Roundtable Discussion about the Importance of Culture in Education
By: Deric Muhammad
Reposted from: Brother Deric Blog
When a White female Lone Star College Professor posted this flyer in an effort to attract more Black students to her American History class things got heated. Many in our community begged to question the motive of an educator who would put two plantation dwelling youth, with tattered clothing, playing in a cotton field on a flyer to represent Black people’s journey in American History.
The words “come and learn about your community too” didn’t help the poorly chosen photograph either. I don’t know if the flyer increased enrollment in her class, but it definitely increased Lone Star College as a conversation piece on Twitter and Facebook. How could someone create a flyer so culturally insensitive? What educational institution would approve such a thing? And how should a community respond when images and words such as these give the appearance of disrespect for our contributions to American history?
Well of course the first thing that we did was call the school’s president in efforts of obtaining some explanation and expressing community concern. It was through him that I learned that Lone Star College was an educational institution with approximately 80% Black, Hispanic and other enrollment. He used the term “minorities”; a term that I don’t necessarily agree with. However the faculty at Lone Star College is 80% White. At this point things began to make sense.
When the overwhelming majority of your students are Black and Latino youth from the inner city and the overwhelming majority of your professors are Anglos from suburban and rural areas you are bound to run into some cultural barriers. While Conroe is only about a 20 minute drive from Acres Homes the cultural changes drastically on the other side of that 20 minute drive. But the question that we must ask is “are these cultural differences an impediment to the educational process?”
When a people have survived a psychologically traumatizing ordeal like American slavery, unfortunately a high level of sensitivity becomes a part of their culture. It could be likened to the suffering of Jewish people under the sickness of Adolf Hitler and their cultural resolve that it should happen “never again.” Society handles the suffering of Jewish people very delicately. Sometimes out of respect; sometimes out of fear.
Black people are a people who are still going through a healing process. Slavery, racism, discrimination and injustice have raped us of a dignity that we held dear since the beginning of time. Our suffering must be discussed, but it must be discussed in careful and delicate fashion lest one make a common chiropractic mistake. If a chiropractor is not careful he could further injure the very patient that he is trying help walk upright.
I eventually met with the Lone Star College President, the Dean of schools and a few other faculty members. The professor who created the flyer and teaches the course was present as well. When I first saw the words and images on the flyer I assumed that either someone was trying to make mockery of our sojourn in America or someone had become a little overzealous in an attempt to include “our community” in the course curriculum.
Nevertheless it was what Obama calls a “boneheaded” error. In all fairness to the professor, you cannot have an honest discussion about American history without talking about the savage institution of slavery that helped to build this nation. I, honestly, appreciate any professor who would have the courage to even bring it up. All we ask is that if you are going to talk about it; know what you are talking about. And if at some point you realize that you don’t all you have to do is “ask somebody.”
This is the importance of community relationships with educational institutions. It is a relationship that can close the gap between cultural sensitivity and education. The president of Lone Star issued a letter of apology for all who were offended by this handbill and so did the professor.
(Join us for a Lone Star Community College Community Leadership Luncheon; Thursday Dec. 3rd, 10am at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive. Please RSVP via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)