America’s Education System Keep struggling Racial Issue
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Education is one aspect of our culture that should be color blind. However, in education systems across the country there is a widening gap between teachers of color and students of color. There might be a disconnect with those students based on student achievement, classroom instruction, and curriculum creation that favors the white population. This something that needs to be stopped because students are failing academically due to something that’s out of their control.
The lack of teachers of color in school districts can greatly impact student achievement. Racial identity starts to play a big role in a students life starting as early as junior high. According to Beverly Daniel Tatum in “Why Are All The Black Students Sitting Together” as a student enters adolescence they begin to question their identity more. Having teachers that are white, doesn’t help this. Beverly mentions a study where a third out of forty-eight black and white eighth grade students were starting to think about the effects their ethnicity had on their future, and shared that they wanted to learn more about their group.
This further proves that the question of racial identity starts to come out at an early age. These students are being taught by white teachers who don’t go through this questioning as heavily as they do. They aren’t being surrounded by educators who understand them. This can play a role in how well they do in the classroom. Beverly refers to Malcolm X and an experience he had in school. Malcolm wanted to be a lawyer, and when he expressed that to one of his teachers, he said that wasn’t a realistic goal for someone his color. “Malcolm’s emotional response was typical- anger, confusion, and alienation. He withdrew from his white classmates, stopped participating in class, …” (Tatum pg 216) Beverly gives another example about a black high school student who was told by a substitute teacher that he should consider community college, while recommending four-year colleges to other students. This discourages black students to continue their academic success solely based on discrimination of their skin color.
Academic success is associated with being white and that is shown with how these teachers treat their students. Oppositional identity may come into play at this point in a students career because if they come off as intelligent, then they aren’t black enough, or they are trying to be white. Their academic success will start to decline because of this. “It is clear that am oppositional identity can interfere with academic achievement, and it may be tempting for educators to blame the adolescents themselves for their academic decline.” (Tatum pg 219) People of color are not given the same resources to succeed as there may be a cultural bias with testing, and reading was based on experiences of white culture.
Students of color growing up having white teachers can affect their student achievement because these teachers can’t relate to what their going through, while simultaneously downplaying them based on their skin color. This puts a students academic success on hold because they start to believe the teachers words instead of believing in themselves.
Classroom instruction is also affected by the lack of teachers of color. Teachers may find it difficult to relate to their students and gain their respect. Frank McCourt in “Teacher Man” shares a story about a time he had to engage his students in a writing lesson. McCourt realized that most of his students were forging notes to him, so instead of punishing them, he used it as a lesson. “How could I have ignored this treasure trove, these gems of fiction and fantasy? Here was American high school writing at its best—raw, real, urgent, lucid, brief, and lying.” (McCourt pg 4) The students were told to write excuse notes for Adam and Eve, God and Lucifer, etc. McCourt was able to personalize a lesson and make a connection with his students to the point where they would stay after class to finish writing the notes. It’s important for teachers to build these relationships with their students. It may be hard for a white teacher to build these relationship with their students of color either because the students don’t respect them, or the teachers don’t. The students may feel as if they can’t relate to the teacher or that they don’t understand their struggles. This creates a barrier between teacher and student that could be fixed if there wasn’t such a gap between teachers and students of color..
Curriculum creation is one last thing affected by the lack of teachers of color. James Baldwin expresses in “A Talk to Teachers” that society is not ready to have a citizen who is ready to ask questions about the universe, to understand his own identity. The purpose of education is to create this person, but teachers fail to do this by teaching inaccurate information about one’s identity. “Therefore it is almost impossible for any Negro child to discover anything about his actual history.” (Baldwin pg 681) Through teachers, America is keeping those citizens that want to understand their identity in their place. Once they have the power to understand themselves, they’ll fight back. Brandon Lewis in “A Du Boisian Approach: How Does Double Consciousness Manifest in the Experiences of Black Males in an Urban Teacher Preparation Program” mentions how students need black teachers because they have such a strong impact on students of color.
Black teachers also understand what their students of color are going through more than a white teacher would. “It may be argued that many Black teachers bring an internalized understanding of struggle …which creates a commitment to improving the social and economic conditions for Blacks.” ( Lewis pg 5) These teachers understand the black experience in the United States and can offer insight to their students. Students of color are able to succeed in school more if they are being taught by black educators because these teachers are able to look at them and potentially see their younger selves. Black educators are treating their students unbiasedly, and without stereotyping them. The students recognize this, and are more likely to succeed.
Education can not move forward until the gap is closed between teachers of color and students of color. Students are suffering academically because of this. If this trend continues, America’s education system will keep falling behind. The negative consequences this has on student achievement, classroom instruction, and curriculum creation will continue to grow, and we can’t afford that.