Archive for June, 2021

Underdog Success Stories on Black Valedictorians Persist… as Does the Racist Infrastructure that Makes Them “Newsworthy”

June 30, 2021 Comments off

The NYTimes featured a Guest Essay from Samuel Getachew, the 2020 valedictorian of Oakland Technical High School, lamenting the sad reality that his accomplishment, like those of two of his predecessors at his school, were newsworthy because all three of them were Black. The essay describes the a “structure” that was available to the three high achieving blacks that were not available to his classmates– access to a “gifted track” that took the form of Paideia program that Mr. Getachew described as “a discussion-based humanities program“.

As one who sought to implement an enrichment based program for gifted students in the 1980s I recalled that the Paideia program as it was originally conceived by Mortimer Adler was NOT intended as a “gifted program” but rather an approach that would benefit all students and transform schooling away from siloed disciplines in the liberal arts area into a more holistic approach. A quick Google Search yielded this response to a question on the purpose of the paideia proposal, a response that validated my memory:

The purpose of the Paideia Proposal was to provide a system of liberal education for all children in the United States, not just those expected to attend college.

How an approach to schooling that was intended to be transformative and widely available to all students became a gifted program that sorted out Black students is a back story that was not clearly described…. but the results of the tracking were clear: racial segregation. Mr. Getachew’s closing paragraphs lament the reality that emerges from this segregation: 

The academic and societal circumstances that made Mr. Ahmad’s success so noteworthy years before Mr. Muhammad or I arrived on campus remained long after the reporters left and the dust settled. When the annual news cycle of underdog valedictorians fades, segregated classrooms endure. These heartwarming stories are a distraction from the reality of our education system.

I don’t want to see yet another “inner city” success story emerge from my community. I want these stories to be so common that they are unworthy of such coverage.

The irony is that as long as “exceptions to the rule” like Mr. Getachew emerge, there is no need to question the “the rule”, only an effort to identify the traits of those “exceptional students” and transmit them to more of his classmates. 

NH Education Savings Accounts Included in State Budget to Have Imponderable Impact

June 29, 2021 Comments off

The ultra-conservative wing of the GOP scored several victories in the budget they adopted along partisan lines, including the funding of a voucher program for children in families whose total earnings are under $78,500. They passed this despite their inability to project how much it will cost the state, how it will be put into place, what regulations– if any– will apply to the schools who accept the money, and what the impact will be in the future. Evidently this kind of planning is sufficient if free market principles are championed. And should the free market fail investors have no need to worry in NH. The legislature will bail them out!

How Can We Have Kids Talk to Each Other if Schools are Segregated?

June 28, 2021 Comments off

Nick Kristof’s column describing how Black musician Daryl Davis persuaded scores of KKK members to abandon their racist perspectives was heartwarming and hopeful. As a 10 year old, Mr. Davis was assaulted by a group of white racists. He described his reaction thus:

“I was incredulous,” Davis recalled. “My 10-year-old brain could not process the idea that someone who had never seen me, who had never spoken to me, who knew nothing about me, would want to inflict pain upon me for no other reason than the color of my skin.”

“How can you hate me,” he remembers wondering, “when you don’t even know me?”

Over the years that followed, Mr. Davis found out the answer to his question by engaging racists in dialogue… and unsurprisingly he found that the hatred can only exist when individuals do NOT know each other. Dialogue can help forge unity far more than debate. In Kristof’s words: “If we’re all stuck in the same boat, we should talk to each other.” Kristof then quotes Adam Grant:

“Daryl Davis demonstrates that talking face-to-face with your ideological opponents can motivate them to rethink their views,” said Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “He’s an extraordinary example of what psychologists have repeatedly shown with evidence: In over 500 studies, interacting face-to-face with an out-group reduced prejudice 94 percent of the time.

But as long as our schools are segregated racially and sociologically how can children interact face-to-face with an out-group? And if CHILDREN don’t have that kind of interaction before leaving high school and they reside in racially and socio-economically segregated neighborhoods or communities, when will they ever have the opportunity unless we intentionally create it for them? More than anything else, this is the best argument for mandatory public service. For creating a place where “out-groups” can interact with each other and come to understand that we are all in the same boat.