Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Putting Race Back on the Agenda

Linda Borg for the ProJo:

Osiris Harrell, an outspoken activist at School Board meetings, has organized a new group of black fathers who are determined to change how their children are treated in the school system so that their stories are of success, not failure.

“Something happens between the time a black child enters the public schools and the time he leaves,” says the father of three. “Something happens that shuts out that light...”

The fathers group says the district needs to address two fundamental issues: curriculum and teacher hiring and training. Too often, Harrell says, American history is presented as little more than the accomplishments of “great white men,” while the contributions of black politicians, artists, writers and activists are downplayed or ignored.

Unfortunately, recruiting minority teachers is not likely to be helped by our commissioner's decision to arbitrarily raise the Praxis cut score for teacher education programs in Rhode Island.

Also, when my wife presented a lesson on the Haitian Revolution to the all white male history faculty as part of her job interview at a PPSD high school, the department head's response was "I usually skip that." Under the district and union's peculiar implementation of "criterion-based hiring," she didn't get the job based on the interview team's scoring, despite the support of the principal.

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