A reader posted the following comment.
As a public school teacher on the Northshore across the lake from New Orleans, educated in parochial schools for most of my elementary and high school years, I have been wanting to discuss the truth of education in the State of Louisiana for years, but it cannot be discussed publically, even though most people know the truth, a person could get killed or maimed at worst or at best, fired from a teaching position by openly speaking the unspeakable in today’s irrationally violent world. Under federal mandatory desegregation in 1969, I student taught English IV at a public high school in a Northshore Parish. Prior to this law, schools across the State were segregated into all black or all white public schools—“separate but equal” they called it. My senior high school class was composed of 10 white students and 10 black students, as were all of the other classes in the school. My white students could all read and write at grade level able to do “A, B or C” work. Half of my black students could not read or write at all, two of them could read and write at junior high level, two of them at elementary level and one of them could do B and C work in my class. I was horrified by the levels of illiteracy and low skill levels among my black students. Teachers were not provided with remedial materials to help the students learn at their level nor any books or handouts that would enable the non readers and writers learn the alphabet, the sounds of the letters, nor how to put the sounds together so that they could even begin to make sense of reading and writing. As a secondary level teacher, I was not even given any training to reach students who were not at grade level. I did the best I could bringing in albums of Shakespearian plays and sonnets, so that my lowest level students could get something out of the material by hearing it read, even though they could not pass the written tests on it. No one had ever heard of the accommodation for “Tests Read Aloud” that our immigrant population is given on classroom and standardized tests today. Consequently, all through the 1970’s due to the academic problems, also resulting in behavior issues black students experienced in school system, plus the fact that the majority of students did not have anything to eat before coming to school, they were not making much progress academically. These conditions caused the parents of white students to pull their children out of the public school system and put them in private or parochial schools, so that their children could receive a good education without all the social problems black children brought with them into the classroom. At that time most black children could not attend schools that required tuition because their parents did not have the financial ability to do so since most did not have jobs that paid a middle class wage to do so. In addition, the values of many black parents regarding education, which extended to their children, were not as high as white parents, I think mainly because most of them were not very well educated themselves and could not help their children with homework or did not have time to help them due to other social problems that continue to plague the black community in Louisiana—namely single parent households, drug addiction, poverty, a lack of values shared by the white middle or upper class communities, violence and multiple levels of abuse in the home. The lack of parental support, a stable family structure, and a healthy home environment that supports learning are the main reasons black students are under performing in Louisiana schools today, as well as the inability of many black students to speak standard American English, which many teachers do not insist upon in the classroom out of fear of being called racist at worst or politically incorrect at best. Bobby Jindal does not have the courage to face the real problem in education in Louisiana. He is taking the coward’s way out through scapegoating, blaming public schools and teachers for the failure of some black students to pass culturally biased standardized tests, one of the primary measures in assigning schools a passing or failing grade based on their AYP. The main problem is that when a public school becomes predominately black, with students and teachers alike, the standards are usually lowered and students are socially promoted, even though they cannot pass their course work or earn a basic score on standardized tests. How do I know this not having taught in public schools that have this particular demographic problem? I taught at a New Orleans community college for several years and in one of my classes had a large group of black students from the New Orleans projects, who insisted that I lower the standards in my class so that they could all get “A’s and B’s” for their final grade. They were physically and emotionally threatening in attempting to take control of the class, but I did not cave in as their public school teachers had to have done in order to get through the school year alive. What Bobby Jindal needs to do if he wants change education in Louisiana that will last for generations to come is to have the courage to educate the black community on what it will take for their children to perform well in school and to mentor them until they are able to adopt and embrace a value system that supports their children’s education, and thus, bring them out of the impoverished conditions that keep them like crabs in a bucket into a more productive standard of living. He needs to generate higher paying, skilled jobs for the black community, especially for the women who are usually the sole support of their families, so that they can support their children preparing them for a successful life in the middle class. Through education many black people in Louisiana have done just that over the last four decades, but many more have yet to enjoy that success. Bobby Jindal does not have the courage to do this because he does not have the heart to uplift anyone but himself. His education reforms have not been done for the people of Louisiana, but for himself, so that he can add another feather to cap, putting another initiative on his resume, so that when the time comes that he is seeking the status of President of the United States of America, the unconscious masses of voters in our country may believe he will be able to do something beneficial for them. Just about everyone in the State of Louisiana knows that Bobby Jindal has his eye on the Presidency and whatever he does as Governor of our State is merely a stepping stone to get out of the swamp into the Oval Office. Because the ‘separate but equal’ condition of education in Louisiana has been going on for more than 40 years, superficially changing form very slightly over the years, it is not going to permanently change anytime soon especially though a voucher program that is doomed to failure because the majority of private or parochial schools can see through this smokescreen and are not willing to accept the burden of educating black children from households that do not support the prime values of education. All teachers across the United States know that students who perform well in school are those who have 100% support from their parents. This is not the case for many black children in Louisiana, nor in other impoverished areas of our country. I would like to hear your plan for permanently changing these conditions that plague education and our society all across America because I believe, unlike Bobby Jindal, you have the intelligence, experience in education and heart to dream big.