Friday, May 24, 2013

Race and Racing Off

In a few hours another Friday will end and another weekend will start...a three-day weekend, which is always nice, but kind of insignificant really within the context of the many other ways that days and hours and mornings are about to change.  And when that Friday ends there will be nine days left in a twelve-year career in public secondary education.

As I write this I have just completed updating a report on grading practices with our school district to reflect the fact that students of color are twice as likely to receive a grade of F as white students, and it's worse if you include our black and brown students and remove our high performing Asian students from the Students of Color category.  Meanwhile, in the meeting room outside my office a bright young African-American doctoral student from the University of Minnesota is speaking to a group of new teachers about race and education and culture.  On my desk is a book that I am reading that explores the impact that hundreds of years of slavery continues to have on the cultural and behavioral lives of African-American people in America.  Next week I will work to develop conversation protocols that the teams of secondary Social Studies teachers will use this summer to ensure that the materials and curriculum that they plan to implement this coming Fall will somehow NOT work to the disadvantage of our students of color, despite overwhelming evidence that in the past they have done just that.

The work of our schools is becoming an ever-increasingly desperate attempt to find ways to allow our failing students, who are largely students of color, to arrive in the morning to a system that is designed to acknowledge them as people with assets and to engage them in developing meaningful skills and knowledge that seem relevant to their personal success.  For over one hundred years we have built a system that largely (but not universally) does this for our white students...but we must accept and respond to the fact that our black and brown students live in a society that fundamentally assumes them to be people with deficits...that does not value the assets that they bring to the learning experience.  These students are socially boisterous and expressive and we find them threatening and frightening.  I think there are some interesting intersections between the perceived crisis of ADHD and the ongoing struggles of students of color.  Ken Robinson's various comments on this topic are of interest to both of these topics as well and while he doesn't speak to race in particular, listen to him with that filter.  At the same time, there is a real and relevant extent to which African-American students, in particular, express hostility and defensiveness...particularly after they have been in our system for longer periods of time.  Joy Leary has an interesting commentary on this in the introduction to her book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

And I am viewing all of this from the perspective of one who is about to walk away from it all.  I am about to relinquish responsibility for this misguided system and go off to play my own games in my own sandbox without having to worry too much about it in any kind of immediate way.  It'll still be out there, but it'll be really easy to ignore.  Which is not a good thing.  It's a function of the enormous white privilege that I enjoy that I can do that.  My own individual work on my racist roots and our skills of cultural competence is something that is essential to being a whole human being in an increasingly interconnected global community...but for white folk in Minnesota, it's all really easy to forget about and ignore...a fact that is at the heart of the reality that we have one of the largest racial-based achievement gaps in the country.  Perhaps I will be able to continue the self-work.  Perhaps it will still be relevant in my journey.  We'll see.

In any event, time to move on!  The townhouse is going on the market.  A new townhouse has been secured in St. Peter.  In an unexpected shift Katie will be attending Gustavus in St. Peter so rather than being at opposite ends of the state we'll be a stone's throw from each other.  Martin has a new job in the cities and is doing well.  And all seems to be right with the world.  And I got my place cleaned up enough to get pictures taken for the real estate listing and will have two weeks of open time in June to finish packing and get rid of the stuff that I won't be moving.  No rehearsals.  No pre-production.  No more shows to wrap up or details to attend to.  Lots of space out there to ease into and enjoy.  And I am finally doing that...enjoying.

Well, that's the view for today.  Four weeks until launch...and then the travel blog begins!

No comments: