Thanks to my friend Jeffrey for giving me the heads-up on this one:
Today’s Daily News has a cover story about “Saint Arlene” Ackerman, our city’s beleaguered Schools Superintendent. After so many stories from people who want her out (because she’s tone deaf, because she’s abrasive, because she has a funny way of distributing city contracts, because she doesn’t think that tormenting Asian students is worthy of severe punishment) now comes an article about how some people adore the Martyr from Harvard.
One of the reasons that parents, in particular, like Ackerman is because she’s perceived as fighting for the city’s school kids. Another is because, as someone tweeted a few days ago, some think she’s being targeted because she’s a….drum roll….black woman. And that’s what has other people steaming, the perception that the only reason any of us have a problem with the Superintendent is the color of her skin.
Not so fast. Paul Vallas, a white man, as I recall, was heavily criticized during his tenure in Philly, and beat a quick retreat to Chicago. And I don’t remember once hearing his supporters say that he was the whipping boy because of his lack of pigmentation or his testosterone.
But race is, indeed, a factor in what’s been going on. Except the real story is that in some unfortunate cases, it’s being used to excuse poor performance. Worse, it’s being used to give cover to cheaters.
A story carried this week on the Black Entertainment Network’s website profiles an anonymous (of course) teacher in the Philly school system who has admitted to feeding her students some answers because she’s upset at the way their spirits are ‘crushed’ by failure:
I wanted them to succeed, because I believe their continued failure on these terrible tests crushes their spirit,” the unidentified teacher told the Notebook.org, a Philadelphia Public School site that serves as an independent voice for parents, educators and students. The teacher says she regularly provided assistance including definitions to unfamiliar words, comments on writing samples during tests, and says that she even discussed reading passages that they didn’t understand.
The story goes on to say she did this with her ‘poor and African American students.’
That’s-and there is no other word for it-disgusting. (Well actually, here are a few others: unethical, reprehensible, um, illegal...)
I used to be a teacher. It never crossed my mind to do what this teacher claims to have done, which is nothing less than cheating. Someone who ‘provided assistance…during tests’ is giving that student an unfair advantage, and is actually making it that much more difficult to succeed in the real world.
If Ackerman created an environment where this type of thing is okay, I have a few other words to call her. Saint isn’t one of them.