By Stanley Kinard
Teachers Vacation During Black History Month
“We declare that we will no longer sit back and watch our children be subjected to an institutionally racist and humiliating education. As citizens and taxpayers, we are declaring a State of Emergency regarding the education of Black children.”
– Excerpt from Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence Resolution
February is Black History Month and again we have failed to carry out the mandate to teach Black history to our children. Most of the celebratory events that schools will host this month lack real substance and are not part of a curriculum change required to address the current racist curriculum being taught to our children. The teacher’s union again has a contract that allows them to take a winter vacation break the last week of Black History Month. It is an outrage that no one wants to address this. Black teachers also go along with this and they too play a role in the miseducation process of our children.
The new high school semester begins February 1st. Students come back to school after being out over two weeks taking Regents and finals. From February 17 – 25 teachers take a vacation. It is not a coincidence that this is happening during Black History Month but rather, it is another example of the pattern of disrespect that this system continues to show us. I am amazed that no one chooses to challenge this. It makes absolutely no sense and is an insult to the spirit of Dr. Carter G. Woodson and all of our ancestors.
By now Councilman Leroy Comrie will have held his well-promoted press conference to stop the use of the “N” word. This is more about publicity than it is about addressing systematic racism. I would rather see Comrie and the other City Councilmen stand up for Black History in our schools and for setting aside funds for a major Black cultural initiative.
I would like to see Councilman Robert Jackson, chair of the Education Committee and others address the issue of teachers taking a vacation during Black History Month. Black History Month presents us with our greatest teaching moment and yet teachers go on vacation. Again, it is absurd and repulsive to me. The system shows utter disdain to us and we fall for it.
There is a great documentary on the misogyny in hip-hop that will be aired February 20th at 10pm on PBS. The film is called Beyond Beats and Rhymes and is directed by Byron Hurt. I urge everyone to see it. Every parent must make sure that you watch this and discuss it with your children.
I was glad to see Aminisha Black’s article on the outcome of the basketball brawl between Paul Robeson and Thomas Jefferson High Schools. Matters like hip-hop, basketball and Black History are issues that our youth are interested in. We would get much further in reaching this generation of our youth if we paid more attention to these things. I know you may be surprised to find Black History in the mix; however, I have had my most profound discussions with young people once I engage them in cultural discourse which is really the key to teaching them. They are turned off by a school system that doesn’t respect them or their history.
In Mayor Bloomberg’s announcing last week that he was eliminating the regional Superintendent, he was acknowledging that his reform of the school system had failed. In truth, we need to decide how we are going to educate our children and do it. There are enough teachers and administration in place. The kind of education we want for our children is not what Bloomberg, Klein, or Weingarten have in mind. We Want Black History Now. Let’s Just Teach it.
In conclusion, I wish you all a happy Black History Month. Let us use this time to engage our community in awakening the African genius.