To the Editor:
After taking a late summer vacation this year, I returned to find my August 22 edition of Education Week; and I’d like to respond to the lead Commentary by LaShawn Routé Chatmon and Kathleen Osta (“How to Liberate the Schoolhouse From Racial Bias,” August 22, 2018). Chatmon and Osta make excellent points that we must be prepared to talk about race in order for social-emotional learning to advance educational equity, and that rigorous teaching and learning can only thrive in a caring and welcoming school culture. I also heartily agree with their five recommendations for educators.
However, I am disappointed and perplexed regarding their contention that, “From the beginning, schools in the United States were designed to benefit and affirm the values and culture of the white people in power.” Throughout my K-12 education in public and parochial schools in New York City, I was taught to be honest, courteous and respectful, resourceful, persistent and resilient, cooperative, as well as empathetic. Growing up, there was no question about how I was “expected to behave, communicate, and interact” across all social contexts—whether in school, church, civic organizations, on the playground or at family gatherings.
Are these structural values designed to benefit only white people in power, or are they the values we should expect all people, regardless of race, color, or creed, to live by and hold dear? I would like to see Chatmon and Osta share the research they refer to when they write about values in schools that have solely affirmed the dominance of white people in power.
Former Central Office and School Administrator
A version of this article appeared in the September 26, 2018 edition of Education Week as Timeless Values in School