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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

BOOK REPORT - Part 9 - City Schools


I find it necessary to quote from this chapter; to do otherwise would do a disservice.

A very short chapter, but still ringing true(r) 40 years later.

Although it seems easy to disparage the observation that teachers with conventional middle-class attitudes cause most of the problems that they themselves deplore in schools, the testimony provided by students, both verbally and behaviorally, requires that this criticism be met. In the case of white teachers and Negro [any minority now] students, the simissal of this criticism merely requires the dismissal of reality (p. 155).

To say these words now is considered so inappropriate, no one has the courage to say them. Many teachers in our 75% minority school ask the question (thinking it will be taken rhetorically), "How can I be a racist? I teach in a school with more minorities than white students." However, as I have maintained for years, the greatest place for the "racist" teacher is in a minority school. Where else can a middle-class, white person hold so much control over a person of a different race, color, or creed?

Students who are "disadvantaged" many times either drop out, or are forced out when they reach the age when it is legal.

These "failures" do not disappear. They remain in the community, and they comprise an endless and growing population dedicated to "getting even" with the society that has reviled and rejected them in the school. The cost - just in dollars - we pay for dealing with these drop- or push-outs far exceeds virtually whatever cost would be entailed in modifying the school environment so as to produce attitudes and skills in these young people that would help them to become participating and contributing members of the community rather than its enemies (p. 156).

Kids joining gangs is a result of feeling "reviled and rejected" by the society in which they live. The number of kids being "trained" by their parents (the previous outcasts) grows exponentially with each generation. Since we have not truly attempted to correct this situation, schools have reaped only that which they sowed. More hostile students. In response to the hostility, schools have reduced their expectations of behavior instead of creating a climate wherein all students learn acceptable behavior when in public. It is the young persons "job" in growing up to discover the limits of acceptable behavior, and schools consistently have reduced their expectations so as to not appear "racist." In doing so, and allowing minority students to behave without correction, the behavior of students progressively worsens. Then teachers, admins, and society can say, "See, they have no home training."

Enough of my bully pulpit.

The authors continue the chapter by explaining a way in which students get involved with the real life of the community by providing services to the people, and learning how the business of communities work. Not only is there a social advantage, but a political one as well. Schools as "social-political instruments" (p. 159) instead of what they have become, propaganda instruments for maintaining a permanent under-class.

Heavy chapter.

Posted via email from rrmurry's posterous



At 8:52 PM, Blogger Wesley Fryer said...

Thanks for this post and these thoughts. I have read several of Postman's books but I don't think I ever completed "Teaching as a Subversive Activity." Clearly I need to.

I think many folks in society would like to just ignore these issues rather than face them.


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