"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Mr. Krasner, I have some questions about that Chan Zuckerberg arrangement.

from Wrench in the Gears
June 28, 2018 

Dear Mr. Krasner,

To understand our country, you have to recognize that black people were never meant to be free. It’s a phrase I’ve heard my friend Ismael say often. The weight of it, however, hit hard last week when he and his wife approached a manager at a local theater to resolve an issue with an incessant beeping that disrupted the family’s enjoyment of the movie. They waited over an hour; no one came. After finally obtaining a refund, they were told they could not go back in to retrieve their young sons.

The theater escalated the situation, and within moments eight police officers arrived on the scene. My friends were seen not as concerned parents, but as imminent threats because of their race. It was traumatic for the entire family, which included four young children. The Philadelphia Tribune covered the incident here. This comes a few months after Philadelphia was in the national spotlight over the unfounded and racially charged arrests of two black men in a downtown Starbucks.

 Our city doesn’t just have an incarceration problem; we have profound problems with policing, power and racism. Whiteness wraps many in comforting myths of freedom and justice for all under the law, but black and brown Philadelphians know the harsh truth. Our city embodies the Jimenez family’s 40th and Walnut Cinemark encounter more than the experience of the tourists who pass by the Liberty Bell and through the Constitution Center any given day. We must own that before we can move forward and do the work needed to transform our city for the better.

Ismael is a tireless advocate for racial justice and co-chair of the Caucus of Working Educators. Many dedicated teachers, whose work on Black Lives Matter at School drew national acclaim, canvassed for you last fall. They believed in your commitment to progressive change and your willingness to take on the intractable problems of our city’s prison industrial complex.

Yet now the District Attorney’s office has entered into a collaboration with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which leaves me wondering if the teachers’ trust in you was misplaced. I hope you will read Emily Talmage’s “Dear Mark” letter in which she shares her concerns about the “personalized learning” programs Facebook is promoting. These platforms are dehumanizing and grounded in surveillance, data-mining and predictive profiling. Anyone who truly cares about justice for oppressed people surely knows the manipulative oligarch Mark Zuckerberg can be no ally.

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