I live in Frankfort, KY. My residence is a rock’s throw from the Capitol of the state. It is 10:15 on Monday, March 5, 2014. There is literally a march going on less than a block behind me commemorating an important act in history, and the ones that really need to know about it and what it represents will probably never know it ever happened. Which leads me to wonder,….why have an event if only for a symbol of relevance and not to make change?
We do this every day throughout America. We make token actions as to say “We see you” but we do nothing about it. We do NOTHING about it. Today’s event is to pay tribute to a march that took place in 1964 (see video). The 1964 march — which included speakers such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier — was called to support a civil-rights act that did not get out of a legislative committee. The key issue then was voting rights and fair housing accommodations in housing and employment. This march will pay tribute to an event that took place 50 years ago. Oh how we forget. We forget that it was roughly within the last fifty years that there were church bombings, voting restrictions, segregation, many hangings, beatings and maltreatment, along with the assassination of Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King. So, we are paying tribute to an event that the US Supreme Court recently overturned?
- Supreme Court invalidated a crucial component of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, ruling that Congress has not taken into account the nation’s racial progress when singling out certain states for federal oversight (June, 2013).
- Just hours after the ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said his state will move forward with a voter-identification law that had been stopped by a panel of federal judges and will carry out redistricting changes that had been mired in court battles.
You are probably wondering, “Greg, where are you going with this? Don’t you usually discuss educational issues?” The answer is an adamant “Yes”, and this is probably one of the most important educational issues one could learn. Just because we no longer have Asian internment camps, public injustice of Native Americans, hosing and dog chewing of African Americans in the street, does it mean that the interest of ALL individuals are truly recognized and supported? Chuck Colson, author of Against the Night, wrote, “A nation or a culture cannot endure for long unless it is undergirded by common values such as valor, public spiritedness, respect for others and for the law; It cannot stand unless it is populated by people who will act on the motives superior to their own immediate interest.” As a nation, we tend to provide the smoky mirrors of support only to find that often times it is an illusion filled with selfish acts. It is a nice gesture to plan a rally to commemorate a march of a historical event, but it would be even better to put forth ACTION FOR CHANGE to assure the intent of the original event was not in vain. Reality is, a key component of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been invalidated by the Supreme Court, and there are very few that raise this concern, not even during a rally to symbolize such an important event in history. So, what would our world look like if it was filled with people who were willing to act on the motives superior to their own immediate interest? What if we thought about what was best for all cultures, all nationalities and ethnicities, all socioeconomic groups,……….all human beings. What if?
Along with housing and voting rights, in 1964 segregation was also an area filled with boiling heat and concern. From dismantling Jim Crowe laws to integrating schools, this area was one that all cultures and ethnicities heavily debated and fought for. To assure the government had adequate data to support the integration of public schools and facilities, James Coleman was commissioned to research the possibilities. To provide further insight, I am going to insert previous research. The following 5 paragraphs is an excerpt from a document I published in 2012:
[Begin] On March 4, 1986, the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor subcommittee on elementary, secondary, and vocational education presented H.R. 747; The Effective Schools Development in Education Act of 1985. The committee gave a detailed definition of effective schools stating:
An effective school is orderly and safe. Its principal is not just an administrator. He or she is a leader who takes an interest in the quality of instruction; the mastery of basic and higher order skills is a school’s prime focus. Teachers in effective schools have the expectation that all students will learn. It is a school in which an equal percentage of children from highest and lowest socioeconomic groups achieve at least a minimum level of academic mastery. (p. 1)
Twenty years prior to the Effective Schools Development in Education Act, research was being conducted on the effectiveness of schools within the United States. In 1966 The U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare commissioned James Samuel Coleman to complete The Equality of Educational Opportunity Study, also known as The Coleman Report. This report is widely considered one of the most influential education studies of the 20th century. Its researcher, James S. Coleman, was truly an astute individual. He was the founder of Johns Hopkins Department of Social Relations in 1959. He also co-founded the Center for Social Organization of Schools in 1973 (Clark, 1996). In accordance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Coleman went to work on researching educational equality at a time when society was completely upside down. With data from over 600,000 students and teachers in over 4,000 schools across the United States, his research showed achievement among students was not as much about the quality of the school, but was about the social compositions of the school, the student’s sense of control of his environment and future, the verbal skills of teachers, and the student’s family background (Kiviat, 2000).
The Coleman Report held the nation accountable to its differentiation and asked the question, “Why?” It brought to light the drastic difference in educational latitude between students from different economic backgrounds, races, and/or both. The research from the report showed the impact between both in-school and home/community factors. It considered how each played a great part in the academic growth of students within these communities during a time when people were not emotionally concerned or ethically involved. The Coleman Report presented a thorough outlook of equal educational opportunities to children of different race, color, religion, and national origin. [End]
Basically, Samuel Coleman’s research substantiated the comment made by Chuck Colson. When we really start caring about people and assuring change, we can truly make a difference. So technically, the idea of cultural competence was mentioned in 1964 (see italics above). Now, fifty years later, our voting rights are in question, our schools are still segregated and we still struggle to assure our teachers and education leaders have a true grasp and knowledgeable understanding of the concept of cultural competence. Yes, our schools are still segregated.
Recent research reviewed the 1966 Equality of Educational Opportunity report on the 40th anniversary of its publication and made surprising conclusions (Wisconsin Center for Educational Research, 2007).
This study revealed:
- Similarities between today’s educational gaps and those in 1966. One example was in desegregation.
- Although the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research showed gains in desegregation in the 1980s, these gains were practically reversed in the 1990s. According to some indicators, levels of segregation were nearly as high in 2006 as they were in 1966.
- Although black/white achievement gaps are smaller today than in 1966, they remain substantial (Gamoran & Long, 2006).
Research has also established:
- A large number of school districts in the 1990s experienced re-segregation, diminishing the major gains that were seen from 1954 to the 1980s (Orfield & Eaton, 1997).
- Re-segregation is due in part to growing minority enrollment, but a large part is due to the effects of the court system declaring school districts change from “dual” to “unitary” in status. This means that districts are no longer segregated in any part of the school system.
- With desegregation programs being dismantled, schools have become more segregated within the district (Clotfelter, 2004; Gamoran & An, 2005; Orfield, 2001).
- African-American students make up 17 % of the student population but 34 % are suspended (USDE, 2011c).
- Blacks are three times as likely to be suspended as their White counterparts.
- In reference to students with disabilities, Blacks are also three times as likely to be suspended or four times as likely as Whites to be educated in a correctional facility (USDE, 2011c).
I could go on and on and……….. But there is good news. Cultural Competence builds autonomy within the profession. Autonomy is the one factor that has the power to ameliorate the negative impact of racial mismatch on work attitudes (Renzulli et al., 2011). This makes the claim that despite a teacher’s race or ethnic background, and despite his/her financial differences from the area in which he/she is teaching, if a teacher is given the belief, the freedom, the respect, and the tools to do what he or she is trained to do, the likelihood of him/her being able to create an environment of understanding and compassion and also being happy or “satisfied” at his/her place of employment is heightened tremendously. Cultural Competence focuses on educators putting the interest of the students above anything else. We may have smoking mirrors in society, but we do not have to have smoking mirrors in education. We can train educators to be culturally competent and in turn create future leaders who may just act on the motives superior to their own immediate interest for the betterment of society. We often hear how America is out performed by other countries, specifically Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. However, there are two major things that are never discussed; the creativity allowed within the education system of America and also the cultural make-up of the American classroom. Teachers in the countries listed above primarily deal with a similar culture to their own. In America, the average teacher will deal with many cultures, many ethnicities, many races and languages, along with many socioeconomic backgrounds, all in one classroom. If we REALLY want to close this gap, we have to focus on what James Coleman recognized 50 years ago (see above). We have to create a culture of understanding. We have to show students what is important to them is also important to us. We can’t give students symbols of greatness and never act on them. We have to walk beside them and be willing to ACT on what might be a concern to them. In turn, we will create individuals that will act on the motives superior to their own immediate interest.
I live in Frankfort, KY. My residence is a rock’s throw from the Capitol of the state. It is 12:15 on Monday, March 5, 2014. There is literally a rally going on (post march) less than a block behind me commemorating an important act in history, and the ones that really need to know about it and what it represents will probably never know it ever happened. SO WE MUST TELL THEM! We must make sure our students, whether white, black, Latino, etc; whether straight, gay, lesbian, transgender; whether rich or poor; whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, etc…..We must assure to/in them the importance of their culture and celebrate (not just tolerate) their differences. In doing so, we will help to create a stronger America. For “They Too, Are America (Langston Hughes)”.
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.