I have often admired the columns of Patrick Walsh, a veteran teacher at TC Williams High School in Alexandria. His occasional columns echo my experience as the husband of a teacher and father of four Charlottesville High School graduates. In today’s Washington Post, he candidly discusses some truths that will prove to be unpopular. Here are two paragraphs:
“Taking in the scenes, I couldn't help thinking of Bill Cosby and the controversy he stirred with his recent comments at Constitution Hall during a 50th anniversary celebration of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. I remembered how he'd said that he believed some "lower economic" African American parents had the wrong values -- that they'd rather buy their kids expensive sneakers than introduce them to Hooked on Phonics, and that they looked for someone else to blame when their kids got into trouble with the law. Cosby was criticized for being too hard on the less fortunate, but let me tell you -- the black students in my AP English classes are even harder. To them, the fighting and posturing that morning was nothing but out-and-out "ghetto."
Walsh then discusses the challenges of teaching English to “at risk” students:
“In many ways, these kids drive the academic agenda of schools. Take the Virginia Standards of Learning exams. They were initiated as a desperate quick-fix effort to close the gap between low-income minority kids and middle-class kids. The thinking was that if schools like T.C., with a large number of minority students, were labeled as failing, teachers and administrators would suddenly feel pressured to transform these kids into scholars. In fact, the performance of minority students on the SOLs has been so poor that the tests have been made easier to avoid a political uproar over disproportionate numbers of minority students not getting diplomas."
My June 16 Observer column identifies the effort to make the system effective as a vital aspect of workplace spirituality. Mr. Walsh is attempting to do just this in his Washington Post article When the Street and the Classroom Collide