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Edward Johnson: Does the Atlanta School Board Know Who Dr. Alonzo A. Crim Was?

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Ed Johnson fights day after day to try to budge the Atlanta School Board, which is following the disastrous path of corporate reform, which has failed everywhere. The Atlanta School Board is controlled by individuals who formerly were part of Teach for America, and it is their dream to turn Atlanta in a portfolio district with many privately managed schools.

He writes:


Does pursuing “Excellent Schools” make the APSL fit to even say the name Alonzo A. Crim?


“The anticipated closure of Crim High School creates a need to formally recognize the legacy of Dr. Alonzo A. Crim, a former Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools and the first African-American to lead the school district in that role. The Board appointed an ad hoc committee to make a recommendation for honoring Dr. Crim. … [T]he ad hoc committee is recommending that the Atlanta Public Schools central office be named ‘The Alonzo A. Crim Center for Learning and Leadership.’”


Yes, it is proper and fitting for the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) central office to carry the name “Alonzo A. Crim.”  That need never be the question.


However, with is not proper and fitting is the obviously limited and racialist reason the APSL (Atlanta Board of Education members and Superintendent) state for formally recognizing Dr. Crim’s legacy.


Stating only that Dr. Crim was “the first African-American to lead” APS is insignificant in the face of the fact that Dr. Crim was, first and foremost, an “education man,” or educationist, unlike any one of them.


You see, Dr. Crim understood that people such as the APSL “who concentrate on standards, goals, performance, achievement, and such get school reform wrong.”  Dr. Crim understood “such people opt for a demand model of learning rather than a support model of learning.”


Dr. Crim understood that people such as the APSL “who concentrate on standards, goals, performance, achievement, and such get improvement wrong.”  Dr. Crim understood “such people opt for rigor and maximum difficulty rather than optimum difficulty.  Harder is better, they believe.”


Dr. Crim understood that people such as the APSL “who concentrate on standards, goals, performance, achievement, and such get teaching and learning wrong.”  Dr. Crim understood “such people opt to focus on uniform and specific skills rather than understanding.”


Dr. Crim understood that people such as the APSL “who concentrate on standards, goals, performance, achievement, and such get evaluation wrong.”  Dr. Crim understood “such people opt for critical reliance on standardized test results and all manner of measures rather than helping kids become better thinkers and learners.”


And Dr. Crim understood that people such as the APSL “who concentrate on standards, goals, performance, achievement, and such utterly misunderstand motivation.”  Dr. Crim understood “such people opt to force kids to overly focus on how well they are doing rather than on what they are doing.”  Dr. Crim understood “such people believe excellence means being top-ranked.”


How do I know Dr. Crim understood this about people such as the APSL?


Because I asked him, as did the AJC, at my invitation.


You see, back on 23 March 2000, Dr. Crim listened to Social Psychologist and former teacher Alfie Kohn lecture on and argue these understandings at Georgia State University.


At the end of Dr. Kohn’s lecture, I approached Dr. Crim, introduced myself as President of the Atlanta Area Deming Study Group, and asked his opinion of the understandings Dr. Kohn made.  To my delight, Dr. Crim replied: “Alfie is right on.  He gets it!”


With those words, Dr. Crim renewed my hope for the future of public education, in general, and Atlanta Public Schools, in particular.  Still, I had one concern: has Dr. Crim the moral and ethical courage to publicly lend his voice to the matter?


To put my concern to rest, I contacted the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reporter who covered Dr. Kohn’s lecture with the idea to interview Dr. Crim.


The AJC reporter subsequently interviewed Dr. Crim, and reported: “‘I think [Kohn is] right on the money,’ said one member of the audience, former Atlanta school Superintendent Alonzo Crim, now a GSU education professor.  ‘Just as Kohn said, we’re trying to go back to the ’20s and make our schools factories.’”  (“Uphill battle: Many teachers think using standardized tests to measure specific objectives will change education for the worse,” AJC, 16 April 2000.)


Obviously, the APSL do not “get it!”


For if they did “get it,” they would know their chasing after implementing The City Fund’s so-called portfolio of schools idea that is utterly and totally void of educational value and calling what they do “Creating a System of Excellent Schools” flies in the face of Dr. Crim’s legacy.


Words simply refuse to come for describing just how unfit the APSL are to even speak Dr. Crim’s name, let alone THEY put his name on anything.


The APSL putting the name Alonzo A. Crim on Atlanta Public Schools central office facility is on the order of David Duke saying he “has respect for” Spike Lee.  I mean, gosh damn!


Compounding the matter are members of what The Black Agenda Report say is the Black Mis-Leadership Class.  Without question, a chief among the Black Mis-Leadership Class members is Dr. Michael L. Lomax, President and CEO of United Negro College Fund (UNCF).


Lomax was a cheerleader for school reformer Beverly Hall, and we know how godawful that turned out.  Lomax was a cheerleader for school reformer Michelle Rhee, and we know how disastrously “rheeform” turned out.  In short, whether he realizes it or not, will admit it or not, Lomax’s record is one of continuing efforts to destroy the very thing that allowed the UNCF to come to be—you know, that thing called democracy.  His op-ed The Atlanta Voice recently published, entitled “I support APS’s upcoming vote on school-rating system,” proves the point, yet again.


Still, the mindboggling question is, how does such educated ignorance come to be?


Unlike Dr. Crim and the renewed hope he wrought for the future of Atlanta Public Schools, the currently serving Atlanta Board of Education and Superintendent, in partnership with Michael Lomax and other Black Mis-Leadership Class members, have utterly destroyed that hope.


They are nothing on the order of being the education man Dr. Crim was.


And, in their arrogance, they refuse to learn to know it.  Why?


“[Dr. W. Edwards] Deming was a visionary, whose belief in continual improvement led to a set of transformational theories and teachings that changed the way we think about quality, management, and leadership. He believed in a world where there is joy in learning and joy in work—where ‘everyone will win.’”


Ed Johnson

Advocate for Quality in Public Education

Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | [email protected]


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