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©copyright 2013 Betsy L. Angert. empathyeducates

Words like "freedom," "justice," "democracy" are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous and, above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply.
~ James Baldwin (1924–1987), U.S. Author. In The Price of the Ticket (1985). "The Crusade of Indignation," Nation (New York, July 7, 1956).

 The verdict in the George Zimmerman trial affirmed Trayvon Martin has passed once again.  With his death we as a nation die.  Democracy was dealt a blow long ago.  It is only with this legal finding do we see more of the light.  

Before the people of this country willingly and freely forfeited their civil rights in 2001 we knew democracy was on the decline. (Remember the Patriot Act (sic) or when we were free to scan the shelves of our public library without government surveilance.  The text for your review: "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” Act)  Rights were denied.  Complaints were filed, and yet we marched on.  Today, and the past few weeks have been but a brutal reminder, in America, all men [and women] are not created equal.  Indeed, in the United States, there has never been a union.  We are divided on racial, religious, ethnic, and economic lines.  Most of these boundaries are blurred and subtle; however, one shines brightly. It is the color of our skin.

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Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 12:17 PM PDT

Is Gay the New Black?

by Bcgntn

© copyright 2013 Betsy L. Angert empathyeducates BeThink
June 27, 2013

GyBlckDearest Rachel…

It is me, Betsy. I am writing to say Congratulations to you and all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Americans.  It has been a great week for all our LBGT brethren. Sadly, it is a little less so for those whose complexion is Black or Brown.  What or who am I kidding? It has been an awful week for America as a whole.  Once again, we have done as we did since the day of our founding; we denied our brothers and sisters equal rights.  I hope you understand that while I too think anytime rights are afforded to an individual or group it is a good time, a time to celebrate, this week I cannot. Indeed, I do not see a day when I will reflect on this Court's rulings and be ready, willing, and able to rejoice.

Affirmative Action lost.  The inalienable right to cast a ballot for your Representatives, gone!  It was not that either of these laws, in practice, ever brought about equality, but a girl can dream.  I had hope.  Now, I do not.  Today, my heart broken, I can only reflect on the old adage; if my brother is poor or in pain then so too am I.  John Donne spoke for me when he said “Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

I am unsure if you are with me Rachel.  I listened to your review of the week and felt confused.  Therefore I ask.  On Thursday, June 27, 2013, you spoke of the angst yourself. You recounted the woe millions of California voters expressed on election night 2008. First there was elation; the first Black man was elected President of the United States.   It seemed we had arrived. It was as you exclaimed. a "civil rights milestone." People took to the streets and danced.  Corks were popped.  Confetti fell from sky-high windows.  Then, as more ballots were tallied, a dark realization set in.  In California, marriages once declared legal would not be going forward. As you stated, "That whiplash moment, that California, alone, experienced the night 
President Obama was first elected," was devastating. Perhaps, the man in the video clip you played this Thursday evening said it best for the LBGT community.

"In 2008 when we elected the first African-American 
president, it was a glorious day, but later that night it was a horrible night when the returns for Prop 8 came in saying that we were going to be 
treated as second-class citizens, and we just could not fathom being 
treated like that anymore."
Therein lies the difference Rachel, one of many that I see.  People of color can fathom being treated like scum.  Granted persons in the LBGT community can too.! That said, the two experiences are not one.  The color of our skin cannot be camouflaged. Sexual orientation is perhaps but a subtle "clue."  In other words, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgenders come out of the closet.  Blacks and Browns are more likely to be invited into the [water] closet to clean the mess white persons' leave behind.  Caucasians can be so cruel, as can those of a certain socio-economic "class."  I guess anyone can be.
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Safety; What We Do When We Deny

© copyright 2013 Betsy L. Angert empathyeducates

Look to the left. Look to the "right." In respect to education each side is willing to talk about sensitive subjects. Granted the two sides differ in respect to the specifics and the solutions.  Nevertheless, either or each will dive deeply into a dialogue.  

In reference to the subject of Common Core, the Left and Right cannot get enough.  Many Republicans and Democrats want nothing to do with Federally imposed curriculum restrictions and requirements.  "Teacher Professionalism," each embraces the topic, although again their values and views vary. But publicly state that Black and Brown persons do not feel safe in their neighborhoods and that this veracity has a profound effect on education and people will come after you!

The politically astute and apathetically proud alike, pounce when asked to ponder the problem of urban violence and its affect on parents and children in the community.  Cyber-bullying and bullying in general are constructs we can discuss.  But speak of the unspeakable and people will likely proclaim that you are being unjustly punitive, politically incorrect, or in short, you are a racist.   "Shhh" they say.  Let us not talk about that.  Other subjects, yes.  We can discuss those, but not how anxious an inner city resident feels when in their own home or community.  Instead, let us talk about Common Core, bad teachers, and great ones.  Those topics are fine; even favorites amongst the education elite. But how fragile life is for the Black and Brown persons who fear crime in their communities? Many say: let's not go there – literally or metaphorically. The effects of crime on the psyches of children of color, and its impact on education, are rarely discussed.

Let's not go there intellectually either, or at least not in any great depth. Skating along the surface will suffice.  Academics admittedly do not wish to tempt the fate that of the Moynihan Report [1965] on the Black family.  The mainstream too is timid.  On occasion, the Press will dip their toes in the waters of awareness.  Indeed, in recent months and in the last few years nationally Broadcasters gently touch that tender topic of "violence on our streets." However, mostly these stories feature tales of mass carnage – the shootings in Tucson, Aurora, Milwaukee, and more recently Newtown, a white suburban Connecticut community, but none of these approach that dreaded third rail, violence in Black and Brown communities and its effect on education.

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The Paradox of Privacy in Education and the Nation

© copyright 2013 Betsy L. Angert EmpathyEducates and BeThink.

Currently, in this country the right to privacy is the subject of myriad conversations..  Since reports from the Guardian and The Washington Post revealed that every American is being followed people have pondered a broader question. What is the price of freedom and how do we define the term.

Are we free to chat when our telephone records are being kept?  Can we surf the web without worry knowing that every keyboard stroke is being recorded?  For most of our lives, citizens believed what we learned in school.  The Fourth Amendment protects us.  As Americans, we have a right to privacy without search or seizure, or do we?  In recent months, school districts nationwide have loosened the restrictions on student privacy bolstered by the benevolence of Philanthropists such as Bill and Melinda Gates.  A comprehensive student database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school shapes and defines our youth.

Does Johnny struggle with fractions or is he challenged by the ways in which his Math lessons are delivered? The database will record a programmed interpretation of Johnny’s experience – "and may also record that young John finds textbooks boring, he adores animation and plays baseball after school." Will the software speak with Johnny? Will it ask him how he feels, and say to him, what is going on at home? Highly unlikely just as it is improbable that the Federal Judge who reviews surveillance records understands that the searches we do are scholarly in nature or that as persons living in a diverse community we have friends born in foreign lands? Will the Barrister think to speak with us, trust us, or will he/she presume that we are guilty as charged?

Johnny, his parents and teacher might know this answer, for children are, in certain states, already under surveillance.  

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A Letter to Melissa Harris-Perry, About "The Bull," Rahm Emanuel

© copyright 2013 Betsy L. Angert BeThink

2ERhmChcgBllTmCvrDearest Melissa Harris-Perry....

It's me, Betsy, one of your many Twitter followers, a viewer of your program, and a person who was honored to hear you speak at the last Rebuild The Dream Convention.  As an Educator, I am grateful for your sharing what is so real for our children.   I too wonder how we as a society think that a child whose stomach is empty can possibly problem solve.   I feel as if I know you, or at least you speak for me, which brings me to the subject of your Letter to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Rahm Emanuel, there's a good reason people are mad at you .  

I understand your cynical reference to Rahmbo.  I was not surprised that the Time magazine cover 2013, Chicago Bull evoked the sentiment "what you're full of." Although, admittedly for me, the comment comes too easily and could easily be dismissed as divisive rather than informative.   However, that you saw The New York Times' less frequent characterization of Rahm as "The Merlin to the President's King Arthur" as definitive and delicious baffles me.   In the another Times article Rahm was deemed “The leading practitioner of the dark arts of the capital."  I think this reference tells the more consistent tale.  In the  latter essay, the selection of Rahm Emanuel for the position of  the White House Chief of Staff was termed a "Faustian bargain." I believe this speaks to what is seen today in Chicago. Mayor Emanuel makes decisions or offers policies that benefit friends and family. He has little regard for the consequences and how these affect the common folk or the greater good.  

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Thu May 23, 2013 at 11:56 PM PDT

Education; The Disaster

by Bcgntn

© copyright 2013 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink

In the minutes, hours, and days after a "natural" disaster, such as the Oklahoma tornado or the recent Hurricane Sandy storm, we "assess" the damage. No one thinks that someone or ones must be held "accountable." Our hearts and minds are open to discovery.  We are able to embrace the unexpected and learn from it. We suspend disbelief and see countless causal relationships, each of which might help us assess.  This more thorough look at life, at the causes and effects does not lead us to draw spurious conclusions. Those come as a result of evaluations, a construct that is pervasive in today's education conversation. You might think the analogy a stretch, but please stay with me for at least another moment.

In our communities, parents have come to accept the narrative; we are in the eye of the storm. There is an education crisis.  Schools are a disaster. Students and Teachers are failing.  The question is do we assess the damage and learn how to improve or instead, do we lay blame?  Do we consider the countless possible causes and effects or do we arbitrarily anchor on correlations?   Immediately after a catastrophe, typically, we look around and assess the situation. This is being done in Moore, Oklahoma this evening.  It is only after calm has returned, or once we become comfortable in the new normal do we do as was done in education, evaluate, evaluate, evaluate.  Rarely if ever do we acknowledge that all we are doing is seeking affirmation for our beliefs and expectations,

Enter "accountability." In America policymakers and the people say, schools, Teachers,  and students too must be held accountable.  Even Educators articulate the meme, "take responsibility."  Do what is right.  The question is how do we determine what is "right" and by whose standards? Opinions vary.  Such is the nature of evaluations.

Evaluations quantify what occurs.  When we evaluate, we measure.   We count and calculate numbers. Look at the statistics and ultimately see little beyond gains or losses.  How many people died?  How many times has Moore been hit?  How fast were the winds moving? What about the expanse and/or intensity?  Can we actually gauge the force or fury felt when our loved one is killed or injured?  Is there a scale that weighs our heart or the joy we feel when we find a treasure we feared lost buried in the wreckage? Few of us can put a price on personal pain and pleasure. We cannot begin to imagine what another might experience.  Consider two persons in the same storm. If my home is in ruins and yours' remains standing will we assess the damage differently?  Who will be the judge or jury that evaluates our claims?

Scientists will try.  Statisticians too will look at the data.  Each will offer evidence and either could claim to be correct.  Certainly, we see this in education.  As a nation, we attempt to quantify learning, a concept so amorphic that it is invisible to the eye.

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Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 05:26 PM PDT

What is Education?

by Bcgntn

"Stay in School." "An education will serve you well." These are the words of a Mom, Dad, or Guardian who cares and perhaps, has yet to achieve their dream. Those persons who acquired what they thought they desired too will say the same. The paradox is the problem our progeny understand. Countless ask; is what I receive in a classroom, in a trade, or even on the streets an education? What is an education and does it currently serve our young. Could it?

The questions are many. The answers are complex. There is much to consider.

Do we encourage our children to stay in school because we believe an education will serve them well or is that but only our hope, our dream. What we would want to be?  If we home school or nurture a trade does the child learn more, less, what seems real and relevant to their unique hearts and heads, or again is the adult served by the decision?

Do we think school will save our youth, our teaching will do the deed, or do we think that our child will have that one Teacher who will save him from poverty, hunger, and the abuse he suffers at home? Is there such a Miracle Worker?  Is that sensational Sage he, she, we, or some entity we pray to? Granted, an education enlightens us all. However the question is what is an education?

Is an education a battery of tests or is it, was it, that Art class that was cut from the curriculum due to costs?  Is it a trip to the museum, the monument, time in the library or…Is the question what we teach or how?

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©copyright 2013. Betsy L. Angert BeThink

Is it fear of the darkness that dims our mind or is it the dim of our mind that is dark and damning?  No one can be sure; however we can see what occurs and ask why.  Why might Americans systematically deny rights to people of color? Why might the young, the most vulnerable among us, be victims of prey?  Indeed, why do we prejudge people at all and why is it that even the elderly cannot escape our diabolical doings?  The theories abound; answers escape us.  Nevertheless, the veracity is our truth. The right to learn and the right to vote are denied.

We close their schools, deny them an equal and equitable education, and in 2013 we may ultimately rescind the voting rights of the few.  In January of this year, the Journey For Justice 2 Alliance met with officials in Washington, District of Columbia, to discuss the topic, education policies that discriminate.  Today, on February 27, 2013, just down the lane from the Department of Education hearing, another inquiry was held.  The Supreme Court heard the case, Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.  On the face of it, the argument may seem separate from the subject of school closures.  However, considering the consequences of what might be after a day of testimony,  Voting Rights Law Draws Skepticism From Justices, there is reason for concern.  Will the cycle of recrimination continue? Will we curse the darkness that is our own?  

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SOS Rebuilds the American Dream Through Education

By Betsy L. Angert

Save Our Schools [SOS] is an organization devoted to fair and equitable education for all. We work to preserve and transform public education.  We are a venue for active, people-powered, grassroots education innovation.  In cyberspace and in communities throughout this country we advance solutions that bring learning back to our children, education back to public school classrooms, and policy decisions back to the students, teachers, and parents.

SOS is dedicated to finding a better, more balanced, path for education reform in this country.  In that spirit, we propose The Equitable Education Policy Path.  We establish that public education must be an American priority. Education is a basic civil and human right.  Every child has the right to attend a high quality public school.

“America’s future will be determined by the home and the school.
The child becomes largely what he is taught; hence we must watch what we teach, and how we live.”
 â€“Jane Addams [Public Philosopher, Sociologist, Author]

Our initiative was born out of an overwhelming awareness that today, and for the last several decades, students and teachers have been increasingly reduced to data-points.  Humans are no longer given the opportunity to learn for more than the mere moments required to memorize facts and formulas for a battery of tests.
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Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 09:08 AM PST

Hurricane Sandy and What Heals Hurts

by Bcgntn

Hurricane Sandy and What Heals Hurts

By Betsy L. Angert

Human beings are a fascinating bunch.  We gather information through observation, and the reading of facts, figures, and formulas.  We draw inferences and deduce. Granted conversations too play a role in what we conclude; however, mostly humans rely on the readable. What we cannot see is thought less significant.  Take Hurricane Sandy for example.

Meteorologists saw the signs.  Citizens, who merely glanced at the papers understood what was visible in print; Sharp Warnings as Hurricane Churns In. People began to do as people do when warned of an impending storm. They prepare for the worse.  Individuals and families evacuated the area.  Transit Authorities shutdown the system.  Cities and counties hunkered down.

Now, after the tempest took its toll, young ones do as the adults had done.  An eight-grader's account looks at what appears on the surface. As do most, she too attends to material concerns.  Rarely, do we know what else to do. Society and school curriculums that reflect a standardized surface reality do not give us the critical thinking tools needed to assist persons who have experienced an emotional trauma.  Today, we have one. We have Psychological First Aid.  This relief is not as a "kit" filled with bandages, cotton balls and antiseptic; nor is a box full of funds or quick-fix tricks. No, this Aid is much like cake you bake or the casserole you might make for family or friends in distress.  Either is a gift of love.  Each opens the door for conversations that reveal feelings.  So what is this Aid?

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By Betsy L. Angert

Inherent within each of us is conflict.  Generally speaking, we think growth is good.  Progress is a sign of achievement.  As George Bernard Shaw so aptly articulated, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Indeed, politically, at one time or another, persons within each Party have embraced the label, “Progressives.”  Even the most entrepreneurial embolden the idea of Progress. Goldman-Sachs boldly bolsters, Progress is everyone’s business.”  However, while we glorify growth, we disdain it.  Most of us look back and think, “Those were the days.”

The good ole days are commonly defined as “when we were young.” It might have been the 1930s, 1940s; the fifties were fine!  In earlier eras, schools were vehicles for success.  Now, these same institutions are seen and scored as failures.  Teachers were principled. Today, throughout the news we read, educators are perverse.  Our children come home and tell tales that affirm what adults have come to believe is true; teachers are bad! Public education is worse.  Students and parents surmise, home schools or private learning centers would better serve their needs. Cyber classes too must be an option.  Online learning tailors a lesson, much more so than a unionized teacher would. The people want Choice!

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The Chicago Teachers Union strike, and the recent rallies held in conjunction, speak to a problem larger than the conventional meme of pay increases, tenure, or pensions.  Chicago Teachers want better working conditions. They realize as no other employees might; the environments in which they work fashion the future of our nation.  Our children's education is at-risk.

Twenty-five years have passed since Chicago Teachers Union members have gone out on strike.  These Educators realize as do all workers. Unions today are not the powerhouses of yesteryear.  According to a study by Sociologist Jake Rosenfeld, unionization among private-sector full-time employees fell by 40% between 1984 and 2002.  Indeed, as cited in Unions, Norms, and the Rise in American Wage Inequality, "From 1973 to 2007, private sector union membership in the United States declined from 34 to 8 percent for men and from 16 to 6 percent among women. Inequality in hourly wages increased by over 40 percent in this period."

The reasons are stark.

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