Monday, August 20, 2012

Teach them! Rikers Island

For the White children who find themselves afflicted by the failures of this education system, I will consider them to be Black and Hispanic children as well. There is always so much confusion about education. We look at the statistics of the failing public education system in our country with immense curiosity. We say to each other how did this circumstance arrive? Usually, the answer is followed by a wide range of opinions that attempt to provide a reason for the dismembered education system. The answers are always brought with anger and disdain. Such a sentiment is clearly understood as the situation of our failing education system is quite deplorable. In most cases, our answer to the question of how we arrived here at this level of failure is equally as deplorable as our answers are racist as well as classist. In looking for the answer that explains the education failure, we expose our disdain and hatred for the Black and Brown student. Black and White people alike, who feel themselves separate and apart from the journey of misfortune created by poor education, are quick to admonish the Black/Brown student. We explain to each other that these children are failing because their parents are not involved in their education. In furtherance, we shout that these students don’t value education. Then we are quick to examine mass incarceration statistics of Black and Brown children to support these claims. In the end, we console ourselves resting easy with the notion that Black and Brown students are hopeless. We comfort ourselves believing that apathy is appropriate since their parents aren’t attending PTA meetings or helping them with their homework. I n the end, we justify the failure of the educational system while disconnecting ourselves from a problem that our racism and classism perpetuates. These answers are the backbone of the education issue. Through these answers, we allow our community leadership to shovel us useless solutions. This is indeed the case. Who can argue that our teachers aren’t trying to educate these people? Who can argue that our leadership is not concerned about the issue? With all this care and concern about the issues, that the students are still failing says that Black/Brown students are the problem. They just don’t care about their education. This is the pitiful, pathetic, arrogant, ignorant mindset of the American public, White and Black. I have an argument to make. Do schools have a right to not educate children when their parents are not “involved”? Do parents need to be in the PTA for schools to decide to do their job? For a child to obtain a decent education, do their parents have to be college educated themselves? I don’t think so. This bit of logic that is so pervasive is by far one of the weakest. A parent should not have to have a degree from Yale in order for their child to achieve in an environment whose sole purpose it is to provide education. This would be analogues to buying a car. However, before buying the car, you yourself must know how to build a car. Just like the car manufacturer having the responsibility to deliver its service to the customer, the schools have a responsibility to deliver its service to its customer. Like the car manufacturer not making an excuse that the purchaser should first learn how to build an automobile, the educational system should not make an excuse that the parents must be educated or attend PTA meetings. Though I think this is a compelling analogy, I sense that there are still some non-believers, so to speak. We will still argue that without proper parent involvement, the schools will be unable to educate the children properly. However, I stick to my rationale that a failing organization must observe its deficits then compensate for them. In other words, if we see that parents are not “involved” the way we would like them to be, we need to create bridges to mend this supposed gap. No, a parent not belonging to the PTA is not a valid excuse. Then there is the almighty issue of Black and Brown children not caring about their education. “They’d rather sell drugs and run the street instead of get an education, “we argue. I happen to know otherwise, however. Working with the adolescents here at Rikers Island, I realize now more than ever that no one likes being illiterate. People don’t like having to have to say, “I don’t like reading because I can’t read that well.” People don’t like not being able to write a complete sentence. Nobody enjoys being illiterate. I had an adolescent patient of mine tell me that although he is eighteen years old, he only has two credits in high school. People don’t enjoy being uneducated! He stated further, “This is not something I’m proud of.” Well now, this whole argument that our Black and Brown students enjoy being illiterate is falling apart! I’ve recently started to work with the kids in Rikers Island on their writing. I’m having them write about why they feel so many kids are dropping out of school. I feel that allowing them to discuss their challenges is helpful to finding a solution to the problem. Their answers though differ greatly than our answers. These Black/Brown students are saying that the teachers don’t care. Imagine that. What would make the dozen or so students that are not aware what each other is writing, write the same exact thing about education? Could it be a conspiracy? Could it be an organized attempt by Black/Brown students to overthrow the education system by dropping out and going to prison? Perhaps this is all part of their evil little plot overthrow Mayor Bloomberg’s reign over New York City. Or maybe it’s true. I think that their statements make sense. I also feel that it’s high time we stop blaming the victim which in this case is the Black/Brown student. These people are not dumb; believe it or not. They know we don’t give a crap about them. They know that we hate them. They know what we are saying about them behind their back. They know we don’t care. It’s not a big secret! The answer as to why they are dropping out of school is simple. Why would they go to school when they aren’t learning anything? What is the point of going to school when they are not teaching you how to read and write? I don’t think that these kids have received a decent education since third grade. The reason I say third grade is because their writing level is for the most part at a third graders level. If by the time you attend high school you have only received a third grade education, I don’t think there is any point to continue with that failed education system. This truly explains why they are dropping out of school to attend high school in prison. In fact, prison is where most of these Black/Brown students end up receiving their education. This outcome is due to our racist hatred and disdain for the Black/Brown student. Those of us who have forgotten where we come from and those of us who just don’t care what this country is supposed to be about have failed these students. We are responsible for their failure. We are the failures. We are making rationales and justifications for our own failures! We are sad and pitiful! We are pathetic! We are an embarrassment! We are a shame! We are not proud and we shouldn’t be since we produce crap work. The solution you ask? I’ll give a solution. Let’s have ten students per class so the teachers can reach each student. Let’s hire more teachers and pay them six figures when they begin their teaching careers. Let’s build more classrooms so we can accommodate the demand for education. Instead, we’re laying off more teachers, building more prisons, hiring more police and correction officers. The reason? Because we don’t care and we hate Black/Brown students. Waiting for this to happen would be tantamount to waiting for hell to freeze over. I’m referring to the growth in education not law enforcement. We always have money to lock up Black/ Brown kids. So here’s another solution. Each of you who read this blog, find a school in your state who is struggling. Call them up. Tell them who you are and what you do for a living. Then ask them what you can do to help. If you decide to actually give a damn and do this, would you please be so kind as to leave the response on a comment under this blog? I will do this very thing next week. I will then write a blog to inform you of how things have gone. If enough of us do this, we can start to make a difference and commence a grass roots campaign to overcome this deficit that we perpetuate. In short, I find that the answer as to how to educate students is simple. Teach them!

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