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by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Someone sent me a video the other day, telling me “You’ve got to see this.” It’s ironic that I received this message because I’d just returned from speaking to an auditorium full of principals, counselors and teachers in Miami, all of whom were deeply concerned about finding ways to educate black children. Conscientious educators and parents are our most valuable soldiers in the battle for the souls of our children and for that, and they should be greatly appreciated.
But every time you want to applaud the good teachers for doing their best, you then see something like this.
In this video (below), a young girl (as Kanye West might say) goes H.A.M. on her teacher for not teaching her and her classmates. In a 10 minute screaming and yelling session, the young woman says that she’s tired of hearing the teacher tell one stupid story after another and dumbing down the class to make students feel comfortable. She is expressing the kind of rage and indignation all of us should feel over the fact that our children are being fed through the educational system like cattle without ever receiving the tools they need in order to be successful.
I am not sure what this teacher was doing to set the young woman off, but there is a deeper meaning behind this explosive dialogue. While the young woman expresses her concern with the rage of a teenager, the truth is that we should all be outraged when our kids spend more time memorizing self-destructive music than learning how to read and write. Parents should be livid when they send their kids to school every day and find that their kids haven’t learned a thing. Teachers should be angry that we’ve got a system that is more concerned with maintaining counterproductive bureaucratic procedures than actually making sure our kids get what they need.
Harvard University historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once said that “Great women are rarely well-behaved.” So, while this teen may be breaking every rule in the book, the fact is that she might be saying something that truly needs to be said. The same way that slaves in 1812 had to fight in order to learn how to read, we are forced to fight in 2012 to help our kids to learn the basics in order to avoid a lifetime of self-destruction. Education is one of the great civil rights issues of the twenty-first century, and these battles aren’t won by being polite.
It’s time to occupy our schools.