Jewish World Review April 20, 2004 / 30 Nissan, 5764

Stanley Crouch

Crouch
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Teach kids the world is theirs


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | There is so much blather about the teaching of black and Latino children that we sometimes lose sight of what is actually going on and what is possible. Some of this has to do with the ever present racism that now hides itself in a rather ungainly way: under a net of graphs and statistics intended to pass off raw bigotry as science.

Let's face it, they say, those black and Latino kids just can't do it. Our studies prove it; we're where we are because we're smarter, and they're where they are because they're dumber. Sorry, they say, it's all in the genes.

But, of course, genes don't explain it. Black Americans and Latinos are so mixed up in their bloodstreams - plenty of Africa here, some Indian there, some Asian on a near or far branch and, as often as not, plenty of European. So, we have to think of something else. Too bad, you phony-baloneys, fake science intent upon proving the superstitions of racism remains fake.

Other things need to be considered. A number of them have been uncovered by Dr. James Comer, an innovator in American public education, who has a very provocative interview (annonline.com, search: Comer).

Comer has been working on educational projects since 1968 and has concentrated on the components necessary for student success. All of his models are based on bringing together parental support, teacher involvement and whatever mental or personal assistance is necessary to not only make the kids good students, but help them develop into good citizens.

He has achieved such high results that his models have been adopted by 600 school systems across the nation.

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One of the things that Comer finds essential - and that has worked in all of his projects - is removing the sense of isolation from the students, the school and the neighborhood.

Students need to feel that they are not only part of the community from which they come, but that the city in which they live is theirs, as well as the nation and the world.

In other words, they need to learn very early on that they have an ethnic heritage as well as a human one and that it is their job to bring the two together in ways that fit their individual goals.

Comer also believes that we have to consider the impact of mass media on aberrant and anti-social behavior. That is because this is the first time in the history of the world that uncensored images and information of all sorts go directly into the minds of children who are unprepared for them.

Comer's vision moves the discussion beyond the oppositional interpretation of "authentic" identity as an individual or an ethnic group that presently plagues our society.

If children, whatever their backgrounds, are able to define themselves free of the ideology of alienation, they might well develop into those who help our society find its way.


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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.

Up


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