Friday, April 25, 2008

Our Future Is Bright

Thanks to my African-American Unschooling list, I became aware of this wonderful article in The Village Voice, For Some Black Parents, The New Home Room Is Home.

For so long, and especially in the wake of all the sacrifices made for Brown VS Board Of Edu, we have allowed our children to be buried alive by the school systems. I will state that many parents find school situations which work for them. And then there are those parents who would like to home educate, but, find themselves unable to because personal circumstances. These parents make do. And many of them turn "making do" into might fine active parenting indeed.

After home educating the early years, I sent my daughter, Imani, to a series of schools. None of them served her. Her final school was Schenley High School, which actually was the best place to end her formal education.

Schenley is a magnet school serving a depressed community whilst offering a Baccalaureate degree to which other children in Pittsburgh are bussed. However, there are three tiers, mainstream, honours and baccalaureate. Whilst there, she began to notice that the children from the registered district were all shunted into the mainstream program. This program didn't even have books for the students. Because she was in their cachement area, we fought hard to get her out of mainstream and into Baccalaureate. They conceded by placing her in Honours. (Her elitist private school transcripts weren't good enough - mostly because of her skin colour. )

Interestingly enough, it was Imani who brought this to my attention. Her ability to befriend children from all backgrounds and walks of life let her flow seamlessly from group to group. Eventually, she went on to produce a short documentary for her senior project. Her thesis? Magnet school programs exist to provide the illusion of desegregation while maintaining the status quo. (Yes, I'm right proud of my daughter, she a bit of all right.)

The recent issue with those two boys in Scranton, PA who got suspended for hightailing it over to meet Barack Obama. It got me thinking about links and circles. So many Whites today feel as if "urban ethics and realities" have invaded their lovely suburban lives through the CD players of their teens.

Now - enter the most threatening of all Black articulate, charismatic, positive Black man with a call to action. This terrifying man wants them to do the unthinkable...create change. And now, he's convinced two White boys - who should have known better - to go truant. But, that's an urban Black thing, isn't it? Skipping out of school? So, these boys must be punished - and punished severely lest they forget where their true allegiances lie.

And yet - White Suburban kids are the often worst behaved. And have the financial resources to engage in some pretty nasty stuff. (One of the many reasons Imani left Winchester-Thurston and ended up at Schenley High School. )

White Suburbanites believe their children to be always and forever perfect. No matter how repeatedly these children step out, there is always a way to "explain" away the behaviour. They forgot their meds; their father had a long business trip; the teacher handed out paper which easily gives paper cuts. There seems to be a "protect our children at all costs" mentality. Often by blaming anything other than themselves.

One of the reasons I home educate is that I believe children should be rewarded for positive ideas and assisted in trying them; testing them and sometimes failing. Yes, those boys could have asked permission. But, they noticed his motorcade making an impromptu stop at a diner. By the time they had wrangled permission, he would have been gone. And they were thoughtful enough to ask him to sign a note saying they had met. I think the disciplinary action could have been more creative. Maybe a three page essay about the importance of Obama in American history. Or why Obama's collaborative message seems to be the politics of the future. Or what would motivate a class president to make an atypical choice which violated the school rules. That would have been appropriate.

My daughter played hooky from exams once. According to her student handbook, the school was "closed" when the public schools were closed. Children who lived closer to home got a snow day and extra to study. When she argued her "case," she was promptly suspended. he White students got detention. She was "clearly" the ring leader. She violated the "spirit of the law," not the law itself. I argued with the principal that she should have to spend the next few free periods re-writing the snow policy so there would no future loopholes. My father - an attorney who agreed with me - and I were told that we were being an uncooperative. They threatened not to invite us back - in spite of the fact my mother was a former Board Chair, a major donor and I was an alum paying full tuition. (The rule book was revised without my daughter's aid.)

This is systemic throughout all education warehouses. We scream, "the system is in crisis!" Then, we punish the very children who might turn it around. All children play hooky. Some hang out on street corners and get into all manner of antisocial behaviour. Others try to meet political candidates. Or like my own hooky-playing child, go to the library to get a real education.

In relation to Scranton Public High School, I think it would be good if Obama went back and did a rally at the school as we get closer to November. Perhaps they should invite him to be their commencement speaker. But, until that fantasy comes true, I'm happy to be amoung the growing ranks of Black home educators.


Eddie G. Griffin said...

I believe that we must take the responsibility of educating our own children with the best tools available, according to the innate talents and abilities, instead of crammed into a cookie-cutter program that channels kids through an academic-oriented curriculum. Some kids are artistic. Some are mechanical tinkerers. To each according to his or her ability, this is true education.

Christina Springer said...

Well said, Eddie! I concur wholeheartedly!

Big Man said...

Wow, this was on point.

That sounds like a very good documentary. And a very important topic for a high schooler to tackle. I found the same thing was true when I went to a school with "soft" tracking. Fortunately, my parents got me into the accelerated classes, but it caused problems.

Pittsburgh Midwife said...

I think you did a beautiful job of stating what is so blindingly obvious, but so many people choose to not see it.

Christina Springer said...

Thanks Big Man and Pittsburgh Midwife.

plez... said...

for some of the very reasons you wrote, we send our daughter to a private Montessori school. not quite the same as home schooling, but it affords us a more "hands on" approach to my daughter's education. i live in metro Atlanta in a predominantly Black area... and the public schools around here aren't very good (well, public schools in Georgia are pretty miserable as a whole).

you have a very interesting blog and i love your perspective. with your permission, i'd like to swap Blog Roll links at plezWorld, so that i can come back here on a regular basis. thanks!

Christina Springer said...

Hi Plez. I agree, parents make the best possible choices for their children that they are able to do. Some choose private schools, some choose public schools, some home educate.

I'll check out your blog!