Monday, February 11, 2008

The Cuban Secret


Elizabeth Eckford is depicted in this photograph taken by Will Counts in 1957. It is one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th century, according to the Associated Press. Hazel Massery is the white girl seen yelling at Eckford as Eckford attempted to enter the school on her first day.

When ever I have arguments about educating low income folks,
I dead cats in their tracks with one question.

The question is, why is it that Cuba has a 97% literacy rate,
when most
of its citizens/residents are cash poor?
A true story: in 1960, less than a year after their victory, Castro's government decided to wipe out illiteracy. They recruited 120,000 volunteer teachers, most of them young high school students. Armed only with books and Coleman-style gas lanterns, the volunteers entered the most remote areas, teaching peasants of all ages to read. The grim part of the story was that there were still counterrevolutionaries in the hills -- and they received support from the CIA. They knew the literacy brigades were helping solidify Castro's support among the peasantry, so the young volunteers were terrorized and at least one was murdered. But the campaign succeeded anyway. Practically overnight, Cuba's literacy rate rose to 97%, and it's now a little higher than that. By the way, the average Cuban's knowledge of the U.S. and of world events is astonishing.
Just a little something I want you to think about during this election

Something that I want you to think about while you read the newspaper.

Something I want you to think about the next time you read about
colleges with billion dollar endowments, or schools in the hood
that have landed on the No Child Left Behind "closure/failure" list.

I want you to think about the effect that the failure of integration
has had on our current educational system.


What can a new president do to change the
way our children are educated?

Do we need to send our kids to Cuba?

Our Black boys in particular?



Anonymous said...

Hello M.DOT.

I've been reading your blog for a few months now, long enough that I don't remember how I came across it. I hope you keep it up: you've got voice.

I started to write a comment on your post about Half-Nelson, because I was disturbed at how many of my white friends thought so highly of a film that I thought romanticized Gosling's character, when he was a through and through dirtbag. He wasn't complicated. He only was presented that way because of his whiteness. I thought your point about screen time was apt. The movie should have been more about Epps' character.

Anyway, your post on literacy is an interesting one. When looked at through the lens of literacy, the US education system is pretty strong. 99%. This is the official stat that I would dispute, but nevertheless... 99% of our population is a huge number. And to educate that number of children of such different backgrounds ( I mean that literally... the diversity of our population is astounding) and needs (in terms of special education, in terms of poverty, in terms of ESL) is an incredible undertaking. Of course, we know who is in that 1%. Which is the point of your post.

That being said, I think the issue is that we celebrate literacy in a way that was outdated generations ago. Literacy, in one sense, is a low bar (despite what I said just now about it being difficult).

What does being able to read and write get you nowadays? Not much. And it's going to get much worse. Soon.

The real question is to what ends do we want our citizens to be able to read and write? And what kind of reading and writing does that entail?

Not the reading and writing that is evaluated on standardized tests.

If we want to give young people, and by young people I mean ourselves, our country, a chance, we better come up with the correct answer to the above question.

I have my answer... and I'm now working on the hard part. How to make it happen.

Thanks again for your blog


Model Minority said...


Blood. Thank you. I mean. Life is such a struggle and every time someone reaches out it is an affirmation that being nerdy, boom-bappie and punky brewster fly is worth it.

If we have a 99% literacy rate, then I need to see the Fed's definition of literacy because a 50% drop out rate in NYC ALONE....should should be reflected in a number greater than one percent.
Of course I am presuming that those that drop out are illiterate or functionally literate.

Dude, don't talk to me about the hard part...I am reading this titled "The Trap" by this FLY_ASSED WHITE BOY named Daniel Brook.... I was on the train tonight saying Amen HELLA TIMES. He was just breaking down how the Regan era tax dereg has redistributed wealth and now teachers can't live in the cities without damnn near getting food stamps cuz rent is too high.

UGGG. Book has got me more juiced than the new clipse album. In fact, I am going to send him the Clipse album. LOl.

You working on it? Me too. Get at me. m.dotwrites@gmail.

matt williams said...

The real question is to what ends do we want our citizens to be able to read and write? And what kind of reading and writing does that entail

Not much, its much easier to control people when they don't do much thinking.

Anonymous said...

Of course, you are right, Chic Noir.

The institutions that most of us who went to public school would recognize as "school," were basically designed to control rapidly growing urban populations at the beginning of the 20th century. Schools were designed to be efficient, because their role was to prepare the vast numbers of new urban folk (read: immigrants and african-americans who migrated from the south) to be factory workers. To be a factory worker, you need the following types of skills: docility, punctuality, conformity.

A great book on the subject: The One Best System by David Tyack.

The crazy thing is: this is still how most public schools work! They are designed to prepare kids for factory jobs that don't exist.

Never mind the inhumanity of designing institutions for young people that emphasize efficiency, of all things...


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