They closed the comments at 170

Wow. Just wow. By the way, the principal in this controversy is an old buddy of mine from my kids’ middle school years. I sat through many a PTO meeting with him. I ran the science fair and the PTO treasury, and I was a fixture at “fun” nights, overseeing the tickets and cashboxes. Even though my own daughter refused to attend those high-class Bacchanalian blowouts. I will never forget the time he hornswoggled me into standing on the stage during an awards ceremony for one of those obnoxious gift wrap/candy sale fundraisers. I used to hold my nose as I tallied up the money for those things and I never quite figured out a way to get him back for that one.

This latest bit of news only partially surprises me. My buddy cared deeply about the achievement of ALL kids but I know that, as an African American man, he was passionately concerned about the stubbornly intractable achievement gap in our relatively affluent community. And he could be a bit of a loose cannon.

I don’t know what I think. Even if the newspaper and some of the parents who commented are not reporting every little detail accurately, something ugly happened there. Is it okay to single out African American children for a special club or event or field trip? Well, no. I am no expert but I think it is illegal. I know that in our community, this demographic group has a higher percentage of kids who struggle with school and maybe there are some cultural reasons for that. But not every African American kid struggles and plenty of other kids do.

Ever since I’ve lived here on the Planet Ann Arbor, closing the achievement gap has been a major topic of conversation. We have thrown money and programs and administrators at it. Our school improvement teams and our PTOs have discussed it to death. We have coordinated armies of parent volunteers to read with struggling readers (of all combinations of DNA, mind you). Why is this problem so intractable? I am no expert. I will say that I think that kids of WASPy-type mooms like me are more likely to have a successful public school experience because we are often the moms who have time to read parenting books up the wazoo and have flexible work hours and volunteer in the classroom, etc. Is that fair? No. But I can’t change who I am… And our kids sometimes struggle too.

So what can we do? How can we make schools more welcoming to ALL students and their parents. Many of the parents of struggling children had horrible public school experiences themselves. It would be nice if we had the money and staff to be able to try to reach each individual child (and their family), no matter what combination of DNA they were blessed with at conception, and figure out how to give them optimal instruction. Again, even WASPy type mooms (like me) sometimes have kids who struggle. But that’s unlikely to happen in this age of never-ending budget cuts. 121 teachers being laid off this year on the Planet Ann Arbor?

I do not know what’ll happen to my old buddy. There are some who say he should be fired and, if they do determine that what he did is illegal, maybe he will be. More likely, there’ll be a “medical leave” and then a reassignment or he’ll “retire” or whatever. And it could be that his time as a teacher is up. I just want to say here that I remember him as a good guy who cared about the kids he was charged to educate and protect.

5 Responses to “They closed the comments at 170”

  1. Margaret Says:

    It doesn’t make much sense to me–it was a club sort of field trip, wasn’t it? To hear a black rocket scientist? I am torn between feeling angry that people would begrudge the group the trip when approximately one million examples could be given of white privilege AND feeling angry with the principal that the event was so poorly handled. He didn’t think it would cause an issue? He apparently doesn’t know his community, parents or building very well. Every week or so we have field trips of various groups, some of them for conferences about historic black colleges, some for astronomy, for AVID(special program for underachieving students) etc…Some of these are open to anyone interested, but some are specific to a particular group–either academic, racial or whatever. I’m like you…torn.

  2. isa Says:

    I’m not necessarily upset that he arranged this trip although I think maybe he should have seen the upset community coming. What comes up for me is that maybe he should have tried to get the black rocket scientist (or black whoever really) to speak to the entire school, so white kids can ALSO see that their are non-white people in powerful, highly-compensated and trained jobs. Make sense?

  3. Uncly Uncle Says:

    You have to include everybody, period. White people are tired of the double standard.

    Isa is right, white kids should be included for the same reason as black kids. The trip was a good idea, but message back fired. All the kids at that school, black and white, learned that black kids should be singled out for special preferential treatment because they are black.

    What a horrible misstep no matter how well intended.

  4. isa Says:

    Well, I don’t personally agree that black kids get preferential treatment. Special sometimes, but not preferential. But the rest, yes.

  5. Kathy Farnell Says:

    I will bet that the Lunch Bunch, which seems to be a group made up of only African American children, includes the “haves” and the “have nots” in the school. I will bet not all of the children are “at risk”. It appears to be a “club” only for one ethnic group. Have you ever heard of the National Association for the Advancement of White People? No. It would probably be illegal to form a group like that. Do the white children get to have a speaker only for them? What about the Muslim children? It is too bad that the principal did what he did. All of the children should have been given the opportunity to hear the speaker or at least everyone within a certain age group. Not because they are African American, but because it was an opportunity for all of the children to see a successful person and hear what he had to say.