Today too many of us blame all of the inadequacies of public education on the educators. The truth of the matter is that if we are to improve or elevate the public school system into what it use to be or what it ought to be then it must be addressed collectively. I graduated from a Pittsburgh Public School 64 years ago along with a great number of others, whom I will name in 2014 when I will be addressing the positives of the public schools in yesteryear.
In my generation, the teachers in the eyes of our parents and the overall communities were second only to the ministers, neither could do anything wrong. If we would have the audacity to come home and criticize a teacher, our parents would go off and ask what credentials do you have in the field of education that qualifies you to second guess your teachers? Our teachers were well read, well traveled and overwhelmingly did their very best to educate us.
I will always remember an English teacher Ms. Crawford who lectured us by stating, “If you truly learn something you will never forget it.” We were taught English literature and silently we questioned why? However a few years ago I was watching a program on TV and they were asking questions about Macbeth, Hamlet, Milton, and John Dryden. You may not know who they are, but I did and I was able after all of those years to begin to recite that which I had learned many, many years ago. It proved conclusively that Ms. Crawford was correct, if you truly learn something you will never forget it.
I never had a Black teacher, but our classes were 85 to 90 percent White and if you focused on what you were being taught you had the same opportunity to graduate as your White classmates.
We had a White male counselor who would say to the Black males to focus on being able to just read and write well enough that you will be able to sign a pay check, because you won’t be able to get a union job, because you are colored. He would say to the colored females as he did my sister when she broke the rules by saying her subjects were not adequate, because she intended to go to college that college is a dream, you should focus on domestic courses, cooking, sewing, and the like.
My sister went home in tears and told my mother, and the very next day my mother was in the counselor’s office with a message. She explained to him that my father was an uneducated colored man, who was not only self-employed but made more money than any person employed in the school and that my daughter is going to Fisk University. The counselor apologized and changed my sister’s classes, but that’s what can happen when parents intervene in their children’s education.
My wife and I were active in the PTA (I was the only male). Our youngest daughter complained about the lack of college preparatory college courses such as calculus, the school said there are not enough students interested and our response was if there is only three or four start the classes and the school did.
I have understood all of my adult life that parents, community and educators symbolize the expression “it take a village to raise a child.”
The tragedy that took place at a Pittsburgh Public School where allegedly a young Black male was dealing and three other young Black youths allegedly robbed him prompts this column. If these illegal activities took place in a public school why were these persons still attending classes? I have always believed that selling drugs, robbing and assaulting persons was illegal. Two wrongs definitely do not make a right. We as parents must wake up and assume some responsibility for our sons’ and daughters’ actions and must cease using those tired and worn out phrases, “My son and daughter are good children.”
If you are weary of the numerous failings in our schools why don’t we as parents, grandparents, concerned citizens cease complaining and make a concerted effort to address our shortcomings by becoming involved in your local school.
I remember very vividly that no home had a lock on their doors, there were no day care centers, the neighbors looked out for the youths when the parents went wherever, and no family went hungry or naked because neighbors understood the importance of sharing. Not one person on the street had ever been to college, but the importance of education was paramount.
Our churches instilled in us that can’t and failure was not acceptable, richness was a state of mind not a state of being, to love thy self and to honor they father and mother.
If we truly believe those phrases “I am somebody,” “Black is beautiful,” my brother and sister, let us begin to live what we preach. As important as an organization can be I believe it more important to live by the quote, “Let it begin with me.”
The holiday season is upon us; please remember Kingsley Association needs your financial aid.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum page.)Follow @NewPghCourier on Twitter https://twitter.com/NewPghCourier
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