Common Sense and Education: Are Black Children Being Treated Differently?
by Anita Biase
An article appeared recently in a local newspaper discussing the overrepresentation of black children in special Ed classes. This has been an ongoing situation for many years and has resulted in lower incomes and socio-economic status for many black males.
Black students are not being placed in special Ed more than other races because they are being discriminated against. They are being placed there because many have abysmally low skills, learning disabilities and behavioral dysfunctions which are often a result of low self esteem brought on by their academic "failure." Are there more black children with these problems in proportion to other races? Probably. Before southern integration, the schools that the black children went to were inferior in many ways but the black children did learn- and without many of the problems they have today. What is the difference? They had Black teachers who understood their culture and knew how to teach them. We advanced our culture tremendously when we integrated our schools but we didn't take this far enough. Each culture needs to be taught a little differently. We know this. Look at how careful we are to teach Hispanic children a certain way. We make sure they have bilingual classes; that their teaches speak their primary language and understand their culture. They are treated special. This is good. All children are special. So- why are we not extending this privilege to black children? I think it's merely a matter of not knowing what to do or how to do it in some cases, and in other, of being afraid to confront the situation. We need more black teachers. Black teachers and those of other races need to talk. There is too much tension between racial groups. As a result, we are unable to help the children, as we should. Teachers talk about many things. Black teachers. White teachers and teachers of all races need to sit down and share their teaching "secrets": with each other, so that all children can be treated "special."
I was subbing in a Kindergarten class the other day when the principal brought in a new child. (They ALWAYS arrive when a substitute is present- it's an unwritten law). This little boy appeared, at first, to be just quite shy- then I discovered that he spoke neither English nor Spanish! I tried a few words of German and French, but he didn't seem to recognize those either. He was about to cry ( I felt a little like it myself, by this time!) He was only five and I knew this was probably a frustrating and frightening experience for him). I had to get back to the other children, so when I saw him eyeing the computer, I led him to it and sat him down. I figured it couldn't hurt anything. I was amazed to discover, a few minutes later, that D. was happily engrossed in drawing a picture on paint. He looked up at me with a cherubic smile and then proceeded to show me some of the other sites he ahd found on the computer. From that time on, there was no stopping him. I never did find out what language he spoke but it didn't matter. He happily joined the group, all signs of fear and hesitancy gone. Was this because he had spent some time on the computer? I think it was. I believe he saw some familiar things there and this helped to ground him to his new environment. I've always felt that computer technology was the "common denominator," between people, the univeral means of communication that would ultimately bring us together, but this was the first time it has been brought home to me in such a profound way.