Saturday, January 24, 2009

Response to NY Times Article: No More Excuses?

Charles Blow, op-ed columnist for the NY Times, wrote an interesting piece about black children's opportunities in America in the wake of Obama's election. Check it out here. And then read my response below:

Let's take it easy on Rep. Clyburn.

I am a fifth grade teacher. I have been telling my kids the same thing since Obama was elected last year. You have no more excuses. I will continue to tell them that until they leave my class in June. I have told all of my students to leave their excuses at the door even before I knew who Barack Obama was. Is the alternative to tell them that they "should" have excuses? My job as a teacher is to make sure that they succeed in life. I am responsible for giving them the tools to move forward. Obama is a perfect symbol of what they can be.

Is every student in my class going to succeed. No. I see exactly what goes on in the children's home lives. It's sad. Not all of the situations, but too many of them. Parenting and opportunity are the key and Mr. Blow is spot on with that assessment. However, opportunity is not afforded to everyone. If everyone was successful then "success" would have no meaning. If everyone was an employer then there would be no employees. And that's where the institutional aspect of opportunity begins to rear its head. This world is not designed for everyone to achieve. Someone always has to be at the bottom while others stay on top.

I know all of this and I will still tell my students to "have no excuses". They know better than anyone else how hard their lives are.