Paul R. Lehman, American education promotes discrimination II

August 14, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Ethnicity in America, Media and Race, Race in America | 1 Comment
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The selection of the three school districts, Oklahoma City, Edmond, and Millwood, was not to single them out for criticism, but to show how uninformed the American educational system is in general in dealing with so-called racial discrimination. Each school district made the same mistake in requesting ethnic group identification from its students. We know that once an identity is checked on the enrollment form, the children will carry that label with them throughout their public educational experience and possibly their entire lives.

The teacher is the first person to read the enrollment form with expectations for the children. The identity will be used to manage the children in the school environment. Some children will be placed in certain groups based solely on their ethnic identity. What most teachers do not realize is that prior to starting school children have formed a value based on color from their everyday experiences. More specifically, they have already established values of white bias from society, home, and media. When their enrollment form is checked black or white, that label serves as an official stamp that determines their place in society. They already know that a fair skin equals a positive value, and a dark skin equals a negative value.

An example of the negative value of a dark skin or reference to black occurs when all criminals or suspects are identified by the media by their ethnicity or color, with the exception of whites (European Americans). Most reports assume that if no color or ethnic identity is reported, then the person is white. In essence, European American children hear fewer references to their color in a negative context, while African American children usually hear a reference to black in a negative context. All children are subjected to and influenced by the sounds and images presented by the media, and they learn to discriminate from many of those experiences.

In school, their stereotypes of so-called races are presented if even in a subtle way. For examples, when children read picture books that involve children of ethnicity and diversity, the children are usually identified by their color and often by name. The European American children need no special reference because they are viewed as normal. Whether the teachers realize it or not the fact is that the mere experience of being singled out reinforces for the children the stereotype of white value versus black value. The children are usually too young to know how to register a protest or realize what is happening to them and their self-image.

Educators, instead of debunking the false conception of race simply ignore it. So when the students began to study social science, history, literature and other subjects where references are made to color, the students are allowed no opportunity to confront the myth of race because the teachers and the learning materials perpetuate it. For example, when students learn of the United States Constitution are they taught the significance of Section I that identifies slaves as three/fifths a person? Most Americans today are so indoctrinated with the idea of slaves being black that they think every reference to slaves is of blacks, even in the Bible. So how are the students taught to understand and appreciate who they are if they are never fully educated? Their educational experiences reinforce the concept of race rather than the concept of ethnic group.  

Often, multicultural and diversity materials simply serve to underscore the so-called racial differences instead of bridging the gap across the divide of race and ethnicity. So, as our children progress up the educational latter, their education continues to make clear the separation of black and white along with their symbolic values. Educators and educational institutions spend much time identifying the cultural differences rather than focusing on the similarities all students have in common. Certainly cultural differences are interesting and valued by the students who possess them, but students need to learn that cultural and ethnic differences are not biological differences—they to not identify a race.

What seems to be the case regarding the problem of race today is a general acceptance of the status quo. The attitude of “why rock the boat” prevents society from making positive progress in understanding who we are and why we are in the situation we are in regarding race and ethnicity. Because we are seemingly comfortable with the status quo our children are growing up believing many of the same myths about race and ethnicity that their parents and grandparents grew up with; and that is a tragedy. Why is it that educators, entertainers, the media and leaders in general continue to use the language that restricts society from breaking away from prejudice, bias, and discrimination? Why do they not understand that using the words race, black and white keeps society tied to a past that prevents social and humane growth?

Many people do not like to talk about race because when they do, they realize how little they know and how much they depend on their environment and community to inform them. Unfortunately, too often the environment and community are at a loss to benefit its people with a new and accurate perception and conception of humanity. The labels children get stuck with early in life can and do have a definite influence on their development. The role that their educational experiences play in that development is too important to leave to chance. We need to help our educational institutions and educators step up to the plate and get it right.

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  1. Dr. Lehman,
    Thank you for addressing the issues of concern related to the ignorance reflected by the ‘don’t rock the boat’ attitude and practices of public education. Public education in America is the process by which young children arrive in culturally distinct groups and not unlike heaps of dirty laundry and are sorted by class, ethnicity, gender, religion, language, age, geography, and exceptionality. They find out within the first year WHO THEY ARE and what cultural patterns and practices are most valued in the dominant culture. Teachers, having already gone through the complete institutional ‘wash-cycle’ of public education continue to perpetuate the status quo. They are acculturated. Stop the MADNESS!


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