Teaching more important than teacher’s race

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I am greatly disturbed by the views attributed to a parent at the Gale Academy in your report on the local school council election there. (“Latinos score upset victory after year of agitation,” June 1996) The parent is described as upset that the race of her children’s teachers are different from that of her children.

I am horrified to think that in this day and age people still feel that blacks must be taught only by blacks, Latinos only by Latinos and then, of course, whites must be taught only by whites.

If all parents were to adopt this attitude, and their wishes acceded too, we would return to the segregated classrooms of the all-too-recent past. Public schools are enriched by the diversity of the student body and the faculty. All I want for my children in the Chicago Public Schools are good teachers in safe schools. I do not care about race, religion, gender or national origin of my children’s teachers; what I do care about is their desire to teach my children. I am concerned about what my children learn and not who teaches them.

If children—of all races—are to succeed, they must learn about the larger world, the world outside of their own communities. Schools are where this education begins, by having students encounter individuals of different backgrounds, whether as fellow students or as teachers. There is little point to public schools if all they do is maintain the isolation so many children find in their living environments.

I find some of the comments on the Summer Bridge Program off base. Reform and local control of schools are not in themselves good. They are good if, and only if, they result in better educated students.

When schools have failed their students, when their students have not learned what is required for their success in high school (and a 6th-grade education hardly guarantees success in high school), then the school should be required to help the students reach the necessary level. That is not counter to reform; it is simply accountability.

Local school councils—if they do their jobs, if the students are learning—have nothing to fear from the Bridge Program. On the other hand, when they have failed their students, I see nothing wrong in asking them to provide the funds to help the students learn. The board is correct in asking local school councils to pay for a Bridge Program.

Norman Gelfand, parent Chicago