Thursday, November 06, 2008
Jonathan Kozol - I Must Apologize To You About Black People Needing Integration
Mr Kozol - please accept this as a targeted apology from me on a specific point that you have made in your arguments of how to educate Black children. It is your view that Black kids need to be relocated into White schools in order to receive the benefit of a structured environment and the resources that they need to prosper. I yield to your analysis in the ways which I will detail shortly.
I have been a constant critic of yours for years. Your views don't sit well with me. You seek to accomplish quality education for Black people by focusing on changing the SYSTEM rather than having Black folks to change our CONSCIOUSNESS. By definition that places Black folks on the conveyor belt where we are in constant pursuit of educational excellence by constantly looking outside of our selves and the school buildings that we already administrate and the children that we already leave the biggest imprint upon. I believe that my strategy is a far more comprehensive and enduring change. Credit me at least for having read at least 3 of your books and thus I understand your general beliefs and arguments. I just disagree with you on some major points.
I have called you a "White Cultural Supremacist" with respect to your view that by sending Black kids to White schools this is the ultimate solution for education problems for Black folks. I saw you several years ago on "America's Black Forum" in which you dismissed the success of the church school ran by Rev Floyd Flake as being an insignificant exception to your belief that an all-Black school cannot successfully educate Black students. Even the panel dominated by Black liberals could read between the lines of your dismissal of Black capabilities in this area to see it as what it really was - a cultural supremacist claim.
The specific point of my apology to you is that I have come to believe that you are correct about the need for Black students to be in a certain academic culture for them to be successful. Just not in the way that you express your views of how this is to be achieved. I now believe that Black Children are currently best educated within the context of a specific environment that promotes academic success. Today this environment is mostly found in schools that are majority White.
Please afford me the opportunity to distinguish the difference between my views and yours - thus the point that this is a "targeted apology".
You see Mr. Kozol when I hear you say that "we need to move Black kids into White schools so they can learn" I detect a bit of White cultural supremacy within you. I don't believe that you hate Black people in fact - I would defend you against such a claim. I do believe that you associate the fundamental elements of academic success with the White culture that you speak of and seek to shuttle Black kids to.
I then have to reconcile the facts of my own existence with what you have said. Truth be told my own children go to a mixed school that has a prevailing White academic culture. My wife and I moved to this suburban Atlanta county because of the quality of their schools. We passed over several other options which may have had more fellow African-Americans present who share our values but still the situation in the schools did not measure up to what we have found where we presently live.
As I think about it, however, I see that I have a daughter who is at the top of her class in academic performance. She has been accepted into the "advanced placement" segment for her grade. She is no less Black than if she were resident in an inner city schools. Clearly the prevailing environment of the school has allowed her to actually express the aggregate investment that her mother and I have made in her academic growth. This leads me to believe that there is an "essence of 'White Academic Cultural Environments'" as you have promoted it that can be distilled away and subjected to further scrutiny as to how this might be applied to Black schools. (I use the term "White Academic Cultural Environment" for argument sake - not as an indicator that I believe as such")
I don't understand how you and others can oppose "vouchers and charter schools" because there are not enough of them to house the students who will transfer from failed public schools......yet you fail to see that YOUR PLAN fails for this very same reason. Simply put, Mr Kozol - there are not enough White classrooms for the hundreds of thousands of Black students who are in need of repair to be shuttled off to. I won't even talk about the transportation costs of accomplishing this. It goes without saying as well - the staunch opposition from White parents who fail to see the benefit afforded to them. Most parents seek to strategically position their children upward not be a part of an experiment by which their children and the culture that they have conditioned into their children is being siphoned from. History has also shown how the local Black school is destroyed as we focus on valuing White schools over our own.
Here is what you are missing Mr. Kozol. Instead of valuing what these White schools have - why don't you (and other Black Quasi-Socialist Progressive-Fundamentalist Racism-Chasers) focus on distilling the essence that makes these White schools worthy of your coveting and then fight your fight in getting the existing Black schools to implement these as their prevailing cultural principles?
Much of your argument centers around the great resource imbalance between the White and the Black school entities. You and I both know, however, that while there are some poor school districts that need additional help, this is not THE problem that is holding down the inner city schools that you advocate for. I think that you are aware of your problem in that you advocate not only for more money but the transshipment of Black kids into a school with a prevailing White cultural. No doubt is it that CULTURE that you see as being desperately needed in this Black schools. I would argue - even more than MONEY.
The main reason why I was brought to a point of having to apologize to you is that I have come to realize that a great portion of what makes your statement true - with regards to the need to transport Black kids to White schools - is in regards to the INTRANSIGENCE OF THE BLACK COMMUNITY which would be the main obstacle in implementing the culture that I speak of. Simply put, Mr. Kozol - the Black community is not willing to accept the list of "distilled elements" that are present in the schools that you covet and implement them within the schools, across the community, upon the parents and ultimately - projected upon the young Black child who is the student in question. It is far more attractive for some of us as Black people to join a perpetual quest for JUSTICE than it is for the community to accept a coordinated plan where we are the primary agents for change on the inside. This external chase substitutes for the weaknesses of structure within.
Do you see the key difference between your strategy and mine though, Mr Kozol? You argue for a TRANSPLANTING to a new pot and thus the specimen will flourish. I am arguing for a new set of guidelines to be enforced within the ecosystem that bears upon the current pot and the inhabitants of the pot and thus allow the specimen to remain where it is.
The main force standing as a threat to the implementation of such a strategy is the Black Cultural and Political sensibilities that dominate us. We are averse to "acting White". We are averse to "conservative strictures" placed upon our people who just want to be free to express themselves. In the absence of such guidance coming from the home - the SYSTEM that seeks to enforce these standards ends up sending more Black males to detention, expulsion or jail. Thus this is the flaw of having THE SYSTEM to do what THE PARENTS AND COMMUNITY CULTURE MUST BE DOING. Thus I must fully reject your theory and the theory dominated by the prevailing Black Quasi-Socialist Progressive-Fundamentalist Racism-Chasers that dominate Black thought of today.
The major body of my work is focused on how the current disconnected and discombobulated set of policies to live by within the Black community show up as the hidden hand in many of the results that we see in our community. Where as the conservatives and Republican party drive VALUES as the gateway toward economic prosperity the Progressives and the Democrats drive ECONOMIC JUSTICE as the gateway toward CIVILITY. Both are flawed in their pure form but at the present time the LATER is most dominate within the Black community while facing no real challenge from the opposition which would tend to moderate the sentiment within the community.
I have ultimate confidence that if a more consciously directed community that is properly segmented and then made to work in alignment to their goals could work to attack these problems in the context of OWNERSHIP that the problems will be fixed.
You and other Progressives, however, seek to attack THE SYSTEM that bears upon the Black community which, in your mind is the problem. Thus you find yourselves working ON BEHALF OF the Black students rather than UPON THE BLACK STUDENTS and their families. I have read your work Mr. Kozol. You are more inclined to accept the fact that a single Black mother who has to work two jobs to keep the house going is in no position to help her child fortify his reading skills. She may not even have adequate skills in the first place. For you, Mr Kozol - this is evidence of the need for more government spending to develop after school programs and other means to provide resources such as food, health care and other services.. In short Mr Kozol - you are working to "boil the ocean"/"expand the police tape to a wider crime scene" so that ultimately a more sound academic environment will be produced. I reject this as fantastical and fanatical thinking.
It is clear that there needs to be a bottom up effort. Yes there needs to be a hierarchy of order as it relates to communicating the mission. Ultimately, however, each community, each school, each grade level within that school, each family sending a student to that school must be the primary operative in the salvation of their children.
* Where are the community sponsored and funded reading programs? Why not train the trainers so they can spread out?
* Where are the community 'laws' which attempt to reign in individuals or family units before the authorities have to deal with them punitively?
I guess the main difference between me and the various people that I am most critical of is that I seek to point out what Black people are failing to do in the way of social order and its
linkage to our common goals remaining elusive. People with your prevailing sentiment seek to push Black folks toward a particular ideological and economic social order.....as expressed by the Democratic party and Progressivism. Upon its prevalence - all will be made golden. But it this so?
The main criticism that I have with you all is that the rampant increase in growth in your power over these same communities all the while certain elements within these communities having collapsed.......is not enough evidence to you that something is awry in your strategy. Instead you use it as more evidence that you need more national power to accomplish your goals. This is the essence of FUNDAMENTALISM!!! The inability to allow real world facts to cause you to reconsider what you believe to be the case. (thus the label "Progressive-Fundamentalist)
I will be monitoring you as it relates to President Barack Obama. Not surprisingly you were a harsh critic of President Bush and of "No Child Left Behind". It is interesting that with Obama supporting NCLB yet promising to throw more money at the problem and making lip service to the need to do more than just "testing" - you face a conundrum. Clearly Obama would be more to your ideological liking - but I am not convinced that you will focus on the results actually produced or yield because you have an ideological ally in place - while the results continue to remain tepid.
Time will tell.