The elephant in the room….. and NO ONE WILL ADMIT IT…..is that the lower orders, including blacks, hispanics, etc. do not learn at the same rate as their white counterparts. It may be societal, or genetic…..but who cares? Deal with it as a reality. …YOU CAN NOT MAKE DOGS CLIMB TREES!!
When I read this email from a high school classmate, my mind flashed back to an incident on a soccer field 62 years ago, when we were awkward or pudgy (or in my case, both) 14-year-olds. Loud and clear as a bell, this classmate, who was on the other intramural soccer team, yelled “Happy Hanukkah” at someone on my team. I didn’t know what “Happy Hanukkah” meant, but, when the boy yelled it again, one of my teammates confronted him. They faced off and then began pushing, shoving and wrestling before others intervened to break it up. I had no clue as to what had just happened. I didn’t know my teammate was Jewish; in fact, I knew almost nothing about Judaism. It wasn’t until much later that I learned why the phrase, spoken by a non-Jew and delivered in a certain way, might be offensive to a Jew. And I never figured out whether the boy who shouted “Happy Hanukkah” was being anti-Semitic or just trying to upset an opponent.
Now I think I know.
My classmate, who must be–like me–76 years old, wrote the above email after reading a recent blog post about the schools in Washington, DC. My central point was that two prominent researchers were jeopardizing their reputations by publishing misleading data. Despite their claims, the achievement gaps in Washington have persisted and even widened. My point is that the ‘test-and-punish,’ test-centric, data-driven approach simply doesn’t work…and that poor and minority kids deserve to be treated with the same respect shown to children born to privilege. My classmate, however, found confirmation of some basic belief of his….and his confirmation caused me to relive his earlier behavior.
And then the oddest thing happened: Believe it or not, the second response to my blog came from the boy he yelled at, my former teammate on that intramural soccer team. He’s someone I have stayed in touch with over the years. In high school he was hard-working and earnest. He’s done well in life and has made a point of giving back in his small midwestern community and elsewhere. We share a genuine wonkiness about education and a belief in trying to level the playing field.
Amazing that academics from two serious institutions would risk such extreme distortion. Why would they make fools of themselves??
By the way, here in Smallville our K-12wide PBL installation, now in year 5, is very very successful. Parents, kids, teachers and community are convinced it works. Even silly State-mandated test scores are good, despite not teaching to them.
Seeing those two responses back-to-back, and remembering that soccer field incident from 62 years ago, has me wondering. How do children learn racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of hatred? How do we learn tolerance and understanding? Who teaches us, and can we unlearn hatred? Were my classmates already fully formed at age 14? Was I? And, if we are, do we then view everything thereafter through that prism unless a dramatic ‘Saul on the road to Damascus’ experience changes our lives?
The questions strike me as particularly relevant today because our 71-year-old President regularly expresses attitudes that are, at best, questionable and often objectionable. I’m wondering whether he–or any of us–can change our basic beliefs once we reach maturity. If so, what does it take?
And if not, what is in store for our country?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.