When news dropped late last month (literally 10 minutes before my middle child’s birthday dinner) about a proposal to get rid of New York City’s Gifted & Talented programs, The NY Daily News asked me to write an editorial on the topic.
It ran on August 27 and was entitled, Eliminate Gifted & Talented Programs? Then Rethink How To Give High-Achieving Kids What They Deserve.
In it, I wrote:
Yes, the majority of the 4,000-plus New York City kids annually labeled “gifted” are simply the bright children of mostly college educated parents who have been read to (and, again, yes, many have been prepped).
Except I don’t care how these children acquired their knowledge. I only care that they have it.
Carranza apparently believes the purpose of public school is to sit students of various races, ethnicities, religions and socio-economics status next to each other.
I venture that some learning should also take place amongst the sitting.
I received a variety of feedback to that editorial, most of it positive… some of it unfit for a family publication.
But one response in particular struck me as so perfect, that I asked the writer, Soraya Gomez Crawford, if I might run it here in its entirety.
Read her comments below and let us know if you agree or disagree:
On the morning that Barack Obama became president, my girls got up and during breakfast I turned on the television. We saw people cheering, Oprah and Jesse Jackson crying and just such emotion that my oldest who was eight asked me “Mami, why is everybody crying?” As I was starting to formulate an answer, my youngest, then six, asked “Is it because he has brown skin?” I didn’t get to answer her because the oldest looked away from the TV and waved her hand at her sister, “That’s ridiculous. He’s president because he’s the best one for the job.”
I have never liked the gifted and talented programs. I believe all kids are talented, they just have to find their magic. Also, it started to become clear that the G and T programs were segregating the white kids from the others. As a Latina with two biracial girls, the visual is extremely upsetting. It sends a message that intelligence is only associated with whiteness. Besides, what if one tested in and the other not? So my kids went to PS 87 when it was still diverse, with one of them in Dual Language.
However, I believe as you discussed in your piece, that all children should be taught at their level. Why not change the name, test later in the upper grades, and keep the parts that work in the G and T program? Don’t scrap the program because there are not enough Black and Hispanic kids in these programs. How about having those programs set up in those schools that are majority Black and Hispanic? Not suggesting that the plans be expanded to these schools is implying that it would not work because the kids are not smart enough.
I object to the use of race as a reason to take away a program that is showing results. Once again, like the attempt to get rid of the SHSAT because there are not enough Black and Latino kids in the specialized schools—it is implied that those two groups are not smart enough so the standards have to be lowered to increase their numbers.
The suggestion of removing specific practices for admission to selective schools such as attendance and lateness is particularly insulting. There are plenty of parents in the affluent Upper West Side that actually pull their kids from school for family vacations only to find out later that several middle and high schools count attendance. A few years ago, the Manhattan School for Children had so many kids being dropped off late that they started to punish the parents by keeping them in the auditorium, adult detention.
It is mentioned that high instances of absence and lateness shows a sign of grinding, generational poverty Black and Hispanic students face. And yet the Asian community, which has a high rate of poverty does not seem to be affected in this way. Is it not a basic, necessary life lesson to show up, and on time? Don’t we need to instill this in all of our kids?
This sort of narrative is destructive. It is like the advice some Black and Hispanic parents tell their kids: “You have to work three times as hard as the white kids to achieve success.”
When I hear this, I tell them they are telling their kids that they are worth one-third of a white person just because of the color of their skin. Why would anyone really put effort into anything if they are already so far behind? A kid cannot change his/her color, no matter how hard they study. How about: “Be the best you that you can be, because there is no one else in the world like you?”
When I hear the implied message coming from a Hispanic school chancellor, it makes me wonder if he is a victim of believing that black and Hispanic kids are just not capable. All of our kids are our best asset, in our city and this country. As an educator, Richard Carranza should aim up, not dumb down.
Mayor de Blasio’s Universal Pre K program is a step in the right direction. I know it does not show immediate results, but I cannot imagine any negatives. It is also a policy that addresses a need without blaming any racial group.
Implying that black and Hispanic kids only do better when they are in school with white kids is racist. This narrative needs to stop. Perhaps money needs to be spent on raising teachers’ salaries, and lowering the cost of getting the education necessary to teach. Begin a campaign that makes teaching “cool” and attracting young Black and Latino teachers so that kids in these neighborhoods could see themselves represented. Kind of like the picture of Obama letting a little kid touch his hair to see that it was just like his.