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The Morning Mix with Davey D - April 30, 2013 at 8:00am

The Morning Mix, for April 30, 2013 - 8:00am

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I heard a show this week that

I heard a show this week that I found both inspiring and devastatingly tragic.

It featured two teachers.

It was inspiring because both teachers are intellectually strong, demanding, caring, and inspiring.

It was tragic because even those bright, charismatic educators were falling into the same old snake pits of teaching prejudice and division.

As soon as we start using the words "ours" ("OUR children," "OUR culture," "OUR history"), "us," "them..." we are saying "we" are inherently different from other people. That is the same argument that slavers made to justify slavery. That is the same misguided approach to teaching pride that continues to divide people of different genetic ethnicity. And it is all based on fallacies because culture is not genetic, and because today's social and legal wars are drawn far more along lines of economics and power than on race. (Just ask our neocon president.)

One of the speakers referred to studies that found that -- when presented with teachers of different races, only the African-American students (particularly the males) cared about the race of the teacher, and responded when the teacher was also African-American. Yes -- I agree that that tells us that we should seek to have more African-American teachers, especially, for now, in places with high percentages of "black"students. But -- FAR, FAR more than that, it should tell us that we've been teaching our children the wrong lessons -- if they are seeing the race of the teacher as important, then we've taught them wrong -- and teaching "racial pride" or "cultural pride" feeds right into that, and it is self-serving, and it cheats our kids in the end. We shouldn't be saying there is a war for "our" children -- there is a war for ALL children. And we shouldn't be handing old stigmas and angsts out based on race or ethnicity.

Instead of teaching kids that they are African Americans, we should be teaching them that they are people, same as people of any other genetic ethnicity. Period.

We should be teaching all children to take as much personal pride in Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman or C.N. Yang as in Freeman Dyson; we should be teaching them to take as much personal pride in Mark Twain as in W.E.B. Du Bois, and as much personal pride in Percy Shelley, Matsuo Basho, Li Bai, and William Shakespeare as in Amiri Bakara.

We should study cultures, but we should not teach culture, or "cultural pride" that leads to prejudice and division between peoples.

We should be teaching that, as people, we must each rejoice in all the accomplishments of all people, enjoy the best of all cultures, learn humility from the worst in all people, learn to shun the negatives of any culture.

And -- above all -- we should be teaching the strength of partnerships across all divides -- including and especially across different cultures or physical appearances. Slavery wasn't ended by slaves -- it was ended in partnerships with very large numbers of Caucasians and others, many of whom also risked their lives and livelihoods, many purely out of love and compassion for their fellow human beings, even when they had far more to lose and far less to gain. Nor were African slaves brought to the Americans solely by whites: historical records show that African tribes -- many of which were already killing and enslaving each other -- were paid by slave traders to gather up slaves from other other tribes. We need to teach these things, not to shame our children, but to show that there are oppressed and oppressors, generous and selfish, open and prejudiced in every race, every culture., that people are people, period.

We aren't black or white, or yellow, or brown: we are all people.

As long as we think any other way, we are cut off from the true strength of humankind -- our unity.

When our kids see themselves as people -- and we have no need to see them identify with any particular culture -- and when they don't care about the race of their teachers, so long as they get to learn, THEN we will be winning.

I was worry to hear these two remarkable teachers aren't there, yet.


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