Ah, America’s dance with Exceptionalism! Exceptionalism to me means special, erudite, or wise, not mean, insolent, arrogant, or conceited, pretentious. Being number one does not always ensure wisdom or brilliance. In my view, we fall under the notable and remarkable references as we hold the number one position as jailer of the world. According to Charles Murray, author, America is no longer the unique nation it thought. Having the most guns per capita and the highest murder rate than other industrialized nations is not Exceptionalism. This is not what we think of when we couple the United States with Exceptionalism.
Not to bore you with exceptional statistics, but a few points for consideration may be in order: a large number of American citizens are in poverty; many are without health care; less than a third have a college education; approximately one-third is functionally illiterate; one-half is innumerate. Racial profiling is rampant; war against women is relentless; elimination of public schools is ongoing; violence in schools is increasing. The list goes on. How do these behaviors make America Exceptional? And what does this portend for this nation state?
Given the above mentioned conditions, and many, many more, if America doesn’t change its thinking and behavior, not only will it not be exceptional, it will not be the nation it once was; for over 70 years I have watched our Exceptionalism be snuffed out by our avoidance of accuracy, fairness, equity, and social justice for all. Our avoidance of sitting in the pain of our country’s status such as: broken, struggling, eroding, in transition, entrenched, you pick a descriptor.
This is a wonderful country; yet, our leaders work very hard to ruin it; our leaders abuse their position and their privilege; they abuse the civility of its citizens; meaning, the citizens are tolerant, docile, forgiving—often too much so. And the abusers continue to exploit with abandon. Greed is the driver; money is the fuel that feeds the greed machine.
Finally, I will submit, having traveled much of the world, served in a variety of leadership roles, watched people respond to the USA over the years, I see a shift in the world’s dialogue. I hear changes about how we are viewed, valued, and tolerated. I see the strain and I anticipate if the national leaders don’t change, if the national leadership structure doesn’t change, America will fall as other empires.
Why are we attached to this notion of Exceptionalism? What are your thoughts?
Stay tuned for Part II
For Schools in general and Parents in Particular
Why is it that some children hear only 600 or fewer words per hour from their parents? And what are the academic and developmental consequences of hearing such few words per hour? If you don’t know the power of conversation with your children, then perhaps you should look at your parenting skills. And as the saying goes, “Having children makes you about as much a parents as having a piano in your home makes you a pianist.” Now that may sound a bit harsh. But some parents just don’t talk to their children for whatever reason.
While sitting in a restaurant one morning having breakfast with my friend, we noted a father and son sitting face-to-face, having breakfast. The son struggled with his knife, fork, and food, trying to get scrambled eggs into his mouth. Meanwhile, the father was busily working his Smart-Phone or some media gadget. This behavior continued for some 30 minutes without a word said to the son. As I left the restaurant, I stopped by their table briefly to say hello and see how old the son was. “He’s four,” the father said proudly. That little four-year-old boy didn’t hear a single word from his father for one-half hour. Why is that important?
In their research report, titled, “The Power of Talk (2nd ed.): Impact of Adult Talk… During the Critical 0-4 Years of Child Development,” Gilkerson and Richards, used three categories of children in their research as follows: they found that Children of welfare families hear 600 words per hour; children from middle class families hear 1,200 words per hour; and children of professional families hear some 2,300 words per hours. Gilkerson and Richards also found that by the time children of welfare families reach the age of 3, they will not have heard some 3,000,000 words; that’s million, in comparison to children of professional families. What does that portend for children from welfare families regarding school readiness, academic achievement, and development?
Being a child of the 600-word-per-hour group, I can attest to the consequences of hearing such few words per hour during my early childhood. As an adult I have not recovered and never will—it’s a life-long struggle with language, concepts, writing, and reading comprehension. As a teen and as a soldier, I was relentlessly teased by others for reading the dictionary for hours trying to improve my vocabulary. It all started from birth.
On a cotton plantation, where I was born, more often than not, we sharecroppers heard fewer than 100 words per hour; and for the most part, those 100 or fewer words were not fun to hear; and that’s because they were punishing: “You better get to work!” Or, “If you don’t hurry up, you’re going to get a beating!” Often the words were not for public consumption; they were vile, profane, and disturbing. Example: “Since you didn’t get it done, your ass belongs to me tonight after you go to sleep!” Such comments had a devastating psychological effect on a child, especially after working 10 or more hours in 90-degree heat; and now the child is too scared to go to sleep, but too tired not to.
When children hear such few words per hour, especially punishing words from their parents for several years, they are not nearly as ready for school as their peers of middle-class or professional families. Simply put, they are not ready to learn. And the worst of it is that most teachers, perhaps all, are not prepared, trained, or skilled in teaching children who have not heard those 3,000,000 words versus those who have. To exacerbate this situation, because of educational assumptions we often make, in many instances, children are misdiagnosed, mislabeled, misplaced, and mistreated. And they have little or nothing to do with their plight.
So, how can we as citizens, parents, community and schools leaders, church officials, Head Start staff and faculty help these children? How can we stay open to what is true for many children, respectfully meet them where they are, and ensure we do not leave them there?
Or, said differently, how do we contribute to the literacy of our nation’s children, in ways that will help them learn, develop, and experience educational justice?
What are your thoughts?
Reference used in this blog: Gilkerson, J. & Richards, J. A. (2009). The power of talk (2nd Ed.): Impact of adult talk, conversational turns, and TV during the critical 0-4 years of child development.
Why does racism persist and leadership abstains?
I realize that this blog is a bit salty; but as long as we have law officers (justices), Agents, supremacists, dominant, privileged, oppressors, social justice will be impossible for all. When Justice Scalia uttered “voting as a racial entitlement,” I kept thinking of the meaning of it. I thought if we interrogated privileged entitlements, we would see Agent a-la Leticia Nieto. Agent is a synonym for: supremacy, privileged, oppressor, and dominance, plus. Historically, when it comes to voting it was forbidden, matter of fact, illegal, for Blacks to learn to read; yet, at voting sites, Whites administered literacy tests; if Blacks couldn’t read, they couldn’t vote. And now it’s called racial entitlements? That speaks volumes of the dominant group’s intent; of course, there are exceptions.
What is this about? It’s about denial of the reality of ethnically, racially, and culturally different others. Meaning, those of us (Targets) who differ from the dominant group have an abnormal reality. Said differently, the Target’s reality is not a concern for the Agent. And when it comes to Targets, our existence is subsidiary, insignificant. This helps to justify the utterance of “racial entitlements.” It justifies neo-colonialism, oppression, powering over and not powering with; it justifies protracted segregated schools, neighborhoods; it justifies the hatred, lynchings, drownings, bombing of homes and churches during the civil rights era. And in this case, since most Agents are from the dominant group, the idea is to make neo-colonialism normal. Specifically, keep America White: dominate, oppress, and exploit ethnically, racially, and culturally different others. So, how long will this dominance last?
As I see it, dominance won’t last much longer because there is more awakening in the world; there is more hatred toward us (U. S. Americans) from a variety of non-White countries and cultures. North Korea and many of the Muslin countries come to mind. What many of us don’t realize is that seven-eighth (7/8th) of the world is non-White. And if members of the 7/8th decide to collaborate or collude against the 1/8th (the White, dominant world) the entire world scene will change. Think of who attacked us on 9/11? Members of the 7/8th. Who hates this country with a burning passion to destroy it? Many members of the 7/8th. Also, think of “that little raggedy-ass country,” as President Johnson called it—Viet Nam. That little raggedy-ass country defeated us.
We lost that war despite the atrocities committed by Americans while in Viet Nam: My Lai, where more than 500 Vietnamese were slaughtered. According to the Embassy of Viet Nam in Washington, D. C, a tally shows: that 50 of the Vietnamese were three years old or younger; 69 were between the ages of four and seven; 91 were between eight and twelve; and 27 were in their seventies or eighties. And then, “Beers for Ears,” which went like this: “The more ears you brought back, the more beers you got,” per the documentary “Winter Soldier.” Finally, old men were used for target practice; young Vietnamese girls were raped, etc., etc. Again, we lost that war. And we don’t have the courage to discuss it. And yet, we want to pick a fight with Iran; North Korea is threatening to attack us; and we have a very tired and overworked military. Plus, we treat our veterans and many of our citizens like crap. And that’s because, with few exceptions, our leaders aren’t leading.
Now, I sincerely hope nothing happens to this country; then again, how do we awaken the conscious of this land? What if China and North Korea, plus Iran were to collude against us? What would that look like? Do we want a non-White force to occupy this land before we get the message that our behavior toward those who differ is not acceptable? “White man slaps 19-month-old Black Baby”? White man with Swastika demands that no Black nurses are to touch his White Baby?
Why aren’t our national leaders leading? And why is it that many of them behave like political harlots? They peddle and their influence to the corporations rather than lead the country. And when does the supremacy stop?
Your thoughts are welcome.
We the People—Not We the Party
A Call for Political and Economic Justice
“We are our choices.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre
I just want to talk about what I see, feel, and think. Our republic is led by those who have neither the skills nor the will to lead; either they are feckless, gutless or both. I say that because we have many perennial problems, affecting the majority of the more than three-hundred million American citizens, except for about two percent of the population, meaning those who have most of the wealth. So, what are some of those perennial problems?
We have created a culture of graft and greed. Graft is greed’s friend; they are mutually supporting. This creates inequality, poverty, illiteracy, and more. Here’s a quick example. It’s about a prominent discrepancy in the pay equity or fairness. There’s a CEO who makes $5,000,000 per week (that’s million); that $125,000 per hour. And I defy anyone to cite a metric that justifies such. Yet many who work in his company, earn less than $10 per hour; that’s a bit more than $20,000 per year; others earn less, thus not a livable wage. Furthermore, per the Congressional Budget Office, a huge share of the nation’s economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top 0.1 percent, whose average pay is $27 million per household, per year. The average income for the bottom 90 percent is $31,244 per household per year; therefore, a humongous discrepancy in pay, and one may say an excess or glut.
Another unending problem is that some 67% of corporations do not pay taxes. Yet our U. S. coffers are empty. The Economic Populist, Robert Oak, says,
“…America is broke and multinational corporations continue to blood suck the United States dry. …. The pattern becomes clear; U.S. Multinational corporations are out to not pay taxes, come hell or high water.”
This is supported by the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations who held a meeting on “Offshore Profit Shifting and the U. S. Tax Code,” who asked: “Did you know U. S. Multinational Corporations have more than $1.7 trillion in untaxed profits stashed as undistributed foreign earnings and keep at least 60% of their cash overseas?” Would someone please tell me why that is legal?
Now, what do these discrepancies portend for broke America? Though the list of unfortunate results is relatively endless, let me offer a few: since U. S. coffers are empty, there will be fewer services: fewer police officers, resulting in less citizen security; less money for the poverty-stricken, especially children; fewer teachers resulting in less education for American children. America cannot afford not to educate its citizens. No wonder we have 44 million adults who cannot read these words: cannot read, period. Plus, some 90 million who are functionally illiterate; meaning, they are unable to read and understand between the fourth and eighth grades. Another shocking statistic is that only about 26% of Americans have a four-year college degree. That in itself is astounding. Though there are many more perennial problems, I think you get the picture of where we stand. So, what does “We the people”—not, “We the Party” have to do with these and other sorts of issues?
“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them”
― Denis Waitley
I often think about our choices. For most of my life I have immersed myself in facilitating the development of leaders and leadership via the classroom, training room, presentation halls, and living rooms. Realizing that I don’t have the power to change someone, I recognize many of us crave societal change. So how do we capture that energy? How do we support a group’s creativity, a People’s creativity toward choice-creation? I believe we can do it through “Choice-Creation.”
What choices should we make? Or, should I say what choices ought we make and what questions do we ask? I believe Brandon October, a South African vocalist who says it best: “The choices we make, determine our destiny.” We the people—not we the party, must create a different conversation: a choice-creating conversation. One way I have learned to do this is by using a strategy called Dynamic Facilitation, an effective yet different way of holding creative space for a group, opening up thinking, leading to a powerful level of creativity. In the process of shifting our thinking, we shift our consciousness, our conversation, says Rosa Zubizarreta, an experienced and seasoned Dynamic Facilitator. This process is about literally noticing what is alive in the room, listening to what participants have to say, drawing them out, by encouraging them to “say more.” To paraphrase Zubizarretas, “it is not about taking sides; it’s about “taking ALL sides.” This leads to self-organizing without regard to political party; thus: We the People, not, We the Party.
Mind you, this is not brainstorming. I liken it to organized chaos or self-organizing where the Dynamic Facilitator helps create a “whole landscape” of an issue, be it pay inequity, tax inequity, or school desegregation. Participants’ contributions may be understood by the following categories in this process of Dynamic Facilitation (Zubizaretta, 2012, p. 20):
Problem statements—Examples: how do we fix pay inequity? How do we amend the tax code, making it fair for all, including corporations? When it comes to compensation, how do we bring about economic justice? There is a culture of greed.
Solutions—or creative contributions from participants, examples: Totally revamp the American compensation system. Critically examine the worth of different jobs from different occupations. Think economic justice. Take the greedy to task in front of the community where they work and in front of their workforce.
Concerns—Examples: the rich will never agree to a revamped compensation system; or, the corporations will not endorse it. People aren’t educated enough to warrant more pay, Greed is here to stay.
Data—this category involves beliefs or perceptions about pay equity in this example; or a complaint about what works and what doesn’t; and statements about what participants believe. It may also include statistical information.
Ask yourself, how it would be to have few to no rules of engagement where your feelings of passion and peril are not only welcomed; they are needed. Where emotions are necessary to create the most salient choice, where what you say is recorded and becomes part of the group’s story, where you are not in a cue, where power is leveled to experience synergy; it is that synergy of mind and interest that weaves the room into a place it never expected to be.
Whereas this process is not a panacea, it has the potential to change our thinking regarding our issues, potential solutions, and possibly our worldview. I believe it will lead to choice-creating, away that we the people can not only get back in the game, but create a different game. And it is party-free: We the People—Not We the Party.
Since I cannot do justice to the Dynamic Facilitation process in this blog, please visit: http://wisedemocracy.org/; or http://tobe.net/ ; or http://www.societysbreakthrough.com/SBChapter5.pdf; or http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-dynamicfacilitation.html. You will see how this process is used in creating a different conversation of “we the people—not we the party,” potentially leading to both political and economic justice. Stay tuned for Part II.
Your Education is worth what you are worth.
Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.
Whatever happened to our school systems since the first school was built April 23, 1635, in Boston, Massachusetts, has adversely affected our communities, our economy, and our nation. Yet we rave about American exceptionalism. We have a relatively uneducated citizenry: evinced by only 27.2% of Americans have a bachelor’s degree, per the U. S. Census Bureau; only 8.9% have Master’s degree; and only 3% have earned a doctorate. Now what do these statistics portend for this “great democracy”? What does it mean?
It means 14%, or 43 million Americans cannot read these words—that’s 43,000,000. Not only do they not know what they don’t know, they do not know THAT they don’t know; meaning, they think being illiterate is normal. Add that to the 93,000,000 (that million) functionally illiterate adults: they cannot read and understand material between the 5th and 8th grades. It also means that we have three million jobs that we cannot fill—3,000,000 unfilled jobs: no qualified applicants. So, the ones who have a college degree don’t have the necessary skills employers are seeking. It also means that most of the college graduates are unable to write a grammatically correct sentence; they don’t know the difference between a colon and a semicolon. Not only that but half the nation is innumerate; meaning half of our citizens cannot do simple fractions, are unable to add two- or three-column numbers, cannot “add and carry,” and cannot balance a checkbook.
And when it comes to high school, we have 12th graders who cannot do 5th grade work. How do we explain that? How are students allowed to advance to the 12th grade and not be able to do 5th grade work? Consequently, the Department of Education’s National Mathematics Advisory Panel, found that:
• 78% of adults could not explain how to compute the interest paid on a loan.
• 71% couldn’t calculate miles per gallon on a trip.
• 58% were unable to calculate a 10% tip for a lunch bill.
What are we doing to our students, ourselves, our nation? And how do we compare internationally? Well now, a report from Harvard University’s Program of Education (2012) found that American students ranked 25th in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading. Should we take our country back to 1635, when the first school was built? Since our mantra is, “Let’s take our country back.” To where?
Finally, our dysfunctional education systems need educational leadership; we need national leadership; we need community leadership; and we need family leadership. Our biggest deficit is leadership. Ergo, until we “fix” our leadership situation, our economy will suffer. When our economy suffers, our citizens suffer. That means economic justice is relatively dead.
What are your thoughts?
Threats to Global, Social, Distributive, and Economic Justice
People are created to be loved. Things are created to be used. The reason the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used. —Aimi Razman
How do we explain the protests in the Middle East and other parts of the world? There is flag burning, bombing, firefights, murder, and mayhem. In my view, if we add a bit of dominance, and a pinch of patriarchy and privilege, we will have at least a portion of the answer. As a nation, we should rethink how we see the world, the planet, and the people occupying it. Our worldview is costing us severely: lives, money, and inclusion. Change in this regard requires different behaviors.
For centuries the dominant group has exerted its power, privilege, and patriarchy over women, people of color, culturally different others. Their power, privilege, and patriarchy are evinced by telling others how to live, where to live, where not to live, what to do, what not to do, how to be, how not to be, and the list goes on. Women are denied work or certain jobs because they are women, Blacks and Hispanics cannot live in certain places or buy that property because of what they are. Native Americans, the least discussed group and the poorest of all ethnic groups in America, struggle on reservations, isolated. Those relatively obvious examples have been alive and well and still are. These behaviors demonstrate control, greed, and being one-up. As we see in numerous (20) countries where citizens are responding by protesting, they don’t want to be controlled, dominated, abused; that means the landscape of dominance is changing: dominance is declining; hegemony is waning; the dominant group’s privilege is being threatened; their patriarchy is weakening. Ethnic groups and culturally different others have begun to affirm their presence, question their status, and assert their rights to be a part of this planet.
When it comes to global justice, social justice, economic justice, distributive justice, and the overall wellbeing of global citizens, dominance isn’t working for the benefit of all, only for a select few. So, how can we shift from using people and abusing people, to a support system that accommodates the different justices cited above? What would that look like? Would it minimize the unrest and civil strife? Would it eliminate the thousands of refugee camps, where millions of mostly women, children and the elderly suffer? My travel and experience tell me that most people, if not all, simply want the basics: food, shelter, clothing, clean drinking water, education, access to medical care, and most importantly control over their lives and well-being. Absent the basic will potentially lead to violence where innocent beings are hurt in many ways, not to mention that in some cases they are utterly slaughtered so that the dominant group retains control.
In closing, when it comes to the protests and chaos across the world, citizens who have been used are responding with violence, asserting their rights. And since the world population consists of one-eighth (1/8) dominant and seven-eighth (7/8) non-dominant, it is critical that those who exercise dominance, privilege, and patriarchy, change their behavior. If they don’t, I believe the response of the 7/8th will potentially lead to the worst world war imaginable.
What are your thoughts?
Who in the hell do they think they are, trying to control women’s bodies?
And they call themselves leaders!?
Why do men brazenly abridge the rights of women? I believe because many men are misogynists—haters of women. Jack Holland states in his book Misogyny, when it comes to men: “This is what makes misogyny so complex: it involves a man’s conflict within himself…for the most part, the conflict is not even recognized.” The conflict among men and within men, is wreaking havoc for women, against women. This is evinced by legislators, so called “leaders,” in all 50 states have introduced one thousand, one-hundred (1,100) provisions related to reproductive rights. At the end of 2011, they had passed 135 new provisions, 92 of which target abortion rights. And they call themselves leaders? These men are charlatans, imposters, and don’t even know what leadership is.
“Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it,” said Marian Anderson. Men continue to write “contracts” against women with the aim of subordinating them, controlling them, demeaning them, and denying them their equal rights to gender justice.
Men wrote the social contract; men wrote the sexual contract (please see Carol Pateman’s book, The Sexual Contract), where she discusses men’s control of women’s bodies). Here’s what I would like to know: Who controls men’s bodies? Patriarchy? Modern patriarchy is alive and well. Carol Pateman says, “Modern patriarchy is characterized by a contractual relationship between men, and part of that contract involves power over women.” This power is executed via three definitive contracts: the marriage contract which accords men or husbands the right to sexual access without being charged with marital rape. The prostitution contract according to Pateman requires equal access by men to women, in particular sexual access: access to their bodies. Again, who’s in charge of men’s bodies? And finally, the contract for surrogate motherhood, Pateman says, “can be understood as more of the same, although in terms of access to women’s reproductive capacities.”
Apparently, most men, especially misogynistic legislators have never heard the meaning of gender justice. In her “Gender Justice and Reconciliation,” Nahla Valji says it is “…defined as ‘the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic and social rights on the basis of gender equality…’” Gender justice is essential for women’s survival, economic freedom, and their reproductive freedom. Susan B. Anthony said it best in 1876, in the Declaration of Rights for Women: “We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.”
Not only do women tolerate the legislative, misogynist, cavemen mentality (from men), but they are also exploited. According to the United Nations, women do 66% of the world’s work; they produce 50% of the world’s food; and earn a whopping 10% of the world’s income; yet they possess a paltry 1% of the world’s property? Is that gender justice?
And how do we reconcile the numerous atrocities against women and girls: sex trafficking, sex slavery, political rape, domestic rape—that every 6 minutes in this country a woman is raped? That’s every 6 minutes! In 2009, 16,150 women were raped or sexually assaulted in our military; only 8% were prosecuted; only 2% were convicted. And let’s not forget the price women pay during wars. They are raped as a form of retaliation; yet, they had nothing to do with what started the stupid war in the first place. “It is generally accepted that because of gendered powered relations, it is women who pay the disproportionate costs of war,” says Valji. Is this also part of the sexual contract? Mind you, we are talking about half the population here.
Then there’s maternal mortality: a woman dies every minute, trying to give birth to a child. Where is the gender justice in all of this? What about social justice and gender justice when it comes to women’s wellbeing? What tells us that this abuse and primitive treatment of women is acceptable? Does our community endorse this treatment? And what would Jesus say about all of this? Mind you, Hell is closed; and all the devils are here on earth.
Florynce Kennedy says, “The biggest sin is sitting on your ass.” Think about how we participate in misogyny. To what degree are we complicit?
What are your thoughts?