Black parents are hopping mad

Although media attention has been focused on the budgetary challenges facing schools and the battle between conservative Republicans and unions, the real force that is going to shape the future of education in America is the discontent among African-American parents.
The sudden resignation of New York Chancellor Cathie Black and the furor that led to the departure of D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee are the tips of the iceberg.
Public education is the proxy for an economic vise which black families find themselves in. The downturn of the past several years yanked many black middle class families out of relative stability, and pulled many families apart.
Like previous generations, parents have placed their hope in ensuring a better future for their children, which can only come through an effective education.
However, the decisions about the shape of that education are taking place in shadowy meetings between billionaire philanthropists who want to shape public education in their image, just as Carnegie and Morgan engineered schools at the end of the 19th century.
That shaping eliminates culturally responsive instruction in favor of a mechanized rote paradigm, often delivered online through products that just happen to be created by those same “philanthropists.”
The charter schools movement is taking on the same characteristics as the recent efforts to privatize prisons–chasing profit on the backs of the less fortunate.
Among all this, no one is asking black parents what they want.
They’ve seen $100 billion in additional stimulus funding for education disappear without making a difference in the educational inequities facing black children.
It is becoming increasingly clear that school districts take notice of black children when it is time to seek grants, but fail to deliver effective instruction on the other end.
During the American Educational Research Association conference in New Orleans April 8-12, one of our ASPIRE SAN FRANCISCO authors, the esteemed scholar Professor Sylvia Wynter discusses her writings on what a truly liberating educational experience for black children would look like.
With Dr. Joyce King, Benjamin E. Mays Chair of Educational Policy Studies at Georgia State University, Wynter discusses “Freedom Dreaming in the Urban South” as an AERA Presidential Showcase.
Excerpts from the discussion will be added to the new printing of her book Do Not Call Us Negros: How ‘Multicultural’ Textbooks Perpetuate Racism which we will release in May.
Editing the original book in the early 1990s was a transformational experience for me. It gave me a toolbox for discerning the demotivating effect of subtle racist cues in literature, particularly in textbooks.
It has been quoted extensively by educational researchers, particularly those focusing on culturally-responsive instruction.
As the debate rages about the future of education, Wynter presents a vision: ““…in re-writing the order of knowledge we would be transformed: we would be able to re-imagine freedom for the first time in our species history in now imperatively ecumenical human terms.”
Teachers puzzled by their recent demonization by political leaders can draw understanding from her observation: “…never have their roles as teachers been more potentially emancipatory, precisely because of the struggle that they have already begun to find themselves confronting, which is their own systemic scapegoating without any recognition that the problem of the reproduction of an order, and the hierarchies of the order, necessarily correlate with the problem of the nature of the test course (e.g.,curriculum).”
In short, Wynter dismisses most of the debates in vogue among educators — about assessment or governance or school uniforms. Her primary focus is on the actual curriculum, which hardly ever gets discussed. The way schools teach now continues to replicate a social order of hierarchy, which no amount of ‘reform’ will change.
Only when schools teach a common humanity will they transform from dropout factories and prison preparers.

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