To the Editor:
I am writing in response to the commentary by Ted Taylor published in your Sunday, April 8, issue entitled “What happened to education in this country?” I found his essay troubling in its glossing over of systemic injustice and its personification in the education system.
Mr. Taylor begins by outlining his idea of “diversity” by noting that there were people of various races and faiths with whom he went to school. He notes that “we never really noticed,” which amounts to him never really noticing that minorities were relegated to certain neighborhoods (like African Americans living in North Hills, for example) due to redlining and discriminatory lending practices (many of which remain today). I imagine that people of color and Jews noticed when they were the butt of jokes or snide comments or received poorer grades for the same or better work than their white counterparts.
He admonishes the teenagers who organize marches to fight for change, asking, “Did they work?” In many cases, protests have worked, although it is often a long march toward justice that does not come quickly or easily.
He goes on to note that one day being a teacher “suddenly got different.” The difference seemed to have aligned with the increase of women in the workplace during and after the women’s rights movement (led by mass protests by young women). As women entered the workplace in larger numbers, parents became busier, and instead of understanding the changing landscape of American families and economics, he literally punished a student with a lower grade because an administrator questioned his judgement. He continues to explain how he discounted extensive research about the impact of teacher behaviors on student success, including using a red pen to mark papers, ironically in protest of an edict he did not support.
What is most troubling is his explanation of his encounter with a student who appears to have entered higher education to better herself and whom he considered challenging and out of line for reading ahead and asking questions. I am curious if he would have thought the same about a young man who was in his class and worked hard to learn and achieve good grades. After a police officer escorted him to his car because of this “troubled” student, he also offers a blanket defense of police and military, with no consideration for the fact that police kill people of color with impunity with no repercussions.
I agree with Mr. Taylor that we are in trouble. We have not grappled with systemic injustice and racism, and now, as people stand up to call out the way things are, those who have enjoyed their white privilege are working hard to oppress those fighting injustice. I hope my children call out injustice in their classrooms and on the playground, and yes, to their teachers. I will stand behind them in doing so to fight against the bias Mr. Taylor espouses as the way things used to be.
— Tamar Klaiman, Glenside