‘Black Culture’ - The Latest Excuse for Not Educating Black Students

LOS ANGELES

EDUCATION POLITICS--Dr. Chris Emdin, associate professor at Columbia University's Teachers College in his new book "For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y'all Too," completely misunderstands why poor minority students continue to fail in public school and in the process he comes up with bogus "white hero teacher" alternative facts to explain why these poor minority children continue to fail. 

Somehow Professor Emdin ignores the predictable negative educational deficiencies in our still segregated, racist public schools even though 63 years ago Brown vs. Board of Education declared, "Separate but equal...is inherently unequal." But what else should we expect when that is still the reality for the vast majority of minority children who attend inner-city schools? 

There is complicity among not only White but minority administrators when they continue to enforce failed education policies like social promotion in which students are promoted year after year, whether or not they have mastered prior grade-level standards. This has created a massive population of Black and poor minority students that never had a chance from “Jump Street” in the segregated system that they -- and probably their parents -- have been subjected to unnecessarily. 

It is patently offensive and self-deceiving to falsely romanticize minority student failure (failure that would occur within any ethnicity under in the same failing circumstances) as proof that Black children “learn differently.” They just may learn differently -- or not at all -- not because of their ethnicity, but because of what they have endured in a public education system that "graduates" them -- one way or another -- without the basic literacy and skills they need to develop a profound understanding of their own and other cultures. 

When Professor Emdin seeks to "value the unique realities of minority children, incorporating their culture into classroom instruction," he and others presuppose a level of literacy that is for the most part nonexistent. Why? Because it has never been taught in a public education system that is still purposefully failing these students, families, communities and cultures. 

Education administration, being one of the few upwardly mobile professions open to people of color, finds minority leaders enforcing archaic, racist inner city public school policies that are continuing to assure the ultimate failure of the vast majority of their students. There is a certain sick irony of this negation of racism; when push comes to shove, a public school administrator of whatever ethnicity will turn momma's picture to the wall, protected his or her ability to collect a six-figure salary, no matter what the cost to the kids. 

Don't expect things to change in the near future if educators keep citing the failure to respect Black culture as the alternative fact for why Black students aren't learning. This ignores the real reason for student failure which is a clearly racist public education system that does not implement a timely, age sensitive, subjective student level education.

There is literally no attempt to educate predominantly poor students of color in any manner that remotely resembles the way White students who attend private schools are educated. So expect the prison population to rise in the future, above its present obscene level of 2.3 million. 

"Black culture" has nothing to do with a system of rote public education where the Socratic Method and critical thinking are nowhere to be found in any form. To sanctify this patently inferior and generationally perpetuated system of non-education as a failure because it didn't respect "black culture" ignores the glaring reality that all other non-colored cultures in America have somehow gotten educated without losing their culture of origin. 

All Americans of any ethnicity can hardly deny the significance Black culture has had on our collective national identity. But explaining the premeditated failure of Black and other poor children of color in public schools by saying that their culture is not respected in public schools is patently ludicrous. Having more than a 500 word vocabulary and knowing your times tables is a better measure of whether you will maintain your culture of origin. And throwing in some real estate finance or credit card literacy into the mix might be more likely to promote my kind of Black culture without exploitation. 

The generational failure and objective inferiority created by what remains a segregated public education system is and remains a burden -- not a culture -- that could have been and can still be avoided. One merely needs to recognize that inner city "public education" as presently constituted is no place for students of any ethnicity to recognize their potential. 

It’s wrong to justify this failure with falsehoods like ‘Black students learn differently’ or that it's the fault of White teachers -- themselves many times the victims of the system since they are stymied at every turn and often fired if they embarrass the power structure by actually trying against all odds to educate Black and other children of color to their potential. The excellent public education of our past is the best antidote to racism…but only if, once and for all, it is offered to all our people.

 

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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