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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jacksonville’s African American leadership continues to let down our African American children

First let me say I believe the education establishment has let a lot of our kids down. We have a culture of testing which has sucked the joy out of learning for too many kids and this coupled with forcing every kid into a one size fits all regardless of desire, ability and aptitude, curriculum have been very bad for education regardless of the student’s skin color.

With that being said the African American leadership of our community continues to spectacularly fail our African American students.

The latest example came as they complained about how African American students are disciplined. Isaiah Rumlin president of the local NAACP branch said in a Times Union article, Black students are often punished for vague and less serious offenses than students of other races, “Punishment of white students is usually reserved for clearly defined actions that pose a threat to school safety, like weapons or drugs,” he told the crowd. “Florida leads this trend.”

I don’t know where he is getting his information and as somebody who spent the vast majority of his teaching career working in predominantly African American schools I can say, not where I have been. If anything the opposite has been true as African American administrators have coddled and protected African American students from the punishment they deserved (though admittedly a lack of serious consequences for all our students who misbehave has been a big problem district wide).

The bottom line is discipline for maladaptive behavior should be color blind. Administrators should look at the offense and the record of the student not their skin color. The NAACP should actually encourage strong consequences for behavior in school because if they learn them there they might not be forced to learn them in the street.

When the African leadership claims there is some conspiracy to punish black kids disproportionately they exasperate problems rather than help fix them. Instead they should be calling for more creative solutions that keep students (of all races) in school but at the same time give legitimate consequences for maladaptive behavior. That instead of inflaming their base with vague, undocumented, gut reactions is what they should be doing.

It’s worse because all their solutions have been terrible back to their answer for desegregation, the creation of magnet schools, though that was no worse than their campaign to have more African American teachers and administrators placed in our predominately black schools. What we should strive for is to have the best teachers and administrators regardless of color in those schools (something the district hasn’t done a very job at either) and until the NAACP and other local African America leaders get that, those schools will continue to flounder.

We need solutions not vague conspiracy theories and finger pointing. We need constructive action not divisive criticism.

Once again the African American leadership gets it wrong and it is their sons and daughters and my students who will continue to pay the price for it.


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