Friday, August 13, 2010

Teaching Black Kids – The Uphill Battle

I just read a gripping (for me) article by a white teacher on the challenges of teaching black kids. I worked hard, emotionally, to get through the whole article (see link at the end of this post). My difficulty was two-fold. The author, speaking from his own experiences in the southeast US, largely failed to consider factors beyond the superficial. He spoke of behavior, not of what was underlying and driving it. However, I also realized that his job was to teach subject matter, not raise somebody else’s kids, or save a race. On the flip-side, so many of his words hit home, from my own classroom experiences and knowledge, that to stop reading would have denied the true depth and accuracy of the issues of the black classroom and community.

Last year I spent quite a bit of time in an all-black urban high school class, discussing current issues. In keeping with a nearly 60% drop-out rate for boys, my experiences were predominantly with junior/senior black girls. Like the author of the article, I found the students poor command of English grammar, spelling and structure as a big impediment to communicating and teaching them anything. Their conversation dynamic, loud and punctuated with interruption, precluded finding commonality. Simply stated, discussing high school-level/adult ideas through elementary-level dynamics results in elementary conclusions and learning.

Even more challenging is the simplistic and contorted view of racism and its contribution, where it has become the label for any idea, person, or event of which black kids wish to avoid – for whatever childish reason. Try to teach Newton’s laws of gravity and as soon as the kids find out that Isaac Newton was white, his contribution becomes racist and not worth their effort to learn. The kid who sees the value in separating race from subject matter runs the danger of getting Jones’d – verbally ridiculed – if not for ‘acting white’, at least for ‘accepting white’. These same kids, in fits of keepin’-it-real honesty, will tell you that without whites their world stops turning.

Oppositional culture has a headlock on a significant portion of black youth. The rap music industry, with the ghosts of rappers Biggie and Tupac (pictured), is the unofficial dissemination instrument and arbiter of this insidious unwavering dynamic. I take issue with a lot of what this teacher says on the surface (here), but I take almost no issue with the underlying vectors he opens onto black youth and oppositional culture. He suffers the superficial, but he is not blowing smoke. His fix as one person – to get out – is no fix for those kids he left behind, and I cannot fault him one bit. This is not what he signed up for, nor does there seem to be a plan for addressing it.

James C. Collier


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Chris Arnell said...

Hey James,

Great post. I grew up in the Bay Area and I am really sickened by the way our society has gravitated toward victimization as a catch-all excuse for everything that sucks.

Chris Arnell

Anonymous said...

Sorry to remain anonymous. Someday I'll get a name...


This is a profoundly disturbing essay and the link is even more disturbing.

I don't know what to think yet. Emotionally, I'm stunned and depressed.

I'd like a chance to process this. And I hope I can think about what this means and not just avoid this huge, huge issue.

Anonymous said...

We used to love to learn about science and everything else, etc. I hope i'm wrong but I believe it's this 'Afrocentric' mess that came in the late 60s, that led us astray. The (dot) Indians are becoming doctors, etc. the sikhs are starting businness in the most rural of places and many had to learn english the hard way--no books in their language, etc. It kinda seems like a conspiracy--as soon as we got civil rights laws, learning went out the window with our sons.

Anonymous said...

I might add: many black women marry up of want to but they cant find the guys who are as educated as them being 70% single, and having masters degrees

Anonymous said...

My daughter taught high school English for three years.
She has now burned out and quit.She just can't take it anymore and it isn't just the black kids but she says a larger percentage of the blacks kids have very messed up family situations with few being anything normal.

One thing that causes a lot of problems that just should be banned in class is cell phones.
Huge distraction in spite of rules saying one are to be on.
Kids don't care and don't listen.
Getting in trouble is an honor to them.

The school boards won't enforce discipline for trying to be politically correct and the teachers are helpless with no one to turn to with issues.

And this is in a rural county in Virginia too.

What a screwed up mess this country is getting to be all because core family values are going out the window.

Chris Arnell said...


I wanted to add to this a bit. It is about the abortion part of the essay. I did research to compile the abortion rates of black unborn babies during 2001. At the time that was the most current information that I could obtain. The numbers are horrifying. 287,709 blacks died in America in 2001 while 312,375 unborn blacks were aborted. The death rate includes heart attacks, cancer, and homicide.

What has happened to our society that this is simply brushed off as another triumph for women's rights?

Chris Arnell

Here is the link to the blog including pdfs of the statistics from that year to back up what I say.

Anonymous said...

First of all why don't they have a black teacher instead of a white?

Secondly, it all stems from the society they live in, in other words the parents, family and neighborhood.

The following is a long story, but I feel it makes my point.

As a school volunteer with knowledge of English. I was asked on several occasions, to sub while the English teacher was at a long meeting.
The school is a small rural school, grades kindergarten to 9th where everybody knows everybody else.

The first time I went I was appalled, it was like a scene out of "to sir with love", spitballs, laughing, talking, passing a ball around while I spoke, the works!

My job was to go over the words for an English test. Hardly anyone in Puerto Rico's schools speak English and the English teachers here(political positions)do not speak the language either!

I realized I was gonna have to find a way to hook them so they would pay attention to me. Then I noticed a boy who's seat was by a side blackboard and he had turned in his seat and was drawing a scene with chalk. Since I like to paint, I was intrigued so I walked over to see more closely and the boy got all bashful and stopped. But as I looked at the scene I saw a rescue of a man whose fishing boat was capsizing and the Coast Guard helicopter (beautifully drawn and identified) was hovering over throwing down a lifesaver device.
To my amazement I immediately recognized this as something very dramatic that had actually happened a during the week,that the boy who lives on the beach, as well as several others who are also from the beach area, had witnessed!
It was so beautifully drawn that I began to ask him about certain of the many details like the shark fins in the distance etc, which he then went into detail. So I was so amazed that I told him "you've actually made almost a film here! I sincerely told him "you are very good at this" and to the class I said, well you know all these words are in Christopher's scene. I had words like water and others that I just immediately associated one way or the other with the drawing.

They became absolutely silent and from then on were willing to follow me to the ends of the earth! So much so that they told the teacher why couldn't I be the teacher always instead of him (OMG) LOL!

I think you have to relate and use your wits, otherwise you can't teach anything to anybody.

Peace, love and health

Anonymous said...

With all due respect you got lucky that day. Maybe even a few days in a row. They will revert and what worked that day won't work next time.
To expect the thousands of teachers in schools throughout America to get that lucky is unrealistic.

Keep it real, not ideal.
Ideal will not last while real will jump up and bite you in the rear end every time.
That's what day to day teachers have to deal with.

These kids, ALL kids desperately need discipline and since many don't get it at home they at least should get it in school but the teachers don't have the backing of the liberal school boards that give the multitude of excuses for poor behavior.
Then the parents, what a joke.
"My kid wouldn't do that."

The bullying that is rampant should be totally unacceptable.
No tolerance at all for it.
Uniforms across the board, no cell phones, consequences for bad behavior, those would be a start.

To the guy that mentioned abortion, the subject pisses me off.
It is a lot easier and a LOT less traumatic to not get pregnant to start with than to get an abortion yet women put themselves in that situation time and time again.
How absolutely stupid is it to get pregnant if you don't want a kid in this day and time when so many BC methods are available??

I know I know, they have any number of excuses.
Excuses though, not reasons.
Reasons take reasoning and these people don't know how to reason or they wouldn't find themselves in an unwanted pregnancy to start with.

Menelik Charles said...

Desertflower said...

First of all why don't they have a black teacher instead of a white?

Secondly, it all stems from the society they live in, in other words the parents, family and neighborhood.

Menelik replies:

I was ready to give to you with both barrels until you relayed the story lol. Very interesting. Empathy is at the core of teaching people of all ages (e.g. like teaching illiterate adults). Colour, race or ethnicity are merely outer shells.

I take your point, though...and do consider teaching, if you will!

Menelik Charles
London UK

SamWorking said...

...yet women put themselves in that situation time and again...

Um, yeah, cause women climb on top of themselves and get themselves pregnant.

*shakes head at idiocy*

and unlike you, I will put my name behind this thought.

Anonymous said...

Lincoln apparently believes that all of those 300 thousand pregnancies were the result of rape. Probably by white men, too.

Anonymous said...

300 thousand abortions and it's none of those 300 thousands responsibility huh lincoln?

not a one of them could have used some kind of birth control?

keep on keepin on with the it's not my fault train.
it will get us no where.....

now that is true and sad idiocy.

Jonathan said...

I read the original article that this post was based on. To me, it sounded like a faked piece written by a leftist provacateur.

Anyway, my wife was the only white teacher in an all black rural public school for one year. Her experience was as bad, but with the additional experience of violent behavior by staff members. THE STAFF. Toward students and toward each other. My wife was physically attacked by the principal's secretary when she went to the office to complain about a teacher's aid who kept slapping children across the face.

When my wife left, she received many cards and letters from students who loved her. But she received scorn, abuse and ridicule, and physical harm too. She gave up the forgiveness of her student loan by leaving the school, and opted to pay it back by teaching in the private sector.

James C. Collier said...

Jonathan, are you saying the original piece sounds fake, AND is supported by your wife's experience???

Jonathan said...

Yes James, it does sound like a provacateur piece to me, sort of a short version of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Especially with the over-emphasis on the childrens' stereotyped Uncle Tom dialects. And it did sound like he was trying a little too hard to "innocently" drop codewords with a gloss of sympathy. The best propaganda always starts with an element of truth. Just read Goebbel's diaries.

The scenario is familiar to my wife's experience, and to the experiences of virtually all her colleagues coming from similar public school arenas. And these experiences are despite whatever motives the writer of this article you referenced has.

The Left has absolutely no benefit to gain from improved race relations in this country. Or from improved relations of any sort, between business and labor, women and men, straights and gays, you name the group.

Jackrat said...

I am a black female. I'm half filipino but I look black so that makes me black or so I have been told by the black side of my family. I grew up with both the high side of the "Bell Curve" and the low side of it so I am able to provide a unique perspective to the "black" learning experience.

Jackson's article accurately describes the majority of my high school classmates during the late 80's while I attended a predominantly black inner city school in Ohio. I can't imagine the learning environment has become any better for students or teachers. I remember thinking these kids are animals. I was so ashamed of the black race. They fought all the time. They could not create a sentence using standard English. The boys didn't ask for dates they asked for sex.

The good "catches" had ambitions to enter the NBA, the NFL or become rappers. Going to college for anything other than athletics was rediculous to them. The girls aspired to latch on to a boy who would become a professional athlete or a music star. The common plan was to get as many babies as possible to increase the child support because they knew the relationships would not last. This was a common discussion topic at the lunch table!

No matter how much I was bullied or isolated for acting "white" I hung on to my mother's filipino teachings and upbringing. I was taught that the teachers were right even when they were wrong because they were in a position of authority. So unless they were physically or sexually abusing me their word was law. I witnessed my aunt (black) defend my cousin's unruly behavior and disrespect for authority. This was the norm according to other students in my class who would brag about how their mothers would come to the school and "tell the principle off."
The Class of 92 started with a class of about 250. Fortunately, my sophomore year, they scurried about 40 of us into the "College Prep" courses. Here we were in an oasis. Us nerds (who really would be considered normal at any suburban school) all graduated. Only 60 of the rest of "them" made it.

Anonymous said...

Jackrat: Your strength of character at such a young age, is what I pray can be instilled in my now toddler age little girl. "Acting white" needs to be eradicated, and replaced with "acting educated", because that's what it is actually referring to. The "black culture" has to STOP hearing WHITE when a little black boy or girl speaks without using ebonics, racial slurs, morals, values and a realistic set of goals in life. I know the pressure you felt from the black students and your black relatives to choose one or the other or your if to say your mothers or fathers white, indian, or asian origin isn't actually real, because your black. I've seen it, I've been immersed in it, and it wasn't until I got away from it that I felt safe to talk about it as a black woman. It comes from the black community, no other in the case of mixed ancestry. My daughter is now blended, and I don't want her anywhere near the type of environment. It hurts to say that it's the black children with the same outlooks you describe, that I feel I have to protect my child from. It's painful beyond belief for me.

Jonathan said...

Jackrat, your comment illustrates how group-think is killing the black community. And it's a lethal group-think promoted by the academics and the intelligesia of America, both black and white, representing about 90 percent of the educators in this country.

The other thing killing the black community is white progressive philosophies that promote chaos, dysfunction and ignorance with nuclear efficiency through nearly every key institution imaginable.

The self-described "Racial Realists" are hellbent on blaming it all on relative DNA factors between races. But they just can't, or won't, see that for some "inexplicable reason", white peoples' DNA must be getting worse and worse real quick. Evidence?

The white out-of-wedlock birth rate is about 58 percent now, and the white divorce rate is about 70 percent, and the white drop-out-rate and illiteracy rate is way high too. And there's more deviant behaviour and domestic violence and mental illness and suicide and substance abuse than ever before, among whites. And white SAT scores are barely a C on average. Lower than even many nationalized scores in second and third world countries; even in ones with primarily black populations.

And all these white rates today are way, way, way higher than the BLACK rates of 1940. Apparently, black people living in 1940 were smarter, more moral and more literate than your average white person in 2010. Must be all the flourine in the water, or the microwaves or something, but something is definitely making white folks less white acting all the time.

But seriously, it's the effect of 60years of free loving, dope smoking, war protesting, psychoanalyzing, Zen and Krishna conciousness egalitarianism brought to you by mostly rich white elitists living in ivory towers. And since they've been at work in the black community far, far longer than they have the white communities, the damage pattern gives the false impression that bad chromosomes are to blame.

But they're not.

Anonymous said...

Your post shows exactly what she's talking about. You are spouting a slew of learned comebacks that are straight out of the black community. I've heard it many, many times,and been around it all my life. I have two wonderful black parents, I come from the so called "black community", and what jackrabbit experienced is absolutely true. The statistics you're citing have variables that are skewed in quite a few ways, but I think you already know that. I love my family, but I don't consider them or myself part of the "black community", which in itself has become separatist to the point of imploding, from handed down misconceptions, racism, (oh yes brother, I said it) about that all encompassing "Whitey",and let us not forget,the liberal use of that all powerful "get out of anything" race card which is destroying our youths chances of knowing when they REALLY need to use it. And don't think I don't know that right now you are trotting out yet another learned and well used line "oh well she hates her race, tryin' to "ACT WHITE", etc..etc because I'm taking issue with the whole black community and the education of it's children. I can, because I'm NOT an outsider to it, and I love who I am in GOD my creator, not the little g god of "african-american blackism". Unfortunately, since so many young black children will drop out, they will continue the cycle of being in their very small little world, with blinders that have been handed down from relatives who have also dropped out, and lived in that very small little world with those very same blinders on. When education opens your eyes, it's disconcerting to see that the big wonderful world is completely different from the garbage you've been fed your whole life within your little world. I have never at any time experienced the blatant racism from caucasion people, asians, hispanics, or indian, that I grew up hearing in the so called black community. There was a feeling of self righteousness in "our" use of biggotry, and a feeling of entitlement about how rude and in the faces of the groups of ethnic people that they were disrespecting, that they were entitled to be, especially white America. The schools culture that jackrabbit is talking about fosteres this, and it used to make me so uncomfortable to watch and sometimes yes,even take part in, because I knew in my gut that it was wrong. Don't get on her because she had the guts to speak on what she knows. She doesn't need your ideas, or statistics, because she IS the petrie dish here. She is the experiment, and she has the outcome of what she experienced, to share. If you can't take the mirror, don't look, but in my case, I HAD to look for myself, and I saw what she saw. I found I could not make any excuses for it, although there were plenty of people like you, who could provide me with copious amounts of excuses. It is what it is, deal with it, and stop misdirecting it onto people of European descent. So many other things to spend your time on, once the blinders lift.

Jonathan said...

Anonymous at 1:31 PM,

You're arguing for the sake of arguing. And, you have no reading comprehension. So, I'll disregard your laborious, incomprehinsible, disjointed novelette right off the bat. Except to mention that...

...if you had a enough brains to fill a thimble, you would see that I am in SUPPORT of Jackrat's comment. Not criticizing it. SUPPORTING. SUPPORTING. Jackrat's overall comment dealt with "group-think" and how she AVOIDED it. And what was the first sentence I used?

It amazes me more and more how people can't understand what they are reading. I see it in school every day.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jonathan?
First, my name is MRASHI.It's Swahili for Rose Water. I signed it for a reason.
Second, you have now stepped up to the next classic deflection of someone who doesn't really know why they are debating about what they are debating about.You insult and then deflect. Which is a good way to loose your audience lil' man.
The degrees that I hold don't get given out to people who can't comprehend what they are reading. I worked hard for them, and I watched exactly what Jackrabbit went through, with the primarily BLACK students. Do I really need to go back, and cut and paste what you said, and who you blamed Jackrabbits comments on? She clearly laid it at the black communities feet in the education, moral, and ethical department, and I agree with her, as an educated black woman. You obviously disagree, and clearly blame everyone else. She is talking about a specific racism and way of life that is being fostered in the black community, and school system AGAINST anything white. Re-read her post carefully, without all your rehearsed rhetoric rearing it's ugly head, and see exactly what she's saying...without insulting someone's intelligence, or education. That's a cop out. She understands EXACTLY why that teacher left, just as I do. He had given up hope that any real truth would be heard by these children. They were a microcosm of a specific hatred that was impeding any growth. A Hitlers Youth.

Jonathan said...

Anonymous at 1:31 PM,

Another thought crossed my mind about you, and I have to ask... after all that you've said here, do you vote in line with the vast majority of black voters? Just wondering...

Jonathan said...

Hey Rose Water, AKA Anonymous at 1:31 PM,

Actually, Mrashi means "sprinkler" or "sprayer", according to my Swahili dictionary. I picked one up while serving in Kenya as an embassy employee back in the early 90s.

Anyway, you're still wrong. You didn't understand what I was saying, and another rambling novelette doesn't change the fact. You got all bothered because you thought I was calling Jackrat a group-thinker.

I believe very much that Jackrat's testimonies have validity. My wife experienced much the same culture in her years in public schools. And I have too.

The point I was making is lost on you. I can't help that. If you still want to insist I believe something other than what I just reiterated that I do NOT believe, then I can't worry about it.

Hakuna matata, Jonathan

Anonymous said...

A black man is not just a white man with dark skin. Races are different. The truth that we White people find hard to admit to ourselves is we really are smarter than black people. In brief, science really is White. Math really is White. Philosophy,engineering, technology, etc. really are White. It's self evident that these things were created by Whites. We know that and blacks know that. Black teenagers do not have to be told that science is White. They experience it on a deep, personal level. You cannot show even one example of a black kid who came to the conclusion that science is White because a White person told him so.

The great things that the White mind invented can only be transmitted with difficulty and compromise into the black mind. They experience these things as foreign entities into the black consciousness. Without Whites around them, blacks would (and will) revert to a tribal, pre-scientific, pre-industrial existence. It will be authentically black though.

Blacks will never achieve material equality with Whites except through theft and dictatorship. On our own, Whites will always dominate blacks. We know that and they know that. No amount of White hypocrisy and blindness will change that.

Our races should be separate, a White homeland and a black homeland. The races cannot exist in equality because we are not equal.

Unknown said...

There are exceptions of course, the odd black student here and there who are just as clever as whites and don't cause problems in the classroom. But generally what you are saying is 100 percent true, as harsh as it may sound. Nobody can deny what you're saying.