Refined and Fly

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Although I grew up in a place that is considered to be very forward-thinking, throughout my day to day operations, I was not too environmentally conscious. Although I was taught not to litter and recycle whenever I could, the environment and state of the planet earth were not on the fore front of my mind...until last night, when I watched "Too Hot to Not Handle," a great HBO documentary (made post-Hurricane Katrina) demonstrating in basic language and visuals with scientific evidence how global warming effects the earth and how we are contributing to its' destruction.

Out of all of the conferences, lectures, and forums that I've been to, original people, and specifically Black folks are not talkin' about the planet! We do not seem to be in on the discussion, understandably so, due to dealing with life on life terms. It's a discussion that we don't make time for, and we play it off, sayin' "That shit is for tree-huggers, hippies, granola eaters, etc," and don't really give it a second thought. But the very places we call home are suffering due to our carelessness.

The Black woman has been mistreated, abused, and used, and so has the planet. If the Black woman is suposed to be the home of the Black man, she should be treated with respect and appreciation, and so should our home, the planet. As a person striving to be the Earth, it is important that I and other sisters and brothers know what is happening on the physical planet, good and bad, and that I at least educate myself more about the conditions that effect our world, which effect me, and you in very practical ways (Case in Point: Hurricane Katrina). Below, I have posted my notes on the documentary, and if you have On Demand, you should be able to view it (go to On Demand, Premium Channels, HBO, then the Documentaries section). Do the knowledge and apply what you can. Only we can get ourselves out of this mess we've created.

"Too Hot Not to Handle"

We are addicted to energy and a lifestyle of consuming and wasting
The United States uses more energy than any other country in the world. The U.S. is 5% of the world population but contributes 25% of carbon dioxide emissions. Molecules of CO2 that go up into the atmosphere remain for about 100 years. The Industrial Age brought about wealth and a certain standard of living and comfort. But by burning coal, oil, and gas, this also brought about global warming. Global warming is similar to the greenhouse effect. There is anbundance of poisonous emissions (namely carbon dioxide) due to how we use energy. These gases block the energy transferrence between earth and space. Heat from the sun is absorbed by the earth and instead of it rising and leaving the atmosphere, it is trapped, like a blanket covering the planet, increasing the temperature.We (humans, ecosystems, biosphere) are adapted to the current climate we have and will not be prepared to address the gradual and severe changes due to global warming

Effects of Global Warming

Increase in extreme climate and weather events
a) The heat warms up the ocean, which increases evaporation. More water goes up into the atmosphere causing more rain. Moderate rains have decreased, and heavy rains have increased, which will lead to more floods, which will flush water from sanitation into clean water supply
b) Droughts will become more common. The increased heat bakes the moisture out of soil, which effects the agriculture and water supply.
c) Snowpacks (the snow you see on mountains) In western states, 75% of the water supply comes from snow packs. States that rely on snowpacks for water produce 75% of the nations' fresh fruit. If its' too warm in the winter the snow melts early into the rivers at the wrong time and man made water storage facilities cannot hold it, therefore it is wasted. No water; no trees. Since 1950, the spring snowpack has declined as much as 60%

Forest Fires- just need a combination of heat, drought, and dead trees

Extinction- there has been large scale damage to coral reefs. Causes species to move from where they are, and if they cannot move, they die because they are not able to adjust to the changing climate. By the end of the century, an estimated 1/4 of plant and animal species will be extinct due to global warming.

Tropical Diseases-i.e. West Nile Virus in NYC (1999). Bugs that don't thrive in the winter multiply because of the increased temperature (thrive in heat). Bugs bite bugs that bite humans (i.e. mosquitos).

Heat Waves- the greatest weather-related killer in the U.S. In Chicago in 1995, one week of a heat wave that approached 106 degrees farenheit killed 800 people. In 2003, a heat wave in Europe killed 6,000 people in Germany, 14,000 in France and 19,000 in Italy.

Increased Pollen Production-Carbon dioxide makes plants grow, but also contributes to global warming. Produces an increase in weeds, specifically ragweed, which produces more pollen, which causes more hay fever, conjunctivitis, and asthma flare ups. CO2 also makes the ragweed stronger, so it develops a resistance to herbicide. To continue to kill the ragweed, would have to use a more concentrated form of herbicide, which costs more financially and environmentally.

Melting Alaska- Alaska is the frontline of global warming. While the world warmed 1 degree Farenheit in the last 50 years, Alaska warmed by 5 degrees. Doesn't sound drastic but imagine if your body temperature permanently rose from 98.6 to 103.6. You wouldn't last long. As ice melts, the dark hard land underneath absorbs the heat from the sun, which continues to melt the area, creating a self-reinforcing cycle. Showed comparative pictures of 50-100 years ago and the present. For example, Menindenhall (sp?) Lake used to be a large glacier (at least 100 feet tall) 100 years ago. Melting of glaciers end up in the global ocean, which raises the sea level. The ocean is like a tub of water. If you put ice cubes in the tub, it rises. Heat it, and it will expand and rise. The rising sea level will eat away the coast. Parts of the east, west, and gulf coast will be lost to rising sea level. In parts of Florida, they're having to put more sand on the beach to hold water back. Over 1/2 of U.S. residents live within 50 miles of the ocean. Since 1970, the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes have nearly doubled. The average hurricane generates over 2 trillion watts of power. As the ocean warms, the intensity of the hurricanes will increase.

How to Change

Energy Conservation
-Remember to turn your lights out, be mindful of wasting water (i.e. letting the shower run while your're getting your towels and soap together), don't leave your car on longer than it has to be, purchase lighter, fuel efficient cars (i.e. hybrids, which use a combination of electricity and gas).

-The U.S. spends 10% of its' fuel idling at stoplights. If everyone switched to hybrids, that would be the equivalent of removing 100 million cars off the road. Use ethanol gas whenever you can find it (an alcohol fuel made from corn or anything with starch or cellulose (woodchips, switchgrass, things considered waste products)). Every gallon of corn ethanol that replaces a gallon of gasoline reduces greenhouse gas emissions by about 15%.

-Use biodiesel (made from vegetable oil or waste products) whenever you can. Every gallon that replaces regular diesel reduces greenhouse gases by 78%.

-Need replacement for coal. More than 50% of electricity we generate comes from coal. Its' cheap and abundant, B.U.T. it produces the most carbon dioxide for the amount of energy you get out of it. Dangerous to the atmosphere.

-Need federal envirnomentally conscious endorsement, legislation, policies, and accountability measures, especially for corporations and businesses, where the focus is cost efficiency, but are not environmentally sound.

-180 U.S. cities made a formal commitment to reducing greenhouse gases. Case in point: Portland, Oregan (since 1993). They have reduced their carbon emissions by 13% and increased the workforce by 16%. They use flex cars (mostly hybrid cars that you can rent on the street for a couple hours to encourage more bicycle riding, walking, and public transportation to decrease the number of cars on the road). Even a pizza business uses hybrid vehicles for delivery, since a lot of CO2 emissions are created during short trips around the city. They instated the Greenbuilding Policy, which means that in order to use public funds, you have to be in compliance with the standards stated in the policy. If not, you don't get funded. Buildings also share energy and use recycled energy, which keeps the energy bills low. Environmentally sound and cost efficient!

-Each year in the U.S., 57 million trees are used to make catalogs...use recycled paper!

-Use locally grown fruit. The average piece of food in U.S. travels 1500 miles from farms to business, which uses more fossil fuel and refrigeration time, which uses more energy and causes more CO2 emissions.

Alternatives to Carbon Based Energy

Solar Power (to power the U.S., it would only take solar reflectors 100 miles on each side of the Mohave' Desert). Solar Power Plants (California)

Wind Power (Texas)

Geothermal Energy

Tidal Energy

By using new and innovative alternatives, this would create new industry, money making opportunities, businesses and jobs.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006


*Peace.This is about a sister that I know in New York who is also a part of Sankofa Community Empowerment Inc. Support the blitz if you can. Peace!

Those of you who've been to Sankofa and/or Liberation Family events recently may have heard about this. Aja Kweliona, a 6th grade teacher, was suspended - and recently removed from the payroll though there has been no investigation or any formal charges or finding of any kind - for wearing a t-shirt to protest the fact that one of her special education students was locked inside a gym equipment cage as punishment. Please show support by helping out on Wednesday - it does not take much and it a concrete way of helping to support Black educators who are trying to protect our children.

Folks, Please Do the Blitz. Also, Put this On Your Drum!! NOTICE: NYC Dept. of Mis-Education has just WRONGFULLY removed our sister, Aja from its payroll. Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence (BNYEE) asks all who support Aja to join a "DEFEND Aja Communications Blitz" via phone, fax and email tomorrow: Wednesday, April 26, between 9am and noon . Please consider the points raised below in your calls, emails and faxes to Klein, Bloomberg, Supt. Gale Reeves, et al. Find a way to make the time!

Chancellor Klein:

In an obvious abuse of authority and a total disregard for employee rights, members of your staff have wrongfully removed Aja Kweliona from her students and recently taken her off payroll. The actions taken against Ms. Kweliona are outrageous and must not be tolerated. She must be fully reinstated to her position as a teacher at P.S. 18 in Manhattan. Since February 2006, Ms. Kweliona has been subjected to deliberate attempts by members of your staff to discredit her as a highly qualified teaching professional, to deny her the rights of due process, to punish her for reporting child abuse committed by school personnel, to deny her First Amendment rights, and to undermine her psychological well being by using cultural ignorance as an expression of bigotry. Based on Ms. Kweliona and media accounts of why she was removed from her students, she should have been given an award for bravery. Instead, members of your staff have chosen to disregard published personnel policy and labor laws to strip her of her right to earn a living as a NYC public school teacher. Reports regarding her situation should be on file in Region 10, Community School District 6 for your review. A thorough investigation of the circumstances will reveal the unprincipled nature of the charges against her, and the egregious infringement of Ms. Kweliona's rights. I also hope that as a result of your investigation, you will immediately see to it that no other child is caged in a school storage bin as a disciplinary measure (or for any other reason). I hope you will see to it that the child who was abused, and his family, receive a sincere apology from your office with a promise that nothing like that will ever happen again. Moreover, the teacher, who caged the student, made racist comments about "...feeding time at the zoo" and referred to the student as a "wild animal". The statements were heard by students and staff. This outrageously abusive behavior must not be tolerated. It seems that Principal, Aurea Porrata-Doria, got this all wrong. Such mean-spirited, hurtful and unprofessional practices were unacceptable in Queens at PS 34-- when an assistant principal directed her venom at very young children of Haitian ancestry. It is equally, unacceptable in Manhattan. In Queens, attempts by the perpetrator's administrative superior to tolerate the behavior was wrong. It is equally wrong in Region 10. Is the intent in Region 10 to punish a principled, reflective and respectful young teacher? Are your staff and you trying to send a message to students, parents and school staff that authoritarianism and cultural intimidation is the way to resolve conflicts? If so, you are wrong and YOU ought to leave right away. If not, you must reverse this "1984-like" response to a young teacher who should be nurtured not "pushed out". In any case, I will continue to support Ms. Kweliona's struggle for full reinstatement. Yours truly, Chancellor Joel Klein email =, ofc#212/374.0200; Regional Supt. #10 Gale Reeves email =, ofc#917/521.3771; Mayor Michael Bloomberg email =, fax#212/788.2460; Deputy Mayor for Education & Community Development Dennis M. Walcott
ofc#212/788.3000, fax#212/788.2460.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Peace. Todays' mathematics is wisdom knowledge all being born to understanding. When you are able to communicate what you know through wise words, ways and actions, a person may have a crystal clear understanding of where you're coming from and be drawn to you and eventually, your universe. Through your wisdom, you can bring someone to the point where they will be a seeker of knowledge. It's just like you telling someone that there is no mystery God or that Starburst has pork in it, and depending on how you explain yourself, they will go study and research information to either prove you right or wrong. Their findings may bring them to a new understanding about themselves and their relationship to all people, places and things they encounter.

When a person says "I understand what you're saying," a lot of times, they really mean that they heard you. When I am working with the children, and I correct them on something they may have done that is not right and exact, for example, running in the hallway, I explain to them why it is important not to run (someone can get hurt), and after all of the explanations, I ask them " Do you understand," and they answer, "Yes." If I catch them five minutes later running down the hallway, then they do not understand, and still have a what?Misunderstanding. Why? Because to come to a understanding, you must first have what? Knowledge and wisdom. So this means that it will be clear that understanding is taking place because you know what you are and are not supposed to do, and I can clearly see a change in your behavior, meaning, you will not run down the hallway. The theory must be practiced to show me that you "get it." If you do not get it, I have to continue to communicate what I know in different ways (and serve justice when needed) until you do.

These are questions I have to ask myself, especially on this day:

How well do I communicate what I know?

How do I know that my methods work?

What are the results?

What is the outcome? Can I measure it? How?

What is the fruit of my labor?

These are also questions relevant to what may be called, "youth organizing." From the Soweto uprisings in South Africa to the Black Panter Party, the Civil Rights Movement, SNCC, etc., these movements and organizations were lead by and had a large membership of young people. How do we continue the legacy of getting youth involved in organizing and figthing for social justice? These are questions that have been raised in countless commentaries, talk radio shows, and conferences, and usually the conversation takes place amongst those who are not considered "young people." Every time I attend an event with a prominent guest speaker, from Fred Hampton Jr. to Elaine Brown to attending the Hip Hop Political Convention in New Jersey, and others, I always ask the same questions: "What are the best practices of strategies and tactics that you use to empower, politicize, and mobilize young people (specifically youth ages 14-24)? What do you do or have you done that has worked?" When I ask these questions, I usually am looking for clear and concrete solutions that I can write down and apply because you can learn from those that have done and are doing what you strive to do. What were your teaching methods? What kind of events did you have? What is your blueprint? What did it take to interest, motivate, maintain, and sustain the youth involved? What were your challenges?

After recieving many general answers, I realized that a) They don't know what to do in 2006 or b) It is difficult to articulate what they know works and it is something that they just do. What I do know is that during these events, we need more of a presence of those "distressed youth" that we are always referencing (and I know this is a difficult task). Their voice is noticably absent and we end up "preachin' to the choir." As much of a learning experience as it was, when I went to the Hip Hop Political Convention, it largely consisted of youth organizers who were already invested in youth organizing, meanwhile the youth that we were speaking of were right outside on the main strip eatin' water ices and shootin' the breeze. I wanted to hear what they had to say.

Now I acknowledge that there are people who do work tirelessly with these youth and who have dedicated their lives to educating and empowering, and they may not make it to said conference or event because they are busy doing what they do. I also acknowledge that there is not necessarily one strategy for people who live in different locations who came up in vastly different cultures. In some places, for instance, Power Born, it is very territorial and there are definitely gatekeepers in the community who are suspicious of you and your good intentions, especially if you are not from that area. There are class, language, socio-economic, cultural, ethnic and experience-based challenges that make it increasingly difficult to penetrate a community. It takes hard work and dedication to the people and places you are trying to work with. You have to earn people's trust, by them seeing that you have a vested interest in what happens to them. Unless you live in that space, folks may see you as someone who always has an option to leave, whereas they grew up in and will continue to live in the condition that defines that area.

With all that said, there are young people across the country who are striving to change their communities through clearly defined processes that seem to work for them. I am always suspicious when hearing about organizations and looking at web-sites because I know that what is presented is just a snapshot, and sometimes things are not always what they seem to be. I especially like to look at the pictures to study the organizational make up. Does the organization actually contain a good number of their stated constituency (the people they are advocating for); is the leadership organic to the area and experience of that constituency? Does it consist of as my executive director calls them, "your regular yo-ho people from the hood" (classic!) who were educated and empowered to change the conditions of their communities or does it consist of "outsiders" (people who were already interested in working for change and have no tangible relationship to the environment or experience of those they want to serve, therefore their effect may be limited because they are not "of the people?"

In this era of programming (everybody has a program!) and organizing (everybody has an organization!), people can imbellish a bit to try show and prove the success of the organization. B.U.T. I see success as very practical...was anything produced from the work done? Did anyone or anything change? Was anyone drawn in to the vision enough to add on? In the Nation of Gods and Earths, we are taught that once knowledge is born, the knowledge has to add a cipher. Meaning, once you have made your internal transformation, there is an external manifestation of that. You grow and develop, and then you teach, you build, you share, you create or add on to a community.

Although we are not going to be able to "program" our way out of the mess we are all in, effective programs and organizations can serve as building blocks toward a larger goal. Just continue to keep the larger goal in site. Growth has to take place. If programs and organizations are your lane, connect with other like-minded and like-doing organizations to share resources, access each others' membership, base and constituency and try to build a critical mass to create movement. I give it up to the Mexicans who are organizing and protesting the Immigration Laws. There is power in numbers, and although I am sure they do not agree on everything, nor do the supporters and protesters consist of only Mexicans, they were able to come together by the hundreds of thousands in a show of Operational Unity, working for one common cause. And they will get results, one way or another.

The Bay Area with all of its' complexities is a hot-bead for innovative programming and organizing that reaches across diverse populations and has produced some changes in policy, school districts, and are striving to change systems. Some things may be applicable to you where you rest, some things may not be, and some things may be shaped and molded to be useful to your cipher. All of these resources listed below were retrieved from the web-site of an Oakland, CA based organization called SOUL (School of Unity and that works to create a movement of young people across many boundaries to organize for social change. Just think, if there are all of these organizations in the Bay Area (probably not an exhaustive list either), then there are thousands across the country. I build that all of these groups are and continue to postiviely impact those who need it the most.

Youth Organizing in the Bay Area
AIWA’s Youth Build Immigrant Power -
Asian Pacific Environmental Network’s (APEN) Laotian Organizing Project: (LOP) -
Californians for Justice -
Center for Young Women’s Development -
Communities for a Better Environment’s Youth for Environmental Justice -
KidsFirst!’s REAL HARD -
Leadership Excellence -
Let’s Get Free! -
Youth Making a Change / Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth -
Youth Together -

Organizations that Support Youth Organizing
Community Justice Network for Youth - www.cjny.orgDataCenter -
Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing -
Highlander Research and Education Center - www.hrec.orgLISTEN, Inc. -
Movement Strategy Center -
Southeast Regional Economic Justice Network -
Youth Action -
Youth in Focus - www.youthinfocus.netYouth Media Council -

Community Organizing in the Bay Area
AIWA, Asian Immigrant Women’s Advocates -
Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) -
Communities for a Better Environment -
East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) -
Just Cause Oakland -
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement -
POWER, People Organized to Win Employment Rights -
San Francisco Day Labor Program -
St. Peter's Housing Committee - Phone 415.487.9203 (No website currently available)

Other Bay Area Social Justice Organizations
Applied Research Center -
Center for Third World Organizing -
Coalition on Homelessness -
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (EBC) -
Generation Five -
Ruckus Society -
The Women’s Building -
War Times -

*Although its' not based out of the Bay Area, check out Sankofa Community Empowerment, Inc. ( It's an organization I have been a part of for the past 4 years and we have similar goals and objectives to the aforementioned organizations.


Thursday, April 13, 2006


ed·u·cate (ĕj'ə-kāt') v., -cat·ed, -cat·ing, -cates.
To develop the innate capacities of, especially by schooling or instruction. See synonyms at teach.
To provide with knowledge or training in a particular area or for a particular purpose: decided to educate herself in foreign languages; entered a seminary to be educated for the priesthood.

To provide with information; inform: a campaign that educated the public about the dangers of smoking.
To bring to an understanding or acceptance: hoped to educate the voters to the need for increased spending on public schools.
To stimulate or develop the mental or moral growth of.
To develop or refine (one's taste or appreciation, for example).
To teach or instruct a person or group.[Middle English educaten, from Latin ēducāre, ēducātus.]

v. trained, train·ing, trains
1. To coach in or accustom to a mode of behavior or performance.
2. To make proficient with specialized instruction and practice. See Synonyms at teach.
3. To prepare physically, as with a regimen: train athletes for track-and-field competition.
4. To cause (a plant or one's hair) to take a desired course or shape, as by manipulating.
5. To focus on or aim at (a goal, mark, or target); direct. See Synonyms at aim.
6. To let drag behind; trail.

About 98% of the youth I work with attend public schools. Most of them hate their homework, hate completing it and do not see the function of it. It puts me in a tough spot. Part of my job is to offer homework assistance and expose youth to information they may not be accessing in school. When they ask me, "Sister Medina, why do I have to do this," when looking at the standardized homework packets, I struggle to come up with an answer that will make sense to them, besides, "You need to complete this work so you can pass to the next grade level, graduate..." and then do what?

Many of the children have specialized needs that are not being served due to classroom sizes and a "one size fits all" way of learning. Many of my students are developing an aversion to learning and information because they are constantly bombarded with "work" that is neither culturally relevant nor socially practical. Most of my children have never been able to take a book home with them. I know its' hard out here for a teacher and I give it up to those who really strive to be effective and creative. Its' not easy to teach, especially when working with a population that is generally underserved with a host of issues and you may not have enough of the resources you need to teach them properly because your school is in an underserved neighborhood, hence, the school itself is underserved and you are underpaid.

Now don't get me wrong, I know that there are some "good" schools out there with good teachers who have a joy of learning and teaching, and therefore impart a joy of learning to their students. I attended private and public school and I had a very rewarding experience, particularly at Berkeley High School in Berkeley, CA. I learned a lot about myself and had access to classes and teachers who saw in me what I did not see in myself at the time and took that extra time and gave that extra encouragement for me to bring out and apply my knowledge, skills and talents (shout out to Hodari B. Davis! You were the coolest teacher I've ever had (and he was an emcee!) You changed my life...teachers can make a difference!).

At Berkeley High, we had an Ethnic Studies and African Studies Department. Not just one class... a DEPARTMENT! I had access to classes like Black Psychology, Africa's Glorious Golden Age, Black Gold, Black Male/ Female Relationships, Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced African Dance, KiSwahili and Black Economics, and I took most of them. Myself and my civilized colored sister Vajra Watson were able to organize school-wide forums where teachers would cancel their classes to bring their students (of various ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds) to discuss issues of racism, classism, sexism and issues that are relevant to young people. My 10th-12th grade years were probably the best educational experience I had in all of my years of schooling (including grad school). It set up the foundation for how I saw the world and what I wanted to consistently do in it (todays' mathematics...knowledge+understanding borns culture). I wanted to change the world after I graduated.

But all schools ain't as progressive as Berkeley High. Matter of fact, most schools don't come close, and unfortunately "B High" has become other than its' own self in the past 10 years. And then there are the schools where the classes are overcrowded, the teachers are stressed out, the children run the show (and not in your typical "youth empowerment" sense either), and many slip through the cracks. One of my beloved students is a fifth grader who can barely read or write at a first grade level, and I have to wonder how he passed from grade to grade.

In my humble opinion, the structure of the American education system engages in more training than education where students are trained to do the work, graduate, and get a job to support the economy, and many of these schools are creating a perminant labor force/ underclass that is only skilled enough to do minimum wage work supporting a lot of corporate entities. And then there are the students who are disenchanted with school altogether, never make it out, and eventually stop going (my God is the coordinator for our Truancy program and he has many stories to tell). And I see where many of these children end up. I also think that it is unrealistic for us to rely on school as the primary educator of our children. Education starts at home! There are many social, political, cultural and environmental implications here, but one has to ask the questions:

Is the American Education system the best model for stimulating the growth, creativity and intelligence of children?

What is the origin of the American Educational System?

Below, I have enclosed an article from that explores and offers answers to those questions. It also references a book by John Taylor Gatto called The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern Schooling (New York: Oxford Village Press, 2001) that you can download free online at that goes into more detail. I also recommend a book called The Teenage Liberation Handbook (author escapes me at the moment) which offers alternative ways of educating young people. Peace!

The Educational System Was Designed to Keep Us Uneducated and Docile

It's no secret that the US educational system doesn't do a very good job. Like clockwork, studies show that America's schoolkids lag behind their peers in pretty much every industrialized nation. We hear shocking statistics about the percentage of high-school seniors who can't find the US on an unmarked map of the world or who don't know who Abraham Lincoln was.
Fingers are pointed at various aspects of the schooling system—overcrowded classrooms, lack of funding, teachers who can't pass competency exams in their fields, etc. But these are just secondary problems. Even if they were cleared up, schools would still suck. Why? Because they were designed to.

How can I make such a bold statement? How do I know why America's public school system was designed the way it was (age-segregated, six to eight 50-minute classes in a row announced by Pavlovian bells, emphasis on rote memorization, lorded over by unquestionable authority figures, etc.)? Because the men who designed, funded, and implemented America's formal educational system in the late 1800s and early 1900s wrote about what they were doing.
Almost all of these books, articles, and reports are out of print and hard to obtain. Luckily for us, John Taylor Gatto tracked them down. Gatto was voted the New York City Teacher of the Year three times and the New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991. But he became disillusioned with schools—the way they enforce conformity, the way they kill the natural creativity, inquisitiveness, and love of learning that every little child has at the beginning. So he began to dig into terra incognita, the roots of America's educational system.

In 1888, the Senate Committee on Education was getting jittery about the localized, non-standardized, non-mandatory form of education that was actually teaching children to read at advanced levels, to comprehend history, and, egads, to think for themselves. The committee's report stated, "We believe that education is one of the principal causes of discontent of late years manifesting itself among the laboring classes."
By the turn of the century, America's new educrats were pushing a new form of schooling with a new mission (and it wasn't to teach). The famous philosopher and educator John Dewey wrote in 1897:

"Every teacher should realize he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of the proper social order and the securing of the right social growth."

In his 1905 dissertation for Columbia Teachers College, Elwood Cubberly—the future Dean of Education at Stanford—wrote that schools should be factories "in which raw products, children, are to be shaped and formed into finished products...manufactured like nails, and the specifications for manufacturing will come from government and industry." The next year, the Rockefeller Education Board—which funded the creation of numerous public schools—issued a statement which read in part:

"In our dreams...people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple...we will organize children...and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way."

At the same time, William Torrey Harris, US Commissioner of Education from 1889 to 1906, wrote:

"Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual."

In that same book, The Philosophy of Education, Harris also revealed:

"The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places.... It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world."

Several years later, President Woodrow Wilson would echo these sentiments in a speech to businessmen:

"We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forego the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."

Writes Gatto: "Another major architect of standardized testing, H.H. Goddard, said in his book Human Efficiency (1920) that government schooling was about 'the perfect organization of the hive.'" While President of Harvard from 1933 to 1953, James Bryant Conant wrote that the change to a forced, rigid, potential-destroying educational system had been demanded by "certain industrialists and the innovative who were altering the nature of the industrial process."

In other words, the captains of industry and government explicitly wanted an educational system that would maintain social order by teaching us just enough to get by but not enough so that we could think for ourselves, question the sociopolitical order, or communicate articulately. We were to become good worker-drones, with a razor-thin slice of the population—mainly the children of the captains of industry and government—to rise to the level where they could continue running things.

This was the openly admitted blueprint for the public schooling system, a blueprint which remains unchanged to this day. Although the true reasons behind it aren't often publicly expressed, they're apparently still known within education circles. Clinical psychologist Bruce E. Levine wrote in 2001:

"I once consulted with a teacher of an extremely bright eight-year-old boy labeled with oppositional defiant disorder. I suggested that perhaps the boy didn't have a disease, but was just bored. His teacher, a pleasant woman, agreed with me. However, she added, "They told us at the state conference that our job is to get them ready for the work world…that the children have to get used to not being stimulated all the time or they will lose their jobs in the real world."

posted 17 July 2003 updated 24 Jan 2006copyright 2003/6 Russ Kick

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Peace! Todays' mathematics is equality. Equality, in this sense references balance, homeostasis, and your significant contribution. Equality does not mean, to be the same, for people across the planet bring different levels of knowledge skills and talents to the table. And that is okay! As long as everyone knows their part,their role, and their contribution to the whole, we can have a balanced working system. Part of the equality of the Black woman being the earth is knowing about what grows on the planet and using those entities to feed, nurture and heal oneself and others. This is something that I am slowly growing in to.

About two months ago, I got a really bad cold. So I decided that this time, I would only use natural remedies to heal myself. For the most part, I drank fresh squeezed orange and lemon juice combinations, cold season tea, immune system building tea, chopped and swallowed raw cloves of garlic, made ginger tea, and took golden seal (yuck!). After a few days, there were no signs of the cold. I was so proud of myself! It meant so much to me as a person striving to live the reality of being the earth, to use only natural entities produced by the planet to heal myself. I would usually pop a couple of tylenols and call it a day but I know that would only address the symptoms instead of the root causes and it felt great to be a scientist and experiment with myself (and I considered a cold something harmless enough to experiment with).

Now don't get me wrong, it was no quick fix and it took a lot of work and consistency. Using herbs should be implemented into one's consistent regimen to build and strengthen one's defenses. Therefore, you probably won't automatically feel better from one cup of ginger tea, but you may have to drink it 4 times a day for several days to experience the effects. For me, it was worth the time and effort. Herbs are best used preventatively. And everyone's body chemistry is different, therefore, every person may not have the same reactions to different herbs so it is important to research the herb/s you strive to use and the potential affects on the body (beneficial and harmful) so that you know what's happening, good or bad, when you take them.

My good sister Mecca Wise-Reflection Earth lent me my first book about herbs called Herbal Healing for Women: Simple Home Remedies for Women of All Ages by Rosemary Gladstar. In the book, she enclosed a list of her favorite all purpose herbs and I chose to enclose them here, asI have experienced the healing properties of several of them. This is not an exhaustive list so research, experiment and add on to your herbal inventory!

Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens) Hot and fiery, cayenne is often used to improve poor circulation and sluggish bowels. Rich in vitamin K, a blood coagulent, cayenne will stop bleeding almost instantly. It will sting when applied externally. It is great for constipation, and is a good heart tonic, improving blood circulation to the heart and increasing overall body warmth and energy. It is easily cultivated in hot climates.

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilia and related species) A gentle herb long valued for its ability to relieve stress and nervous tension. It is excellent for stomach tension, indigestion, and for inflammation. It is easily cultivated and makes a fragrant and lovely ground cover.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) A rich source of allantonin, calcium, andiron and vitamin A, comfrey is highly prized for its wound healing properties and is used to mend broken bones, torn ligaments, and injured tissue. Its high mucilage content makes it an excellent remedy for lung, stomach, and dermal inflammation and it is considered one of the best remedies for stomach ulcers. Easily cultivated, but it can soon take over a garden. There has been controversy of its safety and is best to avoid using during pregnancy.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) One of the most highly used herbs in the world, dandelion is highly respected for its preventive and remedial qualities. It is a specific remedy for the kidneys and liver. High in natural potassium, dandelion does not deplete the body of this essential mineral. The root is used for liver and liver-related problems. Easily cultivated.

Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia, A. purpurea) Good for strengthening the immune system. Excellent for building resistance to colds, flu, and infections. Easily cultivated.

Garlic (Allium sativum) Long valued for its antibiotic anti-viral properties. High conccentrations of volatile oil, mucilage, and germanium make this one of the most effective antimicrobial plants available and one of the best remedies for colds, flu, bacterial, and viral infections. It is also used to lower high blood pressure. Easily cultivated.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Has warming, stimulating, and antispasmodic properties. Frequently used for stomach cramps, colds, poor circulation, motion and morning sickness, and for menstrual irregularities and discomfort

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) Considered one of the most effective natural antibiotics and infection fighting herbs. Difficult to cultivate. Recommended to only be taken for short periods of time and use with caution during pregnancy.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) One of the highest sources of digestibleiron in plant form, rich in calcium and vitamin A, nettle strenghtens and supports the whole body. Used for anemia, fatigue, edema, menstrual difficulties and allergies and hay fever. Easily cultivated but not recommended as a garden plant. The fresh leaves produce a painful form of dermatitis on contact.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and spearmint (M. spicata) Excellent digestive aids, they are frequently used for upset stomachs, poor digestion, and for colds and hay fever. Easy to cultivate

Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) Revitalizes the entire central nervous system. One of the most widely used remedies for headaches and nervous stress. Easily cultivated

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) Excellent for insomnia, headaches, and reducing pain. Powerfully effective and nonhabit-forming.