Category Archives: Education

Elizabeth Ann Sciabarra, RIP

September 2, 1952 – November 26, 2022

My sister Elizabeth Ann Sciabarra—Ski to the thousands of students whose lives she touched as an educator for half a century—died at 8 p.m. tonight after a two-year long bout with many serious health issues. Her passing came quite shockingly after a steep decline over the past week.

Ski was the recent recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at a gala marking the one-hundredth anniversary of the opening of Brooklyn Technical High School [YouTube link]. She was fortunate enough to view the YouTube video of this presentation this past week and was very deeply moved; I think that it provided a poignant coda to her lifelong, passionate commitment to the education and well-being of young people.

Back in 2010, before she’d go on to become Executive Director of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation, she retired from the NYC Department of Education—after a professional life that took her from teacher and coach to assistant principal at Tech, principal at New Dorp High School on Staten Island, deputy superintendent and founding CEO of the Office of Student Enrollment at the DOE. At that time, I had the occasion to speak at her retirement dinner. I highlighted one of my sister’s favorite quotations, which she often used at various commencement exercises. It could just as easily and appropriately speak to her own impact and legacy. Noted historian Rina Swentzell (1939–2015) of Santa Clara Pueblo said:

“What we are told as children is that people, when they walk on the land, leave their breath wherever they go. So, wherever we walk, that particular spot on the earth never forgets us, and when we go back to these places, we know that the people who have lived there are in some way still there, and that we can actually partake of their breath and of their spirit.”

In every place she has been, with everyone she has worked, all those students she has taught, advised, assisted, coached, all the teachers, assistant principals, principals, parents, community partners and others with whom she has interacted, not to mention her dear friends and beloved family—all these have been blessed to partake of her very strong spirit.

Wherever she has walked, people will be hard pressed to forget her and her impact on their lives.

I once told her that she may not have had kids of her own, but she mothered literally thousands of kids, whose lives were forever changed by their encounters with her. Indeed, as a caring educator, in the eyes of those kids, my sister flew around the city of her birth, the city she was so proud to call home, with a huge “S” on her chest, which could have stood for “Sciabarra” or “Ski”—or even “Superwoman.”

For me, however, that “S” always stood for “Sister,” which means more than that one word can ever convey.

Indeed, as siblings, we lived together for as long as I’ve been alive. She was more than my sister. She was my friend, my confidante, my partner-in-crime, my advisor, my guide, not only for all things academic but for life itself. As someone who struggled with chronic, congenital medical issues, I could never have made it without her loving support and encouragement. She was my strongest advocate and fiercest defender.

Even over the last month, as she struggled with increasingly difficult medical complications, she was elated as I completed the copyediting and formatting of the last essays for the 2023 grand finale of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. She gave me a fist bump when I told her, “It’s done!” As a lover of music and dance—and boy did she have rhythm [YouTube link]—she was also privy to all the “Songs of the Day” that I had already lined up for the upcoming holiday season, my projected January 2023 fifteenth-anniversary tribute to the “Breaking Bad” franchise, and my annual Film Music February Festival. And so, those songs will be posted, no matter what, with added poignancy.

There wasn’t a holiday she didn’t embrace or celebrate in grand style. She was even able to glimpse the Christmas decorations I put up the day after Thanksgiving. I know that it brought her peace and joy even as she fought bravely against the agony and pain that were consuming her body.

Tonight, my heart is shattered. I am comforted only because she is finally out of pain and that she died with dignity in her own home—by the grace of the generosity of the multitude of people who contributed to her #GoFundSki campaign. For all that love and support, our family expresses a profound depth of appreciation.

My brother Carl, my sister-in-law Joanne and I ask for privacy at this time. We will announce a more public memorial at an appropriate time and place, which will be held sometime in 2023.

I will always love you, my Bitty.

A Happier Time, late 1980s

See Facebook condolences.

Postscript (29 November): There is a poignant tribute to my sister by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (NY) on Facebook.

In addition, I was interviewed by Annalise Knudson of the Staten Island Advance this morning, before attending my sister’s funeral, and I was very touched by this wonderful article detailing my sister’s legacy as an educator. See here. And also see this tribute from Tim Bethea.

Ski: A Lifetime Achievement Award

At the Centennial Gala on November 19, 2022, celebrating a century of excellence at Brooklyn Technical High School (1922-2022), my sister, Elizabeth “Ms. Ski” Sciabarra received the Lifetime Achievement Award. My deepest thanks to the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation and its President Denice Ware for sending me this wonderful clip celebrating the life and legacy of a beloved educator whose work has touched the lives of countless thousands of students and colleagues over a fifty-year career. Check it out on YouTube (and below)!

#GoFundSki

Thank you to everyone! And a special thanks also to Carol Cunningham dropping off these lovely flowers and memorabilia from the Centennial Gala!

Sharon Presley (1943-2022), RIP

My dear friend, Ellen Young, announced today that Sharon Presley, lifelong libertarian feminist writer and activist, died on Monday, October 31, 2022, at the age of 79. Her partner Art—who has had his own share of health challenges—was able to be there to say goodbye to her.

Sharon had been suffering from serious illnesses for quite a while. In the wake of eviction from her apartment and the loss of her cats, she was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes for over a year.

Sharon received her B.A. in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, her M.A. in psychology from San Francisco State, and her Ph.D. in social psychology from the City University of New York. She taught on the psychology of women and other gender-related courses at California State University, Iowa State University, the College of Wooster, and Weber State College. Her published research included historical papers on women resisters, a study of Mormon feminists, an edited collection of essays on nineteenth-century individualist feminist Voltairine de Cleyre and the 2010 volume, Standing Up to Experts and Authorities: How to Avoid Being Intimidated, Manipulated, and Abused. Sharon was also a national coordinator for the Association of Libertarian Feminists and Executive Director of Resources for Independent Thinking.

Her frail state over these many months was quite a contrast to the rambunctious fireband whom I met way back in 1978, when I was an undergraduate student at New York University. She and John Muller had helped to launch Laissez-Faire Books, which offered a treasure-trove of classical liberal, libertarian, and anarchist literature in the heart of Greenwich Village. As a cofounder of the NYU chapter of Students for a Libertarian Society, I spent a lot of time at that bookstore, especially in 1980, when it became a virtual warehouse of antidraft placards and pamphlets that we distributed in Washington Square Park, joining with other student groups to protest Jimmy Carter’s reinstatement of Selective Service Registration.

From the very beginning of our friendship, Sharon and I had our differences, but it never interfered with her willingnesss to step up and speak out in an uncompromising, principled way on many controversial topics. She gladly accepted our invitation to speak at an NYU-SLS-sponsored event, delivering a fiery lecture in support of reproductive freedom. Given that Ayn Rand’s work played such a key role in initially sparking Sharon’s political radicalization, I was delighted, many years later, when she accepted an invitation to be among the diverse group of contributors to Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand (1999), which I coedited with Mimi Reisel Gladstein, for the Penn State University Press series, “Re-reading the Canon.” That volume, prominently featured among anthologies on thirty-five major figures in the Western philosophical tradition, brought Rand’s work into critical engagement with various feminist perspectives. Sharon’s essay, “Ayn Rand’s Philosophy of Individualism: A Feminist Psychologist’s Perspective”, was one of its gems.

My very deepest condolences to all those who knew her. I will miss her.

Sharon Presley (1943-2022)

See comments on Facebook.

#GoFundSki !!!

Nearly two years ago, in November 2020, my sister, Elizabeth Sciabarra—“Ms. Ski” to her students—nearly died. She has gone through agonizing hell for two years now, through surgeries and crippling illness. By October 2021, near death again, she was placed on in-home palliative care, under the assumption that she would not last six months. She confounded medical authorities and now must be re-certified for palliative care every two months because she refused to die on Medicare’s schedule.

With my sister living on a pension, Social Security, and dwindling savings, ineligible for Medicaid, we began a #GoFundSki campaign on March 25, 2022. As a testament to the impact she made as an educator of fifty years, influencing the lives of thousands of people, we exceeded our $150,000 goal within ten days. That money was designed to keep my sister at home, with the assistance of 24/7 home health aide coverage. We projected expenditures of approximately $15,000 per month on aides and other non-insured supplies to turn our home into a hospice. Unfortunately, $15,000 could not even cover our home health aide assistance; with supplies and other necessities, we have been averaging $20,000 per month, as inflationary pressures rose across the board. Nevertheless, our #GoFundSki campaign raised enough money (clearing $165,000+) to sustain my sister thru January 2023.

It was to my sister’s profound embarrassment that we had to pitch a #GoFundSki campaign to begin with. But at this juncture, we are faced with some very tough decisions. My sister is stable and has a strong heart. With a very strong will to live, she has no intention of dying anytime soon. Once the current money runs out, we will have no choice but to place her in a Medicare-insured inpatient hospice—as long as that choice is open to us and that she is not de-certified from palliative care simply because she’s outlived Medicare guidelines.

It is our conviction that my sister has survived this long precisely because she’s been at home getting loving, superlative, top-notch care that she would never have gotten in any inpatient facility, be it a hospice or a nursing home.

We are therefore raising our #GoFundSki goal to $325,000, which means that we’re hoping to clear an additional $160,000 with this extended campaign to cover her care way beyond January 2023. To be blunt: If Ms. Ski outlives the additional finances raised for her, we will not extend our #GoFundSki campaign. And difficult choices will be made for her.

We have updated this campaign several months before the current money runs out and do not presume that we will be able to raise the same amount of money we asked for at the end of March 2022. But this goal has been set—and we will be eternally grateful for anything we can raise toward meeting it.

Fully aware of the increasing economic pressures that have impacted so many people throughout this country, we thank every single person who has already contributed to my sister’s welfare—and all those who might still be able to contribute.

Sincerely,
Chris Matthew Sciabarra (on behalf of my sister)

Posted to Facebook.

#GOFUNDSKI

Ms. Ski celebrated her 70th birthday on September 2, 2022

Ski and Sue

Yesterday, we learned of the passing of a very dear friend, Sue Mayham (1958-2022). A graduate of the class of 1976 from Brooklyn Technical High School, Sue first met my sister, Elizabeth Sciabarra (Ms. Ski), in the early 70s when my sister asked her to start the Twirlers as part of the BTHS Cheering Squad. Sue was never a student of my sister’s, but she used to slip into Ski’s classes almost every day to listen to lectures on Shakespeare and Chaucer. After Sue graduated, Ski and Sue became lifelong friends. So loving was their connection that it spread to our families. Sue was also kind enough to sit for an interview with me back in 2017, as part of my 9/11 Memorial Series. As I wrote in that article:

A native Brooklynite, [Sue] first attended P.S. 241, a short distance from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, before moving onto the Packer Collegiate Institute, where she remained through the eighth grade. She decided to take the entrance test for one of the city’s … specialized high schools, one which had only recently opened its doors to young women. She entered Brooklyn Technical High School in downtown Brooklyn as a freshman and was among the first women graduates of the formerly all-boys school. She was actually in the third class in which women were included, in a school of 500 girls and 5,500 boys. For Sue, Tech was a school that thrived on the brilliance and energy of its student population, but it particularly nourished a young generation of strong, powerful, and brave young women. She would move on to Pace University, where she received a BBA in Marketing, preparing her for a career spent on Wall Street. She worked for numerous banks over the years, but on 9/11, the Bank of New York was her employer. 

The interview detailed Sue’s heroic efforts on that day, exhibiting her strength of character and her love of people.

Upon hearing of Sue’s tragic passing, my sister was hard hit emotionally. She writes:

My recollections of Sue go back to my first years at Brooklyn Tech, where I not only had the pleasure of interacting with her in my classes but on the cheering squad—who could forget “The Sting” (our first Half-Time song)? I even went to Sue’s Sweet 16 Party. Later in life, Sue became a loyal board member of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation. When I became the Executive Director of the Foundation, I was thrilled to work with Sue again to bolster the role of young women at Brooklyn Tech. She started the Ruby Engineers, and was present at all Ruby events, including those where it was clear that she was already experiencing the effects of her ailments. However, this never stopped her from attending functions and participating in so many activities. It is fitting that her last day also marked the Jubilee of Elizabeth II—a strong woman in her own right. Sue was a leader and the dearest of friends for fifty years. My heart is broken. I will miss her so very much.

RIP, dearest Sue. (See too the Facebook post by the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation).

Ski and Sue, 2012

The Essential Women of Liberty

For people looking for a fine introduction to the thought of a select group of women who have contributed to the cause of liberty, let me recommend The Essential Women of Liberty, coedited by Donald Boudreaux and Aeon J. Skoble, published by the Fraser Institute, with a foreword by Virginia Postrel. My dear friend Aeon informs me that the book is also available in hardcover and softcover editions.

The volume includes essays on Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet Martineau, Rose Director Friedman, Mary Paley Marshall, Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, Ayn Rand (a nice essay by Carrie-Ann Biondi), Anna Schwartz, Jane Jacobs, Elinor Ostrom, and Deirdre McCloskey.

I am truly delighted by the remarkably diverse selection of thinkers featured in this anthology. Indeed, any volume that runs the gamut from Wollstonecraft and Rand to Jacobs and Ostrom is worth the price of admission.

Deirdre McCloskey is the only woman featured in this collection whom I’ve ever had the privilege of getting to know personally, having worked closely with her as a contributor to The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, which I coedited with Roger Bissell and Ed Younkins. (Indeed, a Facebook symposium dedicated to that anthology generated a colloquy on her delightful contribution, which appeared in the May 2020 issue of Poroi.)

The book is available as a PDF (for free) and in a Kindle edition (for a mere 99 cents!). Check out a nice YouTube video highlighting the collection …

A Ski Visit

After attending the Brooklyn Tech Homecoming virtually on Saturday, April 9, 2022, it was time to open the doors to the Sciabarra household. This morning, we welcomed two Technites, both from the Class of 1983!

Carol Cunningham (left) and Denice Ware (right), who also serves as the President of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation, came with blue orchids to greet Elizabeth “Ms. Ski” Sciabarra, my sister, and it was a wonderful visit.

Mutual Aid in an Urban Setting

With another H/T to my dear friend Walter Grinder, I wanted to highlight yet another article from Boston Review, this one by Nate File: “Detroiters Are Not Waiting to Be Saved“. The article highlights how Detroit activists have turned to forms of mutual aid to meet the needs of their community, hit heavily by systemic instabilities. From the article:

[Activist Dean] Spade notes that mutual aid has also sometimes been misclassified as a charity project, indifferent to the state. That misreading echoes the conservative view that people should take care of their own communities and eschew government. But mutual aid, Spade explains, is really an entry point into movement building … The leaders of EMA [Eastside Mutual Aid] are aware of criticisms of mutual aid, but they believe it is more important to listen to their community and meet the needs they describe. People sometimes have preconceived notions about “what’s best,” Price explains, “but when they get here [and talk to people], the community needs something completely different.” Marronage and mutual aid may not themselves the end goal, but they can help us get closer to it. “Without new visions we don’t know what to build, only what to knock down,” Kelley writes in Freedom Dreams. “We not only end up confused, rudderless, and cynical, but we forget that making a revolution is not a series of clever maneuvers and tactics but a process that can and must transform us.”

The essay is worth a good read, especially for those of us who seek nonstate alternatives in a time of systemic crisis.

DWR (6): Market, State, and Anarchy

Today, the Center for a Stateless Society publishes an article by my very dear friend, Ryan Neugebauer: “Market, State, and Anarchy: A Dialectical Left-Libertarian Perspective.” Though this is not strictly a part of the series I’ve dubbed “DWR” (“Dialogues with Ryan”), the article certainly evolved over a period of time during which Ryan and I have had many lengthy discussions about so many of the issues addressed in this new piece.

The article offers a wide-ranging critique of the status quo of “Liberal Corporate Capitalism”, before launching into a detailed critique of proposed “alternatives to the status quo”, including “Free-Market Propertarianism”, “State Socialism”, and “Anarchism.” Since Ryan considers himself at minimum a philosophical anarchist (as do I), much of what he has to say entails a perceptive engagement with some points of view that he himself has held over the years. Indeed, what makes the article worthwhile is that it is a dialectical combination of both critique and self-critique.

The article includes many wonderful citations, including some to my own work on the usefulness of a dialectical methodology for a critical libertarian socio-political project. Ryan grapples with the need of radicals to function on the basis of the real conditions that exist. His left-libertarian framework—a framework with which I, myself, have been associated—is one that “seeks to make the best of what we have where we are presently at and always push to do better. It will not however paralyze itself with rigid dogmas and face destruction.” He writes:

Ultimately, I fall on the Left-Libertarian side of things. I especially like its emphasis on a sustainable, non-bloated autonomism—that is, the building of spaces of autonomy in the now and outside the current system. Such autonomism requires the freedom to create without asking for permission in a system that provides signals for judging individual needs and relative scarcity. This will most likely entail a complex mix of commons, markets, and cooperatives. It will also require a movement away from a system that treats land like a typical commodity, a system that encourages dependence on capitalists through subsidies, intellectual property rights laws, crony trade deals, and regulations that restrict competition. Politically, more people need “skin in the game” on a decentralized, local level

Given its wide-ranging scope and its accessible, succinct delivery, I strongly recommend Ryan’s article to your attention! Check it out here.

LGBTQ + Education

Folks have long known my stance on LGBTQ+ issues, but I wanted to give a H/T to Ari Armstrong, who provides some worthwhile “Notes on the ‘Groomer’ Panic and Transgender issues“. Ari is spot on in his central concern that “various conservatives seem to be intentionally drumming up a moral panic about the alleged ‘grooming’ of school children who are exposed to conversations and readings that <gasp!> discuss gay and transgender people.”

Thanks too, Ari, for citing my 2003 monograph, Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation (now on sale at the Center for a Stateless Society).