Wednesday, February 11, 2009

racism and discrimination

I'm a pretty good teacher when it comes to grading work on time. Writing is the one subject that is difficult for me to review in a timely manner. I guess it's the drive in my right-leaning brain to quantify every decision as it pertains to my students. That's one part of grading at the lower levels in FCPS that drives me insane. It's so subjective in all subject areas, and we're not supposed to average grades. An S is the baseline for satisfying expectations; beyond that, the students need to put in extra effort and excel beyond expectations. To my ears, that sounds like we're comparing the students with one another instead of quantifying their accomplishments. That's not today's point.

I've said in the past how remarkable I find it that each year my students become more and more colorblind. That brings me to this year. With one another, that seems to still hold true. All my students get along with one another: black and white; boy and girl; Christian and Muslim.

It's that point that I can say times, they are a-changin'. It's those folks from back in time that cling to their old ideas and old prejudices that seem to be corrupting my students in their formative years.

Let's link this all together. I finally got myself to sit down to review speeches they'd written in the style of Dr. Martin Luther King in January. We shared the speeches, evoking King's voice and tone as they shared with one another. They had a blast pretending to be someone else, standing on the famous steps of the Lincoln Memorial, inspiring generations to change the biased ways of the past. Unfortunately, I see sadness in their hopeful thoughts. I see racism's ugly head rearing itself towards eight and nine year-olds in my class. I see prejudicial attitudes cutting deep in the very souls of their beings.

...and it pains me to read this. The two students in particular that have expressed such experiences couldn't be better kids. They're both very intelligent, come from homes with two loving parents, and are well-liked by their peers. Why strangers judge them based on the shade of their brown skin or the foreign name they were given at birth, I'll never understand. Fear of something different, I suppose. One of these students was in my class last year, and I can honestly say that I've learned more from him than I think any other students in my past. He is open and honest about his life and his faith, and I appreciate his presence in my class more than he'll probably ever know. As far as the racist attitudes go, other students alluded to them in Florida, but perhaps their younger ages kept them from truly understanding or hurting from them nearly as much.

Old hatreds die hard, I suppose. I pray that the racism and discrimination they've experienced in their young lives is limited to a singular occasion. While they may remember it well, they don't become distrustful and hateful in return. These are of course the thoughts and dreams of a white Christian male, hardly the type that's ever been discriminated against. I haven't walked a mile in their shoes. All I can do is try to see their point of view, and vicariously use their unfortunate tales to help others do better by them.

[Steps down off soapbox.}

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