Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Busy, Cold and Settling in for the Fall

It's busy as always in my life. Pulling teeth with students at Howard who still won't buy books. One student suggested that I scan in pages from June Jordan's collection of poetry, "Directing Desire," and e-mail the pages in .pdf to the students. Now, my dear parents out there, we have raised a generation of totally inept young people who will do nothing for themselves if you allow it. I pray that my son isn't at Howard University suggesting to his professors that they scan in pages from the textbooks that he should have bought!

Saw the first frost Monday morning; I'm always unprepared for the cold. But it's good to have a change of season, I am forced to slow down because the days are shorter, and I have absolutely no energy when the sun doesn't shine.

Reading Gene Andrew Jarrett's "Deans and Truants." Well, I'm yelling at the book, literally and figuratively, while I'm reading it. I'm reviewing it for a journal. The book is very problematic. When I finish writing the review and it is published, I'll add the URL to the blog if you are interested in reading the review.

All is well, it's rough being middle-age, single, and woman. I thought that this would be the prime of my life, but it's not working out that way. So I'll retreat to the only world that is completely comprehensible to me: books!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Forget about the Economy, Enjoy a Walk

I awakened this morning determined not to listen to C-Span on the radio or tune in to NPR, but to grab my journal, book, and purse and head to the neighborhood Starbucks and write. I accomplished this goal. Hurray! I was almost tempted to grab the Washington Post as the glaring headline, "Feds Nationalize Banks," or something to that effect, arrested my eyes. But I didn't; I got my mocha and sat down to a peaceful morning. To hell with it all, my mother told me that I'd never retire; I believe her now.

Fall is upon us. I walked around the pond this morning to check out the leaves changing and the snapping turtles meandering along the waters. The sap in the pine trees is running and the mushrooms are large and have the oddest shapes. The air is just right, not too cool and not too warm, but perfect for a fall walk. I wanted to take a path along the brook, but as I walked with Luther Vandross crooning from my ipod, the path led me deeper and deeper into a densely forested area. Now I knew eventually the path would dump out into either a subdivision or a paved trail or asphalt walkway, but I wasn't feeling it, so I turned back. I suspect that the children in the neighborhood have worn this path through the forest, trying to find a quicker access to the clubhouse and shopping center. Perhaps with a companion one day, I will walk the path and see where it leads me.

Enjoy this day, and if it is as gorgeous where you are as it is in metro DC, forget the damn economy and go for a walk.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

AIG and FASB 157

Oh, they are engaging in double speak. Please listen to the committee hearing regarding AIG. It's the SEC's fault and FASB 157 for the failure of AIG according to the former CEO. My oh, my, are these guys robber barons or what?

Here's a link to FASB 157 for all of us non-accountants out there. Read and learn.

Too bad my former husband's not speaking to me otherwise I'd call him and get an SEC accountant's insight into this mess. Hum, maybe he's not speaking because for the first time in his career he's really working hard. Who knows? Hum, mark to market accounting rules. My assets have fixed values: that's because I'm so doggone poor. Well, the values do float I suppose according to the market, but one thing for sure, I'm not holding anything on the books that is overvalued for future markets thereby misrepresenting my net worth.

Oh, it's difficult to value securities when there's no specific market for the securities according to AIG's former CEO. Huh, am I that dense. If there's no market for the securities they have no value. Hello. Basic economics, but of course, I'm only an English professor not an accountant.

Guess what? We own AIG. We, the taxpayers, have bailed them out. I want to go to the resort in California for a vacation that some AIG executives just enjoyed. I'm working two jobs to keep up. Come on, lets take over AIG's corporate headquarters, check into a $400+/night room, spend $23,000 for the hotel spa (I'm in need of a manicure, pedicure, and a massage; I had to give myself my own pedicure last night. Bummer).

I'll just have to take my former husband to dinner so that he can help me figure this out. One thing for sure, the boys and girls at the SEC do not get hefty bonuses for turning a blind eye to financial abuse and misrepresentation. THEY ARE THE REGULATORS. Yes, I'm shouting. Oh, and by the way, their compensation package is LIMITED. AIG is in the hot seat, and the former CEO is squirming.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Educating African Students: Historicity and the Present

Okay, this is what I've been writing today. Since I don't have the intellectual or physical capacity to generate a separate blog, here it is.

Educating African Students: Historicity and the Present

The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education[1] evidenced a nearly two-hundred year debate about the efficacy of educating the African in the British colonies, and subsequently, the United States. Based on theories of inherent Western European supremacy and African inferiority, 19th century arguments concerning public education, no matter how progressive, continued to advocate and support an inferior education for the African relying on bogus scientific theories of biological evolution and cultural determinism that placed the Western European at the highest level in the hierarchy of being, with the African at the bottom.[2] Deemed intellectually inferior, the African, if educated at all, received an industrial arts or manual education that relegated the African’s participation in the capitalist economy solely as a laborer performing the most menial tasks, and as a consumer. This hegemonic attitude by educational policy makers, reformers, and progressives in the late 19th and 20th centuries have far-reaching implications that continue to shape attitudes and policies toward educating the African to the present day.

An industrial arts or manual education ensured African subjugation and is the type of education that was advocated and supported by the founder of Hampton Institute, Samuel C. Armstrong. Armstrong “firmly believed that blacks were fundamentally inferior to whites in almost every way, especially in their mental capacities.”[3] Likewise, Thomas Jesse Jones, a Welsh immigrant, reinforced Armstrong’s premise in his position as a chaplain and professor at Hampton Institute, and later as chair of the Committee on the Social Science of the National Education Association in 1912.[4] Jones’s fervent belief that Africans were ill-suited for a liberal arts education, incapable of academic rigor and critical thinking, and inherently intellectually inferior to Western Europeans would be just a ripple in the sea of discourses about education reform in the 19th century, if his premises did not have such negative implications.

However, battling Jones’s ideology and arguing diligently against the belief of the innate inferiority of the African was W.E.B. Du Bois, who advocated for a liberal arts education as an option for all Africans who desired it. While Du Bois did not exclude the plausibility of Africans receiving an education in the industrial or manual arts, he rejected the premise that the African was not intelligent enough to pursue an education that required abstract reasoning and critical thinking.[5] The battle that Du Bois waged against 19th and 20th century education reformers, who dubbed themselves progressive but advocated for a substandard education for Africans, continues in present pseudo-scientific studies and is evidenced by the proliferation of publications about race, education, and intelligence such as Allan David Bloom’s (1987) Closing of the American Mind, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s (1991) The Disuniting of America, Richard Herrenstein’s and Charles Murray’s (1994) The Bell Curve, and Frank Miele’s and A. R. Jensen’s (2002) Intelligence, Race, and Genetics.[6] This ongoing debate that is grounded in 19th century biological evolution and cultural determinism continues to influence educational policy in this country, teacher training at universities, and teacher’s attitudes toward African students at all levels of education. The community college and university are not immune to imbuing both their curricula and dispositions towards educating African students with an overt or subliminal belief that the African is inherently intellectually inferior.

By African, I am referring to all peoples who are racially and ethnically identified as African regardless of how long has been their removal from the continent. Inclusive in this definition are not only African immigrants who comprise a substantive population at the college, but also U.S. African students. Both groups have been the object of continuous economic and political subjugation through educational policies that ensure their ongoing domination by Europeans. In the U.S., the African disproportionately receives an education that prevents or precludes him from entering into the capitalist economy in a competitive manner that will guarantee an above-subsistence existence and entrĂ©e into the middle and upper classes. The African is overwhelmingly tracked for Special Education or the General Education high school diploma, reinforcing 19th century ideologies that the African’s sole participation in the capitalist economy will be as either laborer or servant, but neither as producer nor as part of the intelligentsia.

While some Africans do manage to circumvent the educational policies and practices, enter into universities and colleges, and obtain a liberal arts education that will prepare them to think critically, become part of the intelligentsia, and participate in the producer class, far too many Africans remain under-educated, poorly trained, and woefully unprepared for full participation in the capitalist economy. The prison industrial complex and other apparatus of the criminal justice system become the repository for those Africans who leave U.S. high schools and are unprepared to matriculate at college or university. Since this country is seeing the end of work in a post-industrial age when high-paying, blue collar jobs are almost non-existent, lack of preparedness almost ensures a downward, rather upward, economic mobility. In a high cost of living area like metro DC, graduating or departing high school without the educational background to matriculate in the college or university eliminates young people from entering into the work force and makes them particularly vulnerable to poverty, crime, and consistent underemployment. Even federal government jobs that relied on a merit system where one could graduate high school, secure federal employment, and work one’s way up the GS scale—based on sheer tenacity, commitment, and merit— are no longer an option for such young adults, since many entry-level positions and promotions are now based on having a four-year college degree. While I am advocating the African’s access to and success in a liberal arts education, I am still very cognizant of the Eurocentric and white supremacist tenets inherent in such an education that fail to acknowledge the contributions of Africans to the intellectual and cultural capital of the world.

In a true democracy, all citizens must have equal access to a high standard and culturally relevant educational system regardless of race or class. Failure to provide access to an education that ensures an individual’s participation in the capitalist economy as something other than a laborer or consumer is tantamount to political, economic, and physical genocide. Ignoring the need to establish educational policies and curricula reform that address and deconstruct the inherent belief of African intellectual inferiority, simply reinforces a policy of subordinating the African that dates back to the birth of public education in this country. It is imperative that frank and open conversations ensue that admit the hegemonic attitude toward educating the African before change can come about.

[1] The sole premise behind this Supreme Court decision, which was championed by proponents of integration, was that resources were woefully lacking in segregated schools. The integrationists aim was to desegregate the public schools thus enabling African children access to better resources; hence a better education. However, what was not addressed was the fundamental hegemonic attitude toward educating African children in the United States. So while African children were integrated into predominately European schools, they encountered physical, psychological, and educational violence as they were attacked and demeaned, and educated without any cultural relevancy to their experiences in the United States or the world. Further, integration resulted in a disproportionate number of Africans being tracked for special education, general education, and vocational diplomas. Quite alarming though are the numbers of Africans deemed to be learning or emotionally disabled, with far too many African boys labeled with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Carruthers contends that “[i]ntergration, which was advanced as the answer to the inferior education given African-Americans under the system of segregation, has managed to ensure an inferior education for African Americans.” See Carruthers, J. H. (1999), Intellectual Warfare, Chicago: Third World Press, 128-129.

[2] See Carruthers (1999), 67.

[3] Johnson, D. (2000). “W.E.B. Du Bois, Thomas Jesse Jones and the struggle for social education, 1900-1930.” Journal of Negro History, 85,79.

[4] Ibid, 88.

[5] Ibid, 83.

[6] Carruthers, 129, 133-139 and Asante, M. K. (1991, Spring). “The afrocentric idea in education.” The Journal of Negro Education, 60.2, 173.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Free at Last

Sorry for not posting a lot lately. I know, it has been continuous excuses this fall. I took on a rather visible project at work: the Book Bridge Project. It involves the college and community coming together to discuss a book for the academic year. While directing the project is not difficult, negotiating the administrative morass can be very frustrating. I'm not one known for diplomacy, particularly when inaneness seems to impede my moving forward. But I am learning.

The maiden voyage of the Book Bridge Project, a panel discussion and question and answer, went well thanks to some dear and committed colleagues: Ahati N. N. Toure, Ph.D., E. Ethelbert Miller, and Nelson Kofie, Ph.D. I owe them tremendously. My students responded to all of the presenters very enthusiastically, and I am happy for this because the forum was at 10:00 a.m. Normally the students are still dozing at this hour or often are missing in action.

I have been messing around with podcasting primarily for my online students. Some of them are auditory learners; well most of them are. The majority of them are not readers. Therefore, it is become increasingly imperative that I include audio in my course design if I want certain students to be successful.

Nothing else is going on. The weather is fantastic here. My son loves Howard, University; he's studying hard and even reading an unassigned text: Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father. Saw the Jacob Lawrence exhibit thanks to Jim Miller who prodded me to go along with him and his students to the Phillips Gallery to see the exhibit. All 60 panels of the "Migration Series" were exhibited, and I am happy that I accompanied Jim to the exhibit because I had never viewed all 60 panels hung at once.

It's the Duke Ellington Jazz festival this weekend in metro DC. I might catch one or two shows if I can get from under this pile of work.

The House of Representatives signed the bailout bill. How will the government absorb this bad paper without the consumer taking a hit? And to whom will this bad paper be sold back to when it is all said and done? Will it be sold below par? I suppose I should go and read the bill and stop speculating. The text of the H.R. bill is posted on C-Span if anyone is interested. Go to

J.P. Morgan acquired the assets of Washington Mutual, you know the bank that fell in California. Something seems so damn fishy to me. I can recall from history that the big boys like Morgan once threatened to collapse our economy by pulling their hard cash out of circulation. Now I know that the U.S. Mint can just print more money, but what will its value be on the currency market? Further, in the days of deregulation, do the Morgans and Chases still have control over our economy? Hum, just a thought.