1915’s The Birth of a Nation has been widely seen but rarely discussed in depth.  “They lectured about D.W. Griffith and his film,” in NYU, Spike Lee says in the most recent TIME magazine. “But the social and political implications of the film were never discussed.” During that period, the KKK was largely inactive. “The film brought about the rebirth of the Klan,” Lee says. “…Never discussed.”

Of course, it wasn’t the only culprit, but there is no doubt that 100 years ago a film, one of the first ever in the new medium, was partly responsible for the resurrection and rise of the KKK in the 1920’s.  History not only has its eyes on you, me, and us, we must have our eyes on it. Spike Lee’s new film, BlacKkKlansman, helps in that regard by drawing parallels between the 1970’s and the present. No, he isn’t referring to Watergate.

BlacKkKlansman connectslaw enforcement then and now; between the Klan and the so-called alt right; and between KKK grand wizard David Duke and President of the United States Donald Trump.

In an odd way, one might call the election of Barack Obama a “Birth of a Nation” because it directly led to the rise of Trumpism and the distractions “Agent Orange” throws at us. Lee has always referred to pulling the wool over our eyes as the “okey-doke” and Trump is a master at it with the help of social media and its many cancerous posts. As Lee puts it, “It’s well-conceived, well-disguised. So, we, as a people, as American people, have to really stop going for the okey-doke. We have to be smart and not go for these distractions.”

So why do so many of us fall for Lee’s okey-doke? Another article in the same TIME helps us understand that. It focuses on answering these questions, “Why are even the smartest among us so bad at making judgments about what to trust on the web? And how can we get better?” To this old history teacher, it’s pretty obvious. “Americans of all ages, from digitally savvy tweens to high-IQ academics, fail to ask important questions about content they encounter on a browser, adding to research on our online gullibility. Other studies have shown that people retweet links without clicking on them and rely too much on search engines.”

Even before the digital age many of us taught our students the tools to study history, among which were always to ask, “Who says so?”, “How do I know this is credible?”, and “Where’s the bias here?” BEFORE I WRITE IT!

These techniques are far more important as “A 2016 Pew poll found that nearly a quarter of Americans said they had shared a made-up news story. In his experiments, MIT cognitive scientist David Rand has found that, on average, people are inclined to believe false news at least 20% of the time.”

We can blame Facebook, Twitter, and Google as much as we want, and certainly they are not blame free, but if we really want to solve this issue, we need to look in the mirror and fix ourselves. We must stop being susceptible and become more skeptical. Question everything!

But as TIME points out, “We don’t fall for false news just because we’re dumb. Often, it’s a matter of letting the wrong impulses take over. In an era when the average American spends 24 hours each week online–when we’re always juggling inboxes and feeds and alerts–it’s easy to feel like we don’t have time to read anything but headlines. We are social animals, and the desire for likes can supersede a latent feeling that a story seems dicey. Political convictions lead us to lazy thinking.

But there’s an even more fundamental impulse at play: our innate desire for an easy answer.” We tend to use what Psychologists call heuristics. Sometimes simply referred to as “practical”, it has really become more about the use of lazy shortcutting. For example, we tend to believe what looks familiar, so hackers, bots, and Aquaturfers create websites that look and feel familiar and safe. “It all looks identical,” says Harvard researcher Claire Wardle, “so our brain has to work harder to make sense of those different types of information.

I have often asked friends not to share these fake sites because I intrinsically realized all that did was spread them to other people who wouldn’t necessarily look at them through that skeptical eye. It would, instead, make it easier for them to invade the “collective consciousness”.

Google has become a verb. As a result, anything found high on its list “must be reliable”. But that is not the case at all. Too many fall for that even when being skeptical about the site they may try to research. They are more likely to “evaluate sources based on features like the site’s URL and graphic design, things that are easy to manipulate.” They are also more likely to “like” information that confirms their beliefs, again leading to intellectual laziness.

How do we fix this? We have to go back to those pre-digital concepts I mentioned earlier but now we have to use the technology. How do we get post school adults to learn? That’s the problem. This is a major crisis and I doubt there is the funding for it in schools, especially if we continue to focus on test taking as a goal. We must train skepticism without developing cynicism.

Who are our models TIME asks? Professional fact checkers. Today’s historians of the contemporary.

“Lateral Reading” is one way they do it. Yes, it takes longer and yes, it also works. Good teachers and librarians teach these skills.

They immediately leave the site they are investigating and open new tabs and keep them open at the same time so they can shift back and forth to compare information. Therefore, they can find out what is factual and who actually is behind or funds the site to find the biases.

Another technique is called “click restraint”, which might be even harder. When confronted by a list of possible sources, they simply stop and review them all and then start selecting where to go. This must be done especially when “Googling”, because of how keywords are manipulated by sites to get to the top of the list so more objective sited are buried.

Then, once on the site comes the most logical thing but in today’s hurry up age is very hard for most. It’s a take-off of Nike’s Just Do it… JUST READ IT… not just someone else’s summation. Time point out that, “One study found that 6 in 10 links get retweeted without users’ reading anything besides someone else’s summation of it. Another found that false stories travel six times as fast as true ones on Twitter, apparently because lies do a better job of stimulating feelings of surprise and disgust. But taking a beat can help us avoid knee-jerk reactions, so that we don’t blindly add garbage to the vast flotillas already clogging up the web.

So, read the TIME I quoted. (http://time.com/5362183/the-real-fake-news-crisis/) and (http://time.com/magazine/) You better, or I might shame you. Many are now pushing for the use of shame as a toll to combat the spreading of bad information or “fake news”. At first you may not win a popularity contest but maybe if we all pointed out to folks, in a civil manner, that they just spread a falsehood, they might stop littering the net with it and make it a less “toxic” place.

The source is the August 20, 2018 issue of TIME.












The exasperating traffic on the drive to Johnny’s Reef restaurant at the very eastern tip of City Island allowed me the time to drift off down memory lane. Driving down the Hutch and getting off at the City Island/Orchard Beach brought back many wonderful childhood and teenage memories of section 10, baby oil, sun reflectors, and old friends just hanging out.

Orchard never had the waves of Jones or Moses or Montauk. It’s softly rippling cloudy waters, where you could always count on seeing your shadow, occasionally distorted by a small boat’s wake were never the drawing card. The drawing cards were always the people and the beauty of this 1930’s beach, boardwalk, and concessions modeled after Jones Beach.

It was then and is still now a haven for immigrants from all generations. My mother went here as a young adult. She brought me there as a child and I went with my friends as a teen and young adult. We took the slow but steady BX 12 bus until my friend Kenny and I had cars. Section 10 was where we parked ourselves for hours upon hours of sun, sand, laughs, and ventures into that cloudy water. It is still a haven for Bronxites young and old.

The crossing of the City Island Bridge brought back more memories of those famous huge old seafood places. The “Original” Crab Shanty, Sammy’s Fishbox, The Lobster Box, Anna’s Harbor were samples of places you could eat the best (and most) seafood in New York City at the best prices in the city and still need a doggy bag. The Black Whale had a “Hot Fudge Chocolate Ice Cream Cake” which was actually a huge brownie covered in vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce that was enough for 3 but no one ever actually shared one. Moving your spoon or fork in the direction of anyone else’s was an instant declaration of utensil war.

Finally, trailing behind a city bus, I arrived at Johnny’s…. the last place on the left. Johnny’s is an old school cafeteria style open air restaurant opened over 60 years ago with beautiful view of the Long Island Sound and all its boaters. Even “hizhonor” Da Mayor Bloomberg said this about it. “I used to drive my kids to Johnny’s Reef Restaurant, which is all the way out on the point. We would order baskets of fried clams and eat them outside on the picnic tables overlooking the water. I still go when I can. It’s a great escape without leaving the city.”Ok that’s it for the free advertising. You really have to like fried food on paper plates in plastic trays to enjoy Johnny’s. It’s the experience that matters.

I parked. Learning from past experiences that you could never take the Bronx out of us, I did not walk into the restaurant’s ample seating area or cafeteria to find my old players and fellow coaches from the Adlai Stevenson High School football teams circa 1974-1979, but rather looked to the back corner of the parking lot where I knew they would be hanging out as the arrival times stretched from 2:00 PM to… whenever.


I am the tall guy in the back.

Slowly they arrived, hardly any with the trim hardened bodies of their youth. After all they now ranged in age from 57-61. Little did they know then that we coaches were only in their 20’s when we first started. Three of them had had open heart surgery as I did, so we compared notes and scars. Another former all-star was there even though he lost his speech as a result of a stroke. Another came leaning on a cane because of a botched back surgery, and one on strolled in using a walker because of the osteoporosis that ravaged his once athletic body.

Harvey, Bob, and I had slimmer bodies than most of them and we gave them quite a ribbing for it. I lined up 5 guys who used to be the “skinny” wide receivers and told them, “Now you look more like an offensive line.”

It took an hour or so of laugh filled story telling before we collected enough of us to march down to the restaurant’s outdoor seating area and grabbed enough tables for the all of us.

Over time some had to leave and  more came. We learned of families, jobs, and 40 years of life. We told stories, goofed on each other, relayed what some thought were still secrets, and just enjoyed the company of old friends. We were reminded of a time when on a Senior Trip to a dude ranch, when one of them, seeing my 6’5” body up climb up on the biggest horse they had exclaimed, “Look at Coach Greene…. Damn he is high in the saddle.” And I responded, “Better to be high in the saddle than high in the room.” After several elongated seconds of huge laughter, he asked, “You knew?” To which I responded, “Let’s just say we had been around the block.”

The stories were too many to share here. We honored the half dozen or so who had passed away at too young an age including a fellow coach. They were saddened of the demise and break up of their Alma Mater as had happened to almost all the high schools in New York City.

Now as grown men, they talked about their struggles of surviving in that time period filled with crime and gang violence all around them. They rattled off the names of the Savage Nomads, The Black Spades, The Savage Skulls, and the Ghetto Brothers. They thanked us, as coaches, for giving them the tools with which to do that.

They told us that their survival and future successes were due mostly to their being on that team and how what we, as coaches, did for them then shaped their adult lives and the lives of their children. A few brought their own teenaged and 20 something sons to introduce them to us. What an honor. There is none bigger for a teacher or coach. Well, maybe the signed “game ball” they gave me that day.


Why write of this? In this highly divisive time we must speak up. We must fight the hatred, the racism, and the conflict ridden nature of this president’s administration. This reunion of 40 plus years of fellowship, respect, and love of white, Black, and Latino men from the Bronx is more than just that.

We symbolize what making America great actually means.


4 Bernie Keller Poems: They speak for themselves.



It doesn’t begin

with the report of a gun,

or the rantings of a madman.

It doesn’t begin

with a hopeless dream.

It doesn’t begin

with a perhaps

or a maybe,

or with some meticulously, well thought out plan.

It doesn’t begin

with the wisdom of sages,

or the courage of a martyr.

It begins simply

with the word






is happening.


is boiling


Someone is

standing up

and call them


Someone is saying

it’s time to stop


and lying

and revising

and pretending.

Someone is saying

it’s time to stop acting

as if up is down

or old is new,

that it’s time

to stop recycling


and slogans

that didn’t work

the first time

they were trotted out

as “the great solution”,

(and certainly won’t work




You can’t turn back


you can you push

it back

or hold it off

for the moment,

but you can’t turn back


You can’t turn back


you can deny it,

you can hide it

or run from it,

but you can’t turn back


once it’s on it’s way,

it is coming

straight for you.


is happening,


is boiling



is standing up

to say

#This ends




You cannot wear


like some kind of

a badge,

any more than

wearing a flag

on your lapel

or a patch on

your shoulder

makes you patriotic.

You don’t put it on

or pretend it’s there

just because you can

say the word.


is the respect

for what is right,

beyond your interpretation

or myopic,




is not worn

like some kind of patch

on your shoulder

or like some kind of


or something to be waved

like some banner

or flag-


is the respect

for what is right.

Enough Already.


It has been one year, 3 months, and 13 days since Donald Trump was elected president. I shared very few posts about the matter and frankly have felt less compelled to write about much about education either since so many have said so much already. Most of what I read seems more like Truth or Consequences than truth or fake news. At any rate, I have just been disgusted at most of what I see on Face Book or Twitter even by some of those with whom I agree.

Posts are tagged, reposted, shared, liked, and spread like wildfire without any verification. Lies and, yes, fake news is spread by both sides…much to my chagrin. I have hoped that those who agree with me would not do that. I must admit even I have gotten caught up in the frenzy and passed along something that was a concoction. Of course, I have no idea whether the “concoctor” was a well-meaning person who didn’t get their facts straight or a Russian Bot. Either way it both saddens and horrifies me that our society has been duped by the social media hype and technology that now runs amuck and threatens the very fabric of our society.

Pick an issue. Guns? School shootings? Mass shootings? Immigration? Dark Money in politics? Tax cuts for whom? Gerrymandering? Presidential behavior? Congressional obstructionism by both sides? Race? Education? Russia, Russia, Russia? The list goes on.

And with each issue, any post or comment, among friends or foe, is likely to bring forth a slew of comments, many times without the commenter actually reading the entire post. Some of the comments are reasonable, but most…again from either side… seem to be reactionary with various degrees of provocation of anger.

Of course, we now know, thanks to the Mueller Investigation, that the Russians have infiltrated our social media by easily creating fake news through fake or stolen identities.

Trump was right. The Russians are laughing at us.

We are so easily led, like rats were led by the Pied Piper, to our demise. In fact, we are as easily led as Soviet citizens were during the Soviet regime. Advertisers have known that since Mad Men days. Corporations have led us through the nose for generations. The NRA has made a science of this. Oh yeah, Zuckerberg knows that too. So does Gates and all the other Silicon Valley manipulators. Of course the Russians are laughing. The only ones who haven’t seen how lemming like we are, are us.

Speaking of reeducation, who would have thought 25 years ago that corporate influence over public schools would become a “liberal rage?  This liberal rages against that. Once upon a time we fought the military industrial government complex…now most “liberals in government seek an education-industrial-government sponsored by the likes of Bill Gates and hedge funders and anyone who donates big bucks to their political campaigns. I am aghast.

For years spoon fed, money soaked political leaders have ignored far too many of our citizens who cannot literally contribute to their power and authority. African Americans and Latinos have known this. The poor have known this. And over the past several years, especially after the recession of 2009, more and more working and middle class white Americans have noticed it. So, when, in 2016, many felt that the only answers to their worries and anxieties would be provided by Bernie Sanders on one end of the spectrum, and Donald Trump, on whatever end of the spectrum he actually is and not the mainstream Democratic or Republican candidates…. well, here we are!

I taught history for almost 4 decades. One thing a student of history knows is that it repeats itself…not exactly…but that certain trends and counter trends appear and reappear over time.  We have had this divisiveness many times. It appeared during the Colonial, Revolutionary, Federal, Anti-bellum, Civil War, Reconstruction, Industrial, Progressive, Roaring Twenties, Great Depression, pre-WW 2, post-WW 2, Civil Rights, and especially Vietnam and Watergate eras.

Should I go on? Iraq War 1? Iraq War 2? Afghanistan? Electing an African American president?

I will end this rant with this.  We wonder why @ 40% of Americans still support President Trump? Many of his followers either ignore, or don’t believe, that the Russian meddling in our elections happened…whether or not President Trump and his people were duped, colluded, or covered up. It reminds me of how the lyrics of one of my favorite songs bothers me. I love Lynyrd Skynyrd’s great guitar licks in Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama, but when a lyric says,

In Birmingham they love the Gov’nor, boo-hoo-hoo
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you, tell the truth…”

I have a rather negative reaction. That 1974 song reminds me that we have been this divided before.

That Governor? George Wallace! Best remembered for his segregationist policies, he was the guy who stood in front of the University of Alabama doors to block African Americans and in an inaugural address said, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”.  And oh yeah…He was running for President in 1972 until he was shot.

Speaking of 1972, President Nixon supporting Alabamans, Hard Hats, and the Silent Majority felt that way. To many then, Watergate was a liberal plot. Nixon was being railroaded. It was all “fake news”.

Sound familiar? Enough Already. Can we get past this? Can I? The optimist in me says yes and I keep trying to help others do the same. Then I get frustrated and yet I try again. I already know that for some reason this will anger some. I do hope though, that they read the last paragraph.

But if we, as a society don’t start to listen to each other, read various points of view, understand the difference between opinion and fact, then actually VOTE for what benefits Americans from all walks of life, not just the rich and famous… my optimism will die out like a candle…slowly flickering in the darkness of eternity.



Just stop! You are making it terrible for the rest of us. Why do we feel like we will be spending the rest of our lives wincing at your actions? From the President to Alabama Senate candidates, to celebrity pricks, internet idiots, cable cocks, and street stupid guys, there is no hiding from beef-jerkiness. What are the rest of us to do? Not all of us are jerks.

Americans still stereotype.  Many racially profile, objectify women, are homophobic and nativist. This is beef-jerky activity, yet as we try to back off those stereotypes we have increased stere-bro-typing because it has become well deserved. Examples abound. Start at the top. Nary a week goes by without reading presidential tweets and quotes that make us wince.

The “Brommander in chief” routinely is quoted saying things like “I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most.”

And then there is this:

“Another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes.Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times.”

“So, they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’ O.K.”

What do you say to that? What a braggart?  What an egomaniac? What a Jerk? Or what a guy…?

Why are we still dealing with how jerks treat women and African Americans? It’s been 50 years since the women’s movement of the 60’s. It’s been over 60 since Rosa Parks and MLK.

Who leads the continued assault on them? Jerks. Wealthy powerful ones as well as general jerks on the street. Trump. Weinstein. O’ Reilly. NFL owners. The list goes on forever.

In 1968 women protested the Miss America Pageant condemning objectification of women. It still goes on. In 2016 more women in Pussy Hats marched against the Jerk-in-Chief than there were people at his inauguration.

In 1968 Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised fists at the Olympics. They were suspended and only academically accepted as civil rights heroes 2 decades later and 2 decades before Colin Kaepernick took a knee and was blackballed from playing.

Perhaps the biggest example of male beef-jerkiness is Congress. Stubborn? Yes. Know it all? Yes? My way or the highway? Yes. Paternalist? Certainly. Yes, there are obviously female members but the overriding mentality and behavior is male boorishness.

Americans say they want better health care? “So what”, says Congress. Americans don’t want the Ryan-McConnell tax cut plan? “We do.” Congress says. “We know what’s for your own good.” What Jerks!

I can go on, but so can you all. I am tired of it all. I am an older white guy, and I am angry. My anger is NOT against Women, Latinos, African Americans, or Immigrants. It is NOT against activists and protestors truly trying to create change. In fact, I am one. I am angry at those who rush to judge ALL men as jerks.

Mostly though, I am MOST ANGRY at those men whose actions lead people to think of us all as jerks.

So, to them I say ….




Written and decided

in dark, secluded,

locked rooms-

no inclusion

no debate

no discussion

no dissent-

only lock step,



liberally peppered

with empty talking

points and claims

embracing and asserting

“the championship” of

“the least of these”

– autocracy is at work.

Bernie Keller Speaks : 2 new poems



There was an America

before he ever decided

to dibble and dabble

into politics.


There was an America

before he decided

to bluster

and rage

and castigate

and lambaste

and fingerpoint

and name call.


There was an America

before he decided

to throw out catchy


and schoolyard



There was an America

Before his division



and denial.


There was an America

before he ever took

a seat in the big chair-


and there’ll be

an America

when he leaves.




Remember when we were


playing hide and seek

and how we could run

to home base and yell





bkie paths,

baseball fields,








seems like there

is no home


no place to yell




Dear fellow Westchester Democrats and moderate Republicans seeking to oust Rob Astorino. (With help from today’s NY Times) and vote for George Latimer, presently a State Senator from Rye.

Turnout on November 7th will be critical to our success. In off election years like this one, without a presidential or gubernatorial race to draw people to the ballot, We Democrats tend to stay home. On primary night Democratic turnout was less than 8%.

Astorino is relying on this.

“Donald Trump is not running in November,” said Mr. Astorino, 50, whom some political observers predict will again challenge Mr. Cuomo next year.



“Certainly there are people who are motivated by the national scene and the Trump effect could lure them to the polls,” said George Latimer, the Democrat who will oppose Mr. Astorino.

“But many of the Democrats — they really don’t focus on the small towns,” he added. “They commute to the city and come back at night.”


Westchester have the dubious honor of competing for the No. 1 and 2 spots on national lists of counties with the highest property taxes in the nation.


The county portion of a homeowner’s tax bill is relatively small — around 15 to 20 percent — while school taxes make up the lion’s share.



About 80 percent of the county property tax pays for expenses that are mandated by the state, giving the county discretion over a small fraction of the tax bill.

“So when you say you are not raising taxes, you are saving a taxpayer who pays 10,000 a year in property taxes $20 a month.” “And what are you doing to save that? You are cutting social services and co-opting the ability of the county to function financially.” (Ron Edelman, friend of Astorino and former Republican Consultant)

Mr. Latimer, a former county legislator, faulted Mr. Astorino for his fiscal stewardship of Westchester, saying he relied too heavily on borrowing and dipping into reserves.

He also criticized Mr. Astorino’s stance on social issues, citing immigration policies and his decision to allow the county’s exhibition center in White Plains to be used for a gun show.

“If you are a in an upstate county, where 85 percent of the people have guns, that’s different,” Mr. Latimer, 63, said. “In Westchester, far more people have no guns than own guns. So my attitude is don’t have a show like that; it’s not our lifestyle.”




The Bottom Line: A Keller-Greene Joint


Good teachers are both process and bottom line people. They think about how to get students to walk away with what the lesson was about that day. What will they know, what will they understand, what will they be able to do that they didn’t know, understand, or could not do before that class? When they create lesson plans they think about the process they will use get to the bottom line – student  critical thought.

As education policy makers far removed from classrooms rethink everything in education we can’t forget that bottom line. In rethinking high school specifically, the bottom line is not to prepare students to fill job openings or to navigate technology. Those are ancillary goals of education. Employment needs and technology are too fluid. They change overnight.

However, what never goes out of style or becomes obsolete is simple… thinking critically. Every human invention, discovery or advance has been the product of thinking critically. Thinking critically lends itself to curiosity, to analysis, synthesis, and ultimately, to solutions.

How is critical thought achieved? The best teachers teach students to ask  significant, probing questions. They also teach students to ask those questions.

“Why?” Students ask why in order to better understand the topic or issue better and find a better solution to a problem. In doing so students are able to explain why their answer was the right answer because, “ If you don’t know why, you still don’t know.”

“So what?” is another question students must learn to answer. So what if we tried it this way? So what makes that an important decision? So what makes that action important? By asking that question, students learn to critique as well as reason. It is essential to the arts of questioning and thinking critically.

Thinking critically must be at the center of any change. Teaching students to think critically will in turn encourage them to be curious, to ask why, to ask, as Robert Kennedy did, why not? It will allow them to challenge the limits of what they find in books or the visions of the future they are being handed or told to accept.

Teachers also need to be free to “think out of the box” to be able to create their own materials or methods that can become “best practices” and shared with others who find them both useful and helpful to students. Currently, more often than not, they are not allowed to do either.

Most teachers don’t have a PhD in education, but we know what works. We know that no matter how much things change, the one quality that separates man from animals is and has always been the ability to think critically. Thus only we have the ability to create and adapt to the world around us. No matter what changes are made to education, the bottom line is, and will always be, if you are not teaching students to think critically and challenging them to do it, you’re not educating them.

Why can’t our teachers do this right things? Policies created by non teachers and corporate/government run agencies.

So what will  happen as a result? We already see  the loss of our best teachers. We see the loss of critical thinking as a result of standardized tests and the huge amount of time dedicated to that effort. We see the loss of best practices and sharing. We see the demise of the best American education had to offer as nations like Finland succeed by taking those very processes we developed decades ago.