Friday, January 26, 2018

Ethnic Cleansing of the Nation's Teaching Staffs: A Civil Rights Tragedy Done in the Name of Civil Rights


During the last fifteen years, tens of thousands of Black teachers have been removed from their positions on the staffs of the nation's public schools. This unacknowledged ethnic cleansing, which has decimated the nation's black middle class, has taken place all over the nation, from Chicago, to New Orleans, to San Francisco, to Washington DC. Making matters worse is that the Black teachers removed were for the most part lifetime educators, while those replacing them have been white, short timers coming from programs like Teach for America.
Anyone looking at this pattern with the luxury of distance would say this was a tragedy of profound proportions, destabilizing communities and leaving our most vulnerable young people without mentors in their school. Yet the architects of the policies which produced this were for the most part political liberals using slogans like "School Reform is Civil Rights for the 21st Century" to justify school closings and mass firings of teachers in the nation's urban centers.
How did this happen? At the root of this was the profoundly misguided notion that public school failure, was the primary reason for the rapid growth in racial and economic inequality
in the United States in the last 40 years, and that "bad teachers"
were the primary reason for "failing" schools. This belief, promoted by billionaire "philanthropists" like Eli Broad and Bill Gates, spread through the foundation world like wildfire and influence a generation of up and coming liberal politicians like Barack Obama and Corey Booker. If you accepted this analysis, the fastest path to greater equality was to close failing schools
(with "failure" defined exclusively by test scores) fire their teachers, and start over again with new schools, preferably charter schools, staffed by young people from the nation's top universities. Though this explanation for growing inequality- in the US or anywhere else- would never be endorsed by any credible economist, it spread with the fervor of religion throughout the highest levels of the Democratic and Republican Parties. All across the nation, "School Reform" policies were put in place which mandated closing of schools where test scores were low and the funding of charter schools and alternative certification programs like Teach for America. One entire city, New Orleans, where the entire public school system was replaced by charters, and thousands of teachers were fired, was held up as model for the entire nation, and used to justify school closings, charterization, and teacher firings in almost every major city.
Only now is the country beginning to wake up and see the casualties- not in terms of the tens of thousands of Black teachers fired, but in terms of communities destabilized, and in many cases gentrified, and students left without mentors who understand them and believe in them.
It's time to put a stop to the madness, Stop closing schools Stop opening charters. Stop supporting alternative certification programs. Make cultural competence a higher priority than test scores. Start identifying and recruiting teachers of color to work in the nation's public schools. And begin rehiring some of the great teachers pushed out by the travesty known as "School Reform."

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