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Thompson: Schools And Racial Profiling

MartinWhat does the killing of Trayvon Martin have to do with the Department of Education's data collection which shows that black students are 3-1/2 times more likely to be suspended than white students?  Personal and institutional racism persist, as does bigotry born of a lack of communication. 

One thing that the latest tragedy and the "school to prison pipeline" have in common, however, is that solutions to both can be found in the classroom.I would like to join with Jose Vilson, whose "Trayvon Martin and the Implication for Teacher Perceptions of Students," in the Huffington Post, affirms that, "Teachers can play a critical role in the move towards racial consciousness and, yes, harmony."  Vilson explains why teachers must listen to our students, and why we must find time in class for conversations that address our cultural perceptions and misperceptions.

The following is an example of one such conversation that I was privileged to witness.  Pat McGuigan, who was then the editor-in-chief of the conservative Daily Oklahoman, as well as a former author for the Heritage Foundation, visited our class, and he went head-to-head with Lakisha (as I will call her). 

Lakisha argued that Governor George Bush was "a hypocrite." According to her logic, Bush argued that we should cut the social safety net because the government can't do anything right, but he also argued that the cases made by the government against every inmate who Texas executed were perfect. "Which is it, the government can't do anything right, or can't do anything wrong?"

Pat pushed back, and then the discussion shifted to the day's editorial on community policing and crime sweeps in the students' neighborhood, "the Highlands." Pat started with a description of crime sweeps as irregular patrols of high-crime neighborhoods, and from all over the room came, "Yeah, every Tuesday and Thursday in the Highlands."

Pat then explained that sweeps had to be unpredictable or they would not be effective ...

"Yeah, every Tuesday and Thursday!"

Pat said, "sweeps could not stop drivers just because of their race because that would be racial profiling..."

"Yeah, they also stop us for just walking!"

Pat knew to shift gears and listen to the true experts on community policing, crime sweeps and racial profiling in our kids' neighborhood.  McGuigan not only listened to my students, but he ultimately changed careers and taught in an alternative school.-JT (@drjohnthompson) image via.

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This sounded like a classic case of a Rationalist who believes that empirical data must always be subservient to dogma encountering people who live in the Empiricist world of reality, yet there was nothing in this description that indicated the Rationalist ever conceded that reality existed.

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