Being bullied didn’t make me hate learning, it made me hate schools and the rampant and unchecked fascism that dictated everything from what we wore to what we could watch on TV.
All of the policing changed when Roots hit the air.
All the white teachers and administrators sanctioned the consumption of this epic without any deep discussions about slavery and its present day ramifications.
Frightful and gutless individuals dictated what young black children could view and ultimately emotionally handle.
To dump something of this magnitude into the laps of young and impressionable students and not offer explanations or provide the space to discuss what we’d seen was evil.
Education at its best involves something more than silence, abject obedience and the ability to regurgitate facts and useless information.
Many black folks mistakenly believe that if someone is taking our money and allowing us into certain places there needn’t be questions or any evaluation as to whether we are getting our money’s worth.
Having parents who grew up amidst violent and relentless government sanctioned educational segregation, they attempted to rectify their perceived educational shortcomings by sending us to parochial schools.
This grand experiment, like so many in education, failed abysmally.
My parents, like most adults reared in an outdated school system, had no idea what education can provide or the mental landscape it can widen when it’s not undergirded by fear and blind obedience.
A recent conversation with my dad highlighted the fact that much of education is not based on what students need (what is best for young people).
We agreed (which rarely occurs) that our current educational system worked when young folks who lived in an agrarian society (which many families did) needed to work in the Summer.
None of the young folks I know need to work in the Summer.
This is true for most young people in this country.
Whether it was the South Bronx, Harlem, or Compton, not one student ever told me they would be tilling the soil in the hot sun all Summer.
Everyone involved with school aged children understands this concept and yet we refuse to demand a restructuring of our educational system.
Our young people look to us for influence and instruction regarding ways of being and navigating the world.
What message gets sent when we allow failing systems to exist?
How can we trot out ridiculous slogans and tired mottos regarding “success” and “never giving up” when we as a nation have given up and consistently taught folks the fine art of learned helplessness?
A few pointed discussions about what our students are learning and why could yield marvelous results.
Post these discussions and a powerful plan that focused on a different rubric (on something that was not standardized) would give students a different focus and a way to personalize and excel in their educational pursuits.
I have worked with many students whose brilliance could not be measured on a test.
I have had students who were incredible problem solvers and natural born diplomats.
There is no way to measure or teach this skill and more testing and Summer School won’t change or alter this dilemma. We should value our young charges and what they are learning.
Transforming our educational system is not strictly the job of teachers and administrators.
Teaching and learning can take place at any time in any arena.
Remember,the patrons in our barbershops and the creators of pop music spend a great deal of time instructing our children by default.
Modeling the type of behavior we want to see our children emulate is the single most powerful thing we can do.
If we want our kids to develop problem solving skills, tenacity and perseverance, do we give up (on life and its challenges) when things get uncomfortable, scary or unfamiliar?
Do we yap incessantly about success and big dreams yet keep our life visions and goals thimble sized?
Mentors and adults that dream big, take action and create results offer one type of teaching.
Adults and mentors who sit around with nothing grand to guide or inspire them send another message.
Kids are short, not stupid.
Many times I have had conversations with students about behavior and choices and felt ignored or unheard.
Some time later, I have heard my words repeated when the same student was faced with a similar challenge or wanted to inspire or encourage a friend to rethink a very familiar response.
To value education in this country, we must value people and be courageous when it comes to changing and challenging a system that is only designed for a few.
We must value our students minds and the intangible gifts each one brings to the world.