It Is Not Math and Reading

While we focus our attention on math and reading scores, we have become unaware of a deeper problem in our educational system. What we have neglected is not a simple superficial list of good manners and right conduct. Deep in our hearts, we adults are teaching our children exactly the opposite of what humanity craves for at the moment. Instead of serving as beacons for empathy and kindness, we simply rekindle the flame of bias and phony sanctimony. Four years ago, Cory Turner at nprEd summed up what we were missing: "Bias isn't just a police problem, it's a preschool problem".

Above copied from nprEd

Research has shown convincingly that preschool teachers are more likely to expect bad behavior from a child who is an African American boy. Not surprising, black children are over-represented in school disciplinary measures. We indeed teach our young very well. Racism is alive and well. And we really need not look further. It is in our schools. Advanced academic programs confer privilege on those who are on top of our social ladder, while school suspensions are lavishly provided to the poor, the disabled, blacks and Hispanics.

We are simply bound to see both racial and social injustice in our society. Forty years ago, we have been told by Louise Derman-Sparks, Carol Tanaka Higa, and Bill Sparks in their article in the Interracial Books for Children Bulletin:

Children will "naturally" grow up to be non-racist adults only when they live in a non-racist society. Until then, adults must guide children's antiracist development. This will include the fostering of: 1) accurate knowledge and pride about one's racial/cultural identity; 2) accurate knowledge and appreciation of other racial groups; and 3) an understanding of how racism works and how to combat it. 

We are in a racist society. And clearly the first step is to acknowledge this truth. We cannot deny that there are racial differences and children, no matter how young they are, also notice this difference. Children are aware of who is black and who is white. Children are aware of who is rich and who is poor. Recognizing these differences is not racism yet, but when these differences become labeled with either "gifted" or "trouble maker", that is when racism begins.

We are in a racist society and this attitude does start in our schools. This is evidently more difficult that addressing math and reading because children see us as their models. And we all have this implicit bias. And it is also institutional. And we cannot change unless we realize that something has to change. But we must. It is at least as if not more important than math and reading.