Posts tagged with Education

Test Prep for Preschool? If the current national political litmus test is the healthcare vote, then the most important national social marker for the future success or failure of the emerging generation is the preschool application.

The current generation of five-year olds are not yet touched by daily macro-economic discussions about job numbers, stimulus spending, federal deficits, interest rates, economic growth, banking collapse, or mortgage refinancing. And they too young to run the gauntlet of emerging adolescent tragedies like teen bullying and gang beat-downs, rampaging flash mobs, or suicides and murders.

But many 4 year olds face the daunting task of scoring well on an hour-long $510 intelligent test, the Early Childhood Admissions Assessment (ECAA), in order to qualify for admission to a preschool or kindergarten of their parents choice. The test, and the entire admissions process, is a much bigger deal than knowing your colors and counting to twenty.

To cite one NYC admissions consultant, “For the 21st century parent, test prep for 4 year olds is rampant.” Many of the highly sought schools also require an admission essay—written by the parents!

The admission tests include matching shapes, numbers, visual analogies and concept groups. An example: zippers, eyes, locks—things that open and close. The Educational Research Bureau (ERB), an 80+ year old organization, dominates the world of preschool admission testing. ERB offers several instruments, including one computer-based assessment that changes the learning style and level of following questions based on the child's previous answer. While testing is secure, pirated copies of the WPPSI-III, a widely used test administered by ERB, are being sold on the internet for $3,000.

Bright Kids, a NYC based service, offers tutoring and test preparation to 4 year olds at $145 a session. They have a waiting list. One of the main skills taught? Listening skills. Young students must understand the question to answer accurately. They must listen attentive to strangers for the hour it takes to complete the individual tests. The stakes are high: as many as 70 preschoolers maybe vying for each admission slot at high demand pre schools. Nationwide, nearly 55% of 4 year olds are enrolled in preschools. Aristotle's Circle, founded by an MIT grad in 2008, has a comprehensive program of advisers, tutors, and a preparation book that parallels very closely the items on the actual testing instrument, developed in part by psychologists who had experience with the real thing.

A year's expense for a 3 year old may cost more then a year's tuition at an elite college. In NYC, tuition routinely runs $15 – 20,000 a year, with some schools topping out in the $28 – 35,000 range. (Tuition assistance is rarely available.) Even radical activist, Angela Davis' old pre school is charging $29,150 a year. And at Horace Mann, the former pre school of NY Governor Elliot Spitzer, the cost to follow his early foot steps is $34,050.

If parents change their minds after signing an attendance contract, in some cases, schools will hold them responsible for the entire year's tuition. One NYC couple forked over $20,000 to their initial choice private school after deciding to send their pre preschooler to a highly ranked public program after their child was accepted; the school held them to the conditions of their contract.

To navigate the admissions process, consultant firms like Manhattan Private School Advisors are signing up new parent clients at $18 – 24,000 a year. And if your child is lucky enough to complete preschool, don't forget the sterling silver preschool ring (which can be kept in the adult's jewelry box.)

Even the most careful parents are not immune from the horror stories. An annual favorite is school staff serving kids anti-freeze as Kool-aid as one Arkansas school did in 2009. And in Florida, a 4 year old pulled a baggie of pot out of his backpack, showing it to classmates as his brother's. The school immediately banned backpacks.

The remareable experience of the Perry School, a public inner city preschool established in the 1960s to raise the IQ scores of poverty based, inner city youth in a Michigan city, might prove instructive to parents feeling desperate about their preschoolers future. The study followed successive classes of Perry students for three decades, tracking them against a similar cohort of students from the same city with out preschool experience. At every point, by every measure, during elementary school, high school, adult life, and career matrices, the Perry students consistently and widely out performed their peers, from homework to home ownership.

Yet their preschool experiences never raised their IQ scores. Their gains showed up in their achievements, not in their test scores. It seems the experience of exposing young children to structure and learning in a peer community with good teachers and strong parent involvement and effective school leaders has as an greater effect on life achievement than testing and selecting for “innate” or developmental skills or school pedigree.

Another famous assessment study involved marshmallows. Young students were given the choice of having a single marshmallow right away or waiting for an unspecified period and having two. The children who were able to wait the 15 minutes years later scored an average 210 points higher on the old SAT.

A NYT article contained a prescient comment that goes to the heart of the pre school testing fury: “Modern parents are destroying their children.”

Thanks for reading. /wr

(All photos, fair use,)


A Clear Voice

Sometimes, above the incessant rhythm of media, a single voice rings clear. The video below is a clear voice, a young women pleading with the world to care about the planet. She challenges the governments and communities of the world to do better.

Her clear voice is worth hearing.

Click below, and please, please listen. I implore you.

As one listener, Ms Mayfly from Mississippi, said, her voice brings hope to our hearts.


Perlo bows to its readers and offers a rare peek at its back story

Southern Perlo is a blog that is carefully crafted, independent, and listens to feedback. Lately, because Perlo has seen no cause for alarm in Barack's actions at the summit, readers have called its posts, “spin.” Southern Perlo is not interested in weak, unsupported arguments that don't weigh conclusions, ignore effects, and leave out facts. Perlo avoids the daily diet of spin offered by pundits and hacks. Southern Perlo really does enjoy promoting debate but disdains instant labels.

But Perlo was labeled spin when I suggested Barack's bow, as seen by the rest of the world by its own report, from heads of states to cab drivers and journalists, was not seen in the myopic way that many in the US saw the bow. I called the bow a bow. It was a bow. Most of Perlo's readers agree. Where many differ is in the meaning of that bow.

The position taken by Perlo is that, internationally, it was a tempest in a teapot. Perlo stated the bow was without meaning or signal to most citizens and heads of state who simply no longer look at the world through the old rules. Many readers disagreed. They insisted that the old rules still apply, and Barack had violated those rules.

Now, Perlo encourages an open conversation, it invites everyone to comment, it thrives on other points of view. Perlo is respectful, eager to look at any issue, including the bow, from all sides.

Yet, Perlo does not spin. Perlo is more like a justice who may agree with the decision/ruling/conclusion, but offers its own opinion and reasons for the ruling. When Perlo supports the majority, it concurs for its own reasons—not to hack, spin, conceal, or manipulate.

Perlo two main tools to analyze acts and ferret out meaning are history and culture.

Hence, the Obama bow was discussed in the content of Jordan's Queen Noor, who is seen in a photo with her hair up in a clip, her hand extended to a non-Muslim male--a huge violation of the rules of Islamic culture and tradition, for which some have been beheaded. Perlo looked at handshakes including Mandela and De Klerk's. When seen through the lens of history and culture, for Perlo, Obama's recent actions, lose much of their incitement.

To Perlo, these acts seem to be part of the changing course of history. Some readers agreed. Some didn't. Bearded Gnome from Des Moines was passionate in his defense of tradition, pointing to Barack's “inexperience,” and he offered a well defended position. RickL from Des Moines thinks I missed the point entirely and reminded readers of the importance of principles in guiding our national life. is afraid we are losing our freedoms as our thinking and leadership shifts. ----- in Montgomery wanted to know why the Administration just didn't admit that it was a bow.

Rzarbacker from Montgomery, AL thought Barack showed great leadership, and that “downright mean spiritedness” runs off of him like “water off a duck's back.” Iowana, from Des Moines, essentially shares his sentiments. Elmrmdd from Des Moines always makes me smile with his examples and comparisons, but doesn't think much of Barack's prospects or leadership, and thinks Barack's green energy policies might put us back in the “horse and buggy.”

Nashville, San Francisco, Detroit, Cincinnati, and Savannah have been silent, at least in Perlo's comments.

Now, every writer—and Perlo post—does have a back story, a loyalty that provides the motivation for what ends up in print. What shapes Perlo view, through, is not the desire to “spin,” but experiences of lived history. Perlo's conclusions have to do with the fact that I post from Charleston.

So, here's a rare peek behind the scenes at how life in Charleston influences Perlo's outlook, logic, style, and conclusions. In fact, it was a portrait of our first President, George Washington, painted in 1791, hanging in Charleston's city hall, inside the council's second floor chambers, that directed and impacted Perlo's thinking about the Obama bow.

Charleston has a larger than life-sized portrait of George Washington (16 feet tall) that Washington posed for. Washington is wearing a dress military uniform, with epaulets and gloves, his right arm extended, his hand resting on a brass walking stick, his size 16 feet in leather boots firmly planted on the terra firma of American soil.

Washington is standing on the shore of the Cooper River, and a boat is arriving to row him across the harbor to the city, whose distinct colonial American skyline of docks, buildings, houses, and churches are painted in the distance, below the towering Washington, on the far shore.

The portrait of Washington arriving in the city, commissioned by the city's father to commemorate Washington's actual visit to Charleston in May, 1791, also has a horse prominently featured in the painting. The image of the horse jars the viewer, and is the first hint that something is not quite right. The hind-quarter of the horse is facing forward, with the tail up. The head of the horse, facing to the rear, is laughing.

Think for a minute: to paint the first President, George Washington, and add a horse in the near background with its tail up sends a heck of a direct signal, undebatable, to all who are watching. Especially in the agrarian society of early America, a society in which manners had far more importance and impact than today. The painting violates every rule of decorum and respect. It slaps Charleston cold. It “disses” George. And it doesn't say much for the horse, either.

The regal, patriotic splendor and pride of this magnificent portrait is shredded and brushed away by this horse's hindquarters intruding under Washington's outstretched gloved hand, its tail up, for all to see.

James Trumbull, the son of a Connecticut governor who served with Washington in the Revolutionary War, who personally observed the battle at Bunker Hill and who was actually appointed Washington's personal aide, painted the portrait. He got Washington to pose, and after it was finished, Trumbull painted in the opaque horse with the tail up. The perspective down from the tail, through the horse's hind legs, is the city of Charleston--as defined by location of the steeple of the city's oldest and most prominent church directly beneath the tail! That steeple is in the same vertical plane as the place where the tail is attached, and with the impeding action signaled by the tail being raised. Those below should cover and duck.

That portrait appalled Washington. He wrote the city saying no horse was there when he posed. Washington apologized to the city despite the fact that he was impugned. That portrait was a statement by the artist which Charleston to this day has proudly ignored. In fact the city's fathers hung the portrait in city hall's council chambers after 1802. Today, it rises behind the mayor's desk, hung in full view of the nine member council's desks. It does not, however, signal that the city is full of crap. Nor does it mean the city approves of being the butt end of a bad joke. It is not a sign of disrespect to Washington or a judgment on his leadership. It is not an example of the inexperience of the city's fathers, who won the first battle of the American Revolution, fought more battles than any other state, and included signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Their decision to hang this portrait was not an endorsement of Charleston becoming a national laughing stock.

It does mean, that in this city, whether it was Washington's portrait or slavery, citizens have mastered the art of ignoring the obvious, getting worked up only over real substance, fighting about real issues of freedom, being independent and going your own way, and letting time handle the worts and flaws of life's bruises and brushes. It does mean that whatever anyone does or thinks, in the long arc of history the wisdom and will of God will prevail by faith, even by a faith faltering and mean-spirited over minor issues, blind to injustice, or aimed at unwitting targets.

As the descendant of a mother whose grandfather was a slave and whose granddaughter, my daughter, graduated from Dartmouth and Tuck (Dartmouth's business school, one of only six African-Americans in her class!), I have learned not to sweat the small stuff. I take the long view, and try to keep a sense of humility by looking forward through history.

And if in the culture of the times, that unique perspective, learned in a city governed by a mayor and council under a commissioned portrait of Washington whose horse's raised tail covers the city straddled by its legs, if that perspective of laughing lightly at foibles, cherishing even the moments of beguiling madness, yet knowing all things weigh out in the end—if that is spin--then I am happy to take the long view.

(And I can't find a picture of the portrait to post!)

Keep reading! Thanks!


Requiem for The History Teller: On the Passing of John Hope Franklin John Hope Franklin, standing in front of the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke

I never met John Hope Franklin. But I came to know his warm, affable, slow-moving baritone voice that rippled with life as I read his books and essays, saw him in C-SPAN appearances and interviews, or listened to others describe his ideas and his unassuming personality that welcomed and touched millions. As a student, I marveled in his devotion and level-headed approach to history. Yesterday, by e-mails forwarded along the web, I found out that John Hope Franklin was dead.

John Hope Franklin grew orchids. He wrote books. He lectured. He taught at many colleges. He was the first African-American to be President of the American Historical Association, one of the first African-American department heads, appointed Chair of the History Department at Brooklyn College. By his own account, as a student at Fisk, he entered the library after hours to have additional time to study and write.

Foremost, John Hope Franklin was a scholar, a man whose quiet research and swift pen found a way to create a history that opened a door for a generation of activists and helped change the way the world viewed the African-American lived experience. His work, without fire and rhetoric, challenged the myths that blocked equality and opportunity. He opened doors undisputably by the quiet gathered force of his scholarship.

His book, From Slavery to Freedom, was an encyclopedia of facts about the African presence in America. His book gave slaves names; it assigned merits, described achievements; his book turned what was once a dark era into a source of proud hope. There in the pages that chronicled America's darkest moments was light and purpose, sweat and systemic thought, laughter and relief, love and faith, children to be rocked and taught, a world to be built.

By his quiet hand, I discovered slaves didn't settle or quit; they resisted even when they appeared to give in, they gathered their wits and step by step marked a path that lead to freedom, and that path had a hundred different directions and dimensions and acts.

John Hope Franklin seemed to know them all. At a time when other historians were arguing that cultural memory and higher order thinking was absent from slave life, that these human features had been broken by the Middle Passage and the “breaking” of the enslaved, John Hope Franklin offered quiet incontrovertable evidence to the contrary. He replaced historical myths with historical realities, one by one. One stone at a time.

John Hope Franklin, his father an Oklahoma lawyer and his mother an elementary school teacher, knew and was friends with the great names of many eras, from W.E.B. DuBois to Martin Luther King, Jr.; from Ralph Bunche to Nelson Mandela. He was named for John Hope, a legendary Atlanta educator and President of the institution known today as Morehouse College.

His achievement is made more remarkable by his pioneering role. When he began chronicling history, the benchmarks and standards were missing and the terriotory was uncharted. There was no consensus and little debate about the how the history he studied should be researched, written, interpreted, or weighed. As he wrote and taught, he set the bar in place. In his time, John Hope Franklin was guided only by his inner heart, assessing and weighing truth all alone, spinning history from the character of his own soul. Yet for him this never seemed like a burden and he never seemed alone as he inspired his students in his classroom and beyond, to be guided by the light of inquiry that rose above ideology or blame or shame. He taught by example that history was a force for change and healing, and at its best, brought people together on common ground.

Never a tv pundit or a sound bite fanatic, this quiet man had a lot to say.

And every day, John Hope Franklin informs my work, influences my choices, directs my thinking, and shares my joy of success when I find a new historical discovery whose interpretation is shaped by his quiet passion for using history to restore common sense and to tell the story of those who took mother wit to as a source of courage and faith, and applied its strength to block despair and suffering by the force of a timeless will.

Today, John Hope Franklin is a part of that timeless will, telling the stories of a dimension of time and human experience we call history. His speciality was the American story. His concentration was the South and the African-American experience. Because of his quiet dignity, his peerless eye, his steady voice that arranged human hardships and triumphs in their proper places, his history telling is a part of a million voices and hearts, found in scholars works and children books, in the oral tradition of the porch and the e-mail, bound to the fabric of the country he celebrated and honored by a craft that was earnest and honest and pared down to make plain the complex, inner workings of a system and a region covered in tales that hid the more humane truth his work revealed. From scattered seeds, he grew a compelling harvest guided always by his own heart to set a standard that changed the course of American life. We all owe him much. But God has granted him, no doubt, his greatest wish.

At 94, John Hope Franklin has entered history.

John Hope Franklin, 1915 - 2009


Heirloom Seeds Produce Garden Treats

Saturday is the day Southern Perlo shares the old ways, preserving the best of the past while looking to the future. Here, winter is past, spring in South Carolina is near. Its feel is in the air, announced in the changing quality of light.

The music this morning is the shouting joy of the Hammond organ, a urban instrument that dominated the Lounge scene, from the 50s through the 70s. But memory takes us to the countryside, to country auctions in search of heirlooms.

When heirlooms enter the conversation, thoughts turn quickly to family treasures--antique dressers and beds, handmade quilts, old photographs, small porcelain statures on side tables—the magic of things that brighten the memory of time's gentle drift.

Heirlooms can also be grown in the ground and served at the table. Their lasting charm of heirloom plants are in the invisible hands of history that preserved the seeds and the extraordinary flavors and textures their harvest brings to the daily table. Food is a fast growing category of heirloom, both in recipes and seeds.

Heirloom seeds celebrate the long era of family farming in every corner of the country. Heirloom seeds recall the unseen mystery of creation and offer the best of nature's essentials. The finger nail sized seeds enter the ground, and with water and sunlight, in as little as 80 to 100 days, provide edible foodstuffs rich in diverse genetics and culture. The flavors, taste, and “juice” content of the harvest of heirloom seeds is often stunning.

And each seed has a social history and family story that is a part of the American landscape. ATexas A & M professor pointed out, “heirloom seeds are living antiques.”

Openly pollinated, heirloom seeds will reproduce the parent plant exactly each season. Hybird seeds will not, lowering the quality of the yield and harvest.

The collectors of heirloom seeds save knowledge, history, and culture, improve health, increase biodiversity.

An organization offering heirloom seeds and dedicated expanding heirloom gardening and farming is the Georgia-based Southern Seed Legacy (SSL). SSL grew out of a collaboration between two University of Georgia professors who wanted to expand and protect biodiversity. SSL operates a seeds bank, Pass along Southern Seed (PASS), that offers more than 400 heirloom seeds for farmers to plant and grow.

Iowa has a stateside program for community supported agriculture. Residents can check to see if ant farms are offering heirloom fruits and produce.

Dr. David Bradshaw who worked at Clemson University for many years began South Carolina's collection of heirloom vegetables. The South Carolina Foundation Seed Association, a non-profit co-op, has taken over his work. SCFSA offers one of the most extensive lists of heirloom seeds in the South for purchase by mail. Their website has great stories.

Here's a brief glimpse of the Foundation's offerings.

Review this list of $2 seed pack (25) favorites (my edits):

Loudermilk Butterbeans–It is half snow white with the remainder spotted in sharp contrast with black. They produce until fall frost.

Lynch Collection Butterbeans--Source: Dr. Chris Inhulsen, Montezuma , GA. The most distinctive, vast array of colored patterns on the seed. The surprise comes when shelling each pod reveals their myriad of colors. Best eaten fresh cooked from the garden,

Old Timey Beans--Source: Jessie Lee Hicks, Central, SC. Offers the most diversely colorful array of seeds of any we grow.

Rattlesnake Beans--Source: Jessie Lee Hicks, Central, SC. This bean probably derived its name from the dark brown and light brown to cream mottling on the seed reminiscent of a rattlesnake's color. It also has striking purple striped markings on the growing pods.

African Field Peas--Source: Unknown. This variety of southern cowpea has been grown along the coastal barrier islands since long before the Civil War. They are thought to have come from Africa with some of the early slaves. Tiny seed make excellent wild game food.

Toni's Red Field Pea–Source: Dan Bailey, Oakway , SC. Mr. Bailey's great, great grandfather grew this red and white field pea variety before the Civil War.

Turtle Peas--Source: J.E. Hernandez family, Lexington , KY. This black-seeded variety came from the Pinar del Rio Province in western Cuba to Kentucky with Mr. Hernandez over 75 years ago. It has been in his family for well over 100 years.

Georgia White Hot Pepper--Source: Fincannon family, Central, SC. As this pepper ages, it becomes more pungent and takes on a lighter white color. Later, it changes from white, to orange, to dark red in sharp contrast to the deep green foliage. May also be planted as an ornamental.

African Surprise Pepper--This is an exciting new one from Gabon , Africa where it is grown as a staple, in addition to being quite hot and prolific.

African Winter Squash--Source: Bub Burns, Koininia , GA. This squash was transported from Zaire in 1980 as an heirloom. It is a very hardy and disease resistant variety. will root into the ground all along the runner stems.

Pumpkins--Connecticut Field--This Native American heirloom, predating 1700, produces 15-25 pound twelve inch globe shaped fruit with flattened ends. Perfect for Halloween decorating.

Pink Brandywine Heirloom--85 days, Amish heirloom rated by many as the best-tasting tomato. Flavor best described as "very rich, loud, and distinctively spicy". Very large, often over 1 pound, the fruits are bright pink.

(fair use)

Use these heirloom beans and peppers for a hardy chili, in salads, steamed with other vegetables, and for snacks and sandwiches.

If you grow heirloom seeds, remember to germinate them carefully for maximum success. Please contribute seeds to the exchanges and banks springing up around the country.

When it comes to heirloom seeds, the country has only been gone to scratch the surface! This year, put history in your garden, and enjoy the incredible taste of the gentle drift of time!

Thanks for reading! Southern Perlo is posted from Kudu Coffee (African coffees and good conversation!), in Charleston, SC. In a Southern voice, it gathers stories and views for local communities, and was recently featured on the Lou Dobbs radio show. (Perlo is rice enriched by local bounty and carefully crafted to enhance its pleasure and value; enjoyed by all.)

“From the Front Porches of Charleston: The Election of Barack Obama,” is the first e-book about Obama in Charleston, and it's free! Walter Rhett writes about the election through parallels of Charleston's history. Rhett edited over 100 photo pages from around the country. Download free: . (Pass the link to others, please.)


Zeer Pots Use Green Techology to Reduce African Hunger

It's Saturday, the day for American classics from the early days of jazz and rhythm and blues. WGBO.FM out of Newark, NJ has a great web link with superb sound and radio hosts who really know the music. Little Milton is the featured blues artist this morning, but the joy is in the bass lines, rhythm guitar licks, and kicking fills that are a lost art today, not to mention the sweet, soulful saxophone solos by masters of its language. The jumping jive and kinetic swing returns the body to a time when feet were fast and light. If you have a favorite “old school” web link for music, please let me know.

It's time for high school science fairs, and here's a green experiment that is easy, fun, and safe, and should score winning points at school or home. It's call the Zeer pot. The Zeer pot is a simple clay refrigerator. The Zeer pot was invented in 1995, by a Nigerian science teacher, Mohammed Bah Abba. The pot provides a method of cooling for food and drinks that doesn't depend on electricity. The Zeer pot is portable, and only requires on clean sand, a small amount of water, and two terracotta pots (without drain holes), one larger than the other so the smaller one can sit inside the larger one.

The Zeer pot is now in wide use throughout Africa. In countries from Nigeria to the Sudan, it has helped prevent hunger and starvation, especially among children and the elderly. The life of tomatoes kept in a Zeer pot go from 2 days to 20 days! Okra goes from 4 days to 17!

To make your Zeer pot, place a layer of sand in the bottom of the larger pot. The layer should bring the rim of the smaller pot up the same level as the larger pot. Make sure the smaller rim is not higher; it may be lower. Now carefully add sand (use a funnel, row up a newspaper, fold cardboard, etc.) to fill in the space between the pots (1 – 2 inches ideally).

Next, place the Zeer pot in the shade, in a well ventilated area. Now carefully add water to the fill sand, until the water “pools” on the top (indicating the sand is filled with water).

Place food and drink--apples, oranges, bottled drinks, bread, baloney, condiments, etc.--inside the smaller terracotta pot.

For the science experiment, place thermometers inside the pot and outside in the ambient air. Register the temperature readings each hour, and chart the differences to determine the effectiveness of the the Zeer pot as a green cooling device. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the Zeer pot.

The pot works on the principles of evaporation. The porous walls of the inner pot absorbs water from the sand. This transfer allows the water to evaporate from the inner walls, providing a cooling effect. Try the experiment at different humidity levels (easily found on the web at weather sites). Lower levels of humility should work better. Also cover the pot with a wet tea towel or a piece of cotton fabric. Does that improve the cooling effect? Try to measure the effects on windy days. The faster evaporation, caused by the wind, will heighten the cooling effect.

And after science, you have a neat green cooler for backyard snacks and drinks!

Thanks for reading! Southern Perlo is posted from Kudu Coffee (African coffees and good conversation!), in Charleston, SC. In a Southern voice, it gathers stories and views for local communities, and was recently featured on the Lou Dobbs radio show. (Perlo is rice enriched by local bounty to enhance its pleasure and value, carefully crafted; stirred by experience, enjoyed by all.)

“From the Front Porches of Charleston: The Election of Barack Obama,” is the first e-book about Obama in Charleston, and it's free! Charleston writer Walter Rhett writes about the election through parallels of Charleston's history. Rhett edited over 100 photo pages. Download free at: .


An Open Conversation with Eric Holder

I am Black and I don't agree with Eric Holder. I think Americans, North and South and everywhere have open and honest conversations about values and ideas of groups with different skin colors, and other traits of diversity. They talk about black-on-black crime, the lost generation of young African-American men, the outrageous pregnancy rates of African-American teenagers, the foul insensitive language of gangsta hip-hop. Sometimes the honesty is not so nice. Sometimes it stereotypes and slurs. But other times people ask geniune questions about the attitudes and views about the African-American part of the American mosaic.During the American early years, the voices of abolitionists and slaveholders hotly and openly debated "race" as a legal, pyschological, and human condition. The debate was carried on in churches, legislative chanbers, and meeting halls--as well as coffee houses, stage coaches, and family dinner tables. Race is an old topic in America, and many think its time to give it a rest.As an African-American, I enjoy the challenge of climbing out of my own skin and seeing the world wholly. I refuse to play victim, or to fit into a box. And I certainly never speak threateningly or shrilly to call out others for their voices or their silence. The experience of being an African-American in America has been a journey of wonder. The discovery of insights has matured my understanding beyond blind allegiance to the closed doors and discrimination of my early years. Yet surprisingly, many folk believe that African-Americans lose their critical eye when assessing the positions or ideas held by others with whom they are linked by common history and blood. These folk think the African-American response is often knee-jerk, unthinking and uncritical. Eric Holder is currently—and rightly—their poster child. His loud, brash, big brush wolf statement probably won't draw anyone out to sensitively and sensibly dialogue about how race or other diverse traits affects individuals and communities. For example, SwampGator wonders in Beaufort, SC why people who differ with Obama politically are often labeled racist? Well, I don't think legitimate differences are examples of racism. In fact, I wrote a book ( (e-book, 147 p, 100 photo pages; free!) about the bitter conflicts and comments directed at Obama during the campaign and specifically said it wasn't racism that lay behind the attacks and pancake boxes and cartoons and school bus chants and threats. I invite Swamp to join those like me who can discuss differences without labels, and examine positions and ideas on merits. I'll happy to talk and blog with Swamp and others who want to engage in lively exchange about political differences or race. In fact, I'll start the conversation. The common history of African-American heritage is a good place to launch into the discussion. One thing African-Americans have in common is that many outside of the group see the group as having the same attitudes and views! Many outside the group think the majority of African-Americans think alike. I see it constantly on my blogs.Like jazz, or cooking, African-Americans are diverse!That's why I am brave enough to say I disagree with Eric Holder! I think he is wrong. Certainly, the more than 60 million whites who voted for Barack on November 8, as he was attacked as elite, naive, inexperienced, Muslim, hate monger, and scary socialist with the wrong friends, showed plenty of courage. They spoke up loudly and boldly.And if you think they were all stupid, and that's your point of view, it doesn't make you racist.But it doesn't mean I agree with you!