Monday, February 25, 2013

The War On Our Children

Photo by Beverly & Pack
Blackboard Wars, a new show on the OWN network has recently caught my attention. It’s a show about one of the lowest rating, failing schools in America, specifically in New Orleans--John McDonough High School. The show focuses on the principal, Dr. Marvin Thompson, his staff and students and it’s quite an exciting show. I’m thrilled to see another male of color (with a PhD, I might add & add to the ranks of Dr. Steve Perry) taking an active role in the lives of kids of color & in a positive way. Dr. T, as the kids affectionately call him, gives hugs with discipline. He provides a space for the students to contemplate their actions and he encourages them to use their minds to counter emotional reactivity. He talks to them as independent young adults and treats them as real people. He actually cares about them and what happens in their lives.

The show also reflects varying degrees of adjustment for the school district, the black and white newbie teachers and the struggles of the community--from hurricane ravaged communities and poverty to kids with mental health issues and an active, emotionally charged school board. I have a special interest in the show because I, myself, used to work in a public school years ago. It was the 1st job I had in professional Social Work and I was placed in what was considered one of the worse communities for crime, HIV/AIDS infections, teen pregnancy and increased high school drop-out--- the Morrisania section of the South Bronx. It was tough, just as tough 13 years later for these kids in New Orleans. Children as young as 5th graders were in gangs, teachers were getting into physical altercations with students and some children were giving fellatio in the corridors of the school. And others were walking the halls part of the day, just as some of these kids do on Blackboard Wars. With the exception of diagnoses, at times, as with the students of McDonough many there are labeled with Bipolar Disorder. Many of the students I used to work with may have had undiagnosed mental illness but mostly they were also managing environmental stressors associated with poverty, single parenthood, biculturalism, and disease, not much different than the students in New Orleans. Contrary to popular belief, New York City is not much better of a place to live sometimes than the slums of poor countries around the world.

So, when you think about the education of children, do you consider who’s in the fight for children of color who struggle with obstacles as insurmountable as the ones so many children experience everyday? Are we in multiple wars in the ghettos of America and if so, who provides the ammunition, the rescue and the recovery?


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