The discussion of community involvement and community struggle in education is certainly very important, from people with different skills, from where they are and with their various capacities. It is critically important for NYC students to perform at or above their grade levels. But the key thing that I hear is that we must see the overall system that is in play and preventing the NYC Department of Education (DoE) from providing excellence to our children; this system is known as capitalism.

For the new NYC Chancellor David Banks to improve the abysmal statistic of 65% of African American students not reading at grade level, I humbly suggest that he confront the dominant presence of the profit motive within the NYC Department of Education. To make it simple, the problem is that the system is all about the money and not about educating the children.

Our city can no longer play the “blame the parents” game! Or the “blame the teachers” game!

The NYC DoE’s budget is, I believe, the largest in the country and is actually larger than many state governments, so we have to ask why the NYC DoE is failing a significant number of our children year after year after year after year. 

I’m fortunate that my children go to a very rigorous school. A school that consistently prepares children to perform above [the norm] in all of the state exams. This is in part because the school has a history of being led by very dynamic Black women principals who demanded that and expected such outcomes. These women’s view started from a position that Black children can learn and that they can excel. I mention this fact because it destroys the idea that Black children cannot learn and achieve at high academic levels. An idea that is pure nonsense.

As well, such NYC public schools with a full instrumental band, introduction to STEM, dance, and science, and very practically engaged parents, etc., prove that it is possible to provide both a nurturing and “whole student” learning environment for all students—regardless of their race, or religion, or the tax bracket of their parents.

The question becomes why doesn’t this exist at all schools. Yes, we must acknowledge that racism does exist by ZIP codes. That’s true and our chancellor needs to acknowledge that. However, what our chancellor is up against, and at some point will have to confront if he intends to address the cancer that continues to prevent academic excellence, is the presence of the profit motive in the NYC DoE.

You cannot have a school system that is genuinely and fundamentally about educating our children to be the owners of their labor, the owners of their intellectual property, and the problem-solvers of everything affecting Black people, and all people, if this system’s guiding priority is about what individual(s), and/or detached bureaucratic unit(s) or third-party vendor, etc., is able to grab for the maximum amount of money. Chancellor David Banks has stepped into a system based on a model of sustaining who gets paid. A system tied to all of the business contracts not measured by academic excellence for our children and support for our teachers. 

This is an educational system that has to justify why New York needs to have a job position of a state education commissioner, as an example. As opposed to what perhaps needs to be done, and what, in essence, is what Chancellor Banks did when he was the leader of Eagle Academy: He needs to rip apart the current Dept. of Education system and build a new model of quality teaching and learning that yields demonstrated excellence.

With such a new DoE system in place, my children would ask me to buy them a STEM kit with parts to design and make their own original iPad-like technology device. They would say, “I don’t want to buy Apple—I want to make my own device capable of helping someone afflicted with diabetes, for example, access some form of care/medicine from their bed or wheelchair.” Other children across the city of New York would be confident and excited to attempt using technology in combination with various school subjects to help create innovate quality of life improvements for all. 

Therefore, with this vision in mind, we are inspired to develop a partnership with the city’s proven educators and Chancellor David Banks to change the horrific below-grade-level indicators of far too many students.

Dave Daniels

Executive Director (Volunteer)

The Code Foundation, Inc.

The Code Foundation is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit youth development organization.

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