The right thing, the wrong way

Published 8:23 pm Monday, April 28, 2014

By Joseph Bass

Instead of creating quality learning environments for all our little children, our 50-year effort to integrate our schools has resulted in undermining educational effectiveness.

Slavery and cultural and racial bigotry have been a part of human society for thousands of years, predating written history. The richest, most productive, “advanced” societies were based on these concepts, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

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The idea that there could be a society based on equality and acceptance of other races and cultures is relatively new. It only began to receive slow acceptance a few hundred years ago. In the United States, we still struggle toward implementing this important idea. Most nations continue to follow the old social model.

When I was a child, America functioned on the old social models of cultural and racial bigotry. Blacks and other minorities were kept poor, uneducated, segregated, and in debt. This is a form of slavery, making minorities available to work for low wages. After failed attempts to address these social ills following the American Civil War we tried again in the 1950s and ‘60s through Supreme Court decisions and a Civil Rights bill.

How did this effort play out in our schools? Forced integration of school staffs went fairly well and is not an issue today. Forced integration of children, however, has undermined all-important parent and community support of educational processes. I do not need the results of empirical studies to know how this happened. I was an eyewitness to it.

Before putting their children on the bus, some white parents warned their children about black teachers and students abusing them and treating them unfairly. Before putting their children on the bus, some black parents warned their children about white teachers and white children abusing them and treating them unfairly.

That is to say, children of all races and cultures were forced into hostile environments. And the insecure children didn’t do well in terms of educational achievement or behavior. Eventually schools became places of hostility and conflict among students and between students and teachers. Eventually children were being graduated from high school who could not read or do simple math.

When minority children didn’t do well educationally, the federal government started suing teachers and schools, assuming the children’s poor showings where their fault. This ignored the fact that the federal government had supported segregated, inferior schools for minorities for hundreds of years.

But how practical was it to assume that minority children whose parents and grandparents had been denied a quality education would immediately excel to the same levels as children whose parents and grandparents had been provided a quality education?

The government also sued educators for applying the same disciplinary measures they had successfully used in segregated schools. This stripped away all influence teachers had to correct students’ behavior.

What we have been doing to improve society through school integration has not been helpful. We need to reexamine how we are going about achieving important social change.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at ABetterSociety1@aol.com.