Tag Archives: education

Protecting White Kids From History

By Guest Contributor T.F. Charlton; originally published at Are Women Human?

Content Notes: racist violence, slavery, infanticide, Japanese internment.

So, this is a thing: a white parent has spent 6 months trying to get the Fairfax County,Virginia school system to ban Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved from its schools. Why? She feels its content isn’t suitable for children – where “children” here means older teenagers in an Advanced Placement class intended to provide college-level instruction – and is upset that reading the book gave her then 18 year old son nightmares.

Laura Murphy, the book-banning mom in question, has apparently also tried to get Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Joy Kogawa’s Obasan, a novel about the Canadian government’s internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II, removed from the county curriculum. I have no idea what her objection to Obasan is, but there appears to be a pattern here, and it looks an awful lot like whiteness.

There’s so much one could say about this.

Firstly: Yes, Beloved is a deeply disturbing book, no doubt about that. It’s the story of a mother who would rather kill her children than be forced to have them grow up as slaves. Morrison doesn’t spare feelings or constitutions in her descriptions of all kinds of horrific violence.

Kimberly Elise, Oprah Winfrey, and Thandie Newton in "Beloved."

Kimberly Elise, Oprah Winfrey, and Thandie Newton inBeloved. Still from The Ascension Blog

I’ve read a good portion of Beloved, but have never finished it, because I was strongly advised that it wasn’t a book I wanted to read while I was pregnant (I believe my friend’s exact words were “STOP READING IT RIGHT NOW”). So, I get it. It’s an unsettling read.

It’s a bit sad that this needs saying, but many books that are worth reading can be profoundly unsettling and scary, even traumatic to read. And this is in part because many unsettling, scary, traumatic things are part of the human experience.

It’s hard for me to imagine there aren’t several books on Fairfax County’s AP English curriculum that are potentially as disturbing as Beloved or Obasan. Say, for example, Lord of the Flies, which gave me nightmares when I read it in 10th grade. Kids going feral after being stranded on a desert island and hunting and killing each other is pretty nightmarish stuff, no? Or how about Hamlet? Dude pretty much slaughters everyone at the end [eta: hyperbole alert :-p]. Let’s ban, that, too.

But no, those books are part of the awfully white male “Western canon,” and not so vulnerable to these sorts of crusades. Their literary merit is established, so the violent and disturbing aspects are more easily taken for granted.  Despite Murphy’s claim that her objection to Beloved is purely about protecting kids and has nothing to do with her assessment of its literary merit, it’s quite obvious that her concerns about literary violence don’t apply equally to all books or all authors.

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The Weight Of Being A (Young And Successful) Black Male

by Guest Contributor Edward Williams, originally published at Policylink

It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that most notably stated, “all progress is precarious and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.” I had never contemplated my personal success as precarious progress or that my success to this point could bring any non-materialistic problems, but I now find myself–like many of my fellow successful, young, black men–in a moment of crisis.

Before I dive into what exactly this 21st-century identity crisis is, what it is caused by, and what it ultimately means, I need to get some preliminaries out of the way to open some critical minds. First, this article is not intended to be braggadocious: I will discuss some of my personal success as I explicate this issue, but I will also share the success of several other young black men that I am close with. Neither their stories of success nor mine are expressed from a place of haughtiness but instead from a place of humility. I fear that it is out of concern for being perceived as arrogant or out-of-touch that this side of the young black male’s story is so rarely told.

Next, this article is not intended to complain about success. I recognize that success is usually not a word associated with black men, and I spend most of my article writing time trying to shed light on the crisis in our inner-city schools. It is not lost on me that most young black men will never be in a position to engage in the dialogue that I am about to embark on, because their potential success has been stifled.

Finally, I recognize that much of what I will discuss at length not only applies to successful young black men, but also to successful young black women and young successful minorities generally. I have consciously chosen to focus on the young black male success crisis because I understand it best first hand. It would be disingenuous of me to attempt to articulate the myriad of different pressures that other minorities or women experience as they climb the ladder of success. Therefore, for risk of speaking on that which I know little about, I have chosen not to explore those topics, but I hope that my fellow successful young minority colleagues and female colleagues will soon treat us with their own version of this crisis.

Now that preliminaries are out of the way, let’s get down to the issue; what exactly is the young successful black male’s 21st century identity crisis? Continue reading

A Latina in academia: My individual experience

by Guest Contributor Daily Chicana, originally published at The Daily Chicana

In my post Latina/os in academia: A look at the numbers, I shared a several statistics concerning (both in the sense of “about” and “these numbers are sad and should concern us”) Latina/os’ overall educational attainment in the US. As you may recall, it was inspired by a story I read about three Latinas who just received their Ph.D.s in English from UTSA.

What inspired me to reflect on my own particular educational journey was how much it contrasts to those of the women featured in the article. For example, one of the women opens up about the lack of encouragement she received, even being told that she “wasn’t college material.” Nevertheless, she worked towards an associate degree from a community college over four and a half years and eventually ventured on to graduate work. Another of the women only started looking into the possibility of attending college after others expressed surprised to hear that she did not plan to apply. The third woman, who was on a more traditional educational track (going to college right after high school and then on to be a full-time graduate student), still notes wistfully that Latina/os often experience an identity crisis in classrooms where “your culture is repressed and your language isn’t validated” (emphasis added). Continue reading

Quoted: Adam Davidson on the Subtext of the Manufacturing Crisis

Later, I sat down with Maddie in a quiet factory office where nobody needs to wear protective gear. Without the hairnet and lab coat, she is a pretty, intense woman, 22 years old, with bright blue eyes that seemed to bore into me as she talked, as fast as she could, about her life. She told me how much she likes her job, because she hates to sit still and there’s always something going on in the factory. She enjoys learning, she said, and she’s learned how to run a lot of the different machines. At one point, she looked around the office and said she’d really like to work there one day, helping to design parts rather than stamping them out. She said she’s noticed that robotic arms and other machines seem to keep replacing people on the factory floor, and she’s worried that this could happen to her. She told me she wants to go back to school—as her parents and grandparents keep telling her to do—but she is a single mother, and she can’t leave her two kids alone at night while she takes classes.

I had come to Greenville to better understand what, exactly, is happening to manufacturing in the United States, and what the future holds for people like Maddie—people who still make physical things for a living and, more broadly, people (as many as 40 million adults in the U.S.) who lack higher education, but are striving for a middle-class life. [...]

I never heard Maddie blame others for her situation; she talked, often, about the bad choices she made as a teenager and how those have limited her future. I came to realize, though, that Maddie represents a large population: people who, for whatever reason, are not going to be able to leave the workforce long enough to get the skills they need. Luke doesn’t have children, and his parents could afford to support him while he was in school. Those with the right ability and circumstances will, most likely, make the right adjustments, get the right skills, and eventually thrive. But I fear that those who are challenged now will only fall further behind. To solve all the problems that keep people from acquiring skills would require tackling the toughest issues our country faces: a broken educational system, teen pregnancy, drug use, racial discrimination, a fractured political culture.

This may be the worst impact of the disappearance of manufacturing work. In older factories and, before them, on the farm, there were opportunities for almost everybody: the bright and the slow, the sociable and the awkward, the people with children and those without. All came to work unskilled, at first, and then slowly learned things, on the job, that made them more valuable. Especially in the mid-20th century, as manufacturing employment was rocketing toward its zenith, mistakes and disadvantages in childhood and adolescence did not foreclose adult opportunity.

— “Making It in America,” by Adam Davidson for the Atlantic

(Image Credit: The Atlantic)

1-13-12 Links Roundup

A recent study by the Yale University Child Study Center shows that Black children — especially boys — no matter their family income, receive less attention, harsher punishment and lower marks in school than their White counterparts from kindergarten all the way through college. A subsequent article published in “The Washington Post” reported that Black children in the Washington, D.C. area are suspended or expelled two to five times more often than White children. It’s a national trend that needs to be addressed.

The demographics were surprising, experts said. While blacks were still more likely than whites to see serious conflicts between rich and poor, the share of whites who held that view increased by 22 percentage points, more than triple the increase among blacks. The share of blacks and Hispanics who held the view grew by single digits.

What is more, people at the upper middle of the income ladder were most likely to see conflict. Seventy-one percent of those who earned from $40,000 to $75,000 said there were strong conflicts between rich and poor, up from 47 percent in 2009. The lowest income bracket, less than $20,000, changed the least.

The grinding economic downturn may be contributing to the heightened perception of conflict between rich and poor, said Christopher Jencks, a professor of social policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

“Rich and poor aren’t terribly distinct from secure and unemployed,” he said.

Sony Music has been ordered to pay $1.2 million (equivalent to about $656,000 in American dollars) in retroactive compensation back to 1997 for the release of the song “Veja os Cabelos Dela (Look at Her Hair)” by the Brazilian singer, comedian and politician Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva whose stage name is Tiririca.

The lyrics not only liken a black woman’s hair to “a scouring pad for pots and pans,” but also calls her a “stinking beast.” Oy!

The lawsuit was brought forth by 10 non-governmental organizations that fight against racism. Humberto Adami, the defense attorney of the NGOs, argued that black women were offended, exposed to ridicule and felt violated due to the lyrical content of the song.

“This decision is a direct message to show how the issue of racial inequality should be treated. It is a moment to celebrate. The compensation won’t even go to the authors of the lawsuit. The money will go to the Diffused Rights Fund of the Ministry of Justice,”commented Adami.

Because immigration violations are technically a civil issue, immigrants in detention have no right to an attorney even though the consequences—deportation—can be much worse than for those facing criminal proceedings. Multiple reports in recent years have found that the bulk of immigrant detainees navigate the labyrinthine immigration system on their own, or are isolated in far-flung detention centers out of reach to legal aid services which are concentrated in urban areas.

Young people become uniquely vulnerable in these situations.

“A lot of children are scared and their age and developmental experience doesn’t allow them to understand what is expected of them or the legal remedies that they might otherwise be eligible for,” Garcia said. “Often minors do not know what they are agreeing to or how to present their cases.”

In many cases, there is no requirement that detainees see a judge, which only compounds the problem.

“These two massive deficiencies, that you have no lawyer to help advocate for you and no guarantee you can see a judge, mean that very low level ICE agents are in many cases the first and last arbiter of your citizenship claim,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Southern California. Too often, he said, immigration agents don’t believe or bother checking people’s stories, even when they might make valid claims of citizenship.

One or both of these checks would certainly have helped someone verify Turner’s actual identity before she got deported, Arulanantham said.

Viola: I felt like that scene represented something that you don’t see in cinema—the everyday fear that people had. Oftentimes, when you see the Civil Rights era onscreen, people are being whipped and killed, but it’s the everyday—you’re going home, you’re tired and on the bus, and all of a sudden something happens that could be life-threatening. Then, as soon as it’s over, you’re back to your life again. It’s the everyday fear you have to live with. It woke Minny and Aibileen up to the fact that they were risking their lives writing this book.

Tate Taylor: What I really, really loved about the Medgar Evers storyline and backdrop was that he was in their neighborhood. While they were doing this clandestine project, this Civil Rights leader who’s their neighbor gets murdered, and their characters are wondering, “What’s going to happen to us?”

Kathryn Stockett: It was very important for me—and for Tate—to not make this into a Civil Rights piece, but they were being infiltrated and hunted down for their color. So when that bus driver agrees to drive the white people to their destination but tells the black people to get the fuck off, he’s reminding people of the rules. I think it also makes the audience very protective of Aibileen when she’s running through the dark like that. It hurts watching it!

Waiting For Superman Explores Education Reform Through The Eyes of Children

by Latoya Peterson

One hot summer night in June, I cradled my brown industry pass and debated watching a surely depressing movie about school reform or a (relatively) light-hearted look at North Korea.  One of the first benefits to joining the Public Media Corps was the access to SILVERDOCS, the annual documentary film festival produced by the AFI Silver Theatre and The Discovery Channel. Late on a weekday night, we finished up our training and trooped over to Silver Spring, hoping to catch at least one of the films before the festivities finished for the evening.

My friend Brittany and I both decided that we wanted to at least check out the film on educational reform called Waiting for Superman – and hour and a half later, we exited the theater with pain in our hearts and tears in our eyes.

*Spoilers Ahead*

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A Broken System, Part I: Unconstitutional

by Guest Contributor CVT, originally published at Choptensils


What aspect of U.S. life wraps all the forms of oppression and inequality into one tidy little package? What system successfully keeps women, people of color, LGBT, religious minorities, people with disabilities, and people in poverty “in their place” more effectively than any other? Why, the education system, of course. And as a teacher and writer on all things unequal, it’s high-time I start specifically addressing education (in the States, and abroad). So I bring to you the first of a multi-part CVT special: A Broken System, Part I: Unconstitutional. Enjoy.

“Separate but equal” is inherently unequal. So what about “separate and unequal“?

This post is a long-delayed response to the ongoing situation at South Philadelphia High* and the U.S. public school system, in general; and it goes something like this:

We all know that the public school system in the U.S. is a problem. We all know that public schools in the richer areas of big cities, or in the suburbs, are drastically better than those in poorer areas of the country (whether rural or urban). This is not something that anybody would refute. We also know that, in many poor, urban schools, the student population is heavily skewed towards students of color. In those schools, we are also aware that race-related violence is a part of everyday life. We know that many of these schools use large portions of their federal and state money on security measures, as opposed to education.

So let’s take a look at this logically; summed up, we all know that a disproportionate number of students of color are in inferior schools with major impediments to receiving a decent education. Hmmm . . . and last time I checked, I recall reading that schools are getting more racially segregated over time. Sounds like “separate but unequal” to me. Continue reading

It Was Racist

by Guest Contributor M. Dot, originally published at Model Minority

I was reluctant about today’s class going in.

We read Mary Waters’ Ethnic Options and her book Black Identity. I reviewed Black Identity which focuses on the process of West Indian Americans coming to identify or avoiding identifying as Black.

The book contained lots of qualitative interviews with West Indian  folks talking about why they don’t like African Americans,  why they are Black, but not like Black Americans, that Black Americans  are lazy, expect handouts etc.

I had no idea how the class was going to react to this.

Fascinating stuff, though, right?

Especially when you look at the presence of African Americans vs. West  Indian Americans on four year college campuses and in graduate,  law and business school in the Northeast.

The book is awesome in how it gets at how first generation verses second  generation West Indian immigrants deal with assimilation, with proving  that they are not Black and also with identifying as Black. The most  fascinating part for me was learning that women who worked as teachers  and nurses in Jamaica, came to the Brooklyn, worked as teacher and  nurses yet, class wise their lives were not the same.  The material difference is the on their salary in Jamaica, they were middle class,  so they could afford nannies and house keepers, and their housing was more  spacious and safer. In the US, housing was more expensive, there was more  opportunity for jobs and education for their children but the housing dollar  didn’t go very far.

Which brings me to my classmate.

Jamaica’s system is based on the British system*, which means that children are tested and tracked at a very young age. They either go into vocational track or academic track.

Apparently Germany and much of Europe is the same way.

My Black classmate said, that he agrees with this.

I responded saying that standardized tests are measures of familial wealth, not student aptitude. And the aptitude of a four year old cannot be measured because they have only been on the earth 48 months. He responded saying  that the British system is better because it separates the students early  and that there are some who shouldn’t be in school and college.

I said that this was racist. We do not know what children are capable of at 4.

They responded saying that it wasn’t racist.

I said, it was both racist AND classist because of the disparate  impact that the same policy has on Black boys in the US. Ann Fergusons’ Bad Boys talks about this at length, if you want to read more about it. It’s an awesome study on a public elementary school in Berkeley, and it hones in on the ways in which school policy and teacher subjectivity  impact how Black boys are disproportionately disciplined and placed in special ed classes.

I asked him how he reconciled his approval of early testing and prediction with the fact that standardized tests measure familial wealth not student aptitude.

He responded saying “Yeah, tests are culturally biased but math isn’t.”

My eyes rolled. That did NOT refute nor address my argument. Continue reading