Education is not a stand-alone profession. It is a craft of learning practiced by dedicated professionals. When our students want to learn, it is easily practiced, but we also practice our craft when children arrive depressed, isolated, intimidated by parents or adults, and devasted by poverty. When they are not ready to learn we still help them. Every school is a reflection of the community around it. The pandemic is also reflected in our classrooms, even magnified:
“That is what the virus did: It seized upon America’s inequality and hugely magnified it… Across the country, there’s growing concern about fentanyl overdoses arising from the isolation. The Beaverton school district near here warned recently that “we’ve lost several students to fentanyl-related poisonings.”—NICHOLAS KRISTOF, NEW YORK TIMES, MAY 31, 2021
Black Wall Street Burned 100 Years Ago Today
Just like the pandemic’s effect on inequality magnified in our classrooms, the burning of one of the most successful minority owned business district in Tulsa, Oklahoma reminds us of how an unequal society fosters an unequal school system.
An apocalyptic future awaits America’s Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma that will ultimately decimate the descendants of this once seemingly-viewed promised land for Blacks escaping racial hostility in the American south.
In this city, schools with a large African-American student-population are failing some 51-years after the U.S. Justice Department filed suit against Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) to force a plan for desegregation.
Upon this forced governmental policy on this twin city, African-American students were isolated from their prosperous community that already produced successful schools in the Greenwood District, dubbed the Negro Wall Street of America by Booker T. Washington. They were forced to attend unfriendly, and at times, hostile learning environments at white schools.
Unequal Classrooms Still Get Our Help
How can we expect our schools to solve these community based problems? No school will ever replace the home as the primary place for learning. Schools want to work with their parents and to make their relationship a partnership in learning. Thank goodness for schools who want to receive and help so many students. It is so sad that some of the schools are unwilling, or unable to create a welcoming place for learning for all children. The bottom line is how can we help our community to improve the conditions under which we all struggle to survive?
Support with Accountability
The most hopeful policy for improving our country’s neighborhoods is to combine monetary and program support with realistic and authentic accountability. For example, mandating that schools improve test scores for third grade reading proficiency without providing the support for that is a 40 year old failure in policy. Designing universal pre-K that feeds, supports and orients children to positive learning experiences would be one good idea to fund precisely because it is support with accountability. Restructuring Tulsa, OK’s school system “As Soon As Possible” (ASAP) would be another good idea. Reducing drug overdose deaths, currently at a record 91,000, would be an ASAP good idea. Or try funding a reading support program that is K-3, results in an accountability policy such as “90% reading proficiency in every 3rd grade in America,” and improves every student’s chance to learn well because now they can read well.
Memorial Day as a Day of Healing
So on this day of healing, we remember those who have sacrificed to keep our country free and to remember their loss as the kind of support that our communities will always cherish. As the President speaks to us from Arlington National Cemetery, we remember our war heroes and that their sacrifice was not in vain. They fought to protect our way of life, and we should honor them by continuing that fight to protect our communities from the current enemies within—the devastation that inequality reaps from our parents, our brothers and sisters, and our hope for the future, our beautiful children. Let us come together so that we may all heal, and learn, and prosper. We are all equal and deserve to be treated that way all of our lives.