What a year 2020 has been . Coronavirus shut down grade schools during the first quarter of the year, leaving parents in the midst of supporting kids through distance learning. Adjusting to the challenging reality of operating my company from home, and trying to find ways to Google high school algebra to help my son was the ultimate challenge, as I became a homeschool parent overnight.
Meanwhile, members of my team were suffering through the same challenges with homeschooling when the rise of social justice protests began, following the death of George Floyd. It shifted the tone of my son's social studies class. It was obvious that all of the teachers and leadership staff were struggling through discussing the incident in a "politically correct" way.
Within days after school was "virtually" dismissed for the summer, another generic statement was written to all parents from the school board members, to try to ensure us that they are now "looking at ways to do better as a private school board to reassess our blind spots on creating diverse opportunities."
Have schools missed the diversity mark?
The email that was sent from the school gave me a moment to look at a board of 19 all White members, who rejected my application to join 2X in 2019, as they scattered to find a way to recalibrate this summer to face the lack of inclusion. While you may believe this is not an essential problem, kindly note, the students are the next generation of thought leaders, founders, and entrepreneurs, who are color blind to the lack of diversity for now, but it will not last long.
I was honored to have an opportunity to speak with Dr. Steve Perry, principal and co-founder of Capital Preparatory Schools and former CNN education contributor, about how to incorporate social justice and diversity into the framework of education. "The theme of my school(s) is social justice; this is who we have been for the past 15 years," says Perry.
Dr. Perry also stated the facts:
- Approximately 70 percent of teachers in the United States are White females.
- Black children are more likely to be labeled as developmentally disabled or having limitations with learning.
- 18 percent of all kindergartners are Black, yet 48 percent of out-of-school suspensions in kindergarten are Black students.
- Kids who are suspended early tend to be suspended often.
- Kids who are suspended often tend to underperform in school, which also increases the dropout rate.
- Dropouts are most likely to be incarcerated.
- 75 percent of Black males who are incarcerated are functionally illiterate.
- However, Black boys who are poor who have just one Black educator before the fourth grade are 40 percent less likely to drop out of high school, and 30 percent more likely to go to college. The rate increases if Black children have more than one educator each day.
Why is it important to address racial issues in school, beyond Black History Month?
According to the National Center of Education Statistics, only 7 percent of elementary schoolteachers were Black in the 2017-18 school year, 9 percent Hispanic, and only 2 percent Asian.
Public, private, and charter schools are choreographing and shaping the minds of the next Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Jamie Diamond, Sheryl Sandberg, Tyler Perry, and more. If educators do not represent the student body, students of color will adhere to an achievement gap because of a lack of access to mentors in class.
Furthermore, Black students will disproportionately settle for the idea that there are no Black leaders in the boardroom or in leadership positions. Such a lack of diversity will desensitize the mind of a child to believe that Black people can't be leaders too.
Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, stated in her TED Talk, "Imagine if you walked into the boardroom of a major corporation such as ExxonMobil, and all of the board members were Black. You would think that is weird." The audience sat in silence, while the same can be said of our schools as well.
Imagine if you went back in time and walked through your old elementary or high school, and most of your teachers represented the world as it exists today (Black, Asian, Hispanic, LGBTQ). Would you maybe think that is weird?
We must make a collective effort to redefine inclusion in the classroom, so all children have an equal chance to get to the boardroom.