OUR TIME PRESS ASKS¼¼

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“Why are there so few new teachers of color in the NYC public schools this year?”
From a writer, Bettie Terrie, who is of African and Native American descent and lives in Brooklyn¼¼
Chancellor Klein welcomed new teachers to the NYC Department of Education at Martin Luther King High School in late August.  To an observer, it looked as though fewer than 20 percent of these new teachers were people of color-in this city where children of color are almost 75% of the school population.  In addition, no bookstores representing communities of color were seen at the teacher material and information fair.
The topic for the book distributed for the 2004 NYC Dept.of Education new teacher orientation was “children at risk”.  This selection as a text for new teachers indicates a different and opposite approach to the recommendations of the report from the Commission on Students of African Decent submitted to the then NYC Board of Education several years ago.
In that report, Dr. Asa Hilliard, a noted educator and author of African descent, notes that in the world of learning and teaching, far too many teachers are receiving negative messages about our children.  Quoting Hilliard, he says teachers are incorrectly taught that our children, “‘¼are seen as ‘culturally deprived’, or ‘at risk’.  With such a limited and distorted problem definition, and without recognition or respect for African ethnicity, it is impossible to pose valid remedies of low student achievement, including the design of valid teacher education.” (p.5)
As people of color it is critical that we break new ground and do an all out campaign to encourage and support our students to become teachers and press for more government support for training, and requiring cultural competency as a crteria in certification tests. Also, there are teachers of color (and teachers of European descent) who do not pass Eurocentric cultural-bound tests, but who have excelled in teaching children of color to succeed.
The participation of college students in the civil rights movement was a test of their strength and courage.  Today we need to think about how to develop programs, and specific strategies to support the growth of culturally competent teachers.  In addition, we need to let our children know we are there to help them be not the talented “tenth” but the talented 100%.

From a woman of African descent who is a writer, activist and urban development specialist in New York City¼¼¼¼¼¼
I think the reason the majority of teachers are not people of color is because for decades all educators allowed in the system were European and they serviced the needs of the  immigrant waves of children for the first half of the last century.   This and the “last hired- first fired” policy that kept blacks and browns from promotion and tenure, not to mention inhospitable union and Board of Education policies that resulted in negative as opposed to affirmative actions, all contributed to this imbalance. Since the 1950s, NYC public school students have reflected immigrants of color who hail from the Caribbean and South and Central American. Thus, we have the situation where there is a disconnect between the teachers’ culture and community and the students’ culture and community. They don’t live in the same place, have the same family structures or history, or share the same value systems. You can’t teach teachers to care about students/families they don’t know or particularly like. But you can, with planning, arrange the delivery of knowledge through systems that mesh well with the new immigrants’ cultural mores and expectations. The planning of knowledge delivery is a foreign concept to most Americans, but should be thought of as an important aspect of regional planning and strengthening civic participation to its highest possible rate.
People in today’s world are really circles of knowledge, culture and community that frequently overlap and feed into one another. This is the answer for public education, letting the people do with the money what they will to educate their children on a neighborhood- by -neighborhood, almost block- by- block basis. Parents are the first teachers and must express their dreams for their children in comfortable settings that acknowledge their right to exist as human beings, with flaws, but also with grace enough to entrust those who say they know to teach their children something parents may not have the skills to teach them. More succinctly, I think further assignment of the responsibility for public education is needed, perhaps to the library and social agency level, such that people are involved because they cannot be other than involved.
The goal of the question is to explore the fact that 50% of Black men are out of work in New York City and tuition at City College, which trains many NY teachers, is no longer free as it was many years ago. In the 50’s and 60’s there was a question asked of all city employees, ” Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party.” Today the question is, “Can you pass the fingerprint test with no arrests in your record.” Our children are being arrested in school buildings on a daily basis and the prison population of black men exceeds that of our colleges.
Niamo Nancy Mu’id, director of Development Services at The City College of New York / CUNYOffice of Development and Institutional  Advancement Convent Avenue at 138th Street, Shepard Hall, Room 154, New York, NY 10031 212-650-8115 212-650-7149 (fax)  nmuid@ccny.cuny.edu visit The City College of New York Web Site: www.ccny.cuny.edu