A common topic between my girlfriends and I this time of year is where are we going to send our little ones to summer camp and to school next year. It seems like every year, no matter whether we have our children in private school or public school, we face new and more heart-wrenching challenges that we have never experienced before. If we are not worrying about their grades, we are worrying about bullies. If we are not worrying about bullies, we are worrying about issues with the teachers. If we are not worrying about teachers, we are worrying about the administration and the district as a whole. We worry because we have minority children and we want them to have fair treatment in a system that consistently proves they are anything but fair. It is exhausting!!!
We all simply want what is best for our children. We want to provide them with the best education, help them develop socially and help them have a positive educational experience overall. We can’t be there at all times, so we are putting a great deal of trust in relative strangers to instill core values, common sense and general knowledge into our children. Nowadays, we are even relying on these individuals to protect our children, which is sad and truly frightening. It also becomes a very different matter when you have a minority son. I find that I have to protect him all the more.
I recently read an article where the Department of Education released data showing there is a significant disparity between the discipline of minority students as opposed to their white counterparts. An outstanding 46% of minority students, primarily African American male students, face harsher discipline on a daily basis. They are seen as more aggressive and the teachers admitted to often fearing these students. Therefore, they use the no tolerance system to repeatedly discipline these students for minor infractions. Yet, this is nothing new as the same studies have been conducted for the past three decades with the same results according to the article. The study pointed out that the students often become more aggressive because they are disciplined more harshly. These findings yield a strong correlation to negative outcomes such as dropping out, alienation, delinquency and academic failure. So my question is, what is the point of conducting the same studies that yield the same results without the institution of change and reform? What purpose are we serving by showing how unfairly we are treating certain students without instilling a mechanism to help right this wrong? I truly get sick of useless studies with pointless results.
The popular Las Vegas act, the Blue Man group, became so frustrated with the state of education that they decided to open a school of their own called The Blue School. This school encourages and fosters creativity and diversity as opposed to the cookie cutter mentality seen in most classrooms. They realized that one size does not fit all in regards to learning and decided to take matters into their own hands. What initially started as a play-date group, has grown into a K-5th grade school on the lower East side in Manhattan. Despite the hefty yearly price tag of around 30K for tuition, the school has a waiting list for enrollment. The teachers, students and parents are empowered to help design the curriculum leaving everyone with a sense of fulfillment. Unlike our students here in Texas, they are not required to simply learn to pass a state mandated test but are encouraged to explore alternative avenues to the standard methods of teaching and learning.
Here is my two cents. It doesn’t take thirty grand to foster creativity, recognize diversity or allow children to develop at their own pace. I believe we can implement similar methods in all private and public schools. It doesn’t take a genius to make small changes to allow children to grow and learn while maintaining a fun and creative environment. We know our system is flawed and that our teachers are underpaid and unappreciated yet we stand by and allow it to happen. But that is no excuse for the teachers not having training in diversity. For the past 30 years, we have proved that our minority students are disadvantaged in the classroom but nothing has changed. In essence, we celebrated a victory in 1954 with the Brown vs Board of Education, only to discover with the studies conducted that segregation is still very rampant. The studies prove that minority students are not always receiving equal education and for three decades our education system has repeatedly proved this by unfairly disciplining our children. The high drop out rates, high expulsion from school and the proof that they are academically suffering because of the harsh discipline received reflects a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
We grumble to ourselves and complain to each other about the problems we experience with the education options that are available, but we never take the time out to really bring attention to all these issues. Once again, if we can make an issue like Kony or the tragedy of the Trayvon Martin case go viral, we certainly can begin to speak up more about the issues that are closer to home for us. Remember, there is truly strength in numbers and we all have a responsibility to begin to voice these concerns to our local state education agencies. Actually, we need to just start speaking up in general as we all deserve better than the status quo. There is nothing more frustrating to me than someone who simply wants to whine about situation but will never take action to make the situation better.
From what I can tell, in our attempt to always remain politically correct and please the masses, we actually end up pleasing no one. I cannot tell you how many PTO meetings I have sat in where we have gone around and around about the most asinine of issues without resolution. I for one want better for my daughter and son. But I will admit, I worry about my son more since he will be an African American man in a world dead set against allowing him to thrive and succeed. He will face many challenges that he should not even have to endure. We have to prepare him for the heartache, frustration and inequality that he is about to face as he becomes older and that breaks my heart. But I can assure you this, I will continue to fight for a change in our system. Any school that feels like they can treat my son unjustifiably will catch nothing less than hell from me. Believe me, the schools he has attended already have and it is nothing for me to go up to the office and go toe to toe with the administration concerning their idiotic discipline measures. Now truthfully, some of it my son brings on himself and I acknowledge that and will support discipline measures when it is appropriate. However, I will not stand for what I deem nonsense and I will always, always ensure that my son is receiving the best education I can find for him so that he can become the man I expect him to be later in life. I plead for you to do the same no matter what the color of their skin may be. We have to remember that if we have young children, these schools are helping to mold who are they are to become later in life.
Until next time, keep on keeping on being the best you that you can be!