If New York City taxpayers want to know how their money is spent by the Dept of Education, they can consider the program to train computer science teachers to help students see this subject connected to their own lives. You might guess that ordinary inducements such as doing better in school, doing better in an increasingly computerized job market, earning more money - all of which apply to all races and ethnicities - would be reason enough to be grateful for having computer science courses available in school. You might imagine that by the time a Muslim student is in school, it is no longer essential to capture his attention by the fact that he can make a 3 D symbol of Allah’s name in Arabic script. You would hope that infantilization would not be so rampant that a teacher would boast of making up a song similar to “the head bone connected to the neck bone” in order to stimulate interest in computers. These examples are from an article in today’s WSJ and make us wonder whether school is synonymous with Sesame Street and whether all we are really doing is encouraging the soft bigotry of diminished expectations (WSJ NYC Teachers Get ‘Culturally Responsive’ Training, 8/14)
The fact remains that the whole issue of racial and cultural sensitivity has been captured by Black and Hispanic groups looking for outside answers to inside problems. Asian and Indian students seem to have no trouble meeting the criteria of NYC public schools and do not demand more Chinese teachers or more examples of Japanese food in their math problems or Indian folk legends in our literature. They have no trouble passing standardized tests in English and Math whereas only a third of Black and Hispanic students manage this basic requirement. The notion that what’s holding them back is the insufficient depiction of people of color in our curricula is as preposterous as the suggestion that Black children should be excused from the rules of decorum because their home lives have different standards of acceptability. Children of all ages must understand that school and home are vastly different and the way to adjust to this is not by talking down to them or showing them more selfies.
We are already living in an overly narcissistic culture with people consumed with posting pictures of themselves and checking their facebook pages and demanding “safe spaces” when they are not in 100% familiar territory. At the same time, we are obsessed with stressing the need for ever more diversity which seems to leave some people of color too uncomfortable to even listen to American history or see a statue on the street. In the WSJ article, a teacher summed up the issue that warranted this program for culturally responsive training: “I want to learn computer science; I’m not here for political mumbo jumbo.” The sooner our educational administrators apply this to students as well, the greater the chance for seeing real achievement.
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