or newspaper article? There are people who could use your pearls of wisdom!” Now, I’m not sure if they were being serious or just wanted me to shut up and take my ramblings elsewhere (I’ll go with the latter. Regardless of their intentions or if this is the right/wrong time for me to do this, I’m here now! Woooo hooo, break out the streamers and the chocolate milk, I finally have a platform to run my mouth!

Since I decided to join We of Hue I have had plenty of people actually shocked that I have chosen this avenue to discuss my insights. Most folks, who know me, know I do NOT have time for nonsense or ignorance of any kind. So it wasn’t a shock when the questions started, “Why in the world would you want to waste your time writing for We of Hue (WOH), or any site for that matter? Isn’t there too much yelling, name calling, and not enough intelligent discussion on many of these sites?” Well, the way I see it, it was about time for me to get involved with some folks who also enjoy a nice healthy debate and some intelligent dialogue, and WOH feels right to me. Not only that, but what better way than the Internet to “educate” and “inform” those who truly seek to change their community? That’s not to say that the authors and readers of WOH will not/don’t disagree on issues, but I decided to come aboard because I believe that disagreements will not turn into name calling and personal attacks (either from the authors or the readers). My people, we have A LOT of issues which are tearing at the fabric of our community and the time for all the trivial garbage has to stop. WOH is the place where I hope we will focus on the “message” and not so much “the messenger”.

The fact of the matter is that as a college educated, married, stay-at-home father of 2 young children (how often do you hear all that in the same sentence?) my “voice” is not being well represented within the confines of the Internet, the media, movies, music, etc… I don’t need to go into the LONG laundry list of ways Black Men are portrayed/ not portrayed in society (but I will in my next article). I came here because I know that by no means am I the only one out there who is fed up with much of what is taking place in the Black Community and the overall lack of accountability, not only from our “leaders” (and I use the term loosely), but from each of us on an individual basis. And while I am not a “journalist” by trade, I am a concerned father and husband who hasn’t had his head in the sand his entire life. I’ve been around the block a few times both personally and professionally so I do have a solid foundation for many of the topics I plan to discuss in the coming months/years: topics such as Parenting, Adoption, Children, Education, and yep…Marriage). You may agree with some of my “rants”, and disagree with others, but my hope is that I can get you to walk away saying, “Not only did that piece get me thinking, but I’d like to discuss it a bit further and maybe even look at changing my thoughts into action.”

A few years ago a movie came out entitled, “Finding Forrester”. No, I’m not going to go into the plot, etc… but there is a scene that I think pretty much sums up my involvement with WOH and wanting to bring about some change in the way we think about certain issues, and what is truly important and what really is a waste of time. In the scene, a much older mentor, William (played by Sean Connery) asks the younger high school student mentee, Jamal (played by Rob Brown), “Is that a soup question?” Now, seeing that quote stand alone without the context of the movie is tough, but it essentially meant/means, “Is the question you asked pertinent or important to the goal you are trying to meet?” Well, my goal with WOH is to get us ALL talking and doing things to move our community forward. Unfortunately if it isn’t a “soup question” I will not be talking about it in “Real Talk Wednesdays”. Whether or not T.I and Wesley Snipes go to jail, or The Real Housewives have a reunion, or the Kardashian sisters are having men problems are not “soup questions” so I won’t be wasting my VERY valuable time writing about such nonsense nor waste your valuable time by having you read it. I’m quite sure you have many other sites you can go to and get the latest celebrity gossip, I would rather spent my time in a more “constructive” manner)

I am REALLY looking forward to my relationship with We of Hue; from our founder, to the authors, and most importantly those of you who take the time to come and visit…the readers. But for today, it’s now time for the Iron Dad (you know kinda like Iron Chef; that and I also do a lot of ironing to bid you all adieu, the kiddos are ready to play.

See ya next time on Real Talk Wednesdays when I will “attempt” to go into why we Black Men have a problem with certain movies and why we need to STOP whining all the time and literally man up!

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/alvarez-tostado/363243422/” title=”Dad and daughter by tostadophoto.com, on Flickr”>image credit: Dad and daughter by tostadophoto.com, on Flickr</a>

James Higgins

James Higgins

Nothing special about me at all, I'm a happily married, college educated (Go Bison!), stay-at-home father of two wonderful children. Just trying to keep myself, my wife, my children, and my cats sane as we navigate through this journey called family life.

More Posts