African American Women Teachers Are Being Scapegoated For The Inferior Performance of the Underclass Population

Get out while you can before the Arne Duncans or the Michelle Rhees boot you out! While the Waiting For Superman documentary gets trotted out like a show pony offering “solutions” to weed out bad teachers the big giant pink elephant in the room is NEVER discussed. It’s the mass dysfunction at play that’s the core problem.

The majority of problems in schools today are tied to the rampant OOW problem in the black community. The lack of family structure begats the devaluation of a community. It ties into lower tax bases, poverty, parental apathy, living in dangerous neighborhoods, poor food choices, lack of fresh foods, stress and minimal support. Yeah..more canon fodder for the anti-NWNW gang to deny and deflect. What programs are going to fix this!?

Children who are overburdened, undernourished, abused or otherwise impaired  and competing with 30+ other students for a teacher’s attention are not in a conducive learning environment. Not to mention those who are tracked as having developmental problems. While this doesn’t apply to every situation or school there does tend to be a correlation between residential areas, entitlement, expectations, parental involvement and lack of resources.

Parents who take an active interest in their child’s education have a huge impact on a child’s performance. My education did not begin or end with the lessons I was taught while at school. My mother took an active interest in making sure all of her children were well-read – in fact I was taught to read before I started kindergarten. I was also in a unique situation because she was pursuing an advanced degree when I was 8 years old and I attended a few classes with her. Being around adults pursuing their education had a profound effect on me.

By the time I was in 3rd grade the school officials wanted to move me up at least one grade to match my reading level.  I personally took an interest in learning and it extended beyond the scope of the set curriculum. I was specifically interested in learning all I could about the achievements of African-Americans which was limited to Crispus Attucks and MLK.  I spent a lot of time in the public library.  That innoculated me from feeling racially inferior when I got older as I was exposed to different groups of kids of various racial, ethnic and class tiers despite living in an area known for its racial segregation. 

While there may be ineffective and bad teachers the majority are not.  Teaching was one of the ways many black women thought they could give back to the community (like social work and other “rescuing” professions). Those teachers tend to be present in areas where there are large black populations at public schools. Some of those schools are in blighted areas where the lack basic resources such as having enough books, where metal detectors are required and buildings may have structural problems. Yet they’ve still dedicated themselves to the equivalent of operating in a war zone and are still being pushed out.

The Black Agenda Report on Chicago teachers who successfully sued the Obama administration to get their jobs back after they were fired without cause is discussed in the excerpt below:

When the Chicago Teachers Union made no effort to reach out to parents, students or their communities, refused to organize teachers to oppose the wave of school shutdowns and privatizations, teachers organized what they call CORE, the Coalition of Rank & File Educators. CORE has now filed suit against the Chicago Board of Education, charging that the mass dismissal of hundreds of mostly black veteran teachers and their replacement with uncertified and generally underqualified white teachers is racially discriminatory.

“We looked at the number of teachers who lost their jobs in these ‘school turnarounds,’” CORE research director Carol Caref told BAR, “and we looked at the number of African American teachers who were employed in those same schools or in the charter schools which replaced them and there was a huge discrepancy which couldn’t be accounted for by chance. The fired teachers are disproportionately African American, and the newly hired teachers are not.”

While those teachers were able to save their jobs – for now – the writing is on the wall. Not to mention the fact if things are this bad now how does replacing veteran teachers who at least care about the plight of black children with inexperienced staff who may not be as invested? Someone might ask why I care as a child-free by choice woman: because I have to occupy the same world. If children are not properly cared for by a society we have failed! Besides those kids grow up to be adults, adults who can cause problems. It takes far less of an effort to prevent a major catastrophe than to recover from one.

Letting outsiders (read that as wealthy and yes…white and male)  control the narrative (who’d never place their kids in the types of schools they care so much about)  is adding to the problem: many blacks simply do NOT care about the quality of their child’s life period, let alone striving for education. Not when they’re justifying and excusing dysfunction. While the intentions of the outsiders may be benign their solutions are missing key elements. Eliminating the last line of defense (those AA women who care) will be the final nail in the coffin for children who are already at a huge disadvantage. I also fail to understand how attending school requires armed security when you’re living in a Western country. There’s been a huge failure at policing the criminal activity and lack of focus of a group when that type of chaos has been allowed. Under no circumstance would I ever allow a child of mine to be faced with that type of burden. A parent’s job is to protect their child.

In a  fair world we could have all the benefits of a private school education at cost, but there are hierarchies in place for a reason.  There are many brilliant students who’ve yet had that spark encouraged. There are students who’ve been erroneously sidetracked or written off who simply needed to be taught differently (ala Michael Orr’s story).  It’s only African-Americans who eschew education by claiming use of standardized English is talking white. While there are many who do encourage education we still have to look at dysfunctional behavior of an increasing majority as discussed at Sojourner’s Passport:

Consider the disrespectful, dismissive attitudes that most Blacks have about public schoolteachers. Do these African-Americans even realize that the majority of countries on this planet don’t have free public school systems? Judging from our loud whining, we don’t know this basic fact that puts everything in perspective. In most countries, people have to buy school uniforms and books. They can’t just dump their children off each morning with no further investment on their part. They can’t simply use the schools as a free baby-sitting service. Which is how most African-Americans use the public schools.

Disagree if you must, but what are the alternatives? Where are the solutions? How are the future generations being nurtured, protected and supported? Again it seems the future generations have long abandonded things their ancestors were once denied and subsequently clamoured for their first available opportunity. Now there’s a digital “divide” where the use and creation of technological resources are also being passed over. The public library is a valuable FREE resource that offers training, use of computers and adaptive services. How many children are missing out by not utilizing them?  The burden of proof lies with parents (some of whom may mean well) and those in leadership positions, who in turn take their cues from the community at large.

16 comments to African American Women Teachers Are Being Scapegoated For The Inferior Performance of the Underclass Population

  • Soumunye

    For ten years, I have been an employee of a local school district and it is something else from the inside. I look at NCLB, how the present administration dismantled the UAW and have been telling every teacher I know that they are going to call out the ineffective teachers and get them out of the profession, if only to save their own jobs. The real irony of the Teach for America program is that these barely trained people come into our schools, fresh from colleges that have only solidified their opinions of urban students, get paid three times what the average parent earns, leave as soon as the bell rings, further stigmatize the students and get forgive-ness for their loans after "teaching in an urban area" for a given length of time. All on the backs of the children.When schools stop acting like baby-sitters, then parents will stop treating them like baby sitters.

    • Faith

      Soumunye: Thanks for your comment. What do you suggest? Schools are not functioning even as the Teach For America crowd tries to erroneously address these issues -- but that doesn't change the fact there are serious issues. When I watched the movie, "The Blind Side" the way the public schools treated Michael Oher is a prime example of everything that's wrong BUT because he had been abandoned by both his parents in one way or another he didn't have anyone looking out for him. I'm not impressed with his ability to run a ball but I found it interesting how the teachers at the private school he attended reluctantly but eventually found a way to teach him that met him at his level. Then he began to excel. If schools go back to flunking a majority percentage of its students I still think the teachers would be blamed. I just don't see how kids that are not getting their needs met at home are going to be able to function in any environment.

  • Faith and all,

    A counterpoint to "Waiting for Superman" -- Race to Nowhere

    This film discusses the world of high-stakes testing and the impacts.

    • Faith

      Vanessa: Thank you for the link to the Race To Nowhere. There has to be a strong enough pushback.

      Dan: There's always been a noticeable difference in the quality of schools in areas with higher tax bases, more involved parents and private education. The idea behind Teach For America sounds good but since these are temporary solutions to those "dabbling" in education there's no way those professionals can replace dedicated educators.

      Shakura: The focus on urban schools is very telling isn't it.

      Sisterlocgirl: While I can appreciate the sentiment behind the filmmaker David Guggenheim I of course take his viewpoint and the other wealthy elites with a grain of salt. They are not products of or participate in public school. As I stated in my post if they won't send their kids to these schools why would anyone trust these outsiders conducting experiments and espousing theories for other people? They don't have to live with the fall-out!

      Tryphaena: Thanks for your feedback!

  • dope piece

    so many quotables…

    but you hit it on the head… your view is tremendously wholistic. you are so correct when it comes to that movie "waiting on superman…" I am so glad that many critics are coming out against it.

    two of my children go to public school and the other two go to a charter school. and quite honestly, there is really no difference. but i notice that in the charter schools, there a proportionately large number of brand spanking new teachers whereas the public schools there is a larger veteran set of teachers.

  • Shukura

    My three girls grew up in the suburbs in big new houses in subdivisions w/pools, parks, etc. Their schools were fairly new and sometimes held more than 4000 children. We moved around a lot as we are military. There is a fundamental truth about suburban schools that is not being told. To make each school look good on paper children are allowed to retake tests until they get a good grade. They turn in homework whenever they want to within the 6 week period and still get full credit. They just give them chance after chance after chance to do the work. I have a feeling this is not the case in some of the schools in this movie.

    If there are problem children they send them to alternative school that is still within the district. For some children (like my daughter) who have 'behavioral' issues (she really does from her birth mother) they just push them through by labeling them special needs and are placed in the special ed program where they are pushed through, exempted from taking standardized tests, not learning a thing but getting a special ed diploma just so they don't have to be in the school any more, heaven forbid, lowering test scores.

    The education in many suburban schools is no better…they just are better at hiding the fact. Simply put, education for our children is not a priority and our education systems are all failing.

    • Jahla

      @Shukura I'm in total shock from this post. i don't even know what to say. I feel like cursing and crying.

      Black women need to mobilize ourselves. Just because you're married and have children with a non black man does not mean that you should give up on our community. Most black men are obviously not going to protect us. Black women will continue to procreate with black men in this country. We must position ourselves to be able to protect those children.

      • Faith

        Jahla, since this an old post and your 1st time commenting allow me to guide you to my archives. The posts from May-Sept 2009 should cover it.

  • sisterlocgirl

    Yet another eye opening post ( boy I say that a lot here! ). I must admit, I got carried away in the Waiting for Superman hype. The bottom line is if the parents of the children in this broken public school system don't care, then why should anyone else? The parents who do value education & place a premium on achieving it manage to better for their children. As with all problems in the bc, it all ends back up on the personal responsibility realm. I will see the film, but I will be looking at it with a much more critical eye.

  • Tryphaena

    YESSS! I was one of the kids who never learned fast enough, and being in a classroom with 35 other children was no help either. I kept that flame burning for knowledge because the teachers were either too tired, blind, too busy with the "smart kids", or distracted to notice that I needed help. I am one of those forgotten children (and my school system was mostly white), and I still can't forgive the school system for letting me fail. I loved learning, and I was always above my peers in reading level. I had an 11th grade reading level when I was in the 6th grade. My artistic abilities made my peers envious, but that was discouraged by the school system; it wasn't "important". They never properly informed my parents of my lack of progress because they probably expected it. Now school teachers are not allowed to leave notes about the children they previously teached in some places because that stigmatizes the child who you have no idea what they could be going through. Leaving notes taints that fresh pair of eyes that every child deserves. Knowing that I was "different" made me a depressed child, and once again not one adult noticed or asked me what was wrong. Being born to foreign parents did not help either. Asking for anything was a crime to them because they were too tired or too broke especially coming from a poor island nation. They believed that work sets you free even when you are slaves to your paycheck. Regardless of the fact that my parents were raised in a not so happy country, and they neglected me. It should have been OBVIOUS to the school system that I had problems that my little 6-7-8-9-10 year old self was trying to sort out on her own. There is NO excuse when that child is in your school for 7 hours a day, and is making an effort. NO excuse! I stopped trying because as a child I figured out real quick that no one cared if I didn't make an occasional A. Sickening! The people who were supposed to be the "adults" in my life abandoned me. Now I'm picking up the pieces because of a broken educational system, and is getting tested for learning disabilities. It shouldn't have taken so long. Those children are YOUR children so guide them well.

  • Zipporah

    I think black men should get into teaching positions as math and science teachers: black children see woman 24;7 ALL THE TIME and when boys see women all the time, they tend to tune them out. A good black MAN would get the attention; I think they're lots of BM out there who would be a teacher at least part time--WE COULD TURN THIS 'SHIP' AROUND--ONLY US THOUGH, NO ONE ELSE

  • Faith,

    Thanks for the shout-out!

    AA women deserve to receive better than this abuse in exchange for the use of our talents, skills and hard work. It's time for all of us to seek out work environments where our work will be appreciated and valued. It's time for Black women to leave (and stop going into) the helping professions.

    We're entitled to seek our bliss just like everybody else!

  • MesaATLien

    Faith,

    My twin brother and I were raised by my single mother and she made sure that we atteneded private school since the day we were actually able to go to school. We both graduated from a presitgious private school down here. This is the solution that most black people flock to as the answer to all of our educational problems. In my opinion, an experience in private school can be just as bad as one in public school. Why?

    Because the quality of the school isn't going to change how the children, or the parent for that matter, approach education in general. The parents can blame the teachers all they want, but if you aren't enstilling (did I spell that right?) how important education is in this world, a great school isn't going to make a difference. To be honest, the majority of black women who have OOW children 1) Haven't finished high school or 2) aren't planning to go back to school to at least set a good example. My outlook may look cynical, but it's what I see everyday. My younger cousin by two years had a baby when SHE WAS 15, and she still hasn't made any attempt to at least get her GED. My older brother (a discussion for another time!) dated a girl who by age 21 had 3 CHILDREN and no high school diploma!

    At this point, are we so low as a race that now finishing high school is the bare minimum that is expected?! What?!

    My mother pushed education for us growing up, but nowadays, it feels like she's losing a little hope herself for my two brothers (another sad story for another time!)

    As for me, I stay away from that pessimism as much as possible, and I keep to myself while I'm working this semester. As I've said before, I can't wait to get back into school and leave the downtrotten behind!

    • Faith

      Zipporah: There are many black male teachers and they shouldn't be limited to math & science. The reason why black women dominate these professions is because they're trying to save the community. Males who can't even be bothered with raising their own children en masse certainly aren't going to take responsibility for teaching other people's kids. Besides, teachers are so grossly underpaid it really takes a dedicated person to go into these fields compared to the work-related stress they get in return. Teaching was almost always dominated by women unless it was at the university level anyway. As for this "we" turning things around -- don't count on it! IN case you haven't yet decided to accept the way things are black males have left the building and are using any black woman as a life raft who'll be used. Any change in that status must come from them accepting a leadership role by doing the work on their own. Black women are carrying the entire burden and it's already broken many of them. It's far past time for the men to do the heavy lifting -- and black women should not WAIT for them to do so.

      Khadija: Yes AA women especially deserve to follow our bliss: it's the black woman's liberation theory which needs to be adapted by us all.

      MesaATLien: I don't think there is one set of standards for "private" schools as long as the state minimums are achieved -- and I suppose not even then. I feel for those young women who are clearly trapped in cycle of dysfunction. It's horrible. This is at its core a spiritual battle because for as many of our AA ancestors survived the horrors of enslavement and displacement the last few generations are imploding. There's just too many people jumping off the cliff for it to be a coincidence.

  • Morning Faith,

    This blog post is on point with what is taking place in urban schools. I know about it first hand because my mother is a department head in one of the high schools in our city (the stories she tells!). She was worked as a teacher since her early 20s and is now coming upon retirement within the next 18 months. Lord help that school and the kids who actually WANT to learn when she decides to move on with her life because the administrators do not have the fortitude to deal with the challenges of the school population. Many of the new teachers coming into the school and the school system now are predominately from the Teach For America crowd or from overseas.

    I hate to be a conspiracy theorist but I think there are concerted efforts to completely dismantle public school systems in the U.S. And where does that leave the vast majority of black children if it were to come to pass, in the soup.

    A bit off-topic: Have you read the WashPo article on Michelle Rhee's options considering her 'iffy' status in DC (the election of Vincent Gray has left Rhee without a sponsor)? I find it hilarious that she is being courted after the what I call "Missing Money-Gate" business that took place last school year and over the summer months.

    -Vanessa F.

    • Faith

      Vanessa: Michelle Rhee has received the Oprah seal of approval! It's over. She has such a disresepctful attitude even if some of the things she may want to implement might be beneficial. I wouldn't trust anyone who has contempt for my ethnic group to be effective. There are some who actually think Teach For America and these other initiatives will actually be beneficial to the average black children of certain class tiers. What are they going to say after they've gotten rid of that core crew of old school AA adminstrators and the kids STILL don't perform well? Of course if the black community wasn't in such disarray to begin with people would be ASKING these questions? Further why are those of us who are child-free by choice focusing on these issues when people who have chldren caught in their crosshairs are not seeing the alarms going off?! I think there are similar problems in rural schools as well. Thanks for your feedback. We need more women like your mother speaking out where they can because people don't realize what's REALLY going on. They need a rebuttal to Waiting For Superman and pronto!!

      I realize that we have our social media & tech conferences, our fashion, our music, our previous cultural contributions and a black President but where are the majority headed?