Ruben Navarrette: White Parents Learn What Latinos and African Americans Already Know: Schools Disrespect Parents

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Where have these people gone? Of course, schools treat parents with disdain and condescension. This is what they do.

No wonder the relationship between parents and schools is so damaged. We hand our children over to school officials, and too often these people respond by making us feel uneducated or uninformed when we challenge them or question their methods.

In 30 years of writing about K-12 education, I have heard from dozens of parents who have been turned down when they went to their child’s school to voice their concerns. My favorite example is from the Mexican American father from Central California who said that the principal of his son’s school was anxious to show him the door – despite the fact that dad was a Harvard graduate, a lawyer with a master’s degree in education and a member of the school board. What hope is there for us?

Educators make lousy students. They don’t listen. They give lessons. And they generally don’t see parents as their equals.

This is what I saw with my own eyes as a reporter and subway columnist in Arizona in the late 1990s, when I covered a popular revolt by Latino parents who rose up against bilingual education. .

First, school administrators tried to “gas” Latino parents into thinking they were imagining things. Then they argued that the children would learn English if they learned their lessons in Spanish.

Sure. The best way to learn algebra is to study biology.

Parents were disdainfully informed that all “research” supported the theory that mother tongue instruction was the only way to teach students with limited English proficiency. Never mind that, as an independent researcher, political scientist Christine Rossell pointed out, most of the research that has supported bilingual education has relied on unscientific methods. Never mind that part of this research was funded by organizations that promote bilingual education. No conflict of interest there.

Much of the problem is arrogance. In school settings, teachers probably believe they are the experts. They read the books, attended the lessons and studied how the education system works.

Except that every teacher knows that their job is going to be much more difficult without parental support. And support can be difficult to get when people feel insulted.

For example, Latino parents in Arizona were told, “Come back when you’ve read the research. You would expect better customer service from public sector employees.

That schools disrespect parents might be news for privileged whites, but Latino and African American parents have faced it ever since before the invention of blackboards and chalk.

This is what former President Barack Obama recalled in his memoir, “Dreams from My Father”: the frustration he felt when trying to defend parents in Chicago public schools. Even when schools were run by African Americans, black parents were still treated poorly. Their children were taken away from college prep and disciplined more often than white students. And when parents complained, their concerns were largely ignored. In fact, when African Americans are asked why they support school choice, they say they want their voices heard. Why? Because they feel that no one is listening to them.

As a young community organizer fresh out of Columbia University, Obama saw a lot of this with his own eyes. It taught him the one major lesson all education reformers will learn sooner or later: Public schools do not exist for the benefit of the children who learn there, but for the convenience of the adults who work there.

This lesson followed Obama to the White House. Pushing his $ 4 billion education reform initiative, “Race To The Top,” he fought against teacher unions and insisted that schools be held accountable for student performance. To access funds, states have had to remove “firewalls” that prevent student performance from influencing teacher pay. Some states, notably California, have refused money rather than giving change. So, for the most part, Obama’s education reforms have come to naught.

Now quickly advance to the current battles over masking and vaccines and critical breed theory. It is only when white parents face insults and condescension from public schools that we are told that we are facing a national crisis.

The truth is, Latino and African American parents have been watching this crisis for some time now. They just did it alone.

Ruben Navarrette can be contacted at [email protected]
© 2021, The Washington Post Writers Group


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