Who Teaches the Monkey to do as he Sees?

Working as a substitute para-educator means two things. One, I get a first hand look at one of the most marginalized groups of students in high school. Second, as a substitute I am about as on the fringes of the inside of our educational system as one can get.

With that said, it is a precarious position to get to personally know teachers who fall along the spectrum of racism within the system. Some find themselves perpetuating the discriminatory practices without knowing, some knowing but unwilling to risk job security and some cynical enough to believe it is justified. Recognizing content of history that completely excludes all perspective excluding white males of upper socio-economic classes is scary when watching the students of color absorbing this narrative as supreme. Listening to Special Education Coordinators speak to Black and Brown students as harshly as she perceives they are speaking to her while she is ignorant to the atmosphere of disrespect she has already initiated from Day 1 of the school year. These scenarios are commonplace in public school today.

Gaping cracks within our educational system have been well documented for over half a century. The question is how do we continue to repeat ourselves over and over? Teachers taught by teachers who ignore the research could be blamed. Teachers who don’t take the time to learn about educating disadvantaged community groups must shoulder the blame as well. In the end this is not an educational issue, but a societal norm of failing to critique the status quo for ourselves despite seeing results stay the same.

My mother often posed the rhetorical questions, “If everyone else jumps off of the bridge will you do it too?” We seem to get this concept interpersonally but our institutions seem to enforce justifiable reasoning to keep things the same. The rhetoric is closely known as victim blaming. Something innate about Black and Brown is the culprit.

Fifty years after the Civil Rights movement we would be hard pressed to find an average citizen who could articulate what it was for and what were its outcomes. We have a society ignorant of terms such as racism and White supremacy. Ignorant of the disproportionate statistics of Black , Latino and Native Indians within our country. Ignorant of the historical measures taken that have instituted the prejudice against them that landed us here. Still believing that good intentions and good will can repeal laws and legislation that continues to exclude these communities of access.

Who teaches the dog new tricks? Who teaches the monkey to do as he sees? Who’s voice is louder? Today we live in an America where political statements are met with blank stares and open animosity. Some respond with applause and some with inspiration and too few with understanding. We can look at the culprit or the answer, in the end we each must assume a stance to change or perpetuate the status quo.


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