March 12, 2012

Only part of the story

Kevin Williamson goes after Rochester, NY school superintendent Bolgen Vargas for an incident last week whereby a 13 year old student echoed the sentiments of Frederick Douglass

Mr. Vargas is fortunate enough to have in his charge one Jada Williams, a 13-year-old eighth grader who voluntarily took on some difficult extra work: reading Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life and writing an essay on the subject. Frederick Douglass is dangerous reading, truly "radical" stuff. Miss Williams, like most of the students in her dysfunctional school, is black. Most of the people being paid to go through the motions of teaching them are white. Coming across the famous passage in which Douglass quotes the slavemaster Auld, Miss Williams was startled by the words: “If you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there will be no keeping him. It will forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master.” The situation seemed to her familiar, and her essay was a blistering indictment of the failures of the largely white faculty of her school: “When I find myself sitting in a crowded classroom where no real instruction is taking place I can say history does repeat itself.”

Williamson is spot-on in his criticism of Vargas because the reaction that followed in inexcusable: The teacher who received Williams' essay made copies of it and shared it with other faculty and administration. Williams shortly thereafter began to receive grades of "D" where she had previously been a straight-A student. Her mother got harassing phone calls from teachers. This is most certainly one big "WTF??" Williams had to leave the school and enroll in another.

But my gut instinct tells me that a lot on the right are jumping on this incident merely as a means to go after public schooling, teachers unions and Democrats in general, though this is short-sighted in many respects. The latter, of course, does hold a disproportionate amount of influence over the former two. But if such was written by a student in another arena -- one not controlled by liberals/Democrats -- would the Right be so vociferous in this student's defense? I tend to doubt it. Most of the time the Right [usually correctly] criticizes the quick use of the racism card when it comes to such matters. But if, say, Ms. Williams attended an affluent suburban school and used Douglass' essay to lament the lack of teaching African-American history as a component of an overall US history course? Would the Right then be as quick to take up her cause?

Again, since the Left does control so much of [inner-city] public schooling, they do share a disporportionate amount of blame for the state of these schools. But I wouldn't be so hasty to blame teachers for "not teaching" these children; I would place more blame on [liberal] administrators, politicians and like-minded teachers who believe the rights of chronically disruptive children are just as important as those of children like Ms Williams. That's the real problem with such schools -- teaching cannot occur if classrooms are too frequently zones of chaos. Teachers are told by administrators not to send kids out of class, and administrators want to keep school discipline figures down. So, it becomes a vicious circle whereby the misfits get away with [everything short of] murder. Young Ms. Williams, bless her, is very probably blissfully unaware about what really transpires in the school hierarchy ... and how "the game is played." Thus, she blames the only thing she deals with everyday: her teachers.

Posted by Felix at March 12, 2012 03:34 PM | TrackBack

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