Why flipping classrooms is ‘flipping ridiculous’

flippedClassroom-400I took my 9th grade English class to the Tech Lab this week to type up Autobiographical Narratives. In today's world of computers and smartphones, one would think this activity would be, for my students, like coming home. This is the generation of information and technology.

Here in the Bay Area, these students should be the next coders for Google and Facebook. In fact, one would think that by now, I should hardly have to help them, as they probably know more about computers than a man in his thirties.

Anyone who thinks like that hasn't visited a low-income public school recently. Here is a list of things my students don't know how to do on a computer:



Are up-and-coming rappers getting a fair break?

kendrick-lamar-control-600In the world of hip hop, it seems you need someone to validate you in order to be successful.

Most of us have heard of the controversial Kendrick Lamar "Control" verse and the hype associated with it. He was validated on so many levels by his peers, by his elders, and by his fans. His ambitious lyrics ignited a fire that was desperately needed and gave him the confidence to claim he is the best rapper alive. Many laughed in amusement, some rushed to the studio to refute his claims and many were honored they were mentioned in his tirade.

More importantly, fellow Compton native, co-owner of Built Frum Scratch and Most Hated Entertainment CEO, B.J. Hill, feels Kendrick Lamar is not as authentic as his new audience thinks.



Miscalculating Multiculturalism in America

lee-a-daniels-160Given the political gridlock in Washington that's pushed the country to the brink of economic calamity and caused needless distress to millions, one might think America has rarely been more polarized, more "dis-united." Actually, the opposite is true. American society – in terms of expanding democracy to all of its citizens – has never been more unified. That's why the country seems so dis-united.

That assertion seems contradictory – unless you view the current scene through the prism of that adage and basic principal of chemistry: every action provokes a reaction.

Accordingly, the budget and debt-ceiling crisis the Republican Party engineered this fall is just the latest expression of the conservative movement's virulent reaction to Barack Obama's presidency and the changes in American society that emerged and coalesced to make that extraordinary breakthrough happen.


Dr. Ben Carson: ‘Gifted Hands,’ foot in mouth

George Curry-160Dr. Ben Carson became the darling of conservatives earlier this year by stridently attacking the Affordable Care Act with President Obama sitting just a few feet away.

Carson, who was serving as the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast at the White House, said, "Here's my solution: When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account to which money can be contributed – pretax – from the time you're born 'til the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members, so that when you're 85 years old and you got six diseases, you're not trying to spend up everything. You're happy to pass it on and there's nobody talking about death panels.

"Number one. And also, for the people who were indigent who don't have any money we can make contributions to their HSA (Health Savings Account) each month because we already have this huge pot of money. Instead of sending it to some bureaucracy, let's put it in their HSAs. Now they have some control over their own health care."


Obama is right about ‘Redskins’

obama-redskins-500The audience was tense. Tempers were heated. Tears were seen and blows were nearly thrown. We needed a referee.

This was not the pre-fight press conference weigh-in for a Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao boxing match. It was a panel discussion between African-American and Native American journalists from across the country to consider whether the Washington Redskins name was racist. But the conversation at the Unity Journalists of Color convention, which included more than 6,000 media professionals, got nowhere.


A Comeback for Lauryn Hill: Too late for this diehard fan

lauryn-hill-comeback-400From 1994 to around 2005, I was Lauryn Hill's biggest fan. I'm sure there are plenty of people who have laid claim to that title and would challenge my statement. I'm happy to battle it out by quoting lyrics and dueling with an encyclopedic knowledge of every quote Hill's ever given, interview ever done, acceptance speech ever made and concert ever performed.

I was a student during most of those years, and I applied an interest to all things Lauryn Hill that was equal to what I gave my undergraduate and graduate courses.

Note the dates above. They are past tense. Last week Hill was released from jail after serving time for tax evasion. She was sentenced to months of home detention for the remainder of her sentence. According to TMZ, however, she has decided to go on tour instead, and the judge has approved it. And that made me wonder something I never thought I would: "Are people actually going to go see Lauryn Hill?"


‘Head start’ for children merits pre-K sales tax

keith norman-160If every child in Shelby County is given a head start in life, there is a preponderance of evidence that that child would go on to become a productive member of society – which means skilled workers would be added to the workforce, crime and poverty would decrease, and the need for public assistance would be reduced.

We're at a crossroad where a decision has to be made to bring the aforementioned scenario into reality. But that decision would have to be made by the voters of Memphis via a referendum that will be on the ballot this fall to increase the sales tax by a half-cent. If approved, $47 million could be generated, with about $30 million earmarked for pre-K and $17 million to reduce property tax rates.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is not alone in its support of a half-cent sales tax increase for early childhood education. It is a civil rights issue and one of the NAACP's "5 Game Changers for the 21st Century." There are others in support of this initiative as well, including city officials and a number of education advocates who see the significance and critical need of supporting the education of children at the pre-K level.


Positive parenting protects and pays

Tarrin McGhee-160"I grew up poor, but I didn't know it."

Many of us have heard and been inspired by rags to riches stories told by adults who overcame risk factors in their childhood, and avoided becoming products of their environment.

Poor upbringing, single-parent family homes, resource-deprived neighborhoods and communities are all conditions that many young children confront, but still manage to excel and beat the odds stacked against them.

So what is it that separates the stories of triumph from those of defeat?


A Mississippi energy miracle

Harry-Alford-160These are very exciting times for the fuel industry in America. We are at the point of being totally oil independent. We are finding new reserves in various parts of our great nation. Natural gas is now abundant thanks to a new process known as fracturing or fracking.

In fact, we were once importers of natural gas but now, thanks to fracking, we are exporting it at attractive profits. No longer do we have to rely on nations that don't particularly like us for our energy needs. God blesses the child who has his own and we are certainly blessed.

The U.S. Department of Energy (George W. Bush administration) proposed putting a prototype coal energy plant in Florida. Environmentalists persuaded the voters that Florida didn't need another coal plant even if it were a clean prototype for the nation. My friend, former Mississippi Mississippi Gov., Haley Barbour, pounced on the opportunity.


Yes, mental illness affects ‘us’

George Curry-160On Monday, Sept. 16, the news was shocking: A contract employee who worked at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., later identified as Aaron Alexis, killed 12 innocent people in the facility before he was killed by police.

For many African Americans, our first thought was: "I hope it wasn't one of us."

On Oct. 3, there was another disturbing incident in the nation's capital: An unarmed woman with her 1-year-old child in the car, drove her vehicle into barriers outside the White House and on Capitol Hill before being shot to death by police.

Again, we thought: "I hope it wasn't one of us."


Can African-American women do better than Hillary

hillary black-women-400It might be appropriate to preface this with the fact that I'm a dude injecting myself into what boils down to a woman's decision at the polls. But it's still a peculiar and necessary question that we should keep asking from now through 2016: Why should African-American women support Hillary Clinton for president?

The answer probably depends on how the question is viewed. Some sisters might actually consider it pointless, given the power of the former secretary of state's political brand – and given that many still see her as Bill's wife. Recall that in 2007 – even after that young, less-grayed, charismatic black Illinois senator took to a Springfield stage – Hillary was their "girl." An October 2007 poll showed her easily surpassing Obama with 68 percent support from black female voters.

Who in their right black mind would believe that a brother with a name as bizarre and non-Anglicized as "Barack Obama" had even the fringe of a national poll's chance to win? Ferocious internal debates with family members ensued. It wasn't until that fateful, history-twisting Iowa caucus that black folks suddenly stopped viewing Obama as merely Dennis Haysbert's stunt double in 24.


Please, stop assuming all blacks are Christian

Jenee Desmond-Harris-160"I'm so frustrated. Just because I'm black/African American doesn't mean I'm Christian. I was raised in a home where we attended church, but during college I decided to officially call myself an atheist. Yet other black people are constantly assuming that I have a 'church home' or saying they will pray for me or telling me to pray about something – it's like they have never met someone my color who isn't 'saved' before. It's such an assumption, and white people aren't treated the same way. How can I tell the world to stop making this assumption about me without offending and encourage people to think before they put their belief systems on others?'

– Annoyed Atheist

I'm not surprised to hear that having this experience. After all, according to a Pew poll, black Americans are more likely than members of any other racial or ethnic group in the country to report a formal religious affiliation.


Are the Walmart prices worth it?

William Reed-160If you don't know about it, there is an ongoing fight between Walmart and the union movement.

The political battle being played out in Washington, D.C. is over the "living wage bill." But that is just the latest ploy in a longer war in years to come between the retail giant and America's primarily-black, Democratic-and-union-controlled urban enclaves.

The retail behemoth won its game of chicken with the D.C. City Council over a living wage bill it had passed requiring large retailers operating in the District to pay its workers a "living wage" minimum of $12.50 an hour (minimum wage in D.C. is $8.25 an hour).