Category Archives: Essays

The Role of Teachers in Our Public Schools

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Recently, there was an article posted on Good Education about a 13yr old who wrote an essay comparing Frederick Douglas’ narrative on slavery to our current education system. For those who have not seen the article, click the link below:

http://www.good.is/post/a-13-year-old-s-slavery-analogy-raises-some-uncomfortable-truths-in-school/

Before I discuss some of the key issues that come from the piece, here’s an interesting excerpt that clearly summarizes what happened:

In her essay, which was written for a contest, Williams reflected on what Douglass heard his slave master, Mr. Auld, telling his wife after catching her teaching Douglass how to read. “If you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there will be no keeping him,” Auld says. “It will forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master.”

Williams wrote that overcrowded, poorly managed classrooms prevent real learning from happening and thus produces the same results as Mr. Auld’s outright ban. She wrote that her white teachers—the vast majority of Rochester students are black and Hispanic, but very few teachers are people of color—are in a “position of power to dictate what I can, cannot, and will learn, only desiring that I may get bored because of the inconsistency and the mismanagement of the classroom.”

Instead of truly teaching, most teachers simply “pass out pamphlets and packets” and then expect students to complete them independently, Williams wrote. But this approach fails, she concluded, because “most of my peers cannot read and or comprehend the material that has been provided.” As a result, she continued, not much has changed since the time of Douglass, “just different people, different era” and “the same old discrimination still resides in the hearts of the white man.” Williams called for her fellow students to “start making these white teachers accountable for instructing you” and challenged teachers to do their jobs. “What merit is there,” she asked, if teachers have knowledge and are “not willing to share because of the color of my skin?”

From this article, there are two sides that are present for this particular argument. The first group would be to applaud the young girl for critically thinking about the role of teachers in an educational system, while also being cognizant of the historical narratives she has learned in school. Many may believe that her ability to draw parallels between Douglas and the current education system highlights some of the failures of our educators. On the other hand, the student’s essay places blame on one party and leaves two other parties out of the picture. This last sentence picks up on the concerns of the second group. The second side would say that parents and children also have a stake in the success of education. Instead of focusing so much on what teachers are or are not doing, instead critics of this article would say that parents are responsible for what goes on within the home. If children are not studying in the home and parents are not creating environments where this can effectively take place, then blame should be shifted elsewhere.With all of this in mind, we have to question who is right and what are the next steps.

While I partially agree with the student, we have to realize that education does not start and end within the classroom. Our textbooks are biased, our educators are ill-prepared, and our schools are overcrowded. All parties involved are suffering and deserve help from outside resources. The purpose of writing this is not to provide a solution to the education crisis. Instead, I want to urge individuals to critically review the problems associated with our education system and encourage people to critically assess this piece and the remarks made by the authors. One remark in particular (remarks about the merits of white educators in Black and/or Latino schools) really was frustrating to me for a few reasons.

The few white teachers I had in high school were always available to help academically and they were great role models. Additionally, to be a white educator in a nearly minority school is surely not easy. However, the fact that these teachers do stick around and attempt to create successful learning environments is something that is completely ignored in the article and rather frustrating for me. While I understand the merits of having teachers of color, it is not fair to group all other educators into a narrow category that demonizes their performance in the classroom. There is certainly more that can be said about the article, but I’ll stop here.

What were your thoughts? What were your initial reactions to the piece? Before leaving, listen to this Frank Ocean track which speaks to some of themes present in this article. Oh, and as always… Leave a comment in the box below.

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Possible Voting Restrictions for Blacks and Latinos/as

Recently, many articles have been released about potential threats to voting rights for Blacks and Latinas/os in the upcoming Presidential election. Considering the history of disenfranchisement in this country, the recent news has been alarming for many activist groups. Furthermore, the potential disenfranchisement of several minority voters could possibly be helpful for Republican hopefuls who are looking to for a big election win. For those who are not familiar with the new legislation that has been passed in several states, read the articles below:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/05/civil-rights-naacp-voter-warning

http://www.thenation.com/blog/163755/gop-voting-laws-could-swing-2012-election

http://www.good.is/post/new-voting-restrictions-will-affect-five-million-voters-in-2012/

One of the most interesting sections of the first article was the block quote below:

Studies have showed that the proportion of voters who do not have access to valid photo ID cards is much higher among older African-Americans because they were not given birth certificates in the days of segregation. Students and young voters also often lack identification and are thus in danger of being stripped of their right to vote.

This block quote was interesting for me because it highlighted the intersection between two critical groups: young/student voters and minority voters. As a young student of color, it could possibly seem as though voting is an impossible task. However, instead of feeling defeated, all students should look up the requirements for voting in the their state. If you happen to me an out-of-state student like myself, absentee voting is also a possibility. Check out the link below to see the process:

http://www.brennancenter.org/studentvoting

Sadly, some states have restrictive laws that make it impossible for college students to vote, regardless of their eligibility. Some of the restrictions arise from issues of government identification, residency, and school identification. For more information on this issue, read the articles below:

http://aspanational.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/college-students-denied-voting-rights/

http://campusprogress.org/articles/tennessee_voter_id_law_excludes_college_students/

Overall, the issue of voting restrictions is very problematic. Instead of allowing these political tactics to defeat minority voters, we must educate ourselves about the alternative options available to us. We can spread information about early voting, acceptable forms of identification, required amounts of identification, absentee voting, and so on. Voting is an important right that should not be taken away. The election will be here in no time, and we do have the power to rock the vote and take what is ours.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/story/2011-12-11/early-voting-laws-minority/51816886/1

http://www.declareyourself.com/voting_faq/state_by_state_info_2.html

http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections-campaigns/voter-id-state-requirements.aspx

Issues that Divide Black and Latin@ Communities

The previous post discussed the idea of unity between Blacks and Latinos/as. As stated before, there are several reasons why Blacks and Latinos/as should get along on paper. However, for every perceived similarity between two groups, there are certainly reasons why groups may disagree and/or even collide in terms of supporting each other.

The first issue to be covered is Employment opportunities. According to The Economist, they state:

One reason blacks and Latinos have failed to form an alliance is philosophical. The black civil-rights struggle, in the South at least, was mostly about asserting legal rights and demolishing barriers to voting by those who were, in theory, already enfranchised. The Latino struggle is quite different. Its goal is often the selective or non-enforcement of the law, particularly on immigration. A common demand, for example, is for local police not to co-operate with federal immigration agents. And, whereas blacks in the 1960s demanded power in proportion to their numbers as adult citizens, Hispanics want rather more.

Considering that unemployment for minorities, especially Blacks and Latinos/as is higher than the national average right now, it is easy for one to see how employment can divide two groups. With a stable job, families lose out on important opportunities. Without access to opportunities, good health, food, clothing, housing, etc, the disparity gap increases in the United States and leaves many in a painful predicament. Click the link below to read more about how the Unemployment crisis affects  relations between Blacks and Latinos/as.

http://www.economist.com/node/9587776

Issues That Unite Black and Latin@ Communities

In preparation for future events and discussion, I wanted to do a semester long personal project on the relationship between Blacks and Latinos/as. Many students our age can name some of the similarities that exist between Blacks and Latinos/as living in the United States. For instance, individuals from both groups love some of the same types of dancing, music and, food. With so many basic similarities, it may appear on the surface that the two groups would get along in most scenarios. Furthermore, many also believe that the similarities make it easier for the two groups to sympathize for the other’s cause. Along with group sympathy, intergroup unity is also important when considering how groups can work together to combat disparities within their communities.

Today, the issue of interest is racism within the United States. Racism today is more sophisticated and convulted than ever before. In some cases, it is harder to outright identify racism and various forms of racially motivated discrimination. Although it may be harder to identify, members from Black and Latin@ communities both agree that racism is an issue that plagues their communities and the opportunities that can actively seek for themselves. Take a look at the article below for more information on how Blacks and Latinos/as perceived racism in America.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/2246693-418/percent-americans-president-latinos-problem.html