Category Archives: Education

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).

Ski & the BTHS Homecoming 100

2022 marks the centennial year of Brooklyn Technical High School. This weekend is the Tech Homecoming, sponsored by the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation.

My sister, Elizabeth (“Ms. Ski”) Sciabarra, began her career at BTHS as an Apprentice Teacher of English in September 1972. She was officially appointed in 1977, and would go on to become Coordinator of Student Affairs and Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services at Tech. She later served for nearly a decade as principal of New Dorp High School on Staten Island, moving on to the Deputy Superintendency of Brooklyn and Staten Island High Schools and the Deputy Superintendency of High Schools. Her career with the NYC Department of Education reached its apex when she became Superintendent of Selective Schools and founder of the Office of Student Enrollment and the High School Admissions Program.

Upon her retirement from the DOE in 2010, Ski would return to her Tech roots, and eventually become Executive Director of the Alumni Foundation, a position from which she stepped down at the end of June 2021 due to her current health challenges.

Even though she was never a Tech graduate, she has always held Tech close to her heart. One might say that as a member of the “class of 1972”, she has had a depth of love for Tech for virtually half the years of its existence. So, yesterday, she was elated to receive from the Alumni Foundation this wonderful Centennial Package (pictured below). She hopes to participate in the Virtual Homecoming event on Saturday, April 9, 2022.

Ski & BTHS 100
#GoFundSki

Also see Facebook post here.

#GoFundSki Goal Exceeded!

My sister, Elizabeth Sciabarra, wanted to extend her heartfelt appreciation to every single person who has donated to the #GoFundSki campaign to raise $150,000 toward her care needs as she remains in-hospice at home. Over a thousand people have contributed since this project was posted, at 5:26 pm on Friday, March 26, 2022. The goal has been exceeded—in just ten days!

Ultimately, what has most moved my sister are the words of encouragement she has received and the personal reminiscences that have been posted to the #GoFundSki page. These are the kinds of testimonials that one reads at a memorial. But they are now a living testament, which she is processing daily in a deeply emotional way. It has allowed her to truly grasp that her life really did count—and continues to count—in terms of the professional and personal impact that she has made. This outpouring of love and support is the greatest gift of all.

My sister’s at-home care is a constantly evolving situation. Every cent we raise helps to maintain her quality of life moving forward during this increasingly difficult period. We appreciate any additional contributions—whatever the amount of your donation.

#GoFundSki

Addendum: Several friends expressed their apologies to me on Facebook, in email, and even on the phone, that they have not been able to contribute to this successful campaign for my sister. One friend on Facebook stated: “I’m sorry that I cannot help.” To that friend, I said:

You have helped with your comforting words of love and support all these months as my dear friend. So many people are unable to provide material assistance at this time. But we have been blessed to have experienced spiritual support on every level, and nobody should ever apologize for being unable to help financially. You’ve been by my side for so many months now. So I say this not only to you, but to others who have been unable to donate. Your kind and caring words, expressions of love and support are so deeply appreciated during difficult times like this … and I thank you for that from the bottom of my heart.

Also see Facebook post here.

#GoFundSki

On behalf of my sister, I am sharing this publicly—and sending our appreciation to those who have continued to show their love and support. This is a GoFundMe for my sister. #GoFundSki to donate!

***

This is the kind of appeal that the family of Elizabeth Sciabarra (Ms. Ski to her students) never wanted to post. But we are facing some very difficult realities. My sister became seriously ill and nearly died in November 2020, which was followed by extensive spinal surgery in mid-March 2021. We nearly lost her again in mid-October 2021. Since that time, she has been receiving in-home hospice. As her devoted brother, I have been her primary caregiver—despite dealing with my own lifelong medical issues. As my own health has been compromised over these many months, we have been compelled to turn to health aides to assist with my sister’s in-home care.

My sister brings in a pension from her many years of service as an educator in the New York City public school system. She also brings in a Social Security retirement check. Given the state of American healthcare, she is in the unenviable position of being in that great “middle” ground where so many others find themselves—not “wealthy” enough to cover all her medical expenses; too “wealthy” to qualify for Medicaid. As a woman who has worked for over fifty years, and paid millions of dollars in taxes to local, state, and federal governments, she qualifies for a single Medicare home health aide, 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, though she needs 24/7 care.

Having maxed-out some assistance from the Council of Supervisors and Administrators for both the 2021 and 2022 calendar years, she is spending, on average, approximately $15,000 a month on aides and other non-insured medical supplies—more than she earns with her pension and Social Security combined. She has sold her car, exhausted her savings, and cashed-in retirement accounts—paying taxes on that too. Complete financial collapse can be avoided if my sister is placed in a Medicare-insured inpatient hospice, which would constitute a dramatic change to her quality of life. She wanted to remain at home, but without the financial capacity to do so, she will be compelled to make a decision that will break all our hearts. And hers most of all. Out of personal embarrassment and a sense of pride, she never wanted to make an appeal such as this. But after being in-and-out of hospitals and medical facilities for 17 months, even she realizes that this situation is financially unsustainable, threatening her ability to pay for even the basic necessities of life … food, clothing, and shelter.

We appreciate anything anyone can offer; we have no hope of paying anyone back. We only hope that a woman who, as an educator, devoted her life to helping thousands upon thousands of children and young adults, can raise enough funds that would allow her a level of dignity moving forward—despite the serious health challenges she continues to face every hour of every day.

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

My dear sister, Elizabeth Sciabarra

Also see Facebook post here.

Memories of Dad

As ballroom dancers, Mom and Dad met on the dance floor. Nobody could cut a rug doing a swift Peabody or a Lindy-Hop better! Dad always said if he had to die, he wanted to go out dancing.

And that is exactly what he was doing when he died on this date, fifty years ago.

On March 4, 1972, my father, Salvatore Charles Sciabarra (“Sal” to his family and friends), died of a massive coronary at the age of 55. He would have turned 56 on June 11, 1972. At the time, I was 12 years old, suffering from serious life-threatening medical problems, and the news of his passing shattered me. It was my first experience with death as a fact of life. It was so very hard. But the cherished memories I have of him are still very much alive.

Mom was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1919; Dad was born in Manhattan in 1916. As young children, they both moved to Brooklyn, New York and met as teenagers because of their mutual love of dancing. In 1935, she was 16 and he was 19. They had attended a wedding together and Mom missed curfew and didn’t want to go home to the wrath of her father, my Papouli, the first pastor of the Three Hierarchs Church. They decided to elope. Times were very different back then; intermarriage between faiths and ethnicities was frowned upon. Mom was an American-born Greek Orthodox woman whose parents had emigrated from Olympia, Greece. Dad was an American-born Roman Catholic man whose parents had emigrated from Porto Empedocle, not far from Sciacca (hence the last name), in the province of Agrigento, Sicily. Or as I put it, tongue-in-cheek: My maternal grandparents came from the home of the gods and goddesses and my paternal grandparents came from the home of the godfathers; clearly, this Brooklyn-born boy came from tough stock!

My parents were not gods, goddesses, or ‘godparents’. But they were very human renegades for their time. And, in many ways, they raised three renegade children, each of whom danced to their own music. My brother Carl—exposed to my father’s mandolin, guitar, and drum-playing, would go on to become a virtuoso jazz guitarist. My sister Elizabeth—exposed to my mother’s love of education (Mom was the first in her family to graduate from high school, James Madison High School in Brooklyn)—would go on to become a lifelong educator. And both my parents encouraged me to follow my own dreams; I would not have become what I am today without them.

Mom and Dad separated when I was 5 years old. Though my sister and I lived with my Mom, my Dad remained a very strong presence in my life. In fact, in the wake of that separation, his presence in my life only grew. There were difficult times for sure, but these were far outweighed by fun times. Trips to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, its hills like huge mountains to me, its zoo full of wonder, nourished my love of nature. Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, car rides, music, and movies delighted me.

One of those movies was “The Love Bug,” whose action centered around Herbie, a Volkswagen Beetle. Dad had proposed taking my sister and me to see the film, which was playing at the Cinema Theatre on East Kings Highway (previously known as the Jewel Theatre). Mom was flustered by both the title and the theater. “You’re taking them to see a film called ‘The Love Bug’ at the Cinema!”—knowing all too well that the theater was an infamous headquarters for first-run racy porn flicks. Dad explained that it was a Disney film.

Like Mom, who worked in the garment industry for most of her life, Dad too was a factory worker. Initially, he was an eye-setter in a doll factory. We still have some of those dolls, with their life-like eyes, which my Dad brought home for my sister Elizabeth. Eventually, he would become a cargo worker for Trans World Airlines at JFK International Airport. I still have plenty of TWA memorabilia, including TWA soaps and TWA Flying Magic Boards, given to kids of all ages on flights (see the collage below). Today, you’re lucky if you can get complementary snacks! I hadn’t flown on a plane in my Dad’s lifetime, but I got to see planes up close at the airport as a kid. It fueled my awe of the heavens and sparked my lifelong fascination with the human journey into air and space.

Despite losing my Dad in 1972, I continued to be nourished by a very loving and supportive family throughout my entire life. And it was to these family members that I dedicated each of my books. I told Mom that I would dedicate my first book, Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, to her. Alas, she died in April 1995, before that book was published. I told my Uncle Sam—my Dad’s first cousin, who married my mother’s sister (my Aunt Georgia) and who was like a second father to me—that I would dedicate my second book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, to him. But he died in 1994. It got so that I was very concerned about who would have been “sentenced” to death-by-dedication, for my third book, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. So I opted for strength in numbers, a group dedication—to my brother, sister, sister-in-law, friend Matthew, and dog Blondie, and all, except for Blondie, are still kicking till this day!

I never had a chance to honor my father. I was his “Chrissy Bear”; he was my Daddy. This post acknowledges his joyous impact on my life.

That’s me with Mom and Dad in September 1969, along with that TWA memorabilia …