Dear John: Where I Disagree With Legend

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

John Legend

Dear John Legend,

Last night at the Avery Hall in Lincoln Center (NYC), you and Common headlined an awesome town hall between some of the brightest and influential Black / Latino men in education. The line-up read like a starting roster for a hypothetical NYC Black educator panel: David Banks of the Eagle Academy as moderator, followed by Dr. Pedro Noguera, Common, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Ruben Diaz Jr., and Eric Snow. On paper, the roster was dynamic and possibly influential enough to break some ground on the topic of the moment: why the system has failed men of color in education. While I don’t expect much for Teach for America, I know plenty of educators from that system that have done good things for their children.

Having said that, you, my friend, did not bring your A game.

You brought a set of talking points akin to the wonks that, in changing public education, have silenced the voices of the most underprivileged. Your assertion that students who don’t do well on the standardized state tests are not ready for the real world conflict with real life, where no one asks you in the job force to fill out a bunch of bubbles to do the best job possible. Your case study about that one school that did so well with passing the test doesn’t say much about how they’ll do in the future nor does it coincide with the reality of education as a whole, where charter schools only make up 5% of NYC public schools. Your vision of the perfect school and how that aligns to the educrat movement sound more like a page out of a war stratagem than public school reform, with your talk of “getting rid of teachers.”

Nevermind that the policies of charter schools directly influence public schools in the area. For one, charter schools have more choice as to who gets in, and who leaves. Public schools have more paperwork in that respect. Charter schools thusly don’t house as many ELLs or children with special needs as public schools do. Plus, where do they go when they’re not deemed fit to attend this prestigious school? Public school, of course. Worse still is that the correlation between the amount of charter schools popping up and the amount of Black and Latino children in the neighborhood in which they arrive is pretty high.

A part of me wants to understand, too. Men of color do not exist monolithically. The depth and breadth of opinion within this demographic might make outside observers blush. We have so many routes by which to attack the issue of Black men that the one path we should all choose gets distorted by various interests and beliefs. That much, I believe. Even my attendance to an event sponsored by an organization I don’t fully support shows the complexity of education right now. Plus, not many in the audience (excluding me) expected you to know much about the plight of Black men in education outside of the banalities of men of color failing.

There, your opinion failed. Unfortunately, you were Soulja Boy in the middle of a catalogue battle between Jay-Z and Lupe Fiasco. A recent Golden Gloves championship winner discussing boxing with Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. That’s why, no matter how talented a musician you are, people could see through the distortions and false-ttos. Upon entering the Empire City, please note that, while the house is owned by people who readily accept what you say as fact, the neighborhood is guarded by watchmen who’ll boo you the minute you get it wrong.

Take that weak stuff outta here.

Jose, who doesn’t do personal attacks. This is purely professional …

p.s. – Part 2 tomorrow (and some takeaways) …