Think back through all of the teachers that you’ve had in your life. For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that you had one main teacher for every year of schooling from kindergarten to 12th grade; that’s 13 different people. How many of them were women? How many were white? If you are like most American school children, those numbers would be 10 and 11 respectively.
In undergrad, I was friends with a handful of future teachers, and one night one of them invited me to a movie screening that the Black Students Association was hosting about systemic racism in public education. I had a casual understanding of most of the information that the movie presented, but one statistic jumped out at me, and I haven’t been able to shake it in the years since. Only 2% of America’s teachers are black men.
Seventy-five percent of America’s teachers are women, and 83% are white. Along with nursing, teaching is one of the only professions to be dominated by women. When women first broke into the work force, these fields were basically their only options for work. As such, it came to be seen as women’s work. This seems like a victory for feminism, but is it?
In the last few weeks of class, we’ve been focusing on some of the outlier effects of a patriarchal society. The Mask You Live In documentary reminded me of that other documentary I saw back in undergrad. Specifically the teacher, Ashanti Branch, talking about being there for his students and helping them learn a different type of masculinity than the one presented in popular culture.
Black boys are in the center of a tension between that view of masculinity that the film explained to us and the way that students are expected to act by their white educators. Black students are 3 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white counterparts. Boys are more likely than girls to be suspended in low performing schools. Putting black men in teaching roles would likely help to close these gaps. These men offer understanding and grace to students who remind them of what their own schooling was like. There is evidence that children do better academically when they have ateacher who is their same race.
While I still believe all children should be taught how to learn from people who are not like them, I don’t think that value should disproportionately affect minority students. And if there’s a chance to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, shouldn’t we give it all we’ve got? (https://www.aclu.org/issues/juvenile-justice/school-prison-pipeline)