Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Nick Coleman rewritten

Spot is a fan of Nick Coleman. A lot of the social Darwinist hunter gatherer types give him a hard time, but Nick's a newspaper man with decades of experience and pretty good judgment about human nature. Spot appreciated this column of Nick's that was published in the Strib on February 2nd.

Spot thought it would be fun, however, to rewrite the column, or at least supplement it, as if Nick had let his inner Spot out - he was off the leash, so to speak. Spot's addition are in italics. They are Spot's words not Coleman's.

Nick Coleman: So North High has troubles? Let's torch it

Burn it.

That's City Councilman Don Samuels' suggestion for Minneapolis North High School: Burn it down.

Someone please call the Fire Department and ask if they have anything to spray on dangerously overheated rhetoric.

Samuels, whose ward includes North High, is profiled by David Brauer in this
month's Mpls.-St. Paul Magazine. Watch you don't get your eyebrows
singed off by this:

"I've said burn North High School down! I can't be paying as a taxpayer for the education of my neighbors and 72 percent of them are failing -- meaning the black boys."

What a demagogue. Can black people be crackers? This clown must be spending his time with Katie or Captain Fishsticks. You'd almost think he's got an hidden agenda.

Samuels says he read that 72 percent figure somewhere. I can't find it. As far
as I can tell, North is not the worst high school in the city. In fact,
it has some good things going for it, including a dynamic principal who
is making changes. In my mind, public schools need help from public
officials. They don't need a kick in the teeth.

North High Principal Mike Favor, a 1984 North High grad, says Samuels'
flame-throwing is not aiding efforts to bring improvements to the
school of 1,000 students (68 percent are black).

The school has been an anchor of the African-American community for decades.

"It's damaging," said Favor, who plans to meet with Samuels early this
morning, before Samuels meets with the school's faculty to try to
explain himself. "To hear something like that is offensive. I feel like
I have to apologize to every North High graduate and to anyone who
sends their kid here. It's disheartening."

By the way, Samuels is a close ally of Mayor R.T. Rybak. I called Rybak's office to ask where he stands on his friend's proposal to burn down a high school. I didn't get an answer.

I wonder if Rybak knows how closely Samuels is tied to ring-wing "philanthropy." Being too close to Samuels will probably hurt Rybak in Minneapolis if the latter decides to run for the Senate next year.

Samuels isn't backing down

Favor, in his third year as principal, is proposing lots of changes: An extended
school year, rigorous class requirements and the wearing of a school
uniform. Samuels, who has not set foot inside North during the school
day, supports those changes. But the black elected official (he is a
native of Jamaica) refuses to withdraw his comments.

"I'm not here to be liked," Samuels said Thursday. "I'm against anything that
tolerates the failure of black people. This is the most important conversation we can have, and I meant it [his remarks] exactly as I made them, in order to make people angry and raise concern to a visceral level. I'm speaking forcefully against the current way of doing things."

Well, Preacher, it says somewhere in Proverbs that he who troubles his own house will inherit the wind.

Samuels' attack seems linked to his advocacy of school vouchers -- the controversial proposal to let families use public tax dollars to pay for private schools. A Baptist minister, Samuels sends his children to Ascension Catholic School. His wife, Sondra, works as a local organizer for the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities, a Milwaukee-based group that is pushing for school vouchers.

That's the hidden agenda I was telling you about earlier. "Ascension" is a Bill Cooper trademark, by the way.

That group is largely funded with grants from right-wing foundations -- including the Bradley Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation -- considered by some to be hostile to all public education.

Who are we kidding? These outfits have never met a public institution, especially a public school, they didn't want to kill. Media Transparency has had a good run-down on these cesspools for a long time.

"My children will not darken the door of a Minneapolis public school," Samuels was quoted as saying. Other black leaders have said such things. But it is shocking, coming from the official who represents the North High area.

You have to wonder what kind of tuition deal the Samuels get at Ascention in exchange for all the hatchet work?

"The North Side has a resilient history, and we are a resilient people," says Favor. "For him to just throw in the towel like this -- well, maybe he doesn't understand the history of the North Side. We are not above criticism; we have to do better. But we are a pillar of the North Side and this is about our community. 'Burn it down?' Come on in, before you start going after us."

Samuels did not make vouchers an issue in his campaigns (he won a special election in 2003, then won a four-year term in 2005). So his incendiary words blindsided many, including the students.

I met with a dozen North High kids. All are getting passing grades, some are on the honor roll, most hope to go to college. Some are basketball players, some are Wallin Scholars, some are both.

'How can he say that?'

And all agreed: Don Samuels doesn't know enough about North High to burn it down.

But arsonists only need to know enough about a place to set the fire, I guess.

"Burn our school down? That's like taking a shot at us -- like saying tear us down, too," said Jeremiah Moore, a junior.

"Nobodyhere has met the man, so how can he say that about us?" asked Troy
Miller, a sophomore. "He's playing it safe, blaming the school because
it has a stereotype and a stigma against it."I think he based that on
what happens around the community, not at North High," said Ronald
Buck, a senior. "It's a cop-out. It shows he doesn't want to put the
work in to make our school progress."

Ronald Buck says it as well as anyone. Samuels is just trying to use his position to further damage a public school precisely because he doesn't want the school to succeed. It's contrary to his political agenda. The public schools are a convenient scape goat for a community's problems. Deal with them in an honest way, and the schools will take care of themselves.

By accident or on purpose, Don Samuels has started a conflagration. I hope the fire doesn't get out of control.

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