Friday, March 2, 2012

Where is the Progress?

Yesterday, a friend of mine who sometimes starts the day with an article that often times forces me to think. This article, though, stopped me in my tracks for several reasons. An African American, eighth grade girl from Rochester, NY wrote a paper on Frederick Douglass' The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass for a class and contest. Much to the teacher's surprise, the teen did more than write her opinion to this complex read. She compared it to the educational system and pointed out their failures. She wrote it in a way that the teacher saw this to be an attack on whites, or white teachers. She argued that this was not the case. She was more or less writing as Douglass had in his book.

Long story short, the teen was harassed by teachers, threatened with suspension and other punishments for this paper. Her mother ended up pulling her out of school and is in the process of moving to a new district. She would later win an award for this insightful paper by the Frederick Douglass Foundation of New York and recognized by the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a member of President Obama's Cabinet.

While I was researching this incident, I found a copy of her essay and it blew me away. Yes, there are mistakes that one would expect from someone her age, but reading what she got from it and how she was able to relate it to today's education was brilliant!

There are a few reasons why this bothered me.

  1. This happened in Rochester, NY. Years ago, I went to a couple of the schools in that area. This may seem trivial, but whatever.
  2. The pettiness of those teachers took away the love of education from a young teen. Something that should never happen. What gives them that right to tell a child that they can't voice their opinion in their writing when its a constitutional right?
  3. She was 13 years old and it was not intended to be a racial issue. If any of those teachers had read this book, they would see that that is how Douglass wrote and the teen was just following his lead.

A fact that I ran across while I was reading this article was this:
"Given that only 19 percent of School #3's eighth graders were proficient in language arts last year (and just 13 percent in math)—well below the state average of 60 percent—it's clear that the school and its teachers need to change their approach."
I'm not a parent, but if I were, there is no way in hell I would send my child to a school with those scores.

Who would have ever thought that this 13 year old could cause such an uproar?

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