"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Former KIPP Student Remembers Humiliation and Culturally Unresponsive Pedagogy

A clip from the Lindsay Gary's commentary at the Daily Cougar:
. . . Of my graduating class at KIPP, I was one of about 20 black students in a mostly Hispanic population. Being the minority wasn’t easy, and some of the teachers at KIPP didn’t make it any easier. There are a few incidents that vividly stand out to me.

I can still remember “judgment day” as I once called it. It was the day that students would learn their fate in attendance at the end-of-year trip. As an extremely well-behaved and straight-A student, I had no worries about my fate. But something was different in the teachers’ eyes when I met them at the judgment table. They told me that I was not on the list to go on the trip. I was shocked and embarrassed. It was heartbreaking news for a former “Student of the Year.” They explained that I had made an improper comment. As I searched my memory bank for any recollection of anything improper, one of my teachers explained my wrong-doing. The improper comment: “I understand and love learning about Jewish history, and I understand our founders are of Jewish heritage. I was just wondering if we could ever learn about black history or more about Hispanic history, since most of us are black and Hispanic.” I fought back tears as my fate was unveiled. I couldn’t understand what was so wrong about that statement. Did the opinion of a little black girl matter in such a school?

There were many other instances when I felt this intolerance, such as the time we were told our black hair products were a joke, the favoritism Hispanic students received, the lack of information we learned about black history, the fact that we were often targeted for misconduct, and the fact that at least one of the school’s plays was about Hispanic culture and none were about my own. But Judgement Day was by far the most hurtful of all my culturally negative experiences at KIPP.

. . . .

After such negative experiences, I vowed to never express my opinion at KIPP again. In fact, my teachers eventually allowed me to go on the trip. But they threatened that if I ever made remarks like that again, I’d be put on a plane, alone, from California to Houston. It wasn’t until Harriett Ball passed, that I decided to openly voice my opinion again.

In February, I received the monthly newsletter from a KIPP Alumni Association representative and was extremely disappointed with what the newsletter mentioned, or should I say failed to mention. The newsletter highlighted Valentine’s Day and internships among other things, but made absolutely no mention of Black History Month, which as its name states, spans the course of the entire month. I was already disappointed with my recent discovery that the woman who had inspired and mentored the KIPP co-founders, was in fact a black woman. It wasn’t until Ball’s passing, seven years after I had completed my KIPP education, that I would learn anything about her. Don’t you think knowing this would have made a world of difference, created a pool of inspiration, for a little black girl at KIPP? Was it merely an accident or pure neglect that the newsletter failed to mention something so important to black people? . . .


  1. wow! this is so heartbreaking.

  2. Michael Fiorillo9:45 PM

    The use of the term "Judgement Day" by teachers and administrators at KIPP is beyond arrogant and condescending - we already knew that about them - but borderline pathological. Who are these people to set themselves up in such a position of Godlike power over children?

    Truly, truly despicable.

  3. Just... wow! Can't believe a school would do that to a student and then not even acknowledge the fact that the student (and probably others) are interested in learning more about different people. They want to learn! You must teach them.

  4. Anonymous4:00 PM

    OMG! I just registered my child at a KIPP in Northern California. Should I pull him out immediately?

  5. You may want to read this:

    and this:

    Good luck. Jim