Public Comment

Commentary: Schools Are Better Now

By Al Durrette
Friday November 30, 2007

In “The State of Education” in the Nov. 23 Daily Planet, teacher Jonathan Stephens decries the “diminishing intellectual returns” in today’s classrooms, but fails to appreciate the deepened understanding of other cultures and behaviors, and the internalization of the idea of justice, that students achieve in today’s multi-cultural equal-opportunity classrooms. 

I was unfortunately educated in the segregated South. There we all learned to read and write and do math, but most of us would happily give up a little of those skills if we could have had the richer experience of diversity and justice. 

How pallid were our occasional schoolyard fights in that era, compared to the spirited conflicts that Mr. Stephens has “witnessed nearly every day,” and which he misinterprets as “racially charged violence.” There is no reason to think that students hurling racial epithets at each other as they fight are necessarily being “racial”—name calling is only natural when adolescent feelings boil over into physical conflict. 

Mr. Stephens writes, “Until we create a classroom culture that can guarantee teachers will have the opportunity to practice their trade in peace and safety, the problems facing us will only get worse.” 

Surely Mr. Stephens would not want to return to the safe and peaceful mono-cultural classrooms of the segregated South? The conditions he has witnessed are just “growing pains” that may take a century or two to work themselves out as we move closer to the dream we share with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of a colorblind rainbow society.