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The Democrat and Chronicle, in a piece about the struggles of young black men, says many teachers don’t understand their culture:

The stories behind these statistics tell a bitter tale of generational poverty; of children born into single-parent homes; of mothers, many of whom have little education themselves, working low-wage jobs to support their children…

Already up against tough odds, these young men enroll in school systems largely unequipped to meet their academic needs, much less the social and emotional problems they may be struggling with…

Although they often enter school less prepared than their white classmates — and need extra help to level the playing field — black male students tend to be concentrated together in poor-performing schools where they have fewer opportunities.

Added to that, many teachers lack a basic understanding of the culture black male students come from and misinterpret their behavior, something that drives a disproportionate number of young black men being expelled, suspended or placed in special education.

Poverty, concentrated poverty in schools, family structure and the lure of the street culture are more compelling reasons for the struggles of black male youth than “teachers don’t understand.” Teachers are with their black male students every day year after year. To state as fact many don’t understand their students is very controversial and offensive to teachers. This is not a new debate. Rochester school board member Cynthia Elliott caused a big stir when she suggested white teachers were not as equipped to teach black students.

There’s no question schools play a role in the success or failure of young black men. There’s no question institutional racism plays a role; our schools are segregated by race and income. City schools do not have the same resources as suburban schools. (Much of funding goes to special needs.)

The question is what role the school system should play in elevating black male students. The D&C cites well-funded programs in New Jersey to target the population with intense mentoring and teacher training. The school is called on to fill gaps in the community.

Links of the Day:

– St. John Fisher students complain about a lack of parking. Notice how they’re forced to pay for a lot that’s free to the general public.

There are 10 dry towns left in New York state.

– Colleges are clamping down on free speech in the name of sensitivity.

Food recalls are on the rise.

15 Responses to Teachers Don’t Understand?

  1. You feel that the bolded text is an inaccurate comment?

    • December 2, 2012 at 10:42 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      I put the text in bold to draw attention to it. I don’t know if it is inaccurate. I would have liked to see it attributed. On Twitter, the author of the article said NYU researchers found it to be true here.

  2. December 2, 2012 at 3:26 pm johnvon responds:

    The link to the Ten driest towns in ny state doesn’t work, it just goes to the article by mr will.

  3. December 2, 2012 at 3:27 pm johnvon responds:

    The link to the Ten driest towns in ny state doesn’t work, it just goes to the article by mr will. 🙁

  4. December 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm Orielly responds:

    “There’s no question institutional racism plays a role; our schools are segregated by race and income”

    What, where is institutional racism?

    The city voter has voted for the same party to lead the city for 30yrs and the school board for 40. They have the schools they voted for. If they weren’t happy why didn’t they vote for “change”?

    They, minority voter, also voted for Obama in the 93-95% range and black females, the single mother group her you cite, voted 98% for Obama. Romney wanted to implement VOUCHERs across the country. Again they voted for the school systems they apparently wanted.

    Until they vote for change, why must one assume they are not happy with the current school system?

  5. December 2, 2012 at 6:37 pm Eduardo Ricardo responds:

    Without change, there is no hope.

  6. “understanding the culture?.. OK.. this is important.. but “the soft bigotry of low expectations” is what happens when you put “culture” as the priority, and is the main cause of institutional racism. Do you want people to lower the bar in the interest of relating to kids..or do you want people to teach and hold kids accountable for behavior and learning? A whole generation of kids have already experienced the former.. I vote for the latter. I call it “empathy with expectations.”

  7. December 2, 2012 at 9:45 pm RaChaCha responds:

    many teachers lack a basic understanding of the culture black male students come from and misinterpret their behavior

    As you pointed out on Twitter, the D&C article stated it as fact without attribution. Yet this can be an incendiary idea that absolutely must be presented thoughtfully & in context. I was previously skeptical of this idea, as I had never heard it presented — or represented — well.

    But here in Buffalo, I have heard it discussed cogently several times by the great Eva Doyle, a retired teacher and 2010 Freedom Party Lt. Governor candidate. She also organized a forum on the topic last year. I now think there’s something to this idea.

    But it doesn’t really matter whether I think there’s something to it or not, or whether teachers are offended by it or not, in the sense that this idea is already a fact of life. Although appearing relatively rarely in wider-circulation media — and then usually in the context of controversial remarks like those made by Cynthia Elliott (does she make any non-controversial remarks?) — it is very prevalent in inner-city African-American communities. Regardless of the context in which it arises, this is not an idea that is going away just because someone greets it dismissively or derisively, or because some in the education profession are offended by it.

  8. The expectation that any teacher (white, black, whatever) alone can address the core issues of racism and poverty in America in the classroom is either an example of displacement or is an outright denial. Let’s start at the real core of the problem and work out from there. Each one of us needs to start with himself or herself. Each one of us needs to work through the process of individually recognizing and admitting what our racial stereotypes are. Then each one of us must individually deal with (perhaps “correct” is a better word) in our own lives and then pass it on to our children, colleagues, and neighbors through changed behavior, public modeling, and mentoring. No educator can get anywhere on these issues unless we as individuals do this “homework”. It’s the only way that we are going to get anywhere as a society.

  9. It’s funny that when we need someone to blame blacks and whites are culturally different, such as in this article. However, when we want to be all positive and upbeat, we’re all the same people on the inside. I don’t get what they are suggesting by misinterpreted behavior without specific examples. Sounds like paper making excuses for poorly behaving students.

    Ms. Elliot is a prime example of what’s wrong with Rochester. People like her in the City School District and City Hall are the morons that are ruining our fine city and driving people out. If she thinks black teachers are better at teaching black students perhaps she’d like us to segregate the schools again. Black schools with black teachers, white teachers for the whites, latinos for latinos, etc… Then everything will be better, since you need to be the same color as someone to teach them. People like her are focused on race and then wonder why its the thing that divides us.

  10. The problem is poverty and racism in a large scale way. Of course white teachers who are assumed to be middle class and raised in suburbia can’t truly comprehend what poverty in the city is like but that doesn’t mean they can’t be culturally sensitive. There is a huge problem with special education diagnosis and perception by race. Some people try to consider it extra help and not the diagnosis of a disability. The Advocacy centers seem to concentrate on white suburban parents who want services but not minority students being discriminated against. Being diagnosed with an educational disability is a big deal, again standardized tests are often used. And special education students rarely succeed in education. It is important that diagnosis is right and fair. Many educators barely know the laws for special education and speakers of other languages. And the team of educators can be a farce also. Administrators coerce teachers all the time on what they want and what the “team” wants. Parents receive controlled information and educators are not allowed to voice their own opinion despite the law. The rights of parents are given to them in a wordy booklet in English only and the rights are placed in the middle of the booklet. Many parents are overwhelmed by the material and never see it.

  11. December 3, 2012 at 8:58 am RaChaCha responds:

    One of the dangers of this idea is that people will latch onto it to play the politics of racial division. That kind of politics are part & parcel of the political crowd Elliott runs with.

  12. You can’t help people who won’t help themselves. I don’t buy into racism. I do firmly believe in culture. I don’t know what or why these studies or opinions are publicized. Basic human behavior will always prevail. People want to be with people who are like them. It has been characterized as “looks like me”. I truly believe it is more “acts like me”. I have no problem with letting people be people. If you want to live in the suburbs, have a house with a white picket fence, have a mom and dad and two kids…that’s great. If you want to live in the city and live that style, that’s also OK. It will be different. Is different bad? Why are there always comparisons? If you don’t like your surroundings, you can always move. Living in Utah will certainly be different than NY. Go try it.

  13. December 3, 2012 at 11:46 am theodore kumlander responds:

    it is the same old story. white teachers just can not understand black students. well Why aren’t there more black teachers? why not ask the black students to try and understand the white teacher?

  14. December 4, 2012 at 8:05 pm Animule responds:

    You’re not going to fix any of these problems in the city of Rochester with new teachers, or all of Bill Gates’ money because the problem isn’t funding or even teachers.

    The problem is that the family has disintegrated in the city of Rochsster, especially among ethnic groups. For blacks in the city of Rochester, 78% of households are single “parent” family. The figure is 71% for Hispanics, 53% of whites, and 35% for Asian families. You’re not going to fix anything until these numbers are reduced. This is the toxic and disintegrating “culture” that is at the core of the problem.

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