Across the Bound’ry Lines / Across the Color Lines

I wish more white working-class Americans agreed with these thoughts. But, sadly, many seem to be following right-wing, racist propaganda and find that immigrants are their enemy, rather than the handful of billionaires who own more wealth, combined, than the bottom 50% of the world’s population.

The lyrics are in the tradition of Woody Guthrie: borrow a tune that’s quite singable and well known, and change the lyrics either a little or a lot to push anti-racist, pro-working class point of view. Gary, the author of this version, worked as a coal miner in West Virginia.

The tune is ‘Silver Threads and Golden Needles’, which also inspired these revised lyrics.

.

We don’t want your patriotism, with a flag on ev’ry tomb

We don’t want the war you promise, to lead us to our doom.

But you think we should be happy, with your medals and your fame,

To shoot our fellow workers, in the imperialistic game..

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Bosses’ lies and racist poison cannot bend this heart of mine

Solidarity forever, across the bound’ry lines!

You can’t buy our love with money

‘Cause we never were that kind,

So we raise our fists in unity across the bound’ry lines.

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We don’t want your racist bullshit, from your genocidal brains,

We don’t want our class divided, while you bosses hold the reins.

But you think we should be happy, in our color-coded chains

Confused and more exploited, while your profit margins gain.

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Bosses’ lies and racist poison cannot bend this heart of mine!

Solidarity forever, across the color lines!

You can’t buy our love with money

”Cause we never were that kind,

So we raise our fists in unity across the color lines! (2x)

A new attack on the very idea of Public Education

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page has always been very right-wing, pro-billionaire, anti-labor, and so on. It appears to be helping build an attack on the very idea of a common, public education.

Peter Greene of Curmudgucation analyzes a recent article by an ideologue of Koch-type, Ayn Rand-style ideas.

CURMUDGUCATION

What The WSJ Anti-Public Ed Op-Ed Gets Wrong
Posted: 25 Oct 2021 09:08 AM PDT

Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal (Fix News’ upscale sibling) published an op-ed from Philip Hamburger, a Columbia law professor and head of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a Koch-funded pro bono firm that takes cases primarily to defend against the “administrative state.”

It’s a hit job on public education with some pretty bold arguments, some of which are pretty insulting. But he sure says a lot of the quiet part out loud, and that makes this worth a look. Let me walk you through this. (Warning–it’s a little rambly, and you can skip to the last section if you want to get the basic layout)

Hamburger signals where he’s headed with the very first paragraph:

The public school system weighs on parents. It burdens them not simply with poor teaching and discipline, but with political bias, hostility toward religion, and now even sexual and racial indoctrination. Schools often seek openly to shape the very identity of children. What can parents do about it?

Hamburger offers no particular evidence for any of this catalog of arguable points. Various surveys repeatedly show that the majority of parents approve of their child’s public school. The rest is a litany of conservative complaints with no particular evidence, but Hamburger needs the premise to power the rest of his argument.

So here comes Hamburger’s bold assertion:

Education is mostly speech, and parents have a constitutional right to choose the speech with which their children will be educated. They therefore cannot constitutionally be compelled, or even pressured, to make their children a captive audience for government indoctrination

Conservative talking points about public education routinely assert and assume that public education is a service provided to parents, rather than to the students or society at large. It’s case I’ve never seen them successfully make. At the same time, society’s stake in educated members is clear and the entire rationale behind having non-parent taxpayers help pay the cost of public education. In any other instance where the taxpayers subsidize a private individual’s purchase of goods or service (e.g. food stamps, housing), some conservatives say the social safety net is a Bad Thing, so it’s uncharacteristic for them to champion public education as, basically, a welfare program for parents when they want to dramatically reduce all other such programs to bathtub-drowning size (spoiler alert: they’d like to do that with public education, too). 

But Hamburger has taken another step here, arguing that speech to children somehow belongs to their parents. It’s a bold notion–do parents somehow have a First Amendment right to control every sound that enters their children’s ears? Where are the children’s rights in this? Or does Hamburger’s argument (as some angry Twitter respondents claim) reduce children to chattel?
Hamburger follows his assertion with some arguments that don’t help. He argues that public education has always attempted to “homogenize and mold the identity of children,” which is a huge claim and, like much of his argument, assumes that schools somehow have the power to overwrite or erase everything that parents have inculcated at home. But then, for the whole argument currently raging, it’s necessary to paint public schools as huge threat in order to justify taking dramatic major action against them. 

The great Protestant scam

Hamburger also notes that public education has “been valued for corralling most of the poor and middle class into institutions where their religious and ethnic differences could be ironed out” which would be a more powerful point if most of the poor hadn’t generally avoided public education entirely. But he’s going to go further by claiming that “well into the 20th century, much of the political support for public schooling was driven by fear of Catholicism and an ambition to Protestantize Catholic children.” There’s no doubt that some of this was going on, but the primary goal of public education? 

The court case he leans on first is Pierce v Society of Sister, a 1925 Oregon case that established a parental right to substitute private religious school for public schooling. Hamburger argues that the underlying idea of the case is that Freedom of Speech = educational liberty, which gets him back to his central idea:  education is speech and therefor public education impinges on parents’ First Amendment rights.

Further, Hamburger imagines an America in which some sort of pressure is exerted on people (mostly Catholics) to accept public education mind control, thereby violating–well, here’s the shortest form of the argument he offers.
When government makes education compulsory and offers it free of charge, it crowds out parental freedom in educational speech. The poorer the parents, the more profound the pressure—and that is by design. Nativists intended to pressure poor and middle-class parents into substituting government educational speech for their own, and their unconstitutional project largely succeeded.

Most parents can’t afford to turn down public schooling. They therefore can’t adopt speech expressive of their own views in educating their children, whether by paying for a private school or dropping out of work to home school. So they are constrained to adopt government educational speech in place of their own, in violation of the First Amendment.
Hamburger doesn’t offer any kind of smoking gun to underline or expose the “nativists” dire intent. Nor does he explain why the public school system in some locales had to be forced to accept some students (I assume that he does not intend to argue that Southern schools blocked Black students out of deep respect for their parents’ First Amendment rights). 

Public education squashes parents, apparently.

Hamburger returns to a funhouse mirror of public education. Rather than an attempt to improve society as a whole and extend equal opportunity to all children, his view is that public education exists strictly to indoctrinate, to overrule parents, and is so lacking in any desirable virtue that government must conspire to force families to submit.

His language posits a bizarre world. Parents somehow “can’t adopt speech expressive of their own views” and must adopt government “educational speech in place of their own.” All of this as if once parents send their children to school, they must never again express their own values or ideas in their own home. He hits this “in place of their own” idea a lot, as if the beginning of public education is the end of any sort of childrearing at home. 

He next does a neat ju-jitsu trick where he observes that if fears of coercion and indoctrination are enough to keep religious elements out of public school, they should be enough to keep Other Secular Stuff out of school.
Next, he works his way around to the objection I raised earlier–society’s “compelling interest in public education.” He would like to dismantle this claim. I’m unconvinced. 

The U.S. was founded in an era when almost all schooling was private and religious, and that already suggests that any government interest in public education is neither necessary nor compelling.

This elicited my first “Oh, come on.” When the US was founded, some students went to private school. Some did not. Most enslaved children were specifically forbidden to. When the US founded, the body of knowledge one needed to grasp to make one’s way through the world was considerably smaller, and there were fewer citizens in the whole US than there are right now in New York City. So, no.

Also, he argues again that public schools caught on basically as a plot by anti-Catholic nativists. This is a bold argument, made all the bolder because many, many paragraphs in, he has not offered even a cherry-picked out-of-context quote to back this up. But he is going to try to reinterpret a quote with a wild stretch:

In their vision, public schools were essential for inculcating American principles so that children could become independent-minded citizens and thinking voters. The education reformer and politician Horace Mann said that without public schools, American politics would bend toward “those whom ignorance and imbecility have prepared to become slaves.” That sounds wholesome in the abstract. In practice, it meant that Catholics were mentally enslaved to their priests, and public education was necessary to get to the next generation, imbuing them with Protestant-style ideas so that when they reached adulthood, they would vote more like Protestant.

Has any giant conspiracy ever failed so spectacularly? Horace Mann and his ilk were out to wipe out Catholicism and make everyone think Protestanty ideas and get everyone to vote the right way, and yet, none of that actually happened. And again, Hamburger talks about education as if it has no value or purpose beyond indoctrinating children. 

Is this one more plan to replace white folks with Democrat voters?

This goal of shaping future voters gave urgency to the government’s interest in public education. As today, the hope was to liberate children from their parents’ supposedly benighted views and thereby create a different sort of polity. Now as then, this sort of project reeks of prejudice and indoctrination. There is no lawful government interest in displacing the educational speech of parents who don’t hold government-approved views, let alone in altering their children’s identity or creating a government-approved electorate

So, again, Hamburger reduces public education to a vast conspiracy to shout down parents and not, say, a means of creating educated citizens who are empowered to understand themselves and the world well enough to forge a productive and rewarding place in it. 

Hamburger wraps up by again harkening back to those great days of the 18th century:

The shared civic culture of 18th-century America was highly civilized, and it developed entirely in private schools. The schools, like the parents who supported them, were diverse in curriculum and their religious outlook, including every shade of Protestantism, plus Judaism, Catholicism, deism and religious indifference. In their freedom, the 18th-century schools established a common culture. In contrast, public-school coercion has always stimulated division.


I have some serious doubts about the diversity he lists, but I will note that it does not include a diversity of wealth and race. Or, for that matter, gender. Divisions is always less of a problem when Some People know their place and avoid interrupting their betters with complaints. But he needs this to be true because he’s headed back around to the assertion that public schools are “coercive” and “the focal point for all that is tearing the nation apart.” His solution, favored by Libertarians these days, is to get public schools to stop tearing people apart by letting people tear themselves apart and silo with other folks of the same ideological stripe, because that has always worked out well.

So what is actually new here? Or is this the same old anti-public ed stuff? What is he actually saying? Let me boil this down.

Hamburger’s argument breaks down into a few simple parts.


One is that the country (aka “government”) has no legitimate stake in public education. Just let everyone get their own education for their own kids; it worked great back in the 1700s. This is a silly argument. 

Also, the government has no legitimate stake in public education  because it’s all just a nativist plot to grind down Catholics and other dissenters. This part of the argument is important because it sets up the notion that only parents should have a say in education, which is an old favorite assertion of the anti-public ed crowd. If you don’t know why we all benefit from being surrounded by well-educated people, I don’t know how to explain it to you.

Education is speech. This part of the argument is important because it allows him to rope in the First Amendment so that he can declare public education unconstitutional. But it feels like a stretch–does he mean formal education? Is it still speech if it’s not in a classroom? Is reading a book speech if you learn from it? Does this mean teachers have more First Amendment rights than previously rules, or fewer?  If it’s on a computer? Is anything a person learns from speech? 

But “education is speech” is not the really bold part of his argument. That really bold part is where he goes on to say “therefor, parents should have total control over it.” I have so many questions. Should parents have total control over all speech directed at or in the vicinity of their children, including books, and so would I be violating a parent’s First Amendment rights if I gave their child an book for Christmas? And where are the child’s rights in this? Would this mean that a parent is allowed to lock their child in the basement in order to protect that parent’s First Amendment right to control what the child is exposed to? 

Hamburger’s argument has implications that he doesn’t get into in his rush to get to “do away with them and give everyone vouchers.” The biggest perhaps is that he has made an argument that non-parent taxpayers should not have to subsidize an education system. I’m betting he’s not unaware of that. 

Frederick Douglass on the Need for Violent Insurrection against Slavery

This is from Black Agenda Report.

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SPEECH: Frederick Douglass on John Brown, 1860

In an 1860 speech commemorating radical abolitionist John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, Frederick Douglass argued that slavery would only end if the slave owner feared the violent retribution of the enslaved.

On December 3rd, 1860, Frederick Douglass was set to address an anti-slavery rally at Boston’s Tremont Temple Baptist Church, held to commemorate the death of the radical abolitionist John Brown and to mark the one-year anniversary of his ill-fated raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry Virgina. Boston being Boston, the gathering was attacked by what Frederick Douglass’ Paper described as a “gentlemen’s mob.” The mob was not composed of “practiced ruffians.” Instead, as the paper wrote, its “rank and file, not less than its leaders, claim position with the upper classes of Boston society.  They were gentlemen of the ‘DOLLAR STAMP,’ well dressed, well conditioned, well looking, and doubtless, on occasions, pass very well for gentlemen.” Joined by the the city’s mayor and supported by the Boston police, they were determined “to preserve the union of Boston pockets with Southern money” by shutting down any anti-slavery activities.

After a series of intense melees that saw Douglass fighting “like a trained pugilist” to get to the rostrum, only to be torn from the podium by the police and thrown down the stairs of the Tremont Temple, it was decided to move the meeting to the Joy Street Baptist Church, even though its trustees tried to lock their doors on their pastor. If the aim of the attack was to stop Douglass and other abolitionists from speaking, the attacks had the opposite effect, adding fuel and focus to the anti-slavery efforts embodied by Brown.

Douglass’ speech that night, reproduced below, was a strident endorsement of what he called the “John Brown way.” Abolition, declared Douglass, would never occur if society appealed to the morality of the slave owner. Slavery would only end if the slave owner feared the violent retribution of the enslaved. “We must make him [the slave owner] feel that there is death in the air about him,” Douglass declared, “that there is death in the pot before him, that there is death all around him.”

Frederick Douglass was often as ambivalent about John Brown as a person as he was about his abolitionist strategy. He did not participate in Brown’s Chatham, Ontario convention to raise money and recruit personnel for the raid on Harper’s Ferry. He refused to join the raid itself.  Yet as the slavocracy became more entrenched and militant in their defense of their evil institution, Douglass also understood that radical abolitionism was the only way forward to freedom.

Speech on John Brown, at Joy Street Baptist Church, Boston, December 3, 1860

SPEECH: Frederick Douglass on John Brown, 1860

Frederick Douglass

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: – I occupied considerable attention this morning, and I do not feel called upon to take up much of the time this evening. There are other gentlemen here from whom I desire to hear, and to whom, I doubt not, you wish to listen.

This is a meeting to discuss the best method of abolishing slavery, and each speaker is expected to present what he regards as the best way of prosecuting the anti-slavery movement. From my heart of hearts I endorse the sentiment expressed by Mr. Phillips, of approval of all methods of proceeding against slavery, politics, religion, peace, war, Bible, Constitution, disunion, Union – (laughter) – every possible way known in opposition to slavery is my way. But the moral and social means of opposing slavery have had a greater prominence, during the last twenty-five years, than the way indicated by the celebration of this day — I mean the John Brown way. This is a recent way of opposing slavery; and I think, since it is in consequence of this peculiar mode of advocating the overthrow of slavery that we have had a mob in Boston today, it may be well for me to occupy the few moments I have in advocating John Brown’s way of accomplishing our object. (Applause.)

Sir, we have seen the number of slaves increase from half a million to four millions.  We have seen, for the last sixty years, more or less of resistance to slavery in the U.S. As early as the beginning of the U. S. Government, there were abolition societies in the land. There were abolition societies in Virginia, abolition societies in Maryland, abolition societies in South Carolina, abolition societies in Pennsylvania. These societies appealed to the sense of justice, appealed to humanity, in behalf of the slave. They appealed to the magnanimity of the slaveholders and the nation; they appealed to the Christianity of the South and of the nation, in behalf of the slave. Pictures of slavery were presented. The ten thousand enormities daily occurring in the Southern States were held up – men sold on the auction-block – women scourged with a heavy lash – men tied to the stake and deliberately burned, the blood gushing from their nose and eyes, asking rather to be shot than to be murdered by such slow torture.

The facts of these charges have been flung before the public by ten thousand eloquent lips, and by more than ten thousand eloquent pens.  The humanity, the common human nature of the country has been again and again appealed to. Four millions have bowed before this nation, and with uplifted hands to Heaven and to you, have asked, in the name of God, and in the name of humanity, to break our chains! To this hour, however, the nation is dumb and indifferent to these cries for deliverance, coming up from the South; and instead of the slaveholders becoming softened, becoming more disposed to listen to the claims of justice and humanity–instead of being more and more disposed to listen to the suggestions of reason, they have become madder and madder, and with every attempt to rescue the bondman from the clutch of his enslaver, his grip has become tighter and tighter, his conscience more and more callous. 

He has become harder and harder, with every appeal made to his sense of justice, with every appeal made to his humanity, until at length he has come even to confront the world with the pretension that to rob a man of his liberty, to pocket his wages, or to pocket the fruits of his labor without giving him compensation for his work, is not only right according to the law of nature and the laws of the land, but that it is  right and just in the sight of the living God.  Doctors of Divinity — the Stuarts and the Lords, the Springs, the Blagdens, the Adamses and ten thousand others all over the country — have come out in open defense of the slave system.  Not only is this the case, but the very submission of the slave to his chains is held as evidence of his fitness to be a slave; it is regarded as one of the strongest proofs of the divinity of slavery, that the negro tamely submits to his fetters.  His very non-resistance — what would be here regarded a Christian virtue — is quoted in proof of his cowardice, and his unwillingness to suffer and to sacrifice for his liberty.

Now what remains? What remains? Sir, it is possible for men to trample on justice and liberty so long as to become entirely oblivious of the principles of justice and liberty.  It is possible for men so far to transgress the laws of justice as to cease to have any sense of justice.  What is to be done in that case?  You meet a man on the sidewalk, in the morning, and you give him the way.  He thanks you for it.  You meet him again, and you give him the way, and he may thank you for it, but with a little less emphasis than at first.  Meet him again and give him the way, and he almost forgets to thank you for it.  Meet him again, and give the way, and he comes to think that you are conscious either of your inferiority or of his superiority; and he begins to claim the inside of the walk as his right. This is human nature; this is the nature of the slaveholders. 

Now, something must be done to make these slaveholders feel the injustice of their course. 

We must, as John Brown, Jr. — thank God that he lives and is with us to-night! (applause) — we must, as John Brown Jr., has taught us this evening, reach the slaveholder’s conscience through his fear of personal danger.  We must make him feel that there is death in the air about him, that there is death in the pot before him, that there is death all around him.  We must do this in some way.  It can be done.  When you have a good horse, a kind and gentle horse, a horse that your wife can drive, you are disposed to keep him — you wouldn’t take any money for that horse.  But when you have one that at the first pull of the reins takes the bit in his teeth, kicks up behind, and knocks off the dasher-board, you generally want to get rid of that horse. (Laughter.) The negroes of the South must do this; they must make these slaveholders feel that there is something uncomfortable about slavery — must make them feel that it is not so pleasant, after all, to go to bed with bowie-knives, and revolvers, and pistols, as they must.  This can be done, and will be done — (cheers) — yes, I say will be done.  Let not, however, these suggestions of mine be construed into the slightest disparagement of the various other efforts, political and moral.

I believe in agitation; and it was largely this belief which brought me five hundred miles from my home to attend this meeting.  I am sorry — not for the part I humbly took in the meeting this morning — but I am sorry that Mr. Phillips was not there to look that Fay in the face (‘Hear!’).  I believe that he, and a few Abolitionists like him in the city of Boston, well-known, honorable men, esteemed among their fellow-citizens- had they been there to help us take the initiatory steps in the organization of that meeting, we might, perhaps, have been broken up, but it would have been a greater struggle, certainly, than that which it cost to break up the meeting this morning. (Applause.)

I say, sir, that I want the slaveholders to be made uncomfortable.  Every slave that escapes helps to add to their discomfort.  I rejoice in every uprising at the South.  Although the men may be shot down, they may be butchered upon the spot, the blow tells, notwithstanding, and cannot but tell.  Slaveholders sleep more uneasily than they used to.  They are more careful to know that the doors are locked than they formerly were.  They are more careful to know that their bowie-knives are sharp; they are more careful to know that their pistols are loaded.  This element will play its part in the abolition of slavery.  I know that all hope of a general insurrection is vain.  We do not need a general insurrection to bring about this result.  We only need the fact to be known in the Southern States generally, that there is liberty in yonder mountains, planted by John Brown. (Cheers.)

The slaveholders have but to know, and they do now know, but will be made to know it even more certainly before long- that from the Alleghanies, from the State of Pennsylvania, there is a vast broken country extending clear down into the heart of Alabama — mountains where there are rocks, and ravines, and fastnesses, dens and caves, ten thousand Sebastopols piled up by the hand of the living God, where one man for defense will be as good as a hundred for attack.  There let them learn that there are men hid in those fastnesses, who will sally out upon them and conduct their slaves from the chains and fetters in which they are now bound, to breathe the free air of liberty upon those mountains.  Let, I say, only a thousand men be scattered in those hills, and slavery is dead.  It cannot live in the presence of such a danger.  Such a state of things would put an end to planting cotton; it would put an end not only to planting cotton, but to planting anything in that region.

Something is said about the dissolution of the Union under Mr. Lincoln or under Mr. Buchanan.  I am for dissolution of the Union – decidedly for dissolution of the Union! Under an abolition President, who would wield the army and the navy of the Government for the abolition of slavery, I should be for the union of these States.  If this Union is dissolved, I see many ways in which slavery may be attacked by force, but very few in which it could be attacked by moral means.  I see that the moment you dissolve the union between the South and the North, the slave part going by itself, and doing so peaceably — as the cry is from the Tribune and the Albany Evening Journal, and other such papers, that it shall do — establishing an independent government — that very moment the feeling of responsibility for slavery in the North is at an end.  But men will tell us to mind our own business.  We shall care no more for slavery in the Carolinas or in Georgia than we care for kingcraft or priestcraft in Canada, or slavery in the Brazils or in Cuba. 

My opinion is that if we only had an abolition President to hold these men in the Union and execute the declared provisions of the Constitution, execute that part of the Constitution which is in favor of liberty, as well as put upon those passages which have been construed in favor of slavery, a construction different from that and more in harmony with the principles of eternal justice that lie at the foundation of the government — if we could have such a government, a government that would force the South to behave herself, under those circumstances I should be for the continuance of the Union.    If, on the contrary — no if about it — we have what we have, I shall be glad of the news, come when it will, that the slave States are an independent government, and that you are no longer called upon to deliver fugitive slaves to their masters, and that you are no longer called upon to shoulder your arms and guard with your swords those States — no longer called to go into them to put down John Brown, or anybody else who may strike for liberty there. (Applause.)  In case of such a dissolution, I believe that men could be found at least as brave as Walker, and more skillful than any other fillibuster, who would venture into those States and raise the standard of liberty there, and have ten thousand and more hearts at the North beating in sympathy with them.  I believe a Garibaldi would arise who would march into those States with a thousand men, and summon to his standard sixty thousand, if necessary, to accomplish the freedom of the slave. (Cheers.)

We need not only to appeal to the moral sense of these slaveholders; we have need, and a right, to appeal to their fears.  Sir, moral means are good, but we need something else.  Moral means were very little to poor John Thomas on the banks of the Wilkesbarre river, in Pennsylvania, when the slave-catchers called upon him to provide them with a breakfast at the hotel, that while in the act of serving them with their beef-steak they might fall upon him and return him to slavery. They did fall upon him; they struck him down; but, recovering himself, he ran and plunged into the Wilkesbarre.  There he stood, up to his shoulders, and the slave-catchers gathered on the banks- and the moral suasion people of that vicinity gathered also on the banks — they looked indignantly on the slave-catchers.  But the slave-catchers did not heed the cries of indignation and shame; they fired their revolvers until the river about that man was red with his blood, and no hand was lifted to strike down those assassins.  They went off, indeed, without their victim,  but they supposed he was dead. 

Sir, what was wanted at that time was just what John Brown, Jr., has told us to night — a few resolute men, determined to be free, and to free others, resolved, when men were being shot, to shoot again.  Had a few balls there whistled, as at Christiana, about the heads of the slave-catchers, it would have been the end of this slave-catching business there.  There is no necessity of permitting it.  The only way to make the Fugitive Slave Law a dead letter, is to make a few dead slave-catchers. (Laughter and applause.)  There is no need to kill them either — shoot them in the legs, and send them to the South living epistles of the free gospel preached here at the North. (Renewed laughter.)

But, Sir, I am occupying too much time.- (‘Go on!’ ‘Go on!’) I see a friend on my right, whose voice tonight I have not heard for many years.  These troublous times in which we live, and have been living for a few years past, make that voice doubly dear to me on this occasion; and I seize this occasion, as the first that has happened to me in at least six to eight years, to say that I rejoice, most heartily rejoice, in the privilege — for a privilege I esteem it — not only of hearing Mr. Phillips’s voice, but of standing on a platform with him in vindication of free speech.  (Applause.)  But I hope to speak in Boston on Friday.  I, therefore, will not prolong my remarks further.  I thank you for this hearing. (Applause.)

Originally published in Douglass’ Monthly 3 No. 8 (January 1861). Reprinted as “Speech on John Brown, delivered in Tremont Temple, December 3, 1860,” in Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings, edited by Philip Sheldon Foner and Yuval Taylor (Chicago: Chicago Review Press , 2000)

The Book We Need Now

by nflanagan
Had I known when I was younger what these students were sharing, I would have been liberated from a social and emotional paralysis–a paralysis that arose from never knowing enough of my own history to identify the lies I was being old: lies about what slavery was and what it did to people; lies about what came after our supposed emancipation; lies about why our country looks the way it does today. (Clint Smith)

In this shocking era, when states are passing ill-advised, deceptive laws to prohibit K-12 students from knowing about the sickening, wounding realities of their own history, we truly need a book like Clint Smith’s How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America.

The students Smith is referencing, above, are performing as part of a rich Juneteenth celebration on Galveston Island, TX. They were part of a six-week summer program sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund, designed to teach children the real story about where they live and what happened there.

Don’t all children need to know about the place they come from? Its triumphs and failures? In the book, Smith—then a doctoral student at Harvard—visits a number of historical sites around the country that chronicle the record of slavery and its impact on every aspect of American life.

He begins at Monticello, sharing his conversations with two white women in his tour group who had no idea who Sally Hemings was– the enslaved woman who gave birth to four surviving children by Thomas Jefferson. These older women, interested in ‘seeing history,’ are astonished to hear about the 600 human beings owned by the great statesman.

Each of the chapters is distinct, featuring plantations, graveyards and annual memorials.

The chapter on Angola Prison, in Louisiana, is grim, beginning with its original purpose, in the Reconstruction era: to round up, then house, a low-cost workforce for plantation owners who can no longer rely on the enslaved.

The chapter on New York City makes clear that nobody north of the Mason-Dixon line can claim that slavery only existed in the South.

The chapter on Goree’ Island takes us to coastal West Africa, where captured Africans were sent off to their new lives (or deaths) as enslaved workers, and includes this quote from the curator of the House of Slaves, a museum on the Island: After the discovery of America, because of the development of sugarcane plantations, cotton, coffee, rice cultivation, they forced the [Native Americans] to work for them. And it was because the Natives died in great number that they turned to Africa, to replace the Natives with Africans.

And there it is—this is and always has been about gross economic development. How to make money off exploitive and unpaid labor of others, and the ugly rationalizations used to defend such ugly practices. And how far back this goes—long before the Middle Passage.

In a time when employers are begging for workers after a deadly pandemic (that some employers denied or downplayed), this is a particularly resonant message. This is, indeed, the book we need now.

Smith tells us, in an Afterword, that he went to many more places than the seven he describes in great detail in this volume. That suggests that there are always places nearby—places where students have been, places they are familiar with—that can serve as testimony and memory of our local history.

As educators, it is up to us to teach that history.

This is what all the anti-‘CRT’ protestors fear: the truth.

Smith illustrates that learning the truth is never divisive. It may be painful, and may produce rage—but knowing how this country was built, whose backs and hands produced the wealth and power only some of us enjoy is the cornerstone of building a more equitable society. The truth can unite us, over time. But we have to listen to each other.

Clint Smith is a published poet, and he writes like a poet and storyteller–there is lots of detail and description. Once you get past an expectation of fact-based academic writing, you begin to appreciate his nuanced depictions of people and places, the colorful, palm-strewn islands and damp, gray prison cells.

Smith adds only enough data and dry content to enrich, not drown, the narration. The book is easy to read. I read it one chapter at a time (which I recommend), pausing between to absorb and think, because each segment shares a unique perspective. Smith reiterates, in a dozen ways, that slavery didn’t start in Africa, and African-American history didn’t begin with the capture and selling of human beings. It was a global wickedness, economically driven, but it still impacts America–the idea and the reality of America–deeply.

We can’t get past it until we know the history.

Read this book.

Martin Luther King a Communist?

Recently someone asked in Quora why history has hidden the fact that Martin Luther King Jr was a communist.

He wasn’t.

But:

From 1900 through 1965, almost the only ‘White’ people willing to speak out, mobilize, and demonstrate against the viciously racist Jim Crow segregation of those days were American socialists, anarchists, a few of the farthest-left labor leaders, and communists. Some of those people were members of organized parties either for a long time or a short while, some never joined any group.

Obviously the core of the Civil Rights movement was Black folks, in particular some of the bravest Black clergymen. It is striking to watch old newsreels and see how *few* White allies they had.

These days, most people forget how profoundly and overtly racist this nation was, in those days. People forget how violent the racist forces were, and how many ‘White’ folks used to utter the vilest slurs against all Black or Brown people. And Jews. And Asians. And so on.

I had some elderly relatives like that, now all deceased, as well as some classmates of the same racist bent who are probably still alive today. If I recall correctly, they were all opposed to the Civil Rights Movement and they all hated Dr King and the NAACP. I recall arguing with them about the topic at the time, but who knows what I actually said?

If you read the documented history of the OPPOSITION TO the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) back then (i.e., speeches, editorials, letters to the editors, and comments to reporters) you find powerful racists like J Edgar Hoover of the FBI, the KKK, the White Citizen’s Councils, Liberty Lobby, the John Birch Society, and many White clergymen, along with State, local and Federal mayors, governors, sheriffs, police, senators and congressmen. They often attacked MLK and the CRM as being communist.

Despite a number of Supreme Court decisions and Congressional legislation that banned official segregation, those racists were pretty successful in their propaganda attacks on Martin Luther King, the NAACP, and the activists defying Jim Crow in both the South and the North. Right before King was assassinated by a vicious racist in 1968, he had a 75% disapproval rating in a Harris poll.

While King worked closely with a lot of Black, White and Brown activists, a good fraction of them sympathetic to the CP and/or the Soviet Union at one time or another in their lives, to my knowledge MLK never joined either the CPUSA nor the SPUSA nor any of the other competing, left wing groups that existed back then.

On this matter (but obviously not on everything), those White, Black, and Brown American communists, anarchists and socialists were definitely on the correct side of history!

MLKing was grateful for their help back then, and we today should be grateful that those socialists, anarchists, and communists — and the Civil Rights Movement itself — helped change this country for the better.

EDIT: I realized that I had left out the anarchists, such as the Wobblies (IWW).

EDIT: I should acknowledge that I also joined some left-wing organizations starting when I was 17, but not any of the ones listed above. I’m glad I did. I think we were on the right side of history in opposing the American war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, as well as American interventions in Central America and South African apartheid, and the hegemony of the American ruling class over workers everywhere, even though we were definitely wrong on a number of things.

Insights from Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader: While Americans Sleep, Our Corporate Overlords Make Progress Impossible

Posted on  by Jerri-Lynn Scofield

By Ralph Nader, a consumer advocate and the author of “The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future” (2012). His new book is, “Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lies and Lawbreaking Betray All” (2020, co-authored with Mark Green).Originally published at Common Dreams

“Polarization” is the word most associated with the positions of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The mass media and the commentators never tire of this focus, in part because such clashes create the flashes conducive to daily coverage.

Politicians from both parties exploit voters who don’t do their homework on voting records and let the lawmakers use the people’s sovereign power (remember the Constitution’s “We the People”) against them on behalf of the big corporate bosses.

The quiet harmony between the two parties created by the omnipresent power of Big Business and other powerful single-issue lobbyists is often the status quo. That’s why there are so few changes in this country’s politics.

In many cases, the similarities of both major parties are tied to the fundamental concentration of power by the few over the many. In short, the two parties regularly agree on anti-democratic abuses of power. Granted, there are always a few exceptions among the rank & file. Here are some areas of Republican and Democrat concurrence:

1. The Duopoly shares the same stage on a militaristic, imperial foreign policy and massive unaudited military budgets. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Pentagon budget was voted out of a House committee by the Democrats and the GOP with $24 billion MORE than what President Biden asked for from Congress. Neither party does much of anything to curtail the huge waste, fraud, and abuse of corporate military contractors, or the Pentagon’s violation of federal law since 1992 requiring annual auditable data on DOD spending be provided to Congress, the president, and the public.

2. Both Parties allow unconstitutional wars violating federal laws and international treaties that we signed onto long ago, including restrictions on the use of force under the United Nations Charter.

3. Both Parties ignore the burgeoning corporate welfare subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and bailouts turning oceans of inefficient, mismanaged, and coddled profit-glutted companies into tenured corporate welfare Kings.

4. Both Parties decline to crack down on the nationwide corporate crime spree. They don’t even like to use the phrase “corporate crime” or “corporate crime wave.” They prefer to delicately allude to “white-collar crime.”

Trillions of dollars are at stake every year, yet neither party holds corporate crime hearings nor proposes an update of the obsolete, weak federal corporate criminal laws.

In some instances, there is no criminal penalty at all for willful and knowing violations of safety regulatory laws (e.g., the auto safety and aviation safety laws). Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is trying to find just one Republican Senator to co-sponsor the “Hide No Harm Act” that would make it a crime for a corporate officer to knowingly conceal information about a corporate action or product that poses the danger of death or serious physical injury to consumers or workers.

5. Both Parties allow Wall Street’s inexhaustibly greedy CEOs to prey on innocents, including small investors. They also do nothing to curb hundreds of billions of dollars in computerized billing fraud, especially in the health care industry. (See, License to Steal by Malcolm K. Sparrow and a GAO Report about thirty years ago).

6. The third leading cause of death in the U.S. is fatalities from preventable problems in hospitals and clinics. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study in 2015, a conservative estimate is that 250,000 people yearly are dying from preventable conditions. Neither Congress nor the Executive Branch has an effort remotely up to the scale required to reduce this staggering level of mortality and morbidity. Nor is the American Medical Association (AMA) engaging with this avoidable epidemic.

7. Both Parties sped bailout of over $50 billion to the airline industry during Covid-19, after the companies had spent about $45 billion on unproductive stock buybacks over the last few years to raise the metrics used to boost executive pay.

8. Both Parties starve corporate law enforcement budgets in the Justice Department, the regulatory agencies, and such departments as Labor, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, and Health and Human Services. The Duopoly’s view is that there be no additional federal cops on the corporate crime beat.

9. Both Parties prostrate themselves before the bank-funded Federal Reserve. There are no congressional audits, no congressional oversight of the Fed’s secret, murky operations, and massive printing of money to juice up Wall Street, while keeping interest rates near zero for trillions of dollars held by over one hundred million small to midsize savers in America.

10. Both Parties are wedded to constant and huge bailouts of the risky declining, uncompetitive (with solar and wind energy) nuclear power industry. This is corporate socialism at its worst. Without your taxpayer and ratepayer dollars, nuclear plants would be closing down faster than is now the case. Bipartisan proposals for more nukes come with large subsidies and guarantees by Uncle Sam.

11. Both Parties hate Third Parties and engage in the political bigotry of obstructing their ballot access (See: Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News), with hurdles, harassing lawsuits, and exclusions from public debates. The goal of both parties is to stop a competitive democracy.

12. Both Parties overwhelmingly rubber-stamp whatever the Israeli government wants in the latest U.S. military weaponry, the suppression of Palestinians and illegal occupation of the remaining Palestinian lands, and the periodic slaughter of Gazans with U.S. weapons. The Duopoly also supports the use of the U.S. veto in the UN Security Council to insulate Israel from UN sanctions.

13. Continuing Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich’s debilitating internal deforms of congressional infrastructures, the Democrats have gone along with the GOP’s shrinking of committee and staff budgets, abolition of the crucial Office of Technology Assessment’s (OTA) budget, and concentration of excessive power in the hands of the Speaker and Senate leader. This little noticed immolation reduces further the legislature’s ability to oversee the huge sprawling Executive Branch. The erosion of congressional power is furthered by the three-day work week Congress has reserved for itself.

14. Even on what might seem to be healthy partisan differences, the Democrats and the GOP agree not to replace or ease out Trump’s Director of the Internal Revenue Service, a former corporate loophole tax lawyer, or the head of the U.S. Postal Service, a former profiteer off the Post Office who will shortly curtail service even more than he did in 2020 (See: First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat, by Christopher W Shaw).

Right now, both Parties are readying to give over $50 billion of your tax money to the very profitable under-taxed computer chip industry companies like Intel and Nvidia, so they can make more profit-building plants in the U.S. These companies are loaded with cash. They should invest their own money and stop the stock buyback craze. Isn’t that what capitalism is all about?

Both Parties vote as if the American middle-class taxpayer is a sleeping sucker. Politicians from both parties exploit voters who don’t do their homework on voting records and let the lawmakers use the people’s sovereign power (remember the Constitution’s “We the People”) against them on behalf of the big corporate bosses.

Sleep on America, you have nothing to lose but your dreams.

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This entry was posted in Banana republicGuest PostIncome disparityLegalPoliticsRegulations and regulatorsRidiculously obvious scamsThe destruction of the middle class on  by Jerri-Lynn Scofield.

‘No Excuses’ Charter Schools

The sacred and the profane: A former D.C. charter school board member calls for change

By Valerie Strauss, Washington Post Reporter

September 23, 2021 at 10:29 a.m. EDT

Steve Bumbaugh is a former member of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, having served on the seven-member volunteer panel from 2015 until early this year. During that time, Bumbaugh visited numerous charter schools and attended many board meetings where questions of whether schools should be authorized, sanctioned or closed were discussed.

Charter schools are publicly funded but operate independently from the school systems in the areas where they are located. In the nation’s capital, charters enroll nearly as many of the city’s schoolchildren as the system does. Supporters of charters say that they provide families with a necessary alternative to schools in traditional districts. Critics say they do not, on average, provide better student outcomes than traditional districts and steer public money away from districts that educate most schoolchildren.

Bumbaugh is a big supporter of charter schools. In this unusual post, he writes about his experience on the charter board and makes recommendations for change that he said will be bring better representation from the community.

Bumbaugh has worked in the education field for several decades in various roles. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science at Yale University and an MBA at Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

By Steve Bumbaugh

Let’s travel back to September 2017. I was in Southeast Washington, D.C., scheduled to tour a school in an hour. I remember visiting 25 years ago when it was part of the D.C. public school system. That school was closed in 2009 — one of dozens closed in the last 15 years — and now several charter schools occupy the campus.

At the time of this visit, I was a member of board of the D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB), having started my tenure in 2015 and serving until early this year. In that capacity, I visited dozens of D.C.-based charter schools. Sometimes, I left those visits saddened, even defeated.

This was one of those times.

Over several decades of work at the intersection of education and poverty, I have learned that much of a school’s character can be divined through its start-of-the-day ritual. So on that day in 2017, I arrived early and sat in my car, far enough away that no one seemed to notice me, but near enough so that I could observe the comings and goings. Several young Black women arrived at school with their children who look to be 5 or 6 years old. They were greeted by staff members, and I observed them having what appeared to be tense conversations with the women. Some of these women left with their children in tow. Others handed their children over to staff members and departed.

When I entered the school for my scheduled visit, I was greeted by one of the founders, a 30-something man with energy and charm. He was joined by the school’s board chair, a distinguished senior partner from one of D.C.’s blue-chip law firms. They took me on a tour of several classrooms. I noticed that the leadership of the school was entirely White as were many of the teachers. All of the students were African American, most from families that struggle financially.

For the most part, the school looked like most other “no excuses” charter schools in the nation’s capital, dotting low-income African American neighborhoods, and in other places across the country.

These schools start with the belief that there is no good reason for the huge academic gaps between privileged and poor minority students — and that strict discipline, obedience, uniform teaching methods and other policies could erase the gaps. A feature of many of these schools, and one evident on this site visit, are lines painted on the hallway floors. Students are expected to walk on these lines as they move from classroom to classroom. Any deviation is likely to result in punishment. The only other places I had seen this before was at correctional facilities.

I entered a preschool classroom where students were gathered in a semi-circle on a rug. Like curious 4-year-olds everywhere, the students turned their heads to scrutinize us. Many smiled widely and some even waved. The teacher snapped at the children, demanding their attention. I was startled by her aggression. They were, after all, 4-year old children engaging in age-appropriate behavior.

That evening I called a staff person from this school who I’ve known for several years. I asked her to translate the scenes I witnessed outside the school. The conversation went something like this:

–“Those scholars probably had uniform violations. The staff persons were probably telling the moms to go home to have the kids change.”

–“I didn’t notice that they were wearing anything different from the other children.”

–“Well, they may have had the wrong color shoes. Or maybe they had the correct color shirt, but it didn’t have the school’s insignia on it.”

–“They have to go back home for that?”

–“Unless they want to spend the day in a behavior support room.”

Incredulous, I pressed my friend for details. I discovered that children as young as 3 years old could spend an entire day in seclusion, away from their classmates, if they were wearing the wrong color shoes. I am dumbstruck. Is this even legal?

This sort of interaction between students and staff was not uncommon in no-excuses charter schools I visited over the years.

Occasionally I did visit schools that combine academic rigor and kindness with student bodies that are mostly Black and low-income. But those schools were the exception. I’ve seen schools where children are taught to track the teachers with their eyes, move their mouths in a specific way, and engage in other humiliating rituals that have little educational value.

I visited a school that suspended 40 percent of its 5-year-old children who had been diagnosed with disabilities. At some schools, when children are sick, their parents were forced to produce a doctor’s note because school leaders believed the parents were lying. But some of these parents were uninsured and there weren’t — and still aren’t — many doctors in their neighborhoods. Obtaining a doctor’s note required them to take their children onto packed public buses so they could go to public health clinics or emergency rooms.

Schools that still do this are telling these parents that they are not trusted. And while children in these schools are taught computational math and textual analysis, they also learn that they are congenitally profane.

Charter schools arose a generation ago in Washington, D.C. when the city was poor and in the grips of a decade-long homicide epidemic. I was part of a group of 20-somethings frustrated with the lack of progress in the city’s long-troubled public school system. We had been creating programs for the D.C. Public Schools system that dramatically outpaced the district’s regular academic outcomes, and we wanted to turn these programs into actual schools.

We talked about forging solutions with parents and students, working to retain every single student, exhorting patience about building the infrastructure from which improved academic outcomes would spring.

But little of this vision was attractive to an emerging cadre of funders and policymakers who placed huge bets on charter schools. They submitted to a vision, not based on a shred of evidence, that Black and Brown children would thrive if they were taught “character” and “grit.” The way to do this, apparently, was to create an assembly-line model of instruction with rigid rules. Children who could not abide by these rules were “counseled out” to return to traditional public schools. Now about one-third of D.C. charter schools are in the no-excuses category, enrolling at least half of the charter student population. (Some of these schools say they are changing, but I haven’t seen real evidence of that.)

Some ‘no-excuses’ charter schools say they are changing. Are they? Can they?

Remember, this was a time when Black communities were ravaged by an epidemic of crack cocaine and criminal justice laws that sent Blacks to jail for far longer sentences than Whites arrested for using essentially the same drug. Hillary Clinton, then first lady, warned against “the kinds of kids that are called super predators, no conscience, no empathy” — which many of us took to mean low-income Black children. In this context, powerful people not familiar with low-income communities were easily seduced by plans to tightly control children who might otherwise grow into dangerous adults.

The D.C. Public Charter School Board was created in 1996, at a time when homicide rates in the District were so high the city was dubbed the “murder capital.” It is no wonder the D.C. Public Charter School Board jumped on the “no-excuses” bandwagon.

What have we gained from this system? As of 2018-19 — the latest data available on the website of the charter school board — only 8.5 percent of Black high school students (about 80 percent of the student population) in charter schools were deemed proficient in math and 21 percent in English Language Arts, according to scores on the standardized PARCC exam.

There are some charter schools that are doing amazing work, but the system itself is ineffective. The vast majority of our students are not remotely ready for the rigors of college coursework.

After untold millions of dollars of investment and the creation of scores of schools — there were 128 operating this year — it is time for us to admit that this experiment is not working as it should.

So what must be done?

The District must rethink its charter schools, and more specifically, charter schools must be integrated. “Chocolate City” has been replaced by a city where upper-income White residents and a more diverse spectrum of Black residents exist in equal numbers.

One of the few scalable policies that dramatically improved academic outcomes for Black students was the integration of American public schools in the 1970s and ’80s. The Performance Management Framework that ranks the quality of each charter school should ensure that schools reflect the demographics of the city as it is today, particularly given that charter schools are not constrained by neighborhood boundaries that enforce segregation in traditional public schools.

New York City provides a replicable, legal model to enact a charter school system that prevents the proliferation of a worrying trend in D.C’s charter schools: elite charters that essentially shut out vulnerable, low-income Black children. (Though the city also has some of the most egregious no-excuses charters.)

What we have now, with some notable exceptions, is a system where highly resourced families crowd into a handful of desirable schools that have impossibly long waiting lists, and students from poor families attend no-excuses schools or charters that struggle to remain open. A school that serves a student body where 6-8 percent of the students meet the definition of “at risk” should not be considered top tier when 51 percent of the students (a statistic confirmed by a charter board staff member) in the entire system are at risk.

Similarly, schools should not be penalized or subtly encouraged to move out low-performing students when they serve student bodies that are overwhelmingly at risk.

“Separate and equal” should not stand in one of the most liberal cities in the United States.

Moreover power needs to be distributed more evenly. At first glance, the concentration of institutional power is not evident at the Public Charter School Board.

Most of the board members, including the current executive director, are Black or Latino. A closer look — and I am including myself in this observation — reveals that we are not remotely similar to most of the families with children attending D.C. public charter schools. Fully 80 percent of these families are African Americans who qualify for free and reduced lunch, which is not the same as at risk, but which is generally seen as a proxy for school poverty.

The people who are on the charter school board are highly educated professionals. Since I began serving on the panel — which has seven rotating volunteers, all appointed by the D.C. mayor — there have been 10 sitting members, half of whom attended Yale, Stanford or Harvard universities, or some combination of the three. We are well-versed in the contours of institutional power and know how to operate inside of its rarely articulated but clearly delineated boundaries. We’ve been rewarded for decoding these rules and abiding by them, which is precisely why we are selected for these coveted roles. We provide cover through optical diversity.

But if we really want to embrace equity, it’s time to rethink the make-up of the Public Charter School Board. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser will have a unique opportunity to reshape this board over the coming year as five of its seven members will be termed out.

We need a board with members who reflect the communities served by D.C. charter sector. As cities move away from elected school boards to mayoral appointments, it’s critical that the voices that used to represent low-income communities continue to be present.

In the District, 80 percent of families attending charters are eligible for free and reduced lunch, but the charter school board has not in its 25-year history appointed a single board member who lives in poverty. Why not adjust the PCSB’s contours to reflect the communities in which these schools are located instead of incessantly asking poor Black people to acclimate?

Continuing to govern charter schools without input from low-income parents robs them of agency. This one-way flow of power is precisely the mistake this movement has made at the student level. Involving parents in the co-architecture of the sector would signal an evolutionary step forward.

Lastly, “no excuses” schools must be banned outright. The central failure of the education reform movement is the mimicking of carceral institutions, established and often celebrated by highly resourced outsiders. The idea that low-income Black and Latino students need to be tightly controlled in order to do well is a relic of Jim Crow.

My parents were Protestant ministers whose doctrine was best reflected in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. In their theology, elites look askance at the most vulnerable even though it is the most vulnerable — the poor, the outcasts — who can redeem a flawed world. It is the poor who are sacred. Their unearned suffering is both incessant and redemptive. This inversion of what is truly sacred and what is genuinely profane is a persistent theme in religion because the human spirit is so inclined to side with power; the path of least resistance. The education reform world is no different in this regard.

When I was teaching at Eastern High School in the early 1990s, we forbade our students from wearing T-shirts popular with their generation that sported curse words and gun imagery. Teenagers being teenagers, they pushed back against this restriction accusing us of violating their rights.

Over lunch one day, we put the dress code on trial. In my closing argument I asked the defendant if he would wear an offending T-shirt to his grandmother’s house or to church. “No” he responded. Somewhat theatrically I leaped: “Of course you wouldn’t! Your grandma’s house and church are sacred spaces.” I pulled the snare tightly across the throat of his argument, asking him in a whisper: “Why isn’t my classroom a sacred space?”

Then as now, the sacred places don’t exist in their neighborhoods. Where are the bookstores and the movie theaters and the art studios? They are in the wealthier neighborhoods where the people are sacred.

This hoarding of the sacred expresses itself in remarkable fits of paradox. In the education reform world, those of us who can retreat to our own sacred places sometimes expect to be praised for the simple reason that we take notice of the profane at all.

So even though the education reform world is replete with leaders whose own children are too sacred to attend the schools they found or fund or otherwise support, we are expected to ignore the contradiction when we tout these schools to the general public.

This is because there is an understanding at an almost cellular level that some children deserve sacred spaces and others should gratefully accept what the sacred give them.

In an era when Black Lives Matter signs are ubiquitous and a national conversation is underway about how to untangle our historical caste system, the PCSB has a role to play.

We can create a system that sees every child as sacred, regardless of ethnic stripe or socio-economic status.

And because effective social movements are not led by outsiders, we must create a system where families who attend these schools fully participate in the institutions of power. This is the beautiful, messy contract required by democracy.

The covered-up history of emancipationist* Robert Carter III

I bet you never heard of him.

At great risk to his personal safety, this Robert-Carter-the-third freed HUNDREDS of the slaves he had inherited from his grandfather, the famous Robert “King” Carter.

In Virginia. Starting in 1791.

Up until then it was ILLEGAL to give any slave their freedom, except upon death of their owner (if so specified in their will).

RCIII was one of George Washington’s neighbors, and a friend of Thomas Jefferson, but unlike his wealthy neighbors, RCIII not only freed his slaves while he was alive, but hired them as workers and gave them land.

He even helped found early local Baptist churches that had black and white members as equals.

So, not every single White American plantation owner took the same path of continuing to buy and sell people and exploiting them.

There were other choices that the Founding Fathers could have taken, had they actually meant the words of the Declaration… you know, the ones proclaiming that “all men are created equal.” If they hadn’t been so concerned about their own luxurious lifestyles enabled by unremitting exploitation of the hard labor of so many hundreds of thousands of enslaved people, they could have chosen justice.

This fellow did.

But I never had heard of Robert Carter III, before today.

Had you?

He’s in Wikipedia. Thank goodness.

And apparently CNN actually just did a feature on him, today. Kudos!

Go look him up. I’ll wait.

For his day, he was a very honorable person.

Even though I was a History major at Dartmouth College, and had helped my father on a multi-volume translation of the travel diaries of a French nobleman in the United States from 1792-1795, I don’t recall him being mentioned. I’ll go look him up in the still-unpublished MS down in my basement after I’m done posting this.

Even though I had read about the Liberation of the people of Haiti, and about Nat Turner and John Brown and the 54th Massachusetts, I never heard of the ‘good’ Robert Carter.

I lived through a good bit of the Civil Rights Movement. Even though I had worked against racism and South Afrrican apartheid. And even though I prided myself on learning about the history of anti-racist, anti-slavery, and pro-working class struggles, I had never heard of the guy. I knew about Tulsa (1921) and Wilmington (1898). I had read Foner on Reconstruction and gave reports on Benjamin Banneker’s mathematics and geometry using Bedini as a source.

Amazing. There were people willing to kill or beat RCIII for his opposition to slavery.

Here is part of his deed of manumission. Can you read it? It’s slower going that ordinary text, but interesting nonetheless.

The CNN article reads, in part,

“To grasp the oddness of his erasure, it’s necessary to understand his lofty station among the Virginia gentry of his day. He counted Washington’s half-brother, Lawrence, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson as friends; he regularly dined with and loaned money to the latter. Washington himself was a neighbor, and Robert E. Lee’s mother was the great granddaughter of his grandfather, Robert “King” Carter.

The book The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter is unfortunately not in print any more. I will need to get it on Nook or something like that, I guess.

EDIT: I changed the title to “Emancipationist” rather than ‘Abolitionist’.

I found Levey’s book on him at an online used-book store and have ordered a copy.

I have just looked through my parents’ notes for their book on Larochefoucauld-Liancourt‘s (LRL) travels in America but have not yet found any mention of Robert Carter III, but certainly quite a few mentions of slavery and such. (LRL pulled quite a few punches regarding Jefferson’s treatment of his slaves, because he wanted Jefferson to write him some letters of recommendation so that he (LRL) could return to France, from which he had to flee during the most radical period of the French Revolution.

Yet another former charter school teacher, now disillusioned, tells all

This is a long article printed on Alternet. A teacher believed so much all the hype about magical charter schools that she tried twice to form her own charter school. (She failed to get approval, rightly so, she says.)

So she went to work for an existing charter school (whose name she doesn’t provide) in Los Angeles and the scales fell from her eyes.

Here is the link.

A Republican Congressman Who isn’t a Wacko!

Who is he?

A few hints: He voted to accept the results of the 2020 vote, AND to impeach Trump.

He also represents the same district that Justin Amash and Gerald Ford used to.

He also is being attacked by the Trumpisters and is resigned to the fact that he may be a one-term Congressman.

He had a long interview at The View. I found reading the transcript somewhat hopeful — perhaps more Republicans will snap out of their craziness. I am cutting and pasting some of the most trenchant paragraphs.

============================

Peter Meijer (the Congressman): … the rhetoric and the narrative in the public was wildly out of step with what more serious minds were discussing in the halls of Congress. A lot of my colleagues who were planning to object to the Electoral College certification, most of those objections hinged upon an interpretation of Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the Constitution, around the time, place and manner of elections, and how state legislatures had primacy in determining electoral processes. Now, it was an argument being made selectively against six states that the president had lost, and not being made in a dozen plus states that he had won. So I had issues on the consistency.

But a lot of the folks who were arguing to not certify the Electoral College results — and specifically, Arizona and Pennsylvania ended up being challenged with a Senator joining, so they were brought to the floor. It wasn’t that this was a massively fraudulent stolen election. It was much more grounded arcane basis, but with the understanding that this is an attempt for us to talk more about the process. That was the feeling inside the chamber. Those were the conversations. And then contrast that with President Trump’s Twitter account, and you see how two worlds of thought emerged. The world that said, this was actually a landslide victory for Donald Trump, that it was all stolen away and changed, and votes were flipped in Dominion Voting Systems.

And then you just go into the fever swamp of conspiracy theories. That’s what a lot of the supporters of the president were told. And that’s where some could argue, oh, when we meant stop the steal, we just meant, again, we don’t like these electoral process modifications. But that’s not how it came across.

Michael Barbaro (interviewer): Well, congressman, you sound like you’re being quite sympathetic toward your Republican colleagues in the House who chose not to certify the results. Do you think that those arguments and sentiments were genuine on their part?

Peter Meijer: I think, for some, absolutely. Again, I have disagreements. I do think some arrived at those conclusions in a genuine way. It’s —

Michael Barbaro: Because I think their support undeniably contributed, along with the president’s claims, to a pretty widespread consensus among Republicans that was baseless, right? That the election had been fraudulent. You really don’t think that they were operating primarily out of fear of their constituents and of the president in making these objections?

Peter Meijer: I’m not going to speak to what’s in their hearts. I know that I was watching the president’s speech on January 6. I was watching the speeches that came before it, the threats from members of the Trump family that if we didn’t object and try to change the results — there was a tremendous amount of political pressure. […]

Going into the Electoral College certification, I thought it would be one of the toughest votes of this term because of how many people were calling in and sharing, oftentimes easily disprovable, Facebook screenshots or sending a report. And I’d say, well, I’ve read this and I’ve looked into these citations, or I’ve actually called that clerk — and just how much got amplified. And it was a kind of a game of factual whack-a-mole. You would push back on one thing, such as, well, 60 of the 61 cases that the Trump campaign brought, they lost. And the one they won was very minor, and I think it was a temporary stay.

And then the pushback is, well, they were dismissed due to a lack of standing. OK, I mean, that’s a response, but that’s also not a good response. Well, here was all the widespread fraud? Well then, how come even the president’s lawyers were not arguing in court that there was fraud?

And you just find me a law enforcement body that has actually substantiated any of this, an investigative body, a court of law, anything that we can point to in a credible manner. But the point is, I mean, a lot of our constituents felt that this had been a stolen election because people they looked to and trusted told them that it was.

Michael Barbaro: Right, including congresspeople.

Peter Meijer: Including members of Congress.

Michael Barbaro: You seem to be nibbling around the edges of this, but I just want to state it really clearly. You saw a distinction in what your Republican colleagues in the House were up to. They were concerned about a process, frankly mail-in voting during a pandemic and whether it was done properly. But the way their concerns were being interpreted by their voters — and alongside the president’s public claims — was that a massive fraud had been perpetrated, Joe Biden’s victory was fraudulent.

And I just have to say it feels to me that many of these colleagues of yours must have known that that would be the impact. You can’t really divorce what they’re doing from what the president is doing and say, oh, they had a higher minded approach to this.

Peter Meijer: There’s a reason why I voted to certify both. There’s a reason why I signed on to a surprisingly cross-ideological letter stating why we believe that the challenge process was unwise. I think the individual arguments — I understand how some could make it. It was when the collective argument became something completely different. The whole was a more dangerous version of the sum of its parts.Michael Barbaro

I’m sensing that very early on, you are already figuring out how to navigate your way in a Republican Party where you and your views are in the minority.Peter Meijer

There was immense pressure. And again, I don’t want this to come across that any one individual’s vote was influenced solely by one thing or the other. But I had colleagues who were resigned to the fact that they may get primaried because they wouldn’t vote to object to Electoral College certification in one state or another, that this would guarantee them they would fall on the wrong side of an out-of-office Donald Trump, who has hundreds of millions of dollars in the campaign account.

I had another colleague who expressed concern about that colleague’s family and their safety if he voted to — how he were to be interpreted if he voted to affirm a stolen election. So I think there was just a ton of pressure from a variety of angles. And myself, I had consigned myself that this would be probably a potentially fatal — I thought I could survive it — but a potentially fatal political vote.

[He describes at some length the horrors of being in the Capitol on January 6, then finding out the Capitol has been breached and then having to hide with the rest of the members of Congress for their very lives. Afterwards:]

Peter Meijer: I had hoped that folks would see, I mean, just the fire that was being played with. And then I think several senators did. I mean, many of the objections that had been raised were withdrawn.

Michael Barbaro: But not many House members.

Peter Meijer: There were a handful. And I get it. I mean, the names were signed. Right? The statements had been put out. They had been talking about it on social media. It wasn’t the easiest thing to undo. But let me put it this way. There were a number of folks who got up on the floor and gave the same speech that night, while there was a crime scene investigation and a dead woman’s blood drying a couple of feet outside the door, they were giving the same speech that evening they had written this morning. Maybe a throwaway line about condemning political violence.

But I mean, just the dissonance, it was staggering.

Michael Barbaro: Right. Let me ask you this. Were you disappointed by the number of House colleagues who, after what had just happened that day, after their own lives had been threatened, went on and voted to object to Biden’s win?

Peter Meijer: I think there was just a disbelief. I get the sense that sometimes, especially if you’re running in a district where winning the primary means you win the general, you get these feedback loops. And where —

Michael Barbaro: But you’re talking — you’re talking politics, and I get that. But I’m asking if you, in your heart of hearts, were disappointed.

Peter Meijer: Yes. Yes. Can I go back to politics?

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