Freedom of speech is an ideal to which those who founded this country believed in. I recall President Barack Obama’s many talks about the “American Ideals” of freedom, justice, and liberty, which I believe, includes free speech. Inherent in President Obama’s message was the notion that these ideals were not fully realized by historically marginalized communities in the United States. The current climate of our society further challenges our ability to see “freedom of speech” as something that is unifying rather than polarizing. This has become an increasingly important topic in higher education. The Chronicle of Higher Education, for example, continuously highlights issues regarding the intersection of free speech and civil discourse that are impacting education in unprecedented ways.
Why are schools still segregated in 2019? The answer to this question is a complicated one. One with roots deep in the history of our educational system. The surface answer has to do with the fact that racist curricula and prejudice within our society still exist. Where you live determines where you go to school. Many times, the poorer, minority students live in lower income neighborhoods. And as children become racially isolated, it then trickles into our schools, resulting in segregation.
In fact, segregation is even evident in schools that are racially diverse. You’ll notice that most students in advanced placement classes are Caucasian or Asian. Who do we see in remedial classes? We see African American students, particularly African American males. Even with a diverse student population, the evidence of systemic segregation is scarily rampant. The deep vestiges of racism and segregation subtly permeate through our schools and it sets dangerous precedents.
This article, written by AACTE Director of Government Relations K. Ward Cummings, originally appeared in the Daily News Opinion section and is reprinted with permission.
The civil rights leader Malcolm X once famously said that the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday. If he were alive today, he might also include those weekday hours between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. when our children are in school.
This past May was the 65th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education. The occasion inspired numerous panel discussions, seminars and reports about how much or how little the state of education has changed in the last half-century. Sadly, considerable attention also was paid to the subject of how segregated American schools remain 65 years later.
This article, written by AACTE Dean of Residence Leslie T. Fenwick, originally appeared in the Washington Post Valerie Strauss column and is reprinted with permission.
“The Problem We All Live With” is the title of the famed Norman Rockwell painting inspired by the story of Ruby Bridges and school integration. In 1964, Rockwell created the painting for the 10th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education legal decision that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional. The subject of Rockwell’s painting was inspired by Ruby Bridges, who was just 6 years old (born four months after the May 1954 Brown decision) when she integrated the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.
The rabid violence hurled at young Ruby (mainly that day by white women on the scene) is represented in Rockwell’s painting by a racial slur, the letters KKK and a splattered tomato — all appearing on the wall behind Ruby as she marches forward. Despite this terrorism, innocent Ruby walks close on the heels of the front two guards into an undeterrable future. The painting is triumphant. Ruby’s right to attend an American public school unshackled by segregation was ensured by the federal government and, that day, warranted the protection of U.S. federal marshals.
AACTE is excited to announce the release of its new video series on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in educator preparation. The videos address a wide variety of topics ranging from promising practices for recruiting and retaining teachers of color, to the importance of culturally relevant teaching for growing the special education teacher pipeline, and also promoting equal access to quality teachers, just to name a few.
The video series exemplifies the Association’s new strategic priority to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. AACTE and its members value the diversity of students, their families, and educators; equity in access to high quality instructional environments; and the inclusion of all students, defined as access and opportunity in PK-20 classrooms.
Our nation and the entire world are changing rapidly. With the rise of threats to our children’s safety like depression, lack of mental health resources, familial disruptions, and school violence and shootings, it is imperative that we equip teachers and school personnel with the tools they need to recognize and respond to all students, in all classrooms.
In today’s schools, students are suffering from a variety of issues; one that arises too often is mental health. Unfortunately, it is not always apparent what these students are experiencing. Depression is rampant. Emotional stress stems from a variety of external factors including depression, divorce, social media anxiety, lost friendships, bullying or simply feeling out of touch with others. It is imperative, now more than ever, that our teachers are prepared to notice when students are experiencing these types of trauma. Trauma informed practices allow teachers to be trained well beyond the obvious clues and prepares them to be aware of early, less apparent warning signs, so they can successfully and swiftly intervene to help a student in need.
During the month of October, AACTE has addressed the importance of school safety in its recent Thought Leadership series. AACTE Dean in Residence Leslie T. Fenwick took time to share in this video how she led a new approach at Howard University to prepare teacher candidates for ensuring safe learning environments in classrooms. In 2010, Howard’s College of Education innovated its undergraduate elementary education program by focusing on ways to better meet the safety needs of local students in its Washington D.C. community.
To evaluate the impact of the new program, “Teacher Talks” were convened with faculty members and novice teachers who were recent graduates of Howard’s College of Education. The graduates shared case studies about their students during the meetings and stories about how many of their children were exposed to violence either in their home or community, oftentimes with a relative being shot. The graduates also reported that their training in human development, with an asset lens, and the knowledge base they received from courses outside of the college of education helped them to reach their students individually as a teacher or connect them to resources in their community.
As educators, protecting and nurturing the health and well-being of our nation’s most precious investment—our youth—is always top of mind. Safeguarding their welfare and creating supportive learning ecosystems should be national priorities. Unfortunately, no one piece of legislation, no one initiative, no one activist, or caring teacher can bring that umbrella of safety to every student, everywhere, all the time. What we need to be talking about openly and often across the nation is prevention: training, learning, and preparing. This begins at the federal level with funding to equip our state and local leaders with the tools necessary to create and foster a safe and balanced learning environment for all students.
There are classrooms and schools in this country where teachers are armed with weapons. It is a dark reality, and one that AACTE does not support. Federal funds should not be used to arm teachers. Funds should instead be used to incentivize building learning communities through supportive training in social and emotional learning, and to prepare profession-ready teachers. Federal money
America is a country of immigrants. Through each wave of immigration, our public schools incorporate immigrant children into the fabric of our country. Our public schools serve as a cultural incubator to aid and nurture acceptance of diversity. Our local classrooms should be a microcosm of a global demographic. We, as educators, need to harness that belief for our teachers and the students they teach and guide.
How do America’s immigration challenges impact schools?
The challenge is that there are undocumented students entering U.S. schools, colleges, and universities who were not given the option to decide for themselves whether they wanted to come to this country. They have been incorporated into society, but are affected by current practices that impact their safety and security. It is projected that by the year 2040, one in every three children in the United States will grow up in an immigrant household (Suárez-Orozco, Suárez-Orozco, & Todorova, 2008). It begs the question: How do we work with those students?
Educators, school support staff, and service providers are often the first individuals in whom a student and/or family confides and reveals that they are undocumented. Recent efforts to identify undocumented parents and children in the United States challenge public schools in their efforts to meet the needs of all children residing within their school districts. Public schools are often embroiled in politically and legally sensitive situations, in which they must balance their responsibilities to serve immigrant and undocumented children, while meeting the expectations of local authorities to identify undocumented individuals.
What role do educators play in supporting immigrant children and their families?
While serving on this year’s (Phi Delta Kappan) PDK Poll Advisory Board, I listened and collaborated with scores of thought leaders in the education ecosystem—The National Education Association, The Learning Policy Institute, The Learning First Alliance, The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, among others. We determined what approaches to take to quantify, understand, and disseminate the vast amount of information and data garnered from this extremely worthwhile and useful poll. We discussed the results and how they could be utilized to advance 21st century classrooms, its students, and those who lead them.
What is the importance of the PDK Poll?
This year’s PDK Poll was entitled, “Frustration in The Schools: Teachers Speak Out on Pay, Funding, and Feeling Valued.” The new release is one of several polls PDK has conducted to examine opinions on public education for more than 50 years. The poll, according to PDK, is “a steady reflection of U.S. opinion about public education.” Its results are meaningful because they offer an annual review of one of the most important parts of our society—public schools, and focuses on of some our nation’s most crucial people—teachers. The poll measures opinions on the value of a public-school education and its teachers while giving us a sense of how our schools are supported, or more importantly, how they are not supported. It gives us a hypothetical picture of what the future of the educational world might hold and enlightens us about current issues from the perspective of the public. It informs and helps us contemplate how students are changing and what we, as educators, need to do to support and foster
Educators and students are facing unprecedented times. The challenges both students and their teachers confront today vastly affects the efficacy of even the best educator’s efforts to create and foster students’ zeal for learning and to contribute to the society they will one day shape. Yet, educators must stay committed to fulfilling their social responsibility now more than ever before.
What Should Social Responsibility Look Like in the Teaching Profession?
This varies from educator to educator, so the answer to this question is complicated and multi-faceted.
Education is about opening minds, creating new knowledge. It is an expansive endeavor. In theory, education should provide us with the understanding and capacity of what it means to be a citizen of this nation and the world. Our nation’s founders understood the importance of an educated citizenry. Today, I believe that we need educators to support both a students’ academic development and citizen development.