Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sick Irony: Minority Administrators Help Keep LA's Inner City Schools in a Cycle of Failure

Sick Irony: Minority Administrators Help Keep LA's Inner City Schools in a Cycle of Failure 

Sick Irony: Minority Administrators Help Keep LA's Inner City Schools in a Cycle of Failure

Leonard Isenberg, CityWatchLA, 29 Sep 2015

There is an exquisitely sick irony to the fact that segregated, inferior inner city public schools could not be maintained at LAUSD (and elsewhere in this country) without the participation of minority administrators – the very minorities that are kept in a state of under-achievement. 

If only these administrators were no longer willing to turn momma's picture to the wall and follow orders (all for a six-figure salary and a place at the table for the privatization feast) -- real positive change in public education could be achieved-- at less expense and in a relatively short period of time. 

I say "ironic" because the willingness of minority leadership to sell out the inherent intelligence of black and Latino children, assuring that they never reach their potential, is both deplorable and at the same time a negation of racism. Why? Because irrespective of race, all human beings have shown themselves regrettably capable of doing pretty much anything for a large enough pile of bucks and benefits. 

The minority administrator's rationale goes something like this: Better play along with what I know to be a racist system of public education so I can get into a position of power. And once I have the power, I will to effectuate real change. 

But as these minority administrators move up, compromising their core values, they never seem to get to a place where they can make change without jeopardizing their careers – so they abdicate any individual moral imperative to fix a racist system. 

By cloaking themselves as being part of some collective LAUSD leadership identity, (sound familiar to all you history buffs?), they become part of a system where no individual is held responsible for individual acts. As long as these administrators continue to blindly support The District, the dysfunction that has continued for generations will continue to destroy the lives of inherently clever young people -- students who are never given the opportunity to reach their potential. 

While there are people of integrity that cannot be bought, LAUSD's system chooses prospective administrators by filtering out "trouble makers" long before they get an administrative position, no matter what the objective qualifications might be. The few honest administrators that slip through this selection process learn to keep their mouths shut, reciting the vacuous slogans of "No child left behind" and "Every child is a life-long learner." These ideas could easily be contradicted and seen for the nonsense they are by anyone who bothered to actually walk into a classroom and see the chaos that continues to be allowed. 

Many LAUSD administrators chosen to address the problems of this failed system are themselves a product of this same education system and have neither the will nor the education needed to effectuate long overdue changes. Simply stated, they are chosen through a process of affirmative action by others whose goal is to find administrators who will not threaten the existing dysfunctional LAUSD order. This creates leadership that is actually hostile to poor minority children who need to be taught the educational fundamentals they so desperately need to be successful students. 

The hostility of these administrators toward the notion of actually educating students of color is rooted in the reality that many of them did not do well in school themselves. So, when some teachers have the temerity to try to educate all students to grade level standards, they are told, "this is a black school" or "you are not being culturally sensitive." They do this as if the very notion of minority excellence and achievement is a fantasy to be avoided at all costs. 

This leads to social promotion without foundational skills like reading comprehension and fundamental math, almost assuring academic and subsequent career failure. This is how inherently clever young people like this can end up becoming a burden on our society – something that is easily avoidable and unnecessary. 

Most people positing reform in public education have never actually been in a de facto segregated inner city public or charter school. They haven't seen the chaos caused by students that are profoundly behind grade level. While their deficits could be addressed, that is hard work and is scrupulously avoided in favor of empty rhetoric and putting students in uniforms or naming a school College Ready or a Lifeline Charter. In the meantime, nothing is being done to make successful college completion even a remote possibility. 

In Dale Russakoff's latest book entitled "The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools," she lays out the failed efforts of New Jersey politicians Cory Booker, Chris Christi, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg -- complete with his $100 million donation to turn around Newark public schools. One of the factors she cites as responsible for their plan's failure was its imposition of reform on this poor minority community without including the community's input in the plan. 

Sounds good, if one wants to be politically correct and project onto a poor uneducated minority community a skill set that doesn't exist, thanks to generations of educational neglect. Addressing the problems in these public schools never seems to be part of the equation in the disingenuous movement for public education reform. This is because the sole goal is corporate profit, not academic success. The proof is that no attempt is ever made to reach the minority folks in the community, something that would have helped reform Newark's schools. Only the politically connected were given voice, rubberstamping changes -- irrespective of merit or the Newark schools' low-functioning realities. 

If minority children were given the excellent public education they are entitled to, the simplistic agenda of successful politicians like Congresswoman Karen Bass and Attorney General Kamala Harris might even be questioned. Instead of holding community forums like Bass recently did on reintegrating black and Latino inmates back into the community, she might hold a forum about the causes of their initial incarceration – and to what degree this was caused by a failed education. 

Clearly, the most important reason for those in power to maintain failing public education is to keep our citizenry in check – by preventing them from having necessary skills. This is not what our Founding Fathers intended.

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He's a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at Leonard can be reached at Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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