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October 23, 2003

Civil Rights Legacy

I weep for those who gave up everything for the Civil Rights Movement. I think that, given today's educational climate, they might have died in vain.

Too many young minorities today are insulated and innoculated against any kind of cultural assimilation or educational opportunities. To be educated, to listen to the teacher, to dress appropriately, to speak and act civilly are signs of weakness and betrayal and done only by those with the strongest wills and homes. Peer pressure is exerting a strong downward force on the education of the very people who stand to gain the most from taking advantage of the education system in America. Somehow, the dream of sharing a common education and society has turned into ethnic isolation and distrust. Instead of raising up our fellow man out the squalor of oppression, we seem to be forming myriad sub-communities that only barely tolerate each other, all congealing at a lower common denominator of acceptable social behavior.

Are white kids immune or exceptional? No. There's plenty who could care less about an education. But then again, there's more at stake with the education of minority students, especially black students, and we as a nation need to take notice: it's not happening. An eye of mistrust is cast toward school and academic success by many, and it seems to originate from home. Why? I don't know. Education was supposed to be the vindication of our racist past. Once the battle over equal education was won things were supposed to change. But tis not so and I don't know how to fix it.

Maybe I'm old. Plato in his dialogues complained that the youth of Athens were running wild and ignoring their studies. Maybe it never ends. Maybe old people like me will always complain about young people. So be it.

But I know what I see, and I see militant apathy, a term I coined to label the aggressive nonchalance placed by many students, especially young black men, on even the most important tests and opportunities. We're squandering boundless human resources because of racial boundaries, and I feel helpless to change it.

Posted by tat at October 23, 2003 02:48 PM

Bryan you make an excellent point on this. Please allow me to take it a step further. I've been a substitute teacher in a private school where "Academic Excellence" is the message, method and mission. But, many young black males (myself included) come from places where to be respected, you must be "hard" or "gangsta." I was fortunate because my parents saw the value of education. They made it unacceptable to be a bad student or even mediocre. That leads to my next point.

Many of the issues that plagued the black community in the 1980s and 1990s are bearing their fruit now in high school classrooms around the country. Gang Violence. Teen Pregnancy. Drug Use. The babies of those times are the high school students of today. The parents of these students are just now begining to claw their way out of the quagmire of poverty and cultural marginalization.

What's the fix? Start with parental involvement. Make the commitment to being a high school teacher and economically viable option. (Pay y'all what you're worth...and then some!) Finally, it comes down to money. We have to convince those with the cash to spend it on the future of this nation. Otherwise......

Posted by: Jason Hall at October 24, 2003 01:31 PM

I hadn't made the generational connection between the 80's social struggles and this generation. Thanks.

Also, the common wisdom is it takes three generations for families to pull themselves out of cycles of violence and poverty. Maybe it's just a matter of time and we just need to keep pluggin' along.

Here's to hoping so.

Posted by: Bryan at October 24, 2003 03:26 PM

It has been 9 years since I first started teaching and a good deal of my shinny idealism has worn down but I still believe that as long as there are people like us who care we can make a difference one person at a time. It can be defeating to even think about taking on the task of changing a society but affecting the life of one person is a much more attainable goal. Mentoring is the key.

Posted by: Denise at October 26, 2003 04:49 PM