Sunday, July 17, 2011

Son, If You Want to Make It in This White World...

You had better pull up your pants and put on a shirt that isn't a wife beater. If you can't learn the language of this white society, you'll never make it. Racism still exists in America and it's more prevalent than ever.

I realize that I may be stirring up controversy talking about white society and the rules that go along with living in our good ol' US of A. There's no question that we live in a country that is dominated by white culture and therefore by white rules. If you grew up in middle class America, you learned these rules at a very young age. They are instilled in you and you utilize them daily without thinking. It's almost second nature. You also learned how to maneuver among classes and how to act in different social situations. You say "Please" and "Thank you" without batting an eye.

One of the biggest problems I encounter with my students is that they have never been taught that certain behaviors are unacceptable in certain social situations. It's rude to listen to your iPod without headphones. That's not acceptable behavior on the train or on a job. My students don't understand this concept.

So, it has to be taught. My students have to be taught and reminded about the rules of mainstream America. They didn't learn them because their parents or grandparents or aunts/uncles didn't know them. But you can't make it in this world if you can't follow the rules of those in charge.

I'm definitely rambling and making too many disconnected points, but I was talking to some teacher friends on Friday at Jazz in the Gardens, and this is a problem that seems common in the DC area. Kids not being taught respect or how to behave in public and generally just running amok.

What's the answer to make it better? I guess to lead by example. I've told my students in the past that I wouldn't hire a single one of them if I owned a business. This hurt some of them at first, but when I explained that their behaviors were not acceptable for the workplace, they began to see that they needed to act differently in my classroom.

So, I continue to have arguments with students about what's acceptable. Just the other day a student walked into the school lunchroom with no shirt on and his music blaring. I went ballistic (and rightly so). Unfortunately, this kid will never be much of anything because he can't learn the rules. He's destined to walk the streets and he'll probably end up on disability for the rest of his life because he can't hold down a job. It's so sad and I wonder how to change this...To make my students aware that there's a time and place for everything.

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