January 10, 2012

Gwinnett County, Ga. Needs Black History Month

Gwinnett County, Ga. Needs Black History Month

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"The function of education is to teach one to think
intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus
character that is the goal of true education."

The recent events in Gwinnett County Georgia proves
America still needs Black History Month and the
teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not only the recognition of African American contri-
butions to this country, but the continuation of
educating non Blacks, that respect and dignity
should be shown at all times. In the educational
realms of our schools Professional Development is
still needed for cultural, racial and colorism
understanding of teachers.

We have not arrived to the degree of sensitivity
and respect that is awarded to other cultures in
America. It seems that Black women can be called
ugly in news reports claiming the use of data and
scientific research:
Black Women Are Ugly
Black men are told they are more destined to be
criminals and involved in criminal behaviours:
Ron Paul & Blackmen
Black children in our educational systems are exposed
to the ugly realities of possible racism, potential
unethical behaviours and poor decision making. The
recent events in Gwinnett County show that even
educators can be insensitive to their students and
make very stupid decisions. Maybe with the coming of
Black History month these educators wanted to precede
the month with information that makes their students
reconsider their worth and value. The birthday of
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. should be a testiment that
Blacks deserve respect, as citizens of the United
States of America. Maybe those teachers need to hear
the speaches of Dr. King and even of those of Malcolm X.

To truly understand the struggles and sacrifices of
Blacks in America. There is a disconnect that these
teachers and unfortunately others have about the
experiences of death, beatings, defication and denial
of civil and human rights that Blacks have and still
due experience.

A homework assignment should not be used to display
cultural disrespect. Copy and paste link into new

The recent events in Gwinnett County are a testament
that Blacks have not arrived in the sense of equal
respect or sensitivity to the emotional and psychological
support that as a people Blacks justly deserve. If
this was an equal and just situation, the mention of
Jews would have been mentioned, they were slaves in
Egypt in the time of Pharaoh which is also historically
documented. Reading information from
“How long were Jews slaves in Egypt?”
this information is available online. Why was this not
also presented, it is historical fact as well. The
insensitive nature of the homework questions posed to
students on the homework displays a lack of common sense
that these educators should have had. Regardless of any
cross-curricular assignment common sense and dignity
should be shown at all times.

The sensitivity to the students and their parents
cultural background should always be thought of when
developing content and assessments that could cause
any type of educational distraction. Information from
the International Test Commission, ”Culture can be
understood as “a shared way of life of a group of people”
(Berry, Poortinga, Segall & Dasen, 2002).

In this case the teachers did not understand the
students nor took into consideration the parents views
and the way they would perceive the testing questions.
Thus many non Blacks, not just white teachers do not
understand or do not care to understand their students
or other cultural backgrounds. There is a shared
group mentality that each group is given respect and
their cultural differences are respected and considered.

Education is a diverse occupation, but teachers have
to learn to embrace diversity and understand that the
wording and development of assessments (testing) can
affect a student’s success or failure. Culture does
have a link in assessment development. Taken from
Culture and Assessment: Discovering What Students
Really Know, 2010, “but what if the way we
ask the questions unintentionally causes some
students to fail? What if our assessments miss
uncovering the depth and complexity of knowledge
because they contain assumptions about language,
culture, values, and experiences that these students
don't share?”

Not just Black students but even students of other
cultuers do not understand the complexity of slavery,
but teachers still must be sensitive when using this
type of material when teaching and testing knowledge
about slavery or a cross integration of curriculums.
If done in the wrong way the teacher creates confusion,
accusations of unethical behavior and the perception
or being careless and unprofessional concerning race.

Suggestions for teachers when designing questions is
that for parents to have input in (of understanding)
the design and potential implementation. Stated in
Culture and Assessment, “Getting to that point
involves communication with community and others in
the community based on mutual respect.” Respect is a
key component for educational success of students.
Parental support is valuable and far reaching for
teachers. If teachers do not have parental support
or respect there will be serious challenges because
teachers will not have the confidence of parents to
be effective in the classroom and in the community.

Sharon Nelson-Barber, former Director of WestEd's
Center for the Study of Culture and Language in
Education states when developing assessments there
should be, “advocates for cross-cultural awareness
and competence in assessment and teaching because such
understanding sets a more solid foundation for
improving student success.” One of the items for
discussion for students is their ability to
understand what is actually asked of them to perform.
Slavery is a sensitive subject for many people not
just Blacks, so even the discussion can cause anxiety,
stress, and other emotional responses.
Even though the students talked about slavery in class,
have questions on a test may as Nelson-Barber states,
“elicits very little of the student's understanding.”

Teachers must consider at all times the ramifications
of their questions and the potential student impact.
Because education is an experience Nelson-Barber asks,
"What is it about a test question that continually
appears not to map onto some students' experiences?"

This incident is a lesson for other educators when
developing assessment or testing questions. Be careful
of the content and contextof the questions, a cultural
awareness would guide test creation, test
dissemination, and test evaluation. A broader look
might bring about eliminating cultural bias in testing
and the need for accommodations for some students and
at least an understanding of what not to ask.

At the school level, teachers and administrators can
build alliances with parents and leaders of different
cultural groups represented in the school populace.
Partnerships can be especially vital to school
communities where demographics have changed the student
populations of many classrooms and new teachers that
are unskilled and unaware of the cultural diversity
in schools they work in.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere
ignorance and consciencious stupidity.”

A word of caution and wisdom to educators and
administrators:Culture and communication are
inseparable because culture not only dictates who
talks to whom, about what, and how the communication
proceeds, it also helps to determine how people encode
(understand) messages, the meanings they have for
messages, and the conditions and circumstances under
which various messages may or may not be sent, noticed,
or interpreted...
Culture...is the foundation of communication.
(Samovar, Porter, & Jain, 1981)

Children encode and decode information differently
then adults, so educators need to be knowledgeable
and sensitive to their students and what maybe potential
parental reactions. Living in southern states
there are still sensitive feelings about slavery, the
civil war, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.
So educators themselves must "educate" themselves about
how others will feel, Black, White, Asian, Jewish,
Hispanics, Muslem, etc. Would those teachers have
conducted a similar test on Asians, because of World
War II, how about those of German backgrounds of both
World Wars?

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