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DCProtesters2The murder and mayhem in the US, can be traced back to the miseducation in American higher education, and the lessons of still-in-vogue Marxist instructors like Herbert Marcuse, who professed: “Nothing is ‘real’ which does not sustain itself in existence, in a life and death struggle with the situations and conditions of its existence.” And “identity is only the continuous negation of inadequate existence.” (Reason and Revolution, 1941)

Dialectical ‘transformation’ doesn’t support human dignity nor does it lead to peace — because it is inherently untruthful and therefore unjust — history has shown that to be true.

ASL18cASL18bASL18Back in class.

StreetArt18tHigh School Grad, NYC – June 22, 2018

ClassOf2018Last class of Millennials (born 1981-1996).


Grads-2017aGrads-2017bSVA Graduation – May 9, 2017

protest5As he prepares to take office, it’s been said that Mr. Trump considers education to be a low priority.  And yet the high number of poorly educated young people in America, as evidenced by recent demonstrations, should make education a top priority. The problem, though, is many educators see truth as oppressive — the enemy. So rather than being oriented to it they are in rebellion against it, which leaves young people running on empty.

WildThings2AP Student


HaavadThe so-called black ‘reformers’ are just as domineering as the establishment types that produced Teddy Roosevelt and Barack Obama.

When human relationships are based on disordered self-love, which is the source of contempt of neighbor and human relationships based on domination (“Spain must go,””Assad must go,” “Wolfe must go”), civilization has broken down, and the institutions that helped bring about the collapse should be abandoned.


Graduation2015John Jay College Graduation — June 3, 2015

D-DayOn June 6, 1944, Allied Forces (U.S., England & Canada) succeeded in surprising Hitler, and the Wehrmacht, with their landing at Normandy.

Days later, Hitler still believed it was a diversion, and that the main landing would be at Calais. By then the Allies had landed 1 million troops and 500, 000 tons of material. So desperate had the situation become for the Germans that Field-Marshal Rommel told Hitler “the West would inevitably smash through the Normandy front and break into the homeland.” He urgently requested that the war be brought to an end. Hitler responded to Rommel’s assessment with: “Rommel has lost his nerve; he’s become a pessimist. In these times only optimists can achieve anything.” Adolf Hitler, John Toland (Doubleday, 1976).

The war with Germany could have ended in the days after D-Day. On July 20, 1944 an attempt was made on Hitler’s life. Many of his top generals knew it was over and would have handed Hitler over if the Allies had been willing. There was even a deal in place with the U.S. for Stalin to join the fight against Japan as soon as Hitler had been defeated. Churchill and Stalin had other ideas. As a result the wars in Europe and the Pacific waged on and were more costly, with millions more lives being lost because of sordid leadership.

“The United States had given us the most handsome assistance in the fight against Germany.” Winston Churchill

Had the U.S. stayed out of the WWI (The Great War) there would have been no Hitler or Holocaust. By appeasing Churchill, Roosevelt kept England from settling with Germany (Germany tried in 1940), which would have been better for the world.




CooperUnionWhile passing by a dumpster, near Cooper Union yesterday, a number of finished paintings could be seen in the trash — presumably student’s work.

WomanDriver2014The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter is presented at the New York Public Library through September 7, 2014.

From the exhibition guide:

“Behind every children’s book is a vision of childhood: a shared understanding of what growing up is all about. Accordingly, authoritative voices from the realms of theology, philosophy, psychology, and education have all played their part in shaping the nature of literature for young people…now and then, when visions of childhood clash, literature for young people becomes anything but child’s play.”

HumptyDumpty2014Just last week, life imitated (children’s book) art when the brother-in-law of Prince Charles, Mark Shand, was in NYC to help sell large Faberge eggs at a Sotheby’s auction. After the auction he slipped and fell, hitting his head, and later died. The egg he had sponsored was titled: Humpty Dumpty.


PiDay314 (2)

AmericanDream1“(A) dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement…a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.” James T. Adams, Yale 1900 (The Epic of America, 1931)

“That the Moral Nature, that Law of laws, whose revelations introduce greatness,—yea, God himself, into the open soul, is not explored as the fountain of the established teaching in society. Men have come to speak of the revelation as somewhat long ago given and done, as if God were dead. The injury to faith throttles the preacher; and the goodliest of institutions becomes an uncertain and inarticulate voice.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harvard Divinity School, 1838

AmericanDreamHundreds of thousands of American high school seniors were to have learned, by today, if they were accepted by colleges, through early admission.

Going to college in the U.S. is more expensive and necessary than ever, but also more unhealthful than ever. One reason is because students are being misled and defrauded with ‘dreams.’ Back in August, Peter Salovey PhD, President Yale University, welcomed the Yale 2017 Class with an address in which he mentioned “dream” or “American Dream,” no less than 19 times — saying “the dream is very much alive here at Yale.” No doubt the Wall Street guys who drained $5.9 billion, in 2008, from the Yale endowment fund were thinking the same thing.

American mythology was given a boost with Morris Abel Beer’s 1918 poem, Manhattan — “This is the Promised Land of Dreams.” The 20th century notion of the American Dream saw an ‘unhampered’ departure from the right thinking of earlier Americans, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, who were oriented around Natural Law. Today’s American Dreamers are oriented around ‘success’ with little or no respect for truth. The result is a disordered ‘get some’ culture of murderers and madmen (and women) — where having trumps being.

The irony is that today’s, so-called, liberal education (with its materialism and revolt against Nature) is making people unfit for democracy.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

FritzSternFritz Stern, Professor Emeritus and former Provost of Columbia University, received the Sander Prize this evening at Deutsches Haus/NYU.

In its inaugural year, the Sander Prize will be awarded annually by Deutsches Haus of NYU to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the cultural relationship between the German speaking world and the United States.

Professor Stern is considered to be one of the master historians of Modern European, German and Jewish history.

In his laudation, Ambassador Dr. Peter Wittig, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations, said that Professor Stern “helped us (Germany) gain confidence on the path to a responsible liberal democracy and to win the trust of our neighbors, our trans-Atlantic friends and our partners in the world. The lessons of the past—so wisely formulated by Fritz Stern—guide us in dealing with today’s challenges.”

In his remarks, Professor Stern described this as a “melancholy moment,” for Germany and the United States, in the wake of NSA eavesdropping on Chancellor Merkel’s phone conversations, which he characterized as “ill-begotten, foolish, appalling, criminal acts” that have damaged the trust built up between the countries over the years.

LE Observation: The U.S. government’s eavesdropping on its own citizens, and leaders of foreign governments, is not the work of a vital democracy but rather the desperate machinations of a failed democracy.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

JohnJay2013bJohn Jay College of Criminal Justice, in NYC, held their graduation exercises today for 3339 students, the largest class in the school’s history. School president Jeremy Travis commented: “We are fierce advocates for justice.” A good percentage of John Jay graduates typically get jobs in law enforcement.JohnJay2013c

This year’s valedictorian, was Rizwan Ali Raja — from Pakistan, with a 4.0 GPA in Political Science.

One of the speakers said that “people are crying out for justice and the rule of law.” Ironically, a Pakistani student was the valedictorian, at a U.S. school for criminal justice, on the same day the U.S. continued to violate international law, natural law and divine law by assassinating individuals inside Pakistan — who they consider to be bad guys.

Peter Neufeld, attorney and Co-Founder of the Innocence Projects, addressed the students and exhorted them to “speak scientific method to ignorance.” He and his partner Barry Scheck are on the forefront of DNA testing in litigation.

The graduation class was divided in half, with one group graduating in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Senator Charles Schumer addressed both groups — pointing out the tuition tax credit he got through Congress, and then holding up a paper saying he had prepared a speech only to rip it up, twice…

Analysis: In a society where nature and the ‘whole person’ are not understood or accepted, science/technology and egoism/rebellion are filling the void — with justice becoming the domination of rather than the serving of others.

DanielleMcCloskey3Doom Of Exiles

Now we, returning from the vaulted domes
Of our colossal sleep, come home to find
A tall metropolis of catacombs
Erected down the gangways of our mind…

Backward we traveled to reclaim the day
Before we fell, like Icarus, undone;
All we find are altars in decay
And profane words scrawled black across the sun.

Still stubbornly we try to crack the nut
In which the riddle of our race is shut.

Sylvia Plath sent this poem to her mother just days before Mother’s Day in 1954. She was 21 at the time.

The photograph is of Danielle McCloskey, an FIT art student, in an installation she created for the school’s graduation art exhibit. Danielle said the work is a commentary on identity, which is prevalent throughout the show.

In a world where computers are taught to think and humans taught to tweet, where individuals are told they are gods and nothing — but a pile of data, it’s hard for women and men to find a coherent and correct view of reality — and their true identity.

Part 2

“Just a note in the appropriate midst of Escape from Freedom to let you know I won one poetry prize this year on the basis of my sonnet “Doom of Exiles,” which I wrote this spring. Only $20, I think, but it will keep me in new shoes for Marty’s wedding. Also I just got elected president of the Alpha Phi Kappa Society, honorary society of the arts, which has the advantage of being a very honorary post with a minimum of work and a solid gold, ruby-studded pin from Tiffany’s…” Sylvia Plath, May 20, 1954

A secular society, that exalts algorithms and egoism, is seeing the human person increasingly diminished by forces inside and outside of herself. Activist organizations that seek to promote human rights often times undermine the people they claim to be helping. This can be seen in the Women’s Movement.

Makers4The Women’s Movement in the U.S., organized to achieve voting rights, was in fact a revolutionary movement that (consciously or not) sought to emancipate women from nature — as Trotsky sought to break with nature in Russia during the Russian Revolution. In 1913 Helen Keller said: “I am a militant suffragette because I believe suffrage will lead to socialism, and to me socialism is the real cause.”

A recent symposium in NYC, organized by WNET New York Public Media, presented a documentary on the Women’s Movement to a group of Girl Scouts. The discussion that followed featured prominent activists, including Marlo Thomas. The comments reflected a utilitarian perspective on life: “Gloria and I didn’t want to be domesticated. You can’t mate in captivity.” “Until the domestic arrangement changes, nothing will change for women.” “I must, I insist, I have to have.”

As with Marxism, the Women’s Movement is a materialist movement that sees women’s power as a function of numbers — “If you have half the group then you have power.” “When 51 women are in the U.S. Senate, then we can relax.” The result is a failure to understand the true power of women and to operate in the natural order of existence. The better way is for people to grow to understand their inter-dependent spiritual nature, and how to participate in being in a conscious and concrete way. For that, men and women need to freely choose to respect and serve each other in all areas of life. The free and sincere ‘gift of self’, rather than the assertion of self, is the way to achieve happiness and peace within and among persons.

GhettoWithoutWalls2013“There is no international morality left, everybody snatches whatever booty he can.” Adolf Hitler to Joachim Ribbentrop, May 1938

The Czech Center in New York is presenting a two-part program: From Democracy to Dictatorship and Genocide: Jews in the Czech Lands and Slovakia before during and after the Second World War.

The first session, by Benjamin Frommer a historian at Northwestern University, was given on 4/11. His talk: The Ghetto Without Walls: The Identification, Isolation and Deportation of Bohemian and Moravian Jewry, 1938-1945 addressed the impact of the Nazi occupation on Jews, in what is now the Czech Republic — with lessons for today.

Since coming to power in 1933, Hitler was driven by a desire to “smash” the Versailles Treaty of 1919, which had reduced German territory, and (in his mind) been pushed for by Jewish elites in the U.S. and England. The Munich Agreement (Sept 1938) gave Hitler the Sudetenland and control over the remaining Czech area, which the Nazis occupied in March 1939. Before the Nazis arrived, Czechoslovakia was the only democracy in central/eastern Europe, with a Jewish population that was fully integrated in Czech society — including 30% intermarriages.

In his talk, Mr. Frommer commented that “in 1939 the Nazis weren’t aware that they were going to create Auschwitz and try to kill every Jew in Europe.” The question is was there a tipping point (added to by outside forces) in the “step-by-step process” that led to genocide?

In Jewish Prague (Akropolis Publishers, 1991), Ctibor Rybar reported that the Jews began to be deported from Prague and Brno on October 19, 1941. It was on September 11, 1941 that President Roosevelt announced to his nation, in a fireside chat, that “the time for active defense is now,” after manufacturing the Greer incident. Could it be that the Nazi’s ‘final solution of the Jewish question’ began when the U.S. decided to enter the war?

Historians like to say there is no logic for the insanity and evil of Hitler and the Holocaust. And yet when looking at the facts, and connecting the dots, one can’t help but believe that World Wars I & II, and the Holocaust could have been avoided if leaders in the U.S., Britain and Russia had themselves possessed less furor teutonicus.

NYUSexton2013The Catholic Center at New York University held a symposium, 2/4, exploring the thinking of John Henry Newman and the question — What positive contribution can religion make to the ongoing life of the contemporary university?

“Newman reminds us today, that as unlikely and outlandish as it might seem, theology and the speculative contemplation of which it gives rise to is about the only thing that can save the university from its total functionalization and commodification. For theology reminds all the other disciplines that the greatest freedom comes with the contemplation and communication of the transcendent truth of God.” Reinhard Huetter, Duke Divinity School

“For you, also, we have a message, and it is this: Continue to search, tirelessly, never despairing of the truth! Recall the words of one of your great friends, St. Augustine: ‘We seek with a desire to find, and we find with a desire to seek further.’ Happy are those who, possessing truth, seek it, in order to renew it, to deepen it, and give it to others. Happy are those who, not having found it, go toward it sincere in heart; may they seek tomorrow’s light in today’s, till they come to the fullness of light.”Pope Paul VI

At this year’s Clinton Global Initiative, Queen Rania of Jordan called for an ‘education revolution’ in the Arab World. She said the focus of 21st century education should be on designing the future rather than dissecting the past.

Commentary: The American General George Marshall advocated, after World War II, for educators to teach students about how wars began. He thought that by doing so they might be avoided in the future.

LE engaged a CGI volunteer in a discussion about the Arab Spring — and its connections with the Russian Revolution. But she quickly said: “I was much better at science and math than I was at history.”

Today the ‘family of man’ is being torn asunder by the ‘strong and the weak’, as checks and balances fail and society disintegrates.

How can a modern democratic state, whose institutions are rotten to the core, possibly reform itself — when the people are so broken? What would James Madison and Thomas Jefferson say — on this the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution? Perhaps they would say: “We’re not surprised.” In different ways they both saw it coming.

Commentary: A good education should foster an authentic understanding of being human with free participation in a ‘more perfect union’. Self-interest, STEM Education, and passion are not enough. In the words of German philosopher Edith Stein: “The individual human being is in his content not merely a particularization of something more universal, but a member of a whole that realizes itself as a vital unity and that can achieve its unfolding only in the vital context of the whole, in its particular place and in cooperation with the other members.” Finite and Eternal Being (ICS Publications, 2002)

Photographs: Stephen Wise

It’s become fashionable at all levels of education (especially in the arts and the humanities) for instructors to say: “There are no right or wrong answers — that’s what makes it so exciting,” as one NYU professor put it to LE recently.

A junior at Columbia College wrote an editorial in the Columbia Spectator (April 19, 2012) in which she says: “I’m not ready to be a senior and I’m sure there are other juniors who feel the same way.” She laments not having anyone older to help answer her “existential questions”.

Who’s going to grab coffee with me next year? I’ve started wondering to myself. I never really had role models growing up — I had figured out by middle school that my parents, cheerleading coaches and baby sitters knew a lot about life because they were older, but in many ways they were still clueless too.”

The editorial takes a dramatic turn when she adds: “One of my professors recently said, ‘Parents don’t know what the fuck they’re doing either. There’s no ultimate handbook for parenting.’ Maybe we could say the same thing about being a senior — you’ve got three years of experience behind you, but you still don’t have a definitive guide for exactly what you should be doing…”

Photograph: Stephen Wise

As politicians and business leaders get more involved with education, the emphasis on productivity, efficiency and scale have produced  unfortunate outcomes — from No Child Left Behind (during the Bush years), to e-learning with President Obama.

E-learning is hot. A recent Google search generated 181,000,000 responses. But is it good? Already people are discovering (as with NCLB), that e-learning can fail to deliver what is most important (reality) for a person’s growth and development, and can even be harmful. Psychiatrists are finding that excessive computer time (over 5 hours/day) and WiFi exposure — are unhealthful for children and adults.

Maria Bartiromo, Anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” was honored at a dinner for “Futures In Education” — an organization whose mission is to provide tuition assistance and program support to the neediest students attending Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens NY.

Included with Ms. Bartiromo, in the photo are Frank Bisignano CAO, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (second from right) and The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn.

At a time when public school education, in the U.S., is not oriented to helping young people discover the truth, Catholic education is needed more than ever. But it has to remain true to what it is.

Pratham, the largest ‘education’ focused NGO in the world, held a fundraiser this week in NYC for its work in India. The organization’s mantra is “Every Child in School and Learning Well.” According to Pratham Founder & CEO Dr. Madhav Chavan, Pratham has “developed a scalable approach to driving education and ending illiteracy in India.”

Pratham USA Ambassador, Archie Panjabi, the award-winning British actress, was on hand to help MC the program.

Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT Media Lab, addressed a gathering of IIT (India Institute of Technology) alumni today at their 2011 Global Conference in NYC.

Describing himself as the ‘tooth fairy,’ Mr. Negroponte has sought through his non-profit OLPC (One Laptop per Child), to make laptops affordable (100 Swiss Francs) and available to all children — especially in developing countries — who he considers to be ‘agents of change.’

Mr. Negroponte spoke about the need for ‘learning learning,’ which for him means getting away from ‘rote learning’ — which he said it is “killing kids.”

A better way, he believes, is helping children to ‘make things.’ Toward that end, Negroponte has installed “constructionist” software (Logo & Scratch) in all OLPC computers going to children. He thinks the process of debugging a computer program is an example of ‘learning to learning’ — the “joy of bugs” as he put it.

Negroponte was highly critical of the Indian school system, saying that “to make children fearful of mistakes is criminal behavior.” He thinks it’s important to “get to children (by the first grade) before they are screwed-up by school.”

Commentary: One has to keep in mind the real likelihood of hindered spatial awareness and development, especially in young children, resulting from computers and devices. Those who push computers and devices on children are as irresponsible as those who push antipsychotic drugs on children. In fact computer use has contributed to mental health issues, resulting in school administrators/nurses forcing children to take psychotropes. ‘Children with computers’ is not a fix for the errors in education, but rather is adding to them.

Shamus Khan, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, reads from his book, Privilege — The Making Of An Adolescent Elite At St. Paul’s School.”

What is the future function of a predominantly Anglo-Saxon and Protestant upper class in an ethnically and religiously heterogeneous democracy? In many ways this is the most important question of all.” E. Digby Baltzell

” Some will always be above others. Destroy inequality today and it will appear tomorrow.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mr. Khan is a graduate of St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH (an elite prep school), as was E. Digby Batzell (1915-1996). Mr. Batzell is credited with coining the term White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP).

In his book, Khan looks at the “logic” of entitlement, privilege and elitism as they have evolved at the prep school level, and by extension the rest of society. He mentioned during his talk that America’s elites have historically “made fences around resources” to keep others from getting access. So, true to form, in places like Columbia, where the student population has become “representative,” graduates still “go on to drive inequality.” Schools can contribute to “entitled” individuals becoming elitists, said Khan.

LE asked Mr. Khan if he thought the U.S. was in decline, and if so — do the elites bear some responsibility? He said “yes” and “absolutely,” but added that if America’s elites were all of a sudden to disappear, “whoever replaced them would do the same things.”

On the St. Paul’s School homepage, the first thing a visitor notices is the question: “What is Freedom with Responsibility?” They answer with “clear rules, consequences, moral standards, and an honor code govern our lives together; freedom does mean we have no rules.”

“Honor Code?” Mafia bosses are guided by an Honor Code (see Joe Bonanno’s “A Man Of Honor”).

The elite schools of America are not presenting their students with a coherent, compelling and complete view of the human person and of reality. Until or unless they do, the leaders of society will continue to be driven and guided by their ‘animal spirits’ and society will founder.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

WNET (New York Public Media) held their 6th Annual Celebration of Teaching & Learning last week, with over 10,000 educators from across the globe.

In a panel called Youth Voices, one of the students said he wanted to hear teachers say “I trust you” — rather than, “I am a criminal — I am not a criminal; I can be more than that!”

Arthur Dean Myers, author and advocate for young people, echoed the same sentiments in his talk, when he said that young people “need someone to show them what the right thing is.” He quoted from Goethe “For man to fulfill himself, you must expect the highest.” And then added “What can you be?”

With an ever growing cast of looters, rapists and murderers running American society (into the ground), it’s easy to see how young people have difficulty seeing, embracing, and making real — the highest human ideals.

African peace activist Leymah Gbowee helped to create the movement (Women Of Liberia Mass Action For Peace) that succeeded in bringing an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.

She spoke yesterday, at the “Celebration of Teaching and Learning” conference in NYC.

An important difference exists between feminism in Africa and feminism in the United States. In the U.S., women use their power to advocate for war. In Africa, women are mobilizing to put an end to war.

African feminism has a spiritual component. American feminism is more material, with women viewing their power as coming from their body, money, guns and pills. Ms. Gbowee’s work has brought together Christian and Muslim women to pray and work for peace through non-violent means.

In her talk, to several thousand educators, Ms. Gbowee cautioned the group, “Don’t buy everything that people say, see to it that you get the true story.”

Afterwards, she commented on the power of the media in the formation/deformation of men and women.

The next stop for Ms. Gbowee is Ivory Coast.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Writers Zadie Smith and Nathan Englander delighted an audience of supporters of the Matawi Organization, with a discussion of their work, Thursday night at SVA in Manhattan.

The event was a fundraiser for the Dadaab scholarship program, to benefit women in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

Both Ms. Smith and Mr. Englander are acclaimed authors and university professors (NYU and Hunter College respectively), who seem to respect each other’s work. The format of the discussion included their asking each other questions and commenting on process, sources of inspiration, and societal concerns.

Coming from an Orthodox Jewish background, Mr. Englander talked about “entitlement,” and the pressure to write using Jewish themes and characters. He said he likes writing because of its “subversive” possibilities, and talked about “wanting out of our (suburban Long Island) town so badly” but at the same time realizing that it was where he found what was “most important.”

Ms. Smith is from northwest London, and a mixed race family. Her mother is Jamaican and her father English. She said that she feels pressure to write about “everybody” and not just “professors.” She commented, that for people today “it’s almost impossible to see themselves as the bad guy.” Englander added that “you have to understand what is good and evil to work (as a writer) — I want to bring back right and wrong.”

Photograph: Stephen Wise

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund is underway this weekend with its 10th Annual Leadership Institute & Career Fair.

There are 600 attendees, from the 47 historically Black Colleges around the U.S., in the Big Apple for a weekend of activities.

Today’s luncheon, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, included remarks by Mr. Larry Stubblefield, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army. Also on the dias (in photo), was Mr. Brian Simmons of the U.S. Army Test and Evalualion Command.

Mr. Stubblefield spoke about the “human” — soft skills, necessary for effective leadership.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Arne Duncan, (third from left) the U.S. Secretary of Education, lead a discussion Wednesday on The Role of Service in Remaking American Education. He was joined by among others, Anthony Salcito (far right), Microsoft VP-Worldwide Education.

Given the stark reality that a large percentage of America’s young people are not graduating from high school, and among those who do, many are not “college ready.” Mr. Salcito advocated for “service learning” as a way to “drive immediate change in classrooms today.”

Will the adults be good role models in showing young people how to serve others, in a “disinterested” and good-hearted way?

Photograph: Stephen Wise

At the recent Teaching and Learning Conference in NYC, that included 9000 educators from around the U.S. and some foreign countries, two women stood out for their leadership, wisdom, and courage — Diane Ravitch and Queen Noor.

Diane Ravitch, formerly the Assistant Secretary of Education under George H. W. Bush was an early advocate of “No Child Left Behind” — the program that emphasizes student testing along with “sanctions and incentives” for teachers.

In her talk, Ms. Ravitch said the program “has been a failure” that is “defrauding students” by not addressing their needs and by manipulating tests and scores to falsely indicate improved performance. As the saying goes — “the tests have become the curriculum.” She said the “problem is not with testing, but in the misuse of testing.”

She went on to say that a “data-driven” program that scapegoats teachers is not the answer, nor are charter-schools that hand students over to hedge fund managers, resulting in “educational apartheid.” A better way is to take into account the diverse needs of children with a broad curriculum that preserves the public school system.

Her view is that the Obama Administration has essentially continued the failed Bush approach — which “will not produce school reform.”

At the end of her talk, Ravitch said that parents and educators need to “organize” to create a better way (there was no mention of union bosses and their role as obstructionists of reform). She was given a rousing ovation from the standing room only crowd.

Queen Noor quickly won over the group of educators, when she said that “Queen is well below Superintendent.”

Talking from her experience as a highly educated Arab-American woman, who married King Hussein of Jordan in 1978, she addressed the mistaken idea the Islam oppresses women. She said that when Muslim women have been oppressed it has been because of other factors, including vestiges of colonialism, not their religion.

One of her themes was the “interconnectedness” of the world today. She said that our common humanity trumps our differences, and offers the “key to peace.” She added that the three major religions have at their core, the teaching: “treat others as you would like to be treated.”

Noor suggested that Hollywood has added to unfair stereotypes and misunderstandings of the Muslim world over the years. But added that Hollywood could also play a roll in “building peace.” She said that this is the most important time in history for teachers and that problems won’t be solved with more wars, weapons, and technology. What’s needed is to join critical thinking skills with empathy and a sense of humanity.

Before her talk, I asked Queen Noor how the Israeli/Palestinian problem might be resolved? She looked at me intently and said — “Faith, Hope, Humanity and (with arms raised) Justice!” She too was given a standing ovation.

It would be nice to have a penny for all the times in the last decade someone said: “No one could have seen this coming.” “No one connected the dots.” “We didn’t have the right intelligence” — blah, blah, blah.

Most people in the U.S. are trained to be “foxes,” that is — to have a lot of experiences and know many things — but without any systematic way of synthesizing the experiences and information into a coherent whole.

What is lost in that approach, is failing to understand the nature of “Being,” and how to participate in Being in a conscious and concrete way.

As a result, people can become disoriented and lost, in good times and in bad — missing the big picture, and not thinking and acting well for themselves.

GeoffreyCanada1Geoffrey Canada, President & CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, speaking at the “Changing the Odds” conference going on this week, in NYC.

Begun in 1997, HCZ seeks, in the words of Canada: “to change the cradle to jail pipeline” that exists in many poor urban neighborhoods, in the U.S..

The Harlem Children’s Zone exists as an interlocking network of services for children that begins at birth and stays with each child until college. In addition, HCZ aims to strengthen the families and community that surround the child.

President Obama has created an anti-poverty initiative called: Promised Neighborhoods, and has designated that HCZ be the model to be replicated in 20 other communities around the country.  The purpose of the conference is to familiarize community leaders from around the country with the HCZ approach.

Ken Chenault, Chairman & CEO of American Express and a member of the HCZ board, spoke to the group about bringing lessons from the business world to bear in education programs. After the talks, I spoke with both Canada and Chenault about the fixation a lot of people have with test scores — to the exclusion of everything else. They both agreed, that often times the most important progress in education is intangible, and can’t be measured with standardized tests. The challenge is to find the most appropriate metrics for measuring results and holding people accountable.