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Sunday, February 26, 2012

How do we best teach minorities in our public schools?

It is not going to sound politically correct, but we also need to face a paramount problem in our schools --- How do we best teach minorities in our public schools?

Thankfully, this is not pre-1969, where Duval County Schools seemed to be engineered to serve one community and to ignore another. The racial component in our schools, however, is still strong.

Ever since I left the United States Air Force and chose to substitute teach in public schools and later teach full time, I have noticed a common thread in my work in a range of schools from Baldwin to the Beaches.

The most challenging students to reach tend to be from racial minority groups. The challenge comes because I spend much of my time trying to ask black students to work with me to teach them. Many of them, however, see our schools as the obstacle and will do anything they can to defy and disrespect educators.

The larger challenge comes when many of these students' parents are enabling their children to act disruptively in schools. There is an epidemic distrust of schools on the part of the parents that is manifesting itself in the students' behavior. For example, how many dress code violations could be prevented if parents simply asked their sons and daughters to treat school more like a job and less like a vacation? For example, how many fights could be prevented in schools if parented asked their children to be more interested in taking a pencil and notebook paper to school instead of a chip on their shoulder? How many disciplinary referrals can be prevented if parents asked their children to simply follow the Code of Conduct rather than looking for ways to flout it?

The racial component of education is an issue that is close to my heart because I am the son of a South Carolinian who had not choice but to attend segregated schools. I have relatives who tell me horror stories of how they were treated by a community that did not hold the best interests of all children dear to them. This is why I especially get frustrated when I ask a child of any race to obey the school rules and the child is more focused on defiance rather than making the most of their right to a quality education.

Far too many times at my school, I hear the names of the same minority children who are repeatedly doing the same things that disrupt the learning process. This is one reason why I often keep to my self in a school setting. It is too depressing to hear my colleagues spinning their wheels about the same horrible behavior every year.

A trans-formative superintendent will be able to take the strength of our schools' diversity and help create a school system that serves all - even those who do not realize that they need a good education.

We shall overcome, some day.



John Louis Meeks, Jr.

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