Theatricality And Deception, Powerful Agents For The Uninitiated - The Jose Vilson

Theatricality And Deception, Powerful Agents For The Uninitiated

August 5, 2012

This is the post where I almost started off with a “Dear White People.”

This is going to lean towards education, but applies pervasively.

I’m referring to the educators who still want to save the children, the ones who still think they’re teaching their subjects and not actual students, the ones who see teaching as a segue to administration or a central office job, the ones who use euphemisms for kids of color to advance their profile amongst their so-called liberal friends, or the ones who won’t acknowledge their privilege because it’s way easier to hide behind the first clause I just stated.

Unfortunately, for those of you who fall under this category, there are those of us who aren’t just your colleagues at work, but sat in similar seats that your students did, didn’t appreciate your attitudes then and really don’t appreciate them now. Your insistence, whether conscious or otherwise, perpetuate the legacy of seeing children of color as deserving less. You also paradoxically think that by lowering your expectations of those students, you’re helping them meet or exceed the requirements set forth post-you.

Then, when you move up or on, depending on your purview, you tell these tales of your few years of experience in the classroom and claim yourself expert of these experiences. You simultaneously know what’s wrong with public schools (or at least the one you actually know of, briefly), yet blame everyone else during your tenure as an actual classroom teacher for your particular school’s woes. You never stayed long enough for anyone but that one administrator who “had an eye for you” to actually become a good teacher, but you’ll tell everyone within ear shot just how tough your experience at a school was.

Worse still, you have the nerve to tell teachers who actually do the work on a daily basis that their opinions matter very little. You say you want education reform and loved that teacher voice video, but only when it doesn’t preempt any of your so-called progressive opinions. You like to wonder aloud why these types of educators don’t give you much weight, or look at you skeptically when you contribute your off-center opinion. You reveal your true intentions when people who’ve actually lived that life contribute even a drop of their hard-won wisdom about a situation you’ve never actually seen. Your ears don’t perk up; your eyes roll. You doth protest too much.

In the words of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, “You think darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it.”

We get that you’re OK with all this. You’ll continue quoting your edu-hero rather than expounding on your own, and you’ll keep making snide comments about anyone who doesn’t fit within your (very narrow) line of vision. You can keep throwing those darts, but theatricality and deception are powerful agents for the uninitiated.

But you and I (and so many others like me) are initiated. Ain’t that right?

Jose

This post was written by...

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

For more about me, read here.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Kaechele August 5, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Jose, In your paragraph where you list certain kinds of teachers what do you mean by “educators who still want to save the children?” I understand what you are saying about the other types, but I fear I am one who wants to save the children. It is because I care about every child and want to see them be successful in whatever path they choose.

I had a student run away from home this year and rumored to be living on the street. Worst part of my year and broke my heart because I had seen such growth in this child. Now she is coming back and I am so happy. I realize that ultimately she makes her choices in life, but I know that our school is a support for her that can help her.

Is there another meaning to this phrase that I am missing?

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Jose August 5, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Fair question and I’m glad you asked. I wrote about this somewhere down the line, but the essence is this. If you find yourself thinking that you as an educator are somehow better than the person who you serve mainly because of your disposition in society, then that’s what some of us call White Savior Syndrome. It’s with an intent of showing your moral authority because you’ve done something for someone less fortunate or of morals and ethical beneath yours. Or, you approach your job as if the poor kids would never live if you don’t succeed. It’s very different than saying that you actually value the person you’re helping. Get my drift?

School ought to be safe havens for children, not places that make them feel inferior by design. I think you got it. :)

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Mike Thayer August 6, 2012 at 9:07 am

Perhaps not the best place for levity, but I can’t help it:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/my-year-volunteering-as-a-teacher-helped-educate-a,28803/

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Jose August 6, 2012 at 9:22 am

I read that and its the truth. For real.

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Mike Thayer August 6, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Sad how the Onion does a better job, in many respects, of “getting it” than most mainstream media.

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Chuck C October 8, 2012 at 9:45 am

Wow! I’m glad I came across this; it’s a great topic and certainly one we should talk about more. I’m sorry we don’t and I’m sorry so much wasted talent lays in the wake of silence. I used to be one of those “white people” who took the many advantages of the color of my skin for granted. I noticed it, did some reading on it (Bell Hooks) and then really started paying attention and now I can’t stop seeing it and it makes me sick. So the question is; what can I do to help bring balance?

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Jose October 9, 2012 at 7:42 am

Chuck, I wish I had the answer off-hand, but … you’ve at least jumped on a big step, and that’s understanding. Doing the research matters. Now, being more conscious of the privilege is great, and so is proactively assuring that you fight for equity wherever you can. Start small; think big. :-)

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Chuck C October 9, 2012 at 10:28 am

Thank you for getting back to me; it seems every step forward has several in the reverse direction. I (naively, yet hopefully) thought that President Obama would kick this country in the ass in an attempt to dislodge its head. He has been met with heavy opposition, not to mention you don’t get to be president of the USA without owing some favors. If folks think its TARFU right now, it’s going to be FUBAR real soon.

Also I noticed something you wrote a while back about vocational schools and what not for the “under achieving”. The real problem is that standardized testing proceed with a false assumption: Everyone is white! Take those same tests and flip the questions around, make them about black history or Asian culture, then we’ll see who’s under achieving. Further more, inner city schools are largely under funded thus blowing a giant hole in access to resources and quality education.

Vocational schools aren’t bad, but what our economy could really use (and we’ll find out too late) is more funding for apprenticeships. Screw the 4 year Uni that leaves you $40K in the red, and doesn’t offer anymore job opportunities then you already had. A 4 year apprenticeship teaches you a real craft and pays you while you do it. Alright, that’s Chuck’s two cents. I’ll keep trying to get people to understand, been at it for several years already.

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