Is The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream Complete?

In advance of an appearance by his son, Martin Luther King III, an editorial about the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., appeared in Sunday, June 2nd’s, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. The headline: “A dream left incomplete.” In addition to asking the son to provide personal insights about his father, the column pondered, “But what did King really accomplish? What would MLK Jr say is still left undone?”

 Although MLK, Jr. is the acknowledged leader of the civil rights movement he was only one of the many heroes who labored to bring an end to discrimination in America. Had it not been for their courage and sacrifices,  the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and other civil rights legislation might have been long in coming.

MLK III, is quoted as saying, “No one possibly could have projected that we would be going backward instead of forward,” referencing “the turmoil over immigration and political discourse that encourages hostility and racism and distorts the truth.”

The challenge for America, today, is to address the question, “why has so little progress been made to make black Americans and other minorities full and equal partners in American society, whether economically or politically?” The question demands  a frank an unapologetic examination.

The answer, this author believes, is that the protests and sacrifices of the civil rights movement and the subsequent civil rights legislation over the past 55 years have given black and other minority Americans the right to equal opportunity but not the means to take full advantage of those opportunities.

How does one acquire the means to take advantage of opportunities? The answer is education.

It is time to stop playing the blame game and acknowledge, once and for all, that the education process that has been in place in our schools has failed to serve the interests of disadvantaged children for as long as any of us can remember.  Over the generations, we have become inured to the failure of black and other minority children and have been willing to take the easy path by blaming poverty, segregation, public schools, and teachers. When are we going to acknowledge the obvious, that what we are asking our teachers and schools to do does not work for all?

We must also acknowledge that there are some Americans who are content to believe that the documented performance of the disadvantaged is the best that we can expect from these whole populations of children. This is an outrageous assertion that must be put behind us, permanently.

Similarly, we must stop blaming teachers and our public schools. Teachers cannot make an obsolete education process work for every child any more than you or I can quickly and efficiently mow an acre of overgrown grass with an unmotorized push mower from the early 1950s. That so many children have received a good education, notwithstanding the flawed education process within which our teachers have had to work, is an extraordinary accomplishment.

That our education leaders, policy makers, and elected officials have allowed so many children to languish  over multiple generations cannot be undone. Neither can we turn back the clock and absolve millions of teachers of the blame we have been so willing to heap on their shoulders and reputations. What we can and must do is bring this tragedy to a halt, now!

Continuing to rely on a brittle and antiquated education process that does not work for millions of our nation’s children—our most precious assets—is as irresponsible as it would have been to allow hundreds of Boeing 737s to continue flying after we discovered the existence of a fatal flaw in their systems. Unlike those Boeing737s, however, we can not change out a software application to correct the problems of education in America.

Can you think of any other venue where we have been so willing to endure products and services of such unacceptable quality? If an automaker produced vehicles that broke down as often as students fail in our schools would we keep buying their cars? If a restaurant in our neighborhood consistently produced bad breakfasts, lunches, and, dinners would we keep going back?

To fix the fatal flaws of America’s schools and give teachers an  education process that will provide every single one of our nation’s children with the means to take advantage of the opportunities to which they have an equal right, we must be willing to reinvent the education process from scratch. It must be reconstructed to serve its essential purpose, not in a few special schools but in every school, serving every community in America.

We must begin by changing the question we ask ourselves. Rather than ask “Why do so many children fail?” the question we must begin to ask is “Why do some children excel despite the disadvantages they face?”

What are the lessons to be learned from the exceptions to the norm? Could it be that, given the right circumstances, even disadvantaged kids can achieve at a high academic level? The challenge is to figure out how to replicate those “right circumstances” in every classroom, for every student.

The dream of which Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr, spoke with such eloquence is not complete and will not be complete until every child receives the quality education to which they are entitled.  Giving them that education requires that we abandon our obsolete education process and go back to the drawing board to create a process that works for all.

Creating such a process is what I have labored to do since I had the opportunity to see, first-hand, the challenges with which our teachers and students must deal. I witnessed those challenges while walking in the shoes of public school teachers as a substitute teacher. The outcome of my efforts is an education model designed to focus on its essential purpose, which is to insure that every student receives the unique time and attention they need to learn as much as they are able at their own best speed. This is the what teachers must be tasked to do and my model is crafted to support teachers and students in fulfillment of that essential purpose. Please check out my model at https://melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/

It is on the public education that the future of our nation’s children depends, and it is on our children that the future of America depends.

Black Panther, the Movie: a Call to Action!

 

To this white viewer, the movie, Black Panther, has a compelling message for all Americans, but particularly for successful men and women of color. It is a call to action with an unequivocal message that It is not acceptable to isolate oneself from the problems of society when one’s successes, discoveries, and genius can make a meaningful difference.

In the fifties and sixties, civil rights leaders had a clear and all-consuming purpose. They were driven to ensure that people of color be granted equal protection under the law. They achieved their purpose with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other subsequent legislation.  Now, however, 50 years later, our society remains separate and unequal with respect to black and white Americans and other minorities and that separation is being perpetuated by the performance gap between black students and their white classmates in our nation’s schools. The dream so eloquently envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and for which he and the other heroes of the civil rights movement sacrificed so much, has not been realized.

 Black Panther, the movie, is a call to action to address the civil rights issue of the 21st Century, public education. Take a moment to think about public education in America.

There are many men and women of color who have enjoyed success and accomplishment in every conceivable venue including being elected to the American presidency. Look at what so many men and women of color have achieved in the last half century. Look at your own accomplishments. Your successes did not come easily. For each of those successes you worked hard to overcome the formidable obstacles of bigotry and discrimination. How were you able to overcome discrimination?

The key was a quality education that provided you with a portfolio of the knowledge, skills, and understanding you needed to seize opportunities. You did it, also, because you were blessed to have people in your lives who helped you develop a strong self-esteem, self-discipline, and the determination needed to overcome discrimination.

Now, consider the millions of men and women of color who languish in our nation’s poor urban and rural communities, entrapped in a maelstrom of poverty and failure. These Americans have not been successful in acquiring a quality education and neither have they been able to acquire the strong self-esteem and self-discipline necessary to render themselves impervious to discrimination.  As a result, they have spent their entire lives living under a canopy of hopelessness and powerlessness, vulnerable to those who look upon them with suspicion and derision because of the color of their skin.

The sons and daughters of our nation’s poor communities, a disproportionate percentage of whom are children of color, now populate the same public schools in which their parents struggled. In poor urban and rural community school districts around the nation, the data is indisputable. An unacceptable number of these children are failing. It begins in the early grades when these boys and girls arrive for their first day of school with what I call an “academic preparedness deficiency.”

In many school districts, by the time these kids reach middle school, the percentage able to pass both the math and English language arts components of their state’s competency exams may be 20 percent or lower. The performance gap between black students and their white classmates is as wide if not wider than it has ever been.

It is vital that we understand that this lack of academic achievement is the result of an obsolete education process and not because of bad teachers and bad schools and not because disadvantaged kids cannot learn. Our public school teachers are dedicated men and women who do the best they can to make an obsolete education process work for their students.

We must also understand that the “school choice” movement with its focus on high stakes testing and privatization through the establishment of charter schools is not the answer. The performance of charter schools is often no better than the public schools they were intended to replace, and this should come as no surprise. Except in rare circumstances, these charter schools rely on the same obsolete education process as our public schools. Just moving kids to a different building with different teachers will not change outcomes. Teachers in public, private, parochial, and charter schools are all trained in the same colleges and universities.

Most public-school educators and policy makers insist that public education is better than it has ever been and that the performance gap between black and white and rich and poor kids exists because society has not been successful in addressing the issue of poverty in America. I suggest an alternate explanation.

The truth is that our nation has done something about poverty in America. Our state and federal governments, over the last century, have spent trillions of dollars building public schools in every community and hiring public school teachers trained in our nation’s finest colleges and universities. That children are still failing does not mean they cannot learn or that our teachers cannot teach. It only means that what we have been asking teachers to do, does not work for disadvantaged students.

If what we are doing does not work, it is not okay to give up and say we tried. We must keep searching for new ways to do what we do until we find something that does work.

I challenge successful men and women of color and white Americans who share my belief that diversity is and has always been our greatest strength as a democratic society, to join forces on a mission to transform public education in America. This is the civil rights issue of the 21st Century.

Based on my 40-plus years of combined experience in working with kids, in organizational leadership, as a leadership and organizational development consultant, as administrator of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, and as a substitute teacher in a public-school corporation, I have developed an education model that rejects failure and is focused on success.  It is a model that:

  • determines the level of a child’s academic preparedness when they arrive for their first day of school;
  • tailors an academic plan based on the unique requirements of each child;
  • creates an environment in which teachers are expected to develop close, enduring relationships with each student;
  • strives to pull parents into the process so that they can be partners sharing responsibility for the success of their sons and daughters;
  • Expects teachers to give students however much time and attention they need to learn from their mistakes and be able to demonstrate that they can use what they learned in real-life situations, including future lessons;
  • Enables teachers to use whatever innovative methodologies and technologies they deem necessary to help their students succeed; and,
  • Celebrates each student’s success so that they can gain confidence in their ability to create success for themselves.

 

Please take the time to examine my education model at https://melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/

The only justification for ignoring this call to action is if one chooses to believe that disadvantaged children and children of color are incapable of learning.

If you believe that these kids can learn, how long are we going to wait and how many children will we permit to fail before we say enough is enough? Until we refuse to allow these children to fail, the schoolhouse to jailhouse track will remain a super highway to the future for far too many young people.

Unlike the civil rights heroes of the 50s and 60s, we need not sway Congress or even state legislatures. The changes we propose will not alter anything other than the way we organize students, teachers, and classrooms and what we do inside those classrooms. We will still teach to the same academic standards and will still be subject to the same accountabilities.

We need only convince a handful of superintendents of school districts with low-performing schools to test my model in one of their struggling elementary schools. If it works as I believe it will, those superintendents will be compelled to expand the model into all their districts’ schools and other public school corporations will be compelled to follow suit.

Imagine a future in which every child leaves high school with a full menu of choices about what to do with their lives to find joy and meaning in life and provide for themselves and their families. This future can be realized if you choose to accept Black Panther’s call to action.

The Performance Gap Between Black and White Students: the Civil Rights Issue of our Time – A Refrain

Black Americans have been fighting discrimination since the Emancipation Proclamation. During the 1950s and 60s, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the legion of heroes of the civil rights movement fought discrimination relentlessly. As simple as I can state it: disadvantaged children, a disproportionate percentage of whom are black and other minorities, are the victims of systemic discrimination and they will continue to suffer until black advocates stand united in their determination to alter this reality. The performance gap between black and white students is the civil rights issue of our time and it demands action on the part of everyone who has a stake in the future of these children.

Public school policy-makers are very much like the US Congress in the 1950’s. If it had not been for the heroes of the civil rights movement, we might still be waiting for meaningful civil rights legislation. Disadvantaged children must not be made to wait. They are counting on us and we must act now. What a tragedy it will be if, in twenty years, our children’s children are still languishing as a result of an obsolete education process because we were reluctant to act; because we believed ourselves to be powerless. This is the antithesis of positive leadership.

Public school educators and their advocates have proclaimed that public education is better than it has ever been. That may be true for some children but it could not be further from the truth with respect to disadvantaged children, many but not all of whom are black and other minorities.

The fact that, for a half century or more, we have been accepting the performance gap as an inevitable outcome of poverty is a gross injustice. The test for discriminatory practices is whether or not an action creates a disparate impact. If the performance gap is not incontrovertible evidence of disparate impact, I don’t know what is. It is an injustice that has sentenced millions of disadvantaged kids, young men in particular, to a life of failure, poverty, violence, and incarceration. That we have accepted the assertions of public school teachers that the education process works for everyone, strains all semblance of credibility.

It is the job of public school teachers to teach all children not just the ones who come primed and ready to learn. The fact that so many children are failing means that something is terribly wrong; that something is not working. In any other venue we would never accept that there is nothing we can do to improve unacceptable outcomes. Imagine a hospital, for example, refusing to address an unprecedented number of deaths. Teachers are not to blame for the failures of the system but they have an obligation to stand up for their students, when needed.

The performance gap between black and white students is not because black kids are incapable of learning. That millions of kids who live in our poor urban and rural communities are disadvantaged in any number of ways does not mean they cannot learn, it just means they need a little extra time, patience, and attention. They need educators to keep trying new approaches until they find one that works.

Whether manufacturing a product, providing a service, or selling something, there is always a solution if the outcomes are not what we want. This is also true with the education process utilized in schools all over the U.S. Finding a solution is not even complicated. It is simply a matter of clarifying purpose; being willing to try something new; learning from our mistakes; and being committed to never giving up. Are these not the lessons we strive to teach our students?

That we also have access to the principles of organizational management, systems thinking, and positive leadership suggests that we should be able to accomplish anything.

I have developed a solution that will work but I need the help of black leaders to come together and convince public school superintendents with underperforming elementary schools to test my model. With the right kind of pressure some will be compelled to act. Some teachers may well be skeptical but if they want success for their students, and the overwhelming majority of teachers do, they must be open to a new way.

Please check out my education model, which I will offer for free, and the accompanying white paper that lays out the logical foundation at https://melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/ All I ask is the credit of authorship. Right now there are millions of disadvantaged children who are learning how to fail and their lives will be irrevocably damaged unless people like you decide it must stop.

No Quick Fixes or Simpler Times

One mass shooting after another has our nation reeling in grief and disbelief, prompting people to call out for action. “We need to fix this!” some people shout. “It’s time for action!” others proclaim.

Listen carefully!

There are no quick fixes and there will never be a return to simpler times.

The problems of our nation are fundamental and have evolved over many generations. They are rooted in the deep economic, cultural, sociological, emotional, ecological, and political issues that divide us as a people.

These differences that divide us as a people result from a huge population of Americans who are embittered and angry because the American dream is not and has never been real for the vast majority of their children. It results from black Americans for whom the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s and beyond have not been kept.

These difference also result from a huge population of Americans who are angry and embittered because they are being asked to support millions of dependent Americans whom they view, rightly or wrongly, as unwilling to support themselves. It results from the propensity of so many Americans to feel their prejudices are justified.

These differences have damaged some individuals spiritually and psychologically to the point that they seem compelled to strike out in futile anger at the world and at innocent men, women, and children; with mass shootings having become their fashion of our times

People want to return to simpler times when values were clear; when it was clear who was in charge; when most of us looked alike, at least with the color of our skin; and when the political issues of the day were such that republicans and democrats were able to come together and find solutions with which both sides could live.

Times will never be simpler than they are today and our society will never be less diverse. It is only a matter of a few short decades when white Americans will be a minority population. The combination of our nation’s poor who depend on our government for economic support and the baby-boomer population that is rushing into retirement will place unprecedented pressure on those who work to keep our economy productive.

The complexity of the world marketplace, political jigsaw puzzle, growing world population, and the changing environment are of an unprecedented breadth and scope and will not respond to the policies and ideologies of the 20th Century. We are now in the 21st Century and we have only gotten a glimpse of the changes on the political, economic, social, cultural, and ecological horizon as this 21st Century unfolds before us. What we need are fresh solutions, new and innovative ideas, open minds and imaginations, and a new appreciation that we are all in this together.

No matter how hard we think we are working to find solutions to the issues of this new century nothing we will do can possibly work unless they meet the needs of every single one of us. There can no longer be a “we” and “them,” republicans and democrats, liberals and conservatives, “free-marketers” and socialists. There are just too many of us and every action any of us take, unilaterally, will cause a series of reactions that will reverberate across the sea of our world’s population; not like ripples on a pool rather like a series of tsunamis across the oceans of the planet.

We must start by addressing the fundamental issues of American society within the context of a democracy in which everyone counts or no one counts. It must begin with the way we educate our children.

We can no longer accept an education process that lumps our children together and pushes them along an academic path that expects them all to arrive at the same place at the same time.

We can no longer tolerate and education process that is structured to support the convenience of educators while ignoring the unique needs of a diverse population of our nation’s children.

We can no longer permit an education process that ignores the reality that all young children need a rich and nurturing environment in which their relationships are more important than what we do with them. We must understand that it is only through our relationships with them that we can give them that which is important.

We can no longer ignore the fact that the world-wide-web has made peer influence more powerful than it has ever been at any time in the history of mankind and that has become more powerful than the influence of either family or our schools, working independently. The only hope we have of remaining the most powerful influence in the lives of our children is for families and schools to work together as partners.

We must no longer be willing to forgive educators for sending one class of our nation’s children after another out into the world so inadequately prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship and so poorly equipped to support their families and to compete in the economic marketplace.

Neither can we continue to place the blame for the problems of our systems of public education on the shoulders of the men and women who are asked to teach our children in the midst of an education process that works for neither the teacher nor the child. Our public school teachers are heroes but they must be challenged to break out of their encapsulation and change their paradigms.

However distasteful it may seem to some Americans, we must find an economic solution that can feed, provide power, house, educate, and provide for the health of not only a burgeoning and more diverse population of Americans but also what will soon be the ten or more billions of people on this planet. How are we going to respond to the next great plague that will erupt across the world and devastate a population of people with no immunity to protect them?

I challenge all of you to consider the following as an analogy for every aspect of human life on the planet Earth: “how do we feed ten billion or more people on free-range chickens?”

These problems are too big for there to be any quick fixes and we can only control that which is within our power to control.

For the United States of America, it must begin with the way we educate our children and it must begin in our public schools. Surely it must be as obvious for public school teachers to see that what they are doing is not working as it is obvious that charter schools cannot provide a quality education for our nation’s fifty million children between the ages of 6 and 17 years of age.

I offer an education model that is designed to give our nation’s children what they need so that each and every one of them learns as much as they can as quickly as they are able and in which no level of failure can be tolerated. Our system of public education must not be structured as if it is a competition but rather as a training camp to prepare our children to complete once they leave school and enter society as adults. I urge you to examine my model with an open mind looking for reasons to hope that it might work rather than searching for reasons why it will not.

You will find the model at https://melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/

I do not suggest that this the only education model that will work. If you don’t like what you read you are challenged to develop a better education model.

What you must not do is think for a single moment that you can fix that which is broken in our society by protests or by hoping that somehow we can legislate a change in the hearts of humanity. What you must not do is think that we can solve our problems by continuing to do what we have done it the past. Where we are today is a function of all that we have done in the past.

I understand how powerless many of us feel but we are powerless for only as long as we work alone. If we want solutions we must latch on to a positive idea and do everything within our power to put wings on that dream.

The only thing that we can do, unilaterally, is to pray that we will be granted the wisdom to find a path to the future that unites us as a people rather than divide us any further than we are already divided. We can pray that we will all rally around a positive idea. The only way to improve the future is to improve the way we prepare our children.

It’s all about the kids!

Inequality and Education are Interdependent: Can’t fix one without the other!

Check out the video at Inequality and Education – Part 1, the video

Public Education is the civil rights issue of our time. Affirmative action programs are assessed not on the basis of what management says they do rather on the disparate impact it creates. The performance gap between white and black proves that our current education process has been failing for generations.

The time for talk is over. It is time for action. The reader is encouraged to share this video with every one you know and ask them to join us in this crusade to transform public education in America.

It is the single most important thing many of us will be asked to do for our country.

Please help this crusade go viral.

Here is the text of the video message in the event you are unable to pull up the video”

“Hello!

I’m Mel Hawkins, with a word about how inequality and education are affected by each other.

Inequality is ugly fact of life in America and is at the root of all of our nation’s problems.

It divides us as a people and threatens the very principles of democracy.

Is this really who we want to be?

Public schools were intended to be the great equalizer, yet the performance gap between black and white kids proves the education process has failed for generations.

It entraps young people in a cycle of poverty and hopelessness and sets them up for failure.

It, also, weakens our nation from within.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

We can address inequality simply by helping public education keep its promise to America, that everyone gets a quality education.

Reformers say our schools are failing while educators insist those same schools are better than ever.

They can’t both be right, but they can both be wrong.

When given an opportunity to walk in the shoes of public school teachers, I got a glimpse of the truth.

I saw students struggle in spite of the tremendous efforts of dedicated teachers and,

I witnessed an education process that is flawed beyond repair.

When systems like this break down and stop working, we must go back to the drawing board and reinvent it to produce the outcomes we want.

By applying my nearly fifty years of experience working with kids, providing leadership, solving problems for clients, and teaching; I created an innovative new model for education, focused on success.

It’s designed to help teachers give each and every child the unique attention they need to be successful, starting at the moment they arrive at our door.

By teaching to success, not failure, students will walk away with a quality education and the healthy self-esteem they will need to overcome challenges, even discrimination.

Charter schools serving a few kids are not the answer for the masses.

We have schools, everywhere, staffed with teachers and filled with kids.

This is where the challenge exists and where it must be met!

Black kids and other minorities suffer the most.

For that reason public education has become the civil rights issue of our time.

We must rally black America around this cause just like the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s?

It’s time to make the dream come true for everyone.

When we all join in, we will be a powerful force for change.

Our kids are the future and we need every last one of them.

We cannot afford to waste a single child.

Please open your mind and examine my education model and white paper, at melhawkinsandassociates.com.

Share this video with everyone you know and ask them to join our crusade to transform public education.

This may be the most important thing you will ever be asked to do for your country so don’t just sit there!

Millions of kids are counting on you to do something.

Why not help our crusade go viral?

Is there a better gift for America’s kids than an education focused on success?

Remember, “It’s All About the Kids!”

The Performance Gap between white and black students is the Civil Rights Issue of our Time

African-Americans have been fighting discrimination since the Emancipation Proclamation. During the 1950s and 60s, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the legion of heroes of the civil rights movement fought discrimination relentlessly. As simple as I can state it: disadvantaged children, a disproportionate percentage of whom are black and other minorities, are the victims of systemic discrimination and they will continue to suffer until their advocates stand united in their determination to alter this reality. The performance gap between black and white students is the civil rights issue of our time and it demands action on the part of everyone who has a stake in the future of these children.

Public school policy-makers are very much like the US Congress in the 1950’s. If it had not been for the heroes of the civil rights movement, we might still be waiting for meaningful civil rights legislation. Disadvantaged children must not be made to wait. They are counting on us and we must act now. What a tragedy it will be if, in twenty years, our children’s children are still languishing as a result of an obsolete education process because we were reluctant to act; because we believed ourselves to be powerless. This is the antithesis of positive leadership.

Public school educators and their advocates have proclaimed that public education is better than it has ever been. That may be true for some children but it could not be further from the truth with respect to disadvantaged children, many but not all of whom are black and other minorities.

The fact that, for a half century or more, we have been accepting the performance gap as an inevitable outcome of poverty is a gross injustice. The test for discriminatory practices is whether or not an action creates a disparate impact. If the performance gap is not incontrovertible evidence of disparate impact, I don’t know what is. It is an injustice that has sentenced millions of disadvantaged kids, young men in particular, to a life of failure, poverty, violence, and incarceration. That we have accepted the assertions of public school teachers that the education process works for everyone, strains all semblance of credibility.

It is the job of public school teachers to teach all children not just the ones who come primed and ready to learn. The fact that so many children are failing means that something is terribly wrong; that something is not working. In any other venue we would never accept that there is nothing we can do to improve unacceptable outcomes. Teachers are not to blame for the failures of the system but they have an obligation to stand up for their students, when needed.

The performance gap between black and white students is not because black kids are incapable of learning. That millions of kids who live in our poor urban and rural communities are disadvantaged in any number of ways does not mean they cannot learn, it just means they need a little extra time, patience, and attention. They need educators to keep trying new approaches until they find one that works.

Whether manufacturing a product, providing a service, or selling something, there is always a solution if the outcomes are not what we want. This is also true with the education process utilized in schools all over the U.S. Finding a solution is not even complicated. It is simply a matter of clarifying purpose; being willing to try something new; learning from our mistakes; applying the principles of organizational management, systems thinking, and positive leadership; and, being committed to relentless improvement.

I have developed a solution that will work but I need the help of black leaders to come together and convince public school superintendents with underperforming elementary schools to test my model. With the right kind of pressure some will be compelled to act. Teachers may well be skeptical but if they want success for their students they must be open to a new way.

Please check out my education model, which I will offer for free, and the accompanying white paper that lays out the logical foundation at https://melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/ All I ask is the credit of authorship. Right now there are millions of disadvantaged children who are learning how to fail and their lives will be irrevocably damaged unless people like you decide it must stop.

Students must be able to build on success, not failure!

It is incredibly frustrating that public school teachers and administrators have been unwilling and/or unable to take seriously the education model I have developed. It is exasperating because I know teachers want to do what is best for their students. I also know how frustrated so many public school teachers are and that the prospect of burnout is something many of these dedicated men and women fear. That teachers are blamed for the problems in public education must be especially galling.

It is even more frustrating that advocacy groups for black children and other children of color seem totally uninterested in a solution that will end the failure of millions of disadvantaged kids and shut down the schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline that is transporting these kids to a life of poverty, failure, crime, and early violent deaths.

If only all of these dedicated men and women would open their hearts and minds to the possibility of a new way to educate our nation’s most precious assets.

“This will not work in my classroom(s)!” is what public school teachers and administrators say when they first review my model. I hear it all the time.

Of course, they are correct, but this is exactly my point. In the current education process, nothing different will work because the process is flawed. To paraphrase Linda Darling Hammond, “the existing process is structured to produce the outcomes it gets and we will not get better outcomes if all we do is ask teachers to work harder.”

There are many teachers in high-performing schools who feel good about what they do but there are also many teachers in low-performing schools who are frustrated, daily, because they are unable to get through to unmotivated students.

Odd as it may seem, African-American leaders, who jump through the roof in response to symbols of oppression, do not even bother to respond to the possibility of a solution that will attack the roots of that oppression.

I ask public school educators to take a figurative step back and imagine an environment in which they are expected to give each and every student however much time they need to learn each and every lesson. Imagine an environment in which teachers are expected to develop longer term relationships with students and where the process is structured to facilitate the development of such relationships; with both students and parents.

My challenge to public school teachers and administrators is that they consider that the education process can be re-designed and re-configured to produce whatever outcomes we want.

My challenge to advocates for black children and other children of color to consider the possibility that African-American students and other disadvantaged children do not need to fail.

My education model is constructed on the premise that academic success is no different than success in any other venue. Success is a process of trial and error, of learning from one’s mistakes and applying that knowledge to produce better outcomes. Success is built upon success and the more one succeeds the more confident he or she becomes. The more confident he or she is the more successful one becomes. Success is contagious and can become a powerful source of motivation.

The key, of course, is that one cannot master the process of success until he or she begins to experience success, routinely. In school, kids learn and each lesson learned is a success. Very often, success on subsequent lessons requires that one apply what one has learned from previous lessons. When a foundation of success is laid down in school, young boys and girls approach adulthood with a wide menu of choices in terms of the kind of future that can be built on that foundation.

Imagine, however, when there is no success on which to build. When kids fail, or even learn only part of a given lesson, they are less like to learn the next lesson. A pattern also emerges in this scenario but it is a pattern of failure rather than success.

For many of these kids, failure is the only thing they know. It is only a matter of time before they give up, stop trying, and begin acting out in class. Third grade is when many states begin administering competency examinations. Right from the beginning, a significant percentage of third grade students are unable to pass both math and English language components of their state exams. Although African-American students have the lowest passage rates, the poor performance extends to a percentage of students from all demographic groups, including white students.

By the time these students reach middle school the scores are even lower. In many middle schools, as many as eighty percent of black students fail to pass both exams. Middle school teachers throughout the U.S. can attest to the incredibly low level of motivation displayed by their students. Any illusions that high schools are able to turn the performance of these students around in four years are just that, illusions; high graduation rates notwithstanding.

When they leave school, the overwhelming majority of these low-performing students return to their communities, unqualified for jobs or military service. For many, it is the final station on the schoolhouse to jailhouse line. Far too many suffer early, violent deaths. Those who live spawn a whole new generation of children who will start from behind and will never be given a realistic opportunity to catch up. They are entrapped in a maelstrom of poverty and failure.

It is an American tragedy of unprecedented breadth and scope and it is at the core of our nation’s greatest political, economic, cultural and civil rights challenges. The chasm that divides the American people is very much a function of the bitterness on the part of some citizens because of their resentment that they are asked to support our nation’s poor and infirm.

The magnitude of this reality makes public education the civil rights issue of the 21st Century. That it is a crisis that can be prevented so easily, however, is the greatest tragedy at all. The ambivalence of the people who can bring an end to this tragedy is the greatest mystery of all. Do they not care?

We can end the failure simply by making sure every child has however much time they need in order to learn. If there is a reason why we should not do this, I truly wish someone would explain it to me.

Please check out my model at https://melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/

Racism, The Achievement Gap, and Public Education, Part 2

This is the second of our series of articles that are offered to address the issues that face children of color and also white children who live in poverty in this the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world.

We begin with the simple idea that it is time to draw a line in the sand and say that we will no longer tolerate a world in which some Americans are denied access to the American dream. This demands that
we shift our focus to those things over which we have control and not squander our precious time and energy fretting about things that are outside the power of individual human beings to change.

It is like being stuck in the mud. Do we complain about our plight or start digging ourselves out.

We cannot, for example, go back and change several hundred years of history in which black men and women were brought to this continent in chains, nor the first 100 years following the Emancipation Proclamation during which black Americans were forced to live as second-class citizens, nor the 50 years since Civil Rights laws were passed; legislation that raised the expectations of African-American and other minorities but without altering the reality in which so many live in poverty, powerlessness, and hopelessness.

We cannot go back and change the reality that has greeted the millions of Latinos who have migrated to this country in recent years, whether legally or not.

We cannot legislate changes in the hearts of so many white Americans that are laced with bigotry and prejudice, whether blatant or subtle.

Neither can we legislate a change in the hearts and minds of those police officers who are predisposed to act with bias and excessive force. The best we can do demand that our communities hold abusers accountable and tighten our entrance requirements.

We cannot erase, through legislation action or executive orders, the economic disadvantages that have led generations of Americans to rear their children and live in poverty. Recall that President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty a half century ago and ask yourself if anything has changed. Most of us would say things have gotten steadily worse.

We have not been successful in our attempts to legislate an end to the institutional racism that has plagued and continues to plague black men, women, and children and the families of other minorities; institutional racism that is invisible to the overwhelming majority of white Americans. Civil rights laws have been on the books for a half century and have been routinely enforced and upheld by our nation’s courts of law, yet still these realities persist.

We cannot undo the damage that has been done to minds and egos of generations of children who have been victims of an educational process that has taught them how to fail nor can we undo a long history of academic failure that has led generations of young parents to relinquish their belief that an education is a ticket to the American dream and provides a way for their children to escape the clutches of poverty.

As much as we might wish to do all of the above they are not within our power and no amount of complaining about the injustice of these realities will alter that fact. The more we dwell on things we cannot change the more immersed we are in our paradigms of powerlessness and hopelessness.

We are not powerless, however, and we need not be hopeless. We have it within our power to draw a line of demarcation in the sand and say “no more!” All it requires is that we begin doing things differently from two strategic fronts, simultaneously.

We must alter, once and for all, the balance of power that drives legislation and policy making in the American political landscape. How we do this will be the topic of the next series of articles we will be writing but it begins with the reality that the conservative political power structure in the U.S. that, today, is driven by conservative “tea party” ideology, does not represent anywhere close to a majority of the American people. The problem, of course is that the majority of Americans have stopped participating in their own governance because they have given up hope that anything they do will make a difference.

In a recent post, Phyllis Bush, a great friend to public education, talked about choosing collaboration over competition. If the following groups of Americans would come together to form a political coalition they would have more than enough political clout to turn both our federal and state legislative branches upside down and also our federal and state executive branches.

Who would make up this coalition? The answer is all of the people whose political needs and interests are being ignored by those currently in power. They include:

• All African-American; Hispanic-American; and other ethnic, racial, and religious minorities; and also those who face discrimination due to sexual orientation;

• All professional educators working in public schools throughout America;

• All parents who depend on public schools for the education of their children; and,

• All of the men and women in America who work for a living and who are union members or who would belong to a union had that right not been taken from them.

We need to leave the tradition of Republican and Democrat behind. The reality, today, is that it is the Tea Party and their conservative supporters versus the people. Maybe we need to call it the “People’s Party,” making it clear, however, that this is not a socialist or communist agenda.

The other strategic front is American public education. We have the power to begin changing, from the inside out, the forces that keep poor and minority children from getting the education they need to break out of poverty. We can do this, however, only if we are willing to open our hearts and minds and re-examine our fundamental assumptions about the way we structure the educational process at work in American schools; about the way we teach children.

All that is required of us is that we be willing to step back and think systemically about the way the process is structured and how it produces outcomes that are so devastating to precious young lives.

If we do this honestly, and without feeling the need to excuse ourselves from blame or responsibility, it is so very easy to do. We should not waste one nanosecond worrying about blame or fault. What we can do—what we must do—is accept responsibility for doing things differently, beginning this very moment.

There is a simple but powerful axiom that we must keep at the forefront of our minds:

“It is not until we accept responsibility for the problems in our lives that we begin to acquire the power to solve them.”

Clearly the key is public education. If we are able to provide all children, not just affluent white children, the knowledge and skills they need in order to carve out full and productive lives for themselves then we can begin narrowing the performance gap until it disappears forever. We can begin by identifying outcomes that are acceptable to us and that will give all children an opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential. Then, it is simply a matter of structuring the process in such a way that it can and will produce those outcomes. We will show the reader exactly how this can be done in our last segment. Before we do so, however, there is one last point of discussion we must consider in the upcoming third post in this series.

A CALL TO ACTION: A New Civil Rights Movement Focused on Public Education!

Education is a civil rights issue today just as it was in the 1950s during the initial years of the historic civil rights movement. Back then, the challenge was breaking down the barriers that prevented black children from attending public schools. Today, the issue is virtually the same but with a new twist.

Southern public schools in particular discriminated against African-American children by denying them entrance into public schools and universities. Today, African-American, Hispanic, and other minority children, along with white children living in urban America already attend public schools. Today’s problem is that our government, both federal and state, are discriminating against public school corporations by siphoning off revenue through voucher programs that allow families to transfer their children to charter schools and other private and parochial schools.

Our government and the corporate reformers who support and encourage them are claiming that charter schools the other alternatives are doing a better job than our public schools and they cloak their advocacy under the blanket of “freedom of choice.” While they promote the development of charter schools and encourage families to take advantage of vouchers they attack our urban public schools with the charge that they are failing and that the blame for such failure rests on the shoulders of public school teachers. Therein lies the fallacy of current corporate and government education reforms.

The simple but compelling fact is that the teachers who populate our charter schools and other private and parochial alternatives are educated in the same colleges and universities and are license pursuant to the same state standards and qualifications as their public-school counterparts. How can we think that whether or not a qualified and licensed teacher will magically perform at a higher level is a function of the fact that they teach in a charter, private or parochial school rather than in a public school in the same community?

The problem is not “choice” and no right thinking American would deny the importance of giving families choices. The problem is that while luring students and their associated revenue away from our public schools our government is making no effort to address the real challenges that such schools face. As they heap more and more blame on teachers and schools for low scores on state competency exams and reduce the revenue upon which these schools depend, more and more teachers are leaving the profession. In many cases it is the most experienced and most capable teachers that are fleeing the field of education making it that much more difficult for the abandoned schools to meet the needs of their students.

Right now African-American citizens and other parents concerned with the quality of their public schools are in possession of a wonderful opportunity to change the reality for their children. Community leaders from each of these groups, working separately and in concert, need to rally their communities in support of their public schools and teachers.

Concurrently, public school teachers, both individually and collectively, need to reach out to the leaders of the local communities and offer to work together to rise to the challenges facing public education. Make no mistake. A partnership between public school teachers and the parents of their communities working together to serve the best interests of children will transform public education as surely as rain will make the flowers grow.

At the national level, we need high profile leaders of all of our minority communities to link together and take a stand on the issue of public education with the same commitment that we witness anew in the movie Selma. We beseech these leaders from business, government, entertainment, and professional athletics to come together on this most important issue and to reach out to the American Federation of Teachers, to the National Education Association, and to such groups as the Bad Ass Teachers Association. At the same time, we need the leaders of the AFT, NEA and BATs to reach out to community leaders.

Not since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his colleagues and supporters marched to Selma has there been an issue as important to the future of our nation and its children as exists today with the crisis in public education. Never has there been an opportunity to bring about such transformational change as exists right now, in cities across the United States of America.

If you are reading this message, today, please pass on this call to action to everyone you know. It may be the most important thing you can do for your country.