Tag Archives: Education

Why BHM Is Still Relevant

My daughter is four. Just yesterday, we were calculating the number of states she’s visited and how it pales in comparison to the number of countries she’s traveled.  Being an expat kid afforded her opportunities and exposure most kids her age never experience, especially most black American kids.  She is, or at least she was when practiced daily, fluent in Mandarin and the colloquial language of Singlish.  Singlish-SamanthaHanna-722x500She can count in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and French. She can recognize the difference between Asian cultural nuances and people; a characteristic most adult Americans lack. (They do NOT all look alike.)  She is well versed in globalization, and is accepting, loving, and inclusive of everyone. Never has she met a stranger when it comes to other children. This is not, however, because of her exposure to multi-cultures. Her ability to engage cross-culturally is due to the foundation of her education being rooted in a love for her own culture.

A few weeks ago, we were asking questions about Ida B. Wells and President Obama in a casual conversation. She rattled off answers and was able to compare their contributions without hesitation. She ended the dialogue with the statement, “I know all about my heroes because you teach me everyday.” It was a proud moment as her mother and first educator.

She began learning of our “Heroes” as a part of her daily curriculum once she turned 14-months-old.  We would introduce her to a new hero through flash cards and teach her facts about each one.  If I was feeling ambitious, I’d couple the introduction with an activity that cemented who the hero was and what they contributed to society, not just black society, but their impact on the world. She understood the importance of offering reverence to our ancestors and the difference between our ancestors and the ancestors of our counterparts. She learned to appreciate our history, culture, beauty, and contributions at the very beginning of her educational cultivation.  This was intentional and imperative because “culture is elemental, not supplemental.”  Now, each hero serves as a reminder of her own ability and greatness. 

Whenever she feels timid about performing, we remind her of Lena Horne or Paul Robeson or Janell Monae.  When she’s frustrated by math or science, she hears encouragement from the strides of Mae Jemison, Benjamin Banneker, the creator of Mathematics, our ancestor Imhotep, or her uncle who holds a Masters in Applied Mathematics. http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/wohist.html When she’s in need of inspiration, we echo the poignant words of our legends Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Countee Cullen. nat_maya-angelou_52814_539_332_c1We do this so often, she understands that it’s a part of our regular exchange. During Black History Month this year, we’ll be highlighting even more living heroes like Eunique Jones and our recent contributions, so that she understands that our greatness is still relevant and being displayed. Not only does this teach her the importance of loving ourselves, it gives her the confidence to walk in any setting anywhere in the world and know that she can hold her own, while appreciating the other cultures represented; appreciation without assimilation. In every great obstacle she’ll face in her life, she’ll know that someone, someone that shares her history, lineage, and culture, has already conquered something similar, and therefore,victory is simply hers to obtain.  This is why…..image008.jpg

 

Fuck You and Your Simple Ass

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Guest Blogger 

All ya’ll simple, handkerchief head, funky-breath, sell-out, booty clinchin’, holes of ass that think the girl being flung like a dingy wife beater at a pick up game was deserving can suck loose shit from a straw and die!

We got rebel flag waving, third-grade level reading, squinty-eyed, slimy motherfuckas with bowl haircuts shooting up our history in a black church, and our leader, and our aunties, and our uncle, and our brother, and our grandmas,  and he gets a double Whopper with cheese. Prolly’ got fresh fries and pop. And you think the little black girl SITTING in her desk deserves a wrestling match with the Incredible Fuck because she… wait for it….decided to be a teenager and defy some shit?!Charleston-Emanuel-AME-Church-Shooting-Victims-with-Names1

Did she blow a motherfucka up?!  Was she packing weapons of mass motherfuckin’ destruction?!  Did she shoot up a fuckin’ movie theater while folks tryin’ to watch the Batman?! (Best Superhero Ever) Hell nawl! And, THAT crazy motherfucka got to walk back to his car before his peaceful arrest!

Ya’ll backwards ass motherfuckas out here believing it’s ok to suspend a black man from work because he put hands on his own damn child or that another one should go to FUCKING JAIL for some FUCKING DOGS, but this swollen motherfuckin’ rent-a-cop can body slam a sitting teenage girl in front of an entire classroom and arrest her ass for disrupting the peace.  You gotta be fuckin’ kidding me!

vick71I know kids in a classroom ain’t nothin’ nice in high school. And, some of them shits is bad as fuck.  But, this was beyond the call of duty boy scout. And, I don’t give two fucks or a bag of Flamin’ Hots about what racist ass white motherfuckas gotta say about any fucking thing. They been saying the same dog shit since they drug, maimed, raped, killed, and stole our asses to bring us here and build this whole fuckin’ country!

I’m talking to your ignant black, brown, wanna-be special-black ass!  We gotta protect our kids from motherfuckas who think they can do any fucking thing they want to them. Unless you motherfuckin’ feed a child, unless you motherfuckin’ clothe a child, unless you motherfuckin’ LOVE a child, you ain’t got right the first to put your motherfuckin’ hands on a child…unless they drop kick your ass. Then, that’s a different story.

Signed,

Motherfuckin’ Rose

 (Because sometimes civility doesn’t get the point across.) 

The Long Roads, Flights, & Tracks Home

Michael BrownA year ago, my husband and I watched the streets of Ferguson erupt in horror. We watched pictures and videos of the lifeless body of one of our young brothers fester in the street for hours and heard about the culprit’s, an officer of the law, flee from the scene.  We learned that Mike Brown, a recent high school graduate,  was struck six times with bullets, at least once with his hands raised in surrender, and later heard the trigger-puller’s legally justifiable defense was that he looked like a “demon.” (How can one be executed for looking like a mythical creature?) Our eyes widened and spirits were awakened and angered as we witnessed the unfolding of a war zone in Ferguson. Gas masks, full artillery, violent and silent protests, arson, police antagonists, and antagonizing police officers, all painted a vivid and horrific picture that resembled that of which we’d seen in visuals after the King riots, both Rodney and Rev. Dr.

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We waited like the rest of Black America for some semblance of justice in the name of the fallen. We waited, though we had still not recovered from the verdict in the trial of Trayvon Martin, who was posthumously convicted of his own death. We waited, though we’d be told of the imbalance of Ferguson’s demographics in terms of police vs. residents, and its sordid history because of it. We waited though the media had already begun assassinating the character of the victim before his body had even been removed from the scene of the crime. We waited like viewers wait for the moment in a scary movie for the running, screaming, female character to get caught. We hoped for the best, but we all knew she would fall and fail. And, so did justice in this instance. I watched Mike Brown’s mother, Leslie McSpadden wail and weep and scream out of agony. Then, I watched her transform and become swathed with a supernatural strength. She reminded me of Sybrina Fulton. She reminded me of Wanda Johnson. She reminded me of Mamie Till Mobley. She reminded me of too many black mothers that have buried their children due to senseless violence that’s sanctioned by the government that should protect them.

We sat in silent reverence, imbued with fury, and watched images of our home country burning from the comforts of our _79245004_024867989-1foreign home in Singapore. We watched, just as we had watched the marches, protests, and riots after Trayvon Martin’s injustice unfold while being surrounded by the opulence and newfound freedom of self-expatriation.  We felt, for the first time in our lives, disconnected from our people as though we’d absconded from the plight and constant terror that it means to be black in America. We decided, with much reluctance on my part, that we needed to move back to the states; that despite the intoxicating and unfamiliar feelings of privilege, entitlement, and freedom, true uninhibited freedom to live and be who we culturally are without judgment or persecution, we needed to commit to our life’s work of helping to restore and rebuild black communities for the sake of our children and our people.  We needed to sacrifice the contentment of our bubble in Asia where we had helped to establish a vibrant black community to begin the Back to Black List that my husband authored where it was needed most. We had to do more than use words to empower. We had to be examples and SPEAK with our actions. The decision was less noble than necessary.

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A year later, our feet are on the ground. We’re back now. We’ve used this entire summer to live as nomads in different states as we researched our selection of cities to live. We gave ourselves the freedom to choose exactly where we wanted to live instead of being mandated by a professional position. (See another post that I’ll find the time to write one day.) Our original list of five plus one had been narrowed to two and a possible by the time we landed on U.S. soil for the first time in two years, but we kept all options open for discussion and consideration.  New Orleans and Oakland were both individual choices vetoed by the other for various reasons. [Insert sigh.] The wonderful city of Chicago which offers all of the culture, food, arts, and opportunities to build and restore is just too cold for too many months out of the year for this Southern girl and this adapted N. Minneapolis snowbird. My flashbacks from living in upstate NY for one year kept haunting me.  That left Dallas, Atlanta, & S. Florida as possible contenders.

map1_dallasOur first choice of Dallas was a practical one. The primary reason for moving back more urgently was because of my mother-in-law’s crippling illness and my sister-in-law’s need for assistance in her care. Living in Singapore made any necessary trips to visit very difficult and even scheduling phone calls could be a nuisance with the time difference. We needed to be in the same country to be able to reach them when needed. They both reside in Dallas. Dallas also boasted of thriving predominantly black suburbs [read communities], a once thriving black community in South Dallas that could be restored, and many fellow FAMU graduates that we knew would be willing counterparts in the process of rebuilding.  Though I’d never been, I encouraged the decision to have all of our items from Singapore shipped to Dallas as a gesture of my commitment to both the Back to Black List and to my mother-in-law and husband.

Atlanta is Atlanta. Those who get that just do. I love just about everything about my native city and I’ve converted a man who once denounced the very thought of visiting to possibly considering it as a place to settle.  We knew it’d be easy to a certain degree to just plug into the well established black network we have there. There are many like-minded people of all races that live in the city and many upper middle-class and affluent black families that haven’t forgotten that they are and the responsibility that comes with that. But, it’s still in Georgia; red state, redneck, red clay, historically black lynching Georgia. So, there’s that.

South Florida is all things tropical and beautiful. Who wouldn’t want year-round summers, mango and avocado trees in your backyard, free daily lessons in a foreign language, and access to the beach whenever? The king’s company, logowww.madalihair.com, also has its main large clients and distributors in Miami. But aside from the aesthetics and his professional benefit, it proved not to offer much for black families in general and didn’t feel as though our vision would be well-received.

Surprisingly, Tampa, my maternal families’ home base made an addition to the list after we arrived. We used it as our home for the summer, renting an airbnb home from a wonderful couple who lived just two doors down from us in the newly gentrified West Tampa. We caught wind of some exciting and new opportunities in the area and were reminded of how wonderful it is to be near family and a familial support system, especially when raising children. There were definitely pros and cons as with each location. We had all the offerings of tropical life and there are many avenues for rebuilding, but the black community is built around elite organizations, historic churches, or childhood allegiances that are all difficult to penetrate for transplants. I went to high school in Tampa and I’m a member of one of the elite organizations and a former member of one of the historic churches, and I still feel like an outsider at times. We needed a city that would welcome newcomers as people migrated to help implement the Back to Black List and one that offered varying commercial industries for those who’d seek employment rather than create it. Tampa became possible, but not likely.

224We spent time in each of the cities searching for homes to either rent or buy, looking for black schools, black banks, and black neighborhoods that could be the foundation for black communities.  We were repeatedly disappointed in them all, but especially Dallas initially because that’s where we put the most effort. Our first visit there in June proved to be surprisingly underwhelming. The article we’d read about one of Dallas’s suburbs becoming the new Black Wall Street was a bit misleading, or perhaps we misinterpreted. Black Wall Street was replete with black businesses that were supported and employed by black people in a community built around strong black schools. I think we are collectively and mistakenly interchanging community and neighborhood. Black Wall Street was a community. The black suburbs of Dallas appear to be black neighborhoods. Communities have their own economies and a sense of collectivism. Neighborhoods are just people who share the same zip code or grocery store. We didn’t find the former there.  [Please let us know if we overlooked something Dallastons.] More importantly to me, the school that we fell in love with proved not to be the best fit for our daughter.

Very long story short, or written in another post, that’s not going to happen. While in Dallas on our last visit, a sister friend reminded me that we have the power to manifest the desires of our heart when in the will of God. She challenged me to write

540x293_20140102_8b7da98709a1ab48d447479d93832c18_jpg down exactly what I wanted, not my husband or children, and to be as specific as possible. All summer, we were leaning on the kindness of others or spending far more than we should to ensure that we, our children especially, were comfortable as we scoured the internet, traveled the highways, and rested in airports in search of our next home. I knew I wanted an African-focused accelerated educational venue for my daughter where I too could contribute my educational experience and knowledge. I knew I wanted a community that spawned from that school, neighboring schools like it, and like-minded people and families. I knew I wanted to finally find a church that espoused the beliefs and understanding that Africans throughout the Diaspora are disenfranchised and that we can be liberated through our faith and collective actions. But, those things weren’t specific enough. So, I made it plain.

I want:

-to live in my native city this year.

-to have my daughter enrolled at the African-focused school of my choice there in Kindergarten or based on her aptitude and social development instead of age.

-to have a support system of like-minded people.

-to live in a house in the actual city limits, within 20 minutes of the school.

-to have at least three bedrooms in said house.

-to have a church home within the community.

-to begin working together with others to implement the Back to Black List as soon as possible.

-peace.

In one day, after many days of tirelessly searching and being disappointed repeatedly in multiple cities, we have finally found a place to call home and truly begin to work towards the liberation and advancement of the disenfranchised. That’s putting a lot on it as my husband would say, but we’ve already put a lot on the whole decision to move back to the U.S. As soon as I decided to envision and ask for exactly what I wanted, the path became clear and easy. I found a house in the exact area we wanted to live. It was available, move-in ready, and we were able to negotiate all of the terms we wanted in less than a week. I’m able to enroll my daughter in her proper placement in the African-focused school of my choice, and I’ll be surrounded by people of all backgrounds and ethnicities who understand the importance of elevating those who’ve been oppressed. And, we both have family there, so that’s built-in babysitters!!

All is not final. We will still be living out of suitcases and boxes for a while, but we’ll be in our own space soon enough ready to do more than watch the plight of those we love. After much indecision, insight, trials, and prayer, we are moving to……….A-T-L-A-N-T-A!!!

Our New Home

Ticking Clock

calendar-numbers-dateThe end is near, and I’m not ready. April 30th marks my husband’s last day working for the company. We have one month afterwards to leave before the police come knocking. Singapore does not allow foreigners to just live here without a commercial purpose that benefits the country in some way. Basically, it’s count down time, but I’m far from prepared.

This should be the time of deciding and finalizing, planning and organizing. Months before our move to Singapore, we had checklists by the week to complete. We were excited about our transition and became mission oriented and strategic as soon as the move was confirmed. Now, we’re <<I’m>> ambivalent and procrastinating the inevitable. Without a mandated location, the plethora of options has become a weight rather than a relief.

imageIf it were just my husband and I….if all of our family members were well and secure….if “ifs” were worth entertaining, we’d probably move to Ghana, or SouthAfrican-schoolroom Africa, or hop from country to country or state to state three months at a time to avoid frigid winters. We’d buy rental properties in each place and use the passive income to build a network of African-centered schools to eradicate the educational inequities that plague the disenfranchised across the globe, especially in the pockets of urban America.

We’d be frivolous and hire a personal nutritionist, chef, and trainer that traveled with us to ensure our longevity and make love in every country code. You know, just to stay in shape. I’d write novels, short stories, and plays while sunning in the sand and stick WritingBeside-theBeach-960x565my toes in the waters of every beach, while he’d find every hut, shack, or family-owned restaurant that served the cultural delectables of the city that hosted whichever jazz, hip hop or soul concert he was attending at the time. We’d perform in backwoods churches and overflowing theaters three or four times a week just to spread the message of hope, resilience, and Coming-to-Americarevolution. We’d truly take our freedom papers, multiply them, and spread the spirit of freedom all over the world. We would get it in!!! IF…..

But alas, it is not just he and I. It’s he, she, he, and me.  We both have aging parents and in the books of failing health, we have one and a possible. We’re already at the stage of caring for our children and our elders simultaneously. Truth is, we only had two years when we didn’t have both. Heeding to the twin bellows of obligation and responsibility, we’ve decided it’s time to go back to the U.S.; a decision I’m torn about daily…..

 

Trust, SPEAK, Release

2014 has already proven to be extraordinary and divine! Every January, we meet as a family and outline our goals for the year. We prioritize them and plan for them financially. Of course, we know that the unforeseen will happen, but we try to prepare ourselves for those hurdles as well, at least in terms of having a financial cushion if needed.

This year we planned to travel as much as possible for leisure, to establish a firm educational format for our daughter, to continue developing our community here in Singapore and plan for the one we will join when we return to the states, to complete projects that have been on the burner for more than a year already, to step forward on entrepreneurial visions we’ve been given, and to conceive our second child before the end of the year.

It’s March, and we’ve already traveled to Thailand & Sydney as a family, and I’ve traveled to Bali (again) for a Girls’ Trip. Each venture was AMAZING!!  In January, I began home-schooling my daughter formally and she is thriving; already reading site words, using phonics to read basic words, counting and adding in English, Swahili, and Chinese (we’re working on subtraction), exploring the world around us through the lens of science, and learning more and more about our history and geography. She can identify every country we’ve traveled, the continent of origin of mankind, and all of the countries where her friends have families on a map.  And, she’s only 2 1/2.  (I have to say though, this is mainly due to her love of learning than anything I’m doing.  I have other students like this, and I have those who aren’t. Every child is different, and more specifically, learns differently.)

As an educator, I’ve been developing a curriculum for her since infancy, but this is the first time I’m implementing it on a schedule and with other participants.  She is also enrolled in dance and a drop-off Chinese class, so that I can have a much needed break a few hours a week.  The curriculum I use is African-centered and uses the methods of teaching to a student’s learning style rather than teaching in one uniform way.  The closest resemblance is a Montessori Model, but I implore lessons that are culturally enhancing as well. It is extremely important to us that our daughter knows who she is and what that means in the context of the world we’re living and the the global community-at-large.

One of the ways we ensure that she does see herself is by surrounding ourselves with a community of people that share our culture and desire for expressing and exchanging it with others.  Of course we also immerse ourselves in the truly rich and diverse cultures of which Singapore is replete. However, we understand the value of knowing and loving yourself first in order to fully embrace anyone else without the desire to emulate, imitate, or assimilate.

Before leaving the states, we prayed consistently to have a village, a true community built around the shared love of God and each other.  Who would’ve ever thought we’d find that in Singapore?!  We had to travel to the other side of the world to get it, but we finally do have what we’ve been searching for since we married. The unfortunate part is that we all know this is temporary because everyone is here on an assignment. Once it’s complete, the adventure here is as well and the community changes.  But, at least we have the prototype, and we’re growing. We see each other regularly, support each other in our respective endeavors, engage our children with one another, and empower each other to be great. We see each other for who we are in a world that has tried to make us invisible, criminal, or targets.

The community we’ve helped to build here has been an even greater catalyst to begin planning for establishing and creating what we desire whenever we do return to the states, where we are fully aware that every type of “-ism” exists and the love of guns exceeds that of  humanity. Hence, our development of the “The Back to Black List,”  a list of proposed solutions to help restore a thriving and healthy black community. Again, we know we have to build ourselves first before we can idealize and eventually obtain a world free of racism. (See “Wide Awake Parts I & II,” & “Why We Must Forgive.”)

As we’ve been checking off our goal sheet, I finally buckled down and focused on the many writing projects I have on my plate. I’ve started and almost completed several different works ranging from cultural critiques to marital and relationship insight for adults and teens. Almost doesn’t count when checking off the list, so I have to take the time and discipline to focus on each project. One is a series of children’s books, and though they are all written, the greatest challenge has been finding an illustrator and publisher. You wouldn’t believe some of the experiences I’ve  had in that process.  It’s been challenging and discouraging to say the least, but I think I’ve finally found the right match. Keep your fingers crossed, say a prayer for me, and get ready to purchase your book before the year ends.

We’ve always been entrepreneurial and we share the goal of empowering the disenfranchised throughout the Diaspora, so we’re still steadfastly working on expanding the Black Girl Speaks brand (www.blackgirlspeaks.com), as well as some other enterprises we’re developing. I think, aside from wanting to empower and employ others who have been marginalized, one of our desires is to avoid being in a position where someone else, “The Man,” is in complete control of our financial security. We lose sleep over the thought of it.

As expected, the unexpected has happened. After setting our goals for the year and finally reaching a place where we feel “at home,” we got the news that my husband’s company plans to move us to Hong Kong before our lease is renewed in June! hong-kong-Ed-meisterNow, we are absolutely loving the life we have in Singapore. Despite the restrictions, and there are many, it really is a wonderful place to live with a young family. Of course, this experience has been enhanced by all of the aforementioned, but Singapore itself is full of reasons to want to stay.  Our neighborhood is conveniently located in a cultural enriched area amidst shops, incredible restaurants, the only 24-hour shopping complex, all of the public transportation outlets, parks, and most of our friends are near.  You can understand why my immediate response was, “I’m not going. I’m staying here.”  I have since journeyed from refusal, to denial, and now I’m at a place of peace with whatever happens.  I didn’t want to talk about it at all, but I finally shared the news with friends of ours during my Bali Girls’ Trip.  I just didn’t want a long, drawn-out farewell.  Now, I realize by SPEAKing it, I released the anxiety that coupled it and I can just be tranquil and reassured that God will continue to shock us with blessings wherever we are in the world.

Baby Bwele in Bali

In fact, He already has! Shortly after discovering that Hong Kong was on the horizon, we found out the new addition to our family was as well. I’m elated to share that we are expecting Baby Bwelé aka Baby Blue aka Bean Pie in September!!  Now, any normal person would probably initially panic at the thought of moving internationally with one child in tow and another on the way to an unknown place where language and culture are barriers and without any reference for physicians. And, I did, because I have normal person tendencies.  Yet, I also have super-natural provision and the certainty that all will be well as it has been.  Wherever we go, we’re blessed. (But, I really, really, really want to stay Lord.) 

Why We Must Forgive

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I was walking through a parking lot today, and I saw a sign that read, “If reason is on your side, show forgiveness. If justice is on your side, show humility.”

At first, it rattled me considering the state of anger wherein I’ve traveled increasingly since the Trayvon Martin trial, and where I’ve resided since this past week’s Jordan Davis trial. Why must they, (justice and reason), be mutually exclusive? Why does the gift of justice come so sparingly to my people? Why must we always be the strongest and forgive? I had to pray about that thing.

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I was reminded of the power of and that comes through forgiveness. It’s not letting anyone off the hook. It’s stopping yourself from being hung by your own rope. It’s letting go so you can progress in healing. It’s the gateway to productivity, and now is certainly time to be productive.

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So, I am choosing to forgive for my sake and ours collectively.

I forgive those who lay in idle complacency and serve as spectators to our genocide.

I forgive those who offer no alternative and do nothing to aid in our collective struggle other than serve their own individual pool, but who feel authorized to criticize, denounce, and ridicule strategies that are devised for the very people they’ve chosen to neglect or pity.

I forgive ignorance.

I forgive those who are so entangled in their own emotions and feelings that they cannot understand our plight enough to even fathom the thought of a group seemingly excluding them to heal within themselves.

I forgive those who throw baseless accusations and antiquated insults because they are afraid and personally offended that we are personally offended by our plight in this country.

I forgive all who are in the position to do so, but fail to empathize.

I forgive all who are in a position to do so, but fail to help.

I forgive those who look like they are African, but offer no other indication of such.

I forgive our would be leaders who have chosen their comfort, status, and fortune over using their platforms to propel the progress of the disenfranchised.

I forgive those in our community who have fallen victim to self-loathing, and in turn hate and seek to destroy us all.

I forgive those who have had the audacity to take a life that they didn’t birth, love, understand, or embrace with little to no remorse.

I forgive the history of America, though it’s never acknowledged its fault or current effects or asked for or felt the need for our forgiveness.

I forgive myself for not being more forgiving sooner and for putting my faith in anyone other than God and the Spirit of God within us.

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I forgive, because I must; because I need to heal; because we need to progress; because you’re worthy even if you don’t believe it; because we’re worthy even when we don’t see it; because that’s what I’ve been instructed to do; because reason is a gift too.

Because we have work to do, I forgive you.

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#blackgirlspeaks #forgiveness #understanding #peace #progress #TheBacktoBlackList #EmpowermentExperiment #justicefortrayvonmartin #justiceforoscargrant #justiceforalfredwright #justiceforjonathanferrell #justiceforjordandavis #justiceforhadiyapendleton #justiceforjonylahwatkins #reasonforusall

Thinking Ahead

January 20, 2014

Singapore seems like that ambitious overzealous younger sibling desperately trying to crawl out of the shadows of its predecessors. It strives to excel in all areas, especially education. In terms of academics, just from my brief research and observations, Singapore far excels America in mathematics, reading (but, not necessarily comprehension), and knowledge and usage of elevated vocabulary in text. Students in local schools are indoctrinated into a highly competitive, rigorous, and rigid form of instruction from Kindergarten and are already sifted and categorized according to intellectual prowess by Primary 1, which is age seven.

Though I’m told there was a shift in focus from a “survival-driven education” system to an “ability-driven” one, the remnants of the survival instinct are still prevalent.  Students are (still) taught how to receive, respond, and recall quickly in a structured and disciplined environment. They are taught, in fact, required to operate within a very limited scope and set of boundaries. This was initially implemented when Singapore first developed its own economy and autonomy to ensure that graduates would be viable employees and “provide a skilled workforce” for its industrialization program while lowering unemployment; which overall last year was 2%! So, in those regards, it’s working.

On the other hand, because of this focus, there is little if any tolerance for failure or mistakes. Friends of mine here, both local and foreign, complain often about how their children are punished, scolded or “tapped” because they failed to answer a question correctly or hold their pencil properly.  In local schools, many “expat” (expatriate) children are viciously taunted for their lack of grasp of the Chinese language, though English is the official language and the most dominant one used for instruction.  I’m also told that often teachers are not willing to offer additional support or materials to aid in a student’s progression outside of the classroom. They only do what is required of them, no more or less. I have found that this carries over in every facet of service in Singapore. (see upcoming post “Can-Not.”) Though this form of rigidity may be beneficial in terms of the labor force, I have found that it can also be crippling in the aspect of developing the whole person.

ImageMany Singaporeans I’ve observed, especially in the service industry, lack critical and creative thinking skills. I have witnessed evidence of this repeatedly.  Everything must be in order, must follow the rules; no deviation or modification. There is no allowance for thinking quickly on your feet or spontaneity; no concept of thinking outside the box. If there isn’t a box, they will follow the set of instilled instructions and build one. They do not question authority, or anything. “We do things this way. That is all,” a native Singaporean once told me. He was almost offended that I inquired about the reasoning for such structure. 

I’m reminded of a recent Saturday when we went out for breakfast. My husband called ahead to make a reservation, but he was told there was a two-hour wait. I thought this was unusual and decided that we should go anyway.  When we arrived, as I expected, there were dozens of empty tables. The eager host greeted me with the question, “Do you have [a] reservation?” I scrolled the restaurant to bring attention to the abundance of empty seats. He asked again, completely missing the hint. “No, but we can just sit at any one of these empty tables,” I uttered through a patronizing smile.  Image

“These are all reserved,” he quipped.

“These are all reserved? For what time?” 

“12:30.” He leaned in to show me two reservations listed. 

“It’s 11. Pancakes won’t take long. We’re sitting,” I declared before marching to the table. Never in America, would a business turn away business for potential business. 

“If all you people just followed the rules, things would be better in this country,” an irate self-appointed condo security officer reproached when we took an alternative exit from our building. (That sounded familiar.) He became so agitated and disrespectful that my husband had to address him as only he knows how, and later took his picture to report him. There seems to be little room to color outside of the lines, and certainly very little encouragement to draw your own picture. Though controlled, or maybe because of it, the work ethic of many Singaporeans surpasses that of many Americans. In the U.S., people tend to “work smart” using innovation and technology to ease the workload. Here, they work hard.  And, that starts early as well.

Students that I’ve encountered are overburdened with hours of daily homework, extended school days, and private tuition. A little girl, no older than ten, once told me that she didn’t have time to play. “{Here}, you stop playing when you are 3,” she said so certainly that I almost accepted it and felt pity that my two-year-old would be ending her leisurely play in the park very soon. All of them must meet the pressure of excelling on their regular assessments. The results of which determine which track, academic or vocational, they’ll take throughout their educational matriculation.  Their futures are almost predetermined and there is little room for deviation from the structure. Think of “1984,” and “Fahrenheit 451.” According to the Washington Post:

                   “After six years of primary-school education, Singaporean students take a test that determines whether they’ll be placed in a special school for the gifted, a vocational school or a special education program, and another test later determines their             higher-ed options.”

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/11/heres-why-other-countries-beat-the-u-s-in-reading-and-math/

The heavy role of testing actually isn’t so different from that in America, where many students are tracked and even the number of prisons estimated to be built is determined by results from standardized tests administered when students are as young as nine-years-old. Just as in America as well, the disparity in the quality of education is vast, and mainly based on race, income, and resources. Once again, I’m seeing firsthand how the poverty line and color line intersect and merge, and how students are failed before they even start if they were born with an excess of melanin or a lack of pedigree. Here, however, Indian is the new Black, and the Bangladeshi are the “Latinos.” Image

In America, the coined phrase, “school-to-prison pipeline,” describes the most likely path for those who are disadvantaged academically because of their socioeconomic (lack of) status. Because of the extremely high penalties for crime and the lack of tolerance for such, I would say it’s more the “school-to-harsh manual labor” pipeline for those who don’t make the grade in Singapore.

It’s one of the reasons many expats I know enroll their children in international schools, which all have formal names, but are referred to as “The American School” or “The Canadian School.” It’s also one of the main reasons now and here was the opportunity to utilize my educational experience and passion and begin providing private tuition for other students and to open my own educational center for my daughter and other toddlers who like to paint their own canvas.  Visit http://www.isisgenius.com.

(Please post any comments and inquiries directly on the blog so that I can compile them.)

[Read :The Modern American, “Buying Into Prisons and Selling Kids Short.” http://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1141&context=tma]