Saturday, August 30, 2014

Declaration of Independence from Testing

By:  Dr. Mark Naison 

Little by little, the American Public is waking up to the realization that the vast majority of people who call themselves "School Reformers" are dishonest as well as incompetent.

They have no idea how to evaluate teachers.

They have no idea how to inspire students.

They have no respect for parents or teachers.

The policies they have unleashed are destabilizing communities, making teachers hate their jobs, making students hate school.They are also increasing gaps in educational performance by race and class.

It is time to bring their machine to a halt by refusing to cooperate with their testing and electing candidates who will end Common Core and stop closing public schools in favor of charters.

We can do this. We MUST do this. The stakes are very high
BATs Support Lee County Florida in Decision to Opt Out 




Dear Editor :

Regarding Lee County School Board decision to opt out of high stakes, state tests: 

I am the parent of a fifth grader in Lee County. I am also an 8th grade Language Arts teacher for the district. 

During public comments at the Wednesday night's Lee County School Board Meeting, a speaker said, "Seize the day." I agree. 

We have waited long for this day. We have fought long and hard to end the over testing of our kids. This was not a rushed decision. Parents from every walk of life, every political group, have been going to school board meetings for years. 

Two years ago, Lee County School Board was one of the first in the nation to sign onto a resolution opposing high stakes testing. Mrs. Dozier, among others, carried the resolution to our state school board and fought for its passing. She was successful and we thank her. Our parent groups, locally and statewide, have tried with our representatives and senators. We have lobbied, written emails, called, tweeted, even created meme ... with no response. 

I myself traveled to the Network for Public Education National Conference. I was there when Diane Ravitch called for congressional hearings. We have tried. But, our leaders in Tallahassee and DC. refuse to listen. 

So now it is our time to refuse. It is our obligation as parents and caretakers to refuse these toxic tests. The is no more time to wait. It is time to get comfortable being uncomfortable. 

Lee County School Board and Superintendent Graham, we are here to support you as you do what is right for our children. We are here to say we need you. You are our hard hitters. We elected you. You are our last line of defense in defending our children and it is your moral imperative to do so. 

You made the decision to opt us out of state high stakes assessments. That was the right choice. Now, let's get proactive in creating a program of portfolio assessments. Let's outline the possibilities of using concordant scores.

Let's give our Lee County families and employees a sense of hope not gloom. The whole world is watching. Here is your chance to be world class. 

After all, it is what the parents want. Ask them, most will tell you they were planning to opt out anyway. Why make it be our parents and our children who have to take a stand. Why force an opting out child to sit, humiliated, through a five hour test, day after day, during test month? Let's stand up for them. 

So, no more waiting, please. No more waffling back and forth wondering. No more hoping someone else will fix this. Let's find a way. No amount of money is worth this. Our children are not numbers and education is not about property values. This is not about 'Flipping Lee'... This is about the kids. Focus on our kids. 

Bonnie Cunard Margolin, parent & teacher, Wear Red for Ed

Thursday, August 28, 2014

BADASS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION LETTER TO THE SCHOOL BOARD OF THE LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

Dear Los Angeles School Board:

We are educators and public education advocates from across the nation and we are 52,000 strong. We are writing to demand Restorative Justice for the LAUSD community.

LAUSD has become the laughing stock of the nation with iPadgate and the MiSiS mess. It is hard to imagine that the leadership really has students first and foremost on their minds.

Schools have been in utter chaos since the failed launch of the Student Information System. Some students do not even have their schedules and have been in school for three weeks. Teachers cannot track attendance because they do not even have accurate rosters, risking critical and fundamental revenue to schools, not to mention a sense of order in classrooms and safety on campuses.

The daily revelations about the improper Pearson-iPad deal make it look like LAUSD is choosing PROFITS over PUPILS. It seems no one has even answered what pedagogical value these computers and software provide students. There has not been nearly enough deliberation about the content of curriculum on the devices. In your exuberance, it seems no one has asked “What could $1 billion have paid for?”
The students and families of LAUSD need textbooks, arts classes, summer school, staff for shuttered libraries, lower class sizes for higher risk kids, and assistant principals, nurses and school psychologists. These are the things that make a difference in the lives of students.

Therefore we demand RESTORATIVE JUSTICE for LA schools!
1.            Release the emails and the Inspector General Report for public scrutiny
2.            Seek an external audit to determine what went so terribly wrong and to prevent a repeat.
3.            Meanwhile, get back to work providing students with an education and giving teachers and principals what they need to get the job done.


The future of your students depend on you doing the right thing. 52,000 of us are watching.

PLEASE ALSO SIGN THIS PETITION
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/restorative-justice-for-3?source=c.em&r_by=11217269

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 28, 2014
More Information Contact:
Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager, BATs
Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager, BATs
contact.batmanager@gmail.com


After polling its membership, The New York Badass Teachers Association announced today its endorsement of Zephyr Teachout and Timothy Wu for the Democratic Primary to be held on September 9th. The New York BATs are an organization over 2000 strong which supports candidates committed to defending and preserving public education.

This decision was made because of deep discontent with the current New York Governor. Andrew Cuomo has earned an appalling reputation for ramming anti-public school legislation through the legislature, including the unpopular Common Core Standards, requirements that all teachers in the state be rated on the basis of student test scores, and laws that favor charter schools at the expense of public schools. Perhaps most egregious were the Common Core aligned tests for the 2013/2014 school year resulting in 70 percent of children being classified “failures” with the state’s ELL and Special Needs students subjected to unconscionable humiliation.

By contrast, the Teachout/Wu Platform opposes the over-reliance on standardized testing, Common Core, charter school expansion and John King while supporting teacher tenure, the arts and local autonomy. "For me, education is key," said Teachout who contends New York must return to "traditional Democrats” such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“New York needs a true Progressive voice to counter the damage that is being done to public education in New York state in the name of so-called reform. Andrew Cuomo is the poster child for that damage. Zephyr Teachout is the cure”, says New York BAT Steve Corso.

New York BAT Ann MacAbee stated, "Teachout/Wu offer real hope for the proper education of New York's children."

NY BAT Jake Jacobs adds “the policy of evaluating Art teachers using student scores on state Math exams is a waste of taxpayer dollars that shows little appreciation for what goes on in the classroom. Zephyr Teachout understands the key to learning is engagement, trusting the teachers who know their students best”.

The Teachout/Wu campaign offers a platform to parents and teachers that puts children, equity, and equality in education ahead of big business and hedge funders. If you are a Democrat, we heartily recommend a vote for Teachout/Wu on September 9th and hope you encourage your Democratic friends and family to do the same.




###


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Challenge!
By:  Donna Shubert


I am issuing a challenge to you, department directors, assistant department directors, cadre directors and anyone else who works for the SBBC who is not a school-based employee but has a secretary, administrative assistant, clerk or anyone else assisting them in their work. So please pass the challenge on.

The challenge is, for the remainder of the school year, all top administrative staff members shall not be able to have anyone, a secretary, administrative assistant, clerk or anyone else, help them. I want you all to see what it feels like to be a teacher. You see we have a very heavy workload with little or no help and yet administrators downtown keep piling on work.

Some of our responsibilities include: photocopying - filing - laminating - ordering and picking up on campus supplies - shopping for supplies off campus (and paying for them) - putting up bulletin boards - taking down bulletin boards - keeping current bulletin boards - grading papers - record grades - planning lessons - gathering resources for lessons - organizing our classrooms - writing letters to individual parents - answering emails - delivering papers to the office, watching mandatory videos, collecting papers, setting up computers, arranging rooms, assisting at dismissals, hallway duty, writing goals on boards, creating rubrics, sending update notes to parents, collecting money for pictures, trips, fundraising, -- picking up signing out and returning collections envelopes - planning trips and arranging trip locations, buses, lunches with cafeteria, -- writing RTIs - report cards - stuffing report cards in envelopes -- preparing homework -- checking homework -- hanging wall charts and decorating classroom - searching for forms - downloading forms - inputting information on Virtual Counselor and ESS (now renamed My Learning Plan) - preparing materials for data chats -- one of the newest suggestions creating data binders to record information readily available in other places about each student - researching materials - familiarizing self with materials, programs and all the new school board initiatives - learning new programs - writing interims - pulling and filing cumulative records - writing honor roll certificates - making lunch tags -- making bus tags - pulling math book pages (500+ page books that have to be broken down into manageable sections for kindergarten) - picking up test packets - picking up and and returning computers to carts - checking ESS - registering for workshops - preparing substitute work - securing substitutes - follow up work for workshops - read literature to be up to date with Common Core and Marzano - use teachers editions to prepare for lessons - use Common Core Standards to prepare for lessons - use focus calendar to prepare for lessons (or are focus calendars gone with the whim) - picking up and dropping off students in a.m., for lunch and specials - providing security - planning other work when copier breaks down - learning new reading, math, science and social studies materials - consulting with speech, ESE, occupational and physical therapy teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologist, school resource officer - filling out forms for speech, contact guidance, social worker and or psychologist - PGPs - keeping track of computer programs like iStation, Virtual Path, IR and others - differentiating instruction - familiarizing self with buzz words like rigor, fidelity, CARE, scaffolding, reflect, collaborate -- creating centers - filling out surveys - and in our spare time writing grants for all the materials we don't have. We have to conference with parents at least twice a year although we communicate with many parents much more often. Let's not forget the meetings: RTI, staff, team, committee, trainings, testing and on top of the recent addition of 18 hours of mandatory Collaborative Planning Meetings (CPMs). Last year the added meetings were called PLCs (Professional Learning Communities). PLCs are gone with the whim. Now we have CPMs, almost 18 hours of mandatory meetings. I cannot wait to see what they will be called next year or if they will even be around next year.

Keep in mind this is a partial list and would be fine if all that was our full-time job but it isn't. It has to be fit in, with so much more, when we aren't doing the main part of our job, the part not mentioned above -- TEACHING. We still agree I hope that the main part of a teacher's job is TEACHING, right? Because there is nothing set up in this system to say, "We know your work is important and the priority is teaching so we will honor that by giving you the supplies, support, resources and time you need to do it right". Nope, instead, it is "do this", "no do this", "now try this", "wait we aren't doing that any more", "call it this", "it was a PLC now its a CPM", "its ESS Professional Development no now its My Learning Plan" "you will get trained as soon as we can get it working", and don't forget to C-A-R-E. My favorite, however, is when people then have an administrator who questions why something isn't done, for example, "Why isn't your bulletin board current?"

Imagine what it will be when you do all you own planning, trips, copying, filing, arranging meeting, answering emails, answering phone calls, writing emails, making phone calls, scheduling, conference planning, getting your own mail and supplies, delivering papers to other areas, hanging things yourself in your offices, hooking up your own computers, setting up your own furniture, and lots of other tasks and then do your actual job. Oh, yes, and you have to do your own bookkeeping. Remember when bookkeepers were removed from the school to save money and teachers and school-based office staff had to pick up a lot of the workload. So just plan on adding another 4 or so unpaid hours on to your day and then don't make plans for Sundays, unofficially that's another workday. For some of you we will have to give you extra work because you are the administrator we decided to "stack" (give extra students above the class size law) or make the "support" class (add children with special needs but then cut the ESE staff). We will also make some of you the "split" administrator where you will have to do two job from two different departments just like the teachers who teach split classes like 3rd and 4th grade with two different testing focuses. And, good luck to those of you we name "team leaders" because your workload and responsibilities will increase vastly but don't worry you will be paid about an extra $3.00 per day. If you are the designated "speech administrator" your caseload (number of students) and paperwork load may increase but your hours are going to be cut. Did I mention all of you will be evaluated on all this too? I'll be in with my iPad regularly.

I could make this challenge a bit more difficult by saying you have to do all your own work without assistance, on a teacher's salary and then find two or three extra part-time jobs to survive financially plus you have to buy the supplies you need out of your own pocket but maybe we will save that challenge for next time.

So what will happen to your support staff for the remainder of the year-- they will go to schools to help overburdened teachers, overburdened ESPs and overburdened office staff. The end result, I hope, is that you will sufficiently staff schools, add support staff to help teachers, stop reducing staff and expecting teachers to pick up the workload in all your "cost-cutting" moves, and streamline teachers' workload. And, please stop with the alphabet soup and name games of relabeling something and after everyone is trained in it dumping it for the latest fad.

I can't even imagine what it would be like to have my whole workday focused on either teaching my students or preparing for them rather than having countless tasks to perform and then trying to focus on what I need to do for my students. That's what we did in the good old days in teaching.

By the way, the same challenge goes out to our unions, BTU, FEA, AFT and NEA because our unions are not addressing the workload as a serious issue.

Challenge on!! Game on!! See you at the copy machine!!

Sincerely,
Donna Shubert

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Letter to Superintendent Sergio Paez
By:  Dr. Mark Naison

Dear Superintendent Paez
It is come to my attention that you have compounded a most questionable decision- denying tenure to Augustin Morales- with a series of actions which are provocative and unwise in the extreme, including attempting to deny him access to school property even though he is an elected officer of the Holyoke Teachers Association.
Please be aware of the following. Augustin Morales is a leader with a national following. He is not only respected among teachers in his town and in his state, he is respected by teachers all over the country as a result of his leadership role in the fastest growing education organization in the nation, the Badass Teachers Association, which now has nearly 52,000 members. His speech at our March on Washington in July was one of the best received at the event and has been spread around the nation on video. Rest assured that any action taken against him will bring an immediate response from teachers around the country
It will also receive press coverage. If you want to become famous all over the country, continue to take punitive action against Mr Morales. Everything you do is being watched, not because of any bias against you, but because of the respect Mr Morales commands
I strongly suggest you take a deep breath, reverse your course of action and bring Mr Morales back to the classroom. You will save yourself a great deal of grief and also do a lot for the children of your school district who see Mr Morales as a role model and a great leader
Sincerely,
Mark D Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University
Co-Founder, Badass Teachers Association

Friday, August 22, 2014

Walk in My Shoes
By:  Lucianna Sanson
For the past couple of days, actually, to be more accurate, the past week, I have spent some time practicing what I teach: that genuine learning occurs when we build relationships with other people, spend some time in other people’s shoes, and remove the Ego and Self from a situation so that we may “see” with another’s perspective without the bias and prejudice of our own set of
beliefs overriding the learning experience. As an English language arts teacher, I spend the beginning of each semester preparing my students, all seniors, to engage in dialogue on diverse and divisive topics, to take an open-minded approach to learning, and to look at situations from multiple perspectives.
In order to reach, and in order to teach, my students how to hone these skills, I model them in the classroom and then we practice them using multiple techniques, such as socratic seminar circles, point-of -view journaling, and real-world-event-role-play. Hence, my spending some time in other people’s shoes this week. This week, I have endeavored to walk in the shoes of  Michael Brown, his Mother, his Father, and the police officer that shot and killed Michael. You see, last week, eighteen-year old Michael Brown, a black youth, was shot and killed by a white man, a police officer, in the town of Ferguson, Missouri. Last week, I wrote the following post in the National BadAss Teachers Association group in response to Michael’s shooting:
“Hey WHITE PEOPLE. Yes, you. I am talking to you. I am a White teacher here. I am a woman too. I want to say that all of you White folks need to stand in solidarity with your Black brothers and sisters during this time of pain and suffering. The murders of black people are not going to stop until White people Stand Up and Speak Up and Take Up for our fellow man. We are all Mothers and Fathers, Sisters and Brothers. What is wrong with you White folks that when children are murdered, you sweep it under the rug- or ignore it or say "Badass Teachers is no forum for this?" I am CALLING OUT my WHITE BRETHREN to acknowledge injustice and Fight for Freedom for all PEOPLE.”
What kind of response did my post illicite from the 51,000 member BATs group?  Shock and awe? Yes. Outrage? Yes. Blowback from, specifically the White community? Yes. Did I know my post would engender these responses when I wrote it? Yes.
Why then, did I write such a post? What would lead me to, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet laments in the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, “take up arms against a sea of troubles?” What was my rationale, my reasoning, for asking other White folks -specifically other teachers-  to stand up with Black folks in support of Michael Brown and his family? Who am I to wield the pen and flourish it as a call to solidarity?
( Internal dialogue between Ego and Self  )
Ego: “Who Are You?”

Self: “I am a privileged white woman who has black friends and black students and black family members.”
Ego: “Why should I care about people that I don’t know? Why should any of us care?”
Self: “I care because I am a woman, a mother, a teacher, and a human being. I care because I am a member of the human race and I believe that, as humans, it is our duty to help each other during times of pain, suffering, and deprivation.”
In this instance, in my internal dialogue, Self won out over Ego. So, I posted my one woman call to action and, stripping away Ego and Self, proceeded to monitor and engage in dialogue with many other individuals in the BATs group. Posting, as it turns out, was the easiest part. Sitting for hours, engaging in dialogue, reading posts from those that disagreed and from those that agreed with me, took up the better part of the night and morning. What did I learn from writing that post? Was it worth it? If I knew then that #Ferguson was going to turn into endless nights of people vs. police, of riots and tear gas, of rubber bullets, of arrests, would I have posted those words? Would I have posted those words knowing the blowback in BATs and the hours of moderation and patience that my fellow mods would have to endure in the days ahead?
After re-living multiple scenarios in my head, on paper, in discussions and dialogue, after removing Ego and the Self, after checking my privilege repeatedly, I have to answer with a resounding YES. I would post the same words again- knowing the cause and effect they would have- knowing the strife it would bring to my beloved BATs, I would do it in a minute. I would do it because the police officer who shot Michael can’t take his shots back, Michael Brown can’t be resurrected and brought back to life, and Michael’s parents have forever lost a child.
Walk in My Shoes.

Creating Safety Without Guns- An Inner City Love Story

By:  Dr. Mark Naison

One of the reasons I am haunted by the death of Michael Brown is that I have worked with young people in highly charged settings and have seen what they can accomplish when people who command their respect guide them, challenge them, inspire them and love them. This is a story that will help you understand where I am coming from.

The year is 1994. The crack epidemic is still with us, hip hop has entered its golden age, and the city's murder rate is three times what it is now. The neighborhood where I live, Park Slope, is starting to gentrify, but there are still pockets of poverty and the drug trade is alive and well. I am very active in the biggest neighborhood sports program, the 78th Precinct Youth Council, as a coach and league director and it is in that capacity that I am offered an assignment

There is a basketball league for HS students at JHS 51, sponsored by the Youth Council, that is out of control The players are fighting with one another, parents are coming out of the stands to fight with the kids, coaches and referees, and neighborhood teenagers are coming to the games to join the brawls. The Council leaders ask me to come in and try to bring order to the league, threatening to shut it down if I fail

The first day the league meet, I size up the players. Half are Black and Latino, mostly from Bed Stuy, Prospect Heights, Sunset Park and Red Hook, all pretty tough neighborhoods; the white kids are almost evenly divided between middle class Park Slope and working class Windsor Terrace It is a pretty tough group, but with one thing in common-they all want to play ball and use this experience to get them ready for their high school teams I also take stock of the coaches Two thirds are Black- two of them are police officers, the rest teachers. The referees, both friends of mine are big strong guys who are great athletes. I take stock of the people and decide we can make this work if we take the right approach.

So here is what I did. I called the players together and told them what my rules would be. Anyone who throws a punch, for any reason, is thrown out of the league; any parent who leaves the stands will be escorted out of the gym. Showing disrespect for me, the coaches, or the referees results in automatic suspension. After I tell them the rules, I call up the six toughest kids in the group and announce that I am hiring them as security guards and people who keep the book. I tell them that everybody wants to close the league, but that I am determined to make this work along with the coaches and referees "You follow the program, and we are your protection" I tell them. "We are not going to let anyone hurt you when you are in here- not your parents, not the police, not neighborhood drug dealers. This is a safe zone for all of us, a safe zone for the neighborhood. Together, we can make this work."

What happened was nothing short of amazing. One league director, two referees, six coaches working together to help kids create a space where they could play top flight basketball without having to worry about defending their reputation or defending themselves form assault. There were no fights. No one threw a punch. No brawls involving parents or by standers Every time something was stolen from the gym, or the school, the security guards investigated and the stolen property was returned. Games were amazing, played before up to 300 spectators. Local drug dealers came to the games and caused no beefs.

What made it work was giving kids everyone was afraid of real responsibility and decent pay; coaches who took kids home with them when they were in trouble and helped them with problems ranging from failed tests to school suspensions; and an environment where strong physically confident adults commanded respect from young people and made them feel safe,

It was also a place where class and privilege were temporarily erased- I brought wads of dollar bills to every game and made sure that if anyone had pizza, everyone had pizza. And what happened, with order, and discipline, and predicability and love is that kids from every conceivable background were able to enjoy their love of basketball and showcase their skills before appreciative crowds. At least half of the players in the league, including several girls, ended up playing high school basketball, and a few ended up playing in college- one of those who became a starting point guard at Fordham,

For four years we held the league together without a single fight, or a single brawl though there were a few near misses It was physically and emotionally exhausting, for the referees and coaches as well a the kids, but we showed that young people who many people feared, who in some cases were huge disciplinary problems for schools and for their parents, could be part of an incredible group experience without every losing control.

The experience left a lasting impact on me. Every time I see a shooting death of a young person like Mike Brown, I think of how many young people in our league fit that profile and how with the right combination of firmness understanding and respect, those young people blossomed. It is also why I am reluctant to write off or give up on any young person.

I have seen what is possible and find it hard to accept anything less.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

JUSTICE FOR ROUSEMARY AND JESUS!! 



Office of the Mayor
121 N LaSalle Street
Chicago City Hall 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60602

Dear Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public School Board of Education:


It has come to our attention that an active and involved parent, Ms. Rousemary Vega, has been banned from attending school board meetings and can only meet with members during office hours. By enforcing this ban, the Chicago Board of Education is violating her right to free speech and her parental right to act on behalf of her children. This ban comes after the shameful, inexcusable and violent response representatives of CPS unleashed on her husband Jesus Ramos-  in front of their children - at the last Chicago public school board meeting. We have seen footage of the treatment of Rousemary Vega and Jesus Ramos via video link and also on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E0zctQfdYI.

Mr. Emanuel, as you well know, the role of public school boards is to execute the business of educating all of the children under its jurisdiction. School boards are responsible for making decisions that benefit the students that attend the schools under its purview. School boards are accountable to the public, they serve the society that depends on them to fairly and professionally manage institutions of education. The public includes parents. Actions taken by the school board are silencing them. The suppression of the voices of parents of students in Chicago Public Schools has happened often enough to be a pattern, and often enough to be construed as deliberate policy.


The  Chicago Public School Board has demonstrated  an alarming pattern of silencing the voices of parents of color. The Board’s unwarranted actions have worked to marginalize  and disenfranchise  parents across the city. The Board also has a reputation for enacting unwanted school reform policies harmful to these same communities of color. 

Rousemary Vega’s  attempt to  educate people about the impact of limited screened enrollment,  school takeovers, and  charter school preferences have made on her community, her family, and her neighborhood schools is protected under the First Amendment. When the voices of hundreds of parents are ignored and plans proceed without taking into consideration the feelings of the stakeholders, there is no choice but to make oneself heard through acts of civil disobedience.


The letter sent to Rousemary characterizes her behavior without context. She spoke out as a means of protest  against reforms that many contend have aided in the gentrification of neighborhoods whose schools were neglected for years then labeled failures in a convenient time for privatization efforts.

By denying her the opportunity to participate, the board is not only denying her right to free speech but also cultivating a climate of fear and mistrust that treats parents, specifically parents of color,  as enemies rather than as involved community stakeholders. CPS officials frightened and emotionally traumatized the Vega/Ramos children, physically harmed their father, and caused Rousemary Vegas intense mental and emotional distress. The deliberate physical attack during a public BOE meeting, against a vocal activist family that dares to speak truth to power,  is a bullying tactic that speaks volumes about the integrity, or lack thereof, CPS has toward invested families. It is bad enough that Chicago uses strong-arm tactics to gentrify communities by force, take over and shut down schools, and give preference to charters over public schools, but add those efforts to the racism and bullying of the Ramos/Vega family, and the truly sadistic nature of the Chicago Public Schools and BOE is revealed.

Please be aware that we have carefully read the letter sent to Rousemary Vega. We also carefully screened the video footage from the BOE meeting. It is evident that the letter does NOT correlate to the events in the video. We are not intimidated by the Chicago Public School district or the BOE and we have lawyers looking into this matter. In the interim, we are writing not only to make you aware of the fact that the case is being investigated by several civil liberties organizations, but also to give you the opportunity to address the situation in a fair and equitable manner. Copies of this letter are being sent in defense of Rousemary Vega, Jesus Ramos, and every other family the CPSB has attacked. It is our hope that this letter will encourage the CPS BOE to address the wrongs done to Rousemary Vega and her family.

In the name of participatory democracy,  transparency, and equity, we, the Badass Teachers Association, demand that Rousemary be given her rights back, and not only that, we demand that she be given a public role, as a concerned parent, in shaping education policy in Chicago. We are watching and we are waiting. Make no mistake, if Rousemary Vega is not sent a letter encouraging her participation at the next Chicago BOE meeting, there will be ramifications and blowback from teachers and parents across the country in support of Chicago public school parents and children.

In Solidarity with the unheard parents of Chicago,

^0^ The Badass Teachers Association

Monday, August 18, 2014

I See
By:  Christine Tucker 


Every day of every school year, I stand in the front of our school building waiting for my students. The first day is always a little bit different. Being in the "Escape Pod" behind the main building has its advantages. It is a long walk to the front of the building and I get to see so much.
It is 7:33.
I see the teachers in our school scrambling for all of: The Just One Last Things, The Just In Cases, The One Extra Copy, The Spare One of Everything that a forgetful student will need. The Last Cup of Coffee. Getting everything covered for all of the students while putting the finishing touch on every over-regulated and under-regulated balanced and assessed moment just so they can reach and teach each student. Teach them the best way they know how. Teach them the best way each student learns.
I see aides running right behind the teacher to make sure the I's are dotted I's and T's are crossed T's. And make sure that the leveled readers are available. And to make sure that the old pencil sharpener has been replaced with the new one. And to make sure that there are extra of the extra wide lined note books just in case another student not on their case-load may need one. And to make sure they are enough modified copies of copies just in case another student who isn't on their case-load is always under their wing…and to make sure...and to make sure...and to make sure...
I see the anticipatory excited worrying.
It is 7:39
I try to see the cooks but they are like a well-oiled-rapid-fire machine. Simultaneously, telepathically, unanimously and effectively they rise from their conference table in the kitchen, last sip of coffee, the hair nets go on and it begins. Slowly at first and then the steam kicks in. I think I see them as they pass through each other on hidden tracks. Cook. Bag. Stir. Bag. Chop. Bag. Slice. Bag. Stir, bag. Wrap, bag. Switch roles, bag, oven on, bag, behind you, bag. Burner down, bag, step aside, bag, restock, bag, coming through, bag, wash, bag, scoop, bag, hand to the right, bag, shift food trays, bag, don’t forget the Silk Milk, bag, on your left, bag, open doors, bag, restock, bag, behind you, bag, take an unannounced collective pause and a deep breath, bag. This small crew of food warriors prepares over 300 breakfasts AND keeps their minds-eye on preparing lunch. I will never see how they do all of that-I am not sure it is not allowed for mere human eyes.
It is 8:02
I see the Administrators, immediately stop all work and with warm welcoming smiles they compassionately guide and calm an overwhelmed parent and child in a quiet office.
It is 8:05
I see custodians collectively jogging their memories and tugging along a dolly for Just One More Chair and Just One More Desk for "Surprise Enrollment." Shuffling through the front hall, they agree there may be one extra desk on the stage. And one extra chair in the art room. They uniformly turn and head toward the Art room with the thought of circling around to the stage. There is a pause as they hear a crackle. I see One sigh as he reaches for the walkie-talkie on his belt loop. I see a knowing nod that comes with hearing the scratchy voice through the square speaker--"We have Two More. Make that Two More. One for room 314. One for room 502." With unspoken language, the troop of Custodians automatically divides at the fork by the cafeteria to hunt up furniture for the Surprise Enrollments. They all might have seen something-somewhere. I know they will find it.
I see the Custodians make mental notes as they scramble through the building on the hunt: The short water fountain by the cafeteria isn't bubbling as high as it should be. Double check the back door in the fifth grade wing to make sure it’s locked. The paper towel dispenser is low in the 4th grade boys’ bathroom. The hand-sanitizer in the third grade wing will need a refill by lunch. Not the sanitizer dispenser in the back of the third grade wing, but the one in the front of the hall by window with the moisture in the corner and looks as if it needs a closer look--it might need some caulking.
I see a custodian pop his head into a classroom and say a few words to a small conference of Teachers and Aides.
I see the conferencing Teachers and Aides give each other a Can Do look. Immediately, they set out with unwritten duties-- re-arrange rooms, gather supplies and make nameplates so any Surprise Enrollment will only ever know he always belonged.
It is 8:12.
I see Office Assistants in a crowded 25 x 25 office space overstuffed with necessary purposeful furniture and way too many unnecessary random people. I wonder, “How many people does it take to Surprise Register a single child on the first day of school? On average it looks like seven people.” The Office Ladies are a concentrated and collected mystery to me. Always with helpful and patient smiles at the rest of us whom have no idea the miracle of how they keep all 359 + Surprise 3 more ducklings in a row while simultaneously knowing where the exact registration/transfer/bus schedule/emergency card/folders/tape/staples/envelopes/addresses/and extra order forms are-and.... AND....they ALWAYS have a pen handy. How Do they do that? Just how?
It is 8:14
I see The Holder of All Electronic Mysterious Golden Key Codes to All Things Computer. I see her for a moment and like my passwords (which disappear as soon as I turn the corner) she is gone. And, much like my passwords which vanish into some random blankness in my brain (my old brain full of memories that beg for the return of carbon copies and mimeograph machines) she remains a blessing and an enigma. She is allowed to hide from me; there is a well-documented and healthy reason for her to duck behind a plant when she sees me coming.
I see the buses pulling alongside each other and assuming their position along the front curb.
It is 8:19.
I see Teachers, Administrators, Aides, Assistants, Cooks, Counselors, Custodians and the Nurse close their eyes briefly…in a collective silent moment.
I wait and I wonder.
It is 8:20.
I see the bus doors open simultaneously. There is a quiet moment that hangs in suspension. The bell rings and….
I see streams of little faces tumbling out.
I see these babies--no matter the age, they are all babies and must be fed and taught, and loved and taught and fed (the feeding-it is an Italian thing)-- tumbling and stumbling out of the buses.
I see all of them trying to wiggle into the school though one tight set of open doors.
I see a smiling Guidance Counselor, four feet away from the congested doorway, holding open the other set of doors and wave students to her. Her wave says what she always says, "Look this way. You have a choice. You can change your course. You can come through these doors." I see the entire tide of young students wholly switch paths and congest the newly open doors leaving the first set of doors wide open and without a soul under its eave. I see the Guidance Counselors smile grow even bigger because she knows, in time, they will figure it out.
I see the school Nurse at the ready with band-aids because there is always one or two skinned knees on the first day of school. I see her waiting with a soft heart and the Really-Bad-Stomach-Ache-Remedy because there are always three, or four, or seven really bad stomach aches on the first day.
I see all their little faces--new or returning, it doesn't matter: I see missing teeth and untied shoes, shirts on backwards and sneakers on the wrong feet, stubborn cow-licks standing straight up and forgotten zippers staying down, neat well-coiffed braids and radical bed-head hair, hats on sideways and hair ribbons untied.
I see backpacks: Some terribly heavy with Everything-You-Ever-Needed; Some terribly light with Not-Enough-At-Home.
I see a pint-size volunteer with a heart bigger than can fit inside a human body-grab up the babies and hug them. Some of the babies are taller than she is. "It don't make no never-mind, they like me because I am their size," the volunteer quips, "I'm gonna love them all." She grabs the first one rushing by and adjusts his backpack, gives him a big hug and lets him go. She grabs the next one asks her how her summer was, gives her a big hug and lets her go. She grabs the next one....
I see little faces: Painted with nervousness, apprehension, confusion, fear, panic.
I see little faces trying to hide little tears.
I see little faces: Bursting with joy, excitement, smiling at everything, shiny-happy little faces...
I see and I wonder of each one of those little babies, "What will become of them?" "What will be the deciding factor in this young beings’ world that she can build a happy life upon?" "What will be the tipping point for him that makes him stay straight and live a productive and happy life?" Isn't that just it? Don't so many people just want to be happy? Me, I want to be happy and rich-but unless I win the lottery-the latter is a flying pig. Surrendering to the obvious, I will stick with ‘Being Happy.'
I see a building full of generous, caring, compassionate, loving and knowing adults each of whom has just racked their bodies and their brains down to this moment to be ready for the next 180 days.
Because, that's all they get. 180 days. 1,100 hours in a child's life.
All of these people-the Teachers, Custodians, Office Assistants, Cooks, Counselors, Administrators, Volunteers and Aides—have just 1,100 hours out of the near 659,000 hours in a child’s life to make a positive, safe, enriching world for each unique child.
I see so many of these amazing people I work with and I know in this brief 1,100 hours out of 659,000, he or she will be remembered in a Lifetime as the 'Bestest- Most-Favoritest' (insert job here) E.V.E.R!
Can you see it too?
THE BADASS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION
MISSION

Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.

The Death of Michael Brown, Teachers, and Racism: 10 Things Every Badass Teacher Needs To Understand

Hello my fellow badass teachers. My name is Denisha Jones and I have been a member and admin for badass teachers since the first week BATs was created. I am also a teacher educator at Howard University. My background is in early childhood education, diversity, curriculum teacher professional development, curriculum, and instruction. In addition to working for BATs, I am an admin for United Opt Out and I have worked with Save Our Schools since their march in 2011. And also, I am a black female. I tell you things so you know a little bit about me and my background before you judge what I am about to tell you.

In the wake of the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old black male who was killed by a police officer, America has once again been forced to deal with its troubled history of race. Residents of Ferguson MO, where Michael Brown lived, and activists from all over the country have taken to the streets to protest this senseless and tragic death. The media has continued to report this story making it hard for many people to ignore what is happening in America today. And many BATs have felt the need to address this issue in the main group. This has caused numerous posts filled with support, questions, ignorance, and disgust. 

When BATs began to grow, the founders, admins, and moderators, decided to delete conversations that were divisive. These included posts that talked about the pledge of allegiance, sex education, changing the name, racism, and discrimination. We felt that for BATs to grow strong we needed to focus on our mission. Over time we realized that by silencing some of these conversations we did not own up to our mission. See BATs was created to give voice to every teacher who has been blamed for the failures of education. Our goals were to fight against the Common Core State Standards, high stakes standardized testing, Teach for America, for profit charter schools, and value added measures. What we came to realize over the past year, is that although these issues are very important to many teachers there are other aspects of education that are just as, if not more important, to other teachers. These include poverty, racism, and discrimination. Many of our teachers felt that these issues are central to their voice and their fight. And our attempts to silence these conversations silenced their voices. We have since apologized for our actions although it was never our intention to silence the voices of teachers. And we, the founders, admins, and moderators, have been working diligently to allow these conversations to happen in our main group. That leads us to where we are today.

            In the past few days we have had conversations about these issues that have over 1,000 comments. We know that these issues are tough for many and uncomfortable for most of us to have. But we are committed to having these conversations and being an organization that embraces social justice and multicultural education as the core of who we are and what we do. Now you might not agree with our decision to expand our mission and that is OK. Many of our members do not agree with all of our decisions. Some love CCSS, some are TFA, and some work in charter schools. Those who stay understand our position on these issues and what conversations we will or will not allow in our group.  And some leave because they do not want to be affiliated with us. We understand that BATs is not for everyone. But what you need to understand is that we are not going to change course to make some of our members happy. You are free to decide if you want to be in BATs.

So now that we got some of the background stuff out of the way, there are a few other things you need to know regarding the death of Michael Brown, teachers, and racism. After participating in some of the conversations we had in the past few days I have created this list of 10 things we need you to understand. This is my list, and although the founders, admins, and moderators may agree with some or all of these things, they trust me to have this conversation. They know that based on my experiences as a black woman and as a teacher educator who has taught diversity for many years I am qualified to speak on this subject. And they are willing to learn from me what they do not know. I hope those of you reading this (lengthy) article, are also willing to learn from me. If you are new to understanding the world of racism and privilege then I ask that you approach this discussion like you are a student. When you teach your students about a difficult topic that they know little about you hope that they keep an open mind and trust you to help them make sense of the new material. Well imagine I am your teacher and trust me to teach you about something that I know a lot about. As you are just one teacher of many who knows things, I am only one person who is attempting to teach you about what I know. There are many others whom you can learn from so if you decide to embark on this learning process please do not let me be your only teacher. Begin with me but please allow others who have knowledge in this area to also teach you.  So let’s begin with a few things I need you to understand.

  1.         When unarmed youth of color are killed by police it is an educational issue.


This has typically been the first issue raised in the conversations about the death of Michael Brown in the BATs group. Many of our members do not see what this tragic death has to do with education. I guess depending on where you live and where you teach, you might not have to deal with the increasing number of unarmed black youth who are killed by police, neighborhood watch, and anyone who has a gun and feels they have a right to kill someone else. But for many teachers this is something they do have to deal with. They have to discuss this with their students because they can be the next Michael Brown. They can be the next Trayvon Martin. They can be the next Jordan Davis. Their students live in fear that one day they will die at the hands of another human being simply because their skin makes others suspicious of them. These teachers have to work with parents who worry that when they send their son out to the store he will come back in a body bag. And some of these teachers have children of their own that they also fear will be killed because someone decided to be their judge, jury, and executioner. And finally there are those teachers who, although they do no fear this happening to their own child, or their students, are nonetheless angry and fearful about the way black and brown youth are routinely treated in this country.  So if your first thought is, this conversation does not belong here, please think again. BATs welcome these conversations because we know that they are important to many of our members.


          2.    Teachers are essential in the fight against racism.

When it comes to the responsibilities teachers have for fighting racism I think teachers fall into three categories: 1) they accept the responsibility; 2) they are unsure if this is their responsibility and 3) they refuse to accept that this is their responsibility. When we decided to be teachers I doubt many of us thought we would become activists for racial equality. I sure didn’t and I’m black! In fact when I decided to become a teacher I was probably just like some of you. See I used to believe in a colorblind approach for dealing with racism (more on this later). I thought that if I ignored the fact that I am black others would also ignore it. But I what I learned growing up in White America is that no one can ignore the fact that I am black. And I don’t want them to. But it took me a long time to get to where I am today. So I understand why you might not see this daunting responsibility as yours but it truly is.
You see nearly every child in America will have a teacher. Children go through school for 17-18 years and teachers are a major part of that schooling experience. Although you may only have that student for one year, that year is a long time and can have a major impact on the life of your student. We all remember one teacher who made an impact on our lives in one single year, so the importance of teachers cannot be understated. And since teachers are central to the lives of many children, they are in a unique position to help children make sense of the world we live in. That includes the history of racism in our society. Now you might think that this is the parents’ responsibility, but we cannot control what parents do or don’t teach their children. We hope that they teach their children about many of these tough issues but we cannot be sure that they will, so we have a responsibility to also teach these issues.
History has shown us that teachers can have a profound impact on a student’s ability to learn about and understand racism in America. It was a teacher who told Malcolm X that he would not become a lawyer because he was a n*****. And it was teachers who inspired many successful people to become who they are today. My point is that teachers matter. And when it comes to young people learning and understanding America’s history with race, we need teachers to help them through this. So please know that you as a teacher are essential in this fight against racism. I cannot force you to take on this responsibility but I hope for the sake of all of your students that you do (especially if they are all white).

           3.  There is a difference between racism and prejudice that you need to understand.

Now this is going to be hard for many of you to accept but there is a fundamental difference between racism and prejudice. Many of the conversations happening in the main group are facing challenges because not everyone shares the same definition of racism and prejudice so people do not understand each other.  In order for us to move forward we need to clear up these differences.  In relation to racism, prejudice can be defined as the individual acts of meanness based on race. Using derogatory terms about a person’s race, attributing negative behaviors to a person because of their race, and treating someone poorly because of their race, are all examples of prejudice. Anyone can be prejudiced towards another person based on race. Black people can harbor racial prejudice towards white people. Latino people can harbor racial prejudice towards Black people. White people can exhibit racial prejudice toward people of color. 
Now racism is more than just racial prejudice. To understand the difference you can define racism as prejudice + power. See racism is a system that confers advantages on one group while systematically disadvantaging another group (for every advantage there is disadvantage). In America, racism is a system of white supremacy that advantages white people over people of color. Since the founding of America, racism has been used to advantage white people over people of color. Beginning with slavery, through Jim Crow, and even in the age of the first black president, America has a structured and institutional system that advantages white people over people of color (if you are having a hard time accepting this look up redlining and Sundown towns and read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness).
The reason why this is important will be discussed more thoroughly later but for now this is the difference between racism and prejudice that you need to understand.

         4.   Colorblind is not the solution to dealing with racism. It’s the new problem.

I am not sure when it began but at some point in our history colorblindness was created as the solution for dealing with racism. Some have believed that the best way to deal with racism was to be colorblind. If we were blind to race then we would not judge people based on the color of their skin. If we were blind to race then racism would not exist. As I mentioned before I used to subscribe to this belief and remember I am black (very black). I grew up in predominantly white communities and I thought the best way to fit in was to ignore the fact that I was black. But what I learned is that being black is not something I can ignore, it’s not something others can ignore, and it’s not something we should try to ignore.
Being born or raised in America means that we are acculturated to be aware of race. Young children notice racial differences and make assumptions based on those observations. They are aware that their community might not include any people of color. They are aware that only people who look like them attend their school. They are not colorblind. And neither are most adults in society. We notice the color of someone’s skin the same way we notice their gender. And noticing color, just like noticing gender is not a bad thing. Making judgments (prejudice) about someone based on their skin color is a bad thing but simply being aware that I am black is not something we should be blind to. Because it means something to be black in America. It means that I am a member of a group that has historically been disadvantaged simply because I am black. It means that I inherit a legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and civil rights simply because I am black. So to be colorblind to my blackness is not the solution, it is the problem.
Could you imagine being gender blind? Women have also been historically and systematically been discriminated against in this country through the system of patriarchy that advantages men over women. But rarely do I ever hear anyone say I am “genderblind” as a way of dealing with sexism. So why should we accept being colorblind to deal with racism? The answer is we should not. Instead we should be color aware and appreciative of the rich diversity we all share, including people of color.

      5.    People of color know more about race and racism than white people. Allow them to teach you what they know.

One of the many criticisms I hear from people when we are discussing racism is why should they accept my definition of racism and prejudice. I mean we all grew up in America and we think we know something about racism so what makes my knowledge any better than theirs. Well to answer that critique I often ask if you are a Christian would you allow a Muslim to teach you about Christianity? Or if you are a man would you allow a woman to teach you about masculinity? My point is that we often do not let outsiders teach us about things we know about because we belong to that group. Well if that’s the case then I as a black person, know more about racism than you because I have experienced it in ways that you cannot and will not ever experience it. Does this mean that all black people are experts on racism? No it does not. Many black people experience racism but are unable to define it the way I have or even make sense of it. But remember I am not just a black person I am an educator. And I have studied and taught about diversity which includes racism for many years. I have read countless books, watched countless documentaries, and listened to many experts over the years that have even more knowledge then I and this coupled with my unique experience as a black person means that I know something about this topic and can teach you something.  But even if I was not a diversity educator, as a black person my experiences with racism will be different than white people. That experience should matter when talking about these issues. If you are white than you need to acknowledge that people of color know more about racism than you do. And they can teach you what they have learned from their experiences if you let them.

      6. The goal of social justice and multicultural education is not to make white people feel guilty.

What I have learned in my studies of diversity education is that discussing racism, discrimination and white privilege often makes white people feel guilty. I get it. Through no fault of your own you were born in to a system where you have historically been advantaged because of the color of your skin. You did not ask for these advantages and some of you probably don’t feel advantaged (more on this later) but yet as a white person you inherit the legacy of white supremacy and white privilege. When I taught my kindergarten class about slavery (yes it was black history month so it was allowed) I worried about the two white boys in my class. After our discussion I heard them saying “I owned slaves back then.” I was quick to remind them that they did not own a slave back in the day. Many white people owned slaves during that time period but it was a long time ago and today no one owns slaves (I spared them a discussion on the current human trafficking crisis). And that is what I tell to all white people who tell me that they don’t want to feel guilty for being white. I am not asking you to feel guilty.
Unless you owned a slave you have nothing to feel guilty about. Just like I was born into our racist society and inherited all of the many aspects of being black in America, you too were born into this society and inherited all of the many aspects of being white. Guilt is not useful and it is not the goal of social justice and multicultural education.  Responsibility is the ultimate goal of diversity education. Each of us has a responsibility to dismantle racism. Now I believe, as do some others, that ultimately this responsibility rests in the hands of white people. You see there is only so much people of color can do to about racism. The same way that only men can end rape, only white people can end racism. So instead of feeling guilty about racism, be willing to take responsibility in our collective fight to end racism.



  7.    If you feel the urge to get defensive when people are talking about racism, white supremacy, white privilege, and discrimination, try being silent instead.

This has been of the most contentious issues for me to deal with in the conversations we have had about the death of Michael Brown and racism. Without fail, one person, followed by others, will become defensive and feel as though they are personally being attacked in the conversation.  Someone will say something that begins with white people…and in a matter of moments someone will comment that they are white and they take offense to being referred to in that way (more on generalizations later). When this happens it is the equivalent of throwing a grenade into the conversation. Now you are you are on the defensive and the rest of us cannot have this conversation because we have to deal with your anger. When this happens I am quick to inform the other person that they are hijacking this conversation. I also remind them that      NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT YOU. I purposefully put this in all capital letters, not because I am screaming, but because it is super important that you recognize that not everything is about you. Talking about racism is difficult and uncomfortable.
The nature of racism means people of color have been disadvantaged and discriminated and this means there will be feelings of anger, fear, and hurt. But the one thing that is sure to make it worse, is when a white person enters the conversation and is defensive.  Imagine you are having a conversation with fellow teachers about how CCSS and HST are making it difficult to do your job. You are sharing your experiences about how these new reforms are hurting your ability to teach your students. You also discuss how the actions of your administrator are not helping. Now imagine an administrator joins your conversation, not your administrator, and the first thing they do is get defensive and accuse you of attacking all administrators. How would you respond? Would you feel safe continuing the conversation? Would you be angry that they thought everything you said was about them? Would you be hurt that they hijacked your conversation and made it all about them? This is what happens when white people enter into a conversation about race and racism and are immediately defensive. The conversation becomes silenced or hijacked as people are forced to deal with your issue instead of theirs.
This is one of the main reasons why we as a society cannot have honest conversations about race and racism. Because white people are often offended by these conversations and they are quick to change the conversation from something that offends them to something that is all about them. When you feel the urge to do this please don’t. Stop and think about your anger and where it comes from. And then think about how you would feel if you were having a conversation that was important to you and someone else entered the conversation to inform you that they were offended when in reality you were not talking about them specifically. And then stay silent. Silence can be your friend when learning about racism. Silence affords you the opportunity to listen while others discuss the topic at hand. Silence keeps you from hijacking the conversation and silencing the voices of others. Silence can be golden, so if you are angry and defensive please try and be silent while you deal with that anger. And if you cannot be silent, then please stay out of the conversation. The BATs founders, admins, and moderators will not allow anyone to hijack a conversation because they are offended. If the moderators have decided to allow the conversation to happen then your anger is not relevant. And remember that entering in to a conversation is a choice you make. No once forces you to comment. If you do not like the topic then you should move on to another one that suits you. But if you try and derail the conversation, you will be asked to leave and possibly be removed if you continue to engage in this type of behavior after repeated warnings.

        8.   White generalizations are no different than other generalizations that we all make.

In Chapter 6 of Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Dangers to America’s Public Schools, Diane Ravitch says,

“Despite significant progress in expanding educational access, educational attainment, and economic opportunities for black citizens in the past half century, blacks continue to be disproportionately poor, to attend racially segregated schools, to experience high rates of incarceration and to live in racially isolated communities where children are likely to be exposed to violence gangs and drug use.”

Now compare that statement to this one.

 When confronted with the realities of racism white people tend to get offended.

 Now if you are a white person, were you offended that Diane Ravitch did not say some blacks continue to be disproportionately poor, I mean seriously all black people are not poor. How dare she lump us all into the same category! If not did you feel that way when I said white people tend to get offended? Was your first reaction to tell me that is not a fair statement because it lumps all white people together? I have had this same conversation with many members in one of the posts about the death of Michael Brown. Someone will say something in general about white people and without a doubt some white person will take offense to the generalization.
I am not saying generalizations are a good thing but the fact is that we make them all day every day. We speak about black people, poor people, teenagers, and special needs children in general terms. Depending on what we say, most people understand that although we are referring to an entire group, some is implied in those generalizations statements. We know that each special needs child is different so whatever we say about them will not apply to all but to most. And sometimes we qualify those statements with words like some, or many, or most, and other times we do not. And the reason we do not have to quantify those statements is because as long as we do not say all black people, or all white people, or all poor people or every teenager then we are not directing our statement to everyone in the group. We can make a generalization that infers many or most people share the characteristic we are discussing but understand that very rarely do we mean all or every. This is the same logic you should apply when you hear white people…and you immediately get offended. Unless the person says all white people or every white person then they do not mean each and every white person. They mean some, so if whatever they are saying does not apply to you as a white person then know that you are not the “some” they mean. But other white people are so even though it does not apply to you it applies to others like you.

      9.    Reverse racism doesn’t exist.

Now this is something many white people refuse to accept. I have often wondered why white people need to believe in reverse racism or need black people to be racists. I wonder if believing in the myth of reverse racism somehow absolves white people from the responsibility to fight racism. I do not know why white people need to believe this, but I have learned that they do. Well if you remember what I said about racism being a system that advantages white people over people of color, then by default there is no such thing as reverse racism and people of color cannot be racists. Remember racism = prejudice + power. In a system of racism the institutions and the people who control them, have the power to deny people of color life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. People of color have been historically and currently denied the right to housing, health care, education, and basic right to be free of suspicion. Until people of color can do the same to white people, reverse racism does not exist.
Now remember what I said about racial prejudice, anyone can exhibit racial prejudice. Often when white people tell me that they are the victim of racism they describe an experience when they were the target of racial prejudice by a person of color. This is not racism. Although in that experience you were hurt and angered you were not the victim of racism. That one experience did not put you at a systematic and structural disadvantage. I am not trying to downplay your experience because it was wrong and no one should be the victim of racial prejudice. But I need you to know the difference between racism and prejudice so you can understand what we mean when we say people of color cannot be racist. I know this is difficult for people to accept. And all black people do not necessarily agree, but anti-racists and diversity educators have come to accept this truth. 
This does not mean that white people cannot be the victims of racial prejudice. I have a white male friend who was the victim of a hate crime. He was on the subway and the last thing he heard before he was hit in the head was “get the white guy”. The next thing he knew he was being beat up by several black men. Thankfully he survived this horrible experience and he is definitely the victim of a hate crime, because anyone can be the victim of a hate crime. But had the police refused to file a report on his attack, and if the hospital refused to treat his injuries or sent him to a white hospital to be treated, then he would have experienced a form of racism. Racism is greater than that one horrible experience. It is a system that advantages one group over another. It is the combination of racial prejudice and the power to systematically disadvantage people of color.


10.  White privilege does not mean that you have not worked hard in life or that you have never suffered.  Each of us has some type of privilege.

This is something I try and make clear to every white person when discussing white privilege. White privilege means that because you were born white you receive the advantages of being white in America. Your white skin is a privilege because we live in a society where racism advantages you over people of color. This concept is essential to seeing how racism works. You do not have to do anything to receive the benefits and you do not even have to recognize these benefits for them to exist.  Racism is like water to a fish. It is everywhere and often invisible to the people who benefit from it. Just like the fish can’t see the water, white people do not always see how they benefit from racism. The point in defining white privilege is to help people see how racism operates as a system of advantage.
We typically see racism as the individual acts of meanness done to people of color but rarely do we see the advantages that racism confers onto white people. For every disadvantage there is an advantage. If black people are kept from living in a certain neighborhood then white people are allowed to live there. If white veterans are given access to the GI bill to obtain a home and an education then they are advantaged while black veterans who are denied access to the GI bill are disadvantaged. To truly understand how the system works you need to see it from both ends. If we only focus on the ways people of color are disadvantaged then we cannot see how racism is a system of both advantages and disadvantages.  Now if you are still troubled by the idea of white privilege because you don’t feel privileged please know we all have privileges. Black people have privileges. Not the privilege of being black, but a black man still has male privilege.
I as a heterosexual, English speaking, highly educated, cis-gendered, American have many privileges. I have the privilege of being attracted to the opposite sex and being able to freely marry them and engage in public displays of affection with them without the fear that we will be scorned or attacked. I have the privilege of being educated and receiving the advantages that come from informing people I have a doctorate degree. I have the privilege of being an American citizen and treated as one wherever I go in the world. I have the privilege of being able bodied and not having to rely on others to make sure I have access to their space. We all have privileges. Does having American privilege mean I didn’t work hard for my doctorate degree? Does accepting my heterosexual privilege mean that I have not been the victim of sexual assault? No it does not. Having privilege does not mean you did not work hard to get where you are at today. Being privileged does not mean that you have not suffered in your life. It means that in some ways you have received privileges based on some things that are out of your control (race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation). That is all it means. But it is important to understand because systems of oppression operate by giving privileges to some while denying others those same privileges.
 It also does not mean that you cannot be privileged in one area and disadvantaged in others. You can be a rich white male but also be gay. You can be a black woman but also come from a wealthy family. And you can be a poor white person and still experience white privilege.  So when someone tells you to  “check your privilege” what they are saying is to see how your privilege might blind you to the realities of others. I can be told to check my American privilege when I assume that the American point of view is the one only correct point of view. Or I can be told to check my education privilege when I assume that others who do not think like me or not as smart as I am. And when a white person is told to check their privilege they are being asked to remember that their reality is not the reality shared by many people of color.

If you have made it this far then I want to say thank you. If this is the first time you have heard anything I have said I know it is not easy to accept it. I know because the first time I heard I did not accept it. But over time I continued to learn and I realized that what I thought I knew was not close to the truth. And I allowed others to teach me along the way. And I continue to try and learn more and more every day because I do not know everything on this topic or any topic (not even on my dissertation topic). What I do know is that for many people racism is not something they can hide from or ignore or be blind to. And for those who have the luxury to hide, ignore, or be blind to racism I ask that you reconsider those options. Especially if you are a teacher and in particular, if you are a badass teacher.
To me, being a badass teacher means although you might have the luxury to pretend to be colorblind you have chosen not to. You have chosen to embrace your responsibility to help your students understand and fight racism. You have decided to be an ally to people of color and use your white privilege to dismantle racism. Not everyone will agree that this is what it means to be badass. And you can be in BATs and not believe anything I said and not believe that you have a responsibility to deal with any of it. But BATs is taking on that responsibility with or without you. We hope you choose to join us because with the support of over 51,000 members we can take on this challenge and do whatever it takes to make sure that none of our students and children becomes the next Michael Brown.