Having taught high school social studies for 34 years with the Clinton City Schools, this statement that I am about to share with you resonates clearly with me: “Nothing can help motivate our (black) students more than to see success standing right in front of them.”
In an educational environment that has changed dramatically in the ensuing 62 years since the Brown Supreme Court ruling that ushered in the integration of our public schools, now, more than ever, the black community needs to stand up and fight for our students, providing support that will allow them to thrive and grow in their school setting. It is imperative that the black community rise up and help save our children, making sure that they receive a high-quality public school education.
As a community, we need to encourage more open discussion and dialogue among the school system’s administration, staff and faculty about race and its impact on the teaching and learning process. There are many issues and concerns that are unique to black students that will influence the approach we take to educating all children in the 21st century.
Historically, the black community was at the forefront in promoting learning and education for its children, realizing the importance of education in every aspect of life. Moreover, the black community demonstrated great admiration, respect and support of black teachers who were viewed as positive role models for their students and the whole community.
Following integration, over the course of time, black teachers began to disappear from the academic environment. Additionally, as black schools were closed or merged with other schools, black principals and more teachers were fired, causing the loss of impactful role models, while changing the community ethos and culture in negative ways.
Today, this lack of a larger black presence and community of adult role models has been detrimental to black students and to all students in general. Now, it behooves all schools to do a better job in addressing the issues and concerns unique to black students, beginning with respecting and learning about the culture of their black students, while making it a priority to build bridges with black parents and the whole community.
Not only is it time for the black community to stand up and fight for our children, we must also make sure our school decision-makers have our kids’ best interests at heart and are doing their due diligence at recruiting black teachers, especially males. As a community of activists, we must become involved in the academic settings to help mentor and provide academic support to young black males, helping them reclaim their sense of hope and wonderment, while stressing the importance of coming to school prepared to work hard and learn.
With a national political climate where high elected government officials show blatant disrespect and disdain for the nation’s first black president, the black community cannot give free rein to just anyone when it comes to the development of the mind of our boys and girls. We must remain strong advocates for the education of our children and youth.
It we don’t care, who will? Black education matters!
Larry Sutton is a former Clinton High School history teacher.