BOOKS: Whitney Tilson Reviews "Crazy Like A Fox" [edited]
What a crazy August it's been for Whitney Tilson, the pro-charter moneyman who sends out the occasional email. First he went a little over the top slamming Diane Ravitch for her opinion piece questioning charter schools. He apologized. Now he's reviewing Crazy Like a Fox -- Ben Chavis' story of "No Excuses"-style school leadership. See effusive and lengthy email below, including excerpts appendices and more. No word yet on whether any apologies will be forthcoming.
I just finished one of the three best books on education I've ever read:
Crazy Like A Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City, which will
be released on Sept. 1st (the publisher sent me an advance copy; it can be
preordered on Amazon at: www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/
Chavis has an amazing story, starting with his childhood of extreme poverty in rural North Carolina with a violent and largely absent father. He says that of all of the inner-city Oakland students who've ever attended one of his schools, not one of them had a childhood as bad as his -- and he's no doubt right. Chavis describes himself as "a country Indian from the South, who was a sharecropper with uneducated parents, who paid his way through college and sent his family money each semester, and who graduated from a state university..."
American Indian Model (AIM) Students' Ten Commandments
by Dr. Ben Chavis
1. Thou shalt remember that laziness is the quickest path to fail-
ure. Thou shalt accept that family culture, accountability/struc-
ture, high expectations, and free market capitalism will lead to
success in school and life.
2. Thou shalt accept full responsibility for thy failure or success
in school and life. Blaming thy family, friends, or circumstance
will not lead to success. Blame is an excuse for failure, laziness,
and leads to being a victim.
3. Thou shalt covet the studying of ninety minutes of English-
language arts and ninety minutes of mathematics each school
day, with a minimum of forty-five minutes for each class of sci-
ence, social studies, physical fitness, and two hours of homework
to build a sound educational foundation for all students.
4. Thou shalt be aware that affirmative action and diversity spe-
cialists have made a professional career based on people's color
and sex. These individuals are committed to human inequality
to ensure they are employed.
5. Thou shalt be aware that "affirmative action" for minorities
is the most blatant form of racism in the United States. Why
dost thou think Africa, China, or the Navajo Indian Nation
does not have affirmative action programs for white people?
6. Thou shalt choose common sense over left-wing liberal ideol-
ogy. Thou shalt also choose common sense over right-wing
ideology. Thou shalt avoid ideologists as though they are the
7. Thou shalt be aware of quacks who believe in communism. Thou
hast the quickest route to freedom through free market capital
ism and private property ownership. Hast thou ever heard of
illegal immigrants risking their lives to enter Cuba?
8. Thou shalt pursue higher education and free market capitalism.
As Frederick Douglass stated, "It means light and liberty. It
means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of
truth, the light by which men can only be made free."
9. Thou shalt remember that standardized tests are not aware of
anyone's skin color or sex. Thou shalt put forth thy best efforts;
hold thyself to the highest academic and social standards that enhance all
students' ability to compete in a free market capitalist society.
10. Thou shalt always be part of our AIM to Educate family. Thou hast
been prepared for success through family culture, accountability/structure,
high expectations, and free market capitalism. Thou shalt embrace the challenges
of life and turn them into a productive educational experience.
I do not believe it's the color of an educator's skin that makes him or her successful in working with any race of students. Could it be an educator's game plan, dedication, and commitment to preparing students with the academic tools needed to succeed in school is what counts? Our children need and deserve smart, dedicated people who are willing to challenge them at a high academic level. Mr. Nelson is that kind of person. Mr. Lopez is Hispanic; Ms. Blakely is white; Mrs. Roberts is part white and part Asian; Mr. Glover is white; I'm American Indian. What we have in common is that we have all succeeded in achieving outstanding academic results among American Indian, Asian, black, Hispanic, white, and poor students because we don't treat them as victims but as individuals with untapped talent we know we can cultivate.
2. The staff of AIPCS does not preach or subscribe to the dema-
goguery of tolerance. Adults not willing to follow our rules will
be sent packing with their rags and bags!
3. Squawkers, multicultural specialists, self-esteem experts, pan
handlers, drug dealers, and those snapping turtles who refuse
to put forth their best effort will be booted out.
4. Bootlicking or self-promoting is not allowed by any politician
who enters our classrooms. Politicians should beware: teachers
are on duty!
5. We do not believe standardized tests discriminate against stu-
dents because of their color. Could it be many of them have not
been adequately prepared to take those tests?
15. Our staff does not subscribe to the back swamp logic of minor-
ity students as victims. We will plow through such cornfield
philosophy with common sense and hard work!
These experiences and observations made me change my perspective on what I'd been taught in education classes. I came to the conclusion that many professors in the college of education were more centered on their left-wing liberal views than on what actually works in practice with minority and poor students. The data convinced me to question their assertions. Before that, I bought into multiculturalism, self-esteem, and all that education propaganda. I had been sitting in college classes thinking to myself that I was just a dumb Indian hick from North Carolina who could not deconstruct the biased data in scholarly journals or know that much about education, so what the professors were saying must be true. They'd say we need to make students feel good about themselves. They said when you teach them about their culture, students will feel good about who they are, and if they feel good about who they are, they'll want to read and write and learn. It seems logical if you don't know any better, but most people who can barely read feel great about themselves. Having self-esteem hasn't helped their literacy. My own family of brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles serves as an example of that. Many Indian elders who live on a Navajo reservation know a lot about their culture. Does that qualify them to get into Harvard or Stanford University?
This radical change in perspective put me on the path to becoming the "crazy," enlightened educator I am today...
...Most public school educators do not see eye to eye with me. I didn't agree with the philosophy of victimization then; I don't agree with it now. I have no problem badmouthing educators who cheat minority students with their pity, community circles, bead making, general math for twelfth-graders, bilingual education for twelve years, sheltered English immersion, and low expectations. Can you think of a better way to screw over minorities in education and dumb us down?
We get the watered-down academics, the victimization, and the teaching of culture, while most middle-class students get rigorous English, math, science, and history courses. Is that logical? Where did educators come up with this idea that minorities are so fragile? We are resilient people; we don't need kid gloves; we need a sound academic education and educators who prepare our children to work hard and be as smart as any other group of people.
When whites disagree with minority educators and their liberal dogma, they're labeled racists. When I disagree with minorities and liberal do-gooders, they say I'm trying to be white. Hell, how does a hardheaded Indian like myself turn white? Do they think I'm God and can change my race?