Rabbi Nachum Shifren
February 6, 2010
Every Teacher's Nightmare: A Culturally "Relevant" Curriculum That Promotes Racism
Los Angeles — My classroom lay in ashes. The acrid smell of asbestos permeated the thick air in the "C" building, where police had cordoned off the area with bright yellow tape, forbidding the entry of staff and students. The entire wing of our language building would be closed for an entire six weeks. Collateral damage done to the adjacent classrooms meant that a slew of teachers would be "traveling", juggling books, tests, overhead transparencies, and supplies, like gypsies, bivouacking through lunch areas, track bleachers, even lawn areas of the senior quad.
was an entire school put on hold, sustaining over $1 million dollars in
damage (no, the L.A. Times, Daily News, et al, had no stories about this
outrage, the District frantically transitioning to a "CYA" mode,
making sure this event would remain under the radar)?
Answer: Dorsey High’s Culturally "Relevant" Curriculum.
were bordering on chaos, with nearly a third of the students tardy
on a daily basis. Screaming, pushing, fighting, throwing articles at others
and the teacher, became routine. The "F" word was standard in
addressing the teacher, with the ubiquitous playing of the race card:
"You don't like me 'cause I'm Black" became the mantra after
below passing test papers were handed out. After four weeks of school,
we had our "Back to School Night". Of 150 students, 10 parents
had the curiosity to find out how their students were doing.
"He's failing due to lack of homework? He didn't tell me he had homework."
"Why didn't you call and tell me she never showed up for class? She keeps telling me she's getting good grades!"
never told me about any tests. Why haven't you let me know? I refuse to
accept all these "F's"!
The excuses are as manifold as they are bizarre and tragic.
Where am I? What am I doing here? Is this real? There is a Dorsey High School administration in total denial of the 15% graduation rate. There is a dean's office where offenders are sent, only to listen to Rap music while they eat chips and salsa. There is a vice-principal who insists that the reason only 30% of my class is passing is because I must make learning Spanish more "culturally relevant." Huh? "You know, introduce more movement, more vibe, more dancing, more "excitement." (More titillation?)
The day after my classroom was torched, the wiring demonically ripped out of the charred walls, swastikas carved into the ceiling, I was called into Dr. Mahmud's office.
"The word on the street has it that you are not 'liked' by the students. You are not 'getting along' with them. You are not respecting their 'cultural diversity.' And that's why they burned your building down. Before you can teach them, you have to be their 'friend'" The principal expressed no shock, no regret, no sympathy which, for any teacher, would have been reason enough to leave the keys on the office counter and escape.
from the mea culpa that she wished to cram down my throat were the countless
hours of voluntary tutorials I had offered for weak students: before,
during, and after school. Omitted were the hundreds of hours of phone
calls to parents, conferences with staff and administrators, with parents
present, detailing plans for addressing low scores and roads to future
improvement of academic skills. Totally forgotten was the one person whose
"cultural diversity", human rights, and sensitivity were completely
trampled upon: the teacher!
This is the reality of many an inner city teacher, help captive by, and bludgeoned by, "cultural relevance", the nightmare that stares him in the face daily. The nagging questions of accomplishing bench marks, presenting core material that must be learned with respect to state standards, become secondary in the face of a "feel good" experience, far from the academic standard, and yet totally irrelevant to it. So the teacher asks him/herself: Do I push and cajole in order to meet academic standards, or just "chill out" and let the kids pass? (Many teachers refusing to give "F" grades for failing work, claiming that a "D" will protect the self-esteem of the student, while keeping parents and community at bay, with less recriminations or sanctions leveled at the teacher.)
So imagine the surprise, at this late date, reading Eric Lee's (of Southern Christian Leadership Conference) admonition to us teachers (L.A. Sentinel, Jan 28, 2010) that teachers must make a commitment to "positively affirm the child's existence within the curriculum." Please help me with this. Does not the child exist, and therefore he is in my class? How will the teacher be mandated to affirm a child's "existence?"
Answer: lowering the bar, dumbing down the curriculum for some hokus-pokus, I'm-OK, you're-ok formula that will have nothing to do with academic excellence. And that's the point of "cultural relevance." It is essentially a racist formula, looking for some psycho babble mantra to cover the behinds of those who for so long have had to massage the dismal failure in our government schools.
We are left wondering: Where is the "culturally relevant curriculum" for Japanese, Korean, Jewish, Armenian, Persian, Chinese students?
Answer: they couldn’t care less, they're too busy readying themselves for college.
African-American parent needs to be moved to a profound sense of bitterness
and anger over a system that has doomed a generation of students to mediocrity
and failure. While Black apologists like Lee are wringing their hands,
out in the "world", they're taking no prisoners:
-- The Charles Houston Center for the Study of the Black Experience in Education advocates that remedial courses should be improved to "increase access to post-secondary education for undeserved groups."
colleges need to pick up the slack for failures at the high-school level.
Yet, this feel-good, "I'm in college now", approach is not helping minority students:
-- Non-competitive colleges have a 34% graduation rate, with many community colleges that attract low-income students, falling far below this dismal rate. (American Enterprise Institute). These low graduation rates are due in main part to students spending time and tuition money taking freshman-level remedial math and English courses (what were they doing in high school, you're no doubt asking?)
-- A 2004 Dept. of Ed. Study reported that 42% if freshmen needed remedial classes!
With this scandalous view of our massive failure as educators to provide for an education that offers promise of a graduate who can look forward to a productive, rewarding future, a student who will be capable of contributing to society, only a jaundiced eye can peruse the junk-science view of Mr. Eric Lee, and his pathetic whining about "relevance." In the big picture, "cultural relevance" is a vicious slap in the face at those very students whose lackluster performances are shamefully covered by the clueless, racist, pathetic leaders of the Black community.
The promise for the future of our schools lies in a return to basics, setting standards without apologies, helping students to achieve real self-esteem through accomplishment, and with racial prejudice toward none.
© 2010 Nachum Shifren - All Rights Reserved
Rabbi Shifren is a southern California native. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in Spanish and German literature. He has been a language teacher in LA City schools since 1992. He is also fluent in Hebrew. Having lived in Israel for nearly a decade, he has been an observer and commentator of developments in Israel, the Israeli and foreign press, and the recent rise of Islamic Jihad.
is also the dirctor of "surf and soul" surfcamp, where teens
learn self-discipline, proper attitude, and physical fitness. A Malibu
surfer since 1962, he is known universally as the surfing rabbi. Through
his seminars and classes, he has taught thousand the challenge and thrill
of wave riding and the postive aspects of the surfing life style.
Rabbi Shifren has declared his candidacy for the Calif. State Senate in 2010, and is the only candidate to openly pledge to oppose the advent of Sharia law in the United States. He is a tireless supporter of individual freedoms and preserving the distinctive greatness of America, her language, and culture. Known for his no-nonsense approach to education and prison reform, Rabbi Shifren is in his own class of patriotism and staunch conservative values.
Rev. Jesse Lee Petersen said: "If we had 10 more teachers like Rabbi Shifren, we could turn America around tomorrow."