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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Organic Food vs. Conventional Food: a goverment conspiracy?

Why Is Organic Food More Expensive?

Most people assume that organic food cost less to produce. Why wouldn’t they be? Isn’t organic food grown on organic farms that are free from chemicals and pesticides? How expensive could it possibly be to cultivate a farm using the most basic elements that earth supplies – soil, rain and sun? It would be nice if growing organic food was truly this simple. However, it’s a lot more complex than this. The agricultural businesses are heavily subsidized through our tax dollars, whereas organic farms do not receive any government help.  This is the reason that conventional foods are far cheaper to buy. Our tax dollars underwrite a substantial part of the financial burden that conventional agriculture incurs.

This ludicrous situation was birthed out of an honorable intent by the American government to help ease the severe food shortage of the Great Depression in the 1930’s. In a desperate attempt to prevent further wide-spread starvation and famine, President Roosevelt introduced the subsidies to help sustain the farm industry.  Albeit the subsidies, were predetermined as a temporary solution, the allocation of them persisted far beyond the Depression, developing into the multi-million dollar political platform that it currently is.

Organic food is also more expensive by virtue of agrichemicals that are created to make conventional farming methods cheaper to practice. The agrichemicals agricultural industry was developed with one purpose in mind – to make mass production of food cheaper and quicker. There was never any forethought on nutrition, health or the environment in the design of agrichemicals.

So, has the government conspired against organic food?

I’ll let you answer that question for yourself. Despite the fact that agribusinesses receive government subsidies, there is another vitally reason that hikes up the cost of organic foods – supply and demand. You, as a consumer, tell the government what you are willing to pay for food and what quality of food you want on account of your purchases. Since the demand for conventional food far outweighs the demand for organic food, the government will continue to subsidize traditional agribusinesses thus maintaining the high costs of organic food.

While the demand for conventional food is higher than that of organic food, the issuing of government subsidies to the conventional agricultural industry is an archaic policy that should be defunct. Or at the very least these subsidies should be open to organic farmers as well. Subsidies that are issued to agribusiness are creating an excessive food surplus that is simply disposed of each year. Over 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in America each year and this is largely in part to food production that can’t possibly be eaten. Hunger should not be an issue in America because there is far more food produced in our country than can be consumed. The disturbing fact is that a very small percentage of this surplus actually goes to food banks and organizations that help the needy.

Government subsidies would be better served by helping small local farmers, organic farms, community supported agricultural programs, food co-ops, etc so America can eat healthier and have better quality foods.

Ana Gazawi

Ana Gazawi

Single mom of two boys trying to live a greenier, crunchier life. Lover of life and all things that bring good people, great conversation, and lasting memories together.

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No Wedding No Womb

Maybe you are old enough to remember Grease 2. Hopefully you remember the Fallout Shelter scene in which Louis tries to convince Sharon to sleep with him. He sings to her, urging to “…do it for your country” and promising that “your mother will approve.” His musical attempt fails as she realizes that he is setting her up.

I often think what would happen if Grease 2 was remade today. I imagine Tyler Perry rewriting the movie and turning Sharon into a “Baby Momma” who is being tempted to have unprotected sex with the man who will inevitably become “Baby Daddy” number three.

It’s not too far-fetched of an idea. It’s impossible to believe that it is when staring at a glaring statistic such as 70% of children born in the Black community are born out-of-wedlock. The status is glorified in movies, in videos, and by newspapers and other media outlets. We have to admit that having children out of wedlock has become so synonymous with Black women, that it is assumed we all wear the title of Baby Momma  even when we don’t. Remember the  FOX- First Lady Michelle Obama drama during the campaign?

But how do we change this? What do we need to do as a community, a culture, to ensure that our children do not repeat the damaging behaviors of their elders? How do we protect our children when we are so lax in protecting ourselves?

These are tough questions, I suppose. Single-parenthood is not new nor is it isolated to the Black community. The stigma, however, is gone and what we have gained is a legacy of negative statistics that have plagued the Black Community more than racism ever could.

The fact is that we have been fostering a culture of “love ‘em and leave ‘em.” We encourage our young Black boys to play the field and to explore. We tell our young girls that they are responsible for their own sexual actions as well as those of their male counterparts. Butfinding someone to blame is not important.

What matters most are the children. What matters most is that children need two parents to guide, love, and provide. They deserve to feel love from those who created them. They deserve to have a chance. If we want to escape this cycle of poverty and anger, we have to stop the cycle of acting without thought.

This is OUR problem.

Check out the No Wedding Now Womb Movement. It only takes a spark …

Kristina Daniele

Kristina Daniele

Kristina, Founder and Oz of We of Hue is one of many doing it across hues-homeschooling, wifing, mothering, and business building. She is a web designer and social media consultant with a love of building communities on line. She looks forward to intelligent conversation that is eye-opening and statement-making.

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Black women’s health: Fibroids

I was watching a documentary on infertility recently. My heart just wept for some of these couples that desperately wanted babies. I was particularly saddened by a black couple that had put a second mortgage on their home to help cover the costs of infertility treatment only to be left with a massive debt and no baby. Years before the husband and wife had met each other, the woman had suffered from large fibroid tumors that had to be removed surgically.

I thought about my own journey to have children. I was a young 22 year old college grad. I was engaged to a man I thought was my prince-come. He was incredibly handsome, my a gorgeous mahogany man. He was smart and ambitious and had two degrees in both mechanical and electrical engineering. As soon as I graduated I dashed off to Belize so that we could be wedded in marital bliss and begin our lives together. We didn’t want to start a family for several years so the decision was made that I would go on birth control. His sister-in-law took me to the pharmacy where she purchased her pills and I soon discovered that buying birth control in Belize is no different than buying a pair of shoes. You look at the selection available on the shelf, pick one, buy it and move on with your life.

That decision nearly cost me my baby making parts. A few weeks into taking those pills my life began to crumble – literally. The guy I thought was my prince-come ended up being my prince not-at-all. In the midst of dealing with my deteriorating relationship, I also started having massive bleeding issues. A Belizean doctor told me that I needed to continue taking the pills so that my body could adjust to the new hormones. I didn’t agree with his advice so I quit taking them. By this time my relationship with my ex-fiance was over and I flew back to the US.

A few weeks after returning to the US, the bleeding started again, so I consulted with a gynecologist who prescribed an ultrasound. It was discovered that I had developed fibroids. For the next year different attempts were made to reduce the fibroids, but they continued to grow. Eventually, the doctor decided that a myomectomy was necessary.

Just before my 24th birthday the surgery was performed. At my first doctor’s appointment following the surgery, the doctor solemnly told me that I might not be able to have children. At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal to me, since I wasn’t interested in having children. I had decided to throw myself full throttle into an international career. A good friend and I were making plans to move to the Europe in a couple of years for a French and Spanish language immersion program so that we could be recruited by foreign aid groups such as CARE, UN, CARICOM and UNICEF. This type of career choice wasn’t ideal for a woman with children anyway, so I accepted the bleak prognosis with a stiff upper lip.

Long story short, 4 years later my girlfriend flew off to Europe alone to begin her international humanitarian career with the UN and got married in the early part of the year and had a bouncing baby boy by the end of the year. My pregnancy was a huge unexpected surprise and happened with no effort. However, I recognize my story could have been very different.

Fibroids are a common health issue among black women and most of us know someone who has suffered with them. According to the WomensHealth.org black women are at a greater risk to developing fibroids than white women. The cause of fibroids is unknown, nor is it understood why the prevalence of this abnormality is higher in black women.

Despite the obscure facts about fibroids and black women we do have some level of control over our risk and the following list dictates some of the actions we can take:

  • Be informed about fibroids and all health conditions common in black women so that you will know what questions and tests to ask your doctor
  • Know your family medical history so that you will know if you fall in a high risk category
  • Maintain regularly annual check up with our gynecologist
  • Limit your intake of red meat and increase your intake of dark green vegetables
  • Manage a proper diet and exercise regime

At this time medical research has not found a way to prevent fibroids. However, the good news is that early detection by a doctor, in some cases, can lead to a treatment course that will cause fibroids to shrink on their own, thus bypassing surgery.

Ana Gazawi

Ana Gazawi

Single mom of two boys trying to live a greenier, crunchier life. Lover of life and all things that bring good people, great conversation, and lasting memories together.

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Rosewood, race, and an innocent kiss

by Talibah Mbonisi

*This article was originally published here at MOH in July 2001.

How serendipitous!  Since last Tuesday, I was planning to write this post; but as divine perfection would have it, I didn’t.  Instead, I waited until I found myself caught up in the emotion of one of my favorite, albeit painful to watch, films, Rosewood.

I remember making very specific plans to see it on the Friday of opening weekend, knowing that I would need at least two days to calm myself down before I re-entered the integrated world of my grad school classes.  For those unfamiliar, Rosewood, based upon a true story about a false one, is the all too common tale of a Black town stolen and then destroyed by a white mob that latches onto a white woman’s accusations against some nameless Black man.  It’s an age old story used over and over and over and over and over and over and over again to justify the heinous lynching and mutilation of countless men and the overt theft of many similar Black towns.  While Rosewood is set in 1923, as recently as this year’s campaign season, we see the same tale propagated with the same evil intentions.  (Banished is another film that talks about this history.)

I will always love Mr. Mann and Sylvester.  As I’m writing this post, they have just saved a train car full of women and children after having to defend not just their property, but also their lives…the lives of their children.

But that isn’t really what this post is about.  It’s just the subtext.

Several weeks ago, my son’s first grade teacher sent home a handwritten note saying that a little girl in his class had accused him of kissing her hand.  The note went on to suggest that my son’s account of the story may have been less than true (that her hand some how brushed up against his mouth when they were playing, his lips touched it, and she mistook it as a kiss.)  Her note suggested that I decide if he was telling the truth.

Initially, I was confused about why I was even getting a note. What was the big deal? They were six-year-olds, and this seemed pretty normal. I also knew that the week prior, my son had told me that this same little girl was his girlfriend. Apparently, she had broken up with him this week and had chosen a new boyfriend instead. I just didn’t know how to read it. Had my son kissed the child’s hand against her will? Is that what she was suggesting? Why was this issue so significant that it warranted a note asking me to sign the bottom? And, as I pondered and then speculated, I became angry and protective. I made calls to people whose opinions I trust, professors, attorneys and his father among them…learned Black folk. And, they raised good points about the litigious nature of parents these days; about the need to teach our girls to speak up when they are violated; about the possibility that this was targeting based upon the fact that my son has a, shall we say, strong personality that makes him stand out; and about the consensus that this was probably just silly B.S. By the end of my call campaign, it was clear that I needed to actually speak to the teacher, but that this coupled with some other things was an indicator that we might need to consider another school for our child.

I am finding that raising a Black son in this country is no small endeavor. I confess that as much as I carry hopes and dreams and faith for him, I also carry many fears. Many are the same as any parent has for any child, I think. But some are the fears that only the mother of a Black boy here can know…I think. And, the truth is, they inform, sometimes subtly, other times subconscioulsy and yet others, consciously, my decisions about how to navigate his experiences, opportunities, education and just about every other aspect of our journey together.

But, they also can misinform. And, that is what this post is about. Everything that I have written up til now is real. And, I would wager this year’s salary that most Black mothers know the fear that gripped me that day. They know how I could go from a note about an innocent kiss to that image of Mr. Mann hanging from that tree.

Anyway, I spoke with the teacher. I explained that I wasn’t going to sign the note, but that I wanted to understand better what the issue was. No, he hadn’t been accused of coercing the little girl. No, it wasn’t a big deal. It was just a she says/he says that she decided to leave up to his parents.

So, the punchline…Last week, I went in to help some students practice their addition facts. I met the little girl. Just as cute as she wanted to be. Her addition wasn’t half bad. No wonder my son was smitten. Oh, did I mention…she’s Black.

Not only did I assume that the little girl was white, that assumption coupled with the fact that their teacher is a white woman colored (pun intended) my entire experience of that moment. What is amazing is that, I wasn’t the only one who assumed. There was a knowing among us all, everyone to whom I recounted the initial story. It was key to the underlying premise of each of our discussions about the matter, but I don’t remember ever making any explicit statement. The fact is, had the teacher been Black, or had we known that the child was, everything would have felt different. It wouldn’t have changed the stories like Rosewood, but it would have changed the framework within which I processed the note and the incident that it documented.

Race in the United States is a complex and powerful construct. History cannot be ignored; and parenting, well…it may take a lifetime for me to figure that one out. I’ve learned something here, a few things, I think; but mostly I have gained another level of consciousness about parenting my son and the ways that my experience of race influences that process.

This post was originally published on The Mama Spot and is re-posted here with permission from the author.

Guest Authors

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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Are educators failing our young black men?

For those of you that follow my personal blog, you know that on July 30, I welcomed my second son into the world. While I am honored, overjoyed, head-over-heels and feeling super charmed at being charged with the task of raising another young black male, I, ever the forward-thinking-worry-wart (so aptly named by my Mama), have also been somewhat filled with apprehension at the task.  Now, I have discussed my concerns before as they relate to pressures within our own community.  Recently, however, I came across a video on CNN revealing some startling new facts about black male performance in our national schools.

In the video, CNN correspondents revealed that the national graduate rate for black males is 47%.  Even more appalling, in my hometown of New York City, the graduation rate for black males is just 28%.  While I prepared to watch a video about biased standardized tests and socio-economic disadvantages, I was surprised when CNN Educational Correspondent and author, Steve Perry, pointed the finger directly at the prejudice of educators.  When asked specifically what he thought accounted for the discrepancy, Perry repeated “expectations, expectations, expectations.”  In sum, Perry noted that black males are more likely to be suspended as their behavior is often unfairly categorized as dangerous as opposed to mischievous –   due to educators reacting more adversely to black male behaviors than white children.  He noted that educators often expect our black boys to fail as opposed to expecting them to perform well.  Perry went on to discuss successful charter and private schools whose focus is more on the children as opposed to the educators.  As the Principal and Founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School, he used his own school as an example of children-focused environments where changing expectations produced better results.

While I am generally skeptical of statistics, this one and the conversation that followed was particularly intriguing to me.  First, while I like to consider myself a true libertarian, I realized as a professional, I have found myself feeling somewhat insulated by own socio-economic status.  Frankly, I just assume graduating high school, college and so forth will not be an issue for my children.  Therefore, it was easy for me to point to socio-economic disadvantages as the root cause of underperformance in our communities.  However, taking a closer look at this conversation and how it has applied to my own upbringing has cast a very bright light on just how true Perry’s commentary is.  I recalled a recent conversation I had with my older brother about an experience he had in high school with a teacher who made him sit in the front of the classroom because he “looked” like he would be trouble.   Knowing my brother and knowing how he was raised, I can confidently say his only offense was being a 6’5” black man.  My brother and I laughed about it but I can tell the incident still left a bitter taste in his mouth and although he graduated, I wondered if the incident contributed to his decision not to pursue higher education.  I know my mother had high expectations of all of her children but were they overshadowed by the low expectations of the school system?  How do we even begin to call educators out on such an innate and institutionalized bias?  Is it even realistic to think that you can change an individual’s expectations of an entire race or is a total overhaul of the education system the only solution? What are your thoughts MOH?

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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