Gwinnett County, Ga. Needs Black History Month | Community Spirit

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Gwinnett County, Ga. Needs Black History Month

The recent events in Gwinnett County Georgia proves America still needs Black History Month.

Not only the recognition of African American contributions to this country, but the continuation
of educating non Black, that respect and dignity should be shown at all times. In the educational
realms of our schools Professional Development is still needed for cultural, racial and colorism
understanding of teachers.

We have not arrived to the degree of sensitivity and respect that is awarded to other cultures
in America. It seems that Black women can be called ugly in news reports claiming the use of
data and scientific research:
http://thestir.cafemom.com/in_the_news/120548/Black_Women_Are_Ugly_Scientific
Black men are told they are more destined to be criminals and involved in criminal behaviours:
http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2007/12/26/18515/ron-paul-95-percent-of-black-men-are-criminal/

Black children in our educational systems are exposed to the ugly realities of possible racism,
potential unethical behaviours and poor decision making . The recent events in Gwinnett County
show that even educators can be insensitive to their students and make very stupid decisions.
Maybe with the coming of Black History month these educators wanted to precede the month
with information that makes their kids go hmnmm.

Homework Assignment
http://blackandmarriedwithkids.com/2012/01/06/video-third-grade-homework-asks-how-many-oranges-can-each-slave-pick

The recent events in Gwinnett County are a testament that Blacks have not arrived in the
sense of equal respect or sensitivity to the emotional and psychological support that as a
people Blacks justly deserve. If this was an equal and just situation, the mention of Jews would
have been mentioned, they were slaves in Egypt in the time of Pharaoh which is also historically
documented. Reading information from “How long were Jews  slaves in Egypt?”
http://judaism.about.com/od/passove1/f/slaveegypt.htm  this information is available online.

Why was this not also presented, it is historical fact as well. The insensitive nature of the
homework questions posed to students on the homework displays a lack of common sense
that these educators should have had. Regardless of any cross-curricular assignment
common sense and dignity should be shown at all times.

The sensitivity to the students and their parents cultural background should always be
thought of when developing content and assessments that could cause any type of educational
distraction.  Information from the International Test Commission, ”Culture can be understood
as “a shared way of life of a group of people” (Berry, Poortinga, Segall & Dasen, 2002).

In this case the teachers did not understand the students nor took into consideration the
parents views and the way they would perceive the testing questions. Thus many non
Blacks, not just white teachers do not understand or do not care to understand their
students or other cultural backgrounds. There is a shared group mentality that each group
is given respect and their cultural differences are respected and considered.  

Education is a diverse occupation, but teachers have to learn to embrace diversity and
understand that the wording and development of assessments (testing) can affect a
student’s success or failure. Culture does have a link in assessment development.
Taken from Culture and Assessment: Discovering What Students Really Know, 2010,
“but what if the way we ask the questions
unintentionally causes some students to fail? What if our assessments miss uncovering
the depth and complexity of knowledge because they contain assumptions about
language, culture, values, and experiences that these students don't share?”

Many Black students do not understand the complexity of slavery, but teachers still
must be sensitive when using this type of material when teaching and testing knowledge
about slavery or a cross integration of curriculums. If done in the wrong way the
teacher creates confusion, accusations of unethical behavior and the perception or
being careless and unprofessional concerning race. Suggestions for teachers when
designing questions is that for parents to have input in (of understanding) the design
and potential implementation. Stated in Culture and Assessment, “Getting to that point
involves communication with community and others in the community based on mutual
respect.” Respect is a key component for educational success of students. Parental
support is valuable and far reaching for teachers. If teachers do not have parental
support or respect there will be serious challenges because teachers will not have the
confidence of parents to be effective in the classroom and in the community.

Sharon Nelson-Barber, former Director of WestEd's Center for the Study of Culture and
Language in Education states when developing assessments there should be, “advocates
for cross-cultural awareness and competence in assessment and teaching because
such understanding sets a more solid foundation for improving student success.” One
of the items for discussion for students is their ability to understand what is actually
asked of them to perform. Slavery is a sensitive subject for many people not just Blacks,
so even the discussion can cause anxiety, stress, and other emotional responses.
Even though the students talked about slavery in class, have questions on a test may
as Nelson-Barber states, “elicits very little of the student's understanding” Teachers
must consider at all times the ramifications of their questions and the potential student
impact. Because education is an experience Nelson-Barber asks, "What is it about a
test question that continually appears not to map onto some students' experiences?"

This incident is a lesson for other educators when developing assessment or testing
questions. Be careful of the content and context of the questions, a cultural awareness
would guide test creation, test dissemination, and test evaluation. A broader look might
bring about eliminating cultural bias in testing and the need for accommodations for
some students and at least an understanding of what not to ask. At the school level,
teachers and administrators can build alliances with parents and leaders of different
cultural groups represented in the school populace. Partnerships can be especially
vital to school communities where demographics have changed the student populations
of many classrooms and new teachers that are unskilled and unaware of the cultural
diversity in schools they work in.

A word of caution and wisdom to educators and administrators:
Culture and communication are inseparable because culture not only dictates who
talks to whom, about what, and how the communication proceeds, it also helps to
determine how people encode (understand) messages, the meanings they have for
messages, and the conditions and circumstances under which various messages may
or may not be sent, noticed, or interpreted...
Culture...is the foundation of communication. (Samovar, Porter, & Jain, 1981) 

Children encode and decode information differently then adults, so educators need
to be knowledgeable and sensitive to their students and what maybe potential parental
reactions. Living in southern states there are still sensitive feelings about slavery, the
civil war, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. So educators themselves must
"educate" themselves about how others will perceive, Black, White, Asian, Jewish,
Hispanics, Muslem, etc.No one likes to be disrespected and degraded, slavery is a
travisty in World history not just American History.

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