education Archives - The Jose Vilson

education

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall

Today, ProPublica released a special report on their website dedicated to the resegregation of America’s public schools. With the 60th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision on May 17th approaching, ProPublica has focused this special section on Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where three separate and equally devastating stories will be told as case studies to highlight the effects of “letting” dreams of integration die on their own.

Unfortunately, progress never just dies on its own, and in this case, it’s not completely unintentional.

In fact, I also believe we’ve made the race problem in our public schools far too distant from us to truly to see it as a local as well as a national problem. For instance, if you took a guess as to which states had the highest rates of segregation in the country, you might assume it would be somewhere in the Southeast. The stigma about the Southeast works for both liberals and conservatives alike, who can point to our country’s history with slavery and eventual secessions during the US Civil War and say, “Well, that’s just the way it is over there.”

The problem is: it’s not just there. New York, Illinois, and Michigan that round out the top 3 states with the highest rate of school segregation (defined in this study as “the number of black students in schools where 90 percent or more of the student population are minorities”), all three blue states as per the 2012 election.

Therefore, it’s safe to assume that this isn’t just a “liberal” or “conservative” problem, but an “all public schools” problem. The Supreme Court, ruling in favor of Oliver Brown, et. al., said, in part:

Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system…

These days, people say things like “Well, not every child appreciates a good education” or “We should privatize the entire public school system, separate from the jurisdiction of government.” Yet, as we’ve seen in history, even the whiff of equity scares folks in power. School closures, redlining, and the advent of public schools forced the US government’s hand on promoting integration.

One only needs to read Linda Darling-Hammond’s The Flat World and Education to see how integration decreases the achievement gap AND the opportunity gap. Even if you’re not inclined to do so, please note: integration makes it so that all schools would have to be funded appropriately because all types of kids are in that building. Because kids of color are already seen as inferior, especially by people of color who’ve ingested the “white is better” doctrine, they tend to get a certain type of education that wouldn’t be acceptable in more affluent and whiter neighborhoods. Studies after rigorous studies endorse this.

But if you’re still not convinced, that’s OK. Just know that our current segregated system moonwalks us back to a point where “separate and unequal” wasn’t just de facto, but de jure. All of our students deserve better.

Jose

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Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Voting Act Signing

Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Act Signing

Today, a friend forwarded me a report from the Pew Research Center that focused on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. An excerpt:

But as historic as it was, a half century later many Americans — particularly blacks — still believe that the country has a ways to go in overcoming racial disparities.

A CBS News poll conducted in late March found that while 59% of Americans — including 60% of whites and 55% of blacks — considered race relations in the U.S. to be generally good, about half (52%) thought there was real hope of ending discrimination altogether while 46% said there would always be a lot of prejudice and discrimination. About six-in-ten blacks (61%) held the view that discrimination will always exist compared to 44% of whites.

In other words: people of color have a much different view of race relations in this country. Again.

The implications for this get even more complicated when we look at the accompanying statistics about public schools. When asked whether Blacks were treated less fairly than whites in local public schools, only 15% of whites, 35% of Latinos / Hispanics, and 51% of Blacks believe this. In other words, for every white person who believes this, 2 Latinos and 3 Black people are absolutely shaking their heads at the 85% of white folks who don’t.

Which makes the idea of speaking about institutional racism that much more important.

Unfortunately, many teachers in the classroom don’t “see” race when they see kids, and / or don’t see themselves as agents to an institution that makes many children of color feel like they don’t actually belong to them. They’re “colorblind” because they either don’t want to deal with it, don’t know how, or implicitly have a blind eye to their privilege. Or all of those.

That’s the thing about privilege: people like me often have to point them out in order to make others more reflective.

In the 21st century, we can no longer blame any one region of the country or political “side” for racism. One of the most left-leaning states in the nation, New York, also leads the nation in segregated schools, a function of the rise of charter schools and not-so-secret redlining. This may have shocked a lot of folks, but there’s a critical mass of us who’ve waited far too long to say I told you so.

We’re the ones in the other table you refuse to sit at. It’s cool. We got stories, too.

Jose

picture c/o

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Public Education For The Public Good (On Inclusion)

by Jose Vilson on March 9, 2014

in Jose

 

Jose Vilson, CCSS Panel, Network for Public Education

Jose Vilson, CCSS Panel, Network for Public Education

This past week has been nothing short of nuts.

I had the opportunity to attend (and present and moderate) at the first annual Network for Public Education Conference, a gathering of education activists from across the country, including Diane Ravitch (the organization’s president), Deborah Meier, Karen Lewis, John Kuhn, and a whole host of names everyone has seen in the education sphere.

My first real honor was tuning out adult voices as the moderator of the now-infamous student panel that included activists (and students) Stephanie Rivera, Hannah Ngyuyen, Chicago Student Union founder Isreal Muñoz, and Providence Student Union rebels Bryan Varela and Mayra Mostafa. As Chris Thinnes, who attended the conference live, noted, I assured that all of us stayed deferential to the students, both on the panel and in the audience. I brought out cards for the adults, and let the students in the audience do all the talking. Even with the powerful folks in the audience, Karen Lewis and Katie Osgood among them, I felt like we as adults could learn more by just listening to them and their thoughts for a change.

I still couldn’t shake the jitters, though. My calm exterior didn’t betray the internal angst of the notorious Sunday Morning Common Core panel with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, moderated by edu-blogger and organizer Anthony Cody, and featuring a few others who’ve advocated passionately against the Common Core State Standards and the privatization of public schools (Mercedes Schneider, Paul Horton, Geralyn McLaughlin). Even though others thought it was going to be a 5 on 1, I never had that impression because a) I had cut down my social media intake by 80% or so and b) I don’t see why people felt I had to go “hard” against Randi Weingarten. Without my union, I probably couldn’t advocate as hard as I do.

So, I’ve written numerous times about my ever-evolving position on the CCSS, but, more importantly, I’ve written even more about how reforms always go through people of color first before they go to “white suburban moms.”

To that end, I felt a certain anger after the question was posed about whether folks should join up with the Tea Party to oppose Common Core. To that end, my answer came from a place that wouldn’t let me sit still. I had already known a few of the liberal audience members who wanted to join up with TP to oppose policy like student privacy and CCSS. I have a hard time with this for a few reasons:

  • Public education is for the public good. When most of the students primarily affected by these deleterious reforms are of color, how do we work with people who view folks of color as sub-human and still presume we’re doing good?
  • Public education is for the public good. If the Tea Party succeeds in having student privacy and CCSS addressed, should they continue to rely on liberals who aligned with them on privatization of public schools and anti-women’s rights agenda as well?
  • Public education is for the public good. Do we consider what it means to have an education for the public in the vision of so many of all colors who strived for a truly perfect union?

There’s a big difference between having a difference of opinion, as so many do with our union representatives, for example, and a difference of vision. The difference is in how we view others in the same tent. Do we see each other as equal, capable of leading this movement, or as subordinate, a step towards a goal that eventually excludes? Inclusion along race, gender, and class lines matters. Examining the ways in which we hinder ourselves is so crucial to this work.

I thank the Network for Public Education for inviting me to this tent. I’m just hoping my sleeping bag works as well as the others’ in the night.

Jose

p.s. – Thanks to Sabrina and Xian who were in the audience because … because.

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Fight With Us Too, Damnit (Educators and Jordan Davis)

February 17, 2014 Jose
Jordan-Davis

When the Michael Dunn verdict came down, I fully expected him to get off on all counts. The Trayvon Martin case only created two pathways for future cases like these: either America – specifically Florida – would learn and do better for the next trial or it would give carte blanche to any white person […]

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No, YOU Shut Up! (What Matters In Education Discussions)

January 3, 2014 Jose
shutupcallmemaybe

One of my favorite moments last year was meeting Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis. At the time, her name was floated around as the author of my book’s foreword. I was super-excited to get the chance to meet her, especially in light of the backlash against her and CTU after the epic teachers’ strike […]

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Why This Teacher Of Color Is Staying

December 30, 2013 Jose
Jaime Escalante Folded Arms

In the last month, there were a plethora of highly publicized articles on why teachers quit, the most poignant came from the Atlantic’s Amanda Machado, whose title “Why Do Teachers Of Color Quit?” hit me square in the jaw: That life-long aspiration is the last issue that teachers from lower-income backgrounds struggle with. There is […]

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