During the past year or so, we have been bombarded with stories about what works in education, whose to blame for the current situation, blah, blah, blah. Honestly, I thought I had seen it all, or at least developed some degree of immunity. Heck, I don’t even read stuff about ‘that woman’ in D.C. anymore because I am possibly the only person who will publicly state that if her name was Tanika Jackson, she would not be able to get away with that shi behavior. Anyway, as I am updating Twitter with what’s going on ed-wise in Atlanta, I came across a blog post from Maureen Downey-who writes the AJCGetSchooled blog.
In one of her weekly posts, Downey discusses the issues going on in DeKalb County, the state’s third largest district, and whether the state should intervene. Earlier this year the superintendent was indicted on racketeering and theft charges (who says the mafia is dead?) and now allegations of nepotism have (finally) surfaced. According to Downey:
‘But the county has changed, and there are far more hard-to-educate children now than when DeKalb was a bedroom community of Atlanta. Those days aren’t going to come back because the easiest-to-educate kids now live in Alpharetta and Peachtree City. Poorer children, immigrant children and children whose own parents didn’t go to college have a longer way to go than the students whose parents bought them the Tolkien trilogy when the kids were still in diapers and send them to math camp.”
In the next paragraph, she explains her comment by stating that it is not a ‘slur’ on the county. That is an interesting defense of an obviously insensitive generalization. First, who believes that some children, e.g., African-American, Latino, and low-income, are hard-to-educate? Those student groups comprise the majority in DeKalb County’s schools and in most neighborhoods. I do not doubt that she chose DeKalb for it’s diversity, but I would wager that her neighborhood school does not depict a true reflection of the larger community.
While reading her post, I started asking myself some questions:
1. What, or who-the-hell, is a ‘hard-to-educate’ child?
2. What, or who-the-hell, are the ‘easiest-to-educate’ children?
3. How can you tell the difference between the two?
I am not a trained journalist, but I can think of at least two other non-offensive ways in which to describe the changes that have occurred in DeKalb, and other metro-Atlanta districts, over the past 10-20 years. Perhaps my race and ethnicity have a lot to do with that, but I prefer to believe that my sensitive nature stems from my upbringing and common sense. Furthermore, I refuse to allow anyone, especially an outsider, to lay blame for what ails urban schools at the feet of the children. After all, they were not holding signs, spitting on, or attacking kids who dared to integrate them and they did not make the decisions to uphold segregationist practices by covertly dismantling district-wide transfer programs.
The message and potential lesson here: Members of the media have a (sometimes too) significant impact on how different groups of people view each other. We need to continue to hold them accountable when they publish insensitive and borderline racist remarks. This instance is no different. Like my Granny always said: ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it.’ She was right about a lot of things.