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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bayard Rustin on the importance of class size

Here in Florida we shouldn't be looking to evicerate the class size amendment, we should be looking to improve it. We should be funding it properly as well. -cpg

From NYC Public School Parents, posted there by Leonie Haimson

Bayard Rustin (1912 –1987) was an American civil rights activist, important largely behind the scenes in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and earlier. He is credited as the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (from Wikipedia)

Rustin also gave a renowned speech in 1964 in Santa Barbara, entitled "Negro revolution in 1965." The whole speech is worth listening to, but one of the topics he spoke about was class size in NYC public schools. He thus is one of many brilliant individuals who realized the importance of this issue, along with Maimonides, John Dewey, and Kurt Vonnegut. Here is an excerpt:

The school system of this country is a bad school system for many reasons, but one of the reasons in our large cities, take Harlem for an example, teachers teach three sessions within the regular period. They become cops, they become babysitters, they become nursemaids.

And yet we look at the unemployed Negroes and we say they are without skills. Well, I am here to say that some of the most skillful people in the world are unemployed Negroes. Because they have reared their own children, they have reared two or three generations of white children. And they are skilled with love and affection for children.

Let us, therefore, elevate them to assistant teachers, the state gives them $4,000 a year, they go into the school, and they take from the teacher all of this police work and babysitting work. And the teacher is, then, if we can get many more schools built, if we can get smaller classrooms, I mean a smaller number of children in classrooms, these people can play a very vital role.

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