by Jeanne Belovitch
Often times, the principal rounds up these kids like a sheep herder his flock. Other times, you can hear them banging on the big green door to be let in after school has officially started.
The students at Woodrow Wilson range in age from 12 to 17 years, attending grades sixth, seventh, and eighth. Ninety percent are black; Hispanics and whites comprise the remaining 10 percent. According to Woodrow Wilson principal John Cunningham, the school was 75 percent black and 25 percent white in 1977. A teacher who has been at the school 11 years and who quit this year 'before they (the school system) did him in' said, “Woodrow Wilson was racially mixed 50-50 in 1971.” Another teacher confirmed this figure.
Whatever the statistics (On paper, the school is 65 percent black, 10 percent other, and 25 percent white, while for the real count just look into the classroom.), Woodrow Wilson Middle School demonstrates microcosmically a bankrupt school system; the hatred of a city for its black community, and in turn its refusal to educate them; and a society that chooses to ignore the development and temporary care of those it considers non-contributors, perpetuating their existence of deficiency and disorder.
The following accounts that happened at Woodrow Wilson speak to these conditions.
An out-of-control seventh grade class immediately quiets down when the principal walks in. He is black. His response to the class is not about the noise level or the students out of their seats. He is concerned about something more fundamental to learning: comfort. Practically every person in this room is wearing a jacket. Some sport fashionable head wear. The room temperature is about 68 degrees. Except for two students, the entire class appears wearisome and sullen, slumped in their chairs.
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