Deep Scar in Our Country’s Soul

Deep Scar in Our Country’s Soul


By Michael McKnight


Today… I stopped a preschooler who was walking in her pre-school line and tied her shoes.  She was adorable, a beautiful little child…with bright eyes, and a lovely big smile and beads in her hair… who looked into my eyes and thanked me with a very nice warm smile.


Also today, I was in a bi-lingual 5th grade class that had a substitute. I knelt down by a group table of four students three  girls and a boy.  I started to ask them some of the questions I would have asked their teacher and two  of the girls went well overboard to really be a great help!  They knew all the materials that were in their room and they knew which books were in English as well as Spanish. I had fun with the entire table of four…all very bright bi-lingual kids…the boy the most recent addition to the class and the girls helping him learn English; again, all bright eyed children who do like their school.  I asked them if any had been down to the shore… and none had been out of their neighborhood at all. 


In another class, an inclusion 5th grade… I intentionally sat with a young male who was sitting by himself removed from the group.  He had a bit of a scowl on his face, very cool hair braids… and I just sat for a bit…counting stuff and then slowly asked him a couple questions.  After the 2nd or third question… he easily connected with me and also was a help to me.  He showed me all his books and I asked him different questions about what they did in class.  He did know what was going on even though you could tell he kind of checks out on most days. As I looked at many of the young black males I found myself wondering when for most it becomes un-cool to do school. When do they start to check out and begin to dis-engage from a school that to me is female heavy.  I wonder about the missing male elements in their lives… both at home and in school…always surrounded by women.


At recess…which was always my personal favorite as a young student, i watched kids do all kinds of cool things together and fairly well. Some of the girls were doing Double Dutch jump rope and i had to watch and comment about how hard and cool their skill was… amazing really …


the boys…running around playing 4 square and chasing one another… sometimes being rough with one another… on an entire concrete play area.  Seemed to me by around 5th grade… you could see a hardening in some of the boys… and I wonder about that.


Then… an hour and a half later… I go back into my regular completely different world.  I will carry some of those faces for a long time and wonder about those young people… faces….


We cannot keep ourselves this separated and think we are really doing anything educationally. I saw no white kids at all today… all black and brown lovely children…with bright eyes…living in a separated world that would for all intent, be the same as when this country practiced legal apartheid ….I imagine this place really being no different than a school we would have visited in the pre- Brown days… no different at all.


The teachers in this place are working hard.  The kids are all behind and many that I talked to worried about teaching above the students’ actual levels.  One can instantly walk into any classroom and see which teachers have formed powerful connections with their kids and which really have not.  For me… in all this teacher evaluation rhetoric we are immersed within …this is the key difference… this ability to see and connect...separate the teachers.  As an administrator…interviewing teacher candidates… this is what I looked for… the rest of the stuff can be easily taught…. connection… that is different!  There were many very good teachers in this place!!


Sad… as we discuss educational transformation!!!  When will America really deal with this deep scare in our countries soul?  



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