Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Schools Teach More Than The Three R’s In Arlington

image We don’t like to think of schools as indoctrinating children but in truth we all must admit that they do more than teach them the basic skills to participate in society.   Case in point can be seen in Arlington.

A parent tells other parents that they can’t be in the PTA if they don’t speak English.

An Anglo teacher tells African-American parents that their well-behaved second-grade son might be in a gang because of how he dresses.

A teacher makes it difficult for a student observing a religious event to pray during the day.

They held a three hour diversity training seminar to deal with the issues.  It will take a lot more than a few hours devoted to diversity to ensure that the problems will be fixed.  Whether the district admits it or not, these issues are systemic.   As minorities we depend on education to rise above the social circumstances to which we were born into, but if it teaches our children that they are secondary citizens, what hope is there that they can achieve the success that education supposedly promises?

It is difficult enough that schools have a tendency to ignore the contributions of people of color or re-write history to support whiteness.  Look through an average textbook and you will notice that even in progressive areas, the images still have a tendency to reflect Whiteness.  Even without actively teaching racist ideas, the erasure imparts the message that people of color are not equal participants. 

image There was an uproar when it was announced that seventy-five percent of Oklahoma high school students could not name George Washington as the first president of the United states.  I will agree that this is important information, however; why were these people not alarmed about the lack of inclusivity in education?    This is just as damaging as not knowing about George Washington.  I am sure it never even occurred to these people that the trauma of never seeing yourself reflected in a positive manner is extremely harmful. 

Schools reaffirm social messages.  They don’t teach children to think critically, or examine the ways in which hierarchy is ultimately destructive to so many.  The number one lesson children learn is to wait and to respect authority.  This is the legacy that we are imparting to today's children.  Raising automatons is exactly with the right wing wishes to promote because conservatism is about defending underserved privilege.  The society that they wish to conserve/and or promote, is one that deemed white male hegemony as natural and good.  Is it any wonder that a teacher can call a second grade student a gang member?

Parents of color face very difficult circumstances.  Not only are many working two or three jobs to ensure that their children are clothed, housed, and fed, they must often fight against schools to ensure that children learn to value themselves.  We love our children no less than any other parents and it is absolutely heartbreaking to know that we must send them out to face a world that is not going to see how precious they truly are.  It is parents of color that must wipe away the tears of confusion, as we try answer the difficult questions.  Unlike White children our kids receive few positive messages.  We cannot trust the system because it has repeatedly betrayed us.  I will trade them three hours, for a lifetime of negotiating a system that refuses to people of color as valuable.