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Jose Vilson vs. Barack Obama

Dear President Obama,

Ever since you started your run for President of the United States, I’ve had your back. I won’t recount the inspiring events of your presidency since 2008 here, though I’m sure you’re already replaying them in your mind, like that last great buzzer shot to win your last pick-up game. You’ve made few friends along the path to 2010, and wobbled the faith of many in your prime electoral base. Your administration’s strategy has been simply to show what the “other guy” hasn’t done, a strategy typical of the politics you leaned your whole campaign on breaking. None of this bodes well for a president who won a decisive majority vote and a mandate to turn this country around. Frankly, you sometimes come off as dispassionate about the people who helped elect you on the ground level.

With all the things you’ve done under your Presidency, it’s hard to argue about the legacy you’ll already leave behind. As a Black man, a father, and a personal role model, you excel. Yet, the one gripe I’ve always had about you is your hallow education policy. It reminds me of the articles I’d read by Matt Taibbi about how you were in Goldman Sachs’ pocket while tons of people lost their jobs and livelihoods by that sinister organization. It reminds me of the tons of “present” votes when things came up to your vote as Senator of Illinois. It reminds me of the fake swim you took in the Atlantic Ocean when you weren’t even close to the Gulf Coast.

And not the guy who went right into New Orleans while that president flew right over it.

I respect your use of the term “education reform,” because everyone can get on board with that. Where we diverge is the way by which we achieve education reform. You prefer to listen to the corporate voices of anti-trust lawyer Joel Klein and “I make no apologies about taping a kid’s mouth shut” Michelle Rhee. I prefer to listen to the voices of Linda Darling-Hamm, an illustrious member of your transition team, who believes Finland is a more appropriate model for education than the one we’re looking towards. I prefer to look at Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier’s research, plain as day showing the constant manipulations of New York State and Michael Bloomberg, who wiggled the scores enough so people could believe he made NYC’s scores change when he nor his reforms did.

I got a million other voices who find your push for the privatization of public education, and since you came on the scene, it’s probably the nastiest stain on your oil-drenched fatigues. In no way am I belittling the 3 wars you’re fighting in the Middle East, the detainees, the secret armies, or the treatment of anyone who’s not a While, male, middle-class Protestant, since these too need all of our attention. I just have a special place in my heart for education since I believe that making children informed, positive citizens and great, critical inventors will help solve many of the issues in this world.

Instead, we’re building automatons, robots, and people frustrated with the constant barrage of big tests (ask Nicholas Lemann). I don’t hate you, Barack, and I hope that’s evident. With all these teabaggers, that’s not as present. I just totally disagree with your policies, capiche?

Now, when I get my face to face with you, I don’t want you sic’ing your Secret Service dogs on me. You know where to reach me otherwise. Good night, and good luck.

Jose, who has an audacity to win …


Everyone’s Got Their Doctorate Now

by Jose Vilson on October 28, 2007

Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”Before I continue, I’d like to thank Tia (not sure who she is, but she likes my blog) for nominating me for the Best Education Blog in the 2007 Weblog Awards. If you’d like to drop by and hit the little plus button next to her comment, that’d be dope. If not, keep reading anyways. The best is yet to come.

The best way to turn me off from any argument is to magically introduce some mental condition. Ever since I was in college, I found myself very critical of the increasing amount of mental / developmental disorders, especially in an age where the more conditions you can come up with, the more money you can get for your “exclusive” research.

Studies have shown that there’s been a huge increase of mental disorders and chronic diseases in the United States, and the first two factors commonly associated with this are 1) the ability to see the symptoms and treat them early on and 2) the higher risk behaviors people are taking on at a much younger age. Of course, it also stems from the other, and more understood factors like birth conditions, environment, dietary habits, family situations, and genetics.

But the not-so-secret secret for these treatments has a lot to do with people’s self-interest. If you can make someone’s adjustments to society’s ills into a mental disease, then you can look like you’re doing something about it.

Case 1:

When inner-city teachers who have detrimental classroom management or have a negative outlook on the children they teach get fed up with their most extreme cases of misbehavior, they turn to the psychiatrists in the building and say “He / she’s got ADHD, and I can’t take it anymore!” I personally have referred a few children here and there, with much reluctance and after serious discussions with them and their parents. I don’t pull the trigger unless I know something is severely wrong or the kid asks me to refer him. Yet some teachers just want to point and scream ADHD like it’s a witch hunt. I mean, with some of the living conditions these kids have, it’s no wonder why they would go crazy.

Case 2:

The drug market is at an all-time high. There’s a pill for any and every disease, condition, problem, and quandary. Drug companies profit off of commercials that exacerbate the problems in your life (Do you feel depressed? Lonely? Out of sorts?). People in America are working harder than ever at lesser wages with less sleep, less family time, and everything from gas and food to health care and housing become more expensive. So when we sit down to watch our favorite TV shows, go on the Web, or read our afternoon paper, we see these ads telling us how their drug will miraculously cure us of what ails us. Then, they give the drug a fancy new name so it sells better because a name with all those x’s, y’s, and h’s won’t do well. What’s more, many of the drugs that we end up intaking actually have chemicals that keep us dependent on them, so what does that say? Mind control through chemicals isn’t far fetched …

Case 3:

Understanding Case 1 and 2, we can see how people are quick to find new ways to disorder and prognosticate our entire realities. If you’re having problems with math, it’s not that you haven’t been shown how to do it, it’s that you have a mental disease called Mathematical Anxiety Disorder (MAD). If you’ve experienced a series of oppressive events and still live in a rather dismal existence, the policies that keep that sort of environment together isn’t the problem, it’s a mental condition called Poverty Induced Trauma (PIT). If you have an inordinate prejudice against someone else because of a combination of culture, ethnicity, and skin color, then you’re not a racist. You have a mental condition called Ridiculous Assumptions Causing Extremism (RACE).

And I hate to be the one to point these things out, because I’d be offending those who believe something different than me (ha), but everything we’ve done since the dawn of our existence has been about translating our realities for our own minds. We have the opportunity to redefine our existences, but we also have to outline the obstacles and act upon the forces preventing us from making those changes.

The Miseducation of the NegroWhen we happened upon this Earth, everything we understood and felt about the world was told to us. Blue was blue, and there was no denying that. 1+1=2 and that was that. We accept a lot of things as fact and the rationales we assume come from the many experts and authorities we have in our lives, yet when we grow up, we start to see the cracks in the authorities’ assumptions and make our own wedges within them. Contrary to what some of you believe, ADHD isn’t endemic to Black and Latino children, poverty does affect the supposed opportunities we have, and race exists, and a big of its existence is mental, something we can’t undermine.

Like Dr. Carter G. Woodson, one of the greatest authors I’ve ever read, said in his seminal work The Mis-Education of the Negro,

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”

jose, who might be crazy himself …


More or Less

by Jose Vilson on July 18, 2007

in Jose

talibkweli2.jpg Many of you are familiar with Talib Kweli the artist. Since the days of Black Star, he’s blossomed into a premier face for hip-hop music. Unfortunately, because of the topics he discusses (politics, hip-hop, and urban community issues are among his favorites), he’s often type casted for a niche audience. What that usually means is that artists him, Immortal Technique, Mos Def, Common, and Pharoahe Monch get put in a little slot, even when their music has the ability to reach more audiences. In this day and age where hits are no longer made, but manufactured, it’s hard for artists like him to get their shine.

What it does mean for people who like their artistry is that we have to invest in their product and be active participants in their growth. Acts like Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Gwen Stefani, and Fergie, regardless of whether they actually craft their own music or rely on formulas for their success, already have machines behind them that will force listeners to hear their product. We don’t have to like their songs for them to be played a million times on the radio; they’re still going to get played. This is also not to say that they don’t work hard, but in Talib Kweli’s case, he doesn’t give the radio a diet Talib, if you know what I mean.

With the recent payola scandals (which were fairly obvious for decades now) and the mainstreaming of illegal downloading, it becomes ever more pressing for us as consumers of music to cast in our monies to artists we actually want to see succeed. I personally buy CDs from artists who have either come out with a very good project as of late (Linkin Park) or who have been consistent enough over their career that it inspires confidence in the product I’m buying (Janet Jackson). What this also means is that I’m also doing my “research” on the albums before I get them, something the music industry heads can’t understand. Many of us don’t download because we’re pirates; it’s because we’re tired of getting screwed over by a 15-song album whose quality is worth just 2.

You see, if they’re going to keep allowing cookie cutter crap to invade our ears and minds, then people will continue to download on a regular basis. As recently as 2004, I felt the music industry would remember how cutting edge music transformed the landscape for so many of these artists, when they gave breathing room to underground artists to get some shine on the major music stations. Now, because of the lack of variance amongst these radio and TV stations, it seems that we’ll never get the opportunity for these new energies to hit our eardrums.

This is all to say that, if you enjoy an artist, please support them, not just through CDs, which has gone the way of presidential voting, but also through concerts and word-of-mouth. BET’s 106 and Park was NEVER about the viewers’ choice, and radio’s still mired in money politics. I know I’ll be buying Eardrum (8/21/07), because more or less, if I want to see Talib succeed, I need to let the majors know he’s still relevant to people like me and you. More or less, if we want to see more of these artists, we need to support, or we stand to lose them all.

jose, who’s having the best summer in quite a while



April 9, 2007

Breakthroughs in the way people communicate often leave the older technologies at a search for its own identity. This is especially true in today’s media (most visible within sports and news). Sometimes when the old media tries to find its identity, it finds ways to destroy any and every other media outlet without much success […]

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