News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Flashpoint

June 30, 2011

FLASHPOINT: A teacher’s race can send a subtle, positive message

TERRE HAUTE — The opinion proffered by Ms. Curts (Flashpoint: “A teacher’s race should not matter in classroom,” June 23, A13) is more thought provoking than thoroughly thought.

In the classroom, a teacher’s race can and does matter. However, it does not matter nearly as much as her/his professional skills, effective methods, compassion and dedication to the growth and development of every student.

Your essay was based on your experience with 8- and 9-year-old children. The average child in that age group has not developed the prejudices that await them in middle and high school. Parents, siblings and peers make certain that opportunities to “catch” prejudice will be exposed to teenagers. Prejudice, like moral behavior and ethical behavior, is likely more “caught than taught.” Children perceive with their eyes and ears, and interpret the motivations for attitudes and behaviors of others. Without caring, knowledgeable guidance from trusted adults, many young people do fall victim to the stereotypes and prejudices and narrow beliefs of those who merely repeat the “sins of their fathers.”

You are a caring “teacher” and a positive influence on your charges. They don’t care what your skin color is. However, when black students are aware of black teachers, professionals and others in a respected social status, they receive a real and subliminal message. That message conveys hope and helps build a belief in the worth of character, initiative, motivation, dedication and cooperation.

Token hiring serves no purpose in the 21st century, as thousands of qualified and capable non-white professionals are available to employers. Skin color will likely never be incidental. Whether or not we whites (not Caucasian, as many are not white) agree is not relevant; skin colors and ethnicities will always be symbolic of historic persecutions and man’s inhumanity to man.

Your essay illuminates many meaningful observations; and its real value is to cause productive thought and discussion among the influential professionals in the local school system. It is my belief that Mr. Malone’s words as you quoted them are valid. But, Mr. Malone must not be a valid candidate for public teaching. However, many other candidates are, and will be, of immeasurable benefit to the Vigo County community schools in the future.

Dr. King shared his “dream” in 1963; but many of us in education have a “reality” now: diversity awareness, understanding, respect, acceptance and embraced.

Please stay dedicated to your efforts at the “foundation” level, because the “character” of the K through fifth-grade students is molded by dedicated elementary professionals.

— Jim Camp

Terre Haute

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