Sunday, March 23, 2014

FNED 346

Dr. Bogad

I don't even know what to call this.

This is the most difficult assignment so far.  I don’t know if it’s because we are looking at four sources of information, or if the subject is so broad, or that it cuts across not just other readings in this class but all of my classes.  In any case I am going to try to sort this out.  

A Turning Point in History

The supreme court, led by a 24 year old Chief Justice Jack Greenburg made “equal opportunity in education the law of the land,” a right belonging to everyone.  (  Imagine being the head of the supreme court at 24.  Surprisingly (I think) Dwight D Eisnerhower, a Republican, was President.  Richard Nixon was Vice President.  Under this administration, segregation, the separating of people by race in education was deemed unacceptable by law.

I was born soon after this event, but this is what I remember.

This is the famous painting by Norman Rockwell, the illustrator of typical American Life.  The little girl is Ruby Bridges.  She was escorted by 4 marshals into the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960.  It wasn’t until she was 18 that she saw this painting and in her words “I thought , Oh, my god, this was important.  This changed our country.”    (   

What does it say that this sweet young thing had to have 4 grown men bodyguards.

So what really happened after this landmark turning point in History.  Tim Wise summed up both of his interviews with the remark “We are nowhere near a post racial america”  And continued with when “black people can be as mediocre as white people and still get hired” we will have an equal opportunity society.  What a sad word to use.  Mediocre.  This idea rings loudly with Alan Johnson’s Privilege, Power, and Difference.  According to Johnson, being white is the most powerful privilege. In his opening paragraph he states that there is “A huge store of Knowledge (of this inequality that) leaves no doubt that (privilege) causes enormous amounts of injustice and unnecessary suffering.” (P. 7. Privilege, Power, and Difference)  So how do we get to an equal opportunity non-racist society?

Regarding his book, “Between Barack and a Hard Place”, (City Lights, 2009),  Wise states that there are still double standards.  He speaks of the accomplishments of Barack Obama.  He had two years to prove he was articulate, intelligent, well educated and worthy of the office of President of the United States.  On the other hand Wise points out that as a white male, “you can be articulate or inarticulate and still become President.”  He adds that “There is no way in the world that a person of color would have been taken seriously as a Presidential candidate if they had graduated 5th from the bottom of the Naval Academy they had attended, or a Vice Presidential Candidate that had gone to 5 schools in six years. . .  or if a black man had crashed 5 airplanes.”   He is speaking here of couse of George Bush Jr.  And his election was McIntosh’s invisible “Whiteness” showing it’s power.  Wise's point is, as a person of color, you have to be “truly exceptional to break that ceiling.”   

Here is a picture I did yesterday just to break things up a bit.

Then I read “Separate but Equal” by Bob Herbert.  He argues that in spite of segregation being illegal, you still can’t have ethnic diversity in schools because the nature of communities can’t support it.  “Residential patterns, housing discrimination, economic disparities and long - held custom“are today a reality.  We need only to look at Jonathan Kozol’s description of the community of Mott Haven in 1995.  Not only did it wreak of under-privilege, it was surrounded by a city full of opportunity. . . . for the privileged.  There was no place for these citizen’s to go to be successful.  The disparity of wealth in this country is shameful, and a daily reality.  You see it in the communities, and you see it in the schools.

As student teachers, RIC has given us specific service placements in hopes that we start to see the challenges that kids face, forget about what our challenges will be.  And from the stories I’ve heard in class it’s clear that there are many little victories when kids are given the attention and direction to learn.  Herbert states that “If you really want to improve the education of poor children, you have to get them away from learning environments that are smothered by poverty.”  (  But how does one do that, on a national scale?  The Mott Haven that Kozol described in 1995 is a different place in 2012.  Positive advances are being made.  One such change was implemented by the compassion of a charter school in California.  (I mention this ironically as in Herbert’s article, he states that Charter Schools have done very little to improve the (lives) of poor black and latino students”).  But this is only one community.  In regards to school systems, Herbert points out, “Nothing has brought about the gains on the scale that is needed”.  This is also true for social equal opportunity.

Alan Johnson points out that everyone is part of our privileged system, it has a life of it’s own.  So the definition itself negates the idea of equality.  And if we go back to Rodriguez’s heart wrenching account of choosing a public identity to acquire more power and create more opportunities, I am ready to throw up my hands.

Perhaps we teach the rules of power to kids no matter where they are in school.  In thinking about the kind of teacher I want to be, I believe we absolutely should.  More specifically, we should teach proper grammar, letter writing skills, presentation skills and give them real world experiences, successful experiences.  Maybe then we begin to level the playing field.

And isn’t that what all 4 of these sources were talking about.  The Supreme Court, led by a 24 year old, stripped our country of constitutional sanctions that made segregation in schools OK.  Well, at least legally it’s not OK any more.  And we have a black president, but he had to endure 2 years of scrutiny to prove he was exceptional.  (Does anyone remember Sarah Palin?)  And we are being trained and guided by our RIC Professors in the ways that make todays kids want to learn.  It may not be enough, but I have to believe it's something

On the comments page of Bob Herbert’s article I found this from a teacher in the Bronx in NYC:.

Lastly, on July 28, 2011, Jack Greenburg, the former Supreme Court Justice who argued the Brown vs Board of Education case spoke at the Kansas School of Law:  I really can't get over that he was 24 years old.


  1. Wow Viv! you really know how to pack a lot of info into one post ! I loved all the different points you make and the info you share ! And the I love the little tidbit of information about the Norman Rockwell painting ! Great stuff !

  2. I picked up the word "mediocre" also... I somewhat felt hatred towards those videos. So many of their words were downgrading and in some point of way going against everything they were trying to say they believe in. "only succeed being a basketball player or hip hop artist" or "if their white the can still succeed at a mediocre school." They really did use that word multiple times in both videos. Great post though it really helps to breakdown all four of the artifacts!!

  3. I love how you broke things up with your drawing, it was so cool! I focused on the "mediocre" concept too. It's kind of a mind boggling concept. I really love the screenshot of the comment from a teacher in the Bronx that you included. It's great to connect what we are reading to the real world!
    Thanks so much for sharing, your blogs are always great!

  4. Viv this is such an awesome post! Your drawing is amazing and I always love reading your blog because you have such a vast knowledge of like everything! You always put so much thought into your blogs and I love how passionate you are about them! :)