Category Archives: Public service

Seeking the Presidency

Consider for a moment the groundwork the 2016 electoral process has layed.
We now know that a celebrity can be the president.  George Clooney says no;  but it’s certainly possible. Recall the Reagan Administration.  If Charlton Heston can be the leader of the NRA, why can’t Jay Z be the spokesperson for the NAACP?


Why stop there?  Why not seize the presidency?  More rappers have visited the White House in the last seven years than EVER before.  And it’s not to perform for POTUS.  Common the rapper mentioned just last night as he posted to FB Live that although this is his first time going to the White House, it may be the last time the opportunity is extended.

Unless…

What if Beyoncé became the First Lady?  Once we accept that politics is merely political showboating, we can better understand that her recent release LEMONADE was merely a brilliantly executed marketing scheme to draw attention to a musical dynasty that holds more importance than any presidential campaign.

That weekend it was released was one of the first that the media didn’t lead their newscasts with something stupid that Trump had uttered.  It took a disgusting Cinco De Mayo tweet to get America’s attention back on “what’s really important!”

We are so easily manipulated and distracted that we still accept major events in our contemporary history (such as 911, and Benghazi) at face value. How can an email scandal trump countless corporate bankruptcies and a refusal to release tax returns.  Wake Up!  Meanwhile amidst the bickering, a career-socialist democrat stole America’s heart!  Bernie’s likeliness to win the democratic nomination is contingent on how well the media is able to rob him of the needed attention. Will the media keep him from mobilizing a nation of free thinkers.  It is the imbeciles that are still embracing the electoral process–a process that relies on party delegates in leui of an electoral college, and a non-popular vote to elect a president.

Keep them subdued and blind, and the general public will believe anything.

Jay Z for President

Let’s consider the qualifications.  He is an American citizen.  So no one will question his birth certificate.  He was born here in the United States to American parents (that he keeps OUT of the spot light).  He makes no excuses for his urban upbringing and will never need to deny his relationship with drugs.

He’s over the age of 35, but has a huge demographically charged following.  Imagine getting head-bopping tweens to canvas their neighborhood encouraging their teachers and bus drivers to register to vote. He’ll have seniors leaving their 55+ Communities to vote for Hov!

Backwards thinking?!?   Not at all!

What’s the last qualifier?  Nobody remembers.  No one cares. As a nation we’ve tuned in to debate after debate.  The ratings for these televised events surpass American Idol. And even the mayor of Paris has partnered with the new Muslim mayor of London in calling the leading American presidential candidate a fool.

But Jay Z is known worldwide too!  He’s circumnavigated the globe more times than a TWA pilot. He’s got more people wearing blue than the Yankees do!  He could even get the Crips to stop battling the Bloods long enough to be challengers at the polls.  When you are both gang affiliated AND a Illuminati Icon, there’s no need for a national guard.  Do you get it?!?  He’s CONNECTED!  And his access to the White House is unlimited.

We joke that there’d never be a Lewinksky-esque scandal on Michelle’s watch, but Barrack can get dangerously close to the Queen of R & B.  And who would be the wiser?  After all, Kennedy was the sitting president during the Civil Rights Movement and a hero to many. Marilyn worked out this kinks, we learned later.

But the traditional misogynistic appeal of hip hop has given way to a larger social conscientiousness, and the rappers have grown up to be sitcom stars, movie producers, and political activists.


R & B / Hip Hop no longer accepts social norms that degrade our people.  Well, there’s a few rappers whose lyrics we can’t make sense of, but we’ll revisit them in a few years after their speech therapy and they’re WOKE.

We’ve raised the standard, and we want more. Obama was the first, not the last.  We want him to be able to run for s third term, but the Constitution won’t allow it.  We recognize that we must be the change we want to see.  Who better to bring it than an icon we all trust?

Heck with it!   Beyoncé for PRESIDENT!  Why not make the POTUS and FLOTUS the same person and the make Jay Z the chief of the SCOTUS?!?

I’m the 1%

attitude

 

They don’t do the right thing, but it’s alright.  They don’t play by the rules, and no one seems to care.  The rules that I thought were established and applied to everyone appear to be flexible.  I never considered bending the rules to suit my own needs.  If I ever came close, I would either refrain entirely or go full-on and break the rule (and hope that the consequence is bareable).  But there WAS a consequence!  And knowing that consequences exist is usually deterrent enough for me.  My experiences and beliefs reinforce this.

Before I became a probation officer, I used to process referrals for a Youth Services Consortium.  I treated it like a paid internship.  I was a program coordinator. The big title was deceptive.  I was a pencil pusher, but it gave me preliminary exposure to the juvenile justice system.  The most common and consistent question that I asked in a intake interview was whether the client demonstrated evidence of anti-social/pro-criminal behavior.  But before I could ask the question, I needed to understand it.  Was anti-social behavior akin to criminal intent?  In most cases the client, their parent, or the referring agency didn’t much care (as long we could find services that addressed the problem).  But I needed to know for my own edification.  For all I knew, the questions that I am asking could also reveal something about myself. This may be the first time in my professional career that I spawned an ounce of empathy.  It became a personal endeavor.  Empathy is what distinguishes the social workers from the law enforcers–and a law enforcer, I could never be.


I began to take a deeper look at the problem, the key characters, and the possible solutions.  I concerned myself with positive change, and I knew that I could play a key role in the solution.  I began copying affirmations like “Be the change”or “if you’re not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem!” There were so many problems though.  I resisted contributing to “the problem.” In the years to come I would seek solutions–a never-ending task.

“In everybody’s life there’s a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can’t go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That’s how we survive.”
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Subsequent jobs gave me ample exposures to “anti-social” behavior–all having ramifications for lots of unintended victims.   I began to look at the bigger picture.  My perspective was far enough removed that I could witness the impact that one person’s behavior can have on their family, their friends, and the innocent bystanders caught in the wake of destruction.  If I could glean anything from these experiences, one thing is certain. I must do everything in my power to ensure I don’t cause damage to someone else’s life. My impact must be positive!

Applying this mantra to other aspects of my life is not an easy task.  After all, my effectiveness in my career is met with praise, promotion, and positive reinforcement.  My clients/customers/students respond well to empathy.  Surely someone else could show them that they are worthy, but who else is taking the time to show them how to improve their outcomes?  Hopefully, “the village effect” will kick in.  It takes more than just one or two people in the lives of a children to raise them up to reach their full potential.  For that matter, it takes a village to ensure that every member of the community has what they need to survive and thrive.

The helpers in the community rarely sing their own praises.  The heroes are often unsung. But we are not always in the company of heroes.  There are the others–the constants. The constants in our lives are humbly supporting us, dangerously enabling us, or destructively criticizing us.

privledge

The constants represent the 99%.  They are everywhere!  The business executive honking his horn in the car behind you; the grocery clerk who ignores you as she mindlessly scans each coupon;  or the boss at work (whose demands far outnumber her ability to model positive results).  We are surrounded by the mundane.  We embrace mediocrity because excellence occurs too seldom.  We convince ourselves that it could be worse.  If not for the occasional insistence that we demand more for ourselves, we too would be apart of the 99%.

It’s usually the passion that drives us.  The love beyond ourselves (and the hope that we can make the world a better place for our loved ones) is what keeps us from sinking into a world of lethargy.  


We will fight for our freedoms and privileges, and we care nothing for those who break the rules, those who ignore the general welfare, or for those who oppress the masses.   When it is us that are on the receiving end of a bullet, we fight.  When our entitlements are infringed upon, we rise up.  Hurt feelings, diminished health, or impoverished conditions–these are the things that sink us or force us to swim.  Most times we just tread water.

That’s a pretty vast array of triggers.  Hurt feelings?  It’s not a lie.  The moment someone gets offended, there’s fisticuffs, yelling, screaming, marches and protests.  Turn on the nightly news!  There’s an entire culture comprised of correcting the injustices.  And it’s our culture!  Entitlement!  To some degree, entitlement is not such a bad thing.  We must be mindful that others are entitled to the same freedoms and rights as well.  We mustn’t overlook the importance of others.  When we take on these problems, we can not ignore the larger picture.  Perspective and procedure…if we don’t see it, how can we proceed towards a solution?

angry mobs2

I am the 1%.  I will not be moved by the masses.  I will care but refuse to abandon reason.  I will react.  But I won’t over-react.  I will make a difference because the status quo is not acceptable.  I refuse to approach the problem the same way that the 99% insist.  There is another way!

“It’s not what happens to you that matters. It’s how you respond to what happens to you that makes a difference.”- Zig Ziglar

We Are The Revolutionaries!

“Stand up and fight back!”  No matter what side of the political isle you call home, you are going to experience a significant change in the socio-economic climate in the WORLD.  What we are witnessing now is not merely an American condition.

As Canada prepares for American refugees, and Mexico shakes it’s head in disgust, there’s a burning sensation to revolt against the true neo-fascist.  The political infrastructure for decades to come will be built on the decisions we are making in 2016.

Every conservative AND every liberal has a position on all of these issues:

Decent living-wage.  Some defend the status quo because they’ve “earned” their place in life building a skill set based on hard work and opportunity.  Others are demanding a better working condition as they watch their managers and handlers profit from their hard work.  They call it oppression.

Disenfranchisement. The good ol’ boy network has evolved to include a new demographic, but it maintains the same elitist restrictions.  The club is now comprised of both “old money” and new wealth, but a general disgust for anyone looking to evenly distribute the opportunity.  If there’s a way to hamper the positive change on the other end of a registered voter, it will be exploited.  Selma exists in every region of our nation via gerrymandering, pole taxes, residency requirements, and basic literacy expectations. What would result if every ex-con, homeless citizen, naturalized immigrant, college freshman, or disenfranchised senior actually were guaranteed their human right to choose their destiny?

Social Justice. The same injustices that the “privileged” dismiss as delusions of grandeur are the badges of courage for every man, woman, or child who dare wear a hooded sweatsuit while grasping a bag of skittles.    Martyrs are created from the innocent and under-privileged. Civil disparities prompt prejudice and bigotry based on skin color, gender, and creed (with a twist of poverty).  The ultimate sacrifice is minimized and summarized into sound bites and hashtags.  And a cry to go back to a “better time” is embraced by anyone with good credit, a stable job, and…outstanding student loan balances.  The advocates for change are the same folks who have been denied access to the very freedoms for which they’ve paid!  The protectors of those freedoms are the very ones who’ve enjoyed them for generations.

Criminal Justice.  A system that has incarcerated more minorities per capita than any nation in the world is founded on the premise that anti-social is pro-criminal.  But systematically, who is enforcing these norms? There are inmates serving prison sentences for crimes that have been repealed; for peddling drugs that are now legal; while while celebrities glamorize these same norms  and exploit the very same legal system.



Economics.
Profits would be generated on all of this except for the fact that the top one percent has their banks off-shore (and they’re not spending any of that fleeced wealth). Our government can no longer generate revenue from (foreclosed) property, (unearned) income, or (unsold) merchandise.  The money that was spent on industrialized prison complexes, charter schools, and weapons of war…has long-since been directed away from law enforcement, public education, and social services.

“We can do much better!”  This is the new freedom cry, but it’s almost too late.

We are the new revolutionaries!  

But the freedoms for which we are fighting have already been given away.

F U, Mr. Morton!

Twenty years in public service (and another 20 to go) has provided me with plenty of real-world anecdotes.  I’ve witnessed a social dichotomy that’s neither unique to my cultural experience nor restricted to my locale. Nonetheless, my interactions are personal. 

A resumé in juvenile justice, law enforcement, and child protective services prepared me to be…ta da…an educator.  With a brief transition from juvenile probation services to a private alternative school and then back into social services, I’ve searched for a solution to the problem. Only now in my old(er) age do I realize an inherent wisdom in not having the answer.  I barely know the question.  I take a stab at it daily. Today’s hypothesis:  how did we get so despondent?  

With information so readily available and the ability to express ourselves so freely, how did we become more passionate and yet less empathetic?  We care more about our personal experience, and less about the human condition.  We are apart of something great (when we engage in a collective celebration), but we are reclusive when personal responsibility is at stake.  In other words, we only care when we are not alone. 

We are not alone!  We are connected every moment of our day (and night). The revolution will not be televised because it’s in the palm of our hands! Citizen journalism partnered with internet connectivity–there is no escape.  And yet we can’t get the help we need soon enough.  

In my classroom, I enjoy the company of 20-27 elementary school students on any given day. Outside of my classroom, I tutor, mentor, and co-facilitate positive change through various civic organizations.   I’m looking for an answer to a question that’s not been asked. Not who.  Not what.  Not where, how, or when! But WHY?

Why would any of my students treat me with malice?  Why would I be the target of their disrespect or rage?  The students who are the most resistant to compassion are the ones who need it the most, right?  But at what point as a professional do I stop receiving the abuse from my students (and their parents) and put my foot down as a member of the community??  

My career as a professional is second to my farherhood or my residency or my citizenship or my affiliations.  I am not only a teacher!  I live here too!!  My students are the children of my neighbors.  Their parents shop alongside me at the SuperWalmart.  We pay the same high taxes, suffer the same social conditions, and will be buried likely in neighboring cemeteries.  Our human condition is shared.  

Unlike plenty of empathizers who travel 30-50 miles daily to save our children, I LIVE HERE. It doesn’t make me special, but it does give me skin in the game.  Sadly, it doesn’t spare me the abuse; nor does it award me any type special consideration.  Regardless, I’m all in!   

So when a student curses me out for merely applying a universal standard, I don’t back down.  I say a little prayer before I react. Then I apply the wisdom that I’ve gleaned over the years. 

• address the incident

• document the incident

• call the parents about the incident

• refer the incident to the administration

• await a consequence that most certainly will not reduce the likeliness of ANOTHER incident. 

OR

• stop 

• think

• pray

• wait

OR

• warn (the student)

• reason (with the student)

•redirect (the student) 

• wait (for the student to respond appropriately)

• repeat 

Every incident brings with it a uniqueness.  The rhymes or reasons that cause these scenarios have stories of their own.

There’s is something withIN each experience though–a lesson or a fable even.  I know that I’m stronger on the other side of each unpleasant experience.  There WILL be similar occasions, not unlike “Ground Hog Day;” each offering an opportunity to “get it right” or repeat the lesson.   

I’m the teacher, but I’m also the student.  My students are teaching me a lesson.  I’m not certain what the lesson is however.  When I teach, I start each day with an objective that is written on the board.  Although my students may not know the route, they know where we are headed.  I just wish that when others are teaching me a lesson, they would offer some direction.  

Today, when my student said “F U, Mr. Morton!” He was offering the direction that I so desperately need.  Every ounce of my existence spurs me to approach problems head-on!  The sense of urgency is unyielding!   I’m listening, and praying, and waiting…

There’s code in my students’ language.  There’s suggestions in every gesture.  For me, this is a second generation of youth. Their parents celebrate our “familiar” relationship from my previous career(s). They explain that, despite how their kids behave, we will always have history. But that’s not as meaningful as my students returning years later and remarking about our positive interactions. 

I never recall the bitter, but revel in the sweet.  I wonder if each student represents a lesson in patience and perseverance. Are we sharing the same space in the universe for mutual growth?  Is my role as an educator a calling or merely a pit stop onto something greater?

I have no regret–even on the most trifling days.  My disappointments are transformed into enlightenments masking as challenges.  And yet I’m still not adequately prepared for tomorrow.  In my dismay, I long for the meaning behind each moment.  I won’t quit!  I am wondering just how surreal my life would be if I could just figure out if “F U, Mr. Morton!” is just a euphemism for “thank you for not giving up!” Or maybe he’s merely offering a suggestion to where I should get my Ph.D.

Fairfield University, perhaps?

My Anger Knows No Color

My anger knows no color! 

I grow more and more angry with every passing day. I recognize the anger, but I’m proud to announce that it never manifests into something destructive. Instead, it translates into a general disappointment in the way that I perceive the world.

After all, there can’t be anything wrong with the world! Everyone else who shares this world seems to be just fine with the way things are going. 

So it must just be me…

I’ll set my sarcasm aside for just one moment. Besides the zealots who either want to destroy the world or emphatically lobby for positive change, no one else seems to give a damn. We argue poverty versus wealth; lower-class versus upper-class–even race-baiting;  We fight a disgusting war that no one is likely to win.

  
My anger knows no color!

I repeatedly convince myself that I am dissapointed in this world (and angry with myself) for believing those things that the world is presenting as true. My intermediate gauge of discernment is all I can rely on now. 

None of this makes sense!

So please don’t be surprised when I don’t believe you. It’s not even a matter of trust anymore. Offering trust on the front end of any relationship (business, personal, or professional) is dangerous. I don’t trust my politicians, my leaders, or my neighbors. I barely trust my “friends.”

Anyone who has earned my trust has been around long enough to know how easily trust can be lost.
Believe me…
My lack of trust has nothing to do with the way you look. It has nothing to do with your demographic… Or your race… Or you’re standing in the community.  It has everything to do with your character. 

And so if you want me to be on board with you, you better be about more than mere words. I’m watching closely. When the actions don’t match the words, there will be a problem. I will not proceed with anyone with whom I cannot trust.

My anger knows no color!

And I don’t think I’m alone on this.  

  

I am a Bullied Teacher

We all have witnessed someone being bullied. It’s not the problem that defines us, but how we react to the problem. Today, I choose to stand up. Share this with an educator. Empathy is the first step.

talesofateach1987

Each day, I pull into the parking lot of my school and sit in my car. I do not want to go in for fear of what this day will hold. I sit in my car and pray. I pray to God that today will be a good day for my children and me. I pray that I can withstand whatever my administration throws at me. I pray that I will be able to fight back tears in staff meetings. I pray that I will not face any scrutiny on this day. I pray these prayers, because I am being bullied. Not by my co-workers. Not by my students’ parents. No. I am being bullied by those who should be providing me support…my administration.

I am a bullied teacher.

I walk into my classroom with sadness in my heart and a frown on my face. I feel this sadness because…

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Intellectual Grunt

Educators are slowly making the transition from education professional to civil service grunt. Society learned long ago of self-fulfilling prophecies. Treating someone a certain way for a long enough period of time, will cause them to behave that way. Intellectuals don’t function within that same realm, however there are exceptions to every rule. 

Treating someone badly for a prolonged period of time and then expecting them to yield positive results is just ludicrous. It’s just that simple.  Value someone as a person, and they will offer a human response. 

Educators are no longer valued as the noble professionals they once were. In history, similar trends have occurred and society has evolved or even recovered. But the pendellum is not swinging back quickly enough.  

Working to the contract, signing in/out for lunches, documenting all interpersonal interactions…these are things that clerical and and “nine to five employees” do daily to justify their jobs. It’s menial yet measurable.  

 
But educators are held to a higher standard. All the while the measuring stick becomes more and more antiquated.  How can any professional gain a semblance of distinction when the standards are constantly changing?  

There isn’t a single educator who chose their profession because of a secret desire to crunch numbers, process paperwork, or punch a clock.  

Educators have been the focus of political blame because they are an easy target.  The cost of education is a constant.  As long as there are students, there will be teachable content and an opportunity to build on previous knowledge.  

And the cost of THIS is immeasurable.  

School districts, municipal boards, county and state budget committees struggle annually to project for these increasing costs.  So where do they cut?  Anywhere and everywhere!  

No matter where the cuts occur, human lives are impacted.  The teacher-to-student bond will be dimished to a point that it can no longer exist.  Cyber schools are no longer science fiction and lore.  The movement to eliminate teachers has begun.  Students will “develop” without instruction.  And those teachers WILL become the statisticians and programmers of online content accessible only through a internet server.  

The biggest expense in education is the cost of the teacher.  The second biggest expense is the student.  Third is the cost of replenishing, upgrading, and maintaining the educational infrustructure.  But the infrustructure has value beyond the classroom. When the classrooms are no longer sufficient, they will be used for something else.  Public school buildings built today are designed to serve multiple purposes (as they always have been). Today it’s a public school; tomorrow it’s a charter school;  five years from now a church; eventually a bomb shelter.  

But aren’t educators like other civil servants? 

No!  They are less effective in negotiating their own work environment.  The controls over their work environment are in the hands of school boards and the public by proxy.  

Educators can’t apply the effective labor tactics that other unions employ.  They can’t strike. They can’t really speak to the media without recourse, and their online activity is monitored closely. No matter how badly they’re bullied, educators remain resilient.  

Holding their heads high, educators generate lesson plan, grade assessments between classes,  coordinate with cohorts, develop professionally, convention collectively, and some even lobby through their associations to create positive change–all on their own time.  

Bullied? 

By policy makers, school boards, administrators, parents, and sometimes students, educators succum to the demands beyond their control. They’re not easily persuaded though. Educators are dignified and diligent. An unmoving target, the blows are met with great force.  

But isn’t education changing?

Education evolves, but at a steady (and sometimes slower) rate than other aspects of society.  Ed policy is based on data-based studies and proven success.  This takes time.  But in recent years, data is driven by the need to be more efficient regardless of how effective.  Not to mention that the resources, tools, curriculum, and texts used in the classroom are marketed by for-profit entities tied to political policy.  Non-educators making Ed policy?

Educators hold themselves to a higher standard already. Educators persevere. They thrive on the teachable moments in every lesson. Life lessons are built on overcoming adversity. Educators turn negatives into positives daily. So it’s really no surprise that educators are willing to tolerate, flex, and bend to accommodate the circumstances.  A steady target!

The politicians may never know the wrath of this type of public servant. Educators can take abuse and never reach their breaking point. Dealing with parents, negotiating with administrators, encouraging students to reach their potential. It’s not easy work. The most experienced educator perseveres through the most challenging circumstances. And upon retirement, educators continue to nurture!

How many other professions can make that claim. Educators just don’t quit. So putting the entire profession into a vice and squeezing is not going to end in a positive manner. But the students will learning. The students are watching.  What lesson is being taught?

Consider all of these factors (and knowing that more and more obstacles are mounting). To be any less would negate the silent oath of an educator.  To work less, to care less, to plan less, advocate less…would simply ease our transitions becoming civil service grunts.  Educators would be as effective as any other civil servant, but with more power.  More power to secure our community—or all the ability to simply walk away.