Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Corridors of Shame"

“… There is no stronger weapon against inequality and no better path to opportunity than an education that can unlock a child’s God-given potential….Yet…there are overcrowded classrooms, crumbling schools, and corridors of shame in America filled with poor children-black, bown, and white alike.”

So President Obama reminded us in his speech to the NAACP last week. He knows that the obstacles that poor and minority students face in their own schools are an embarrassment for every American. He highlighted important reforms, including improved early learning programs, and focused teacher programs that promote excellence and send bad teachers packing. I applauded when I heard him describe these new law and policy changes; I smiled when he called for higher expectations for every child. “We need a new mindset, a new set of attitudes” to fight an “ internalized…sense of limitation.”

But I really joined the Amen chorus when he seemed to channel his inner tough talking Bill Cosby: We parents “must accept our own responsibilities. That means putting away the Xbox and putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences, reading to our kids, and helping them with their homework….Yes, government must be a force for equality. But ultimately, if we are to be true to our past, then we also have to seize our destiny, each and every day.”

Of course I see parents of all colors and creeds who, despite good intentions, fail to help their children “seize the day”. It’s easy to accept excuses for this neglect, but the president reminded us that if “John Lewis could brave Billy clubs to cross a bridge”, or if brave civil rights workers faced down death for what is right, then surely we can reform education. Surely we can muster family and community support for behaviors that lead to academic success.

The question then becomes: How will I motivate my students and their parents to adopt and embrace pro-school, pro-academic thinking? If only Obama’s words were enough.

More on this as the start of school gets closer…..

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