Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Strides in American Education - 'My Bondage, My Freedom' by Frederick Douglass (Discussion of Chapters 10, 11 and 12)

Discussion Includes Learning to Read and Write by Douglass, Nat Turner's Rebellion in Virginia, First Awareness of Abolitionists, The Effects of Slavery on First Time Slave Owners, The Idea of Escape, The Columbian Orator's impact on Douglass.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Strides in American Education - 'My Bondage, My Freedom' by Frederick Douglass (Discussion of Chapters 8 and 9)

July 27, 2013 video of my daughter and I discussing Chapters 8 and 9 of 'My Bondage, My Freedom' by Frederick Douglass. Topics include overseer weapons and the overseer ideology, the murder of slaves by whites (with no arrest or persecution), Willie Lynch Letter, and slave children meals.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Letter #11 - Letter to Elijah.....July 22, 2013

My son, Elijah Frederick Douglass Meeks, I write this letter to you while your mother is in labor, which she began shortly after midnight, and you are yet to emerge in this world. Your family waits with great excitement. It is interesting that across the Atlantic Ocean, approximately at the same time that your mother began labor, a woman named Kate Middleton, who married into a British so-called royal family, also went into the early stages of child labor. The American media has been abuzz about the birth of this so-called royal baby for some time now. This so-called royal baby is a stark contrast to you. While you are born of working class parents, this so-called royal baby will be born to a life a wealth (accumulated from imperialism of the past). This is capital and this so-called royal baby will not be the only infant born into, but there are many more infants, such as you, that are born into working class families and have opportunity to advance individuals, collective communities, and even possibly contribute in a positive manner at the nation-state level. The world before is filled with unlimited possibilities (through education, discipline and strong ethics) and contributing to society and humanity in a positive manner makes the acquisition of personal wealth look like idle apathy and the greed of the royal families' ancestors, who raped foreign soils and committed genocide, appear truly naked for what it truly was. 

While this so-called royal baby will never want for anything and will certainly have a life of ease and leisure, you, my son, will emerge facing a harsh American society with little starting capital. Throughout your life you will hear the media speak on this so-called royal baby, from its youth to its marriage, and I hope you will come to understand the contrasting position of your births, and embrace and take pride in this contrast, and use this contrast as strength for your advancement and the advancement of the communities around you. You see, in this American society, there are so many social and economic traps awaiting young men such as yourself, and these identified traps I plan to educate you about and prepare you to overcome (either in person or in writing). You should realize from the earliest point possible that nothing will be given to you in this world and that you will have to grow strong physically, intellectually, and morally in order to earn resources and advance yourself…and one day your future family. Education, for your mind and not so much for material possessions, is paramount to fully developing into a true man and contributing to the human element to the best of your abilities.

You are probably wondering about your name. Your mother selected the name of Elijah, who was indeed a biblical prophet (which we will discuss in depth in the years to come), while I selected your middle name, Frederick Douglass. By the time you read this letter, I assume you will know who Frederick Douglass was. Douglass was born a slave in America and advanced himself not only to freedom, but to one of the highest political positions in the nation as an advisor to the American president, Lincoln, during the years leading to the Emancipation Proclamation (hand in hand with the Industrial Revolution, which is what really caused the American Civil War). The two points in the life of Frederick Douglass that most impacted my decision to name you after him were 1) Douglass self-educated himself. Despite the systematic society that prevented slaves to educate, Douglass managed to not only learn to read and write on his own, but to truly educate himself throughout his life. I can’t tell you how important that continuous intellectual development is to you and those you care about. The system of slavery attempted to keep knowledge from Douglass, but his hunger and drive for knowledge was undefeatable. Douglass once stated that an educated man was unfit to be a slave. As you grow up to understand the domestic and international political stage, you will come to see similarities between the social-economic era that Douglass advanced under and the system that you are being born into; A system that puts forth great exertion and effort to divert the attention of the American youth from educational and intellectual development. 

The second point that has always stayed with me about the life of Frederick Douglass was that during the early stages of adulthood and education, Douglass was sent to the plantation of a reputed slave breaker, Mr. Covey. One day while working in the barn, Mr. Covey struck Douglass and Douglass, a slave…remember, physically retaliated. The two men, slave breaker and slave, fought for an hour until both were bloody and battered. No other slaves came to help Mr. Covey’s cries. After that fight, Mr. Covey, the regionally reputed slave breaker, never laid a hand on Frederick Douglass again. The lesson here is not to be violent for senseless reasons (and you will earn the difference between meaningful and senseless through education and history), but to be physically strong for self-defense and the all-out defense of your family, especially your mother and sisters. We will certainly discuss this responsibility further in-depth. My daughters….never place your brother in a position under false pretenses or shallow-petty drama (I do not expect that you will because I will educate you both until my dying breath). As my son, Elijah is expected to give his life (if required) in defending both of you and the mother who created all of you (should an evil day ever come that truly requires self-defense and/or sacrifice). As the American Nathan Hale once said, “I only have one life to give”. Do not have him throw his away on foolishness or troubles caused by your own instigations. Take care of each other and protect each other.

Keep in mind that a name, is only a name. A name does not make a man or woman. It is the man or woman that make the name.

It is now 3:22 am and time for your sisters and me to head back to the hospital to meet you for the first time. God is indeed Beneficent and Merciful.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Strides in Education - 'My Bondage, My Freedom' by Frederick Douglass (Discussion of Chapters 6 and 7)

Strides in American Education: In preparation for the upcoming 6th grade, my daughter and I are currently reading 'My Bondage, My Freedom' by Frederick Douglass.  This is a recorded discussion on those chapters.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Supplemental Letter - Question and Answer Session with My Oldest Daughter on Chapters 3 & 4 of 'My Bondage, My Freedom' by Frederick Douglass

The following is an excerpt from a question and answer session concerning Chapters 3 and 4 of Frederick Douglass’ historical book “My Bondage, My Freedom” which occurred on July 16, 2013 between my daughter and me.

Question #1:

Did Christian preachers own slaves?

Answer #1:

Some American Christian preachers did, and some did not.  Some Christian preachers supported the institution of American slavery, and some supported the abolitionist movement.  There were Christian preachers who not only owned slaves, but received significant amounts of financial support (generated from slave labor) from wealthy slave owners in exchange for so-called spiritual guidance.  Many of the Christian preachers, and Christian slave owners, during Frederick Douglass’ time justified slavery through twisted biblical verses such as the curse placed on Ham.  It is important to understand that when the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire began the transatlantic slave trade in the 15th century, with the issuing of Papal Bull Dum Diversas, that Portugal was given the monopoly to trade for, and kidnap, non-Christian ‘heathens’ and tribal war captives, which would then be enslaved and supplied to the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean.  After the Protestant Reformation and the climax of the British Empire, Britain had elevated the transatlantic slave trade to new heights in supplying the North American colonies with Africans.  After the American Revolution, in the first decade of the 19th century, the transatlantic slave trade was abolished in the United States (more to damage Britain economically than out of moral reasons) and the process of reproducing slaves domestically was increased (although the illegal import of African slaves continued) in the U.S.  Due to slave revolts in places like Jamaica and Virginia (Nat Turner), slave owners began to utilize Christianity on American slaves to imbue them with a passive, submissive, and accepting ideology based on an afterlife heaven which would reward the physical sufferings of this world.  Since the majority of slaves in early 19th century U.S. were now raised on American soil and indoctrinated with Christianty from youth, many overzealous and devout Christian slave owners (especially the slave owner wives) began to question the afterlife penalty of Christian enslaving Christian.  During this period, the original religious-based slavery transformed to race-based slavery and Christians began to use biblical justifications (toward the enslavement and inferior position of black slaves) such as the curse placed on Noah’s son, Ham.

Question #2:

What would happen if an overseer was disguised as an abolitionist?  (Note: I had to instruct her that this question made no sense, but took the time to explain overseers and the economic levels of white American society during slavery).

Answer #2:     What is indeed the difference between a land owning slave owner and an overseer?  One main answer of distinction, among many similarities, is capital.  Not every white immigrant in the colonies or the young United States had capital to buy land or slaves.  While the modern media purposely leaves Jewish capital out of the history lessons and attempts to paint a basic black-white historical picture of slavery, the economic structure is often neglected.  There are no excuses for the atrocities committed within the institution of slavery, whether by owner or by machine part, but the economic structure needs to be understood.  Overseers, in the vast majority of cases, owned no capital to buy land or slaves and were reliant of those with capital (the landowners and slave owners) for employment.  Often, the overseers were poor, uneducated white men with no trade or technical skills.  They were often bitter about their plight and position in society, and often brutally took it out on slaves.  It is important to be able to identify whites who brought capital from the old world, whites who owned capital generated in the new world, whites who had no capital and worked within the system of slavery to generate capital through labor, and the poor unskilled whites of great ignorance.  As Marx states in his multi-volume book entitled “Capital”, one must own capital to generate capital.  With this being said, a person with no capital has only one way to generate capital: labor/work.

Question #3:

Did slave owners agree when overseers treated slaves?  (Note: this was another question that I instructed her needed refinement)

Answer #3:

I assume you mean when an overseer punished a slave in excess.  This would probably depend on the personage of the slave owner.  As Douglass mentions, slave owners viewed their slaves a mere property no different than horses or cattle.  Today, some car owners do not take care of their vehicles while others take very good care of their cars.  I would assume in some scenarios that slave owners would endorse heavy punishments for incidents such as running, drinking, or being late to the fields, etc. (anything decreasing profits) in order to maintain estate discipline.  At the same time, slave labor was what generated capital for the slave owner and if an overseer implemented excess damage or starvation (for disgruntled personal reasons) to the slave owner’s property that devalued it or decreased the profits generated from it, I would assume that the overseer would have been disciplined, docked pay, or dismissed.  Again, the overseer class in America usually consisted of the most uneducated class of poor whites.

Question #4:

Why did Frederick Douglass have to learn the Lord’s Prayer?

Answer #4:

As mentioned previously. Frederick Douglass (somewhere between the age of 8-10) and the other slave children in that age group were forced to learn this prayer, and Christianity in general, in order to indoctrinate slaves from a young age to except their position as slaves in this physical world (based on the Bible and an afterlife promise in heaven) in order to discourage slave revolts and encourage submissive productivity.  Christianity is the perfect religious ideology to create a passive/submissive population of laborers.

Question #5:

Would the slave owner punish Frederick Douglass like he did Esther if he saw him spying?

Answer #5:

You clearly did not understand what Esther was being punished for, which is the real topic here, although we have discussed this before.  In past conversations, we talked about the vulnerability of female slaves who faced the lust of their slave owners.  The female slave had no protection from the slave owner’s advances or rape, since by law she was his property.  Many slave owners took slave women and, as we spoke about in Chapters 1 & 2, this often brought the vengeance of the slave owner’s Christian white wife down of the slave woman who was victimized (and in many cases impregnated by the salve owner).  After all, if you recollect Chapter 2 or 3, there were whispers around Colonel Lloyd’s plantation that Frederick Douglass’ father may have been the slave owner himself.  In the particular case of Esther’s whipping, which Frederick Douglass spied, the slave owner was in lust of her.  We do not know through the written account if the slave owner had taken her previously, but the fact remains that Esther had fallen in love with a male slave of her own age (on the plantation) and the slave owner, in his pathetic blind jealously, forbid her to ever see him.  Love can be a strong human element, and Esther defied the slave owner’s demands and was caught with the slave that won her heart.  She was whipped with the lash and the flesh torn on her back, broken open and bloody, because of that slave owner’s lust and jealousy.  This topic will be discussed again in this book, and the Harriet Jacobs book which we will read later.  To answer your original question, I highly doubt that the slave owner would pay much attention to Douglass since he was so young.  At the same time, I suppose it would depend on the personality and the mood.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Supplemental Letter - The Breeze

I woke up this morning and poured a cup of hot coffee. The sun was bright and a fresh breeze was blowing. I scanned the news around the nation and world. There were no murders in Chicago the night before, and as I searched the local wire I found that there had been no murders at all. Through the windows I could hear a group of children playing and in a yearning for my lost youth; I listened to... their conversation for a long duration of time. They were discussing history and science, and two of them were competing to correctly complete mathematical formulas. I stepped outside in the crisp morning breeze to retrieve my printed newspaper, which boasted of unprecedented bipartisan cooperation in cutting foreign aid, increasing domestic investment, health care, education, and job creation. A diverse group of my community neighbors were gathered speaking and listening to each other on various topics that impacted the nation and community, and they discussed plans to gather the children together later in the day for educational development. I waved to them and they waved back. As I drove to the store for necessities with my windows down and the fresh breeze against my face, I passed the playground and saw fathers playing with daughters and mothers playing with sons. Further down the road, I saw young men in their teenage years rebuilding an elderly woman’s dilapidated home and I saw modestly dressed young women in their teenage years feeding and clothing a homeless family and providing their children with books.

The morning breeze that day was so fresh and exhilarating, and oh so real. It was indeed a dream, but every morning I go to my window and my door and anxiously await that breeze.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Letter #10 - Trends of Teacher Sexual Misconduct and Consideration of Gender Segregation in American Classrooms

My daughters, there has been a disturbing trend across the United States which has become more and more frequent over the past few decades and that trend is the inappropriate behavior of teacher misconduct, especially in instances that are sexual in nature.  These manipulative and predatory incidents, without question controlled by the adult, occur with adult teachers of both genders.  In the contents of this letter, I will analyze a few cases that have occurred in the current time era and in order to determine whether this immoral trend has increased, maintained consistency, or decreased when your children are brought forth….you may research news reports and statistics at that time and make historical comparisons to the time period in which I write.

The first thing that needs to be noted is that there is a stereotypical attitude in American society that when an adult female teacher conducts sexual misconduct and manipulation of a school boy it is less disdainful compared to the male adult teacher who commits sexual misconduct toward a female student.  I took a quick survey of views while writing this letter and for the most part everyone surveyed agreed that both gender scenarios were immoral and wrong, but I noted that the men surveyed considered the manipulation and exploitation by a male teacher on a female student considerably worse than a female teacher having a sexual relationship with a male student, while the women who were surveyed considered both gender scenarios equally immoral and damaging to the youth.  I have to assume that the different views on this subject from the different viewpoints of men and women are shaped by the current, and even historical, norms and values of American society which, without question, is a rapidly degenerating society.  This degeneration must be attributed, at minimum to some level, to the mass produced inorganic popular culture this is force fed to our people from youth.

Selecting one of the misconduct reports to analyze, I have selected a report out of Kansas City were a 25 year old male teacher is accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship will a 14 year old female student.  Below is an excerpt of the news report by KCTV 5:

“The girl told authorities that they had sexual relations inside Rigby's classroom and at her home. She said they exchanged nude pictures of each other via cell phone, and they had sex twice at her residence and at least twice inside the classroom since last fall.  In an interview May 16, the girl told police that she had feared she had become pregnant and he had her take a pregnancy test, which was negative. She claimed that he would have forced her to have an abortion if she had been pregnant, according to court records.   In an interview with Kearney school administrators, Rigby denied having sexual relations with the girl. He said he had not sent pictures of himself or received pictures of students on his cell phone, according to police.  An administrator found a pregnancy test package in Rigby's desk drawer. One of the tests was gone while the second, unused test remained in the packaging.” – (KCTV June 3, 2013)

The report, one of many similar reports across the United States, brings forth a plethora of questions for consideration.  The first question is where was the parental monitoring of this young lady?  The allegations report that this sexual relationship not only took place in the classroom, which is disturbing enough, but twice at her home.  Why is this 25 year old man at this 13-14 year old girl’s home?  And why is she alone with this male teacher in the classroom (which is obviously isolated enough for sexual contact without notice from the staff).  What is the mindset of this so-called teacher in his middle twenties and how did he slide through the cracks to become a teacher in charge of minors?

In a second example from spring 2013, a male New York Middle School teacher named Daniel Reilly was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, sexual misconduct.  The following excerpts are from New York Daily News:

“A predatory former sixth-grade teacher who used cellphone code names to hide an affair with his 14-year-old former student pleaded guilty to statutory rape Monday.  Former Queens Intermediate School 237 teacher Daniel Reilly, 36, admitted to bedding a 14-year-old girl as recently as last month in the Queens apartment he shares with his wife and baby daughter.”

From the same story, but from an ABC7 report:

“Police say 35-year-old Daniel Reilly carried on a more than nine month affair with a former student that began when the girl was 14 years old.  Reilly was arrested at IS 237 in Flushing, Queens, where he works as a sixth-grade English teacher.  Police say the suspect taught the girl when she was in elementary school, and she is not presently a student at the school where he now teaches.  The child's parents called police Monday after the girl's sister read a series of sexually-explicit text messages between Reilly and the victim.  The sexual encounters allegedly took place at Reilly's Forest Hills residence between August 2012 and April 2013.” (ABC 7 report – April 9, 2013).

Again we see a sexual relationship that has developed between adult male teacher and a young female student.  Despite being married with children, the sexual encounters occurred at this teacher’s home.  Again, the absence of parental monitoring should be questioned and several hard questions must be posed: 1) Are our American children given too much unmonitored freedom under the current moral condition of American society? 2)  Do our young people attempt to enter an adult world too quickly under the mass produced impressions of inorganic popular culture?  3) Are these teenage victims responsible in any manner at all or have they been mentally and emotionally manipulated by a predator to go to a married adult male teacher’s house or other scenarios of manipulation?

For the third example, as the examples of teacher sexual misconduct are limitless, we will look at a report from Pittsburgh in May 13, 2013 reported by CBS affiliate KDKA:

“….high school English teacher is now facing criminal charges.  He’s accused of sexually assaulting several girls.  Jonathan Crum, 28, an English teacher at Moniteau High School is in the Butler County Jail facing 26 different counts of sexual misconduct involving students at the school.  “A lot of the sexual abuse includes asking the children under 18 for indecent photographs and there was some indecent contact as well,” a police officer said.  State Police say the contacts started back as early as September of 2009. They happened in school and included physical touching, sexual pictures and other contacts, with at least five girls — all underage at the time.  “As far as our investigation has led, the crimes all happened on Moniteau property some inside the classroom,” the officer said.” (KDKA)

The fourth example is about a 28 year old female teacher in Los Angeles who is accused of becoming pregnant by a 15-16 year old student.  The news report was published in the L.A. Times on July 6, 2013.

“Laura Elizabeth Whitehurst, 28, joined the Redlands Unified School District six years ago as an English teacher at Redlands High School and allegedly began sexual relationships with two boys, one as young as 14, authorities say.” (LA Times – July 6, 2013)

“Since the teacher's arrest, other former students have come forward.  Police said a 20-year-old man told detectives that he began his relationship with her in the fall of 2007 when he was a 14-year-old freshman, Redlands police said.  He said he and Whitehurst had sex in her classroom before school, in her apartment and in her car, said Redlands police spokesman Carl Baker. He told police the relationship ended in early 2008.  Another alleged victim, now 22, told police he had a sexual relationship with Whitehurst while she was his teacher at Redlands High. He said the relationship took place when he was a junior at the high school in 2007 and 2008, according to Baker.  The man told authorities the relationship began after a discussion about an English paper about dreams and she told him she had a dream about kissing him. Whitehurst left Redlands High in 2009 and worked at another school before going to Citrus Valley High.” (LA Times – July 6, 2013))

These four examples are all reports from 2013 and I could probably post 10 pages of similar reports.  We will stop with four examples for this letter and begin to contemplate the causes and possible solutions for this troubling trend.

The top cause would be a disintegrating moral fabric within society and, specifically in these types of cases, being mastered by lower, animalistic base desires on the part of the adult.  The intellectual level of the adult must also be called into question if they are actually engaging in a relationship with a child, but in many cases the victim is being mentally and emotionally manipulated by the predator.  One may question the statement concerning intellectual development of the adult, since we are discussing teachers, but many teachers are not truly educated, intellectually developed or morally disciplined…and have only managed to earn a college teaching degree and a job recommendation in order to earn a paycheck in a position of authority over American children (and this also is a problem with the lack of true education in our American schools). 

Another conundrum is the social positioning of our young women in American society, which is clearly a confusing double standard.  On the one hand, our young ladies are considered children until the age of 18 while in many cases their bodies can give birth much earlier even though their emotional and intellectual development is still childlike.  Should more emphasis be placed on their protection and education?  Should we begin to prepare our children from an earlier age?  We know that the American school system barely covers these issues.  Another area of society that complicates matters is the mass produced inorganic popular culture that influences our young ladies and subconsciously and conscious develops what is considered cool and stylish in their society.  In many cases, young ladies as early as 13 or 14 will attempt to dress as adults, imitate adults and inorganic popular culture, and enjoy adult freedoms.  Please take some time to watch the television programs aimed at young adults and see how many of these ‘harmless’ television programs encourage lying to parents about things, maliciously self-destructive peer pressures, sexual promiscuity, and careless social behaviors.   It amazes me that many parents, even in a society filled with predators and consequences, will allow their daughters to go out during weeknights or weekends with only a slight understanding of where they are and what they are doing.

Proposal, arguments, and counter arguments for gender segregation in public schools:


I strongly support gender segregation in public school classrooms with male teachers teaching male students and female teachers teaching female students.  Under proper gender segregation, teachers and students of the opposite sex would have no contact (especially one on one contact).  These prevention mechanisms would greatly reduce incidents of teacher misconduct, sexual assault, and would enhance concentration on educational development.

Argument #1:

Gender segregation in the classrooms would not stop same-gender advances, teacher misconduct, assaults, and manipulation by predator teachers who have slipped through the educational system.

Counter argument:

No, it would not, but gender segregation in public schools would reduce the number of teacher misconduct, sexual assaults and inappropriate relationship incidents by, at a minimum, half.  If there was an option to reduce by a large percentage these negative incidents against our American children, why wouldn’t a reform policy such as gender segregation in classrooms become implemented, or at minimum become an option for tax paying citizens?  There should be an option for tax paying citizens to decide if their children will attend gender segregated or gender integrated classrooms.  For the most part, the only other option is private schools, usually religious in nature, which brings various forms of fairy tale religious indoctrinations with it.

Argument #2:

The ACLU, liberal views, and proponents of Feminism claim that gender segregation in public schools would take the position of females in society back several decades and that differing curriculums between classrooms would reinforce old social stereotype of a male dominated society structure.  The argument of reduced social interaction between boys and girls, which indeed can be productive to educational development, is also placed forward.

Counter argument:

The proposal is not to alter public school curriculum, as parental involvement is paramount to educational success, but to segregate male and female students from same-gender teachers to reduce the current trends of sexual misconduct by teachers.  The proposal is put forth to maintain equal state (or nationally) regulated academic curriculums in both female and male classrooms with no differences between curriculums.  It is proposed that public schools offering gender segregated classrooms hold regularly scheduled inter-gender academic exercises, debates, and events for intellectual and social exchanges between students, but that under no circumstances should a teacher of one gender be allowed to establish contact, especially one on one contact, with students of the other gender.  Gender segregated classrooms 1) would be aimed to reduce the vulnerability of our children by predator teachers of the opposite gender, not to completely cut-off social integration with opposite gender students  2) reduce the social distractions of the opposite gender and social norms and values (during classroom time) in favor of increased classroom attention and intellectual development 3)  Does not support superiority of either gender as the development of educational, moral and intellectual values  of all American students are pertinent for the future of the United States.

A few supplemental cases of teacher misconduct from 2013:

Kelly Ann Garcia (Houston) June 2013 (same gender misconduct)

Kahtanna Culp (Houston) March 2013 Sexual relationship with student

Elyse Cromwell (New Jersey) February 2013 Accused of a sexual relationship with a 14 year old

DaNita Wilson (Georgia) January 2013 32 year old teacher accused of having sex with seven students

George Hernandez, 45 (California) February 2012

Mark Berndt, 61, (California) charged with committing lewd acts on 23 boys and girls, ages 6 to 10, between 2008 and 2010 at Miramonte Elementary School

Alain Salas, 40, (California) February 2012, lewd texting to a 15 year old girl