The perso-professional website of Maurice E Dolberry, an educator, public scholar, and consultant.

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Bill Cosby: Philanthropist and (Alleged) Philanderer

The arrest of Dr. Cosby helps us disabuse ourselves of the hope that plying White supremacist ideas about Black folks through a Black Nationalist caste system will somehow make even the most “successful” amongst us immune from those very ideas.  At the same time, Dr. Cosby was not arrested because he is Black and powerful.  He was arrested because he’s an alleged serial rapist.  And while it is true that our justice system is crippled by systemic racism, it is also true that our society is crippled by systemic chauvinism and misogyny that cause us to dismiss women and their right to govern their own bodies, as well as the veracity of their word in comparison to that of one powerful man.

I don’t like Bill Cosby’s brand of respectability politics and their focus on the Black middle and upper classes.  I’m also not happy that he has been arrested.  But I am happy that a group of women – one that is far too large – may get justice for what happened to them.

#HomelessAtHoward: The Harsh Truths behind the Con

The hashtag #HomelessAtHoward started a national debate amongst a lot of folks.  At the center were allegations made by a student at Howard University – my alma mater – that he had been unfairly evicted from his on-campus housing.  It has become a complex story with many facets and plot twists.

In this clip, Coach Be Moore moderates while Dr. Rhadi Ferguson and I debate the many issues within and surrounding this controversy.  As it usually happens when Rhadi and I get to arguing, the results are highly entertaining…

The Debate: #HomelessAtHoward and the Harsh Truths behind the Con

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The Irony of a Nuisance: “Black Lives Matter” Protesters Stop Traffic on Dr. MLK, Jr. Day

A driver runs over "Black Lives Matter" protesters in Minneapolis

A driver runs over “Black Lives Matter” protesters in Minneapolis

Tomorrow in my class, we’ll spend part of the time discussing the irony of people who complain that protesters stopping traffic today are “in the way” and should “protest somewhere I don’t have to be bothered with it”.  Especially on a day which honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of our country’s most itinerant irritants.

But what if you were bothered by “it”?  What if “it” was such an important part of American life that you needed to stop traffic so people would pay attention?  Would Dr. King have stopped traffic to call attention to “it”?

If “it” is the same cause as Dr. King’s, then the answer is yes, whether you agree or not.

What may be a welcomed day away from work for some has a completely different meaning for others.  Dr. King and his message have regularly been appropriated and distorted.  It is also important to understand, that just as protesters today are a “bothersome nuisance” to many Americans, so was Dr. King and his message shortly before he was murdered.  The apathy and disdain shown – or not shown – for protesters who stop traffic today is similar to that which punctuated Dr. King’s time.  For most protesters, the fundamental respect for Black lives is an issue important enough to stop traffic for a few hours to draw attention.  The pessimist in me assumes that most Americans don’t agree with either premise: 1) the fundamental respect for Black lives nor 2) that it is more important than traffic.  As I have (rhetorically) questioned of my students, “If most Americans were morally and ethically opposed to the chattel enslavement of Black people, then how could it have continued unabated for a total of almost 300 years on this soil?”  I ask the same about general American support for the idea that Black lives do matter.

The media coverage I’ve seen today, I think, sums up the general American spirit: “Sure ‘Black lives matter’, but I need to drive my car on this road.  Right now.  That’s definitely more important.”  I’m betting that 200 years ago in 1815, most Americans would have responded in a similar fashion about enslaving Black lives.

Maybe the message tomorrow shouldn’t be “irony” after all.  Maybe it’s “continuity”.

A School is Always Teaching: What Deborah Brown Community School Taught One Little Black Girl

tiana-parker-crying

If you haven’t seen it yet, here is the news story about 7-year-old Tiana Parker.  She’s a former student at Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Deborah Brown Community School, whose father ultimately pulled her out after being repeatedly told by the school to change his daughter’s hairstyle.  Tiana’s dreadlocked hair was in violation of the school’s dress code which clearly states, “Hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros and other faddish styles are unacceptable.” (see page 13).

That’s the basic story, but this goes so much deeper.

This isn’t a simply a question of where Tiana Parker should go to school; thankfully she’s got the privilege of having an involved parent who has taken her out of DBCS.  This debacle actually invokes larger questions of what we’re teaching children about their ethnicity and how to combat respectability politics.

Read more →

Common Core Banner

Common Core Standards

I’ve worked directly and intimately with Common Core standards in a large urban school district. My problem with them isn’t that they exist, it’s how assessment occurs, and determining what test scores actually tell us.

They’re all attached at the hip though.

Broad curriculum standards lend themselves to broad, standardized testing measures.  Standardizing tests means a lot of students are going to take  them.  That requires a whole lot of grading.  And when a whole lot of tests need to be graded, they’re going to end up being sit-down-and-fill-in-these-bubbles-for-a-long-time affairs that can be placed into machines for assessment.  Does this test a student’s love of learning?  Their desire to be a lifelong learner?  Their love of reading?  And don’t we want those things to be a part of a “quality education” for our children?

Broad, standardized testing measures also introduce a whole lot of variables into play that  might not have been considered before. For example, a student’s zip code, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (and I know “zip code” and “socioeconomic status” can be a bit redundant) can be used to predict their scores on standardized tests with alarming accuracy.  So what happens when we use these tests as the primary determining factor for whether students are learning within schools?  What are we really finding out when we analyze these results on a large scale?

Common Core standards sound like a great idea, and may seem like they’re a way to improve education, but figuring out how to assess educational outcomes using them is really difficult, complex, and ultimately may not tell us what we think it’s telling us.