Author Archive: Keith Eric Benson

Welcome to Camden, President Obama. Here are some things I think you need to know – about education

Barack ObamaKeith E. Benson is Education Chair at Camden County NAACP, a teacher at Camden High School, and a Doctoral student at Rutgers University GSE. This is the 2nd post today addressed to President Obama – the first was from James Harris, immediate past president of NJ NAACP. Read that here. Promoted by Rosi

On November 4th, 2008 I, as well as many other Camden residents celebrated your victory in the Presidential election against John McCain. Indeed I remember residents of Greenwood Avenue in the Parkside section of Camden, literally celebrating in the streets with the election of the nation’s first black president – something many of us believed we would never see in America with its deplorable history regarding its treatment of black and brown people. A new optimism was apparent and visible on November 5th, 2008 and lasted for some time, until the reality of what an Obama presidency meant for urban America became apparent. By many metrics, things have gotten worse for the most vulnerable urban Americans under your administration, due in part to the intransigence of our US Congress, hostile policies put forth at the state and local levels, but also because of some your very own policies. In Camden, NJ there is no clearer embodiment of the harm some of your policies have wrought upon the urban poor, than in education.

Keith Eric Benson: Pride in Being a Skeptic

What you’ll read below was originally a comment by Keith Eric Benson at Steve Danley’s Local Knowledge Blog, replying to a comment he found odious in a Courier Post editorial. Hat tip to Steve for throwing light on Keith’s words, and to Camden NAACP, which sent the link to their list. Keith is a Camden resident, teacher at Camden High, frequent contributor to Steve’s blog, and a doctoral candidate in the Education, Culture and Society program at Rutgers Graduate School of Education. He is also an activist on behalf of his students. Promoted by Rosi.


The last comment [in this Courier Post editorial -ed] directed at “skeptics” to “shut up and get out of the way”, in my eyes, was so out of line. I think the labeling of people who have legitimate concerns and issues with this contemporary neoliberal directed Camden, and where its headed, as “skeptics” is demeaning and dismissive.

After all, people who being referred to as “skeptics” are the people who live here, and fundamentally are simply asking for the same civic rights and democratic respect that are afforded those in neighboring municipalities.

As a “skeptic” myself, I have a problem when the beneficiaries of good public and private jobs within this 8 square mile city of 97% percent minorities don’t remotely look like the people who reside here. Am skeptical for pointing that out? Am I skeptical when I point out that I can go WEEKS without seeing a black police officer on this newly created County Police Department? Or that I don’t recognize anyone of them as current Camden residents? Am I a “skeptic” when I point out research shows charters schools largely do NO better than traditional public schools? Am I skeptical that every time Gov. Christie comes here to say how much he cares about Camden he has a perimeter set up so that NO resident who is NOT connected to the Norcross machine goes anywhere near him to voice out concerns? Am I skeptic when I get upset that our local reporters ask NO follow-up questions and are not themselves the skeptical gatekeepers of public knowledge they are supposed to be but instead prefer to be the echo chamber for those with power?

Other People’s Cities: In Camden education reform and gentrification go hand in hand

I asked Keith to post this here when I saw it at the excellent EduShyster blog. Keith is a teacher at Camden HS and a doctoral student at Rutgers University. He chairs the public relations and media committee for the Camden Education Association. Cross-posted at EduShyster – Rosi


Camden NJ old-fashioned postcard

In case you missed it, Camden, NJ will soon be home to a brand new practice facility (*we’re talkin’ about practice!*) for the Philadelphia 76ers that will cost taxpayers $82 million. What does Camden get in exchange for this princely sum? Fifty seasonal-read low-paying-sales and marketing jobs. This news comes on the heels of the layoffs of hundreds of teachers and staff from the Camden Public Schools. If you’re wondering about the priorities of a city that can’t afford to pay its teachers but can somehow spring for the biggest and best practice facility in the US, you’re not the only one; I’m feeling confused and angry about the direction of my city these days.

Cities for others

What’s happening in Camden isn’t unique. The city is being forcibly changed to cater to those who DON’T live here. Read the work of academic researchers and practitioners like Pauline Lipman of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Valerie Kinloch of Ohio State University, Leslie T. Fenwick of Howard University and Stephen Danley of Rutgers University-Camden and you’ll encounter similar stories from other cities. In Camden, a City for Others, Danley writes: This city is not designed for its residents. And its residents know that.