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So Many Things to Talk About, So Little Space

The two things that are probably the most important unnatural elements in life. They are economics and education, and they are interdependent on one another. Show me an uneducated person and I will show you a hungry person. Put another way, learn a trade or starve.

The BLACK PRESS USA is alive and well!

This past weekend I attended the Annual Conference of the Black Press known as the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). It is always inspirational to be part of the giants in the newspaper business who historically have had a double duty. The Black Press of America has had to balance fighting racism, discrimination, and segregation, while trying to build and run a profitable business. This is a balancing act that still goes on today. As always, balancing acts produce good news and bad news. I'm focusing on ghe good news. The good news is that Black Newspapers in the western United States took some of the leadership roles for the first time in a long time. Danny Bakewell, Sr., Publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel, was elected Chairman of the organization replacing John Smith of the Atlanta Inquirer. Smith was elected the First Vice President. Natalie Cole of the Our Weekly newspaper in Los Angeles became Secretary of the Organization. I was elected to the NNPA Foundation Board. The Foundation is the non profit arm of the organization. A number of other Publishers from the West Coast Black Publishers Association were also elected to serve on the NNPA national board. Clovis Campbell of the Arizona Informant, Chris Bennett of the Seattle Medium Newspaper Group, and Peggy Hunt of the Tri County Sentinel in Oxnard Paulette Hinds Brown of the Riverside/San Bernardino Black Voice News was elected to serve as a marketing representative.

A Black newspaper from Dallas, Texas announced that the State Legislature of Texas will no longer be allowed to give minimum grades to students under a new bill, passed unanimously. Under existing rules a student earning a grade of 10 can be given a 60. It seems similar to California's social promotion policy of passing a student even though he is not making the grade. To me that is why we have empty graduations and full prisons. Graduates who can't read are fodder for prisons. We let the students move from grade to grade without proving they are ready for the next grade.

These are the same kids who wear their caps backwards, and hooded sweatshirts in 90 degree weather. They wear pajamas on the streets, and their pants pulled down to announce to the world they have big behinds and empty heads. They remind me of the story about turkeys being the dumbest animals in the animal world. A turkey, they say, will turn their heads up to the sky during the rain and stand there looking upwards taking in rain water till they drown. If this is true, they are dumb.

Those wearing caps turned backwards, allow the sun to get in their face. The wearing hooded sweatshirt in the summertime guarantees they will be overheated in the sun. These acts are also dumb. And they telegraph to potential employers that they lack common sense and may be too dumb to hire for work. Besides, how are they going to work when they need their hands to hold their pants up and walking around with the sun blinding them instead of turning their hats around to block the sun?

The June 11, 2009 issue of the Memphis Tri State Defender (covering Tennessee and Mississippi and Arkansas) reported on the celebration of 40 years of a Memphis Prep. It's a program that provides promising students an enriching summer experience in either intense academic preparatory classes or programs developing leadership skills, responsibility and talents.

Unrelated to the Black Press, a friend brought by in an article from the October 31, 2008 Jewish Journal that touts a school that encourages students to bond with teachers and other students by spending the first three days off campus at what they call a middle school boot camp. No cell phones, PDAs or other means to contact the outside world. Instead, they engage in trust building and relationship building-developing exercises "intended to develop camaraderie and prevent bullying."

An article in the May 31, 2009 Los Angeles Times reported on three small no frills schools that have policies that demand near perfect attendance, lots of homework, and refusal to pass struggling students to the next grade. Discipline is no problem because no disruptions are allowed. Summer School is required.

A poster in the school's Director's office says, "You do outstanding things here and you will be treated outstanding. You act like a fool and you will be treated like one." Students who act up may be required to wear a sign saying what they did. Embarrassment is the purpose. Classes include 90 minutes of English a day and 90 minutes of math. All classes are taught in one room to avoid the disruption of passing from room to room. It sounds tough but it also sounds familiar to what school used to be like when more of us went to college than to jail. Maybe we can get back there soon.


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