Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Facing the Issue? Or More Musical Chairs?

I don't know what to say when I read articles like this one, saying we're told to favor students based on skin color. I must've missed the memo. I've been teaching for 35 years and no one has ever told me any such thing.

At work, I've never heard any such suggestion.

“If I had a poor white male student and I had a middle-class black boy, I would actually put my equitable strategies and interventions into that middle class black boy because over the course of his lifetime he will have less access and less opportunities than that poor white boy,” the consultant, Darnisa Amante, is quoted as saying by those in the room.
“That’s what racial equity is,” Amante explained.

Supposedly, this was said in one room. It's hard for me to go from that to the belief that it's part of some standardized PD that we're all getting. I didn't receive that PD, but I can tell you a million stories about outrageous behavior I've seen. I was once in the lunchroom (before I was chapter leader, and before we had a President who though there were fine people on both sides of nazi rallies) when a teacher stood up and started singing Deutchland Uber Alles. Perhaps I should've called the Post.

Had I done that, though, I'm not sure I'd have suggested it was systemic. It wasn't. It was this one single lunatic, now long retired, being a jerk. Was he a nazi jerk? Hard to say, but he certainly sickened me. He did not sicken a pretty substantial group of my colleagues sufficiently for them to boycott a retirement party at Peter Luger's. I didn't go. He can go to hell, I thought, and for all I know he may be there right now.

I have been to awareness sessions. A young woman stood in front of our room and told us to take steps back if negative things happened to us, and forward if they hadn't. At the end of the exercise, I was second from front of the room. This indicated, I take it, that my level of privilege was second only to my friend a few steps ahead of me. I found it odd because I'd experienced pretty virulent anti-Semitism as a child. That's why I hate racism and bigotry in all its forms (up to and including the big orange one that's ostensibly running our country these days).

I believe that someone said the quote above, and I believe the person who said it was sincere. I don't have the luxury of picking and choosing who I help, or deciding on it based on skin color either. I reach out to every kid I can, and I don't reach out nearly enough. I'm often constrained by a loudmouth or two who command a lot of my attention. If I didn't deal with them, nothing whatsoever could happen in my classroom. If I didn't need to do that, I still wouldn't have time to do enough reaching out.

I'm gonna say again that I don't believe for a moment Richard Carranza is racist, anti-white, or anti-anyone. I don't believe he sent people out to preach the above message. I can tell you that, if I wanted to help the children of New York City, if I wanted more of them to have "equitable strategies and intervention" I wouldn't send people out with a message to help people of this or that skin color, particularly at the expense of some other skin color.

If I wanted students to have more attention, and if I thought that would translate into access and opportunity, of course I'd continue to make sure teachers treated students fairly. I'd continue to educate teachers on the ill effects of racism and bigotry, and I'd work hard to attract people who weren't stupid enough to sing nazi songs in the lunchroom, or practice bigotry in classrooms.

However, if I really cared about students, if I really wanted to give them more attention, I'd do the one thing that Carranza's reps told me they didn't give a crap about at contract negotiations. I'd lower class sizes, even if it meant, you know, making those sensitive rich people pay taxes. I'd build decent school buildings instead of dumping kids into decrepit miserable trailers. I'd stop pretending there's no upper limit on school buildings. There would be a brand new public school across the street from Francis Lewis High School instead of two Marriotts.

We haven't lowered class sizes in over half a century. That hurts students of every disposition, gender and color. Of course, that would cost more than sending out people to lecture teachers on what they're doing wrong. If I were Carranza, I'd fire the guy who said he didn't give a crap about class size. I wouldn't ask about his skin color first, either.
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