This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

September 15, 2009

School is a Battlefield

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 9:26 am

Friday, September 4

Dear Dr. _____:

I have just read that ours is one of the school systems refraining from allowing children to see and hear President Obama’s address this coming Tuesday. If true, how very disappointing that a democratically elected sitting president of our nation could be treated with such disdain and disrespect. As a new resident of this county, I am deeply ashamed. I thought that when I moved back to Indiana I was moving to a state that had progressed past its insular, sometimes narrow-minded past. I see that much work is yet to be accomplished, however.

[PPR_Scribe], PhD

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday, September 5

Greetings _____, _____, and _____:

I am writing to find out what the policy will be in the _____ School building, and/or in both of your classrooms regarding the airing of President Obama’s back-to-school speech to the nation’s schoolchildren on Tuesday. I have already emailed the superintendent of _____, voicing my extreme dismay that he has decided to not take the stand to allow our children to view and hear this message, but instead is passing the buck along to individual schools and classrooms.

Please be advised that if _____ School or either of your classrooms will not be participating, my husband and I may consider not sending our children to school that day. This type of partisan nonsense has no place in today’s society and surely even citizens who did not support the President’s campaign should be able to stomach the idea that for a few moments out of one day their children will hear a sitting and democratically-elected president’s encouragement about school success.

I look forward to your quick response so that we can make alternate arrangements for Tuesday if necessary.

Sincerely,

[PPR_Scribe], PhD

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Monday, September 7

I am deeply disappointed at the lack of response to my request, as well as the lack of publicizing of exactly what _____ School’s response will be. I understand that this request was made over the weekend, but I would have thought that I would have received at least one response, or have been able to find out about the _____ School policy from some other source.

I found on your website, _____, that the children in your class will not be viewing the President’s speech. This disappoints me as well. I could find no information on-line about a school-wide policy, or what might be happening in your classroom, _____.

I will be coming to pick up my children, _____ and _____, from school tomorrow shortly before the broadcast of the speech, approximately 11:45 EST, and will return them to the school following the speech.

I am still looking for, and will continue to seek, an official statement about why these decisions were made. I am not convinced that the reason was that it would be disruptive to the school day. Surely the children will not suffer from one day of no or reduced recess. Additionally, although I have only been a parent of the school for one year, I have already seen numerous times when the school day was “disrupted” for other special events. What I am looking for is why this event, specifically, was deemed different enough *not* to allow the children to participate during the school day.

I look forward to your responses.

Sincerely,

[PPR_Scribe], PhD

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Tuesday, September 8 (6:50 AM)

Thank you for your response, _____. Yes, I do understand the lack of response to my emails, and should have searched a little more for the on-line response that you excerpted below.

My disappointment remains that the school decided not to take leadership on this issue. That a small group of vocal parents (I hope, small!) could cause so many intelligent people to buckle under partisan pressure and not allow a presidential address during the school day is unfortunate. I remain unconvinced that such an address was not shown because of concerns about its relevance to “curriculum and programming.” I wonder: what kind of curriculum and programming exist in the classrooms of _____ School that makes irrelevant a Presidential encouragement to children to take responsibility to work hard at school?

I am still waiting on an official response about why such an address was deemed necessary to handle in such a way, as if the President would be speaking on a sensitive topic such as sexuality or violence. Why, for example, were plans only made for parents of children whose classroom teachers *would* be airing the address but who did not want their children to, but not for those parents whose teachers chose *not* to air the address but who *wanted* their children to?

At the very least, I would have hoped that a school as lacking in diversity at the faculty and other adult leadership level would welcome the opportunity to ensure that all children got the chance to view a man of African descent in a leadership role–the first such to serve in the office of President of the United States–to address them in the context of the school day. I will state it plainly: I am not unaware that much of the opposition to the President’s speech has a racial component. I read the speech myself last night and there is nothing in it that I could discern that was disturbing, or “socialist” in nature, “disruptive” to the curriculum, or otherwise deserving of such treatment by school administrators so many places.

As an African American parent of African American children I fear that we have ended up in a school environment where–despite many parents’ smiles and cheery words to me—large numbers of parents’ have such regressive and narrow minded attitudes that Indiana was once known for in communities of color, but that I had thought were a thing of the past. I hope that I am wrong about this and that, again, the opposition was smaller than the power of their voices seem to indicate.

Again, I remain dissatisfied at your official response as the head leader of _____ School. This reflects, in my opinion, poorly on our school, and poorly on our school system.

I have not heard from _____ but I will plan on picking up my children as I mentioned previously.

Best wishes,

[PPR_Scribe]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday, September 8 (7:50AM)

______:

For me the issue of the type of social environment my children are in at school is not a “debate.” This experience has been extremely hurtful for me as an African American parent of children in a school with so few children who are themselves African American. That you had to spend so much time listening to parents who, I assume, objected to the speech is—once again—cause for me to believe that perhaps my parent peers are not as open-minded as I would hope.

I can only do that—make assumptions—since no information about the nature of _____ School parents’ concerns has been provided (that I can discern). Nor can I find any information about teachers who *did* decide to air the speech so that I could see what constituted a connection to curriculum and programming as far as _____ School teachers are concerned. My specific fears that the reactionary nature to the speech had racial components were not addressed in your email, so, again, I am at a loss as how to interpret what I believe to be a most unfortunate community reaction and resulting decision on the part of school and district leadership.

It sounds from your email that you wish to be done with this issue so I will leave it for now. In the future I would hope that you consider that all students and their parents have points of view that are valuable and deserve to be addressed in a meaningful way. The only “other family,” whoever that may be, and my own family, are no less deserving of this consideration because we are few in number.

Best,

[PPR_Scribe]
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Wednesday, September 9
Thank you for this more in-depth response to my concerns. At some point I think I would love to have a conversation about diversity programming in general at _____ School. At that point I will likely bring up my personal and professional opinions about (a) the ways in which these parents may have expressed their concerns in non-(explicitly) racial terms, but that perhaps reveal racial bias all the same, and (b) what schools like _____ might be able to do to foster a more inclusive and open-mined atmosphere.

Have a good rest of your day.

Best,

[PPR_Scribe]
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4 Comments »

  1. *****Carey is standing,and clapping ****

    Good job PPR_Scribe!

    Lets hope your poignant letters deters similar actions in the future. It’s a shame the residue affacts of this racist action can’t be taken away. I know it may be a bold move to call this racism but I’m having a hard time classifying it in any other term.

    Comment by careycarey — September 15, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  2. I’m so impressed with your response and your tenacity.

    Comment by Julia — September 16, 2009 @ 10:25 am

  3. Julia, in the case of each of these responses there was the gut reaction I *wanted* to say and the final version you see here. It is a fine line between “stand up for your kids” and “bat-sh** crazy parent.” We can only do the best we can, yes? 🙂

    Thanks, Carey. Especially nice coming from a seasoned parent like yourself. In the responses from the school officials (which I did not reproduce here–it just felt funny to do so) it was clear they were uncomfortable with me calling this racism. Actually, I did not do that, did I. I think I said “racial” or something. But if schools really believe in the nice-sounding diversity statements they post on their webpages they have to LIVE it.

    Comment by pprscribe — September 16, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

  4. […] school personnel over their decision regarding the President’s back-to-school speech illustrates, raising Black children in the USA can, indeed, be life on a battlefield. There are some negative […]

    Pingback by The Obamas and The (Re)Discovery of Blackness « This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life — October 29, 2009 @ 4:10 pm


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