Friday's Easton Express by reporter Colin McEvoy, the principal of Luis Ramos Elementary School has submitted a revised Improvement Plan, which recommended special cultural training for the teachers. Her premise is that the majority of the students are minorities, and the teachers are white, so such cultural insight might help the teachers succeed in improving the students standardized test scores. School Board member Scott Armstrong took exception to this concept: This training philosophy wrongly suggests teachers should view students not as equals, but instead use their skin color and ethnicity as the determining factor to an individualized approach. Armstrong, on the comment section of the Express story and for this post, expanded on his objection to the principal's plan.
It is an unfortunate reality that our intellectual betters tend to over analyze problems so thoroughly that they fail to see the obvious. Such is the case with the politically progressive theory that instilling cultural sensitivity in teachers is an imperative if we are to improve the scholastic performance of minority students. In other words teachers should not view students as equals but instead use skin color, ethnic, religious and/or linguistic backgrounds as the determining factor to an individualized pedagogical approach.
Is it at all reasonable or appropriate to instruct our teachers to evaluate children from a baseline determined by cultural background? With this approach don’t we serve to re-enforce stereotypes, build in cultural separation, and re-segregate learning? Is this in the best long term interests of the students or society as a whole?
I say no. What has become of the oft stated goal of a color blind society? Are we now being asked to put that aside and replace it with one based on color, creed and ethnicity? No one expressed more perfectly what we as Americans should be striving for than Dr. Martin Luther King: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Let us simply focus on each child’s natural desire to learn and excel. We should not overlook the obvious problems, such as dysfunctional home life, potential abuse, neglect, language proficiency, and poverty. No one culture has a monopoly on these situations; they plague mankind. Let us instill in our students the American message of liberty, personal responsibility, and the endless opportunity that results from hard work, focus, and dedication. This message must be the credo that unites the ASD and the entire community on a common theme of success for our children.
Disappointingly, Russ Mayo, Superintendent, chimed in that such culture training, called Cultural Competence, is indeed becoming fashionable in urban education, and he believes that it would benefit our entire system. I'm not a fan of school administrators. Like mayors, they're always looking to buy new ideas. A group of city officials from New England just visited Allentown to learn about our revitalization success: To what on earth are they referring? First we made the mistake of teaching for the tests, now we may be teaching for the cultures. Here's hoping we don't rehire former superintendent Zahorchak as an consultant.
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