There some things I can accept.
I can accept that some people support candidates no matter what they say or do.
I can accept some sports teams may never win a championship in my lifetime.
I cannot accept an educational system that kills the spirit of young children, including far too young black males.
I cannot accept a system that either sets low expectations or no expectations for young children, especially young Black males.
I cannot accept a system that takes credit for knowledge children acquired outside of the school setting, while simultaneously refusing to accept responsibility for their failure to effectively teach them in accordance with their specific learning styles.
Parents should know as much about teaching and learning as they know about their child’s conduct on any given day. Many teachers live outside of the communities they serve, are unfamiliar with diverse populations factors which may impact daily conduct grades. Assigning daily conduct grades to students is virtually unheard of in many school districts across the country.
I cannot accept (nor should any of us accept) the lack of commitment to an excellent education for all children as evidenced in the examples mentioned previously and many others. School buses with missing back windows are not acceptable. An entire grade in decade old FEMA trailers, substituting as classrooms, do not send a message that a community values education or that the children in certain schools, particularly majority minority schools, are valued.
The “things” we should not accept are apparent in our schools from pre-k and onward. The things we should not accept have fed a school-to-prison pipeline, crushed the intellectual curiosity and confidence of our children, sent graduation rates plummeting and dropout rates through the roof, led some to propose secession and the creation of new cities, and have caused some parents of color to opt-out of traditional public schools altogether. These are among the very factors so-called education reformers point to in their quest to draw parents and students away from traditional public schools to untested, shiny, new, tuition-free, charter and magnet schools, which enrich their bottom lines placing profits over pupils.
Free tuition at public colleges and universities will mean very little for students trapped in the types of schools described here. Discussions about increasing the diversity of public school teachers and college faculty will continue to go nowhere as generations of students of color are underserved at a time when their curiosity and ability to absorb new ideas is greatest.
By Lori Martin, Ph.D.
Lori Martin, Ph.D., is associate professor of sociology and African American Studies. She is the author of Big Box Schools: Race, Education, and the Danger of the Wal-Martization of Public Schools in America.