2001-05-19 / Columnists

From the G-Man by Gary G. Toms

Stand Back, He’s Gonna Blow!

Hey people! In the last four and a half years that I have been writing this column, there have been a number of terms used by readers to describe my style of writing and personality. Arrogant, mean, bigoted, self-righteous, biased, opinionated, expressive and self-absorbed are some of the ones that I can actually print in this article. I have my critics, and that’s okay. It comes with the territory, when you have the guts to take on certain issues or the establishment. So, for all my critics, I’m going to quote a famous wrestler. "Know your role, and shut your mouth!"

So, M.S. 53, in Far Rockaway, made the cover of Newsday last Sunday. According to the article, the school has major discipline problems and the school is out of control, as are many others within New York City. The feature also pointed out that the teachers are blaming the parents, and the parents are blaming the teachers for this situation. Man, this really grinds my onions! All this back and forth, and the kids are caught in the stupid crossfire.

If the damn country was willing to spend as much money for providing quality education instead of launching satellites into orbit every other week, funneling money into foreign lands to finance wars or sending billions in foreign aid to countries that launder it to drug cartels, maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess!

If they spent millions, or dare I say billions, to get good teachers, develop fresh academic and career oriented programs and satellite schools, maybe these kids would be less inclined to get bored, fail classes and act up. It’s a proven fact that less and less money has gone toward education in the last 15 years, especially in the inner cities. Is it any wonder why the schools are in a state of chaos?

While I’m on the subject of education, let me take this opportunity to address "Yaeger" for the very last time. I am no pseudo-educator. I’m just a person who attended public school all of my life, grew up in a very poor community all of my life, and watched the school system struggle to function most of my life. You may have watched the system deteriorate during your tenure with the education system, but this situation with the school system, particularly in communities of color, has been an ongoing practice since the Reconstruction period. Does the 1849 case, Roberts vs. the City of Boston ring a bell? How about Brown vs. the Board of Education? Hold on to your oxygen tank "Yaeger". I’m about to go deep on you.

Now, fast-forward to the present, and what you may have today is an extension of those times, but this generation is far more vocal, angry and unrestrained. You couple this with bad parenting, child abuse, stinking pedophiles infiltrating the school system, killer gangs and drugs, well, you have yourself one hell of a recipe for disaster.

These conditions are most prevalent in inner cities, and that is why so many people have fled the city and moved to Southern ones or the suburbs. No, "Yaeger", I don’t possess all the fancy degrees and accolades that you do, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that poor communities get poor funding for education, and the latest state report, that Governor Pataki vehemently challenged, proves it.

I don’t deny that every school has a little bad ass inside the classroom, and they should be dealt with accordingly. That responsibility falls on the parents, and if the parents are not doing their part, then the city and state should have every right to step in. However, you did miss the point of the article, "Yaeger", because the central focus was not placed on "European" teachers. The focus was on a school that ignored the pleas of a parent who simply wanted answers, how they avoided me, and how they tried to sweep things under the rug because the alleged teacher is set to retire this coming June! I guess you conveniently ignored these portions of the article.

You also missed the mark when I stated teachers who share a cultural relationship with their students might have a better understanding of that student. No one ever called into question whether or not a teacher can reach kids or teach kids. Again, that was not the point, and perhaps you should read the article once more.

My point was that a kid growing up in "the hood" has a certain style, method of thinking and maybe even a certain lingo. A teacher who either grew up in that environment, or has a true understanding of the environment, might have a better chance at relating to or teaching that student. There are studies to support this, and in the majority of these instances, the teachers are from minority communities. So, simply put, if I want to understand Chinese dialect, in its’ purest form, I’m not going to Saddam Hussein!

It’s the same scenario as with the NYPD. How can you expect to have good community relations if you don’t understand the people, or the culture, of the neighborhood you’re patrolling in? Even the police academy has diversity and sensitivity training! I have no doubt that some teachers could use it too.

I don’t understand why our elected officials have not been more vocal over what is happening in the Rockaway school districts, especially if they make the front page of Newsday! Why haven’t they scheduled speaking engagements at these schools? I don’t care if the school year is near its’ end. Why haven’t they worked with the Board of Education to provide role models, such as Fortune 500 C.E.O.’s, and celebrities to come and speak to these kids on a monthly basis? It may be a shot in the dark, but you have to start somewhere.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have proposals to deal with some of these issues. Maybe someone will be willing to look at them someday. After all, I do share a cultural relationship with most of the students in crisis.

See you next week!

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