Friday, June 29, 2007

A High Soaring Young Man Worthy Of Following

Hats off to Barrington Irving, a 23-year old senior majoring in aerospace at Florida Memorial University. He is the youngest person to circumnavigate the world having completed his three month journey this week.

This is truly an event worth emulating by young people.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Teaching A Little Black Boy How To Read

This summer I have decided to give up a greater amount of my time to prepare my children, particularly my son for school. I am a college educated Black man and I can see first hand how tough it is to translate what you know into bits of information that someone else who is starting off from scratch can figure out. Teaching my second grade daughter fractions as well as subtraction has been a challenge. My daughter is smart and she will eventually pick up on things if I explain concepts to her.

My 5 year old son is a different matter. I keep thinking that I have a new "Theo Huxtable" on my hand. When I asked my son if he wanted to learn how to read he said "No!". I had to tell him "Boy I'll beat you for saying that". With little boys it is more of a combintation of learning and discipline that must be enforced in order for them to effectively learn. I is clear that he seeks his mother out as an escape valve whenever I take away all options from him and he has no choice but to focus on the workbook that is in front of him. Upon telling him that it is time for his daily lesson he will cry and pout. Yesterday after a pouting session momma offered to take him to the store with her. I told her and him "No" he is busy with his lesson and he needs to learn how to complete what he starts. Again the crying started. After she left and he again realized that all of his options for escaping his lesson were gone he stopped crying and focused upon the material at hand.

Elementary education of children is all about instilling patterns for learning into them. I feel sorry for a parent who does not feel that they are one step ahead of the child, sees what they are struggling over and lacks the ability to introduce a different tactic so that they can "get it". It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the foundation of our woeful academic performance in school stems from parents not able to spend the requisite time with nor have the ability to introduce learning tactics for these kids who are in need of mental discipline. I can see from first hand experience that boys are different.

My mother who has 5 boys to her credit told me to take my time. That he would eventually pick up on it. Here I am a product of this wisdom and I was inclined to tell her that "This boy is just undisciplined and too interested in doing his own thing".

I recall the sessions with my father - the authority figure in the house. Momma used to spend the bulk of the time with the reading books and the spelling. Her favorite answer to "mom - how do you spell" so and so was "D.I.C.T.I.O.N.A.R.Y". When it came to mathematics - authoritarian dad took over. I recall many sessions in which I didn't understand the patterns and logic that he was attempting to show me and I began to cry. He wasn't going to slack up on us and thus crying was an outlet to end the session.

Earlier today I responded to a blogger who asked middle class Black people what they were doing to help "poor Blacks" with their education. It is totally clear to me that the model in which "Reponsible Blacks" are asked to leave their homes and enter into another man's home to educate his kids is fatally flawed. Instead we need to enforce DISTRIBUTED LEADERSHIP and mandate that parents and heads of households primilarly take care of their own. We then focus on the EXCEPTIONS. If a parent is not up on a particular advanced subject - fine - the community can work to apply such cover. Unfortunately today we are dealing with the basics. There is simply no way for parents who "put up" their child with anybody and everybody as a means of continuing to conduct their own lives are able to provide for the education of their children. It is hard enough to teach children - add an unstable environment and we get the public schools being dumped upon.

My general opinion is that outside intervention programs should be a safety net but they cannot be had to take the place of parental invovlement as the first line manager of a child's education.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Doorway For The Education of Poor Black Children Is Closed

One of Anne Arundel County's two public charter schools is shutting down because it has been unable to find a new location to house its growing program.

"In other communities, we're seeing people clamoring for KIPP, but here, we looked at several locations, and some made it clear we're not welcome," said Steve Mancini, a KIPP spokesman.

There are some things that I just don't understand about our people when the harsh intersection between our stated goals (ie: education) and public policy preferences come to bear. This is one of those cases.

KIPP Academic has a history of going into the worst of the worst areas, where the government operated public schools have failed to provide adequate educational services for Black and mostly English As A Second Language Hispanic students. Since they are charter schools they depend on the incumbent public school system to provide them with funding. KIPP provides structure, sets expectations of the students, parents and children. As a result they are able to achieve results that are so frequently not attained by the government operated schools.

One would think that the Black community and the Black politicians that often govern these areas would welcome KIPP with open arms. One would assume that they promote "children's education" above principalities. If you have made this assumption you would be quite incorrect. It seems that some people have been used to that clarion call of "We need more money to educate our children - this is why they are failing". When a program such as KIPP comes along and offers to dispel this long held belief these people seek to protect their incumbency over doing the right thing for the children.

It is hard for me to belief that upon the day when we are inches away from the city called "Promised Land" that some how those who are driving the vehicle upon fearing their employment as a driver will choose to drive past the exit and continue the road trip with full knowledge that most people riding on the bus aren't looking at of the window at the road signs.

Friday, June 08, 2007

US Technology Firms Seek To Invest In Africa and Africans,1874,2142827,00.asp?kc=EWKNLNAV060707FEA1

From eWeek:
Africa is finally getting some attention from the IT industry as Microsoft and other high-tech firms pursue opportunities for growth in the African region, and in developing nations elsewhere.

eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli reports from Burkina Faso, among the most neglected nations, where Microsoft and the United Nations are trying to support economic and educational opportunities with technology

Microsoft recently launched a new program, Unlimited Potential, which it says will help bring social and economic opportunity to developing nations. Is this enlightened self-interest or purely commercial? Can it even work? eWEEK Senior Writer Peter Galli is in Burkino Faso, West Africa, to see how Microsoft does with Unlimited Potential in what is arguably the poorest nation on the planet.

Starting Friday, see Galli's photographs of what passes for an Internet cafe in downtown Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, and tag along with Galli all week as he follows Microsoft on its African tech safari.

My answer to the question "Is it enlightened self-interest or purely commerical" the answer to both parts is "Yes"! In my opinion the various regions of Africa need to have markets and infrastructure in existence as a means to provide goods, services and jobs to the masses. Technology and computers are enablers they are not an end to these desired goals. On the one hand computers and communications provide for tracking and accounting of transations in an economy. This allows for humans to interact across great distances. Absent this technology the people there are limited to their own small geographic foot print and more of their productive time is spent on subsistence rather than the specialization and synergy that division of labor brings about to any society.

Africa must do as China has done, however - demand that the native people remain in control of the introduction of technology and the change that it introduces. China requires that foreign firms partner with a domestic entity. They demand that these domestic employees be training on how to support the technolgy that has been introduced into the nation. This prevents what I saw with a hydroelectric dam in the Congo. The dam was originally constructed by the Belgian colonizers some time ago. It had 2 turbines that produced power. After the Belgians departed and one of the turbines was damaged - no one locally knew how to service the device and it has been down for several years now. The remaining unit is damaged but still operating. It requires a person to sit in front of a control switch 24/7 to keep the power within a certain range. If this person is not present the electrical core would melt down and this unit would be go out as well. Several thousand people would be without electricity. Clearly the Congolese need to have the technical expertise to provide preventative maintenance and to do service upgrades over time so that electricity is maintain for the citizens.

As with any technology a fabric of people are needed to make use of, support, sell and educate others on how to take avantage of the tools. African need to be wary of becoming over dependent on external resources while failing to build up an internal infrastructure (and one day domestic manufacturing plants) that will allow them to adopt this technology and run with it.

Since African Americans have greatly adopted and made productive use of information technology there is little doubt that access to these same tools would do wonders for the African as well.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Terrence Howard - "Hustle & Flow" To "Pride"

Actor Terrence Howard has put forth yet another memorable performance in his latest film, "Pride". (

The film depicts the real life story of Jim Ellis, a swimming coach who overcame racism of early 70's era Philadelphia to guide a rag tag bunch of inner city kids to a swimming title.

I couldn't help but wonder if Mr. Howard took this role as some form of redemption to counteract the image that was put forth in the movie "Hustle & Flow". The film, and more especially the accompanying soundtrack was not a bright spot in the depiction of African-Americans in multimedia. Where as in the movie "Pride" Mr. Howard played a Black man who pursued his dreams that had long been denied to him as a youth through a new crop of Black children who faced similar racism and persevered, the character in "Hustle & Flow" via the now infamous tune "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" allowed an assortment of backup singers and record producers to ride on his train on the backs of ignorant portrayals of Black life in the gutter. Yes it was an entertaining movie but the content did nothing more than pile onto the large collection of Blackplotation films that make use of hip hop themes.

Sadly a comparison of the box office takes between the two films indicate which of the two films the Black community prefers. Where as the movie "Pride" which has been out since March has thus far only raked in $7M, "Hustle & Flow" has lapped this figure 3 times with a take of $22.2 M. As we complain about the entertainment executives who "greenlight" the film and movie projects marketed to Black people it appears that our community is not doing its part in "voting" with our dollars to provide feedback indicative of our preferences in content.