How Do We Respond to the Hatred? How Do We Start to Heal?

How do we respond to the increasing level of hatred that so many people have for others? How do we make sense out of Dylann Roof and the others who have opened fire on innocent Americans whether driven by racial hatred, ostracism from one’s peers, religious fanaticism, or the inexplicable lure of terrorist propaganda? How do we divest ourselves of the hatred some Americans have for others because of the color of their skin?

How do we keep law enforcement officers from profiling young blacks as criminals? How do we stop the greedy and unprincipled from wreaking havoc on the weak and the helpless for either material or political gain?

Everywhere we turn we see the growing antagonism that some human beings have for others and it places all of us at risk. Is there anyone, anywhere who can truly feel safe in this troubled world we share?

For generations, the majority of Americans have felt privileged to live under the protection of a constitutional democracy that has provided freedom of opportunity. Most of us spent our entire lives basking in those privileges, blind to the injustices suffered by minorities, some of whom were transported to this country in the shackles of slavery while others immigrated voluntarily in search of opportunities that Americans citizens—the progeny of earlier waves of immigrants—seemed determined not to share.

For the last century non-Hispanic whites have comprised a significant majority of the American Population. In 2014, US Census reports indicate that non-Hispanic whites now represent approximately 62 percent of the American population. By 2060 that percentage is projected to be only 43.6 percent.

The population of Americans over the age of 65 is also spiraling upward and by 2060 the number of people age 65 or older is expected to double from roughly 45 million today to 90 million.

The cost of caring for these people, our parents and grandparents will soar and place enormous pressure on the American economy. The ramifications of these demographics with respect to political control of our nation are staggering as it will no longer be possible for one segment of our population to dictate to another.

Our future as a democratic society will be dependent upon our ability to find ways to work together. If we can pull together within the framework of an “abundance mentality,” for our mutual benefit, there is hope for a bright and golden future. If we continue to pursue “a zero-sum-game mentality in which one person’s gain is perceived as another’s loss then we are doomed to a tragic end to the great American democracy.

Inclusion will become a categorical necessity but that will require that we find a way to set aside our hatred, bitterness, and resentment for one another. Unfortunately, we cannot legislate an end to the hatred in the hearts of human beings.

So, how do we transition from a world in which people who are different from us are perceived as a threat to our safety and prosperity to one in which we view each other as brothers and sisters of creation. How do we gravitate from a society of haves and have-nots to one in which we are guided by the Ziglar principle that “I can get everything I want and need in life if I help other people get what they want and need.”

If we are unable to work together as partners we will find ourselves pitted, one against the others, until there is only tragedy.

Racial discrimination and bigotry are nothing more than a high level form of bullying and the people who lash out in hatred are nothing more than bullies. What motivates a bully? Almost always, bullying is the response of insecure human beings who feel that people whom they judge to be unworthy are a threat to the bully’s social or economic advantage.

We cannot afford to waste one moment on things that we are powerless to change and complaining about our misfortune is one of the least productive of all human ventures.

We must hold abusers accountable, relentlessly, but this will never be sufficient. We must mitigate the disadvantages with which some of us are burdened thereby reducing the vulnerability of all victims of discrimination, bigotry, and persecution.

The best way to reduce the vulnerability of victims is to strengthen their self-esteem and the best way to strengthen someone’s self-esteem is to help them develop the tools they need to take control of their own destiny. Power to control one’s destiny is a function of an effective public education.

Education is key and our public schools are critical to our purpose. We must strengthen our public schools and public school teachers, not weaken them, and we must solidify the relationship between our public schools and the communities they exist to serve. To do otherwise is to widen the gaps that separate us.

A Tipping Point with Ominous Implications is Fast Approaching!

Note to the reader: This article is an updated version of one that was posted shortly after my blog “Education, Hope, and the American Dream” was created and at a time when the blog’s readership was minimal.
Because I believe it is even more timely now than it was then, it is being re-posted with modifications.

As you read these words, it is vital that you realize that the United States of America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, is fast approaching a tipping point that will irrevocably alter the reality in which we live.

As a result of decisions we have made as a nation, since the end of World War II, a society of second class citizens has emerged. These Americans are not full participants in the American dream. Many of these men and women have effectively become disenfranchised and why should we be surprised by this.

These are Americans who have not been well-served by our systems of public education; have little or no access to quality healthcare for their families, Obamacare notwithstanding; and, if they are employed at all, they have low paying jobs with no eligibility for healthcare benefits and no opportunities for advancement. These are Americans who have given up on the American Dream for themselves and their families. They have succumbed to a self-perpetuating cycle of powerlessness and hopelessness.

Although the demographics of this group spans the full spectrum of the American population, African-American, Hispanic-American and other minorities are over-represented. For blacks and other minorities, the sense of disenfranchisement is compounded by their lack of faith that the American justice system will treat them justly.

Mainstream Americans resent the dependency of this segment of our population every bit as much as these men, women, and children resent their lack of access to the American Dream. For a huge portion of this population the American Dream is nothing more than a failed promise.

The bitterness and resentment on both sides of the invisible barriers that separate us as a people are enhanced by the racism and discrimination that permeate our society. How ironic is it that the election of our nation’s first African-American president has proven that racism in America is alive and well.

That there is an equally large and fast-growing population of retirees who are checking out of the game at an age from which they are likely to live another quarter of a century, adds greatly to this burden. It does not matter that these retiring men and women have worked hard for their entire lives to earn their Social Security, Medicare and pensions. These facts do not change the economic dynamics that make this population a burden to the Americans in the middle who must work harder to pay the bills.

Fortunately, many of these men and women have invested well and their money is working for us even if they are not. We are only beginning to understand, however, how this aging population will begin to overwhelm an already inadequate healthcare system over the next two decades.

Add the weight of the disenfranchised and the burden is fast approaching a tipping point after which our national misfortune will accelerate and we will all begin to feel both hopeless and powerless.

The Republican Party, driven by the strong conservative dogma of the tea party movement, is choosing to ignore the needs of Mitt Romney’s imfamous “47 percent” and focus only on the needs of the middle class and, even more so, the corporate elite. These political leaders believe they can turn back the clock to a time when the white man ruled the roost and when values seemed clearer.

The Democratic Party continues to pursue its traditional liberal agenda that has become equally ineffectual.

In the meantime, China, Europe, Japan, India, and other developing nations are challenging our supremacy in the international marketplace; Al Qaeda and ISIS are seeking to spread terror to weaken “the evil empire;” and, Mother Nature is meting out the consequences of global warning.

We cannot continue to trudge down the dry and dusty paths of 20th Century political dogma, conventional wisdom, or business as usual. Somehow we must pull the disenfranchised back into the game as full and equal citizens, as believers in the American dream, and as partners in rising to the challenges of this new century. We need to do this not out of altruism, however compelling the argument, rather because we desperately need the committed participation of every single able-bodied American.

We must demand that our elected representatives cease their paralyzing bickering and begin working together in what is a conflict of historical proportions in which the very survival of our nation and way of life are at an unprecedented level risk.

We desperately need new leadership with fresh ideas to respond to these extraordinary challenges of this young Twenty-First Century and we do not have so much as a single nanosecond to spare.

I invite you to follow this blog, “Education, Hope, and the American Dream,” in which I offer innovative solutions to the problems we face as a society.

I also invite you to read my four books.

1. The Difference Is You: Power Through Positive Leadership, in which I offer the reader powerful principles that enable individual men and women to change the world around them;

2. Radical Surgery: Reconstructing the American Health Care System, that offers a way to provide universal healthcare and prescription drugs to the American people without socialized medicine;

3. Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America, in which I offer a blueprint for reinventing the educational process to one that focuses on teachers and students working toward success, absent the risk of failure; and

4. Light and Transient Causes, a novel that tells a story of what could happen if we lose faith in the principles of democracy and with one another.

“Just Let Me Teach” Is What Teachers Hope and Pray They Will Be Allowed to Do!

“Just Let Me Teach” is not only the title of a great radio program, hosted by Justin Oakley on IndianaTalks radio, it is the perfect tagline for a movement to save public education in America.

Implicit in the definition of the word “teach” is that someone “learns.” If learning does not occur then we have not really taught.

The fundamental purpose at the outset of public education in America was two-fold. On the one hand, the purpose was to help kids learn the basic knowledge and skills that they would need to fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship. On the other, our objective was to give kids choices in life by helping them develop their unique talents and abilities to the optimum level while also arming them with the strong self-esteem they will need to deal with life’s challenges and control most of the outcomes in their lives.

The mechanism for fulfilling our purpose in education was to place children under the tutelage of trained teachers and, from the outset, the most effective teachers were the ones who were able to form close, personal, nurturing relationships with their students. The idea was to create an environment in which we place teachers in a position to teach and children in a position to learn.

As we have said in a previous article, the relationship between teacher and student is where real and sustainable learning takes place. Relationship trumps everything.

After over a half-century or more of misguided reforms and a profusion of secondary agendas we find ourselves with a structure that prevents teachers from doing what society and their students so desperately need them to do and what teachers, themselves, so fervently want to do.

• When did it become our purpose to prepare kids for standardized competency exams?

• When did it become our purpose to see how students measure up against the performance of their classmates rather than focus on their own progress?

• When did we decide it was a good idea to push kids ahead to new material when they still struggle to comprehend?

• Whatever possessed us to set some kids up for failure and humiliation while we celebrate the accomplishments of their high-performing classmates?

How do these activities serve our fundamental purpose to let teachers teach and students learn?

Why is it so difficult for teachers and administrators to shout “whoa!” and acknowledge that what we are doing does not work for a growing population of American kids and we are not just talking about poor and minority children, although they are clearly over-represented in this population? The evidence is there for all to see!

The world has always been full of distractions but the powerful allure of “social media” and the ready availability of a full menu of multi-sourced media have had a supercharging effect on peer pressure. The result is that it is exponentially more difficult for parents and teachers to capture and sustain the attention of our nation’s children.

If, today, we were given the opportunity to reconstruct the educational process to achieve our fundamental purpose is there anyone out there who believes we would we choose to do any of the nonsensical activities that dominate the time and energy of modern-day teachers, a few of which we have identified above?

Instead, teachers would ask for more time to teach; more time for kids to keep trying until things begin to make sense and they begin to gain confidence that they can do it; more support from parents willing to share responsibility for the education of their children; and, less time devoted to unproductive busy work and recordkeeping, all of which the business community has learned to automate.

We know teachers everywhere look in the mirror, every morning, and offer up a wish or a prayer in which they say each day, “just let me teach.” If we work together, beginning today, we will create a reality in which teachers leave for school each morning with full confidence that teaching is exactly what they will be both allowed and expected to do.

What If We Were Teaching One Student at a Time?

When we compare teaching in a classroom by a certified teacher to teaching in a more intimate environment like tutoring, things are different.

Academic tutors, often, work with one student at time and frequently with a focus on just one subject area.

Think about the tutoring process. The tutor presents the subject matter to the student; strives to explain the material in a way that the student comprehends; gives them opportunities to practice; provides feedback and clarification followed by more practice; gives them a practice test to see how they are doing; and, finally, sends them off to take a test, often in their regular classroom at school.

These are the same things all teachers do every day in public school classrooms throughout the nation. What is different? The biggest difference is what happens when kids fail.

In the classroom, the teacher’s choices are generally limited and, typically, involves recording the student’s score in a gradebook and then moving the student on to the next lesson, along with his or her classmates.

In a tutoring relationship, when a student has failed to achieve a targeted degree of mastery over the lesson material the tutor’s response is different because their defined expectations are different. Their job is not yet complete. The expectation is that the tutor will help the student achieve mastery and nothing short of that outcome is acceptable.

Subsequent to poor performance, the tutor goes back to work with the student, possibly utilizing another method of presentation with plenty of opportunities for the student to practice, get feedback, take additional practice tests, etc. until he or she is ready to move on. Always, the tutor is there to help their charge in any way they can.

Understand that the overwhelming majority of classroom teachers would love to spend more time with every student who struggles with the material and they do so, whenever circumstances permit. The problem, of course, is that circumstances rarely permit.

The classroom teacher is always a certified teacher while the tutor may or may not be. Certified teachers are every bit as capable as the tutor, often more so. The traditional educational process is simply not structured in a way that a teacher, routinely, is able or expected to slow down for just one student. Rather, teacher accountability is focused on the number of their students who are able to pass state, standardized competency exams.

Our conclusion is that the only reason classroom teachers do not devote extra time for every student who needs it is because the American educational process is not structured in a way that it would support both teacher and student in such activity, and also because it is not a core expectation of teachers. Teachers are not given sufficient flexibility. That some kids fail is nothing more than a consequence of current educational policy.

Try to imagine what a different place school would be if every student was given the time and support necessary to achieve a score of 85 percent or better in all of their classes.

Most teachers reading this post will respond that it is naïve to think that such a reality is even possible. Given current expectations and the way the educational process is structured, they are correct.

Change the rules of the game, however, and the way in which the game is scored and what seemed impossible now becomes relatively easy.

From a systems-engineering perspective, bringing about such change is relatively easy. The challenge is opening the hearts and minds of policymakers, principals, and teachers so that they begin to believe such realities are possible.