Welcome to the new MCLD blog, The Village is on Fire! Over the coming weeks, various contributors will provide insightful thought-provoking written opinions. Though this blog has been created by me, the executive director of the MCLD, I encourage others to submit their written work and to offer comments on the posts.
This forum will not be used to simply put on display articles which are in agreement with the vision of the MCLD. I enjoy reading opposing opinions and quite honestly, I believe I can learn a lot from
those with whom I am NOT in agreement.
I assure you that I will strike a nerve and I will incite anger at times, by what I write and choose to post. Still,
understand that the goal is to begin an honest dialogue, something that is lacking in this city. Milwaukee continues to sit stagnant because too many are attempting to walk the line of political correctness instead of pulling the emperor's pants down and exposing the truth for what it really is.
So, if you think you are better than me because I am black and you are white, say that and tell me why. If you believe black folks are getting over on the system through entitlement programs, say that, but be prepared to back it up. If you do not mind being separate, but equal, make it known and explain. If you are a teacher, with low expectations of your minority students, holla at me. Let's do this!!! Let us engage in genuine dialogue which may move someone to action.
The Village is indeed on fire and the first step is to talk about it with pure unadulterated honesty. From these discussions, we should be able to create a plan, AND execute it. The fire will not extinguish itself.
MCLD Executive Director
THE RESPONSE of MR. CURLEY
Authoritarian teaching may not be best
I applaud the high expectations Tamiko Jordan-Obregon says she demanded of her students in her op-ed "Kids don't need sympathy" (Perspectives, Jan. 18). However, as I read through her op-ed, I couldn't help but be thankful that she was never my teacher. I wouldn't have done well at all in her strict, "one type of education fits all" classroom.
The best teachers I ever had all held high expectations for their students, but they also took the time and effort to understand, to connect with and, yes, to sympathize with their students. These teachers created a collaborative atmosphere in which we wanted to learn and felt safe to express our ideas and our questions.
With authoritarian educators such as Jordan-Obregon, my inner city classmates and I usually felt anxious, stupid and disrespected. For the most part, all we learned was to simply keep our mouths shut and suffer through classes like hers.
Jordan-Obregon states that when she was a teacher she was "regularly accused of being unfeeling, insensitive and even heartless." When she was a principal she says, "The staff saw me as a tyrant, and the board agreed." She seems to take pride in this; she never mentions whether any of these accusations led her to any sort of
introspection or soul-searching about her methods.
If she still has any control over the lives and education of children, I truly hope that Jordan-Obregon does some serious self-reflection.
MY RESPONSE to MR. CURLEY
It is not unusual that I am misunderstood by those who do not share my experiences or the experiences of other inner city students. As I read the response to my op-ed article, "Kids don't need sympathy," (Perspectives, Jan. 18), I wished the author, Mr. Dennis Curley would not have interjected his own assumptions. The article was clearly about expectations and accepting no excuses for failure. It had nothing to do with authoritarian teaching; yet, I understand that it was his interpretation.
My style of teaching is in no way a one-size fits all method. Had Mr. Curley conducted the proper research, he would have discovered my previous article entitled "Education must be relevant," written in December 2011. The final sentence of this piece is "The one-size-fits-all approach is indeed a hindrance to the realization of actual
progress." I believe his conclusion was based on his own cultural interpretation and thus, he proved the
point of my article.
As a white male, he is not subjected to the higher standard often placed on African Americans and other minorities. He has a life of privilege by virtue of being a white male. As an African American woman, I have to be two, three, or even four steps ahead of my competition. As a white male, he is already on the top of the heap. While my failure is expected, his would come as a surprise.
My unwillingness to bend or to accept mediocrity, particularly from African American students, may be perceived as a one-size fits all model; however, I beg to differ. Growing up, I was not allowed to use improper English. My mother and father consistently corrected me. They knew something I did not and I trusted them, though I was irritated at times. They knew I had to be polished and that my excuses for my imperfections would not be accepted or excused by the world. They taught me in love what the world was going to teach me without consideration.
Despite my intelligence, they knew the playing field was not level. My work ethic had to be superior as well as my appearance and my delivery. There was no room for mistakes and this is exactly what I teach my students-the truth. The truth is that a Black man with a college degree and no felony on his record is considered equal to a White male with a high school diploma and no record. The truth is that a White male with the same qualifications as a Black male will be hired before the Black male. These scenarios are the truth and as African Americans we have to be aware of this truth in order to be competitive.
Apparently, there is a memo floating around which says that African Americans have overcome. I did not get this memo and my experiences, even today, tell me that we have not overcome. As a matter of fact, we have taken a few steps back. I instruct and guide my students according to the truth. Today, we, African Americans have a lot of work ahead of us to achieve even the progress that was made during the Civil Rights era. I am certain that Dr. King is not resting in peace as he observes from above, the degeneration of his efforts.
No, Mr. Curley would not have done well in my class because he would have questioned my tactics. He could not relate to my methods. They are not relevant to a White male who has been born into privilege. Nevertheless, the Black males with whom I am still in contact appreciated my high standards and unwavering expectations. As they grow into being young men, they now understand. Their tardiness or absences will be interpreted as irresponsibility; whereas, the tardiness or absence of Mr. Curley would generate worry and prayers for his well-being. Black females with questions in the workplace are deemed agitators, while White females are simply
trying to learn and improve.
To Mr. Curley, I say again that children do not need our sympathy. My methods, which may not be acceptable to you, may be necessary for others to achieve success. You are not an African American or a minority and therefore, you do not recognize the plight to which African Americans and other minorities have been assigned.
You are expected to do well and we are expected to fail. Our failure is the standard and your failure would be considered bizarre. Our success is atypical and your success is anticipated.
Unlike your suggestion of self-reflection for me, I suggest that you set yourself and your privilege aside and attempt to view the world from a not-so-privileged point of view. When you step in the shoes of a Black man, your world will be forever altered and I am certain you would never be the same and your conclusions will be transformed.