Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fork in the Road

I don't know about you, but I'm horrified when I see racism coming from people who teach children. I didn't plan to go to the Garner march a few years back, but when I saw the comments on the UFT Facebook page I knew I had to stand up. Our job is to serve children, not white children, not black children, not green children, but all children. It's beyond the pale that people with our job should judge others by their skin color.

It's atrocious what's going on in our country today. No one should live in fear because of their skin color, and no one should be shot for being a police officer either. I can't see how any reasonable person believes otherwise. To stand up those who lose their lives for no reason is in no way a critique of police who do their jobs. To attack all police for the actions of a minority would be to condone what the reformies do to teachers. I'm kind of used to being stereotyped and I don't love it one bit. That's why I try really hard not to do it to others.

On this blog, if you post a racist comment, I'll delete it with a warning it's unacceptable here. If you do it twice I will ban your ass. You can go somewhere else and spew your vitriol. I'm not going to argue with you. One of the things I love about my job is that I see stereotypes disproven each and every day. I once had a boy in a beginning ESL class who was very smart. He further thought all people from his country were very smart, and told me so. But smart as he was, I remember a young girl from Colombia who outscored him on each and every test.

That didn't fit at all into the boy's worldview, what with her speaking Spanish, and being a girl, and he complained bitterly to me about it. But the Colombian girl couldn't have cared less. She did what she had to, achieved what she needed to, and didn't surrender one solitary moment of her young life to thinking about that guy. Her smile lit up the room and she was happy wherever she was. The guy, not so much. He could've learned from her but opted not to.

I don't know what UFT is planning, if anything, in response to recent events. But I won't hesitate to join them. I grew up the only Jewish kid in a Catholic neighborhood, and I got to experience discrimination as a child I will never forget. That was bad enough. Living in fear for your life is something else altogether.

When I see people murdered for no reason other than their appearance I'm not inclined to blame the victim. I'm inclined to blame the perpetrators. There's a great book by the late Jimmy Breslin called World Without End, Amen. Spoiler alert---If you're planning to read it, skip the rest of this paragraph. It's about an Irish cop who discriminates against children of color. As I recall, he goes to Ireland, where he finds he is the victim, then comes back to New York, evidently having learned little.

We need to learn all the time. Jack Nicholson said, "The minute that you're not learning I believe you're dead." I agree. If we are to inspire children to learn, we need to set an example. We need to be open to other points of view and we need to stand up and admit when we are wrong. In fact, by doing that in front of the kids we serve we're setting an example. There's simply no better way to deal with being wrong. And if you are judging children by skin color, religion, sex, language, or country of origin, holy crap are you wrong.

In fact, if we've gotten to the point where we are professional teachers and can't think any more clearly than bigoted galoots like Donald Trump or Rudy Giuliani, we need to take really close looks at ourselves and find jobs more suited to our talents. Despite all the crap foisted upon us by the reformies, teachers still deal with people.

Hey, it's part of my job to defend teachers who get in trouble, and I'm ready and willing. If you're in trouble, I will advise you as best I can, do whatever research I can, represent you to the best of my ability and absolutely enforce the contract. I'm not in love with Danielson, I don't believe there's a bit of objectivity in using rubrics, and I have as little respect for incompetent supervisors as anyone I know. But between us, if you can't judge kids based on what they do rather than who they are, you ought to find another line of work.
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