My turn to be integrated in Xenia Schools came in the 9th grade in 1962. Following Brown v Board of Education of Topeka decision in 1954, the all white Xenia BOE took as long as they could, closing down all of the black schools and sending the black children to the formerly all white schools, making sure the black students were the minorities in all schools. Full integration in Xenia did not occur until well into the 60’s. They did not allow virtually any of the black teachers to teach academic subjects in the integrated secondary schools. After integration I never had another black teacher.
In Xenia Community Schools today it is quite likely that one can still say that after the 8th grade students will never have another black teacher of an academic subject. At Xenia High School black teachers in academic subjects are as rare as hen’s teeth, and it has been that way since I was there back when the earth was still cooling.
I have, of course, had many conversations with administrators and school board members on the subject and the same answer has been given over the years. There are no black applicants for teaching positions although they ardently wish there were and they are trying to hire black teachers. I always remind them of the Yoda remonstrance, “There is no try, only do or not do.” They always point out they are “working with Central State.” That might have been useful at one point but CSU has virtually abandoned their education department as far as I am concerned and they are certainly not the only college in the area with black education majors.
Black teachers are disappearing from classrooms all over America.
There was recently an article in the Dayton paper about how few black teachers there are in local school systems. A couple of superintendents even said they did not care about race at all. Well, they need to. Black teachers not only provide examples, counsel and familiarity for black students they break down some stereotypes about black people for white students. They can also help administrations and administrators not make cultural insensitive mistakes and errors.
It is true that fewer blacks are going into education. Blacks have long been called the canaries of America, based on the warning that canaries provided for miners since they croaked when the air got bad in the mines letting the miners know to get out. If it is happening in the black population it is happening in other populations but is not visible yet. Fewer people are going into education period.
America has let its teaching population down, denigrating the profession in myriad ways. Teachers have less autonomy, less decision making ability and garner less respect than they used to, and nobody seems to understand, or care, how that negatively impacts public education. People who feel discounted are less likely to do their best.The state is also seemingly trying to make it harder and harder to qualify for a teaching license for some reason.
We need a diverse teaching staff. We live in an increasingly diverse country and world. Black history is almost totally unknown to many teachers black and white, but the black teacher is more likely to have some kind of understanding that the story of black folks remains mainly untold in America’s schools. Diversity education makes it harder to be ignorant and believe stereotypes about your fellow citizens.
If something is important to you then you will find a way to do it. Lip service is not enough. We need more black teachers in our schools. We must make it so.
Dr. Cookie Newsom is a retired teacher-professor. Contact her with comments at [email protected]