Monday, February 18, 2019

How A Stringent School Curriculum Has Made Many Black Educators Modern-Day Minstrels.

July 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Education, News, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

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( It is always strange and often amusing to witness the shock of others at things that have been everpresent in not only their lives but also the lives of everyone they know. This somewhat funny problem occurs every time I lecture in front of any segment of the black community. Without fail, the issue that raises this matter to the forefront of discussions is the pervasive ignorance within Black America regarding the erasure that black writers routinely experience when curriculum boards decide what is and what is not worthy of appearing in American schoolhouses.

I understand the fact that non-educators have no understanding of what passes as education in America. In fact, most segments of Black American consider it a foregone conclusion that black students attending a predominantly black educational institution (K-12 or collegiate) staffed by black educators would spend a significant period learning about “the black experience.” The alluded to population never imagines that rarely does “the black experience” appear in the lesson plans of teachers as they are neither present in curriculums or standardized tests.

Trust me when I tell you that every black educator interested in sharing an element of the black experience with their charges has had a few battles with school administrators. It does not take black educators long to realize that the curriculum that they were hired to execute amounts to a lily-white script that dodges and denies the significant contributions of black writers and thinkers. Woe to the historian who believes that it is impossible to paint a portrait of “founding father” Thomas Jefferson without discussing his rape of his slave, Sally Hemings. I have yet to encounter a black educator who fails to eventually understand that their primary role is not to teach their students anything of much utility, rather it is to recite a “white-washed” curriculum that they have inherited from people with neither an understanding of the black experience nor an interest in liberating black minds.

These matters proved to be so disruptive to one black educator that she began to suffer from a recurring nightmare that dogged her for months. The alluded to dream entailed her standing in front of a class holding “a non-descript English book” as the black children seated in front of her slowly turned paler until they transformed into white students. Making this nightmare more excruciating was the presence of a melody of the best works written by writers such as James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Ralph Ellison inches away from her grasp. Regardless of her actions, she could never access those texts while standing in front of her students. This thirty-something-year-old educator revealed that she awoke in a cold sweat and fit of frustration regarding her inability to integrate seminal texts of the black experience that would in her words, “prevent my students from becoming white in their worldview” every night.

As an educator who has spent his entire career studying Race and teaching young people about the African-American experience, I sympathize with my fellow educator regarding her frustrations with having classic black text not being approved for classroom use by some collegiate governing body. It has always been befuddling that there is some committee that tells experts in their respective fields what they can and cannot teach in their classrooms. Just as disconcerting is the reality that the alluded to committee members have never actually read the books that they are consciously deciding to bar from classroom use. This non-sense serves as a fundamental pillar of black educational inefficiency that ensures the continuation of one of America’s foremost educational traditions, the underdevelopment of black minds.

Out of curiosity, I decided to search for a list of books that every student should have read before graduation. The following list appeared.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Animal Farm
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Death of a Salesman
  • East of Eden
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • 1984

Unfortunately for Black America, engagement with the above texts will neither ground the minds of their youth in the black experience nor infuse it with a liberating vision regarding future possibilities.

When one understands the various obstacles that prevent the illumination of black minds in American classrooms, a feeling of sadness arrives. In many ways, the current restraints placed on black educators relegates them to the same posture of black minstrels such as Bert Williams who was forced to stand before audiences and paint a fallacious portrait of the black past, present, and future for a meager paycheck.

It is this often ignored side of the American educational experience for black children which explains much of the disinterest black students show toward a whitewashed curriculum. Enlightened black educators realize that there is relevant and pertinent material that they could share with their young charges if allowed. Although rarely articulated, Black students recognize that there are essential pieces of the black experience not being shared within the classrooms.

When viewed through the argument mentioned above, it is difficult to argue against the assertion that the standard educational curriculum neither inspires nor illuminates the minds of black children. Put simply; black children throughout this nation are being “dumbed down” in ways that neither they nor their community fully understands. And for that reason, we should all be saddened.

Staff Writer; Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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One may also connect with this brother via TwitterDrJamestJones.

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