What is wrong with this picture?
The Center for American Progress and the National Education Association bemoan the fact that minority students in American public schools do not have the same percentage of minority teachers.
If the concern is that more minorities should become qualified to be teachers, well and good. But that’s not what these group bemoan. They maintain that a minority student, in order to succeed, needs a minority teacher; and on that basis bemoan the lack of minority teachers.
Silly us. We thought that any student, minority or majority, in order to succeed, needs a good teacher. We thought that education was about the effective delivery of information and the effective communication of excitement about learning. We thought that education was about standards, dedication and creativity. We didn’t know that these pedagogical talents were racially based, nor that students’ educational potential is racially based.
We didn’t know that for Jewish students to succeed, their teachers needed to be Jewish; that for blacks to succeed, their teachers needed to be black; that for mixed race students to succeed, their teachers needed to be mixed race; that for students whose parents emigrated from Ethiopia, Peru and Ukraine, their teachers needed to be Ethiopian, Peruvian and Ukrainian. We didn’t know that American students, in order to succeed, needed teachers who “look like them.”
Silly us. We didn’t know that, in order to succeed, American students needed to be categorized by race, subdivided by ethnicity and aided by other non-pedagogical considerations — and, likewise, their teachers.
The Center for American Progress and the National Education Association seek a solution for a problem that does not exist — a deficiency in education due to a lack of racial diversity in the teaching corps.
The reason why American public education is deficient is to be found elsewhere. Why has American public education lost dramatic ground in the last 50 years? Why have private schools and charter schools proliferated to the extent that public school enrollments are challenged as never before?
The reason is that public schools have supplanted their mission — quality, demanding, education; quality, demanding, teachers; quality, demanding, curricula — with other agendas. If, for whatever reason, minorities seem to be underrepresented among classroom teachers, this has nothing to do with the necessity of sticking to one criterion in hiring and evaluating teachers: how good they are. Not the criterion of race. Nor of religion. Nor ethnicity. Nor national origin. Nor lifestyles. Nor personal agendas.
By all means, let more minorities become teachers. Let the search for them not divert attention from the real reason why American public education is in trouble: the diminished focus on education per se. The fundamental idea that education is about learning, intellectual achievement and character development has been muddied. It is time for education to return to . . . education.
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