Are black teachers the only ones who can effectively teach black students?
That’s what a recent letter to the editor in our local paper from an African-American preacher seems to be suggesting.
Actually, he may more accurately be suggesting that only black teachers can control black students, but that pretty much works out to the same thing.
“You cannot ignore race in the name of diversity,” he writes.“That type of thinking leads one to a bury your head in the sand and flap your arms way of life.”
Our town, he says, “has a race problem it does not want to speak about out loud.”
And it does, I think, but I’m not sure he’s identified its true nature.
In our town, like in most towns in most states in this country, black students generally do less well on standardized tests than their counterparts from other races and ethnicities. It has been suggested that this is because the tests are skewed for white kids, but then Asian kids wouldn’t outscore white ones, but they do, so that’s not it.
This letter-writing pastor, who I happen to know is well spoken and Ivy League educated, despite having to overcome serious challenges in his childhood and youth, suggests that the teachers whose classrooms are chronically out of control in our town, are “so culturally unfamiliar with the students they are assigned to teach that the very presence of the two in the same room generates fear and conflict.”
He says that a study should be done to see if white teachers have a harder time controlling their black students than black teachers do, and if this is found to be the case, then this is the answer to the problem, and that blaming the children and/or the administration is misplaced.
Well, I’m glad an educated African-American pastor brought it up, so maybe we can discuss it without being accused of racism, but I doubt it, because what this sounds like he’s saying is that black students can’t be controlled by anyone other than members of their own race. Why would that be? It hasn’t been true for any other race or ethnicity in this country’s 200-plus-year history.
If we are saying that black students can be expected to behave in a civilized way in school only if their teacher is black, then are we saying this is true for all other students, also? Should white students, Asian students, Jewish students and Muslim students, Hindu, Irish and whathaveyou students be expected to behave only for teachers of “their own kind?” Really?
Children whose forebears came here from every conceivable corner of the planet have been educated in this country by teachers whose families also came from all over, and the children were expected to behave and learn, and they did.
I wonder if this letter writer thinks that only black police officers should patrol black neighborhoods. If he does, I wonder if he feels the opposite is also true – should only white officers patrol white parts of town? If not, like with the teachers, why not? What’s the difference, if the issue is cultural? Unless the issue is, actually, racist in nature.
I mean, if African-American culture is so different from white American culture so as to render white teachers incapable of controlling black students and black students incapable of learning from white teachers, then the opposite must also be true. And if the opposite isn’t also true, then something else is taking place in the black community.
It strikes me a little bit like the whole Ebonics thing did – like someone was suggesting that black people are incapable of learning to speak English properly and therefore the incomprehensible street slang developed in their community needed to be legitimized.
That is so obviously nonsense it barely rates mentioning, except to point out that this very letter writer (and millions of others) are living proof of the idea’s absurdity.
Still, in his letter, the preacher sounds as though he’s suggesting the whole school integration thing everyone fought so hard for some years back, may not have been such a good idea, after all.
The overwhelming majority of Vallejo’s public school teachers are white, he says, so by finding out if the percentage of those with discipline problems matches the percentage of white teachers and vice-versa, we would have found the solution to the issues in our public schools.
But, I think that even if his theory on classroom control were proven correct, the real basis of the problem lies where it always has – in the students’ homes – where somehow the lesson that non-black teachers can be disregarded and disrespected is being taught and learned.
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