Writing is helping me make deeper connections among various topics. Follow me right now, if you will.
I’m beginning to see how the school-to-prison pipeline continues to flourish because of a lack of culturally relevant pedagogy. Culturally-relevant pedagogy is lacking because of a void of Black teachers, especially Black, male teachers. One reason there are not many Black male teachers is because of their higher rate of felony convictions which often prohibit them from entering the teaching profession. Black males have a higher rate of felonies stemming from them being targeted in school from as early as Kindergarten with an inordinate amount of disciplinary referrals, detentions, suspensions, and expulsions. This disproportionality, coupled with targeted, impoverished and broken external and internal environments. directly lends itself to criminal activity and prison.
Whew! That was quite the maze, but an all too familiar one for a significant cohort of Black and Brown, LGBTQ, and children with special needs being educated in schools — public and charter — across the United States. These practices reek of racism, sexism, classism and bigotry. I’m particularly disgusted by children as young as five years old being labeled and treated like criminals, instead of the young, impressionable, malleable, innocent products of their environments that they are. The troubling behaviors that they exhibit are taught. The zero tolerance policies being upheld in our schools as disciplinary measures, often under the guise of character development, are further disenfranchising students who are already behind the proverbial eight ball, often by no doing of their own.
That image of the “angry Black man” and the “angry Black woman” that is pervasively disseminated in mainstream society has now trickled down into our collective psyches to include the “angry Black child.” I’m especially concerned with the way this sick train of thought somehow ends up morphing into exclusive blame being placed on the innocent child as being “poor” or “low performing” and in need of “fixing.”
Let me say this: If our children are broken (and in many ways they are), it’s the adults and institutions who play a role in their lives during their formative years who must own and shoulder that blame. It is the adults and institutions in their lives now who must work to make them whole, positively contributing members of society. Is the school system prepared to take on this undertaking? Not under the leadership of Betsy DeVos it’s not!
According to an editorial this week in ThinkProgress,
Secretary of Education, DeVos has been quiet about the school-to-prison pipeline. But her comments about character development and her general desire to privatize public schools are setting off alarm bells. Advocates fear that biased discipline will become even more harsh in schools and further jeopardize marginalized students.”
“The language around values and character development isn’t necessarily negative in and of itself,” Policy Associate Kimberly Quick of the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank, told ThinkProgress. “But the problem is it could invite further bias against minority students and students with disabilities.”
If you, like me, are a children’s advocate we can not sit idly by while laws and policies are revised, reconfigured, and reformatted to create an even wider chasm between the “have nots” and viable hope and opportunity in the realm of education. Call your State’s governor! Bombard Secretary DeVos’ voicemail with calls! Load her inbox with messages demanding that these racially biased, subjective discipline codes that directly supply prisons with children come to a screeching halt! Not next month! Not next year! Now!