Friday, September 23, 2005

Because it is the Image of ourselves that we strive for, the rea lity comes second

This is an excerpt from Kozol's website where he talks about the outdated texts in the schools he had to teach in.  He brings up the point that this shows just how unequal the schools really were because, as he points out in the end, if schools were equal, wouldn't black have been beautiful.  But I take it in a different way;  Some of the most long lasting ideas that we have about ourselves are formed in school and molded by the opinions of the people we respect and encounter along the way such as parents, teachers and fellow students and peers.  By giving so many black kids such negative images of themselves, many are taught that the best they can ever hope for is being as bad as the expectations around them.  How do you fight back and survive when everything is arrayed against you, INCLUDING YOUR OWN SELF IMAGE?  You dont.  You cant.  Some do, and they are extraordinary people.  Imagine what they could have achieved if they had not needed to fight so hard to think of themselves as normal.
Kozol taught in a classroom in 1965 with textbooks so old that the newest one had been printed in the early 1950s. Often there were not enough to go around. They were filled with out of date facts, theories, and descriptions. One geography book had this description of Africans: "The black people who live on this great continent of Africa were afraid of the first white men who came to explore their land. They ran and hid from them in the dark jungle. They shot poisoned arrows from behind the thick bushes. They were savage and uncivilized."

The description continues with: "Yumbu and Minko are a black boy and a black girl who live in this jungle village. Their skins are of so dark a brown color that they look almost black. Their noses are large and flat. Their lips are thick. Their eyes are black and shining, and their hair is so curly that it seems like wool. THEY ARE NEGROES AND THEY BELONG TO THE BLACK RACE."

It is obvious from these two passages that the author looks down on Africans. Yet this book was once standard issue in the Boston Public Schools. This is not allowing everyone a fair chance. This is subjugating the African-American students before they are even old enough to think for themselves. The system breeds discrimination. If African-American children were given an equal chance, Kozol argues, then why wouldn't black be beautiful?



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