kanye west Archives - The Jose Vilson

kanye west

George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali

George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali

Dear reader,

The reason I haven’t spoken about Kanye West all year is because, in some ways, I’ve occupied a similar space that he does in education discussion. I don’t mean marrying Kim Kardashian, either.

Here’s the list of my top ten posts according to how many views I got:

  1. Chris Christie and Why Teaching Intersects With Women’s Rights
  2. I’m Diane Ravitch and I’m Tired of Your Shit (A Review of Reign of Error)
  3. First They Came For Urban Black and Latino Moms (For Arne Duncan)
  4. Excuse Me, Your Privilege Is Showing (White Privilege in Ed Reform)
  5. An Open Letter From The Trenches [To Education Activists, Friends, and Haters]
  6. Quvenzhané Wallis, Matthew McConaughey, and How We See Our Children of Color
  7. Boredom, Thy Name Is Charlotte Danielson (On Rubrics and Misuse)
  8. If You’re Teaching Black History Month This Way, Please Stop
  9. The Revisionist’s Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have A Dream For Most Of Us”
  10. No One Puts Algebra 2 In A Corner (Math For All Kids)

This year, I dedicated myself to more honest writing, especially around issues of race and equity, and it shows. Seven of my top ten posts deal, at least implicitly with racial justice, four of these deal with women’s rights, and eight of these dealt with educational equity.

Yet, these all have something in common, too: each of them have had someone say, “Well, actually …”

The “Well, actually” crowd loves when you’re controversial in their lane. You agree with everything we have to say? Please walk right in. Have a seat. Jump on our lists. Sit on our board. Have these awards. I’ll follow everything you do for more than a day. Whatever you do, though, please don’t call out anyone or anything that we like because we don’t know what to do with valid counterpoints, especially as it pertains to race and class.

Most of this year’s counterarguments to my pieces can be summed up in this next paragraph:

Stop picking on Grant Wiggins and Nicholson Baker, Vilson. You didn’t donate to the Opt Out movement even though I know for a fact you’ve taught in the classroom longer than I have, so you’re not a real activist, Vilson. I’m a white educator in a charter school, and I care about my Black kids, so I have no idea what you’re talking about, Vilson. It’s not like we’re talking about Hitler here, Vilson. The Onion was just making a joke about Quvenzhane, and you’re taking things too seriously, Vilson. I’ll wait until you stop talking about race and gender to engage with you, Vilson, since I obviously don’t have good arguments. You don’t have a doctorate, so how dare you speak about teaching to us, Vilson! Your book review won’t be as funny or entertaining as such-and-such, Vilson. 

No. I just want a chance to show I belong in the same sentence as the favorites. If not, then I’ll still be here creating my own sentences with my people.

As Errol Smith, executive director of the Bammy Awards came to find out, though, I’m not here for a personal victory, but for everyone’s victory. Nobody wins when a whole segment of highly qualified individuals is excluded on the basis of gender, race, or any other category. Ask baseball pre- Jackie Robinson. What’s more, even after the kerfuffle between Errol and I, even after the awards were cancelled until further notice, I still felt a little pride when I heard Jesse Hagopian, one of the organizers of the Seattle MAP boycott, won two of the big awards at their last event, not because I think Jesse is somehow a better human being than everyone else, but because his brilliant work won’t get recognized if the right people don’t back him up.

The conundrum is, as has always been, do you want to be popular or do you want to do what’s right for the unnamed, the people without the platform?

In some ways, I’m glad I chose the latter and still found an answer to the former. I’m blessed that so many of you HAVE supported my work. From the people who consistently shared my work and pre-ordered my book to the folk who thought enough of me to contribute to their publications, speak at their functions, and invite me in, knowing I won’t hold back on the things that matter most. The top ten posts of the year demonstrate the power of many, that, in spite of the “Well, actually” crowd, I have hundreds of you who insist that I keep writing, especially during my lowest points of the year.

The “Well, actually” crowd might look elsewhere, but you’ve stuck through. That matters more than you know.

Muhammad Ali once said, “I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want” in response to questions about his beliefs. I’m not as free as I want to be yet; I’m employed by the same system that I critique. This means I’m still the underdog because I choose to write as I do. Well, actually, you’re the motivator, so thank you. Hopefully, in 2014, I’ll still have your support.

If not, I’m running up on stage and telling everyone how wrong they were. Swiftly.

Bumaye, Jose

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How I Might Have Intro’d The Bammy Awards

by Jose Vilson on September 24, 2013

in Jose

Secretary Arne Duncan and comedian Stephen Colbert, both of whose job I would do so much better at, but I'll stick to teaching anyways

Secretary Arne Duncan and comedian Stephen Colbert, both of whose job I would do so much better at, but I’ll stick to teaching anyways

There’s been lots of talk about this past Saturday’s Bammy Awards. I’ve written a bunch on diversity at the Bammys and even the executive producer left a comment here after our feisty discussion. However, I’ve kept mute during and after the Bammy Awards, letting others report out. As with any awards show, there were lots of bright spots and dim spots, almost all of them from people who actually attended. A discussion has erupted around the idea of humor and appropriateness in the education circle. Rather than speak on something I didn’t witness myself, I’d like a turn at introducing the Bammys. We’ll call it a do-over.

[Starts with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan welcoming everyone from his office. Insert platitudes about respect for teachers here. Zooms out where you see a black pair of pants on the left side of him. Duncan keeps talking, but as camera zooms out, audience notices Jose Vilson with "not impressed" face. Duncan keeps talking. Camera keeps zooming in to Vilson's face. Camera stops at his mouth. Vilson yells, "Welcome to the Bammyyyyyyyyssss!" with Chuck D impersonation.]

[Female voice says, "Welcome To The Bammys, with:". Reads list of every person there with a Klout score higher than 50 and other special guests, which is like everybody. She says, "Here's your host, Joseeeee Vilson!!!]

*cues up instrumental to “N-Words In Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West*

[Vilson runs on stage with a suit and Yankee brimmed hat]

Everybody scream!

So I teach so hard, Mayor Bloomberg wanna fire me, but first he gotta find me
What’s 50 grand to a teacher like me? That’s a lot, don’t you remind me!
(Teach so hard) I teach crazy, my teacher rating don’t even faze me
My kids could go 0 for 82 on their tests and I look at you like this job’s gravy
(Teach so hard) Teach so hard, this thing rare
We ain’t even supposed to be here!
(Teach so hard) Since we here, we might as well treat kids fair …


[Stop music]

OK, OK, OK, that was fun. Welcome everyone to the Second Annual Bammy Awards! We have a live audience today of some of the coolest kids in the sandbox gathered here today, and who better to MC this event than the guy whose faculty always pegs for the guy who’s gonna rap for karaoke? I mean, just because I know Fresh Prince’s “Summertime” by heart doesn’t mean …

Seriously, I’m OK with being one of [Vilson counts audience members] five Cocoa Puffs in a big bowl of milk. Really. I just made Errol Smith really uncomfortable. My bad, dawg.

By the way, Melinda Anderson didn’t write this one for me. I does it all by himself!

Also, I had to cut down my speech by 40% due to austerity measures. I’m doing most of this on comp time, so I’ll take a nap shortly after this.

So welcome to this set of awards. I flew in from New York City, and my arms are in fact tired. It’s been a lot of indecision over the last month. Indecision about who New York City wants for Democratic mayor, indecision over whether Obama’s gonna bomb Syria, indecision over whether I was wearing the long blue tie or the black bowtie. This is why smart men need smarter partners in their lives. And so do I. Thanks, Luz.

One thing I have decided is that, yes, Senator Ted Cruz is crazy! He’s at least worth five Buzzfeed articles and 20 GIFs. Is that like a currency now? If so, does Kenzo Shibata and the rest of the Chicago Teachers Union get to judge which ones make it from this audience? Aren’t you happy they won? Here’s a group of teachers who said, “We’re mad at hell! We want normal stuff like toilet paper for kids and open schools! Yes! We’re not gonna take it anymore!” This is where I’d make a GIF of Jonah Edelman followed by a tuba, preferably playing the “Price Is Wrong” theme song.

[Plays theme song for audience. Vilson makes fake sad face.]

You also probably noticed the inconspicuously dressed bodyguard at the door checking bags. Yes, that was Alfie Kohn scanning your bags and tossing out homework. Yes, it was. Doubt me if you must.

My friend and SLA principal Chris Lehmann’s here. You ever wonder why he smiles so much? I got the secret: he chews on his sons. I mean, Jakob and Theo never quit being adorable on Instagram. Actually, I get to judge your smiles based on how many chewable kids you have. Brand new parents tend to have the whitest teeth. It’s true.

Michael Doyle’s here. I heard him call me the greatest education blogger of all time. I know he didn’t say that, but I’ll take my award and leave anyways. Deuces! Errol’s looking at me right now like, “If this guy doesn’t stay right there …”

Mary Beth Hertz couldn’t be here, sadly. She’s a great Edutopia blogger out of Philly and she sends her regard. You’ll notice a slight change in her avatar if you’re following her on Twitter. Instead of hugging her tech tools and smiling at the camera, she’s flinging them at Mayor Nutter and every Philly school official in sight. She’s kinda angry. Right, Randi Weingarten?

John Spencer said he couldn’t be here. He says he doesn’t really wear suit and ties. Justin Timberlake does not approve.

That wasn’t funny? Scott McLeod thinks I deserve a better audience.

Audrey Watters isn’t in the audience yet. She’s at the bar drinking the Edmodo folks under the table. She deserves a badge for that.

A couple of big education books have come out recently. Invent to Learn by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager came out, which explains the increase of pterodactyls all up in your timelines. No, I’m not calling Gary Stager old. Nor a flying reptile. Just when you search for “pterodactyl” on Ye Old Encyclopedia Brittanica … goodness, don’t you dare blog about this!

Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch came out this year. It was wild. Her marketing strategy was genius! Have a ton of popular bloggers and news outlets write about her and her upcoming book on their blogs and she’d link back to them to increase the dialogue. Shortly thereafter, she introduced the book to the people who actually like her!

The hate came in droves! It’s like those people who leave flyers on your door from all the restaurants you already tried and didn’t like. Except, because she’s an education historian, she goes to her computer and writes a book about it. The rest of us aren’t always as prodigious, I assure you.

Michelle Rhee came out with a book, too, entitled Radical. Now, now, DC, no need to boo. She says she’s a radical, but really, I think she’s a square. Chuckle, chuckle, math jokes, hardy. It’s about TIME!

Is Finland in the house? Oh. Cool. Finland is the one word everyone in education agrees on. Not sure what we’re agreeing upon, but Finland seems to be synonymous with the word “good.” In my next teacher conference, I’ll just tell my students’ parents, “Oh, your child’s doing Finland, yeeaah!” “Him? He’s not doing as Finland as he could, but he’s like the US. Yes, it means he ain’t that bad, either.”

Of course, The United States has to worry about our highest needs students. Our students in poverty need wrap-around services, support, and caring environments, instead of throwing bubble sheets at them while they’re ready to pop. Sometimes, it’s like we’re Dora and Boots telling politicians “Swiper no swiping,” and every time our country races somewhere or leaves a bunch of kids behind, Swiper turns around and says, “It’s tooooo late!” [Vilson inserts Swiper voice]

But there’s hope, and I know there’s hope because we got all you beautiful people in the audience here. Applaud for yourself. Parents, thank you for chasing kids down when they’re not doing their work. Teachers, thank you for waking parents up with your morning phone calls and progress reports. Students, thank you for annoying all of us with your “Can I go to the bathroom why are we learning math aw man I don’t wanna do homework?” questions because you make us better. Thank you, all! Thank you as well to the librarians, social workers, counselors, art teachers, phys. ed. teachers, and all the other staff that people wanna keep cutting out.

Dora says, “Swiper no swiping! Swiper no swiping! Swiper no swiping!” It’s their turn to say, “Aww man!”

Lastly, we have Nancy Carlsson-Paige, education speaker, activist, teacher … and Matt Damon’s mom. You know me, I love Matt Damon. Me and him go way back to the Save Our Schools March. He offered to write a blurb for my book and it would have read, “Oh, that guy. Yes, I remember now. Cool.” We roll deep, even after we once met once.

But I have some news for him. As much as he’s lauded by some of us for his education points of view, as an actor, he missed a few subjects, so now, I have a secret for everyone:

[Cues up "I'm F*ckin Matt Damon" by Sarah Silverman]

I’m teaching Matt Damon!
[Matt Damon appears on screen to sing along] He’s teaching Matt Damon!
I’m sorry, but it’s true! I’m teaching Matt Damon!
He’s teaching Matt Damon!
I’m not imagining it’s Bill Gates, I’m teaching Matt Damon!

Teaching English, teaching math, in my classroom’s where it’s at
Got Ben Affleck on the phone and he’s playing a bat

So I’m teaching Matt Damon! He’s teaching Matt Damon!

[Ends music]

Value-add THAT! Yes, I got away with the wildest joke in edu-history!

Thank you and welcome to the Bammy Awards!

Wild applause. Standing ovations. Likes, retweets, +1s, and hollers heard round the world. A few people wonder what a Buzzfeed is. They don’t have a Klout score, as far as Vilson can tell.


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No Church In The Wild

by Jose Vilson on June 3, 2012

in Jose

Last week, Kanye West and Jay-Z premiered their video for “No Church In The Wild,” their incendiary song about rebellion in the forms of ideas and laws. Watching the video, one gets remnants of the protests happening from Wall Street and Portland to Italy and China. Activists once again get a morsel of thought from The Throne, vividly depicting open anarchy versus totalitarian rule.

Just one problem: there were no women.

At least as far as the eye could see. The whole video looked like a battle amongst men, yet the lack of women jarred me for the simple fact that any of the big revolutions / riots we’ve had in this country involved women as active participants. Originally, I didn’t notice because my privilege and perspective gave me blinders. For one, Jay and Kanye are obviously two of my favorite rap artists, contradictions and all, so I’m likely to defend their actions because they’re a reflection of me and anyone else who considers themselves a fan. Secondly, I’m a man, and, despite my best efforts to do so, I don’t always recognize the privileges I have as a man in this patriarchy.

But at least I admit it and try to tackle it to the best of my abilities. That might also be because I too have a few labels of my own that put me in a disadvantage against the mainstream. Being Black / Latino and having a poor man’s mentality, I get what it’s like when the dominant don’t get why I’m angry when my very valid point gets ostracized, ignored, or “othered.” I could just as easily curse out and hurt those who benefit from this structure much the way women hip-hop fans can to Kanye and Jay.

But to what end? You can’t change people’s hearts and minds by going after their person.

That’s how I feel when people who should know better act extra rude to others. In the 21st century, as with any, I envision activists speaking truth to power by drawing the line between personal attacks and making valid points. What we often miss about the great orators of the last century or so isn’t their taglines or their emotions, but the valid reasons behind what they believe. Points sting more, which is probably why they’re called points to begin with. If what you say has no substance, then it won’t hold up, and if it won’t hold up, then it won’t get active.

And if it doesn’t get active, then … what really makes people an activist?

Now, during some of these conversations, I was told that now is not the time for pleasantries. I agree, but there’s a sharp difference between “hey, how are you?” and “you’re a sellout.” That’s never going to get anyone who you want listening to listen, and also, it makes you open to sharp criticism in your own right. Plus, just speaking up won’t do anything. We need pointed action, and a coalition of people who, despite their differences, have a belief in making fundamental changes to what’s happening in this country. The language around it can’t just sound like you’re talking to the person that already knows, but also to the one that wants to find out.

I know that once I put this out there, the conversations may get heated once more, but that’s just it. I don’t need to be the hero. Speaking truth to power often means telling your own allies about the piece of lumber in their eyes. I’m still working on my own pick.

Jose, who was definitely talking about last week’s #SOSChat …

p.s. – I’m not referring to the entirety of the participants. Just those that made things far too personal. -shrugs-

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I Went Through Hell, So I’m Expecting Heaven [On Speaking Up Again]

May 6, 2012 Jose

Colleague Carrie Kamm commented on my last post with this: “Something prompted this blog post from you. I am sure these thoughts and ideas have dwelled within you, but I’d love to know what you observed, heard, or felt that made you need to write this post this week. For me, reading Lisa Delpit’s latest […]

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The Illuminated Series: Why Should One Man Have All That Power?

September 6, 2010 Jose
Kanye West, Illuminated

This past weekend, Kanye West went off on Twitter, reigniting the conversation about the events of last year’s MTV Video Music Awards and the aftermath that saw a music nation divided over whether the hip-hop superstar had merit in interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech. Some of the conversation was very simple: either Kanye was a […]

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My Size 8 Head or Why I’m Not Gassed

September 17, 2009 Jose
Kanye West Interrupts ... Jesus Christ!

This week, I found out a few things. a) That Kanye Meme (“I’m happy for you and I’ma let you finish, but ____ had the ___ ____ of ____ time!”) will never die, and its variations get more uproarious every time I hear them. I declared Kanye jokes dead … until I saw the meme. […]

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