Tag Archive | "school reform"

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Taboo: Speaking on Behalf of Blacks and other people of Color

Posted on 30 August 2012 by mdepeine

When something is considered “taboo” it is something that you dare not mention or bring up.  A common response to you mentioning something that is “taboo” would be “Don’t speak of it!”  When something is “taboo” everybody around “knows” that only a fool would bring up the “taboo subject” in a public setting.  You don’t blurt out such subjects when you are in a crowded room.  You don’t bring them up when you speak from the podium.  You don’t mention these “taboo subjects” at a cocktail party.  You only discuss them in the privacy of your home and in your bedroom with someone you trust.

In America, I realize that “race, racism, prejudice” are “taboo subjects.”  These subjects usually come up when a “victim” of racism or prejudice wants some expression or justice in relation to what they have experienced.  Then and only then do I see these things become almost “acceptable” to discuss openly.  For example, race was discussed openly when we saw what happened to Rodney King.  It was also discussed openly when we saw what happened to Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Chavis Parker and a host of other black men who were killed  by the police.  Other than these extremely publicized cases, it seems that the topic of race, racism and prejudice goes back on “the shelf” until needed again.

Another taboo subject in America is a person’s color.  There seems to be this collective consciousness that says that “We are all the same and we need not make distinction about color.”  Ideally, that is where we would like to get to as a country.  Realistically, however, that is not where we are.  There are too many examples that “scream” of inequality.  Too many blacks, yes, I used the word, live in poverty. Too many blacks are not getting a quality education (elementary, secondary and college).  Too many underperforming school districts are being “ravaged” by bureaucrats in the name of “school reform.”  Too many black men are in prison and have no possibility of parole.  Too many blacks are in and out of jail and don’t even have the “right to vote” any more.  Too many young black men are being brutally killed by police and other security forces in the name of “justified force.”

Yes, God has created all of us as human beings.  We breath the same air.  We drink the same water (H2O).  We bleed the same way.  Our bodies get the same sicknesses and have the same organs.  Genetically speaking, Science has linked all humans to one common mother they call “Eve.”  So, we are all the same, but when you look at the history (include slavery), we have not all been treated the same.

So, I want to shatter this “taboo” and freely discuss race, racism, prejudice and skin color (all shades) freely for the purposes of highlighting a problem that must be addressed so that lives can be improved.  The non-victims of race don’t care to discuss race.  For the victims who daily navigate this society with the understanding that the dominant (white) race barely “sees” them or cares to “hear” them, this is a true reality.  Sometimes it is more real than the air that they breath, if that were possible.

Somehow, in America, it is wrong to speak up and say that “This was done to him/her because he/she is black.”  Those of color KNOW more than anybody when they are discriminated against.  An “outsider” can never define that for them because the “outsider” does not know what it is to really experience that racism or prejudice as a minority.  Yes, a white person will experience racism and it is wrong, but even that “offense” is a lot different from the person in the minority experiencing that offense.  The person in “power” who experiences racism could say, “Well, that’s your problem if you don’t like me because of my color, I control things anyway, you will still need to come back to me.”  On the other hand, the person who is not in “power” does not have the luxury of saying what the dominant, white person can say.  The one in the minority can say “Wow, another reminder of what I have to overcome to get somewhere in this country, I hope that he/she doesn’t close too many doors for me.”  This is just a glimpse of the thoughts that people could have.  One person sets the conditions for racism, one person is forced to navigate through those conditions.

Those who are afraid to address racism in America will call anyone who points out these trends a “race monger.”  They may call anyone who wants to bring to light these issues a “racist.”  The reality is, they don’t want to open up this “can of worms.”  But those who are daily victims of it, live in the “can of worms” every day.  They just want the “can of worms” to be addressed constructively as a country, as a nation.  Lots of good was done in the 50s and 60s during the Civil Rights Movement, but still a lot more needs to be done today, in the twenty-first century.

I believe that all Americans, Christians and non Christians, should put in the effort to address this issue of race.  The funny thing is, our best churches and fellowships are afraid to tackle this issue thoroughly, even though it exists there as well.

Let’s shatter the “taboos” of race discussion.  Let’s discuss what really is there and not speak from a point of view of only what we wish was there.  You can’t confront and fix a problem that you won’t acknowledge is there.  The first step is “admitting that you have a problem.”  So, we don’t have to live by those “fake rules” that say:  Don’t mention black or white, don’t mention racism, don’t talk about slavery and its impact on race relations today, don’t talk about reparation, don’t speak up for blacks, don’t help the poor, don’t talk about trends against blacks, don’t talk about inequality, don’t talk about the contributions of slaves, and a host of other don’ts.  You fill in the rest.

We must bring race relations in the United States to the table and confront it.  It affects every facet of our society and our daily lives in an adverse way and we pretend that it doesn’t.  Barack Obama spoke about it four (4) years ago in 2008.  That was the last major attempt to address “race in America.”  Tons of books have been written about the subject and hundreds of millions of people are adversely affected by it in this country alone.  Yet, can we continue to stand by and ignore such a big PROBLEM?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Importance of Environment in Student Success

Posted on 13 December 2011 by mdepeine

As an educator I realize more than ever that a child’s success is not only dependent on what occurs in the school (between student and teacher) but also by all the events that occur before the child walks into the “safe haven” that is often the school building.  Below is an article addressing the impact of invironment on education.  I originally published this article on Helium.com:

I have been an educator in an urban school system for approximately 10 years. Prior to getting into education, I was in banking and finance. I majored in Psychology (clinical and social) and I have always enjoyed working with people and looking for ways to empower people to succeed at what they do and overcome obstacles. I realize that educating a child is not just a matter of curriculum but overcoming environmental stimuli that compete for a child’s attention.

The city that I work in has a lot of distractions that are very hard to avoid or ignore. There are shootings. There is gang violence and drug trafficking. There are also many single parent households. There are car thefts and of course high unemployment. Many of my students are experimenting with sex and some are being afflicted by sexual diseases. A student in that environment has to overcome and process many things just to get an education.

Each child, unless he or she has severe learning disabilities, has every opportunity to succeed. What I am seeing is that some children have more obstacles to overcome than others. Also, one child’s obstacle may be another child’s “easy pass.” Many of my students come in on Mondays discussing not their difficulties with the homework, but who “got shot” during the weekend and who was “jumped” by gang members. Some have seen their parents killed right before their eyes. Some have seen their friends killed or severely beaten. Many have had brothers and sisters who died before reaching the age of thirty. Many have friends and family members who are in jail. It is a common thing to see students wearing shirts with pictures of loved ones as a tribute to those who have died at a young age.

I often ask my students about their parents. Many of them do not know their fathers. Some have lived from one foster home to another. Many of their moms are eager to treat them as equals by the time they are 12 years old. Many are confused into thinking that they are adults even though they so much crave the attention of caregivers who will sit them down and gently walk them through how life should be lived as a child. It is common to hear young boys (11 – 13 years of age) refer to themselves as “grown men.” It is true that many have seen things that many adults have not yet experienced or never will experience. Yet, they are, at the core, children. They are children who still need to be taught to hope and to still expect the best and strive for a good education.

In such an environment It takes more than just a good curriculum and good supplies, it takes understanding the community and devising ways to counteract the negative effects that are produced. Often, I want to teach my students the importance of Newton’s Laws of Motion (Physics) and I think to myself, “wow, how calloused? These kids need some type of debriefing before I can get into any academic topic with them. They need to be able to say ‘here is what I’m going through'” They need to get the attention that many of them are not getting at home. Many parents would like to be there for them, but with minimum wage being such a “minimum” they work a lot of hours just to get by. The children need to hear over and over again, that “you will live a lot longer than your brother did,” or “you don’t have to go to jail, you can get a meaningful education and career,” or “sports and music are not your only options, you can be a doctor also, or president, if you would like.” They need a class that is not based on any standardized test. They need a class that is simply geared toward helping them have a “voice” and learning how to hope and overcome the negative effects of their environments.

I grew up in areas that were negative. Fortunately, I had two parents and other people that helped me look beyond my environment and look at what I can become and how I can make a positive difference. I had a great support system that many students, especially in “depressed areas” do not have. It may be time that we create areas in our curriculum that are geared toward enriching the emotional health of our students.

 

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