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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Hard Bigotry of High Expectations

So far, I have come across two articles that get to the heart of problems in Baltimore and other communities. Anyone paying attention to what has been going on in the two America's since John Edwards coined the term, knows  rich privileged kids get a high quality education while the poorest and most vulnerable students have their schools taken over or are force fed an empty, vacuous curriculum in order to make corporations like Pearson richer and more profitable.

One post was written at the Jaded Educator blog:

The Jaded Teacher  had this to say:

Point blank, we have not given these students anything of value. We have not given them a reason to think twice about throwing that rock and landing them in a heap of trouble. We have robbed them of what is within their rights which is an equal opportunity for education.
The question can be asked, are schools supposed to fix everything? Of course not. As an educators, we are already inundated with a myriad of responsibilities to attend to. However, we are the staple community institution, that possesses the power to make a life altering influence on our children.
I must say, I don’t blame my students for their often unruly behavior in the classroom. If you felt that your education was totally inaccessible to you, and didn’t incorporate aspects of your life, you would place little to no value in it. During my year long student teaching I, as well as a colleague of mine, wondered, “So we do all this work on the inside, but how does it translate on the outside of these four walls?” And what I am coming to terms with, is that, for the masses, it doesn’t. What long lasting impact will teaching my students how to multiply 2×2 digit numbers, if I am not able to supply them with life skills, and equip them with constructive strategies to manage their conflicts, and promote socially appropriate emotional responses, educate them using a curriculum that is most salient and relevant to them? What it seems we’ve been told is that it’s not important because its not on the test.
They have not failed, she says. We have.
Urban centers around the country are reeling from decades of decay and neglect in some areas, while the privileged go to schools with art, music, drama, physical education and a rich curriculum. 

Meanwhile, the children in the poorest, most vulnerable communities continue to be blamed because blaming the victim is a lot easier than taking responsibility for injustice and the oppression that now begins in kindergarten. 

The meme perpetuated by the corporate education reforms, hell bent on destroying public education in favor of charters, vouchers and privatization have been talking about the "soft bigotry of low expectations" now for 20 years. It's a way to tout education as the civil rights issue of our time while ignoring income inequality and bad economic policy.  The corporate interest have forced their soulless, mind numbing bullshit tests on the poorest, most vulnerable students and now on all public school students and their teachers who have been targeted as scapegoats. 

It's time to recognize and acknowledge that it is actually the hard bigotry of high expectations that has destroyed communities all across the country, pitted teacher against parents, students against teachers and administrators while segregating communities and schools by test scores permeating education policy to enrich corporations. 

Perhaps it is time to stop telling third graders whose father or mother is in jail, mentally ill, absent or dead that they are failures at 8 years old. This can't be helpful.

For a broader perspective on the rage and anger over the continued injustice that has blanketed the country, read Alan Singer's well-researched and documented statistics on the realities in these communities that have been starved of funds, jobs and infrastructure through no fault of their own:

From Alan Singer, Hofstra University,

One in twenty-eight children in the United States have a parent behind bars. For African American children, that number is one in nine. In the U.S. the average term being served by incarcerated parents is eighty months. Each year the number of children with incarcerated parents continue to grow as a result of the record prison population in the United States. The arrest and removal of a mother or father from a child's life forces that child to confront many emotional, social and economic consequences.

The incarceration of parents creates a crisis for children, a crisis for families, a crisis for schools, a crisis for communities, and a crisis for American society as a whole. If you are a teacher in an inner-city school, you likely have three or four students in each class who have a parent who is incarcerated.
The incarceration of parents creates communities of orphans. Children grow up with a sense of loss, a belief that they somehow are responsible for the break up of their families. They do not develop close emotional parental bonds and are often without sufficient adult supervision.
Households with these children function on the economic margins. Remaining caretaker adults, whether it is a parent or grandparent, are under economic and emotional stress and this is conveyed to the child.
Children are unprepared for school, behave badly, perform poorly, and are punished. Studies show that school-age children of incarcerated parents have school-related problems and problems with peer relationships. They are often teased and become truants.
Large concentrations of similar troubled young people create dysfunctional schools and communities. This is a recipe for self-replicating community crisis.
The incarceration of a mother especially can result in more serious disturbances for a child's development, as the mother is typically the primary caregiver. Fifty percent of incarcerated mothers are also their kids' main financial providers. With many children in severe need of assistance, and with the exception for local aid organizations and welfare services, there are only 6 states addressing this issue specifically.
The days or no excuses is over for politicians and their corporate ed cronies and it's time to acknowledge the hard bigotry of high expectations is destroying an entire generation of black and brown youth with nothing left to lose. More and more people are beginning to connect the dots and it's not a pretty picture. 
Perhaps they will turn all the schools in Baltimore over to KIPP and teach these kids how to work hard and be nice so one day they can work at CVS or Walmart for minimum wage, no benefits and no security like the rest of the 99%.

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