When Disrespect is the Status Quo

I admit it, I’m fascinated by the national celebrity status recently conferred on DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee. With the powerful Oprah Winfrey media machine and the blessing of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, she appears headed for an illustrious career as the national poster girl for educational reform.

There’s only one problem:

The objectively quantifiable data shows that her efforts have hurt student progress in District of Columbia Public Schools.

Math Proficiency Scores:

-14 schools are worse off in 2010 than in 2007 with declines as high as 25% and an average of 8%
-41 schools are worse off in 2010 than in 2008, with declines as high as 35% and an average of 11%
-61 schools (52% of all schools) are worse off in 2010 than in 2009, with declines as high as 30% and an average of 10%

Reading Proficiency Scores:

-40 schools are worse off in 2010 than in 2007, with declines as high as 45% and an average of 6%
-58 schools are worse off in 2010 than in 2008, with declines as high as 36% and an average if 9%
-66 schools (56% of all schools) are worse off in 2010 than in 2009, with declines as high as 41% and an average of 9%

(source withheld)

Other performance facts:

-AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) under Leave no Child Behind, results for DCPS: 10 schools achieved AYP in 2010 a 70% decrease from 2009, when 34 achieved AYP.

-The achievement gap between White and African-American 4th grade students for Math has increased to a 58 point gap in 2009 from a 53 point gap in 2007.

-DCPS tested 14% fewer African-America children in 2009 indicating that many African-American families are leaving DCPS for charter or private schools.

-Since 2007 DC School construction shows favoritism toward Wards 2 and 3, where outlays average between $118 and $152 per sq. ft. compared to Wards 7 and 8 where expenditures drop between $40 and $54 per sq. ft.

(source withheld)

The truth is that systemic educational reform is holistic in nature. The history, economic development, and social structure of the student population has to be accommodated before lasting change occurs.

Positive educational outcomes for all children require analysis of the learning styles, and teaching strategies that work best for each demographic group. I strongly urge that educators study a focus group created by DCPS in the 1970’s called The Innovation Team, which was formed to study the challenges and opportunities specific to Urban education.

Washington, D.C. was decimated by the crack and gun wars of the 1980’s and 90’s, and some of those lost were among our most vibrant, creative and intellectually curious. Domestic and educational policy of the Reagan Bush years has had the effect of stifling the momentum of the 1970’s as related to Black consciousness and upward mobility. The collective psychological development of the Black community is diminished as a result. The children we see in the classroom today are essentially postwar survivors, yet we haven’t developed a plan that faces that excruciating truth. The sick joke is to send Rhee here, to insult and demean and blame our community for failing to effectively protect our young people.

If Oprah cares, and I believe she might, if properly informed, she needs to focus, not on personalities and style and money, but on history. Refugee and post-war children around the world have to be nurtured in a very focused way to be returned to their natural brilliance.

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Revisions in Renaissance

Christ Supported by Two Angels by Giovanni

Christ Supported by Two Angels by Giovanni

I spent a wonderful day with 3 of my kids at the National Gallery of Art last week. I grew up enjoying Washington’s many museums and galleries, and I’d forgotten how much fun it is to analyze the paintings for their style and content, as well as the hidden historical and mystical references. Not fast-paced like an action movie, but riveting in its own way.

There was great beauty expressed in many of the paintings we saw. The Italian and other European artwork created during the period between the 14th to the 17th century, displays technical brilliance but also an attempt to deal with emotionally challenging parts of human history. I tried to draw the childrens’ attention to pictures that said one thing about an event which we know occurred in a different way. The crucifixion of Jesus is a perfect example.

The Crucifixion by Benvenuto di Giovanni

The Crucifixion by Benvenuto di Giovanni

In this post-Passion of the Christ era, the Italian Renaissance paintings depicting clean, beautiful, pious saints caught up in the rapturous process of Jesus’ crucifixion and death were oddly disquieting for me. The enormity of the lie therein was just too much. This big lie has become a pivotal element of Western Culture. Presenting a gory scene with pristine cleanliness is only valuable symbolism when the underlying truth of the matter is confronted honestly. If not, it’s just a collective hallucination.

How dare European painters make the act of nailing a man to a wooden armature anything other than horrific? The mockery of a trial and the ritual formalities involved in the sentencing are not the issue. Think about the nerves and the skin and the tendons and the bones that were shattered and separated. There would also have been enormous amounts of blood.

From the movie Passion of the Christ b yMel Gibson

From the movie Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson

Without reaching the issue of Christs’ political status among Hebrew men of his time, or his skin color and ethnicity (although that is a big one) or perhaps even his cosmic intervention into humanity’s downward spiral….just think about the blood and the pain and the sacrifice.

I take issue with the way the story is mangled time and again. Titian, Bellini, Francesca. ..the neat, clean presentation of what had to be a monstrously violent, barbaric act. I have read the prophecies of Isaiah and I know of Christ’s experience in the Garden in which he becomes reconciled to his fate. I get it…the martyrdom thing.

Just don’t lie about how bad it really was.

4mac