A poster condoning racial divisiveness must be removed from the walls of our schools
The first time I saw this poster (shown below), I was already retired from the school system after thirty years of teaching. I was mentoring new teachers as a subcontractor when I saw it hanging on the wall in a classroom. It is still present on the walls of our schools in Talbot County.
Some important background, as one of my many jobs in the county, I spent a great deal of time on a committee that addressed the minority achievement gap in our schools. As Coordinator of Staff Development, I brought in speakers, workshops, etc., to help us solve the problem. I participated in some of the workshops, and I even brought in Janice Hale, who was a very controversial speaker, to talk about teaching minority children. If you don't know who she was, you'll find her books on Amazon.
I tell you this so you understand that at some point in my career, I was convinced that how we taught minority children was the problem. Maybe if we just did things a little differently, they would do better. What might have been better was to examine how we taught ALL children because the needle on minority achievement NEVER moved despite all the focus.
Children should never be taught as members of racial, ethnic, gender, or economic groups. Children should always be taught as individuals. This is a true struggle for teachers, especially when they are faced with classes of twenty to thirty individuals, all needing something slightly different. Elementary teachers have their children all day long and have a better shot at doing this. Even so, the age of their students and the volume of content they need to teach makes it almost impossible. Middle and High School teachers generally have 45 to 90 minutes to accomplish this feat. Again, practically impossible.
Important in the equation but forgotten is that teachers are also individuals with all of their traits and quirks. Like students, teachers shouldn't be looked at solely as members of racial, ethnic, gender, or economic groups.
And yet, as the poster shown below indicates, that is exactly what the school system did and is doing now if they are following the directions on the poster.
With all that, when I saw the poster, I was immediately shocked. I went through many of the equity workshops we had in the school system before I retired. In those workshops, we spoke about cultural differences very frankly in order to let us know all the built-in biases each of us has. All groups were part of the discussions; our strengths, our weaknesses, the truths, and the fallacies about us. We talked and often laughed about stereotypes we had about others and them about us.
It was all about understanding and working together. It was never about blaming anyone or singling out one race, ethnicity, etc., for all the problems. Sometime after I retired, the focus of those training sessions changed to blame more than understanding.
Are there teachers who are biased against Black kids? Absolutely. Are there teachers who are biased against White kids? Yes. Or Hispanic kids? Yes. Or Gay kids? Yes. I could go on and on. And no matter how much you try to change that, bias will exist. All we can do is prevent people from acting on their biases. The solutions usually presented are not based on anything but emotion and are often non-productive and even ridiculous. I remember a time when we had to count how many times a teacher called on different subgroups of students and put that on observations. Teachers were once told they would be evaluated on how many students in subgroups passed their classes as compared to other kids. There were no provisions for the students themselves, how they worked or what they did. Neither of these policies made a hair's breadth of difference in minority achievement.
And this poster implied that the problems were all because of one group. I've been told it was created after staff diversity training. I guess the "diversity" part didn't apply to everyone. Let's take a good look at what it says.
*There are other versions of this poster. They are shown at the end of this post.
The first four agreements are not bad, although I would say that the word "truth" is misused. Truth is truth. The first phrase should be "Speak your experience "or maybe "Tell us about your life." It's one thing for me to tell you what happened to me in my life. Some of what I tell you may be factual, but some may be my interpretation of what happened or "my truth." Unless someone was standing beside me recording the incident, we can't be sure this "truth" is the actual truth of the situation. I can use it as an experience that shaped me as a person, but to call it the truth is to misuse the word to garner social standing and imply victimhood. It also releases the person stating the truth from ever having to look at things from a different point of view or take responsibility for their own actions.
The other one of the first four agreements that concerns me is "experience discomfort." In today's climate in classrooms, I think that discomfort is not always something we should demand from our teachers or students. To do so is to deny that people have different beliefs, and those beliefs are valid, whether we agree or not. If a female student is uncomfortable about biological males being in the girls' locker room, she should not have to experience that discomfort. To demand, she does so is child abuse. If a White student is uncomfortable being called a racist for no other reason than skin color, then that student should not be forced to experience that any more than a Black student should be forced to feel uncomfortable when called a racial slur.
Perhaps the better precept is to "expect disagreement." There is nothing wrong with sharing different opinions and teaching students how to react and discuss them civilly. That's how true understanding occurs.
Next, we have the "6 Conditions." This is where the majority of the problems in the poster are. Five of the six conditions center around "race" or "racial" discussions. I know the common belief among Progressives is that race is at the center of everything. It is also well known that Marxists have often used concepts such as race to divide populations so they can be controlled. Right off the bat, these conditions are problematic because they disclose an agenda that has nothing to do with student achievement, individual needs, or even students getting along with each other. It's about division and blame based on uncontrollable conditions.
This section of the poster shows that we are now at the point where race is how we decide to teach children, not individual strengths, weaknesses, talents, circumstances, sound pedagogical practice, data, etc., just race. Race is king! That, in itself, is racist. And it's ineffective based on recent test scores, which are abysmal for all groups.
The biggest indicator of the racism in the poster, and the biggest problem with it, is the last condition; "examine the presence and role of whiteness."
In that one statement, the creators have made one race, one surface characteristic, one stereotype, the scapegoat for all the ills that may occur in the classroom. It goes on; to "examine the presence and role of whiteness, its impact on the conversation, and the problem being addressed." See that? Whiteness is responsible for "the problem being addressed."
It also raises many questions. Whose Whiteness? The teachers'? The students'? The Principal's? How about the Board of Education? Whose Whiteness is present? Does it only apply if a certain percentage of the class is White? Is Whiteness just a big old cloud hanging over the school? What exactly is it? Because, just like other races, all White people do NOT all have the same characteristics. To say that Whiteness is something that applies to all White people is racist and stupid. Imagine the White child in the classroom trying to learn while burdened with the idea that he/she is hurting others merely by existing.
For a moment, let's alter this poster with any other racial or sexual identity in the place of "whiteness." Can you imagine the outcry if we blamed Blacks, Hispanics, Gay people, etc., for having a "presence in the classroom" and having an impact on what is going wrong and for how the "problem is addressed"? There would be major protests and nightly news coverage with pundits discussing the problem. People would be fired and probably arrested!
To be sure, there are always individuals in any class, any group, who are responsible for problems. In my thirty years, they came from all groups and not one group more than another. Sometimes they were students, and sometimes they were teachers.
So maybe we should deal with individuals on a case-by-case basis. Maybe we shouldn't just assume that any subgroup is the problem but that humans, in general, have flaws that will create chaos in any situation. Maybe we should teach our children to truly accept others and be kind. And could we PLEASE focus on academics without the artificially created distractions?
I don't know who created the poster. I don't care why they created it. Quite frankly, I am shocked that it is still hanging in the schools, considering the fact that this is posted on the Talbot County Public Schools web page:
It seems to me that if that is indeed the commitment of the schools, the poster above is a contradiction of what TCPS says. Calling out one race as the issue violates the statement about the commitment of TCPS to "promoting the worth and dignity of all individuals." If you are being identified as the problem because of your race, you don't have worth or dignity. In fact, you are now the target of derision and scorn.
This poster has NO business hanging on the walls of our schools, regardless of who created it, why it was created, or who may insist that it stays.
It is racist, and it is divisive.
If the schools are truly interested in helping all children achieve, then this poster does nothing to make that happen. It just allows people to duck accountability, scapegoat others, and leave our schools in divided chaos.
The strength of this country has always been in our individuality and the idea that each person is valuable in his/her own right. Our schools need to have the same belief.
It is imperative that the Board of Education of the Talbot County Public Schools, in accordance with their stated mission, remove this poster and any poster that is racially divisive, regardless of who wants it posted.
Jan can be reached at radiofreeoxford.com
*Note: When I saw the poster during my time mentoring, I shared it on social media. I was basically told to "mind my own business and not share the information since it was in the school building and the public had no right to see it." If I did, I would no longer be a teacher mentor. I stopped being a teacher mentor. Silly me, I thought taxpayers supported the schools and had a right to see it.
We recently verified the presence of these and other similar posters on the walls of our Talbot County Schools.
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