My mom told me, “You should treat all people equally, but don’t bring a “colored” into the house.” I believed the first statement and was forced to follow the second. But on the other hand, she wouldn’t let anyone up to the house. To this day I am not sure if she was paranoid, embarrassed, racist, or all three. Regardless of what she said, I played with everyone. We were all the same to each other. We were just Black, Puerto Rican and some white kids just who went to school and played together.

Mom left for work before I went to school and came home late. Up until the time I was in 4th grade she had a woman come to make sure I got there and got home. She was responsible for me until Mom got home. I think her name was Anna. It didn’t matter because I was wherever my friends were. 

Stickball mid 60’s

The asphalt school yard was the usual spot. We played mostly baseball with a “spaldeen” or a beaten-up old baseball rewrapped in black electrical tape and old bats. Right field was an out because the wall was too close. I guess that’s how I became a pull hitter. Otherwise we played and dodged cars on the streets near someone’s house. Anna didn’t follow me. She waited for me to come home, and waited, and waited. I was supposed to do homework, but back then I didn’t need to do that to excel in class.   

That and the street was where I felt most comfortable. I could play every schoolyard or street game pretty well whether it was baseball in the school yard, or off the wall, stick ball stoop ball, skully, or Johnny on the pony on the streets, sidewalks and stoops. I wasn’t the strongest or fastest kid, but I had skills. Playing on the streets was frowned upon by mothers, what with cars and all. But we all knew how to look up our one-way streets and yell “Car” whenever any of us saw one. 

No one ever got hit, although we did have a game where we would stand on the side between two parked cars and then reach out and touch cars as they drove by. We would have contests to see how many each of us could touch each day. I usually won until one day when I won, I really lost. 

You see the unanticipated last touch of the day was a really cool Studebaker Golden Hawk. Back then rear fins were a big design trend and this car had beauties. So, as it passed, I smacked the left rear driver’s side fin and was being congratulated when all of a sudden, the car screeched to a halt. That was unusual. They almost always just kept going. 

When it came still the passenger’s door opened and we all scattered to get home. I only had to cross the street because we were right in front of my house. I thought I was home free until I heard a booming, 


Holy shit, it’s dad.

I knew I had no choice and exactly what I was in for. 


Dad was old school. My ass was literally going to pay for this. The only question was what was gonna be used on it. 

When I got upstairs mom saw my “I’m gonna get killed” face and asked what happened. Our windows faced the back of the building, so she couldn’t see the commotion outside. I was about halfway through the story when he slammed the door open and stormed in. Striding towards me he took off his belt and folded it into that dangerous folded snake. Now I knew the tool to be used. I would be bruised and sore for a week. 

I’ll be standing a lot.”

Mom tried to intercede. “Ab (his nickname was Abner) whatever he did can’t be that bad.” 

“Mom save me.” 

He grabbed my arm and swung me over his now seated knees. 

Mom screamed, “Ab, stop.” “Ab don’t.” “David, what did you do?” 

“He almost got himself killed by a car I was in, so I’m gonna kill him instead. He will learn this lesson.” 

Now the screaming match was really on. Mom kept screaming for him to stop. He was screaming at her to shut up. I was screaming,

“Please, don’t. I learned my lesson already. I won’t do it again. I promise.” 

No use. Now the screaming increased. She screamed. He screamed. I screamed holy hell each of the countless times that folded strap came across my naked cheeks. Tears streaming down my face, I got up after the punishment had been administered and kangaroo bounded off to the furthest corner in the small apartment I could find. I cried for what seemed like hours. I swore I’d kill him one day. I also swore I would never do that to any kid I had. I never did. My respect for mom grew that day. 

Back to school I went the next day, having to explain to my buddies how I “fought back” while trying to sit comfortably in those hard and rigid wooden seats. Back then this was normal. All of my buddies had suffered that same fate at some points in their lives, especially Murray. 

The Bronx in the 1950’s had several notorious street gangs. My late 1950’s neighborhood was surrounded by major gangs like the Fordham Baldies, The Savage Nomads, and Savage Skulls. But those gangs were for teenagers. 

Us kids would make up our own street or block gangs like the Longfellow Lancers or the Bryant Avenue Boys, bullshit names to feel like we belonged to something. 

The kids from Bryant avenue who went to PS 50 came down a hilly vacant lot to disrupt a stickball game, so we had to defend our home turf. Remember we were 10 or 11. We bum rushed them and they started to fight, but then thought better. They turned and ran. Some of my buddies were in actual fist fights but I was too far away, so I picked up a piece of shattered brick and threw it up the hill at some kid trying to escape. I hit him in the back of the head. He went down. I felt a mixture of exhilaration and guilt. 

Holy shit…what if I killed that guy? Luckily, he got up and started running again, scampering up the rocky façade of the lot.  My accuracy was celebrated by all.



Things were normal for the most part…except it was obvious from the very beginning, 7:30 AM, that the Production Assistants in charge this time were not organized. Every directive they gave to go to hair, wardrobe, or make up was corrected by the people who actually ran each department.

But then all went back to the normal “wait to see what happens next mode”. Several of us realized that there were oddities to the whole day. First the shoot’s location was changed. We assumed because it had been postponed. Second, we noticed that there was a whole second group that had been listed to show up at noon – for a second shoot, we assumed, different from ours… they were costumed and made up differently – far more fancy.

But we (about 30 of us) were sent off to the set before they arrived. The timing seemed normal, but what happened there wasn’t.  We were ushered into a bar, which was good because we were hired as “bar patrons” but there was nothing set up in the bar… The shoot took place in a closed and private back room fronted by frosted glass windows, so you really couldn’t see in, or out, unless the doors were opened.  The actual bar was now being used as satellite holding and not for the shoot. 

They hand-picked those who were hired as friends and family members to go into the room, placed them for the shot with the camera facing away from the front of the bar. Normal. Then they turned the camera around, so it pointed out. But if it was able to see anything at all past the frosted glass, maybe it could see shadowy figures in a few tables very close to the back room.  So, in all they used maybe 6 of the non-friends and family. 

OK, that happens sometimes. There are times people are hired but not used in a scene. Disappointing but ok. 

But this was where things turned weird, and demeaning. All of us have done this several times. One of the P.A.s then took more of us and placed us at the bar, with a bartender… as if there was going to be a scene there, but we all knew none of us were in the shot. The camera was blocked, not only by the frosted glass, but also by a billboard with notices next to the bar. 

As they shot take after take, it became so obvious that the bartender, fully outfitted, stopped “tending” and sat next to me who was furthest from the camera at the bar. He put his Covid Mask back on and NO ONE – neither PA, nor their assistants, TOLD HIM TO GET BACK TO THE BAR AND TAKE OFF HIS MASK.  

It was obvious these two PAs did it to make us feel like we were being used in the shot…Really? Don’t insult our intelligence.

So, the scene ends and back we go to holding to go get the coats we were all given for the other thing we were hired for… an exterior shot, as pedestrians. And once again the Assistant PA gave us the wrong instructions.

After clarifications we did the normal wait until what they called lunch at 3:30…. Also, normal. 

All the while we see this new group get all dressed up…which we were not…  for some fancy affair. As it approached 5:30 I asked one of the PA’s if she thought we would be there past 7PM because I had reserved a garage spot until 7 PM and she said if you can extend it, you should. So, I extended it to 8 on Spot Hero.

Finally, she said, ok let’s all – both groups- go to set… So off we went figuring ok, two scenes. One, interior especially for those other people, and maybe us PLUS the exterior scene they wardrobed us for. 

This was at “The Capital Grill” Fancy! We looked around for where they had set up lights for an outdoor shot and didn’t see any. Once inside, the PAs took us upstairs to satellite holding again as the shoot was in the lower part of the restaurant, mostly around a semicircular bar…

As usual, they needed to fill in the scene with us backgrounders where the cameras were aimed and then they would turn around to shoot the other directions, so we figured we’d be in one or the other shots. They shot the first side many times from different camera positions (normal) then switched. So, they called a few more people down. There were still about 25 of us upstairs waiting (all from the early shift) with our coats. I had to tell spot hero to extend to 9PM

Finally, one PA (The second in command who made a # of errors during the day) came to the table where 4 of us were sitting and said, “Let’s go down. Leave the coats.” OK- finally…

But here was the thing. She sat us at a counter that was clearly not in the shot. The two women they brought down two women knew they weren’t supposed to be in this scene because the same PA told them they had the “wrong” hair and wardrobe for this scene, but appropriate for the first we did in the morning. 

We could see where the camera was pointing. There was a pillar blocking all four of us and between me and another one of us was an unused light stanchion. On the counter was a crew member half eaten lunch. 

Clearly, we were out of the shot, even with the fake drinks they put in front of us.

A couple of the crew asked us, “Why did they put you here? You aren’t in the shot.” THIS WAS EVEN MORE DEMEANING. 

As the camera rolled for the first shot, I had a conversation with that light stanchion who I considered my date since they sent the two women back upstairs to holding and joked after that if I had touched its knobs, # Metoo would have cancelled me. 

They asked us to move as they changed a camera position forward of us, so we were now behind the camera. As that was happening, I saw the remaining folks from upstairs (about 20) walking down the stairs with their coats on and leaving. 

So, I walked over to PA #1 (the Boss of the Background) and asked, “Are the people walking down the stairs and out of the restaurant doing the exterior scene we were supposed to do or just being released because there is no exterior scene after all.” I added, “Can the two of us join them? It’s clear we aren’t being used here.” 

Her response? “Go back to where I put you and do what we tell you to do.” OK we did… fuming inside.

Finally, they finished the shot and someone with more power or knowledge told her and her #2 PA to release all of us who were behind the camera and were not being used because they had decided hours ago that they weren’t doing the exterior scene either at the first set where it was originally supposed to be or the second.

So, as we made our way to the stairs to go upstairs, get our coats and leave at 9 PM I asked #2, “Why were we placed at that counter where everyone knew, including her that we were even close to being in that shot?” 

Her Answer? “That is the way things are done.” That was as unacceptable condescending answer to experienced people who know how things are done. I told her, in as calm a voice as I could muster, “Given your knowledge, shouldn’t we have been able to leave with everyone else?  Shouldn’t all of us that you knew weren’t going to be used from 7 PM on been allowed to leave early as was the custom on other sets?”

That was my day. Worst set experiences by far. I have met 8 other Background Production Assistants, all of whom were organized, knowledgeable and treated us graciously, often with humor. These two were awful.

So was the day.


History is not a narrative read in a textbook. It is a living breathing thing that has a true record of documents to be studied, deciphered, and interpreted. We should know this because today’s actions and decisions are NOT IN TEXTBOOKS (at least not yet).  They are in emails, texts, phone transcripts, videos, photos, and media of all sorts. Future writers and students of history will be examining those to write our “history”.

Well folks. If it is true now, of course it is just as true for the events of the past. So, let’s put all this hub bub about CRT aside. It is a Red Herring. As in the study of history, it is merely asking us to look closely at the actual proof of what happened as documented by those who did it and even reported it.  We need to simply examine the past as it should be examined…by looking at the words of those who made it as they made it. Oh my, what we will find…if we know how and where to look.

I taught American History in high school for years never relying on textbooks. I used (for all students) as many primary and secondary artifacts as I could lay my hands on (yes sometimes I had to translate 18th century jargon) so they could climb inside the minds of those making history and those whose lives were affected by it, who reacted to it just as we do to what our historical actors do today. 

So, most of my questions were document based. Why does a document matter? Take the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification of 1832 or Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Can you say it in 3 or 4 sentences MAX? How would different people at the time react to each?  Can you find any connection? That is how to study history and see for oneself how complex it is. 

The idea is to teach students to “think historically…rather than absorbing information” (as Kathleen Brown of U. Penn says).  Students must learn to ask “the right kind of questions about how the past is being reconstructed or used, especially now, when history is being abused politically by all kinds of people on both sides of the political spectrum. 

By the way Professor Brown, this isn’t new. Many HS and college teachers and professors were doing this since the 70’s…including yours truly.

One single artifact (of any type) has a huge amount of information to be discovered, especially when you examine it from DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES. Different people from different positions in society see issues and artifacts they encountered differently. As one U Penn student commented, “Not only are the issues themselves complicated, but the people around those issues are complicated.” 

When do you start the story of the Civil War? 1619, with the arrival of the first Africans to our shores? 1787, because of the 3/5ths Compromise? Or maybe with the British textile revolution, which created the demand for huge amounts of cotton? How about the Louisiana purchase or the invention of the Cotton ‘Gin? 

And to what extent does when you start matter? All of these happened. Each was reacted to in different manners…How does the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification of 1832 fit into this. After all, wasn’t it about tariffs, not slavery? What if Lincoln had not won the election of 1860?  How did newspaper reports from different regions “color” opinions of the American people? Was the South a pro slavery monolith? Was the North an abolitionist one? To what extent was slavery vital to the American economy, not just the south? Did the system of racial slavery morph into systematic racism? If so, when? How do we know?

Ultimately the teaching of history must give students the ability to “cast a critical eye on how the past is mobilized to advance contemporary agendas”. Long before the cries about CRT there were the cries about how textbooks whitewashed American history. In many southern (Texas) textbooks the word slave was as recently as 2015 replaced by “workers” or even “Immigrants” even though they used the word slavery. 

“The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”

Both are agendas. Both must be replaced by the true study of history. Students must be able to draw their own lessons from the past in a way that helps them make sense of the present, and thus reduce susceptibility to rhetoric and propaganda. It should be easy to see how the lines were drawn long before the 21st century.

For example, in looking at 1/6/21, by studying history we see that there is a long history of political violence in this country, including within the halls of Congress. And as far as Slavery and Race in this country being a factor in lives both past and present, there is a long succession of statutes and legal decisions we can examine and see to what extent CRT is verifiable.

As another student said, “whenever something terrible happens, it’s Oh, this is not America. This is not our country. But once you learn about history, you realize it is.” 

How we do that is important because “We as people in the present should be cautious. After all, future historians will scrutinize us too.”

Excerpts are from “(Re) Introduction to US History, THE PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE (Sept/Oct 2021

Has the South risen again?

Are we facing a new Jim Crow Era?

The anti CRT movement reverts back to how southern and western states indoctrinated students…post reconstruction through the mid 20 the century. We had an educational Jim Crow. During the 1960’s more students were finally taught about the violence-KKK, , the discrimination – Plessy V. Ferguson, share cropping, but still we know little or nothing about Jim Crow education except “separate but equal”… 

The Greenwood Massacre wasnt taught anywhere, especially in Tulsa. Ask people who went to public schools from 30s-50s in the south or west what their textbooks said about Slavery. In many textbooks the word slave was never used, and the Civil War was taught as “The War of Northern Aggression.” 

This was a direct backlash to Reconstruction, when black men were given political power and elected to local, state, and even federal offices. Flash forward to a new post civil rights movement “Reconstruction”. Blacks are elected to local state and federal offices. Barack Obama was elected President…. let me emphasize…. A BLACK MAN WAS ELECTED PRESIDENT! For many that was the last straw.

Republicans this time, (last time it was Democrats) become nay sayers. They attack Obama. They called him a lier at his State of the Union Address. They obstructed his every move.Then they were empowered to elect a racist president. Violence spread. Decades of improvements were overturned. January 6th happened. Segregation in housing and education became stronger, and now this.

Southern and Western states change how history is taught…whitewash it all. AGAIN!

Has the South risen again?


The “Gardens” was where I spent my teenaged years, played in and around, formed lasting friendships, went to neighboring Taft HS to play ball, and commuted to student teaching at nearby Taft HS and my first job at Adlai E. Stevenson HS in the Bronx until I married and moved up to the Amalgamated Houses near the Deegan.

While taking media studies classes at the new School a few years later, I went back to visit it, abandoned as it was, took photos and priced a slide show to the music of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence”, a requiem for a once beautiful place to grow up.

FROM: Battle For The Bronx: Neighborhood Revitalization In a Gentrifying City 

By Catherine Claire Guimond, University of California, Berkeley

“In the everyday lives and practices of landlords and tenants, abandonment meant a search for short-term profits that led to violence and hardship for tenants due to under-maintenance, harassment and arson. 

The author summarizes the story of Roosevelt Gardens (Where I lived from 1963- 72, and my mom until 1973) here because it encapsulates many of the dynamics of abandonment in the South Bronx and demonstrates the simultaneous reality of profits for owners and extreme difficulty and even death for tenants.2 

When it opened in 1922 with 273 apartments, Roosevelt Gardens (then the Theodore Roosevelt) was promoted as the world’s largest apartment house (Rosenblum, 2009). 53 years later, in 1975, it was the first building abandoned on the Grand Concourse. The Concourse, which was modeled on the Champs-Élysée in Paris and stretches the length of the west Bronx, is lined with grand Art Deco apartment buildings and housed the cream of Bronx society in the first half of the 20th century. Abandonment came to the Grand Concourse later than other, poorer sections of the South Bronx, but when it did, it was symbolic. 

Until the late 1950s, Roosevelt Gardens was a symbol of upward mobility. There was a waiting list to get in, and the building was well maintained and immaculate (Stevenson, 1979). 

In the late 1950s, the building was sold to the Weinreb family, who pursued a strategy of extracting short-term gains from the building and tenants while postponing maintenance. Part of this strategy involved selling the building within the family to increase its value on paper, increase the depreciation and thus the tax benefits, increase the basis for insurance coverage, and essentially refinance the mortgage. Over the course of the fourteen years that the Weinreb family owned the building, they sold it seven times and bought it back six times (Stevenson, 1979). 

At the same time they reduced the amenities such as eliminating laundry rooms, cut back on heat and raised rents. 

In the 1960s, the Grand Concourse had already begun to undergo demographic changes, with Puerto Rican and African American families moving in from other parts of the Bronx and the city as their neighborhoods started to experience abandonment and as housing became available on the Grand Concourse due to suburbanization. 

And in the late 1960s, thousands of white Bronxites moved from the Grand Concourse to Co-op City, a huge new complex in the northeast Bronx, fleeing the arrival of people of color and all this represented. 

Popularly, this was often considered the death knell of the Grand Concourse and the South Bronx (Rosenblum, 2011), though it was in fact just one manifestation of processes of deindustrialization, suburbanization and disinvestment. 

Tenant turnover in Roosevelt Gardens increased in the early 1970s when the owners began renting to people displaced by abandonment and fire from other parts of the city and the Bronx. 

Tenant turnover became hugely attractive to landlords in 1971, when rent control was abolished in the city, and apartments that became vacant were immediately decontrolled — and rents could be raised immediately.3 

By 1973, new tenants had moved into nearly every apartment in Roosevelt Gardens (Stevenson, 1979). This was likely facilitated by City welfare policies, which paid much higher rents for families receiving welfare than working poor families could afford to pay, in addition to paying finders fees and security deposits (Stevenson, 1979). 

Stevenson argues that all of these maneuvers — taking cash out of the building through repeated sales, postponing maintenance and raising rents — meant that it was not likely that the Weinreb family was losing money on the building. 

Nonetheless, conditions continued to worsen until the City ordered the building vacated in 1975. In 1973, the basement flooded and the phone lines needed repairs. The phone company refused to enter the basement “because there were so many rats and water bugs [cockroaches],” as a tenant told Stevenson (1979). 

That same year, an eight-year-old girl was killed when she tried to use the elevator. The elevator seemed stuck, but started to move as soon as she tried to crawl out a broken window (Stevenson, 1979). Damage like broken windows was so common that tenants were unlikely to report it. 

Tenants organized to pressure the Weinrebs to make repairs, but they were largely unsuccessful. It was difficult to gain leverage over the Weinrebs. The Weinrebs were friendly with local politicians who seemed to be able to protect them from housing code violations (Stevenson, 1979). When tenants confronted Wolf Weinreb in 1973 and tried to prevent him from getting in his car, the superintendent of the building poured water on them from the roof and Weinreb was able to drive away (Stevenson, 1979). 

In 1974 the owners stopped paying real estate taxes, and in 1975 they sold the building to a “finisher,” David Teichner, for $11,000 cash (the building had an assessed value of $1.15 million). 

Finishers, in the terminology of the South Bronx at the time, “operate by collecting rents, providing no maintenance or repairs, and stripping the building of salvageable materials” (Stevenson, 1979). 

Stevenson (1979) estimated that the total salvage profit of Roosevelt Gardens was about $20,000, while the extensive renovation needed to restore it would likely cost more than $7 million. 

Teichner used the threat of violence to extract rents from tenants even as conditions deteriorated; he collected rents accompanied by a man who was known to carry a gun and threatened a local politician who was working with the tenants (Stevenson, 1979). 

Leaky roofs led to the evacuation of five families and fires broke out, though they remained small. There was suspicion that Teichner was setting some of the fires. 

Scavengers tore out the plumbing in 1975, leading to serious leaks, and the water was turned off. Tenants were forced to bring water in by bucket from the fire hydrant outside (using the stairs to upper floors, as the elevators no longer worked). Tenants feared a fire could take the building any time; “we went to bed with our shoes on every night” (former tenant quoted in Stevenson, 1979). 

It was at this point that the City finally intervened, ordering the apartments vacated. The mortgage was sold to Kraus Enterprises, which renovated the building to a fraction of its former glory (Stevenson, 1979). “

But, even while not regaining its former glory,  it has rebounded to again become a place where kids can play and live their lives.

“Thinking, Fast and Slow.

The central thesis of Noble Prize winning DanielKahneman’s book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow is the interplay between each mind’s System 1 and System 2, which he described as a “psychodrama with two characters.” 

System 1 is a person’s instinctual response — one that can be enhanced by expertise but is automatic and rapid. It seeks coherence and will apply relevant memories to explain events. 

System 2, meanwhile, is invoked for more complex, thoughtful reasoning — it is characterized by slower, more rational analysis but is prone to laziness and fatigue.

Kahneman wrote that when System 2 is overloaded, System 1 could make an impulse decision, often at the expense of self-control. 

In one experiment, subjects were asked to complete a task requiring cognitive effort — remembering a seven-digit number — and then were given a choice of chocolate cake or fruit salad for dessert. The majority opted for the cake. Was it a loss of self control?

The issue becomes this. “I don’t want to get into a situation where my mind is halfway on one topic, and then I’m talking to someone and I give him the chocolate cake answer that he may be looking for, versus the fruit salad answer that he probably needs.” 

Let’s apply this to our social media chats… Are we then overloaded with complexities, get tired and let system 1 take over so we lose self-control and a more rational analysis and therefore response?

Take the cake test!



Monday, 7:30 AM 

“John, Wake up!” 

“Why?” I am not going to work.” “It’s just going to be another bullshit day spent with you, and the dog, and the computer screen, and the TV, and more bullshit. I am so sick of this. Leave me alone, I don’t have a Zoom call until 9 o’clock. Then they are non-stop until 6 o’clock.”

How many people start the day that way? How many people are afraid to go out to stores, to restaurants, to see friends and family for fear of either catching Covid or spreading it?

How many of us are sick of the “new normal”, and when I mean sick, I don’t mean just annoyed or tired of it. I mean psychologically ailing with what my shrink wife now has dubbed Covid Fatique. Relationships have been strained. Tensions mount. Fear rules…and this is for those who are lucky enough to still have their jobs and can work from home. 

Now add kids. Are they going to school? Who is going to work with them on their remote assignments? 

“Algebra? I don’t know no stinkin’ algebra!”  

“What if they do will they get “it” and bring it home? Will they be able to see grandpa?”

Monday, 10:00 PM

“John, can we talk?”

“No. I am too tired. It’s time to just go the hell to sleep, not talk, or anything else for that matter. “Get me 2 Ambien.”  

“Good night John. Hope you feel better tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” Hey, where IS the dog?” 

A Re-Defunding story:


The “POLICE” is a singular noun. It refers to the system where some humans police others. It is like the old Hitchcock movie, “The Birds” is coming. So when we speak of speak of the police needing reform and re (de)funding, how and where they do that is what they mean. The POLICE must be tamed, retrained, and reassigned. Most schools do not need them.

What comes next is entirely anecdotal from the 1970’s up to ’86. Things have gotten worse since then because of the militarization of the police as armored troops by mayors such as NY’s Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, especially post 9/11.

Back then, in the BX in A.E. Stevenson HS, we had School Safety Officers who were community men and women trained in negotiation and de-escalation to work the hallways of a school with 3,600 kids. But there were never enough of them, and some us had to take on those roles, as “Deans”. It became our job to counsel and deal with disruptive kids, not arrest them. We lost teaching time to do that. LACK OF FUNDING!

Imagine if back then they had hired enough SSOs trained that way.
Imagine if that was now. DEFUNDING THE POLICE COULD DO THAT.

A Police Officer is a singular human. I worked with two Police Officers shower both respected and actually liked because of their ethic, their morality, their humanity, and how they interacted with our kids.

We were in a high crime South Bronx neighborhood. Their presence, based on the respect they earned on our tough streets was one reason we and most of our kids were all ok with them and the School became a haven for students.

Could we have done as well without them there? Maybe, but it would have been much harder, because we would have had to “police” our building more. LACK OF FUNDING!

The POLICE MUST BE REFORMED, but I would add that that reform should include, if not be led by, righteous “Police Officers”. And to do that, all the $$$$ now going to tanks, armor, military style equipment and that training should be DEFUNDED and REFUNDED to more appropriate areas.



There hasn’t been much good to come out of the Coronavirus Pandemic. But it has led me to catch up on a lot of reading. Two books I read, David Epstein’s RANGE, and Ezra Klein’s WHY WE’RE PARTISAN, hit me like a ton of bricks. Together, they explained to me… and I hope now to you… the connection between how we think, and how we are manipulated by media, into the extreme partisanship faced by modern America. The problem is, I am not sure we can get out of it. As Klein says, “Absent an external unifying force [Covid?] like a war, the divisions – or worse- that we see today will prove to be the norm, while the depolarized politics of mid 20th century America will prove the exception. And if we can’t reverse polarization… then the path forward is clear: we need to reform the political system so it can function amid polarization. I’ll leave it to younger folk to figure that out.

James Flynn, a New Zealand professor of political studies showed successful adaptors drew on outside experiences and analogies to INTERUPT their inclinations to follow the same old patterns, the skill is TO AVOID those patterns. Detailed prior knowledge is less important than a way of thinking. A little training in broad thinking strategies can go a long way in calling BS.


Learning what is both durable and flexible is neither easy, nor fast. Strategies must be more long term and have “desirable difficulty”, not “desirable ease”. For example: To discuss something to come to an agreement or compromise is more difficult and takes longer then to win (or lose) a debate. Yet it trains us to think to come to solutions far better. Frustration is not a sign you are not learning. Ease is.


John Dewey said, “A problem well put is half solved.” The best problem solvers are more able to determine the deep structure of the problem BEFORE they MATCH a strategy to it. Less successful ones are more apt to classify problems superficially using overly stated features. Sound familiar?


Faced with unexpected findings, rather than assuming what they knew, or thought was correct, students should be taught that the unexpected becomes the opportunity to explore alternatives with analogies serving as the guides. We need to foster more “OUTSIDE IN THINKING” where one finds solutions in experiences far outside of the focused training for the problem itself. Imagine applied not just to STEM, but to politics and civic thinking!


What we have in America is a society made up of far too many HEDGEHOGS, those who are deep but narrow expertsand know, or think they know one big thing well. They “toil devotedly and reach for formulaic solutions to ill-defined problems.”  We can apply this to partisans on both sides of the political aisle.


Hedgehogs perform especially poorly on long term predictions in their OWN domain. They get worse as they accumulated credentials and experience in their own field. They rely on more an entrenched single big idea about how the world works, even in the face of contrary facts, as they amass information of their mental representation of the world. Unfortunately, they are often who we see in TV and the Media…and mislead the public who “believe.” But they make great TV!


What we need to have more of in America are FOXES, those who range outside a single discipline or theory and embody breadth. They “know many little things… draw from an eclectic array and accept ambiguity and contradiction.” Thus, they are able to see all sides of a political argument and come up with a more creative solution.


Yale professor Dan Kahan has shown that the better Hedgehogs are in finding evidence of their convictions, the more time they spend looking, and the more hedgehog like they become. He found that curiosity, not knowledge was the key to looking at new evidence, whether or not it agreed with current beliefs.


The curious, like a fox, roam freely, listen carefully, and consume omnivorously. Foxes see complexity, not black and white. They know relationships are problematic, not deterministic. They know luck and unknowns are involved. When an outlook takes them by surprise, they adjust their idea. Hedgehogs barely budge or worse yet, become more convinced of their original beliefs that led them astray.


Foxier people with wide ranging interests and reading habits but no particular relevant background, do far better in these processes. It was found that they beat experienced hedgehog Intelligence analysts with access to classified data by margins that remain unclassified. In the face of uncertainty, individual breadth was critical. Narrow experts “have blinders on them.” Foxes are also particularly better collaborators. The believe their own ideas are hypotheses in need of testing. Their aim is to encourage their teammates to poke holes in their ideas to move forward.




On January 28, 1986, NASA had the right data to delay the launch Challenger and prevent the “O” rings that led to the explosion from getting cold, hardening the rubber, and not expanding correctly. They relied on the Hedgehogs’ quantitative analysis too much and not a few Foxes’ qualitative, more subjective, observations.


To make this brief. The hedgehogs at NASA “sorta” knew that launching below 53 degrees was not a good idea, but couldn’t prove it quantitatively. “Unable to quantify; supportive data was subjective” was their refrain over and over. They were fervent believers of, “In God We Trust, All Others Bring Data”.


There were subjective data. There were several examinations of photographs of launches at 53 degrees that showed jet black soot, evidence of O ring hardening. That quantitative assessment was ignored.  They barely budged.  They regressed under pressure to what they knew best, familiar procedures. With Challenger, they were outside their usual bounds.  When you don’t have the data, you have to use reason. They needed to “improvise” like a fox rather than throw out information that didn’t fit the established rubric. We saw the result on TV.


In investigating the Columbia NASA accident, it was found that “allegiance to hierarchy and procedure has once again led to disaster.” Like a Medieval guild, NASA created conservatism and stifled innovation.

So, when entire specialties grow up around a devotion to a particular tool, process, or procedure, the result often is a disastrous myopia. This happens often in medicine. For example, repeatedly randomized clinical trials that compared stents with more conservative forms of treatment for stable chest pain prevent 0 heart attacks and extend patient life for 0 years. In addition, 1/50 patients will suffer serious consequences or die as a result. The same is true of meniscus surgeries.


We now see it as millions of us grow up politically on FOX or CNN.


One big problem in education (especially higher) is our propensity to have courses with a huge amount of very detailed, arcane, specialized stuff often forgotten in a few weeks, so we have people walking around with information stuffed in their head or found in research but without the training in thinking , reasoning, and drawing conclusions using a number or incongruent sources, therefore missing systemic issues. Let’s see where this has led us.


All politics is influenced by identity. Our fights over group identity and status express themselves in debates about power and policy. Ove the past 50 years our partisan hedgehog identities have merged with our racial, religious, geographic, ideological, and cultural identities…thus tearing the bonds that hold this country together.


This wasn’t always the case. We were once more fox like in our gathering of political information. For example, in the 1950s voting for a Liberal Democrat like Hubert Humphry or a Jack Kennedy for seats in the US Senate also got you a majority that included segregationist conservatives like Strom Thurmond. Republican Nixon created the EPA and proposed both a basic minimum income and a national healthcare program more ambitious than Obamacare. In 1965 Medicare received 70 Republican votes in the House and 13 in the Senate. No Republican voted for Obamacare.


Did you know that once upon a time (in 1989 and 1991) both the conservative Heritage Foundation and conservative economist Milton Friedman wanted either “assured affordable health care for all Americans” or “a requirement that every US family unit have a major medical insurance policy’? What happened?


Look and decide. In 1980 voters gave their own party a 72 rating on a “feelings” thermometer. However, they also gave the other party a 45. By 2016 that feeling about the opposite party was down to 29 while feelings about their own party also fell to 65. Party affiliation fell, from 80% to 63%, thus increasing the % of those who self-identified as independent. A 2106 Pew poll found that these independents who then tended to vote for one party over another (even though not officially affiliated) did so BECAUSE OF NEGATIVE MOTIVATIONS against the “other party”, whose policies they said were “bad” for the country. This NEGATIVE PARTISANSHIP is the political landscape we now live in.


It doesn’t take much to see that. Go to Facebook. Count the number of anti-other side posts and comments vs pro their side? I see it daily. As the parties have grown more different, we have grown more negatively partisan. We have become more like hedgehogs.


Let’s look at a couple of hot issues. In 1994 39% of Democrats and 26% of Republicans said discrimination was the main reason African Americans could not get ahead. In 2017, 64% of Democrats believed it and only 14% of Republicans. Similarly, in 1994 32% of Democrats and 30% of Republicans said immigrants strengthened the country. In 2017, 84% of Democrats believed it and only 42% of Republicans. In 1994, 63% of Republicans and 44% of Democrats felt poor people had it easy because they could get government help without doing anything in return. By 2017 65% of republicans still felt that way but ONLY 18% of Democrats.


The average partisan gap on all issues grew from 15 percentage points to 36. {note. The 1994 numbers can explain a lot of Democrat Bill Clinton’s turn to more conservative policies regarding welfare reform and criminal punishments.}


A 2015 paper by Patrick Miller and Pamela Johnston Conover entitled “Red and Blue States of Mind” noted that “the behavior of partisans from both parties resembles that of sports team members acting to preserve the status of their [respective] teams rather than thoughtful citizens participating in the political process for the broader good.” Election results accentuate the team mentality pushing them to make further “US v them” comparisons that draw attention to the STATUS lost by losing… thus increasing anger and rivalry. They become “fired up team members on a mission to defeat the other team.” My hedgehog is better than your hedgehog.


Another big indicator worth noting of how very wrong things are is a 2016 Pew survey. Among Republicans “moving from a ‘mostly unfavorable’ to a ‘very unfavorable’ view of the Democrats increased the likelihood of voting 12 points and the number contributing money went up 11 points. By contrast, developing a deeper affection for the Republican party only raised that 6 points. For donations it was only 3 points.


For Democrats is was similar. “moving from a ‘mostly unfavorable’ to a ‘very unfavorable’ view of Republicans increased the likelihood of voting by 11 points, while a more favorable view of their own party did zippo to raise potential voter numbers.


The lesson learned by pols? Anger gets more support than love.


Now add to all that the connection between identity and politics. “Partisanship can now be thought of as a Mega identity with all the psychological and behavioral magnifications that implies. Living as segregated as we are by zip code and social media accounts also has blown our rage up exponentially.  We live breath and chat mostly with those who agree with us. Our tribal instincts protect us from the foe. Americas political geography (demographically and culturally), have determined voting results.  Our “hedgehogian fact finding” has only made that worse.




Who are rallying the tribes? Media. The media have become “tribal leaders”. They tell each tribe how to identify and behave and the tribes follow (and retweet.) Most of us act as part of groups and are also hedgehogs. Once group loyalties and therefore group think have been established, Jonathan Haidt says, you can’t change people’s minds by utterly refuting their arguments.


“Thinking is mostly just rationalization, mostly just search for supporting evidence.” Psychologists call that “motivated reasoning.” Some look to CNN, some to FOX. When Laura Ingraham or Tucker Carlson, for example say, “it does seem like the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore”, it motivates that tribe. The simplest way to activate them is to tell them their identity is threatened. It is radicalizing. When Rachel Maddow says, “the biggest divide in this country is… between people who care and people who don’t care, it is radicalizing.


Most people follow media news as a hobby the way they follow their local sports teams. They can usually only tell you everything about “their” players but nada about others. They follow CNN like YES, or FOX like WGN. News media is primarily for those interested in it, and especially in the “stars” of the shows and their strengths as “players” in the field of news.  Those “players” seek higher ratings and more fame as their corporate owners want more spectators in their seats and therefore higher profits.


{Historical note: We have actually reverted back to the 18th and 19th century media circuses when most media (print obviously) was explicitly partisan. For example, “in 1870, 54% of metropolitan dailies were affiliated with the Republican Party, 33% were Democratic, and ONLY 13% claimed independence!}


So, to gain fame and profit, media teams have changed the old adage, “If it bleeds, it leads” to “if it outrages, it leads.”


Again, just like sports fans, media fans are invested in their side winning and the other losing. It has become a matter or group pride and status. The interesting thing here is that those following the two “teams” are more alike than different. The animosity far outweighs the differences. They ae similarly predominantly white, middle class, heterosexual, middle aged, and nonevangelical Christian.


The issue is that they perceive each other as radically different. “Democrats believed:

44% of Republicans earned over $250,000. It is 2%.

40% of Republicans were seniors. It is 20%.


Republicans believed:

38% of Democrats were gay, lesbian, or bisexual. It is 6%.

46% of Democrats were black. It is 24%.

44% of Democrats belonged to unions. It is 11%.


And the more they consumed their “teams” media, the more their “understanding of the other side was WRONG! If you saw Will Farrell in “Anchorman” you saw a satirical look at what has become reality. He says. “What if, instead of telling people the things they need to know, we tell them what they want to know?”


This has not only been true in Cable News, it skyrocketed in the Social Media arenas. You Tube, Twitter, Facebook all disseminate and recommend videos or tweets or posts in a manner that ups the stakes through “enragement engagement”.


Once again, the hedgehogs win. If you thought by introducing the other sides thoughts changes minds… you’d be wrong. In 2017 this was put to a test using 1,220 Twitter users. After a month’s long exposure to popular authoritative voices from the other side the result was INCREASED polarization.


So, what is neutrally newsworthy? An election one would think. The news media, instead of reporting political news has become the biggest actor in creating it.  In practice, newsworthiness became some combination of new, important, outrageous, conflict oriented, secret, or interesting…. mostly outrageous or conflict oriented.


Here are some examples that many say led to a Triumphant Trump in November of 2016.


May1, 2015-April 30, 2016: Trump’s median share of ALL cable news mentions was 52%…with 17 Republican candidates and even with the Clinton – Sanders thing going on.

August 24- Sept 4, 2015 he received 78% of all coverage on … wait for it… CNN!

By November of 2015 he had received more “evening news” coverage on the major networks than anyone – 234 minutes. Ted Cruz? 7 minutes.


A shortcut for the determination of newsworthiness became social media virality. If people were talking about something already through social media, it was “already newsworthy” whether it was true or false. Add to that the narrowing point of view by the algorithms created by those platforms and you have even more entrenched polarization.


As a result, we have flipped from a democracy that put forth candidates for office who were broadly appealing to those who adored by base voters…exacerbating group identity conflict and Twitter wars, Facebook fights, and a political scene that is reminiscent of World War One trench warfare


The hedgehogs cannot get out of their own trenches, even if they wanted to.


What we need far more of is creative thinkers. Our society suffers from too many patterns that inhibit creative thinking. Unfortunately, the traits that earn higher grades in American schools do NOT include critical ability of any broad significance. Schools and universities simply do NOT maximize potential for applying conceptual thinking across disciplines. We must be able to get students to think outside of the box…and that will include how they see politics. They need to be able to…




1*ou1OMOrGFNThuu9yKuDragIn 1948 President Truman, with a Democratic majority of both houses of Congress, set out to pass a health care program for all Americans. It did not pass. Why?

The AMA hired notorious political consultants Whitaker and Baxter.

With $3.5 million of the AMA’s money they launched a “National Education (or rather a miseducation) Campaign” to defeat Truman’s plan for a national Compulsory Health Insurance and buy Blue Cross/Blue Shield private insurance.

They generated a public crusade to fight for freedom of choice. Truman’s plan, they pointed out, would allow the US to drift towards socialism and Communism and lead to disaster.

According to historian Jill Lapore, an internally circulated CONFIDENTIAL- NOT FOR CIRCULATION plan was the real plan.  “While the immediate objective was to defeat Truman’s proposal, it’s long term objective was ‘to put a permanent stop to the agitation for socialized medicine in this country by:

  1. Awakening the people to the danger of a politically controlled, government-regulated health system;
  2. Convincing the people…of the superior advantages of private medicine, as practiced in America, over the State dominated medical systems of other countries;
  3. Stimulating the growth of voluntary health insurance systems to take the economic shock out of illness and increase the availability of medical care to the American people.

 “W&B pointed out, Basically the issue is whether we are to remain a free nation…  or whether we are to take one of the final steps toward becoming a Socialist or Communist state. We have to paint the picture…in vivid verbiage that no one can misunderstand of Germany, Russia – and finally England.”


After the loss, Truman said there was “nothing to this bill that came any closer to socialism than the payments the AMA made to the advertising firm of Whitaker and Baxter to misrepresent my health care program.”

Sound familiar?