Re: Birmingham cheating: Artilce #4 - Blaming the Victims
- Subject: Re: Birmingham cheating: Artilce #4 - Blaming the Victims
- From: "George N. Schmidt" <Csubstance@AOL.COM>
- Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2000 07:16:01 EDT
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
In a message dated 6/17/00 9:53:58 PM, ShopMathEdu@AOL.COM writes:
<< I don't want them
exposed to any further negative pressure or stress. If they decide to make a
statement on their own, that would be their own business. However, as long
as they are relying on me for leadership and protection, I have no intention
of exposing them to the media. They have lives to pick up and live. >>
June 21, 2000,
Sorry I fell a couple of days behind here, but the Chicago school board's
probably going to fire me Friday and I've been a bit busy.
These people were kicked out of Woodlawn High School? Is that a four-year
(k-12) general high school?
Some important background on what follows comes from the fact that our
struggle against the injustice of high stakes standardized tests here in
Chicago was moved immensely forward during the past 18 months thanks to a
group of young people who spoke in their own voices, organized in their own
names, and made their own mistakes.
So I assume that the students you're discussing are of the same age as those
with whom we've all worked proudly here in Chicago. If the answer to my
questions above is "yes", then the following are some working hypotheses.
1. We are talking about young people, ages 15 - 18, in a city where young
people of the same age risked their lives nearly four decades ago at the dawn
of the civil rights movement. If I remember the fire hose shots, most of
those people in that street were quite young.
It has to be their decision. At many other times and places, both in history
and today, these are "adults". It all depends on culture and context.
2. But we can't protect young adults from certain learnings.
What we should insist on is that their stories be told in context, accurately
and not abstractly. No child is an angel, nor any school completely "good" or
Unfortunately, oversimplifications and fairy tale tellings are the stock and
trade of many media workers. The best way for our children's stories to be
told truthfully is for those stories to be told in their voices -- that means
it is for them to tell those stories themselves. One of the greatest
challenges we face as teachers is to help our students learn how to do that.
One of the worst things about the professional literature is that it is
saturated with phony anecdotals that usually begin "Ann [not her real
name]..." and go on to tell the story according to the script outlined by the
professor who is doing the telling, not according to the reality of the child
about whom the story is being told. Since Freud pioneered this plausible
fiction, it's been popular among educated people. But it's probably led to
more falsehood than truth. Identifying individuals is always going to be a
difficult call for editors and journalists, but in general there are a few
guidelines. Once when I was reporting on some terrible sex crimes and we
intended to quote the testimony of victims, we went so far as to create
pseudonyms (to make it possible for the reader to follow) and then to check to
make sure there was no one by that name in four area codes so that no one
would receive the creep calls that inevitably follow the identification of a
victim of a sex crime (hence we wound up with names like "Midgey Jonworth"
and "Felicia Briell").
3. The media regularly cover and name children without the permission of our
school boards, parents, or teachers.
These media events are usually covered in the sports pages, however, or in
the announcements of the honors received by children upon elementary, middle
school, or high school graduation. The notion that all "news" involving young
people has to be treated with kid gloves is simply not true. The
"confidentiality" stuff is usually invoked only when a cover up is involved.
Before anyone invokes some absolute rule about protecting the identify of
children, we should at least read the sports pages and ask how many
permission slips were granted before the stories were written.
4. There is also the simple fact that in the struggle for human rights "Name W
ithheld by Request" is not usually an option.
You either put it on the line...
...or watch it later on the History Channel and engage in hagiographic
My father used to tell me with disdain about the men he knew who later wrote
long letters home about their heroics during the Battle of the Bulge, even
though his outfit was in a warm but not hot (warm and hot in terms of combat,
not weather, since all were freezing) sector on the southern shoulder
(adjacent to the Vosges).
I remember one civil rights march here in Chicago (Marquette Park, July 1976)
when we (200 of us by permit) were attacked by a mob of (my estimate) 2,000
or more. One of my closest friends became so frightened when we were attacked
by that mob of angry white folks that he slipped out of the street and cashed
in on some of his white skin privileges on the sidewalk as the rocks and
quart beer bottles broke on and around those of us in the street.
After that, I could never again stay in the room when he made his militant rev
olutionary speeches. It seemed to me that his rhetoric became more fiery
Post-game pseudo-heroics are the stuff of every barroom in the United States.
But they don't win the games on the field during clock time.
At what point do we tell our children they can suit up and take the field
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