Greedy Bastards Antidote: David Banks and Hot-Spotting EducationNovember 28, 2011
Is there a problem with the way we solve social problems in America? More often than not, our problems in government and society can be traced back to behavior we call “Greedy Bastardism” — decisions that seek to exploit lack of shared visibility and breach personal and group integrity to get what one group wants over what another group needs. On the other side, there are those out there who we consider to be the “scientists” fighting Greedy Bastardism in America — those who are finding the “Antidotes.” Over the next few weeks, we’ll be discussing creative methods of problem solving that can help pull our country out of the mess that we’re currently mired in.
The first is called hot-spotting. Hot-spotting was originally used in criminal justice in New York City when William Bratton, the city’s former police commissioner, revolutionized urban policing by using data to map when and where crimes took place, and then sending extra officers to the areas where crimes were committed most often. By putting extra resources to areas with the highest crime rates, Bratton found it was possible to lower crime across New York.
This is hot-spotting: a problem solving technique that targets the most expensive problems or in-need people by allocating resources to specific problem areas as revealed by data.
Hot-spotting doesn’t only work in fighting crime — it’s a theory that can be applied to almost any issue in any sector. I recently spoke with David Banks, founding principal of the Eagle Academy for Young Men, and president of the Eagle Academy Foundation, which runs schools for young men in the South Bronx, Brooklyn and Southeast Queens. He is also co-chair of New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative, a bold program that works to correct problems that slow the advancement of our young black and Latino men.
“What happened in New York and all around the country as it’s related to crime and crime fighting and to have very targeted strategic responses, which ultimately resulted in record declines in crime, I mean that’s where we should be drawing our lessons from. Very specific, very focused, very targeted,” says David.
By using hot-spotting, David and his team of educators are putting extra resources where our country needs it most: into urban environments where a systemic culture of incarceration of young black and latino men needs to be fought.
“In an increasingly competitive world, you know American society is going to really be threatened by two realities, a larger proportion of the population is going to be poorly educated and those with the education and skills most in demand will be shrinking in number as a percentage of the overall population. So it behooves us on this issue of hot spotting in education to make sure that we are telling our elected officials and telling those who are in position to allocate funds that the funds have to be allocated in a way that they are most impactful and that the rising tide will lift all boats,” says David.
David also points to the issue of what he calls New York’s “prison pipeline.” ”You know, as an example, in the state of New York, over 70%, that’s 7-0, 70% of the inmates for the entire New York state correctional system come from seven very specific neighborhoods in New York City alone,” says David. “Even within the neighborhoods themselves, there are concentrated areas and blocks which are essentially the prison pipeline.”
David and his fellow educators at The Eagle Academy schools believe that hot-spotting can be replicated for neediest students everywhere. ”You cannot just have a global response; this has to have a very targeted response at targeted neighborhoods where we know the problems are the most severe. Not only to help the people in those communities, but when you do it in a hot spot kind of way and you are successful and you can measure that success, that becomes the inspiration that other communities can then draw from,” explains David.
To learn more abou The Eagle Academy Schools and The Eagle Academy Foundation, visit http://eagleacademyfoundation.com.
Dylan: Welcome to the first ever edition of Radio Free Dylan’s special report Greedy Bastards Antidote. “What is Greedy Bastards Antidote?” you might ask. Very simply, there are two ways of making decisions in your day and in your life—one, a way of decision-making that seeks to exploit inability to see or lack of shared visibility, breaches personal and group integrity in order to get what you want, and limits choice. We call it a greedy bastard. There are those out there who are figuring out ways in their own personal lives and also inside of systems to solve those problems. I consider those people to be the scientists to the holders of Greedy Bastards Antidote, and our guest today is somebody who clearly is exhibiting some antidote in a place where it is solely needed in our educational system.
Specifically, and you see this in a lot of different antidotes, he is exhibiting something that I call and many people call—I don’t call it that; it is called that and I participate in the use of the word—“hotspotting”. It was used – you saw it in the criminal justice universe in New York a decade, decade and a half ago with the decision to over-invest in the areas that seemed to have the highest reported crime rates as opposed to equally distributing all the cops, it’s called “hot spotting”. You find the 5%, the 10% of any community, a healthcare community, educational community, whatever it might be, and over-invest in those who are both struggling the most and most likely are also costing the most in many ways, most importantly costing themselves opportunity and potential, and then secondarily costing the rest of the society the loss of that potential. And without any further ado, I want to introduce a man who is by my view hotspotting on education, specifically in the urban environments where we have a systematic culture of incarceration of young black men, a systematic underfunding of the educational systems that are most desperately in need of it, which are those in the public school system that are in the economically deprived neighborhoods of our country, some of those rural and many of those as we know urban.
David Banks is the founding principal of the Eagle Academy for Young Men; he is the President of the Eagle Academy Foundation. And I want to give you just a little bit of a sense of how they identify themselves. They say the foundation is focused on creating Eagle Academies in challenged urban communities with excessive high rates of – excessively high rates of incarceration, so you can see why I like them. Current Eagle schools are located in the south Bronx, Ocean Hills/Brownsville in Brooklyn, and in South East Queens. A fourth school will open in Newark in the fall of 2012. Mayor Cory Booker is probably excited about that. David Banks is co-chair of New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative, a bold new program that works to correct problems that slow the advancement of our young black and Latino men. What do they do, you ask? They develop and expand in a network of all male college preparatory public schools from grade six through 12 that educate and develop young men into future leaders as they put it, who are committed to excellence and character, scholastic achievement, and community service. And with no further ado, one of the scientists in our community with an antidote to Greedy Bastards as a man of education David Banks, David?
Dylan: Why did you do – how did you find yourself sitting this chair today? Why are you doing this?
David: First of all, thank you so much for having me on. I’m here because I am responding to a crisis, a crisis that has impacted the lives of so many African-American and Latino males in particular, but that crisis and the condition that those young men find themselves in is something that has a very negative impact on the overall community, and ultimately it will continue to have a very negative impact on our country. Our country is in a global race to the top and reality is that we are losing and we cannot afford to have so much wasted human capital sitting on the sidelines. These young men are not in the game and so I have dedicated my life to reawakening these young men and helping them to learn to be, in spite of all the conditions that exist around them, to take ownership of their lives and to work toward their own success.
The situation for them is that over 68% of African-American children are growing up in fatherless homes. This is a fatherless generation and I see that as at the top of the list of the problems that so many of these young people are facing. And when they don’t graduate from high school, they become, economically they become a drain on society. And more than that, just morally, this country has to do a better job of saying that the American dream is truly fair for each and every one of our children and that’s what I’m committed to.
Dylan: And really the only way to do that is to address the underlying structures that are determinative in many cases to the future of many of the people that you are talking about, again, not just black and Latino but so many of the impoverished in this country regardless of race or for that matter gender and foundational to that is the educational system. Now, in modern problem-solving, it is has been shown time and time again that over-allocating resources to the biggest and most expensive part of your problem. Dr. Brenner in Camden in New Jersey on healthcare realized, or actually shouldn’t say realized, he discovered through data analysis and this is on healthcare, that 90% of the healthcare cost in Camden, New Jersey were being spend on 20% of the patients, 80% of the costs were being spend on 13% of the patients. And so what Dr. Brenner decided to do was not look at overall healthcare costs, he looked at the 13% or 20% of the patients that were spending 80% or 90% of the money and he found that they were poor and diabetic and they weren’t going to the doctor and they weren’t exercising, and he focused on helping them become healthier…
Dylan: …which then reduced the number of times they have to go to the emergency room with diabetes because now they are simply taking their medicine everyday and they are going for a walk around the block. And a lot of the same people that Dr. Brenner is working with in healthcare in Camden, New Jersey are people that come from communities that are not dissimilar from the ones that you are working with in education. And I would love to learn more about specifically how you view the hot spotting that you are doing, the overinvestment and the intensification of energy of greatness and of solution inside of those communities, and why that is so much more beneficial than what we have now, which is really reverse hot spotting where we give more money to the more prestigious and wealthier communities in our country than they need for an education and we systematically underfund poor neighborhoods because we derive school funding from real estate taxes and, obviously, lower real estate base makes for a smaller funding base for education. There is a question in there somewhere David…
David: I get it.
Dylan: …specifically, I really do want to get a senses of why and how you are doing what you are doing to create this energy nexus, this hot spot to create another direction for education.
David: You know, as an example, in the state of New York, over 70%, that’s 7-0, 70% of the inmates for the entire New York state correctional system come from seven very specific neighborhoods in New York City alone.
Dylan: Just like Dr. Brenner in Camden, he could pick the building.
David: He could pick the building, yeah. I mean there have been many reports and the most recent was called the Million Dollar Blocks. Even within the neighborhoods themselves, there are concentrated areas and blocks which are essentially the prison pipeline. And so our suggestion…
Dylan: Wow! Wow!
David: …and what we have been saying is that the resources need to be allocated very specifically and very forcefully into those areas…
Dylan: Into those hot spots.
David: Into those hot spots. You know, this is not – this issue that we are talking about is not an issue in Douglaston, Queens; this is an issue in very specific areas and that work needs to be targeted. When I was asked to be the co-chair of Mayor Bloomberg’s Young Men’s Initiative, it was one of the main things that I talked about that you cannot just have a global response; this has to have a very targeted response at targeted neighborhoods where we know the problems are the most severe and…
David: …and because – not only to help the people in those communities, but when you do it in a hot spot kind of way and you are successful and you can measure that success, that becomes the inspiration that other communities can then draw from. But when you spread the resources around to everybody, “jack of all trades, master of none”, at the end of the day, you don’t move the needle at all and it leaves everybody is thinking that there is really nothing that you can do o solve the problem.
Dylan: A strategic problem solver, we saw again with the CompuStat database that was created for policing in American cities. We see it with Dr. Brenner’s data analysis in Camden, we see exactly the same thing in the data that you just presented in the context of the prison feeder buildings, the prison feeder blocks. At the same time, from a public money allocation standpoint, the politics of equal distribution of money, although the problem-solving characteristics are diminished or can be more favorable, and on the flipside, if you are indeed a serious individual who expects to be taken seriously about your committed or claimed intention to solve a problem, isn’t it important that anybody that wants to be taken seriously is forced to reconcile their prepositions with the data that suggests that hot spotting, whether it’s hot spotting crime, hot spotting healthcare, or hot spotting education or crime fighting through what you are doing, David...
Dylan: …that that’s – how can I as a journalist, how can you as an advocate and an executive take someone seriously if they don’t engage in this level of strategic problem-solving?
David: Completely. What happened in New York and all around the country as it’s related to crime and crime fighting and to have very targeted strategic responses, which ultimately resulted in record declines in crime, I mean that’s where we should be drawing our lessons from. Very specific, very focused, very targeted, and ultimately if you really want to get ahead of the curve, you start to talk about not just response, but how you put in the kinds of the activities and programs that will help us to get in front of the curve that are preventative of a lot of these kinds of issues. And so that’s going to impact social policy, but very specific programs on the ground.
Some of things that we are doing with our young men, we have mentors of all of our boys. You know one of our young men coined the phrase that a young man without a mentor is like an explorer without a map. As little boys transition into becoming young men, they need to see responsible men in their lives. And for so many of them, they don’t have dads at home. They can go to school K to 12 and almost never see a male teacher—it’s amazing. And so they don’t even understand how responsible men are supposed to conduct themselves because they don’t have those examples. And so we have done that, we’ve brought role models to them, we have them engaged in afterschool programs, we have them in school on Saturdays, it’s a whole spirit of brotherhood that they have developed amongst themselves. We have got parents engaged. We probably have the greatest level of parent engagement of any school in New York City.
So again very focused, very driven, it’s a college preparatory process, so we bring in college reps. You can’t expect for young people who have never visited a college, they have never been exposed to college, to really even dream about going to college. And so we send them on college tours from the day that they arrive at the school so that they understand, and we make that real. These are not amorphous dreams. And so they really have something practical to strive for. So these are just some of the things that we put in place that are part of our program.
Dylan: But what is instructive for all of us, because as you know, David, whether it’s the work that you are doing or again I mentioned Dr. Brenner in Camden or people quite honestly that are solving problems that are completely unrelated to what we are discussing, what’s compelling is that we’ve discovered long ago actually and people with a high degree of incentive, meaning they don’t have enough money, they really have to solve the problem, have clearly identified hot spotting as the most resource efficient and community impactful. It’s actually the most beneficial to the community while simultaneously reducing costs. It literary is a statistical win-win where you see, again, the healthcare costs out in New Jersey drop by 40% and the quality of the life of the people in those hot spotted buildings goes up. That is an identical parallel to what you would suggest for those seven districts in New York that are in the prison feeder complex. What is your view of what we can all do to better elevate and advocate the idea of hot spotting as a framing for all of our problem-solving?
David: I think we have got to have those in our community to really be of very. very focused and very driven and advocate for this as a notion to speak to their elected officials and to demand that the resource allocation that they are responsible for bringing home is distributed in a way that’s smart and efficient. To some people, it may not…
Dylan: And impactful.
David: …seem fair, but if you are looking at the big picture its more than fair. It will help everyone understand and focus on what really matters. In an increasingly competitive world, you know American society is going to really be threatened by two realities, a larger proportion of the population is going to be poorly educated and those with the education and skills most in demand will be shrinking in number as a percentage of the overall population. So it behooves us on this issue of hot spotting in education to make sure that we are telling our elected officials and telling those who are in position to allocate funds that the funds have to be allocated in a way that they are most impactful and that the rising tide will lift all boats. The rising tide will not lift the boat if the boat has cement in it and, unfortunately, for so many of the young people in the community that we are talking about, in this hot spotting, their boat has cement in it, and unless you are very strategic about of removing the cement from that boat, the rising tide will not lift the boat, it will sink the boat.
Dylan: And the people in the boat will drown, which is an intolerable outcome for a country that whose very basic principle, while it has I know a great history of unfairness, it also has a great aspiration toward fairness and loath be it for our generation to walk away from that aspiration. On the issue of actually knowing where to allocate the money, so it’s one thing for me to come in and carry on about hot spotting and all this, but the fact of the matter is the only reason hot spotting in education or in healthcare as a resource allocation tool…
Dylan: …is possible is because of the 21st century and the computer and the data set that people like you can get access to, is that correct?
David: That’s correct, absolutely. Yep. So we have got to take advantage of this access to information that we have and we are very clear in pinpointing where the issues are, where the problems are, and we have got a responsibility to not only respond but to respond in a way that we recognize that we are not going to be shortsighted in our response but we are looking at the larger picture. Unfortunately, the challenge we face is that far too many of our elected officials and our leaders are very, very shortsighted, it’s part of the problems that we are seeing at the federal government level right now. It can’t even make a decision because everyone is focused on their own agenda and so you ultimately really can’t get to the kind of responses that are necessary. So, yeah, taking advantage of all the technology and the information that’s there that has helped us understand where these problems are, we’ve got the reasonability to act on that information.
Dylan: And the most important thing is what you just said because there are such an instinct that says, “Well, with Washington as broken as it is, I just don’t know what to do,” and the answer as to what to do it seems to me, David, when you look at the occupation and you look at the level of distress and you look at the poverty rate and you look at the incarceration rate for young minorities and young black men, specifically, in this country, the only rational response is to try to do something about it by inflating your own vest. I call it “Occupying Yourself”.
Dylan: And the more that people can occupy themselves, and it’s like what you were just talking about with the leadership for these young men at the Eagle Academy, you are teaching them it sounds like to occupy themselves and that action is something that we don’t have to wait for the Super Committee – you don’t have to wait for the Super Committee to occupy yourself.
David: That’s right. You know, people refer to me as the founder of the Eagle Academy. I’m not technically the founder. The organization that I was a part of and I’m a part of that started the school is the 100 Black Men. It’s a civic organization made up of professional men from all around the city; it’s been around for almost 50 years. I think that what’s inherent in that story are two things: one, that it was an organization who stood up to say enough is enough and we are going to do something to respond to this, we don’t have all of the answers but we are going to get in the game and we are going to do what we can; that’s number one. Number two, the other big story behind that is that while the organization has over 100 members, there were only six or seven of the members who were the ones who really drove this initiative. And so if you are sitting around waiting for 100 people to join you, you will be waiting for quite some time. Those who are leaders have to step up and do what they have been called to do, and when you play your position as a leader, the others who are followers will get in line and they will get behind it and support it as you start to move it. But the leaders have to start, and there’s always just fewer number when you start but that’s okay that’s the way it’s always been.
Dylan: And you just have to lean into it and occupy yourself?
David: That’s right.
Dylan: If people want to learn more, where do we send them?
David: You send them to the eagleacademyfoundation.org and they can learn more about our organization. We’re doing some great work here. We’re now serving over 1,000 young men and we’ll be opening our fourth school in Newark, New Jersey. And as each school grows to full capacity, we will be serving over 2,500 young men a year. That’s very significant transforming in the lives of these young men, so please go to our website at eagleacademyfoundation.org and you will learn even more about the good work that we are doing.
Dylan: And the beautiful thing about the 21st century is great models, wherever they emerge, can be scaled quickly in the 21st century, as well. All right, David, thanks. Co-founding principal of the Eagle Academy—100 people started it, six people led it, a lesson is there for you. This has been the first ever edition of the Greedy Bastards Antidote. I am Dylan Ratigan and I will talk to you next time.