The SHSAT is fine. Here’s What’s Not

Full disclosure: I’m a Brooklyn Tech alum and I’m quite proud of the fact that I had what it took to get into an elite school. The primary reason why I got in wasn’t because of expensive test prep or a legacy of attendance at competitive schools; my single, working class Mom enrolled me and my siblings in an after school program called Science Skills, which taught advanced science and math to elementary school aged children. By the time I took the SHSAT, I had already passed the Biology, Sequential I & II Regents and I was only 13.

You can’t start prep at 12 and think that’s enough. The quality of education leading up to the age of eligibility to take the specialized high school exam has to be on par with what’s on the exam, otherwise the trends will continue. And I should add, it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when Brooklyn Tech was almost 40% Black/African American. It would be interesting if a study was done to find out what attributed to the shift, but that would take work and might not yield an answer as simple as ‘dump the test!’. Truth is, getting rid of the test doesn’t necessarily guarantee diversity. A brief, from the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, found that of all the reviewed alternate entrance methods, only one: admittance of the top percentage of 8th graders, affected the demographics (but was insignificant in the standing of Black students). So, why not just use that alternative? Problem solved!…Not really. Here’s three reasons why:

Not a lot of 8th graders take it

Approximately, 25,000 out of the 80,000 eligible students take the SHSAT citywide. That’s roughly a third of 8th graders and of that amount, 20% receive offers, representing about 5,000 students total. It is quite admirable to want greater representation of Black and Hispanic students, but they have to take the test first. Of the 591 schools included in the data, 137 had ten or fewer students take the test and 470 schools had 5 or fewer students receive offers. When you’re surrounded by those odds, it’s understandable if many kids don’t bother (see nyc-shsat-data).

Not everyone wants to go

There’s only eight specialized high schools (excluding LaGuardia) and 430 other district high schools across the city and this number doesn’t include private or charter schools. Children have varied interests (and quite a few options) and they are not entirely centered on STEM. Some get into one of the elite 8 and elect not to go, others would prefer schools closer to home or that require less travel.

Not everyone is ready to get in

It’s been years since I was a student at Tech so I can’t speak to the academic standards they have today, but I am comfortable saying that not everyone is ready for it. Specialized high schools are for a certain type of student. Getting in is one hurdle, but staying in and succeeding is another. An often referenced statistic is that 10 NYC schools represents 1,200 of the near five thousand offers made. What does that say about how middle schools are preparing students for the rigors of an intense secondary education? The 800-pound gorilla that is yet to be addressed is inequity in middle school education; for the 2018-2019 school year, the entire borough of the Bronx had 7 gifted and talented programs, District 2 in Manhattan had 8. This kind of disparity suggests that children aren’t being given equitable foundations that would spring board them to success in an elite high school and that issue is more worthy of scrutiny than any standardized test.

Bonus: Not all of it is segregation

The term segregation has been used heavily (and inaccurately) in this debate to polarize the conversation. Segregation is not a choice. The test is. The dominance of Asian students in the city’s specialized high schools has been going on for years and to suggest that state law which requires the test is a de facto form of racism is dishonest . To imply that Black and Hispanic students are being kept out by the test (which was harder years ago and, as I mentioned at one point, was in place when Tech had a majority Black student body) ignores history and offers overly simplified answers that ignores most of the reasons above.

And Down Will Come Tati?

A Red Flag Review of Viral Video

+Never have I been more grateful for my sloth in posting an article as I am today; when news broke last week of ‘Bye Sister,’ (YouTube makeup guru, Tati Westbrook’s video about James Charles), I wasn’t ready to give something off my cultural radar 43 minutes of my life, but when I finally did, Charles decided to release his own video (also over 40 minutes) clarifying the incident which led to their very public blowup.

When I heard what was going on from my preteen cousins, I was put off by the fact that a grown woman was coming for someone nearly half of her age. It felt cruel and juvenile. What’s worst was the almost celebratory energy surrounding his downfall. Westbrook’s accusations that Charles was manipulating straight men into thinking they were gay and using his fame and power to strong arm people into having sex with him rang false to me. Mind you, he’s only 19. Teenage boys trying to have sex by any means necessary is not unfamiliar to me and while not always savory, it isn’t exactly predatory (unless we’re talking about the underage). Her comments were inflammatory to say the least and led to an unprecedented 3+ million subscriber drop for Charles which included celebs like Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian West and Ariana Grande.

But lo and behold, in the midst of the smoke, a clearing: ‘No More Lies‘ dropped Saturday and in it Charles refutes all the claims made by Tati, point by point and in the process, earned over a million subscribers back. If ever there was a case to be made for not rushing to judgement, this is it. Initially, I was going to make a point by point comparison of their videos, but I decided to just focus on the red flags in hers, specifically the points she made that had me going, ‘Hmmm, say what now?’:

🚩 she doesn’t just spill the tea, she scalds with it – Anytime someone tells another person’s story, my red flag antennae go up. Tati told all this boy’s business, including how she and her husband helped up his earnings per video from $90 to $2,500. She mentioned a million dollar deal that they helped negotiate for him. She discussed private conversations she had with him, one in particular in which she said, ‘I told you this is not good and you could have your career destroyed.’ Considering the effects of her video, I wonder now if that was a threat or a warning? 

🚩 details, details…except when it comes to her – Another red flag: vagueness. From what I take from both her and Charles’ video, this situation was triggered by his posting an ad for Sugar Bear Hair, a competitor to Westbrook’s Halo Beauty. She was understandably upset by his decision, but her explanation for why she needed to address this publicly is not as clear. She says that she could have just stopped talking to him, but decided to address it through YouTube because she ‘didn’t feel safe talking about this privately’ and didn’t want her words twisted and used against her. She wasn’t clear about why she felt afraid which leaves viewers to come to their own (likely, not good) conclusions. It’s a serious case of allowing people’s tendency to presume the worst do the work for you which is a nasty passive aggressive tactic.

🚩 all good, all good…except for him – I found it peculiar how Tati described James’ ‘unwilling’ pursuits as individuals ’emerging into adulthood who don’t quite have everything figured out,’ but neglected to see that those words fit Charles to a T. She opens her video with clips of praise for Charles, describes herself as a role model, talks at length about the amount of help she and her husband gave Charles, even stating that her role in their relationship was more from a parental stance, but would you raise an eyebrow or a glass at a ‘parent’ that shades their ‘child’ in the most visible way possible? Are we happy or horrified when we spot a parent spanking their child in the street? Warning sign: self righteous shading is a one dimensional justification for a personal takedown; it sounds a lot like, ‘I’m such a good person because (I do this, I don’t do this, people tell me so) and this person over here is bad because (they do this, they don’t do this, people say so)’. Checking people from a pedestal is a MAJOR red flag. Checking people who are unrelated to the issue, as she did Charles’ mother, another violation. In the video, Westbrook mentions that Christie (James’ mother) said to her, ‘thank you for looking after my boy.’ After listing his ‘flaws’, she claps back, ‘ok, I’m handing that back to you.’ As if playing mentor is akin to guardianship. The unmitigated gall is jaw dropping.

🚩 what it looks like and what it is are two different things – towards the end of her video, Westbrook gets into the ad that started it all and her beliefs that she didn’t really think Charles was in danger, that if he was in danger, he could have left and that the deal with Sugar Bear Hair must have been in the works because companies don’t just have contracts laying around to give to people. All valid assumptions, but still, conjecture at best. She has no credible reasoning for thinking that his story about linking up with SBH at Coachella was untrue other than her feelings and that’s fine, but that doesn’t make it lie. 

As it stands now, ‘No More Lies’ has racked up over 29 million views in two days. It didn’t make YouTube’s trending list, which is weird considering the numbers. Checked it today and he’s been flagged for a copyright claim which might explain why his video is not on the list and interestingly enough, Tati’s game changing ‘Bye Sister’ was unlisted (meaning that you won’t find it in searches, but you can watch it if you have the link or in my case, have watched it already and it’s in your viewing history). Considering how detailed and proof riddled his response video is, I wonder who would benefit most from its reach being limited? And to not break my own rule and be vague, I’ll answer my own question: Tati Westbrook.

Morals to Monetization: ‘Denise’ edition

Hopefully, you glanced at Twitter to see the short life of the ‘You were at my wedding Denise’ meme, which started as Meghan McCain’s short, dry reply to an acquaintance’s criticism of The View and, at the time, seemingly McCain as well. The turnaround was quick:

Uh-oh, I didn't think she'd see this...
McAllister clarified, saying that the show was stupid and her co-workers were the idiots, not McCain.


And the reversal even quicker:

Wait a minute! I’m actually the one who’s been victimized here!

For those checking the time, the apology was yesterday and by the end of the business day today, shirts were ready for shipment. I’m not mad at the hustle, virality goes as quick as it arrives. What I’m mad at is the manner in which she decides that getting called out for social hypocrisy (you could have not gone to her wedding, Denise) is actually a form of emotional manipulation. She’s the person who comes to your dinner party, cleans her plate, asks for seconds and then you find out she was making fun of your cooking abilities.

‘You were at my wedding Denise’ – what to say to the other face your ‘friend’ is talking out of.

A Bittersweet Moment in #WomensHistoryMonth

Angel Rios made history when she, and another wrestler (Jaslynn Gallegos), became the first girls to place at Colorado’s state wrestling tournament, in fourth and fifth place, respectively. In the handful of articles that I read about the event, that should have been the short summary of a pretty amazing moment, but no, I was treated to this and this instead. A couple of issues I had with both articles:

Her victory is about him.

Both articles suggested quite flagrantly that Rios wouldn’t be up there if Johnston had not have withdrawn. They also make a point of mentioning that he forfeited to her four times in the past, leading readers to wonder, how many of her wins did she earn? No mention is made of her skills, her prowess. It’s not even considered that perhaps she would have beaten him based on her previous performances and past opponents. No, as stated in the Denver Post headline, ‘wrestler made history when he knocked himself out of the state tournament.’

His unwillingness to compete is heroic

Read through the comments in both articles and Johnston is lauded as having a ‘good head on his shoulders,’ and being a ‘gentleman’. I would expect that if someone flat out refused to face a difficult situation head on that would make him cowardly, but because his decision is morally/faith based, we call it something else: honorable. I understand his point about not wanting to ‘treat a girl that way,’ and I also respect his decision to walk away. It’s his choice, but for the sake of this article, I’m going to add a little context: she’s there because she’s good enough, not because someone wanted to make a statement about gender equality. Next, wrestling is not assault. This is a controlled form of combat. There’s a ref, officials, protective gear. This isn’t a bar brawl that spilled into the streets. And finally, a missed opportunity to understand nuance: how would a person fight someone that they wanted to beat, but not harm? Is there a way to learn how to wrestle that he can maintain his dignity and hers? He’ll never learn (and we’ll never know) because he walked away.

No better place to compete

One thing both articles neglected to mention was that the CHSAA (the Colorado High School Activities Association), the governing body which oversees the state’s schools sports, doesn’t offer girls wrestling as a sanctioned sport. Meaning that though it is recognized (as it is offered as a pilot program), without sanctioning, there’s no postseason and tournament wins don’t count toward an official record. So at this stage, it’s not more than a glorified hobby. For Rios to wrestle at a level worthy of her skill, she needed to compete with the boys and not only did she compete, SHE WON!

I’m Sorry…so sorry

Liam Neeson, yesterday, gave an interview to the British newspaper, The Independent. He gives a testimony, affirming his humanity, in all of its ugly glory and his reward? To be called a racist and to be asked to consider the feelings of ‘an innocent black man knowing that he could have been killed’. Like Kevin Hart before him, Neeson is being asked to consider the feelings of those he may have hurt who, heretofore, had no knowledge of, interest in or concern for his actions. I am not a fan of cheap or political apologies. I don’t believe that people should apologize for hypothetical pain; pain is very real, visceral and tangible. You can objectively count its victims. It is not amorphous and vague, lacking real effects or clear connections. Holding strangers guilty for the possible distress they might have caused makes as much sense as demanding redress for the punch that could have hit you in the face. We live in a time where victimization is a fast track to a public platform, so we shouldn’t be surprise that it’s becomes more attractive to be in the cross hairs.

No Apology Necessary, @KevinHart4real

A metaphorical tale

Imagine a scenario:

You decide to have a barbecue and extend an invitation to everyone on your block; some you know well, others not so much, but if they want to come, great! The more, the merrier. You make calls, send e-vites and even go so far as to make flyers, so that as many as are able will come and have a good time. The date of the barbecue fast approaches. You make all your preparations: Ribs? Check! Burgers? Check! Hot dogs? Check! Sides, condiments, entertainment; you have beyond covered all your bases and spent a pretty penny along the way, but that’s not the point, enjoying yourself is.

The sun rises on your big day and you can’t wait for your guests to arrive and when they do, you greet them warmly and make sure they are well fed.  You spot an unknown sour face in the crowd and watch as they make a beeline into your personal space. They shove a plate of food under your neck and demand to know what it is. Confused and unwilling to state the obvious, you reply, ‘what’s it look like?’

‘I can’t eat it’, they snarl back, ‘It could kill me! I’m allergic! I could have gone into  anaphylactic shock.’ You take a moment to process; surely they don’t think you went out of your way to serve them something poisonous.

‘I didn’t know it was a problem.’

‘Well, now you do. Throw it out!’

‘Excuse me?’

‘Now you know it’s a problem. You should throw it out.’

‘But I like it and so do my other guests.’

‘Well, I’m a guest too! And since this stuff could kill me, you shouldn’t have it around.’

‘I got a better idea. I’ve got other stuff. Why don’t you try that?’

‘Good point. You have other stuff, so you don’t need this!’

‘This is a barbecue. Why are you surprised that this is here?’

The conversation didn’t even have a chance to go left because it already started there. You watch in a combination of awe and horror as they throw out their plate, others’ and, with the lightning quick reflexes of a professional athlete, grab the serving tray of the offending dish and pile drive it into the grass. It’s bad enough they’re making a scene, but they’ve also made others so uncomfortable that, though they’ve enjoyed the festivities thus far, they’d rather be away from all the noise and aggravation.

‘All of this for one dish’, you think to yourself as they parade around your backyard, unwilling to leave despite the fact that the threat is now completely inedible, covered in grass and mud.

Eight years later, a stranger comes knocking on your door inquiring about the infamous barbecue. You decided some time ago to avoid serving that dish. It makes life easier and you have more than enough to work with, so it was easy to cut from the menu. Irritated, the stranger condemns you for daring to serve a dish that could kill someone and are stunned by your inconsideration and callousness toward the guest. You remind them that years have passed since then and you’ve had numerous barbecues, with little incident. And either way, what does it matter now? You weren’t there.

‘That’s not the point! I could have been.’

You sigh.

The next thing the stranger sees is your closed door.


Author’s note:

Freedom of speech is a complicated right, but it’s a right nevertheless. I’m an advocate of removing myself from situations where the language is not to my liking or in circumstances where I have a relationship with the person, I make a comment/request. I don’t demand from strangers, famous or not, that they keep my sensitivities in my mind when they speak.

Random thought:

Has anyone ever considered that the jokes being called ‘homophobic’ now, weren’t really making fun of his son, but were really making fun of his fear? His out of proportion reaction is what made the joke funny, and in an exaggerated way, points to how ridiculous he was being.

UPDATE: The Karina Vetrano Case

The Howard Beach jogger’s murder case is set for a re-trial.

Sometime ago, I wrote about Chanel Lewis, the accused killer of jogger, Karina Vetrano. The murder took place back in 2016 and about six months later, the NYPD arrested Lewis and charged him with murder and almost immediately, I was sure they didn’t have the right guy. Chief among my concerns was that neither physical evidence nor eyewitness testimony led the police to him, a suspicious cop did. That was my first red flag and now that the case ended in a mistrial and a new trial is set to begin later this month, I have a couple more to wave:

red flag

“This woman put up a ferocious fight, right to the end. She was beaten quite severely, which would suggest she put up a big fight,” 

– Chief of Detectives, Robert Boyce

The above description is based on the fact that when Ms. Vetrano’s body was found, she was covered in scratches, had broken teeth and was strangled with such force, that the killer’s hand print was marked into her neck. Contrast that description with the one in Mr. Lewis’ medical record, from a visit to the doctor the day after the murder: “Head atraumatic, neck supple. No other injury.” The injury to his hand, described as ‘superficial.’ This woman fought for her life and the accused has no markings to show for it? She was a frequent runner, in reasonably good shape. Whoever murdered and assaulted her would, at the very least, have some scratches and bruising; Mr. Lewis had nothing of the sort.

“The District Attorney’s case relies on three separate pieces of evidence tying Lewis to the crime (of which there were no known eyewitnesses). One of those pieces of evidence is the prosecution’s claim that Lewis’s DNA was found on Vetrano’s back and cell phone,”

The DNA evidence in this case has been categorized in a myriad of ways: as a ‘strong profile’, a ‘possible match’, a match and as an unproven part of a complex mixture of  several DNA. The lack of consistency in how the DNA is described suggests a fluid interpretation of the results which would likely lean in favor of prosecutors because it’s a good thing when you can’t definitively eliminate your key suspect from a pool of DNA, but it severely undercuts the premise that there was only one killer. And if you can’t definitively eliminate them, you can’t definitively ID them either. The two places where Lewis’ DNA shows up with certainty is on Vetrano’s back and cellphone, odd places considering how vicious the attack was and certainly not enough for a conviction.

“…the Queens DA’s office has been withholding crucial pieces of evidence from the media, including 911 calls and medical records,

So instead of honoring requests from the media to view integral pieces of evidence presented at trial, Judge Michael Aloise has elected to defer those appeals to the Queens DA’s public information office. He gave no reason for the shift which runs counter to the traditional practice of the trial judge being responsible for the release of such information. The DA’s office has thus far denied requests without explanation except for a presumed one: they have something to hide.

Writing so Poor, It Begs the Question: What Happened Before the Video? – the Doubletree/Massey Edition

What happens when you can call anyone a racist?

The latest installment in the media driven narrative of LWB (Living While Black) focuses on Jermaine Massey, a guest at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel – Portland. The incident took place on December 23rd after Massey returned to the hotel from a concert. He claims he received an urgent call from his mother and went to a quiet area in the lobby to take the call. It was then that he was interrupted by a security guard, requesting his room number. Much of the furor surrounds the video Mr. Massey took after police had been called. Within a week, the two men, identified as ‘Earl’ and ‘Luis’ in the video, were fired. Thus far, no report has surfaced inquiring as to what their view of the event was because, apparently, that doesn’t matter. Mr. Massey says that he was discriminated against, so therefore, he must be right. The hotel chain was swift with public apologies and promised to work with ‘diversity experts‘ to rectify the situation…whatever that means.


  1. How long have ‘Luis’ and ‘Earl’ worked there?
  2. How many times have they called police on guests? Were all those guests black?
  3. How many other guests did ‘Earl’ request information from?
  4. Is ‘Earl’ (within his authority as a security guard) allowed to ask individuals questions to identify if they are guests or not?
  5. Is not identifying yourself to staff, grounds for removal?
  6. Why did the guard call the police on Mr. Massey?
  7. Why was Mr. Massey, a registered guest, taking a personal call in the lobby instead of his room?
  8. Why did he not show is room key or state his room number when first asked?

These questions matter because in situations as sensitive as this, nuance matters, context matters. In light of how quickly corporations rush to squelch (i.e., quietly settle) damaging incidents gone public, Mr. Massey has something to gain from this (not implying, however, that that is his motivation) and the current atmosphere of ‘question nothing’ leaves businesses (large and small) vulnerable to opportunists looking to cash in without being challenged.

Here it is…

I believe Mr. Massey when he says he was irritated by ‘Earl”s interruption and I believe ‘Earl’ when he said Massey refused to give his room number which led to the police being called. I don’t believe the video circulating on the networks now is all there is to the story. Especially since along with the publicized clip, Massey posted a few more, since deleted videos, to Instagram in which he gave further commentary on the event. In one, he stated he was in his room and then went to the lobby to call his mother. In another, his description of the initial word exchange between himself and the security guard is vague at best and offers no insight into how things escalated so quickly.

The two men fired in this video have had their faces shown to the nation and been labeled racists, a scarlet label not so easily removed. This is not a trial, so it is not a matter of due process, but proper investigation. For the sake of everyone involved, as much of a complete version of events should be presented so that judgment doesn’t just come swiftly, but accurately.


What’s Vexing About What’s Viral: the no-show Birthday Party

Did you hear the story about a little boy named Teddy who threw a pizza party for over two dozen of his closest friends…and no one showed up? Of course you heard about it, it went viral a few weeks back.

There have been a few stories in the past couple of years of planned celebrations going bust, with few or no attendees save for parents and family members. We’d eventually hear about it because an angry tweet spread like wildfire or a heartbreaking blog post got shared ten of thousands of times, but what’s vexing about Teddy’s situation is that it didn’t reach the masses because of personal storytelling, but because his mother, sent a picture of her son sitting alone at table, to a local reporter.

The reporter was professional enough to blur out the child’s face, many other news outlets did not do the same (I presume with parental permission), so when I originally saw the picture, the kid’s face was in full view and I was stunned that his parents would put him on display like that. Why would anyone share such a deflating moment in such a public way? And then I read about the free tickets to sporting events and gifts being offered and well-wishes coming in from people worldwide and I thought…I got my answer.

The other stories of children snubbed on their special days was revealed through personal retellings and magnified in a very organic way; the stories, for whatever reason, touched people and caught on. This story, by virtue of it being shared with a member of the media, reeks of opportunism. And as you can see from the images of the posts above, the truthfulness of the situation was questioned enough that the reporter who originally posted the image had to comment on it, confirming that the family was indeed there, (which is a sleight of hand answer since the picture proves that) but not whether or not there was a party.

The rise in stories about no-show birthday parties also had me wondering, why? Turns out it this might be the effect of ‘all or nothing’ birthday party policies instituted at schools to prevent hurt feelings among young students, but rather than easing exclusionary behavior, the policy proved that hurt feelings are something you simply can’t avoid.

3 Strikes: The Word on Corporal Punishment

Apparently, the word is out that spanking your kids is bad. One doctor quoted in the linked article went so far as to say, ‘there is no benefit to spanking.’ This statement goes against all the anecdotal evidence I have of spanking being a helpful deterrent to bad behavior. Granted, I’m not a pediatrician and don’t have the background to speak on the developmental effects of corporal punishment, but I do read and can talk about the effects this article had on me.

#1: “Within a few minutes, children are often back to their original behavior. It certainly doesn’t teach children self-regulation,”

Spanking is not known to cure ‘childish tendencies’. Children often have to have lessons repeated to them over the course of the day, week, year and, in general, childhood for them to sink in. Making it even more challenging is that they will ignore verbal commands and demands and instead, pay close attention to, and follow, the examples around them.

#2: “Parents who hit their children often have serious problems of their own.”

Yes, most adults, whether they hit or not, will have to deal with serious problems. What exactly is meant by ‘serious problems’? Unemployment or depression? Stress of being the sole wage earner or a drinking problem? Does it follow that having problems mean you will spank your child? The implication in the statement is not only aggravating, but barely supported. The individual quoted went on to reference a small report (no details given) that suggested parents who had a history of trauma are more likely to spank. Which means that the 70% of parents (from a poll in the article) who agreed with the statement that ‘spanking is necessary to discipline a child’ have all kinds of major mental health issues and what of those of us raised by the 84% who agreed with the statement in 1986?

#3: ‘The American Psychological Association says positive reinforcement is more effective than spanking.’

Ok, so where are the studies to back up that claim? Can we get numbers on the percentage of children that grow up well-balanced after the sole use of these techniques? How quickly are children able to self regulate after the use of positive reinforcement? ‘

All the studies done on spanking, I would have thought they would have done some on the suggested alternatives and maybe they have, but none were mentioned. In general, there’s a reason why the vast majority of Americans still spank…because it works.