This is a two part report of my experience today in an elementary school in Dekalb County Georgia. The basic set up of this post can be found at the link below. In that portion I give a "matter of fact" and constructive review of the events that I saw. I have no doubt at all that the instructional and administrative staff at that school wants nothing but success for the children but they are also faced with dealing with the children that they have and the totality of their lives as they enter through the school door.
The Simulcast - The Positive, Constructive Review
Here is my more stinging criticism of what I saw - applied to my personal philosophy as well as addressing the question "What would I want my own children exposed to in the way of messages that influence them?"
In talking with the substitute teacher prior to the entire event he told me about the "Above Memorial Drive" schools and the "Below Memorial Drive Schools". The "above" schools have racial diversity. The southern Dekalb schools are straight up "Inner City Schools strong on Urban Culture" and all that goes along with it. The substitute told me about an incident of physical violence against a male substitute teacher that he was by his own choice - excused from attending to for the second day of his assignment. After checking out the situation after the first day with the class - he declined to return for the second day. This was clearly a good call.
For the life of me I cannot get over what I heard being given tacit endorsement by the administrators from the Dekalb Public Schools. Snoop Dogg's popular song "Sexual Attraction" (and that is just the radio name) used that the framework for an EDUCATIONAL song? With the words having been changed to "Addition and Subtraction" is the underlying offense of this endorsement any less?
Rather than attempting to tap in to the the popularity of the most vile and exploitative individuals that we have emanating from our community this should be a "Snoop Dogg Free Zone"!
The two guest speaker introductions were quite telling: The first guy was presented as a family man, college graduate who works for a good company. The type of his degree was documented. The second guy claimed that he has a undergraduate and graduate degree but never gave details of where he went and what he studied. His employer? A record label and he is part of "Young Joc's CREW".
I have little doubt that at this point some of you are saying "the hateration is bubbling over". Guess what - ITS' NOT ABOUT ME!!! The question must be ultimately asked: "What are they attempting to INDOCTRINATE into these kids? What attributes are included in this vision?"
Where as some people saw "kids having fun" being entertained with signing and then being called up to dance and finally getting excited about physical prizes as handouts.......I could not help but to see the basic offense in all of this. This school per the rankings in the following web site (http://www.psk12.com/rating/USthreeRsphp/STATE_GA_level_Elementary_CountyID_644.html) ranking with a total that is in the 30's. The top performing school just as a reference has a 245. (Again - I do not plan to specifically identify this school).
There was one little girl that I kept an eye on. When she first walked in the door I asked if she was the second twin of of of the other twin boys that stood in front of her. She sat in the front of the assembly because the little ones stat up front. I asked her a question during my talk. When the rapper was on stage I saw her again. He picked her to come up front with the other 3 girls who were asked to dance. She was not inclined to dance, shy like all of the boys and one of the other girls. As she looked on at the older girl who danced the new style dance that appealed to the crowd I saw this little girl that I favored so much as my own - as receiving a bit of indoctrination as to what the NORM of behavior is within the school and in the community in which she lives. If she or her parents once thought that this type of street dancing was inappropriate in school the prevailing culture and peer pressure is going to dissolve all such thoughts over time.
The racial stereotype against our people is that we like "dancing, being entertained, and we are prone to be easily influenced by people who stand on stage and give us free stuff". I could not help but to notice that all three of these items were being hit upon at this event. I tried to balance my "corporate and conservative" baseline reference with the day in the life of these children. I then applied two points of inference - what I know goes on in my children's school in a different county that has far better outcomes and then what I would allow for my own children. With these two references - this school failed miserably in consideration of the messages that are allowed into its assembly and thus what is tacitly approved by the school system of Dekalb County.
The prevailing school culture has to be in line with the ultimate goals of the school itself. A "tale of two cities" comparison could be made between those schools that are effective at accomplishing their mission and those who are failing to do so while making note of the differences in background economic resources and family structures. It is clear to me that the content of this show would not have been presented to the elementary school children. The choice has been made - entertain the children in the context with their cultural norms. There is no doubt that the teacher's cultural references are also a factor of this. The fact that as fellow adults a good portion of them seemingly went along with the program was enough for me to see that it was me who was the outsider.
I must ask this specific school and all other predominately Black schools, those of which that are struggling to improve their performance: WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO GIVE UP IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE YOUR ACADEMIC GOALS AND TO MAKE THE APPROPRIATE REDIRECTION WITHIN THESE CHILDREN'S LIVES SO THEY ARE PUT ON A DIFFERENT TRACK THAN THAT WHICH IS COMMONLY AVAILABLE TO THEM?
One common theme of this entire blog is to consider the COST of the prevailing set of popular policies, cultural norms that are enforced among our people. One sure way to be attacked as a Black man is to be seen as a "conservative". If there is no guiding context to match all of these influences against than indeed these enforcers might be considered as being correct and working in the 'best interests of Black people'. However as we make note of the frustrations heard regarding how too many of our children seek to be "athletes or singers/rappers" both of which are long shots, while they squander the key academic skills that would actually allow them to interact with the greater society equipped with said skills.
The basic flawed assumption that I saw on display is the assumption that you could "meet these kids where they reside" and try to relate to their culture for the sake of reaching them. Absence of any JUDGMENT of this culture and the imposition of an alternative one that would indeed achieve different results the school is but a conduit rather than a strong transformer.
I am quite certain that the "North of Memorial Drive" schools would not conduct their assembly as such. In fact the exodus from certain schools by both students and faculty being driven by a "here they come" attitude is driven by that which I saw at the assembly. If the Atlanta Housing Authority has a policy in which a certain culture is never again allowed to be the predominant force in their housing developments then it is quite understandable for this policy would take hold in the schools as well for understandable reasons.
What about the system rather than just the school? Me, the rapper, and the remade Snoop Dogg song were all resources provided to the students by the Dekalb County School System. From my understanding the "Communities In Schools" resource program sponsored the rapper's appearance in conjunction with a local hip hop radio station. Where as the neighboring Fulton County school system has a major "north/south" divide that has racial and economic sources in the conflict I am rather certain that this show would not take place at a "North of Memorial Drive" school.
Indeed the school has little control over the mindset and material situation that their students come to them with. The school, however, does has control over what receives official sanction during its assemblies. In my opinion the school crossed the line according to my tastes. I would personally not want my children to be influenced in this way. Where as when I was a child I too might have been up front as some of the little boys were and not participated in the dance contest. At that time in my life I would have had felt feelings of personal doubt because I had failed to satisfy the whims of the roaring crowd asking to be entertained. As an adult looking in at the scenario that these young people were put into and the influences that they were indoctrinated with it was clear to me that those who danced the street dance and won the prizes were out of line and the boys and girls who were put on the spot and asked to dance at this academically oriented assembly should not have been put upon as such.
Here is the great irony. The rapper asked these young people to dance as he called them up. My original plan was to call up 10 young people to act out or at least talk about what they ate for breakfast, what they would do with a brother or sister who's noise kept them up the night before the test. I was not sure about the amount of time that I had so I kept it to the 10 minutes that they said I had. Now that I think of it - I should have brought up some volunteers to bring out their acting skills as a counter to what they were asked to do later.
In summary - we are in a battle for the minds and culture that will be seen as the norm in our community. Where as "those who have" as I do the claim is that we run away from these people. The fact of the matter is, however, I am a CONSUMER and I am going to pick and choose the ultimate environment that my children are raised within. There is no racial bond that bears upon those who are said to be "without". It seems to always be put upon me to "not leave them behind". The real question must be - are they willing to come along?