The phrase “by any means necessary” is most often attributed to the late Malcolm X; however it was the French existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre who in 1963 coined the phrase in his play Dirty Hands:
“I was not the one to invent lies: they were created in a society divided by class and each of us inherited lies when we were born. It is not by refusing to lie that we will abolish lies: it is by eradicating class by any means necessary.”
Now, 30 years after the passing of Monsieur Sartre we are definitely seeing the effects of dirty hands under the tight grip of Mayor Bloomberg on the NYC public school system, and most unfortunately on children in low income communities of color relegated to attending historically under-performing schools. It would be all too easy to attempt to rest the blame for the abomination that has become public education on the Obama nation, but in actuality for our children these spurious outcomes were never birds in the hand, they remained birds in the Bush.
Last year, both students and families were lulled into the false security of thinking that NYC schools were doing better than ever before: 8th grade passing scores were 57% in ELA and 71% in math. Fast forward to 2010 and the scores reveal that in reality only 38% of 8th graders are passing ELA and 46% are passing math. Meanwhile the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores told a rather different story.
Parents and community groups were often dismissed as dissidents and even conspiracy theorists when in fact we knew the real deal, mainly because these children came home to us every day. Also the Department of Education (DoE) seems to conveniently forget that 2008-09 (the year of record breaking scores) was also the school year that they announced there would be an 8th grade retention policy and predicted that scores of children would be held back. Yet our active protestation was reduced to defamation while the DoE furtively engaged in data manipulation.
To paraphrase Malcolm X: “If I’m following a general, and he’s leading me into a battle, and the enemy tends to give him rewards, or awards, I get suspicious of him. Especially if he gets a Broad award before the war is over.”
Parents and communities must now uphold the banner of by ‘any means necessary’ and sanitize all the dirty hands that have contaminated our public schools. If a consumer good is found to be defective or unsafe, there is a product recall. Now that our public schools have been confirmed to be defective and unsafe, we need and demand a recall!