April 17, 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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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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Screaming children will NOT be tolerated

I like to consider myself a cool mom… and despite the innate uncoolness of that previous sentence, I really do.  I married fairly young at 24 years old and had my first child at 26.  So now, at 29, with one foot in my twenties and most of my girlfriends still doing their “Samantha Jones” thing, I like to think that I am still aware of the world outside of my married-with-kids universe.  However, an article I recently read on MSNBC has finally forced me to choose sides.

According to the article, the owner of a restaurant in Carolina Beach, North Carolina is raising controversy after posting a sign saying “Screaming Children Will NOT Be Tolerated”.  The restaurant’s owner claims that since the sign has been up, the restaurant has seen a noticeable increase in business.  Naturally, the article has sparked a great deal of controversy with debates heating up all over the internet.  One article on Shine, notes that movement spreads far beyond North Carolina borders.  A restaurant in Brooklyn, New York recently banned babies after 5.p.m.   As further evidence of the growing anti-kids sentiment, the article points to a group on facebook titled, “Ban Kids From Restaurants!” where it seems extremely bitter individuals lament about how the behavior of children has yet again ruined their peaceful meals.  The group has over two-thousand members.

Now, the empathetic side of me understands that there is a certain degree of unspoken etiquette I must practice as a parent.  No. I won’t be taking my children to a 9pm six-course meal at a wine bar.  Moreover, I have even been known to leave a restaurant early if I think my three year old has a tantrum brewing.

However, what strikes me the most about the ensuing debate is the bizarrely heightened degree of passion from the “movements” supporters.  I was stunned at how easily words like “brat” and “bastard” were thrown around.  I made the mistake of visiting the facebook page and was disgusted at how easily the sites creator referred to one such disruptive child as a “little sh#tbag” and a “wailing little insect” among other things. 

Reading these comments brought back memories of last year’s controversy over the stranger who slapped the crying two year old little girl in Wal-Mart.  Remember that? Apparently, the child’s mother wasn’t handling the situation – which seems to be another complaint of these individuals.  Bad parents.  You know… because the children of good parent’s never have tantrums. 

I am being ridiculously sarcastic.

Legal arguments aside, what is it about children that makes these self righteous, grossly misinformed individuals so intolerant? Why is it so socially acceptable to engage in anti-child rhetoric?  Why are children who act out and the parents who raise them last on the list to receive a little dose of empathy? What about the group of drunk and belligerent twenty-somethings whose loud and profane antics at their table interrupted my family on our night out? Or teenage girls whose cell phones went off again and again throughout my meal? Or that family at the table beside mine speaking loudly in another language? Or that blind man whose walking cane hit the side of my chair on the way to his table? Or that guy who can’t stop sneezing? Or hey, how about that ugly couple facing me from across the room?

No matter how much courtesy we all exercise, there is a certain amount of discomfort one must expect in public.  Unpredictability.  Diversity. Strangeness.  If you want to eat a meal strictly on your own terms, stay home.  Until then, my money is just as green as yours.  So if I am at a restaurant at the table across from yours and my kid starts to cry uncontrollably because his chicken nugget fell on the floor and for some reason this means you can no longer enjoy your meal.  My advice? Take a bite of your Caesar Salad, quit whining, be a grown up, and suck it up.  At least my kid has an excuse. What’s yours?

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara is native of New York City and reluctant resident of the DC Metro Area. She is a writer in her heart but a lawyer by profession. She is a wife and also a mom to two boys. She is a self proclaimed and self loving oddball. She is determined to find both spirituality and happiness and like any true totalitarian matriarch, impose both on her family. She is wise enough to know that this may not happen simultaneously.

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Embracing the “why’s”

by Jeanine DeHoney

There I was arguing with my eleven year old grandson about what shirt he was going to wear that day. The shirt he’d chosen had a spot on it that not even a spray of Shout  could get out. The shirt I wanted him to wear was spotless, not even a speckle of a stain to mar it.

“Why can’t I wear what I want to?,” my grandson asked, his voice tinged with frustration.

This was not the little boy that I used to pick out cute outfits for from The Children’s Place and like a cute miniature deep brown living mannequin would happily put on. Everything matched, was color coordinated, from socks to shoes and sometimes even his underwear. “Perfect,” I said to myself. “You are a handsome little guy,” I said each time we headed out the door. I loved taking him out and showing him off and listening to people comment about how adorable he looked. Now he’s even handsomer, but he has his own sense of style. He loves oversized shirts, jeans that sag a little bit too much to my liking, and the more distressed looking they are the better.

But on that day when I was arguing with him, I guess it wasn’t so much his wanting to wear something different that frustrated me. Since his birthday when he officially turned eleven, I noticed how the word “Why?” permeated his sentences whenever I asked him to do something. “Why do I have to drink milk here when I don’t drink it at home? Why do I have to go to bed if I’m not sleepy? Why…?”

On most days my patience was even and melodious. His “whys” ruffled no Black woman feathers and I just calmly explained my rationale for why I felt he needed to do something. But on that day I suddenly, maybe because it was a dreary day and my mood was off centered, did an about face. My children were not raised to question adults so why was I allowing my grandson to do so. As a child I also witnessed this cardinal rule never being broken in other black households. It was do as your elders tell you, no questions asked. Asking the question “Why” was the equivalent to sassing an adult or cursing on Sunday. So, on that day when my grandson asked me “Why” he had to wear the shirt I picked out, I met his “why” with the age old response reminiscent of my grandmother, mother and aunts and…yes, myself as a mother sans grandson. “Because I said so,” I said.

His big dark brown eyes looked as if they were about to fill with tears. I tried my best to avoid looking into them so I wouldn’t give in. “Trust that as the adult I have your best interest at heart. I wouldn’t ask you to do something if it wasn’t for your good,” I continued. “There’s nothing wrong with asking why if you want to find out some information such as uh…let me see…oh such as, why are certain imaginary patterns in  the sky called constellations or …well anyway I think you know what I’m trying to say.”

Those sad puppy dog eyes were unavoidable. It tugged at my heart. He grabbed the shirt I had chosen and slumped away. And then it hit me. I had done this before. I saw that same sorrowful slump twenty something years in my children when they were younger when I said “Because I said so” or “Do as I say, wear what I tell you to wear, etc.”

How I must have trampled on their diminutive spirits then, giving them crutches instead of wings that would help them become confident and independent thinkers. In my mind then I thought I was raising them suitably as I followed the familial advice of the women before me. Now, after much reflection, I realize that there were some things we as mother and grandmothers need to pack away in a treasure chest. They no longer are the sage gems we need to embrace and use to parent or grandparent our children and grandchildren if we don’t want to be the ones to clip their wings.

My grandson had a voice, as my granddaughters will when they too become of age, and trying to muffle their “Why’s” and override their choices when they were just different and not detrimental to anyone, would only impair our relationship and fill them with angst. Holding in my guilt tinged tears and called my grandson back into my room. There would be no mutiny over a shirt. I ironed his stained shirt and relinquished my need to have him do something because I said so. So what if others saw a stain on his shirt. That stain was nonentity when it came to the special young man he was then and who he was becoming.

“You know sometimes Grandma has a lot of lessons to learn even though she is sprouting a few grey hairs,” I said. My grandson smiled. I ironed the shirt with the stain on it and handed it to him. “You look fresh,” I said hoping it was the right word. He laughed this time. I welcomed it into the room and let it scent the air before laughing with him.

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A new season

by Michele Dortch

Yesterday I had a moment. I was doing something ordinary and practical. I was being proactive, trying to keep my work-life in order. It was a functional sort of day. No biggie. But really…it was HUGE and I didn’t understand that until after it was done. What did I do?

I turned in the kindergarten registration papers for my youngest child and was unexpectedly flooded with sadness and joy.

I’ve done this twice before, so sending a child to school isn’t new to me. It shouldn’t be a big deal, right?

I remember with my first (she’s nearly 9 now), I cried. Ok, I sobbed. My baby was going to school! When my second, who will be 7 next month, went off to kindergarten I didn’t cry. I felt badly about this, as if I should give equal emotions to each of my kids for these important milestones. Now, with my third, youngest and last child…I’ve returned to the all-consuming emotions that flooded me with my first.

It’s funny. I’ve been looking forward to this year for awhile. For the last several years I’ve put my career on the back-burner while I focused on raising the kids. Admittedly, I never really let my career go – completely. I struggled to say good-bye to work that defined me, only to engage in a role where I felt less equipped. I have two college degrees and a mass of post-graduate certificates, but none of that prepared me for motherhood! So, I continued to work part-time and have anxiously awaited my son’s entrance into kindergarten for some time.

And now, it’s nearly here. In seven months, my son will be in kindergarten and I’ll have nearly full days to myself – five days a week! I’m overjoyed at the prospect of ramping my career back up. Yet, I’m consumed with sadness as I realize that my kids are growing up – fast. This Fall I’ll have a 4th grader, 2nd grader and kindergartner. And to think, I still remember holding each of them as tiny babies – the smell, the touch, the essence of all that angelic baby love – oh, it’s so sweet and still strong in my memory! And that’s when I cry.

Off-ramping my career during my kids’ pre-school age changed me though. I’m still ambitious. I still strive to achieve goals that stretch me – personally and professionally. But, my priorities are different. Before it was work first. Today, it’s family first. So as I enter into this next season of working motherhood, I do it with joyful anticipation and a hint of sadness that yet another season has ended.

image credit: flickr/joiseyshowaa

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Guest Authors

We love publishing diverse articles from diverse men and women. If you have something to say and would like your voice heard on We of Hue, please head here to submit and article or here to inquire about joining our team of talented regular authors.

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