A Gap in Geography, not Ability

“Only fraction of city schools producing bulk of students ready for college: report”…NY Daily News

  “It isn’t easy to graduate prepared for college — unless you come from one of the city’s select high schools, according to a new report released by the United Federation of Teachers. The analysis reveals that just 10% of city schools produce nearly half the students who graduate college-ready by state standards. That means an elite group of 35 high schools contributes to a disproportionate number of students ready for college — about 8,000 of the city’s roughly 16,000 seniors.”

 
         We could evoke the spiritual legal wisdom of Thurgood Marshall. Review the uncivil treatment of Black students in the pre-civil rights time in U.S. history. And then, there is the memory of Brown v Topeka. The consistent testimonial narratives offered by my teenage era southern raised elders, who migrated to NYC. They spoke of: Broken (if any) science equipment and supplies; handed down (flawed and broken) desk and chairs; Books torn, sections missing and always (in history), several U.S. President’s and world events too late. And how passionately they spoke about inadequate, old and inferior facilities; and yet also spoke in affectionately glowing terms of those brave and talented  (paid less than their White counterparts) Black teachers  and administrators who had high expectations for, and with them; and who push their students to excel despite the barriers of dramatically inadequate resources. Many of these great Black educators would ironically go on to become “casualties” of the school integration movement. We could review that famously and contradictory phrase: “separate and equal” that was delivered with sincerity by one in the same segregationist “straight men” and “jokester” as if educational denial was a comedy routine. No, this time I will rely on my memory of Pauline Johnson; who despite all of my protestation agreed with my Junior High guidance counselor, Mr. Berk, to send me (and a cohort of Black gifted and talented students) on a bus (is that why they called it busing?) to a White high school far away in Queens. Like most teenagers (a group I am very familiar with); I felt I knew more then any adult (the Mr. Berks of the world), and that included my mother. Further, like most teenagers I felt I knew everything in the world that needed to be known; and that included being thoroughly knowledgeable even about those things I had no knowledge of, including events that existed in the future. However, protest in my teenage days was limited to “pleading”; no such thing as ‘civil disobedience”, “boycotts”, or out and out refusals existed. First, a child had to actually respect their parents. Any perceived “right” of privacy, movement, questioning, opinion and speech was subject to final judicial review by an adult. Further, although “Child Protective Services” existed back then; if you “acted a fool”, don’t expect any agent of the government to come and rescue you from a serious “behind whipping”. And so my plea or argument against being sent (didn’t call it “bused” then); to a “White School” was as passionate as it was logical (at least in teenage logic). My mother listened patiently, and then rendered without explanation:  “You are going, because I want you to go”. With that statement, she signaled that the “plea period” was over; the matter was now closed. I could, and did continue my passionate argument in the safety of my room, under the cloak of darkness and the covers, but defiantly out of the hearing of my mother. But my mother (I was to learn much later) had no interest in offering me up in service to the civil rights movement. Neither was she sold on the “getting smart by the physical approximation to White kids” theory. She simply (and elegantly as with any good theory) hypothesized: “If you are sitting in a classroom (school) that is committed to the academic success of the children in that classroom, then, they will be forced to teach you too.”  She (although not college trained) knew pedagogically, what I actually came to realize in my first high school year. One day I was sitting outside and my friends and I started talking about our new high schools. I thought at that moment, that all schools were the same, and so I was quite shocked to learn how different our high schools were. I remember talking about “electives”, and which electives I planed to take (photography and sculpture). My friends who attended the neighborhood schools I wanted to attend queried: “What’s an elective, do you go to a private school”. As any Black male in that situation, I knew the drill; I shut down, and would spend the rest of my high school days in these neighborhood discussions, listening but never talking about the good and exciting things going on in my high school.

     This article points to our new “separate and unequal” state. And in many ways its subtlety and masquerade is more dangerous then its philosophical ancestor. At least under the old separate and unequal system, the motive and mission was clear. The intent was to relegate you to an inadequate and inferior educational experience. Today, our young people are trapped in buildings, many of which truly don’t deserve the name: “schools”. They have also become victims (read commodities) of a casual touring troupe of educational “reformers”, adept only at deforming the student’s one chance at a positive and productive life. These pedagogical pretenders are sadly joined by a compromised group of (politically elected) distracting detractors, who hide and hurt the children under the protective hoods of their Black and Brown skins. The truth is that we can dramatically increase the number of career and college ready Black and Latino students in our nation, tomorrow. We need only to simply provide them with an environmental culture that supports learning; professional expertise in content, methodology, and people who are culturally literate and respectful of the children and their families. The “achievement gap” is not in the heads or hearts of these students. The “gap” exists in our interest and will to make these young people into competitive participants in the rich opportunities of this nation. We need not bus them all out to sit next to White students as a requisite to receiving a quality education. We can however “bus-in” high expectations, efficacy and excellent expertise into learning environments that are rich with “extra-curricula” experiences, schools that are safe, encouraging, and academically achievement driven. Schools generate a lot of money and income for a lot of different people; it would be real nice if more children could get something worthwhile at the conclusion of their public school experience.

 

 

A report by the United Federation of Teachers shows that only 10% of city schools produce nearly half of the graduates considered ready for college.  http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/fraction-city-schools-producing-college-ready-students-article-1.1386210#ixzz2Xhp9JDQq