Ryan vs. Reading: Up, Up and Away!

It’s levels to this shit…

I just watched a wonderful PIAA “Final Four” contest between Archbishop Ryan, out of Philadelphia, and Reading High School.

Mannnn listen… Reading is thirsty!

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Reading has a long proud tradition of competing for PIAA State Championships and coming up short… Many of the people wearing the red shirts, hoodies, jackets and hats with Big R emblems watched Stu Jackson (pictured above) lead Reading High to a State Championship game in 1973. Even more, watched Donyell Marshall (pictured below) emerge as an All-American in 1991.

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But neither won it all… No State Championships!

Reading has won more than 2,000 basketball games. They have more victories than any other high school in Pennsylvania. Chester High is next with around 1,850.

The Knights also own a record 19 District 3 championships; they won their first in 1929 and added three more in the past decade.

Long dominant at the local level, Reading has 20 Berks championships despite not joining the league until 1979. The Knights won the league title in each of its first six seasons and has claimed two-thirds of the trophies ever since, going 62-12 in league playoff games.

Reading ain’t new to this…

The Knights played their first basketball game in 1901, less than a 10 years after Dr. James Naismith hung peach baskets in the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA.

PIAA State Championship are long desired and highly valued in Reading… State’s is the pinnacle in Reading… Young Philly ballers still strive for Catholic and Public League Championships… The State’s are an afterthought…

Philly is new to this…

Ryan, along with the rest of the Philadelphia Catholic League, joined the PIAA for the 2008-2009 season.

Reading is 0 for 116 in PA State Championships… Ryan is 0 for 9…

Many Philly fans were amazed that 90% of 6,000 or so in Liacouris Center were hardcore Reading supporters. Quite a few openly wondered where were the 9,000+ that crammed into the Palestra a few weeks ago?

“What the fuck?”

“Why doesn’t Philly support teams chasing State Titles like Reading?”

State Championship just don’t matter that much to Philly hoop heads. Thus, Philadelphians have no way of understanding the heavy load Lonnie Walker is carrying… He is shouldering the hopes and dreams of all 98,653 Reading residents… After 116 years of playing basketball, they have real shot at winning their first State Championship.

Conversely, Philly is spoiled! Imhotep, Neumann-Goretti, Constitution, Girard College and Archbishop Wood are ALL playing for State Championships… Philly is gonna probably win at least half of the 6 State Titles on the Boys side… It’s what we do…

Reading has NEVER won one…

The team and the town came to the Liacouras Center with HIGH EXPECTATIONS!

Ryan has a very good squad… They have 2 D1 players, a rock solid D2 player and a few really good youngsters. They were ready to do battle early…

Izaiah Brockington came out demonstrated why NJIT gave him a scholarship to play basketball. Early on, first quarter and a half, he was the best player on the court. He was aggressive and highly focused. Reading had no answer as Ryan jumped out to a big early lead on the back of Brockington. He went left… He went right… He went over them… He went under them… He was unstoppable… Ryan had a double figure lead in the first half.

Then it happened…

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird… It’s a plane…

It’s Superman!

Yes, it’s Superman, strange visitor from another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands. And who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never ending battle for truth, justice and the American way… And now another exciting episode…

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Photo Credit: Derek Campbell

I didn’t see a phone booth… I don’t know where it happened, but one of the Reading players transformed into FUCKIN’ Superman! Real Shit! In the blink of an eye…

Lonnie Walker became the biggest player on the court…
Lonnie Walker became the fastest player on the court…
Lonnie Walker became the most skilled player on the court…
Lonnie Walker became the most explosive player on the court…
Lonnie Walker became the best shooter on the court…
Lonnie Walker became the best defender on the court…

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Photo Credit: Derek Campbell

The 5,500 or so Reading fans willed him into action… On the break, he jumped so high and dunked so hard it looked like one of JJ’s paintings on Good Times… He seemed to defy gravitational pull… He jumped and soared and floated and eventually came down when he felt like returning to earth… Only after depositing the ball with tremendous force through the rim…

He pulled up from 25 feet… Splash!!

He spun, pump faked and dropped a sweet ol’ skool finger roll… Ryan decided they were tired of him scoring so they would foul hard when he attacked the rim…

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Photo Credit: Derek Campbell

…And ONE!!

Just in case Ryan thought they were going to make some halftime adjustments, he jumped on their asses to start the second half… Look… Up in the sky…

Like I said, Ryan has a good Catholic League team. Brockington and Matiss Kulackovskis are solid D1 recruits… Fred Taylor is a high level D2 rim protector…

If someone could have given them a big ASS bag of Kryptonite they might have had a chance…

After final buzzer sounded, Clark Kent sprinted to kiss his beloved grandmother seated at the end of the court… He personally thanked each and every cheerleader… The electronic and print media tried to grab his attention, but he made them wait as he rushed to join the procession and respectfully shake hands with his vanquished opponents…

Class Act!

I hope Superman ends Reading’s State Championship drought this weekend!

One hundred and sixteen years is a loooooong time…

When the Philly teams win, they’ll get nice pats on the back… When Reading wins, they become folk heroes for generations to come… But first, a parade!

It’s levels to this shit!!

 

Why Did He Commit to Them? Toward A Better Understanding of the College “Decision” Process

What the fuck? Why?

Why did he commit there? Why didn’t he choose us? Why didn’t he come to our school?

Our academics are better! We win more! We produce more pros! Shit makes no sense…

Many resort to knee-jerk accusations that the kid was “bought off” to explain the decision… They had to cheat… Why else would he choose them over us?

Every year around this time, passionate alums and casual observers rack their brains trying to make sense of decisions made by 18 and 19 year old elite Black male student-athletes. Indeed, an entire multi-million dollar industry has emerged dedicated solely to tracking the college selection processes of elite predominantly Black male student-athletes. Scout and Rivals are two of the biggest media enterprises dedicated to in-depth coverage this annual race to sign the very best scholastic ballers. Rivals was purchased for $100 million by Yahoo in 2007. Scout generates over $100 million in annual revenues.

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Malik Ellison committing to St. Johns

Despite intensive media coverage, very little thought is given to the actual decision-making process itself.  Core questions at the center of the ‘mainstream’ dialogue are fairly easy to delineate: Where will Black male athletes sell their athletic labor in return for an athletic scholarship? Which predominantly White NCAA Division I institution will profit generously in return?

The Black Cager is dedicated to going a little deeper than that. I want to foster understanding. So… How can we begin to make sense of these “decisions” made by thousands of young Black men entering collegiate athletics every year?

I want to provide a basic framework for understanding the all too often overlooked decision-making process. While the analytical focus is on urban Black male basketball players, the framework can be applied across racial and ethnic backgrounds as well as geographic settings. Many white ballers from the cornfields of the mid-west face the same circumstances.

My basic hypothesis is that predominantly white college sports fans, alums, writers and even coaches assess the decision-making process from a purely “rational” point of view. In doing so, they consistently fail to understand and appreciate the limits or “bounds” the student-athlete operates under. As a result, the observers are usually confused and unable to comprehend why decisions are made. This confusion leads many to make unfounded and unwarranted accusations about the character and integrity of the process, the student-athletes and their families.

What are the limits and constraints? What are the “bounds” imposed upon student-athletes making college decisions? Elite Black male student-athletes facing college decisions have to work under three unavoidable constraints.

  1. They only have access to limited, often unreliable, information regarding possible alternatives and their consequences,
  2. The human mind has only limited capacity to evaluate and process the information that is available. And,
  3.  only a limited amount of time is available to make a decision.

Therefore even student-athletes intent on making rational choices are bound to make satisficing (rather than maximizing or optimizing) decisions in complex recruiting situations. This vital fact is overlooked by disappointed and frustrated supporters of programs that lose recruiting battles. Moreover, it is not addressed by ‘mainstream’ sportswriters and analysts trying to explain outcomes to their targeted audiences.

All they know is, to them, shit don’t make no sense… As a result, message boards are flooded with nasty, vile and even racist attacks on young men that chose a program other than theirs.

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Tamyra ‘Mookie’ Laws committing to Holy Family University

Fans fail to understand that these limits (bounds) on rationality make it nearly impossible for student-athletes and their families to consider every contingency, necessitating reliance on advisers, ‘handlers’ or even agents operating behind the scenes.

Black male student-athletes, like everyone else, are to some extent rational beings in that they will try to logically understand things and make sensible choices. This is rightfully assumed by most observers. Collegiate sports fans, alums and college coaches assume that student-athletes have preferences among the colleges offering scholarships that allow them to state which option they prefer.

From a purely rational perspective, these preferences are assumed to be complete (the student-athlete can always say which of two college programs they consider preferable or that neither is preferred to the other) and transitive (if college A is preferred over college B and college B is preferred over college C, then A is preferred over C).

However, observers make the mistake of assuming student-athletes take account of ALL available information like academic reputations, graduation rates and probabilities of events like winning conference championships, appearing in the NCAA tournament and being drafted by an NBA team. It is further assumed that a student-athlete weighs the potential costs and benefits in determining preferences, and acts consistently in choosing the self-determined best choice of action.

That’s how most causal observers think the process works. But…. That’s not how it actually goes down…

For elite Black male student-athletes the college recruitment process is extremely daunting and complex, and they do not have the capacity to understand everything. As noted earlier, they only have access to limited, often unreliable, information regarding possible alternatives and their consequences. Yes… college coaches are able to make an unlimited amount of phone calls and text messages to recruits. Of course, they do everything they can to get their message across to the young men.

For many student-athletes this quickly results in hundreds of calls and/or text messages per day. As a result, coaches begin to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “whaaan, whann, whann, whann, whann…”


Coaches understand this, even if fans don’t, so they rely on the development of intermediaries like AAU/grassroots coaches, HS coaches, family members, friends, girlfriends, etc. to deliver messages to student-athletes. Unfortunately, in many instances, the “interests” of the intermediaries supersede the interests of the student-athletes. “If he comes with us, we’ll take care of you or your AAU/HS program” is the message the intermediaries hear. In this way, information reaching the student-athlete becomes limited and unreliable regarding possible alternatives and their consequences.

At this point, the possibility of a truly ‘rational’ outcome has been compromised. The student-athlete is receiving skewed information.

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Rakeem Christmas Graduated from Syracuse University in 3 years

Further complicating the process is the fact that the human mind has only limited capacity to evaluate and process the information that is available. This is especially so for urban Black male student-athletes. The athletes and their family members very often do not possess the intellectual tools required to adequately understand the process as it unfolds.

It’s really bad… Really, really bad…

On August 24, 2015, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that “nearly half of all adults in [Philadelphia] – more than half a million men and women – lack the basic skills necessary to qualify for postsecondary training or hold jobs that permit them to support a family. Many function below eighth-grade levels.”

How are parents and grandparents that can’t read supposed to sort through the labyrinth of NCAA regulations and appropriately weigh the options available to them? They can’t….

The student-athletes themselves may be in an even worse position. A recent study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education found that the four-year HS graduation rate for Black males in many of America’s urban areas was profoundly abysmal. Detroit, MI (23%) has the lowest Black male graduation rate in the country (in Detroit only 13% of White males graduate from high school within a four year period), followed by Philadelphia, PA (26%), Clark County, NV (27%), Pinellas County, FL (28%), Cleveland, OH (28%), New York, NY (28%), Chatham County, GA (28%), Richmond County, GA (29%), Duvall County, FL (29%), and Norfolk, VA (31%). For the 26% that remain engaged in school, in 2014, 42 percent of students met the reading standards bar set by the state on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, down from 42.3 percent. In math, 45.2 percent met standards, down from 46.9 percent.

Plainly stated, many student-athletes and their families lack the educational foundation necessary to adequately process, evaluate and process information available on the various collegiate programs offering athletic scholarships.
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DeAndre Bembry dunking on VCU
Then on top of that, there is limited time to make a decision. The NCAA manages the daily operations of a National Letter of Intent (NLI) program that includes 650 Division I and Division II participating institutions. Through the establishment of signing periods, the NLI program imposes deadlines on student-athletes and their families. And, there’s always the possibility that another player may take the desired scholarship.
Most elite Black male scholastic student-athlete are confronted with limitations imposed by poor educational backgrounds, a lack of understanding NCAA regulations and other factors. Given this set of circumstances, there is no way student-athletes can have a complete understanding of the recruiting process before having to make a decision.
Within this context, truly ‘rational’ decisions become impossible… What emerges are decisions that are ‘good enough’…
Information, more or less, tends to change people’s decision. Every student-athlete is limited by the decisional limitations outlined above. The better the athletic prowess, the more complex the issues become, thereby increasing the cognitive load. And where there is cognitive overload, student-athletes rely upon coping mechanisms to arrive at a decision.
They settle for a school that is ‘good enough’ as opposed to finding the ‘best school’. Black male student-athletes end up choosing a school that meets most of their goals instead of going for the optimal solution.

 

This is where college fans and alums become confused. They wonder: Why did he choose a school that hasn’t been to the tournament in 10 years? Why did he choose a program that doesn’t have as many NBA players as ours?

In choosing college destinations, in can be argued that there are no optimal decisions, but choices that are in some sense locally optimal at best. The implications of these decisions are based on bounded rationality, which is senseless to observers applying rational logic, but completely sensible for the student-athlete making the decision.

Elite Black male student-athletes do exactly what makes the most sense to them, in the context of the moment, with their current understanding. If you are a white college educated-male with college educated parents that were in a position to pay for your education you likely have no frame of reference for understanding this process.

It ain’t personal… Cut the kids a break…

Sex, Black Male Athletes & The Responsibilities of Ol’ Heads

Tom Payne-page-0

Young fella… Let me holla at you for a minute…

I see what’s going on… She’s cute… not what you are used to… not “thick” like the girls from ’round the way… but cute nonetheless… Moreover, she’s always around… after practice… after dinner… outside study hall… in the lobby of the dorm. She always speaks first. She’s thirsty.  She’s trying real hard to get your attentions.  Seems like her wardrobe consists solely of yoga pants. You’ve noticed and she knows you’ve noticed. It’s just a matter of time ’til  y’all hook up.  Growing up you were never really interested in dating white girls, but DAMN it’s so many of them hanging around the team… You’re curious.. You’re thinking about it… Be careful young fella.

It’s a tough balancing act. You came to college to play ball first and foremost. Everything else is secondary. Academics? Yeah… the coaches talk about studying hard, but you (and everyone else for that matter) know their main concern is your development as a ball player. You are there to win games.  Being a scholarship athlete is a job.. A full-time job… You are evaluated based on your performance on the court and on the field. Besides, if you take the classes they’ve lined up for you and work with your academic advisers you’ll be fine. You will graduate in four years.

But what about the blonde in the yoga pants? Let’s call her Becky.  There’s no adviser to guide you through that situation. Young fella you are on your own.  You have to rely on your own judgement.  After a while, you decide to “hang out” with her. She has a BMW 3 series… nice… She has a credit card with what seems like no limit… Pizza? She’s got it… Wings? She’s got it… Movies? She’s got it… $50?… Yeah, she’s got that to…

Never, throughout all of your years in the “hood,” have you encountered a girl like Becky.  You have no frame of reference for this type of “relationship.” It really doesn’t make sense to you… She’s not your lady… She’s not your girlfriend… but… you like it. You really like it.  You’ve been conditioned to like it.  When they recruited you, they put about 4-5 girls just like her in front of you for the entire weekend. These girls looked like Becky and they were ready, willing and able… You smashed. It was all good. You committed… “Coach, I’m coming to BIG State!”

So now you’ve been on campus for a few weeks, it’s Friday and there’s no practice tomorrow. A rare day off. You can’t believe coach actually has nothing planned in the morning.  So you, two teammates and your boy from home decide to head over to a keg party at a nearby apartment complex. Soon as you enter the door, there she is… Becky… Y’all lock eyes… It’s a wrap, she’s by your side for the rest of the evening.  You playfully flirt.  You test the limits… How far will she let me go?  You grab her ass, she’s ok with that… You kiss her, she’s ok with that.

After a 7-8 drinks things start to get a little “loose.” Y’all decide to slip off to the bathroom. You close the door behind her and she gets on her knees. The effort is there, but the constant knocking at the door is really distracting. After 10 minutes or so y’all decide to go back to your room. This poses problems for your boys.  You’re the “man,” everyone knows you, not them.  They are just dudes at a party.  Your friends don’t like their chances of “hooking up” if you aren’t there with them.  Everybody decides to leave.  You, your crew and Becky head back to your dorm.

black-and-white-mike-jordan-sonMichael Jordan’s Son, Marcus and friends

Upon arriving back at the dorm, it’s on. You and Becky immediately disrobe and engage in consensual sex. Very good consensual sex. So good, your boys have been listening at the door the whole time. As a result, they are drunk and horny.  These guys are in a frenzied state of mind.  When you leave to clean yourself in the bathroom,  your teammate decides to enter the room.  We have just entered the danger zone. Young fella… Make no mistake… Lives are about to change forever.

Becky sees him taking off his pants and gets worried. She didn’t sign up for this.  She let’s him know she doesn’t want to have sex with him. He totally disregards her protestations.  He’s gonna take it.  He grabs her, places his forearm across her chest and pins her down on the bed. In a matter of seconds, Becky knows she has no options.  It’s total mismatch. He’s 6’4” and 245 lbs. She’s 5’3” and about 120.  Your boy… your buddy… your homie… forcefully spreads her legs and penetrates her vagina.  He’s not wearing a condom.   After a few minutes he lifts her up, flips her over and forces himself into her anus. Becky is crying.  Her spirit has literally left her frail body.  She has given up on physically resisting. She’s just hoping that this ordeal will soon come to an end. It doesn’t.

After wiping yourself down, you re-enter the room.  The other two guys are on your heels.  You see what is happening.  Your boy is ravaging Becky.  You know it’s not right. You know it’s foul. But you don’t take a stand.  You are now complicit. Unfortunately, you are “down” – legally and in a fraternal sense – with your boys… You’re weak and you allow Becky to be raped.  It unfolds right in your face.  Your boy from home forces his penis in her mouth while your teammate continues to assault her from the rear.  Your other teammate whips out his cell phone and starts recording the incident. Becky has become an inanimate object, she exists solely as a means of pleasuring the young men.  No one give any thought to her feelings, her pain, her humiliation.  Eventually, her crying becomes overbearing and y’all decide to cease. You throw her a towel, a rag and a hoodie. You and your homies retreat to the living area leaving her lying is a pool of sweat, tears and semen.

After a about 10 minutes, you ask her if she’s “alright.”  Becky’s eyes are open, but she is unresponsive.  It’s as if she comatose. She has just been subjected to a brutal felony gang rape.   But in a haze of ego and displaced loyalty to your friends, you convince yourself somehow, someway that she wanted it.   You have absolutely no idea how much trouble you are in.  Back in the living area, your boy has already forwarded the video and pics to several other friends.  Your dumb ass then shares it with other players on the team.

Jack Johnson-page-0(1)Becky is devastated.  She is bleeding.  All sorts of thoughts are running through her head. “Do I have a disease? Herpes? Aid? Am I pregnant?”  Blaming herself, she wonders what she could have done differently.  Yes, she wanted consensual sex with YOU.  The key words here are “with YOU”.  She didn’t want to be tossed around and shared by a group of strange men.  Unbeknownst to you and your friends, Becky has just endured life altering physical and psychological trauma.  Even though you don’t yet realize it, your athletic careers are already in jeopardy and your reputations will never recover.

Different versions of this episode are playing out on college campuses all across the country. Young Black college and professional athletes are literally “wildin’ out” on campuses and in hotels across the country. Of course, white athletes are wildin out too.  But, I’m not concerned with Ben Rothlisberger, Christian Peter and other white athletes right now.  Young fella, I am worried about you.  With alarming frequency, the media provides us with detailed accounts such as the one above.

Even casual fans can recognize that Black college and professional athletes such as yourself are increasingly involved in “alleged” sexual assaults. When not substantiated, these allegations, nonetheless, linger. They permanently stain the reputation and decrease the earning potential of guys like you. You do not want to be forever linked to the words “sexual assault” and “RAPE.”  If substantiated, athletes face immediate repercussions meted out by the criminal justice system and living their remaining years as a registered “sex offender.” Either way, the social and financial costs of sexual assaults are extremely high and should be avoided at all costs.

But how do you learn to deal with these situations? Who will demonstrate and model more appropriate ways to engage in sexual relationships with females, especially female “groupies”? I know you don’t really have a relationship with your father.  Who can help save you from yourself?

My contention here is that your Ol’ Heads have to do a better job preparing you for the complex and often confusing social circumstances awaiting elite basketball and football players on college campuses.  It ain’t enough to just deliver you to a Nike, under Arnour of Adidas school.  Ol’ Heads have to do more.  They are the ones in a position to make a difference.  Ol’ Heads have earned your respect and that of young Black males. They are youth coaches, high school coaches, AAU coaches, mentors, teachers or any older gentleman that demonstrates a willingness to impart knowledge.  Ol’ Heads know exactly how these scenarios can play out.

Young fella, if you truly don’t understand how you ended up arrested and charged with rape, your Ol’ Heads failed you.

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I’m gonna always try my best to give it you raw and uncut.  Young fella, I have to speak TRUTH. Take it however you want, but here it is.

Some things have been issues from the moment Black men set foot on Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.  Since then, their place in the fledgling society has been an issue of vital concern to dominant white males. Very early on it was decided that Black males would be subjugated and relegated to far less than second class status.  By 1640, at least one African had been declared a slave and formally ordered by the court “to serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life here or elsewhere.” Your Ol’ Heads understand that Black male sexuality and the Black penis have been viewed as major threats to the established social order by successive generations of white Americans over the past 370 years. Your Ol’ heads know that Black male interactions with women, especially white women, throughout American history have been aggressively policed and excessively punished. Ol’ Heads tend to understand this instinctively even if they are not familiar with the ugly, horrific details of manner in which American society has interacted with Black male genitalia.

The problem, as I see it young fella, is that collegiate sports has become such an integral and important part of American culture that many Ol’ Heads think that these historically observable dynamics no longer apply to elite athletes such as yourself.  And, to certain extent, they are not wrong. They are just shortsighted.  As long as you are performing in sanctioned contests that generate approximately $900,000,000 annually for the NCAA, they will let a LOT of shit “slide.”  Up to and including sexual assaults…

However, when you are no longer eligible to play or become ineffective at toting the rock or dunking a ball… When you can no longer contribute to victories and earn $$$$ for BIG state, the reality of America’s long standing fear of Black sexuality will rear its’ ugly head.  You will quickly come to understand the extent to which America continues to be fearful of the Black penis.

Eddie Johnson-page-0Young fella… Let me give you a quick history lesson on this subject.  They have always reserved the “legal” right to cut your dick off for that same shit y’all did to Becky.  In 1769, Colonial Virginia established a law which “authorized the castration of any slave who attempted to have sex with a white woman,” but it had no similar provision when white men attempted or in fact ravished black women.  Young fella… pay attention…  In 1775, Colonial Georgia formally enacted the prohibition against teaching a slave to read or write. The penalty for violating this prohibition was set at fifteen pounds sterling. That fine was was 50% larger that that for willfully castrating a slave or cutting off a limb.  That means the penalty for cutting off your balls was only half as much as the fine for teaching you to read.  I know what you are thinking: “I would have escaped, I would have run off…” You had better make to freedom if you tried.  In Colonial South Carolina, a third attempt at escaping to freedom warranted castration.  This mysterious fascination with and simultaneous fear of Black penises was not limited to the South.  In Colonial Pennsylvania, all Black males, free and enslaved, found guilty of attempts to rape a white woman were castrated.  The macabre behavior continued, in extra-legal forms well after independence from England.

In his recent film, Quinten Tarantino captured the essence of the issue at hand when Django was hung naked upside down in a barn while he awaits castration. The white man longing to execute the job, Billy Crash, one of the overseers, delighted in the thought of cutting off Django balls.  But, young fella, I don’t have to rely on cinematic fiction to illustrate how this is part of America’s DNA.

Throughout American history, when Black males were lynched the murderers would routinely cut off their penises. Sometimes, Black dicks were kept as souvenirs in pickle jars. In other instances, they were shoved into the mouths of the victim as he dangled from a tree. Eighty years ago, on October 26, 1934 Claude Neal was lynched in Marianna, Florida for having an affair with Ms. Cannidy, a young white neighbor.

A member of the lynch mob described the gruesome episode in great detail:

“After taking the nigger to the woods about four miles from Greenwood, they cut off his penis. He was made to eat it. Then they cut off his testicles and made him eat them and say he liked it. Then they sliced his sides and stomach with knives and every now and then somebody would cut off a finger or toe. Red hot irons were used on the nigger to burn him from top to bottom.” From time to time during the torture a rope would be tied around Neal’s neck and he was pulled up over a limb and held there until he almost choked to death when he would be let down and the torture begin all over again. After several hours of this unspeakable torture, “they decided just to kill him.”

The mob of angry whites tied Neal to a rope at the rear of an automobile and dragged over the highway to the Cannidy home. Somewhere between 3000 and 7000 fervent whites from eleven southern states were excitedly waiting his arrival. When Neal’s corpse arrived, it was immediately mutilated by the onlookers. It was then taken back to Marianna, where it was hung to a tree in the courthouse square.  Young fella, pictures (see below) were taken of the mutilated body and hundreds of photographs were sold for fifty cents each. Neal’s fingers were sold as souvenirs.

Claude-Neal-1934-Marianna-FLClaude Neal, Marianna, Florida 1934

In some important ways, times have changed significantly.  Think about it young fella.  For the better part of four centuries, brutal lynchings and castrations accompanied even the slightest thought of engaging in sexual relations with white women.  Yet, today young Black men are engaging in sexual relations with white women on college campuses in Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Kentucky, others states throughout the former Confederacy and all across the country. Even when white women cry “rape” the cases are frequently made to go away.

By now Young fella… I know your asking: How does this make sense? What is going on? What changed?

Incredibly, at this historical juncture, it is apparent that many white police and University officials place more value on the alleged Black perpetrator’s athletic services than they do on the “honor” of the putative white female victims.  The investigative reports are there for all to see.

Most recently, mainstream media outlets like ESPN, the New York Times and the Washington Post reported that white males in positions of authority are  hindering investigations of Black males suspected of sexually assaulting white women.  University presidents, athletic directors and coaches are routinely siding with prominent young Black athletes and questioning the accounts of alleged victims.

Young fella, you wanna know what’s really going on?

In the immortal words of Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Method Man and the rest of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” C.R.E.A.M./Get the money; dollar, dollar bill, y’all.  The fear of Black male sexuality still exists, but it has been overridden by naked greed.  Elite collegiate athletes generate huge sums of money for their respective institutions.

Young fella , as soon as you are no longer a substantial source of revenue, the fear will become readily apparent.

Your Ol’ Heads understand this innate fear. Unfortunately, truth be told, just like the white males cashing in at the colleges, a lot of Ol’ Heads have been blinded by greed.  Hoping to cash in if you make it, many Ol’ Heads are not willing to impose behavioral expectations on guys like you.  They are afraid of being cast out of your inner circle.  They are worried that you will make it to the NFL or NBA and they won’t be around to share in your success and reap financial rewards.

In short, the game is fucked up!!

Fearful of losing access, Ol’ Heads fail to provide guidance for dealing with these situations.  You have never been subjected to logical consequences for your negative behaviors.  As a result, you have no idea how the larger society views these types of sexual escapades. Because you can ball, people have been letting you get away with all types of transgressions since you were 10 or 11 years old.  Young fella you have been socialized to believe you are above the rest of society.  You are part of a generation of gladiators incapable of consistently exhibiting socially appropriate behaviors in all settings.

Mike Tyson-page-0Far too many of today’s Ol’ Heads view their role as making problems go away. In the past, Ol’ Heads prepared youngbucks to deal with a complicated, confusing and discriminatory society. These days, Ol’ Heads just say, “Don’t worry ‘bout it, I’ll fix it.”

That is extremely unfortunate.  Your generation is paying a high price for this.  More than anyone else, Ol’ Heads are in a position to spell out the truth.  Ol’ Heads know their youngbucks. They know if y’all are capable of assaulting or raping women. They have spent countless hours in cars, gyms and classrooms with youngbucks. In many instances, they have diffused sensitive situations involving inappropriate behaviors with girls and young women.  The responsibilities of Ol’ Heads are much deeper than the responsibility of college coaches, given the unique relationships and access that Ol’ Heads enjoy.

Reuben Patterson-page-0Ol’ Heads also understand the dynamics of race as they have historically applied to Black athletes.  From 1905 through the early 1970’s, major NCAA college basketball and football programs fielded teams that were predominantly white.  In the south, “Affirmative Action” was firmly entrenched in the recruitment process.  Participation in major college athletics was exclusively (100%) the preserve of white males for these seven decades. Highly skilled and supremely gifted Black athletes were barred from participation and lesser white athletes were awarded scholarships.

After explicitly denying Black males an opportunity participate for seven decades, the pendulum has swung entirely in the other direction.  One watching two top SEC teams on television today could easily envision the same game taking place between Grambling and Southern in the mid 1960’s. Outside an occasional center or quarterback, dominant college teams are predominantly African-American.

The money has really changed things young fella… The rise of the Black athlete and the accompanying exponential growth in revenues has led us a point where many white fans, boosters, coaches, administrators and even law enforcement officials value winning college athletic contests (and the generating millions of dollars) more than they fear Black penises.

But… youngfella… please… please… Don’t be fooled, it’s all about the money.

Let’s look at the investigation of a rape allegation against the reigning Heisman winner and quarterback of the national champion Florida State football team.  This incident and the ensuing actions on the part of authority figures provides a clear picture of just how far the pendulum has swung.

Darren Sharper-page-0On Jan. 10, 2013, a female student alleged that Jameis Winston has raped her about a month earlier and reported him to the Tallahassee police.  According to a statement released by the university, senior athletic department officials met with Mr. Winston’s lawyer, Mr. Jansen, within days of his identification as a suspect and quickly concluded that “there were no grounds for further action.” The accuser’s former lawyer, Patricia A. Carroll, said the department did not contact her at the time to get her client’s side of the story.

What the fuck is up with that?  Fifty years ago a mob would have tried to drag Winston out of his home and hang him up on a tree a few feet from the courthouse steps.

Young fella… If we remember what Wu-Tang tells us, that “cash rules everything around me” then things start to make sense.  On the field, Winston is a dynamic force and a dominant leader. Florida State has yet to lose a football game in the in year and a half he has been the starting quarterback. Wins translate into dollars. County officials estimate that home games generate anywhere from $1.5 million to $10 million into the local economy, depending on the quality of the opponent.  Last year Florida State reported a football profit of $20 million, which covered much of the expenses for other sports teams while also helping the athletic department contribute $2.6 million back to academic programming on top of athletic scholarships.

The New york Times has reported that the police investigator who handled the case, Scott Angulo, “has done private security work for the Seminole Boosters, a nonprofit organization, with nearly $150 million in assets, that is the primary financier of Florida State athletics, according to records and a lawyer for the boosters.”

As long as he has eligibility left, FSU and the authorities in Tallahassee will continue to let a LOT of shit slide.  Winston as of October 14, 2014 is 19-0 as the starting QB.  He also has a Heisman trophy and a National Championship in hand.  You… young fella… you ain’t Jameis Winston.

Act like you got some sense!!

One Family at a Time: Increasing Minority Catholic/Private Enrollment In Philly

We are witnessing a profound paradigm shift in the manner in which urban K-12 educational services are delivered.  Urban public schools have seemingly abandoned hope.  Right before our eyes, the traditional urban public school systems of our youth die a tortuous, slow and excruciatingly painful death. Constant pressure is being applied with great force to the “throat” of urban public school systems. This asphyxiation of public education in places like Philadelphia, presents a tremendous opportunity for Catholic, Private and other tuition-based schools to dramatically increase their enrollment figures.

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We are in the midst of a period of “public education austerity,” which has been gaining traction for several years. Deep and sustained administrator, teacher and guidance counselor layoffs accompanied by widespread school closings and service cuts are clear symptoms of this particular disease. These massive human resource reductions and school shutterings have been instituted with alarming consistency in low-income urban areas across the nation. They are part and parcel of the trend toward a “Portfolio” management model in urban education.

Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, Camden and Philadelphia are among the large urban districts that are shifting from a centralized bureaucracy that directly manages traditional neighborhood based schools toward the Portfolio model in which District Administrators enter into contracts with a few public schools, privately managed schools, and charter schools. Last year alone, Philadelphia closed 29 schools. Chicago closed 49, New York 26 and Washington, DC 15. Other urban areas transitioning to this Portfolio Management approach are Baltimore, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Washington.

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A key feature of this strategy appears to be economic strangulation of the remnants of traditional neighborhood schools. Given the fiscal constraints facing administrators of traditional urban schools, continued abysmal academic performance is inevitable. Of course, this will lead to more and more school closings. National education management organizations (EMOs) and large corporate charter operators will continue to gain a larger share of the urban public education market. Or, so they think.

Portfolio models have emerged in wide range of strategic environments, but they have an important limitation. In each of the aforementioned cities, the “shot callers” – politicians, board members, superintendents, etc. – have made their move.  For example, the School District of Philadelphia has shown its’ hand.  Now other “players” have an opportunity to react and respond accordingly.  In “real life” all of the players in the “urban education market” players don’t choose their strategies simultaneously.  Instead, the game transpires over time, with players making “moves” to which other players react with their own “moves.” Here I explore the likely “moves” of the tuition-based schools, represented by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and urban low to moderate income parents of school age children.

It is important to note that the School District of Philadelphia’s educational “shot-callers” may not have fully considered the extent to which the timing of strategic decisions is important.  Despite years of sad stability, the urban educational service delivery “market” is potentially a dynamic and constantly changing strategic environment.  The shot-caller pay lip service to this fact.  Proponents of the Portfolio model argue that it allows districts a degree of flexibility unavailable under traditional service delivery models. What they fail to appreciate is the extent to which their actions could lead to a mass exodus of students from the public school system altogether.

For years, urban public school board members, superintendents and administrators operated as a de facto monopoly. The actual consumer of public schools — parents and children — exercise very influence as the schools have become more and more centralized and bureaucratic. Over the past 60 years or so, the number of school districts declined from 130,000 to 16,000. The system is top-heavy.  Classroom teachers once represented 96 percent of the total instructional staff. Today they are about 86 percent.  Federal and state resources have superseded local government as the leading source of school funds. The local percentage dropped from 83 percent to 43 percent. While population has almost doubled, the cost per student multiplied more than five-fold, even after allowing for inflation.  By any reasonable measure, the quality of urban education has declined precipitously. Urban public school systems are now run by professional bureaucrats. Monopoly and uniformity have replaced competition and diversity. Over the past five or six years, these bureaucrats began shifting to a ‘Portfolio’ management model in cities across America. In doing so, they are opening the door for high-quality alternatives like Catholic, Christian and Independent tuition-based schools to siphon off students in large numbers.

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Their misguided premise seems to be that urban public students won’t pursue tuition-based alternatives. From the perspective of the shot-callers, urban public students are captives.  They will accept whatever experiment or reform package comes down the pike.  I fundamentally disagree! Here, I explore a more dynamic representation of the urban educational setting in Philadelphia. Unlike, political leaders and school board members operating from a monopolistic perspective, assuming a stagnant and captive urban student body, I acknowledge the presence and importance of other players in the urban educational “game.”

A more extensive and informative analysis necessarily includes a more complete set of players.  Urban school districts aren’t acting in a vacuum. For present purposes, I consider three (3) sets of players: 1) The School District of Philadelphia, 2) The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and, 3) urban parents of Philadelphia’s public school students. Perhaps, most importantly, there is no assumption that urban districts can close schools, cut services, lay off teachers and other staff members with impunity. Rather, I look at their recent moves when and spell out what their choices entail. I explore what the other know when they move. Finally, I examine each set of players‘ payoffs as a function of the choices that are made.

In the Philadelphia Urban Education Entry Model illustrated below, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) is an incumbent monopolist. As of December 2013, the SDP consisted of 214 schools. This figure includes Promise Academies and excludes Early Childhood, Alternative Education Programs, and Charter Schools. The SDP enrolls over 131,000 students in these 214 schools. Another 6,982 are enrolled in Pre-K programs, 3,558 are in Alternative Education programs and 229 are in Virtual Academies.

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The School District of Philadelphia is also responsible for establishing and maintaining high standards for its charter schools, including ongoing monitoring of charter performance against clear standards and implementing consequences for not meeting standards. As such, the SDP currently “oversees” 86 charter schools with a total enrollment exceeding 60,000.  While charter schools have a degree of administrative autonomy, they are ultimately accountable to the School District of Philadelphia.  Indeed, six (6) charter schools are currently in the midst the Nonrenewal/Revocation Process in which the District’s School Reform Commission is attempting to permanently close the schools. For strategic purposes, I consider them part of the District.

With regard to urban education, especially of low to moderate income minority students, in Philadelphia, the SDP is a virtual monopoly. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, has smaller but relatively stable presence in Philadelphia’s urban education market.  With the abysmal academic performance of SDP schools, the Archdiocese has an opportunity to aggressively enter the urban educational market. Plainly stated, they can make a push for Black and Latino students that are currently underserved by dysfunctional public schools. The strategic situation is represented the above diagram.

If the Archdiocese decides to “stay out” of the urban student enrollment market, the district would not lose students and the payoff for the SDP is 2. Under that scenario, the Archdiocese would not gain any additional students and their payoff would be 0. But, we can immediately eliminate this payoff option.

The Archdiocese has decided to “jump in” the the urban enrollment market. Indeed, their commitment to attracting minority students is very real. Toward that end, the nonprofit foundation that manages Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is offering $1,000 grants to encourage students to transfer to the schools.

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Christopher Mominey, chief operating officer of the Faith in the Future Foundation and the archdiocese’s secretary for Catholic education, said the new “transfer advantage” grants were part of the effort to boost enrollment at the 17 high schools.  He said the foundation wanted to attract students who were not enrolled at Catholic high schools but were interested in learning more about them. Within Philadelphia’s city limits, these students are predominantly Black, Latino and Asian. The Archdiocese is currently planning mount an aggressive targeted marketing campaign to engage minority families. This effort will be spearheaded by Nick Regina, Deputy Secretary for Enrollment Management.

With the Archdiocese aggressively competing for urban students, the SDP, theoretically, will have to choose how to compete: either aggressively (fight to keep their students), or by ceding enrollment share (accommodate). The strategic situation faced by the SDP is represented by in the diagram by the choices “fight” or “accommodate.” Again, we can immediately eliminate one of the scenarios. The district, quite frankly, is not in any position to fight.

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Even if they wanted to market themselves, it would be a very, very tough sell.  Of the 214 schools in the School District of Philadelphia, 182 (85%) are listed as “low-achieving” for the 2014-2015 school year. Put another way, nearly 9 out of every 10 Philadelphia public school ranks in the bottom 15% of Pennsylvania schools. Moreover, it’s virtually impossible to find a traditional neighborhood school that is not low-achieving. The performance levels are so poor that the Pennsylvania Department of Education has determined that students residing within the boundaries of a low-achieving school are eligible to apply for scholarships to attend another public or nonpublic school. In effect, the state of Pennsylvania is telling parents to seek better educational settings.

Hence, if they expended any of their scarce resources on a marketing/recruitment effort, they would necessarily take away from their ability to deliver educational programming. As such, the student experience within the district could only become worse. Thus, the decision to “fight” result is payoff of -1 for the SDP. At the same time, the Archdiocese will gain an increased enrollment share. The ADP payoff is 1.

Thus, the far more likely scenario is one of accommodation. One could almost see this coming. Three years ago, the SRC joined the city, state, District, and two of Pennsylvania’s largest charter umbrella organizations in joining the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact.  The group was given a $100,000 planning grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The stated aim of the compact is replacing or transforming 50,000 seats in low-performing schools with better options, without regard to whether the schools involved are operated by the District or a charter organization. The Great Schools Compact is the engine driving the push toward a “Portfolio Management” model in Philadelphia. Why would they oppose an increased number of students enrolling in tuition-based schools?

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Clearly, Catholic schools are a “better option.” By any reasonable measure Catholic schools outperform public and charter schools in Philadelphia. Over 98% of the elementary schools in the Archdiocese have been accredited by the Middle States Association, and the remaining 2% have completed the process and are awaiting their status. More than 4,000 students participate in Elementary Honors Math Programs in 78 Archdiocesan schools. These students are prepared to participate in advanced-placement mathematics courses at the secondary level. World Language instruction is offered in 102 elementary schools. Fine Arts programs are in existence in every Archdiocesan school. Students from Archdiocesan schools have taken top honors in the Future Cities competition as well as in county and regional science competitions.

The question becomes: How does the Archdiocese identify and connect with urban parents desiring access to high-quality, safe educational settings on a regular and consistent basis?  How do they overcome the seemingly “irrational” tendency of parents to enroll their children in low-achieving and highly dysfunctional public schools? The fact is far too urban many parents exhibit educational decision-making that can, perhaps, be best described as irrational or behavior without clear educational goals in mind.

First and foremost, Catholic School enrollment management and admissions professionals must understand that marketing/recruitment approaches that have worked with their traditional populations are limited by time and culture. The Archdiocese has begun to make significant inroads in that area.  Schools like West Catholic HS, Roman Catholic HS and Bishop McDevitt have significant minority student populations.  The staff at these schools have developed recruitment strategies that have been well-received by minority parents.  However, many low to moderate income parents continue to exhibit educational decision-making that is very distinct and subculture-bound.

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To be effective, Archdiocese representatives must better understand that enrollment decisions which “on their face” appear irrational may indeed be sensible.  This is an important and difficult task to accomplish.  It’s difficult because in many instances educational decision-making takes forms that typical private school parents would consider irrational.  Nonetheless, these behaviors are sensible because they are well adapted to the “real world” situations faced by low to moderate income urban families every day. By “well adapted” I mean enrolling kids in neighborhood public schools satisfies the legal requirement that children attend school without the occurrence of destructive personal stress.

In all American urban centers, to a greater or lesser extent there exists a subculture of the poor. People on the lower end of the economic spectrum view things differently than those on the middle and upper ends. It’s exceedingly hard out here for many, if not most, urban families. In real terms, the nation’s 2012 household median income of $51,017 stood at the lowest level since 1995. Median income peaked in 1999, at $56,000. In 2007, the national median household income stood at $55,627. But it has fallen every year since. When inflation is removed from the equation, median income fell 5.5% from 2005 to 2012. Most Philadelphians are much worse off than the average American. Philadelphia’s median household income was $34,207 in 2011, according to a census study. With half of Philly’s households below that figure, it’s not difficult to identify people struggling to make ends meet and keep a roof over their head.

Enrollment decisions for these folk conform to the notion that actions are taken to avoid pain, not to maximize educational benefits: to cope with pain, or minimize it, or to minimize its very perception. This behavior is not likely immediately recognizable to Catholic School administrators as “sensible” action. I suspect that much, if not most, urban parental behavior broadly considered is designed to minimize pain.

Dealing with daily inexorable pressure and overwhelming frustrations, many low to moderate income parents desire a predictable life. They don’t need to enroll their children in a private or parochial school only to discover that they will be unable to meet tuition payments. They want to reduce the precariousness of life. They want to know that their children will be able to attend a school and they will therefore comply with truancy laws. Many have a hard time understanding apparently irrational resistance to well-meaning attempts to improve access to quality schools. For those unfamiliar with life in the “hood” the educational choices of many urban parents is not immediately recognizable as sensible.

How can we help parents better understand the range of available options? It needs to be understood that educational decision-making intended to minimize pain is widespread in urban centers because it has deep roots in the basic, inescapable need to avoid tension and stress in a world quite correctly perceived to be hostile and unpredictable. Urban minority parents literally have to worry the thug element and the police harming their children. Will their boys be safe from police or harassment or worse traveling everyday through predominantly white neighborhoods.  Unless Catholic educators/recruiters take this fact into account they will continue trying to engage urban families with strategies that are totally irrelevant to their day-to-day existence. There is a need for a new debate, a new discussion with vastly different parameters.

In recent years, debate surrounding urban educational issues has tended to be narrowly circumscribed.  Print and TV media outlets and pundits have focused on a very narrow range of issues. They tend to frame the argument in the following manner: Should public school districts and their supporters focus attention on how to provide quality schooling with, admittedly, dwindling and insufficient resources? Or, alternatively, should school districts and their supporters continue waging (losing) a struggle to gain additional public funding?

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is adopting a very different approach to the problem of urban education. They can begin from a point which assumes that parents, guardians, grandparents and other educational placement “decision-makers” are potential consumers. That is to say, their behaviors could be influenced, subject to information and opportunity costs. The Archdiocese is assuming that, once fully informed, individual urban parents will want safe high-quality educational settings for their children. Like everyone else, Black, Latino and Asian parents will want to access the “best” schools, once they understand that it is truly achievable.

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They know that many urban parents, however, possess a very limited understanding of the Parochial school application and financial aid process. As a result, their ability to determine their “best interests” and make informed educational decisions is constrained both by perceived limited financial situations and limited understanding of the processes. This is not accidental. Urban school districts, charter school operators and the media have managed to successfully frame the discussion in such a manner that Catholic, Private and Independent school options are, generally speaking, excluded from consideration as viable options for low to middle-income urban families.

The Archdiocese recognizes that most urban parents don’t know much about how Catholic schools work. These parents don’t understand that with available financial aid, they could access quality elementary schools $250, $300 or $350 per month depending on their respective financial situation. They recognize that within urban minority communities, there is significant variation in the extent to which attention is focused on educational issues,  People have different spans of attention and parents have different levels of education. In short, they know parents need help determining what is the “best” educational setting for their children. Many, in not most, parents and students have no idea how bad their current situation actually is.

The best way to accomplish this task is to meet with these families one at a time. If the Archdiocese sticks to this approach, I’m convinced Catholic schools in Philly will “blow up.”

It’s a Set up!! The Public Educational “Game” is Officially Rigged in Pennsylvania!!

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Young fella,  the educational crisis in Philadelphia’s public schools has received a great deal of attention in the national and local media.  The $300 million dollar budget deficit, the school closings and the massive teacher layoffs have been extensively debated.  Ms. Jones, your favorite NTA, Mrs. Williams, the music teacher, Mr. Jenkins, the guidance counselor that exposed you to the world of HBCUs, they’re all gone.  Along with over 3,000 of their peers, they have been terminated.  It’s bad, real bad young fella.  Much worse than when I graduated about 30 years ago.

A general consensus has been reached: Public Education in cities like Philadelphia is in critical condition.  Some contend it’s on it’s deathbed.  The media tends to frame the debate in the following manner: Should financially strapped public school districts and and their supporters focus attention on how to provide quality schooling with, admittedly, dwindling and insufficient resources? Or, alternatively, should school districts and their supporters continue waging [losing?] a struggle to gain additional public funding?

However, very few analysts and commentators view the situation from the most important perspective.  What you, your Mom and your Dad do?  What should you and your parents be considering?  What factors should you weigh as you make educational placement decisions?

Please consider this open letter a warning!  Please be careful, be very careful.  The educational landscape is changing.  While the focus of the public debate has been on yet another budget crisis, there has been a HUGE political shift as well.  While this political shift has not received the same level attention as the recurring budget crisis, the long-term consequences will be much more impactful.

Plainly stated, if you do not make informed and careful decisions regarding school selection, you will be excluding yourself from the possibility of higher education and relegating yourself to life time of low-wage employment or worse.

Urban BlightIn many ways, it’s a classic set-up.  Young fella… pay close attention! Beginning in 2017, most low-income minority students attending traditional neighborhood public schools in places like Philadelphia, Chester, Reading, Coatesville, Harrisburg and Lancaster will NOT graduate from high school.  I am not suggesting they will drop out of school.  Although that is a huge problem in and of itself, I am referring to students that stay in school and complete the 12th grade.  Most Black and Latino students in large urban districts will not graduate with a diploma beginning in 2017.  Now, why would I make such a sad and pessimistic prediction?

A year ago, the Pennsylvania State Board of Education approved a controversial plan to require all Pennsylvania students to pass proficiency tests in science, math, and language arts before graduating.  If approved, the standards would take effect with high school graduates in 2017 (current 10th graders), and require them to demonstrate proficiency in Algebra I, Biology I, and language arts on the Keystone Exams or a state-approved assessment alternative.

By adopting this requirement, Pennsylvania has become part of a larger nationwide trend.  The Common Core standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.  These standards are ardently backed by the Obama administration which contends that outdated and inconsistent guidelines leave students ill prepared for college and the work force.  In effect, the argument is that by implementing tougher standards, the schools will rise to the occasion we will see an increased level of academic performance.  What is too often left unsaid is that requiring low-income urban students who have spent their formative years in highly dysfunctional underperforming schools to demonstrate proficiency in these subject areas is a set-up for failure.

Over 85% of Philadelphia 214 public schools are currently listed as “low achieving” based on student performance on Keystone Exams or state-approved assessment alternatives.

 

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Young fella, this is not speculation.  This a prediction based firmly on an analysis of student performance trends.  Think about it for a minute here.  Students in nearly 9 out of 10 Philadelphia public schools have been “low achieving” for years.  Since then the district has cut over 3,000 teachers.  Last spring, Superintendent Hite facing yet another budget crisis declared “our schools will go from insufficient to empty shells that do not represent what I consider a functioning school.”

We know that a vast majority of these ill-prepared low-income minority students will not be able to meet these standards.  It is equivalent to strapping a 50 pound weight on their backs and demanding that they beat Usain Bolt in a 100 meter dash.  The outcome can be predicted with absolute certainty, they won’t win.  The early results in other major cities forecast the coming Philadelphia storm.

New York was one of the first states to develop tests based on the Common Core standards. The results, predictably, were abysmal.  In math, 15 percent of black students and 19 percent of Hispanic students passed the exam, compared with 50 percent of white students and 61 percent of Asian students.  It is widely accepted that children reared in low-income Black and Latino neighborhoods are at a disadvantage in standardized testing, not because of inborn capacity but because of cultural differences and economic deprivation.  Now, under the new plan, these students will be labeled “not proficient” and barred from “graduating” high school.  Young fella… most of your homies and many of the young ladies in Philadelphia’s neighborhood high schools are going to earn “certificates of attendance” not high school diplomas!

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Within the School District of Philadelphia only special-admit magnet schools have been able to consistently make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).  Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, is a measurement that allows the US. Department of Education to determine how every public school and school district in the country is performing academically according to results on standardized tests. In recent years, 10 out of 58 (17.2%) Philadelphia public high schools made AYP.  They were all special-admit magnet schools.  In recent years, zero (0%) traditional neighborhood public schools have made AYP.  Most have failed to make AYP for 9, 10 or 11 years.  In many instance, students are attending schools that have not made AYP since the measure was implemented in in the 2001-2002 school year.

So, young fella, let’s get this straight…  The state of Pennsylvania will be requiring students that have spent every day of their educational careers in under-performing and failing schools to demonstrate proficiency on standardized tests in order to graduate.  Over the past 12-13 years, zero (0) neighborhood high schools in Philadelphia have made AYP.  Adequate Yearly Progress is based primarily on standardized test performance.  On top of that, they have laid off over 3,000 teachers in the last 12 months.  Young fella, it’s a set up!

As noted earlier, those unable to demonstrate proficiency will likely receive a “certificate of attendance” in lieu of a diploma.  What will be the value of the certificate of attendance?  Will colleges accept this as evidence of completing high schools?  How will employers interpret this as opposed to a diploma?

It is safe to assume that the results in Philadelphia, Yeadon, Darby, Darby Township and Chester will mirror the result in New York City.  The overwhelming majority of low-income minority students in public high schools will not meet the standards.  Unfortunately, the fact is they have not been able to meet the standards for the past 12-13 years.  What can you and your parents do?

If you are not enrolled in a special-admit magnet public school like Masterman, Central, Science Leadership Academy, Palumbo, Carver or Bodine you need to find an high-quality alternative placement.  Indeed, even parents of students in magnet schools may need to consider their options.  A year ago, it was announced that the libraries at Masterman and Central, the two highest achieving high schools in Philadelphia, have been closed due to budget cuts.  The State of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia are financially strangling the students in Philadelphia’s public schools.  Young fella, how are these ‘high-achieving” college bound students going to do research and independently pursue areas that interest them without access to libraries?

Can you see it?  It has all the marking of a set-up.  With this plan in place, most of Philadelphia’s low-income Black and Latino public school students will be labeled as non-graduates.  That is not taking into account the more than 50% percent that drop-out of the system altogether.  Again, let’s use the NYC results as a guide.  If 15% of the students meet the requirements for graduation and 50% or so dropped out before even taking the test, then only about 7.5% of Philadelphia’s low-income  minority public school students will be actual high school graduates.  The other 92-93% will be relegated, at the age of 18 or 19 to a lifetime of low-wage, low-skilled labor, excluded from institutions of higher learning, prone to participate in the underground economy and as a result far more likely to encounter the criminal justice system.

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Unfortunately, there will be students with A and B averages that cannot meet the standards because they have attended failing schools throughout their entire educational careers.  My strong recommendation is that you and your parents immediately research their options.  Take some time to learn about the Independent Private Schools, high achieving Charter Schools and Catholic Schools.  We have reached a point where leaving your child in a traditional neighborhood public school is tantamount to child abuse.  Yes, many of these options will require financial sacrifice.  But, the alternative is simply unacceptable.

Remaining enrolled in a traditional neighborhood high school could very well lead to a lifetime of financial sacrifice.

Many critics charge that the state doesn’t care about the children and they don’t plan for their future.  I vehemently disagree.  The state is clearly planning for the their future.  Pennsylvania has extensive plans for low-income minority children.  Please keep in mind, Pennsylvania is spending $400 million to construct two new prisons at the SCI-Graterford site in Montgomery County.  The funds are in addition to the $1.8 billion corrections budget signed by Governor Tom Corbett, an increase of $208,000 from last year.

For information information on alternatives to Philadelphia Public Schools, contact me at delgrecowilson@outlook.com.