January 06, 2006

"Racism" in the lexicon -- again

"Racism" behind wanting to break up the Clark County (NV) schools? Interesting.

Since 2001 Clark County has been a "minority majority" district, with white students accounting for less than half of the total. White students currently make up 39 percent of the 292,000 students, down from 41 percent last year. Hispanic enrollment has been steadily increasing and now stands at 37 percent. The black student population has remained relatively stable at just over 14 percent.

Once again we have the dreaded "R" word creeping into a debate. In order to stifle it. To demonize those who have different ideas.

Not to sound too cliché, but it's the damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario -- yet again -- regarding race. Here, some people claim racism because a "majority-minority" district may be broken up. But in Wilmington, DE (Hube's hometown), racism was used as a reason for the complete reverse -- for wanting to keep the majority-minority Wilmington School District intact during the [in]famous federal desegregation case of the mid-late 70s.

In a related matter, from the wonderful world of education "research," we have Susan Black, an "education consultant" from New York state (that should put up a red flag right there), who weighs in, as many education "experts" and "consultants" have over the years, on "culturally responsive classrooms." What's that, you may ask? In a nutshell, it is the idea that teachers should be accomodating of their students' "cultures" within the classroom. Any good teacher worth his or her salt already knows this, of course, especially if they are working with a significant number of minority children. It's just plain common sense. But Black's anecdotes of "disproval and rejection" are mostly extreme examples of teachers overreacting.

And, when Black states

The differences can erupt into cultural clashes, says Geneva Gay of the University of Washington in Seattle. Her studies show that many teachers expect their ethnically diverse students to learn and behave according to mainstream European-American cultural standards -- in other words, to learn and behave as the teachers do.

To illustrate the problems that can ensue when kids think and act differently from their teachers, Gay describes a common classroom scene in which teachers insist that students sit quietly, listen to lectures, answer questions, and compete for high grades. But African-American kids, Gay says, often interject comments or blurt out answers when they're deeply engaged in a lesson. All too often, she says, teachers misinterpret the kids' enthusiasm and punish them for being "rude and disruptive,"

one has to ask: Are there NO common standards of behavior for students that cross cultural lines? Should teachers not prepare ALL students to enter the real world here in the United States, where African-American kids, now workers, may not be permitted to "blurt out" answers and/or interrupt? Their superiors may (likely won't) tolerate such; there will be no call for "understanding" the workers' "cultural differences" as everyone at that company will be expected to conform to a uniform standard of behavior. Similarly, a teacher acquaintance of mine once related how an education "consultant" once told a small group of teachers that she once encountered a small group of African-American male students walking down the hallway of a school and were talking quite loud and shouting. She said she "thought about telling them to quiet down," but then thought "better of it" because that would be "denying their culture." Say whaaaat? In other words, the students in all of the classrooms in that hallway didn't have a right to a peaceful, quiet learning environment because some "enlightened consultant" was more concerned about these boys "preserving their ethnic identity." Again, do you think a supervisor will tolerate loud, boiterous behavior in a work environment (that in no way calls for it)? Do you think a boss will be "concerned" about his workers' "ethnic identity"?

[Teachers] learned the difference between discipline (ways teachers respond to students' inappropriate behavior) and culturally based classroom management (ways teachers prevent behavior problems by creating caring, respectful environments that support learning). She also recognized that her beliefs and assumptions were based on a white, middle-class world view that not all cultures share.

Yes, but you see, the "white, middle-class world" is what the United States' economic system is primarily geared towards (and, of course, it is the majority culture, like it or not). It is those values which are prevalent and prevail. Again, this is not to say that (white, middle-class) teachers cannot and should not understand and in many ways accommodate minority students' cultures. But it is -- or at least should be -- part of the teacher's duty to prepare their students to function effectively in the mainstream [work] environment. Again, employers will not concern themselves with such "accommodations;" they just want effective employees who conform to company rules and regulations, and who get the job done. Education "experts" and "consultants" who do not realize this may write a good paper for their masters or doctoral thesis, but it is doing the minority students they apparently wish to help a disservice.

Also, a question pertaining to the first story above: if certain ethnic groups are dissatisfied with the "cultural" behavior of other groups, then wouldn't it make sense to want to leave such an environment -- and head to a educational ambience where they feel more comfortable with students/teachers that share their own cultural "norms"?

Posted by Felix at January 6, 2006 07:22 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

You and I both know the answer to this, my friend. There is one culture that should NEVER be accommodated in American society. That is, of course, traditional white/European culture, in all its many forms. Such an accommodation would be insensitive to the minority students whose culture tells them that "the Man" is always out to oppress and subjugate them, even (perhaps especially) if "the Man" is a peer seeking respect.

I see this all the time, in the form of the constant refrain "its cuz I'm black" or "its cuz I'm Mexican" from students facing discipline. My response is to provide exactly the sort of accommodation that the consultant suggests -- I respond "Yes, you are right" and insist they follow my direction. After all, I have to reinforce their cultural belief that all us white folks are out to get them. (NOTE: THIS PARAGRAPH IS INTENDED AS A SARCASTIC REBUTTAL TO THE INANE DEMANDS OF CULTURAL CONSULTANTS -- DO NOT TAKE IT LITERALLY)

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at January 6, 2006 08:28 PM

"...an "education consultant" from New York state (that should put up a red flag right there)"

Is making an inflamatory statement like that one of those "common standards of behavior" that "cross cultural lines?"

Posted by: Dana Garrett at January 7, 2006 12:24 AM

Dana: I know a bit about NY State public ed. follies. I'm sure Felix is using unnecessary hyperbole; still, do you disagree with his view that there should be some common standards of behavior?

Posted by: Hube at January 7, 2006 08:33 AM

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