Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ignorance Abounds in Education

I am reminded of the lyrics of a song by Arlo Guthrie. No, not that Los Angeles one. This is a song that laments the state of our schools because they don't teach our children how to live. I wish I could remember the name of the song and what tape/CD it was on.

BUT, whatever the name of the song is, read this story. [Haltom City is a nearby Fort Worth 'burb, btw.] Any underlining is mine for emphasis.

HALTOM CITY, Texas -- A superintendent will apologize and teachers will get cultural sensitivity training after a black student was offended by a lesson on "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" that included a racial slur.

Those agreements were reached Wednesday after a 90-minute meeting between Richland High School officials, the 11th-grader, his parents and a coalition of activists. They were upset by a teacher's repeated use of a racial slur last week during a lesson preparing students to read the classic 1884 Mark Twain novel, which includes the slur.

Ibrahim Mohamed, 17, was the only black student in the class during the lesson in which students were to discuss hurtful statements and how context can affect a word's meaning. Birdville school district officials said the exercise was part of a new curriculum designed to put such powerful words in proper context and was not meant to offend anyone.
But the teacher "badgered" him after denying his request to remove the word from the chalkboard or replace it with "N-word," and she continued to say the slur during class, said his mother, Tunya Mohamed. The teen said he felt singled out[duh, he's the only black student in the class, thus proving the point of the frelling lesson!] when the teacher asked if the word offended him and said, "It hurts -- doesn't it?"
The district has allowed Mohamed to enroll in a different English class. Officials have since removed the book from his class, but his parents say they will request its removal from the district's curriculum.
The family is still deciding whether the teen will stay at the school in the Fort Worth suburb or return to a high school in another district he attended last year. But the teen said he felt good about the meeting Wednesday between members of a new group, the Coalition to Stop the N-Word, and Birdville schools administrators.
"We are here today to say we will not tolerate the N-word being used by any educators anywhere in any school district throughout our region or the state of Texas," said Ron Price, a Dallas school board member who attended the meeting. "It's critical that we examine all of our textbooks to ensure that the language is proper and that the language is not being used to abuse any child in any public school."
Birdville Superintendent Stephen Waddell agreed to issue a written apology to the teen and his family and arrange future faculty training about cultural sensitivity, said Thomas Muhammad, coalition spokesman.
The teacher has verbally apologized, but the district cannot require her to issue a written apology as the group requested, said district spokesman Mark Thomas.
The group also wanted the teacher to do community outreach work with black and Muslim communities, but the district cannot reveal what, if any, disciplinary measures might have been implemented, Thomas said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Yeah, bite me AP, this ain't for profit.

Now, if the Teacher had taken the time to, oh, I don't know RESEARCH MT, aka, Samuel Clemens, she would have learned, from even such as shallow source as Wiki, the following:
Twain was an adamant supporter of abolition and emancipation, even going so far to say “Lincoln’s Proclamation ... not only set the black slaves free, but set the white man free also,”[44].
^44 Philip S. Foner, Mark Twain: Social Critic (New York: International Publishers, 1958), p. 200

If that teacher had taken a course in 19th Century American Literature during her University Education, or even a survey course in American Authors, she might have learned that Sam Clemens actually found the word "nigger" odious and used it in the hope that his readers would be as disgusted with it as he was. He used it because it was part of the patois of a Southern White boy in the late 1800's, such as Huck Finn. You remember Huck Finn, the book they were reading in the class cited above?

Or perhaps as part of her preparation for this class, this teacher, if she had not studied Clemens during her woefully lacking University education and obviously that of her Administrator [who, incidentally is supposed to have a teacher's back in a confrontation with parents and a student and a member of another frickin' district's school board, for cryin' out loud] might have wanted to read one of many biographies about Clemens. One that discusses his motivation for using a word he himself hated, a book that talked about his lifelong support of all people of color. Oh, and let's not forget his support of Unions, too. Probably a Union very much like the one that prevents the Birdville ISD from requiring the teacher in the above case to write an apology to this overly sensitive little jerk and his hyper-sensitive parents jostling for their 15 minutes of fame in front of the TeeVee cameras.

As for the Muslims and an apology or sensitivity training with them... I think somebody needs to inform our Black Muslim Community of a few facts:

  • Arab Muslims were enslaving African Blacks [and people of any color, for that matter, of any country they conquered from the 7th century onward] for centuries before their rival African tribes sold them to Europeans to be shipped to the "New" world.

  • Long after the importation of African Slaves to the United States was outlawed, Arab Muslims were still enslaving African Blacks.
  • Various estimates place the numbers of African Blacks placed into slavery by Arab Muslims at anywhere between 11 and 18 million.

Still want to be part of a religion that enslaved your ancestors for centuries before the "Great Satan" even inhabited North America? I'm just sayin'... with a little education, it's amazin' how your viewpoint might change.


g bro said...

Boy, am I tired of this. This country is full of stupid students whose stupid parents have defaulted on their parenting obligations. So the teacher has to be teacher and parent but can be reprimanded, fired or sued if the morons object. I have heard the word all my life; I have said it in ignorance in my childhood and I have hated other people for saying it. But it is the context of language that conveys the meaning, not just the words. When Richard Pryor said "nigger" it conveyed a sad streetwise upbringing; when Eddie Murphy said it, it was just juvenile middle-class New Jersey. When rappers say it now, they're just posers. When Mark Twain said it, it was a reality of the times.

SpeakerTweaker said...

I used to always think that a little education would change morons into thinkers, too.

Until I realized that there is a counter for education: denial.

You could tell one of those anti N-word folks that their own grandfather sold their mom/dad into slavery, and they'd still shrug their shoulders, say, "Whatever," and hold out their hands expecting someone or some gov't. entity to fill it.

I sound awfully jaded. I was exposed to alot of that garbage growing up. I knew there was something wrong when I started to wonder if I was racist.

Then I realized that I have a colorblind hatred for anyone who walks around with their ears shut, their mouth open, and their hand out. And those folks come in every color.


Rabbit said...

Another gem, Holly.

I'm sure somewhere these protestations will come around to 'hey, where's my check for slavery reparations?' at some point.

I'm also realtively certain that in the '60's or '70's (of the twentieth century) Mohamed, et al changed to this moniker to escape the 'slave name' carried by the family for the previous century.

Unique, just like everyone else.


Diane said...

The book - seen in context of the time in which it was written, the author's background and world view and the particular vernacular used - is really a perfect teaching tool for this particular class.

The teacher may have been an undereducated, insensitive idiot in the way the material was presented, but by the same token, the student and his parents were oversensitive, self-centered idiots to demand an apology, and to start a movement to remove the book form the cirriculum

Gah. What have we come to?

phlegmfatale said...

It's disappointing a teacher would take on that topic and yet not do the proper research/preparation. *eyerolling*

Anonymous said...

The "teacher" has probably never even read any of Twain's books which is sad because many are now availabe free online like The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc here