Report: Iowa teachers are ill prepared to teach Black males
Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 3/22/2018, 10:45 a.m.
The Des Moines Register reported today that Iowa teachers, who are mostly white females, are ill prepared to help Black boys learn and thrive. Author Eddie Moore made the point at a workshop last week for white teachers teaching Black boys. Moore has written a book on the subject. He's president of the Privilege Institute and got his higher education in Iowa. He says 65 percent of teachers in Iowa are white women, good people, but many of them “ill-prepared for the experience of teaching people of color, especially Black males.” Moore credits Iowa for saving his life by getting him away from the gang and drug influences of his native Miami. He first came to attend Cornell College in Mount Vernon. But, he said, "Midwest nice is not an efficient tool to make the changes we’re proposing.” A slide offered some clues to that, with a compilation of head shots of famous Black men including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Frederick Douglas, Thurgood Marshall and Paul Robeson. What they all had in common, Moore said, was being educated in an era of segregation, even de facto, by teachers who were Black. As boys, they saw their reflection at the head of the class, which helped them forge positive identities heading into manhood. Black boys in Iowa are less likely to see positive reflections of themselves. More than 28 percent of Polk County’s Black households are headed by a single female, compared with more than 11 percent of Polk County’s total. A report released last year called “One Economy: The State of Black Polk County,” shows the median household income for the county was $59,844, but $26,725 for Black households. Nearly 36 percent of Black people in Polk County live in poverty, compared with 13.5 percent of the general population. Iowa has one of the highest rates of incarceration of Black people, which doesn't necessarily mean they commit more crimes. Much has to do with who gets stopped by police, what types of crimes get prosecuted and who gets prison terms. "Among the young, there is a hopelessness rooted in a lack of opportunity for them in Polk County," says the report, published under the auspices of the Northwest Area Foundation. "They do not see themselves reflected in the school teachers and administrators, public officials, and wider community leadership in Polk County." Iowa isn't alone. The March 18 New York Times reports that Black students in the Minneapolis school district comprise 76 percent of students suspended, although only 41 percent of district enrollment. A closer look found that problem white students in kindergarten were described by teachers as "high strung" or “gifted but can’t use his words” and given a pass. Problem Black students were depicted as “destructive,” “violent” and unmanageable. The Obama administration drafted policies to prevent racial disparities in school discipline, but the Trump administration is reversing them.