By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The groundswell of quiet opposition to the coalition is getting less quiet, and more organized. An Internet dialogue among Hamilton alumni recently produced a Web site (www.bol.ucla.edu/~eklee) where people can log comments and join a contact list of Hamilton supporters. Lenn Kano, a 26-year-old magnet alum who informed me of the site and has been tracking the situation since last year, says Beytin and Kaplan were so formative in his own life, he has no choice but to play the intellectual activist now -- questioning the status quo, discerning real motives, exposing hypocrisy. "[District folks] figure if they just keep quiet, let a few heads roll, this whole thing will go away and that's worth it," says Kano, who is Japanese-American. "I hope the central issue in all this doesn't get lost, which is that there is ongoing segregation in terms of the magnet and main school. The funny thing is, Mr. Kaplan understands more about the problem than anybody in the administration."
There is a two-week-old counter parent group spearheaded by Alice Wallace, who is black. Wallace has twin daughters in the magnets and says she and others are flat-out tired of being psychologically bullied by a small group that claims to represent the sentiments of most black parents at Hamilton. They are tired of the inference that because they don't wholly embrace AAPCEE, they are sellouts, whitewashes or, worst of all, infected with the disaffection of the black bourgeoisie. Wallace says what's so distressing about AAPCEE is that it rightfully claims representation on the one hand -- speaking to systemic problems of blacks and Latinos -- and completely exploits it on the other. Still, Wallace knows all the ramifications of publicly breaking ranks with a black group -- over the issue of white teachers, no less.
"I had to do some soul-searching before I jumped in," she says. "But black parents were saying to me, 'These people [AAPCEE] are crazy!' I figured it was time for this stuff to stop. When my daughters had Kaplan, they would come home from school actually excited by what they were learning. They don't say that about too many teachers. He's cutting-edge, provocative -- as a parent, I hear the things he says and sometimes think, 'Well, I might have said it differently' -- but you have to respect him." Wallace says she has confronted assistant principal Evelyn Mahmud about what she sees purely as a vendetta, asked her why Fred Martin has not been disciplined for his stumping at the gospel concert. She also questions why the coalition is expending all of its energy on Kaplan and the magnets if its real fight is with institutional problems and the main school. "For them, Kaplan isthe battle," says Wallace.
She has settled on a name for the counter parent group, which has roughly 100 parents and students on its roster: Reasonable Adults and Children for Education. RACE, for short. "We have to act fast," says Wallace. "The school year's almost over."
IV. The Slavemasters
Gregg Beytin says that after all the racism battles in and out of the classroom for the better part of 12 years, it's come down to this bizarre Waterloo. "I'm actually kind of glad that it broke like this, because tensions had been brewing for so long," he says. "If I cut and run now, it would be admitting defeat."
Beytin is an excitable guy, glib and prone at moments to hyberbole and sweeping political allegory ("This is a little bit like fundamentalists against the Enlightenment"). Ursine and slightly rumpled, he has a clear passion for his work that is being sorely tested by all this. He wants to be back in the classroom. He says that if Alan Kaplan leaves, he will likely leave too, as will at least a dozen other teachers who are poised to put in for transfers pending the final district decision about Beytin's place at Hamilton. If he is axed, Beytin â believes, the humanities magnet will fall, and status-quo education -- handouts, crossword puzzles, safe, antiseptic discussions about antiseptic readings -- will prevail. Beytin says that such a void of challenges is racism at its most insidious, but that is exactly what the coalition seems to want. "I'm trying to stay afloat, trying to save my school, but this will be with me the rest of my life," he says. "Being called a racist is very, very serious, and we've been soldiers in this war a long time. If they want better education for minority kids, I'm in complete agreement. If they want to say, 'That person did it,' then I say no. What infuriates me is that we are not part of the problem, but we could be part of the solution very easily. We do a better job of raising minority achievement than anyone."
Kaplan is the last one to talk here. Initially he didn't want to talk at all; he'd had his fill of allegations and misrepresentation and his words being taken out of context, plus he figured that Beytin had talked enough for the both of them. But it was odd, being the eye of this whole storm yet never once being a voice in the Timesstories. So he talked.