Vallejo Times Herald reported, "Community and school leaders gathered Friday to discuss chronic district problems including the high expulsion rate among black students, racism, high dropout rates and declining enrollment." Attendees disagreed whether teachers and staff do not respect students, or if the reverse was true. Framing the discussion topics this way suggests student causes for Vallejo School District's problems.
Remember, this relationship consist of adult professionals with authority, teachers and staff, and juveniles without authority. Most students entered this school district at age five. Therefore, adults are to blame if students' disrespect for teachers and staff reached problem levels. Children in all human cultures seek approval from adults as an innate learning and survival trait. Their teenage attitude towards adults with whom they had close contact reflects the adults' imprint on them. Vallejo School District and others excuse their less than successful professional performance with racist excuses suggesting some racial groups have lower learning ability than other groups do. Racism is the belief that all members of different human races have characteristics or abilities specific to that race and those characteristics decide superiority or inferiority.
Thousands of students attending Vallejo School District's schools have similar skin color and nothing else in common. They have different families, different socioeconomic status, and different moral standards. They do not know one another. Scientific research in anthropology, biology, and genetics refute common biological racial traits. Nevertheless, American society continues to group and rate its citizens as if innate racial traits predetermine their conduct.
School district officials' remarks associated racial causes for 48 percent African-American and 45.8 percent Latino students' dropout rate in 2009-10, but not for the 46 percent "white" dropout rate. Those conclusions are illogical even if someone accepts racial categories. Obviously, a 48 percent dropout rate cannot indicate group members' predisposition for staying or leaving school more than a higher 52 percent remain-in-school rate does. In addition, dropout rates for three groups of students that differ by a maximum of 2 percentage points suggests a common cause in the school's environment and not traits specific to each group.
Learning is an individual task. I can understand why students disrespect teachers and staff that group them by skin color to generalize learning and discipline problems to them no matter personal accomplishments. School administrators and teachers disrespect students by grouping them as racial stereotypes and making them scapegoats for school district's failings. Naturally, many students push back with insolence.
Vallejo Teachers Union President Christal Watts attended the gathering. She wrote in her blog this year. "Imagine being accused of something without being able to give your side of the story. Is there anyone out there who really believes that a teacher shouldn't have the right to meet with a parent who has lodged a complaint against them? . . . It has made me angry that the profession that I entered into over a decade ago has become a scapegoat for all that is wrong with our country."
Students have the same need for individual recognition for commendation or blame. They also feel hurtful contempt for a system that generalizes negative group traits to them based on skin color or ancestry. Race-based instruction, teaching to the stereotype, is an offensive attack on students' self-image that brands them low-achieving African-American or Latino students no matter their personal achievement. No doubt, news reports of school district officials generalizing undisciplined conduct to them is hurtful. They must view staff and teachers' motives with suspicion. Teachers encourage mutual respect in the classroom. Then, school district officials disrespect them with public evaluations of their learning that generalize low academic achievement to them as racial group members suffering an achievement gap with white students. This characterization places them below the gap no matter individual accomplishment. I'm sure many stigmatized students wish they could wear a sign saying, "I'm an "A" student with perfect attendance." This negative racial assessment wrongly convinces others struggling to learn they have inborn racial limitations they cannot overcome.
Like Watts, those students also might say, "Imagine being accused of something as a racial stereotype without being able to give your side of the story. Is there anyone out there who really believes that a student shouldn't have the right to have teachers and school officials identify them as individuals for praise or criticism? . . It has made me angry that the student group that I entered over a decade ago has become a racial scapegoat for all that is wrong with our school district."
Someone must question American school administrators and teachers' compassion that brutalize students this way. Perhaps, cultural racism dehumanized students' image as African-American and Latino stereotypes so society no longer recognizes them as individuals with capacity to suffer emotionally from the abuse.
Vallejo and other Bay Area schools engaged this new form of racial cultural segregation in schools for at least two decades as dropout rates and discipline problems soared. The problem solutions are simple. Treat students respectfully as individual Americans. Then, provide the instruction they need to prosper in America. Not all will make it, but a much higher percentage of them will.