News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 23, 2011

FLASHPOINT: A teacher’s race should not matter in classroom

This letter is probably going to generate a lot of controversy. Before I am crucified on this page, please understand that this is only my opinion.

By the time I finished reading the article regarding Mr. C. Dwayne Malone’s protest (if three people actually constitutes a protest) and I got to work, I was very angry.

Until June 7, I was an educational assistant at a Vigo County elementary school. I was almost personally offended by Mr. Malone’s stance regarding the hiring of African-American teachers in the Vigo County School Corp. from his point of view that the VCSC actually tries not to hire people of color.

Mr. Malone’s words were “because African-American students do have a desire to sometimes be taught by people who look like them.” I would like to know where Mr. Malone got that particular information. Exactly where were the students he’s referring to during his protest? I think Mr. Malone is making an assumption on behalf of students that he shouldn’t. I worked with scores of students over the 10 years I was an assistant and never heard any student say anything about wishing they had an African-American teacher.

I love my students and they love me. By the way, I’m Caucasian. I’m not “white” because that would imply that I look like, well, I guess maybe a vampire. I’m more of a peachy, light tan color. I don’t think the children I worked with ever thought about my color. When the kids found out I was leaving, they begged me not to go. I received cards from a lot of the third-grade students I worked with, thanking me for the pizza party I threw for the entire third grade. Some of the cards said I was the best teacher they ever had (even though I told them repeatedly I was an assistant). Other cards showed little, broken hearts with faces that had tears coming out their eyes.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many students wanted my phone number so they could call me and come visit me. These students are both African-American and Caucasian. They simply don’t care about the color of my skin. What they care about is how I truly, deeply care about them, not just as someone who teaches them, but in every aspect of their lives. They love me because I tried to make everything fun.

Now I’m going to tell you something that is going to outrage a whole bunch of people: I don’t believe there should be a Black History Month. I believe that history of African-Americans, their plight regarding slavery and their stunningly wonderful ideas and inventions, should be integrated into state, American and world history every single month of school. In my opinion, pointing out the creative ideas and inventions of African-Americans for only one month says, “Oooh, look what these people did and they were black!” Why would African-Americans be any less intelligent than anyone of any color? Their color is just purely incidental to what they accomplished. To me, it’s almost like segregation all over again.

In one of his more famous speeches, Dr. King said that he “… had a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I have that same dream, only mine extends beyond the boundaries of color.

Babies are not born prejudiced about anything. They are taught it as they grow older. Maybe if everyone stopped drawing lines of distinction regarding color, religious preference, sexual preference, etceteras, there wouldn’t be any more lines. If we stop teaching children about prejudice, they won’t learn it. Then and only then, will we truly be one race — the human one.

John Lennon said it best: “Imagine.” But maybe I’m just a dreamer, too.

— Pamela Lynch Curts

Terre Haute

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