How Do You Teach to End InSensitivity?

My Sundays at 7 blog, unfortunately, became Monday.

Just yesterday I had my son listen to a podcast of “Stuff to Blow Your Mind” as they discussed the horrible numbers centering around the school to prison pipeline; it will blow your mind. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the layman’s explanation is that Black and Brown youth who come into the education system with, sometimes, a 2000 word deficit in their vocabulary are funneled indirectly to prison. They didn’t attend Montessori pre-K and, often not, regular pre-K but are expected to make up the gap (here’s where the Achievement Gap begins) in two to three years when testing starts.

That’s where they really start to have problems. Because in addition to the massive daily sugar intake that causes other distractions and behaviors, youth soon realize they aren’t doing as well in school as other students and begin to act out. Which leads to “time outs”, visits to the principal’s office, eventually in-school suspensions and yada, yada, yada.

This is an oversimplification of a huge problem boiled down so you can see the connections and how things are related. I wanted my son to listen to the podcast so that he could understand that even though he will get a very good education in this school district the deck is stacked against him in terms of education and punishment. All of this is coming to the forefront because of the recent headlines of youth dying at the hands of the police and citizens – Trayvon Martin, etc. (which is a totally different discussion but one that I had to have with my kids).

Punishment and the crime; or I should say “offense” because, for the most part, what most youth do is not criminal, just mischievous. But there is a disparity in the CHCCS district on what is being done when the youth become mischievous.

I saw a photo that was taken on one of the field trips designed to educate students about the Civil War. A war that tore apart our country and, frankly, that some are still fighting today. Within the district the incident is not a secret and teachers have spoken to their students about the inappropriateness of those actions. What concerns me is that high profile incidents like this continue to occur.  The last “big” incident was when students were caught drinking on a field trip while visiting another federal park. The school deftly handled this situation so that the student(s) involved wouldn’t face criminal charges but one of the students who were caught stabbed himself in desperation as it was his “final” infraction. As a result he was able to get help and turn his life around. But how many “bucks” had to have been passed for him to get to this point of desperation? Bucks that don’t seem to be passed when the youth is a person of color.

Mainstream dictionary definitions reduce racism to individual racial prejudice and the intentional actions that result

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Something needs to be done to level the playing field in regards to punishment and offense. I’m sure somehow, somewhere the girls in this photo are truly remorseful. Similar to the young man who chanted the fraternity song and apologized later. Maybe this is an opportunity for the girls to do the same?

A moment to challenge them on their “beliefs” or whatever caused them to be so insensitive. As these are the same young men and women who will continue on to stellar careers becoming managers, recruiters and executives that harbor attitudes such as what is seen in this photo. When the application of those attitudes meet the workplace you’ve come full circle into the national problem of a large percentage of the unemployment and prison overpopulation issue.

Update…

As with most issues that bring attention to a broader stage there is more to this story and it takes quite a while for the backend story to unfold. The class trip where this pic was taken was the followup to a competition where two teams assumed to roles of the northern and the southern armies. The southern team won, the post was in support of that win. Without context the photo misrepresents intention.

Innocently done, or not, the phrase “The South shall rise again” was used. A term considered by the Urban Dictionary as misinterpreted for being racist. People who use the phrase contend that the Civil War as not about the enslavement of people but the issue of state’s rights. But there is never talk about the fact that the Confederate states were fighting for the right to enslave people! What followed the post’s comment was horrendous and seeing the direction the post was taking it was immediately removed. The young ladies were caught in the crossfire of something bigger and older than they are by wading into an issue they seem to know very little about and paid dearly for it.

This leads to a broader concern with the systems of education that are teaching our children in school districts across the nation and, in particular, the CHCSSs. Could it be the intention of those who create the curriculum to continually dumb down the facts in an effort to not offend those who are of the group that benefitted from the enslavement of people? I don’t know the answer to that. But the facts remain that there was not enough thought put behind the Instagram post that caused such a furor. And what some may call the tepid responses from the school district officials only fanned the flames.

The issue of race relations is uncomfortable for most people to discuss, let alone difficult to constructively address. With most “bad news” the best approach is to deliver it and work through the acceptance of the facts. Because only then can you effectively work toward resolve.