Boston Schools: Past Insights into Present Problems(continued)

by Jeanne Belovitch

When the question is asked why don't Boston schools work, a bottom-line answer is attitude. This attitude goes so far back and is so deep in many people's psyche that they probably don't even know it's there. Yet the subtleties and ambiguities are clear to others looking in from outside the system. Is it racism? The label racism is a hard condition to chip away at and sinks everyone into a deep black hole almost impossible to escape from. But attitudes are pliable. They can be bandied, understood, shaped and changed.

Many white teachers who live in middle class communities with their own children in suburban or private schools expect and demand little work from inner-city children. Are they racist? It doesn't matter. What matters is understanding their resentments, fears, lack of honest dialogue with minority teachers and their hopelessness against a system which doesn't allow principals and teachers to have the authority and resources to control their own activities and accept the results.

Many minority teachers also carry low expectations for children of their own racial or ethnic group. They see an underclass with which they never belonged and don't want to identify. Are they racist, too? These teachers often times feel embarrassed, confused, angry, saddened and hopeless against the behavior and academic standing of these students as well as against a system that doesn't ask them to be responsible for student learning.

What about the attitudes of students? In the 1800's a valedictorian of a Black school in New York in New York City asked his audience “What are my prospects...Shall I be a mechanic? No one will have me in his office. White clerks won't associate with me...Can you be surprised at my discouragement?” On the television program “Sunday Today”, September 9, 1991, newsman Tom Brokaw talked with Dion 'Dinky' Bridges, an 18-year-old, minority youth from California who

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