PRAY FOR A BETTER WEEK

“Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

“I may be asked whether I am a prince or a legislator that I should be writing about politics. I answer no: and indeed that is my reason for doing so. If I were a prince or a legislator I should not waste my time saying what ought to be done; I should do it or keep silent.”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

 

“Daddy, why do you need a tongue to make words?”

I looked over from my driver’s seat to see him in the passenger seat using his fingers to manually manipulate his tongue and couldn’t help but smile.

“Good question, our tongue shapes the passage of air that allows for sounds to omit, but like most things, it’s a lot more complex than that.”

Those of you with children are probably used to these kinds of questions. They come often as every child seems to come with an inexhaustible well of questions that spill forth on a regular basis. Some are easily answerable, “Do you think Lamar Jackson will win MVP this yeat or do you think it’ll be Kyler Murray?”

Sometimes they are about subjects that I have no depth of knowledge upon which to draw, “Daddy, do you like Black Pink? Aren’t they the best KPop group ever or do you prefer Stray Kids?

Lately, though they’ve taken a grimmer turn and the questions have become even more difficult.

“Daddy, why didn’t the policeman remove his knee from the man’s neck? H told him he couldn’t breathe.”

“Daddy, why did that man videotape that woman?”

“Daddy, why would people try and burn Nashville’s courthouse? We weren’t even involved.”

The beauty of my kids and I’m sure yours as well, is that they ask questions in a manner that is uncensored and more concerned with finding the truth than framing themselves in a flattering light. I do the best I can to answer their questions, answers I’m not sharing here because how you educate and explain to your children – the words and strategies you use – should remain uniquely personal and be a family matter. Suffice it to say that my answers encourage further inquisition, the forming of their own opinions, and reinforcement in the belief in the shared humanity and equity of us all.

This weekend’s events throughout the country, and specifically Nashville, made the questions even more difficult. We spend hours explaining to our children reasons why it’s not acceptable to act out of anger yet they hear adults defending people for acting in a destructive manner out of anger. They struggle to juxtapose the kind officer that visited their classroom and answered all of their questions with the narrative that he, or his fellow officers, are willing to take their classmates or their lives. It’s a hard enough task for adults to understand, let alone children just developing their cognitive capabilities.

It’s a task that in normal times would be daunting to most parents. But these aren’t normal times. 2020 is unlike any year I’ve ever faced in my 55 years on this earth. We are not even at the mid-point and already Nashville has faced a tornado, a pandemic that has led to months of being shuttered in our homes, economic destabilization brought on by the pandemic, another weather event that led to large swaths of Nashville homes not having electricity for the better part of a week – all played out with a backdrop of political discord unrivaled since the late 60″s. Face it we are all scared, angry, impatient, and disoriented. Grace for our fellow citizen’s is in short supply, especially for those of us who don’t think exactly like we do.

As a result, we’ve lost sight of each other as people and we find it all too easy to assign those we disagree with in a categorized box. Everybody quickly becomes either, us or them. To the detriment of us all, there is little middle ground.

All of this makes it very difficult to understand why Nashville Mayor Jim Cooper would not only support Saturday’s rally but lend it his endorsement, going as far as to invite Nashvill’s citizen’s down with little thought towards potential outcomes and the long term implications in regard to ongoing health concerns. As voiced by blogger Reggie Hamm,

I do not blame people for wanting to take to the streets and show their anger. I do not blame the protestors or even the rioters for what happened on the last weekend in May, 2020. I totally get it. And I support most of it (I never support the destruction of personal property).

But if you pen people up for months on end, constantly talking about how close to death they all are and how their family may die and posting death numbers hourly, THEN, after an emotionally charged, unjust event takes place and the whole world has been watching the video over and over again, because they’re holed up and have nothing else to do, you I.N.V.I.T.E them to a protest march, what in God’s name do you think is going to happen?!?!

If you allow a march to happen, in the midst of a global pandemic, you are either putting the protestors at extreme risk or you don’t really believe they were all that much at risk in the first place.

If in 3 weeks, Nashville experiences a huge explosion in COVID cases, as Nashville’s mayor how does Cooper explain his decision? When protecting public health, how is the mayor’s call to action any different than holding a music celebration downtown, or a pool party in the Ozarks?  Is he arguing that the virus recognizes morally just instances and as a result only haunts Ozarkian pool parties? Or does he admit that his actions placed a large portion of the Nashville population in danger, both medically and economically?

I haven’t received a paycheck in 2 months because morally I needed to be concerned with others beyond my family, and their ability to eat,and stay in my house. But somehow, it’s acceptable to rally in large groups over a moral cause even if it potentially puts me and my family at greater risk? Who me and my wife, is going to be accountable for their well being? That’s a hard equation to embrace, especially when nobody wants to take accountability for the immediate unforeseen consequences, let alone those possibly months away. I understand the fear and rage of others but please don’t dismiss the fear and rage I hold for the future and safety of my own family.

Yes, the day was a peaceful uplifting event that drew perhaps the largest crowd ever in a unified effort to confront racism. One that will hopefully fuel continued activism by all. But as the day turned to night, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that tensions began to rise. Ultimately leading to the Cooper declaring a state of emergency. Elected officials rushed to distance themselves from the actions that came after the sanctioned event. Unfortunately, once you set the stage, you can’t control the performance.

In the aftermath of the weekends’ events, organizers, and locally elected officials, have continually delivered a narrative that the day’s events were peaceful and that only later in the day, after the official event ended, did bad actors hijack the event and as a result, the disturbing images that played out across our social media feeds were born. On Sunday, tales of white supremacist groups, ANTIFA, and out of town forces were thrown up as defenses for the actions that led to the damage done to downtown. Defenses that may, in the end, be proven correct. But even if they do, how were their undermining actions not predicted and steps employed to counter their potential involvement?

Per The Nashville Scene,

The Equity Alliance, one of the city’s most prominent black advocacy organizations, addressed the escalating situation in a statement on Twitter

“Today’s protest was peaceful and unified,” they wrote. “We witnessed white people defacing public property while marching and told them to stop. The people now attempting to set fire to the Metro Courthouse right now are NOT associated with today’s peaceful protest rally. It ain’t us.”

Was their anybody involved who didn’t recognize the potential for violence? With their collective experience, they never saw the chance that their event would be hijacked?  What if the MPD gave a similar response to the recent crisis? Just a shrug and a, “It ain’t us.” Yet a collective pass is given.

I 100% believe that the vast majority of people who showed up downtown on Saturday showed up for the right reasons. Just like I believe that the vast majority of police officers put on their blues every day for all the right reasons. It seems a bit hypocritical to me to hold all officers responsible for the actions of the minority failing to uphold the sanctity of the job, while not applying the same standard to those who organized Saturdays’ event.

While I certainly appreciate the selflessness of Representatives Mike Stewart and Jason Powell getting out and cleaning up the graffiti and damage left behind, what is the message sent by their action? Their motivation – besides being that they are just good people – I’m sure was to signify unity. How much more positive would it have been though to if organizers doing the work. Signifying a willingness to hold themselves for acts they inadvertently contributed to, just like they expect the police to be accountable to actions they all didn’t directly contribute to.

As a side note, there was a teacher involved in the cleanup process as well, but of course – Laura Hutchison. Per usual, whenever there is a public service need, you’ll always find a teacher responding. It’s just what they do.

It is times like these that I take solace in the power of public education and the value of diverse schools. While we sat beside a stream fishing together this weekend, discussing the week’s events, there was silence. A silence interrupted by a pronouncement, “You know what I think is the problem daddy? Too many people are scared because they haven’t been around as many children of color as I have.” True, and maybe the inverse holds as well.

It was a statement that brought a moment of clarity for me. Over the years I’ll admit, I’ve fretted over some of the academic sacrifices that have been made by my children attending a school that up until the last couple of years was on the verge of being taken over by the state, but conversations like this reveal to me just how integral Tusculum Elementary School, it’s teachers, it’s students, and its families have served to make him and his classmates better people. It’s for this they will have my eternal gratitude.

There is an admonishment that is delivered frequently by activists that I reject. It’s one of “don’t expect black people to educate you on racism. Do your own research.” and it’s usually delivered with a set of book recommendations. Literacy is a valuable tool, but it should never be a replacement for human interaction. But I admonish that you don’t treat those interactions like homework, treat them like an opportunity to learn about people’s humanity. About what they love, what they hate. What they fear and what brings them joy. You’ll find a vast array of motivations and as a result it becomes more difficult to put people in a box.

Talk and interact with people not through the lens of them being Black, or Gay, or Asian, or Hispanic, or Republicans, or Democrats, but rather as part of a greater fabric that is humanity – each bringing forth a unique perspective and history. Equity for me does not lie in elevating one voice, one experience, over another – but rather elevating all voices and all experiences. While I recognize that my view and priorities are born out of my unique experiences – some may substitute the term privilege for experience – and that other’s experiences may have led to different perspectives, it’s that equity that I will continually pursue in my daily life and try to instill in my children. Our similarities are much more powerful than our differences.

READING WARS HEATING UP

Last week I detailed the latest skirmishes in the battle over HB 2229 and it’s state senate counterpart. The version that passed out of the House is not the version the Governor wanted and his particularly detested by Commissioner Schwinn. I can only surmise the reasons for their displeasure is that they considered the language of “science of reading” an important aspect of proposed legislation and that its removal does not feed their vision.  Another soucre of their unhappiness is that the current version strips power from the department of education and instead empowers the state board of education. From what I’m told, Governor Lee did not want the present version heard in committee and had in fact instructed that it be rolled until next week in order to provide an opportunity for him to submit an alternate version.

An emissary was delivered pre-meeting to committee head Mark White to deliver that message. When asked where the bill stood, White informed said emissary that he had 18 votes secured to pass the bill on to the full House. “Roll with it then”, he was told. The rumor continues that throughout the proceedings the governor’s office was frantically trying to reach White by phone, but he wasn’t taking calls. Afterward, when they were able to reach White, his response to concerns was that the House didn’t work for the governor, they worked for the people. A message that was backed by House Leader Sexton.

This would seem to indicate that a battle is brewing for Wednesday when the bill is being taken up by the Senate Education Committee. Will the bill that get’s heard be a closer reflection of Governor Lee’s wishes or will it be identical to that which passed out of committee in the House, a bill heavily influenced by Senate Education Chair Dolores Gresham?

Of equal interest will be whether Education Commissioner Schwinn appears at the Senate hearings or not. There has been much speculation around her staying employed as commissioner past the summer. Whether or not she appears on Wednesday could be a sign of her future. If she avoids appearing before the General Assembly, she likely staves off an untimely fate. Should she appear, well then things get real interesting, real quick. Her appearance would signify either an unwillingness or inability, by Governor Lee to protect her from the critical questions of legislators.

A recent article by Chalkbeat shows that while White and others were arguing that COVID stimulus money could be utilized for teacher training money, Schwinn was embarking on her own plan. One that appears to be independent of legislator input,

But on Friday, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn presented her department’s spending plan for $26 million approved last week by the U.S. Department of Education under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Half of the department’s allocation would pay for technology to support remote learning statewide. The rest would go toward a variety of needs such as competitive grants to help school districts innovate, a remote learning partnership with PBS television, support for student mental health needs and students with disabilities, and leadership development in a fast-changing teaching and learning environment.

“The U.S. Department of Education said the fund is for the state agency and the local education agencies to provide emergency relief to address the impact that COVID-19 has had on our districts,” Schwinn told the state Board of Education in her presentation.

“Certainly, we will continue to watch and see what the legislature ends up approving” on literacy, she added.

It’s a plan that couldn’t have sat well with White, and fellow House members. Let’s see how things play out this week.

QUICK HITS

If you’ll remember, a couple weeks ago much was made of Tennessee accepting the advice of Betsy DeVos and distributing cares money to private schools as based on total enrollment as opposed to the prescribed Title I method. It seems there has been a little bit of a walk back on that advice, and states are now being advised to place the funding difference between total enrollment and Title 1 distribution in an escrow account while the USDOE pursues the passing of a rule to officially address previously given advice. Let’s see how much traction that rule gets.

MNPS’s Virtual Summer School starts today. Kids who aren’t currently enrolled still have an opportunity to become involved. Check out the website for more information.

The biggest obstacle in regard to distance learning is arguably one of access. Indiana districts are attempting to get creative in finding solutions.

Per Chalkbeat, out in Denver, a school board member is at the forefront of recent protests around police brutality,

As Denver joined dozens of U.S. cities in protesting the killing of George Floyd, a 21-year-old Denver school board member well known for protesting police violence was once again at the front of the crowd. Megaphone in hand, Tay Anderson has been vocal in advocating for peaceful demonstrations and calling out white allies when that demand isn’t heeded.

“The news that’s run tomorrow shouldn’t be about riots,” Anderson told a massive crowd Saturday. “It should be about a peaceful protest led by black folks.”

Anderson was elected to the Denver school board in November. He is a graduate of Denver Public Schools and the youngest member of the board. He’s been an activist for several years, first leading chants of “Black lives matter!” as an 18-year-old in the summer of 2016. He has played a prominent role in many demonstrations since then on issues ranging from gun violence to immigration enforcement to police brutality.

Anderson began his board service by sitting for the Pledge of Allegiance. In a statement he released at the time, he listed the names of 13 people, including Trayvon Martin and Denver teenager Jessica Hernandez, who he said: “could’ve been me.”

I love this quote,

“I told people on the campaign trail, ‘You’re electing Tay the activist. Tay the activist is not going away because he has a title.’”

POLL RESULTS

Quick review time. The first question this weekend asked if you thought the COVID-19 crisis had passed. 24% of you voiced an expectation of an uptick in cases over the net 2 weeks, while 21% of you said you had no idea. Here are the write-in votes,

I’m so confused 1
No

Question 2 asked, do you plan to send your kids to school in the Fall. 39% of you are taking a wait and see approach while another 39% answered in the affirmative. 7% said not a chance. Here are the write-in answers,

No children 1
Depends on the plan Dr Battle comes up with

The last question was in regard to the expected time of economic recovery for Tennessee. 35% of you felt that it would take 2-3 years, while 19% of you were more optimistic and said by the beginning of 2021. Here are those write-ins,

just hoping the brides pick somewhere else to party 1
we are still not recovered from 2008, so… 1
Never in Davidson county, if they increase property taxes

That’s it for today. I still need to take a closer look at the 3rd-grade retention portion of the reading bill. Hopefully I’ll do that later this week.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is always welcome.

A huge shout out to all of you who’ve lent your financial support. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do and without you, I would have been forced to quit long ago. It is truly appreciated and keeps the bill collectors happy.

If you so desire to join the rank of donors, you can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated, especially this time of year when my contracted work is a little slow. Not begging, just saying.

 



Categories: Education

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