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Sunday 22 September 2019
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Jim Ryan, Who Specifically is the “We” in Your Article?

Op-ed by Howard Eagle,

Jim Ryan’s opinion piece “Putting children first”, Rochester Beacon, Feb 8, 2019, serves as a reminder that we should pay close attention to half-slick, profiteering, businessmen like Ryan, who constantly touts the “value” of Rochester Prep charter school (whose board of trustees he sits on).

Even though the article contains elements of truth, ultimately, most of the content is disingenuous at best, and dangerous at worse.

The first ludicrous fallacy is that the “Rochester City School District [RCSD] ranks near the top in per-student funding.” Of course, the operative phrase “near the top”; of what (specifically)? Surely we are not big enough fools to believe that when all sources of financial support, as well as specifics regarding expenditures are considered, RCSD “ranks [higher] in per-student funding” than, for example, Brighton, Pittsford, or Penfield. Yet, this is not to excuse the fact that the RCSD has a billion-dollar-budget, which absolutely is not being utilized nearly as efficiently and/or as effectively as it could be. To say that there is massive waste and malfeasance, is a gross understatement.

It is also true that SOME so-called “community leaders introduce ancillary programs [in the process of either hustling or seemingly] hoping for a miraculous fix.” On the other hand, there are those of us who “introduce ancillary” ideas that we KNOW will help to finally, successfully address the old, historic, urban education crisis—like the Racial Equity Advocacy Leadership team that was recently instituted at RCSD.

A fundamentally serious issue and problem with the article is repeated, generalized references to “we.” Of course the question becomes, we who (specifically)? When Ryan says “we have become numb to the bad news and instead of demanding real change, we have been content to nibble at the edges of school reform; We must take responsibility for perpetuating the cycle of poverty; We have made conflict avoidance our guiding principle; We have allowed generations of urban children to be left behind without the education necessary to escape poverty?” Who specifically are the “we” he is referring to?

These are NOT rhetorical questions. This is NOT a time for super-hyper-flaming-hot-abstract-liberal-nor-conservative-rhetoric. With regard to responsibility and accountability, it’s past time to name names, period. So again I ask, “we” who (specifically)?

When the author makes statements such as “…the community has chosen to accept the premise that poverty is the cause of our failure, end of story” —we know for certain (though he may not realize it, or may not even care) he is DEFINITELY NOT referring to the vast majority of RCSD parents, family members, nor the majority of those who come from the primary communities that produce the vast majority of RCSD students.

The ludicrous idea that “poverty is the cause of our failure” IS mainly a bleeding-heart-white-liberal notion. Also, we KNOW that, when the author uses “Detroit [as an] example of [a] poverty-stricken city with similar demographics that has rescued and revived [it’s] failing school system” — then there is no doubt that he surely does NOT know what he’s talking about, period: https://www.freep.com/story/news/education/2018/04/10/detroit-schools-again-worst-nation-rigorous-national-exam-while-michigan-overall-sees-no-significant/493893002/.

Another clear fallacy is the erroneous idea that Rochester Prep “has virtually the same demographic look as RCSD.” It’s easy to debunk that libelous assertion by fact-checking things such as the percentages of special education students at Rochester Prep vis-a-vis percentages in the RCSD; educational levels and economic status of the majority of parents in both cases; “skimming/creaming” and “de-selection/counseling out” processes that charter schools use, which traditional public schools can NOT engage in, etc… (https://www.ewa.org/educated-reporter/more-charter-school-experiment-skimming-students; https://traue.commons.gc.cuny.edu/issue-2-fall-2013/torre/).

“Indeed, there are so many questions to be answered and yet there has been minimal interest or desire to even ask these questions.” WHAT???… All I can say is pay closer attention to our work, and CALL US: https://www.facebook.com/tidpc/; https://www.facebook.com/2019-Slate-For-School-Board-1883639965067415/?modal=admin_todo_tour.

Additionally, it is offensive for someone to declare (exclusively in light of the recent RCSD Distinguished Educator Report) that suddenly “there is more than just the opportunity to act; there is the responsibility to act”. Does the author not know that the “crisis” is decades-old? It makes you wonder whether or not he has even read the Distinguished Educator Report, because if he had, he should know that it begins by acknowledging that nothing within its contents is new. In fact the report contains links to a number of other reports, which essentially contains the same information as that in Dr. Aquino’s Report.

Some of the old, long discredited, simplistic, ancient ideas in the article seem almost alien-like. Like, for example, the idea that “teachers and school leaders who generate great results should be rewarded with higher paychecks while those who deliver subpar test scores should not.” So, those who teach the most challenged and most challenging students—many of whom have been socially promoted (from elementary all the way to High School), and in many cases are lagging behind three or four, and sometimes more grade levels, should be held to the same expectation regarding “test scores” — as the relatively few who teach AP courses, and should be paid accordingly??? This is what the author considers as representing so-called “accountability?” Right.

“The RCSD should strengthen disciplinary policies regardless of public perception relating to suspension statistics.” Translation: Shore up the school-to-prison-pipeline (since, unlike charter schools), traditional public schools have no other place to send students who are counseled out, except, usually to jail or prison, period. The research-based evidence is crystal clear: http://www.sharedjustice.org/domestic-justice/2017/12/21/zero-tolerance-policies-and-the-school-to-prison-pipeline.

The author did get one thing right, “the RCSD for too long has existed to serve the adults ahead of the children and [IF] that is [TRULY] unacceptable” then he and others need to say (specifically) what they are going to do about it. If they can’t say (clearly and specifically) then they need to get back in a corner, somewhere out of the way.

“The time for change is [NOT] now.” – It’s yesterday.

The struggle continues and 2019 IS the year to smash gradualism…


Howard Eagle is a longtime educator and local anti-racism advocate, known for his campaigns for the Rochester school board and prolific political and social commentary. Eagle taught social studies in the RCSD for 23 years, before retiring in 2010, and is now an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport.

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(The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)