Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Obama Speaks to the Kids...The Horror! (Guest Post)

Seems Like a Parenting Problem To Me

by Mark Anthony Neal

President Obama’s planned address to the nation’s school children on Tuesday has generated criticism as some of his political opponents argue that he is using the opportunity to, at best, infect America’s classrooms with partisan politics and, at worst, indoctrinate them with a radical and “socialist” agenda. Never before has such an address been subject to the kind of scrutiny that the president’s rather innocuous call for good grades and a stay in school mentality has. There is little doubt that the uproar over the president’s address is just further evidence of efforts by some to try to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama—like those in the birthers movement—and a desire by political opponents to deny Obama any political goodwill in the midst of a heated debate over health care.

I’d like to suggest that some of the apprehensions surrounding the president’s speech are also the product of a general feeling among America’s parents that they have lost control of the message when it comes to instilling their children with homegrown values.

The idea of a sitting president addressing school children should be openly embraced by all citizens as an opportunity for the ultimate civics lesson. Yet some parents are planning to boycott schools the day of the president’s speech and some school districts are offering parents the chance to opt-out of the nationwide event. As one parent recently told “The Michael Berry Show,” a conservative talk radio show in Houston, TX, “my rights as a parent are being circumvented so this president can speak to my children. My children will not be going to school.” Rights as a parent being circumvented? Is the president discussing religion or some other issue that is clearly out of bounds in the nation’s public schools? What gives? Why is the president given a power that, Oklahoma State Senator Steve Russell describes as a “cult of personality… something you'd expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein's Iraq?” What explains such irrational responses?

Read the rest @ NewBlackMan.


critical processes said...

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This is off-topic but have you ever written about racism in graduate schools?

Macon D of stuffwhitepeopledo recently stated “whenever white people congregate these days, high concentrations of racial homogeneity are just pure coincidence.” …

I am a graduate student at a major biological "research institution" in New York City. You wouldn't know this is a graduate/research program if you stumbled on campus. This exclusive, highly maintained campus feels more like Sandals resort with all of the young upper-middle class white or white male/asian female couples roaming around hand-in-hand during the evenings. Groups of white or white-and-asian students roam with tennis rackets on their way to the on-campus court. Or they congregate in packs at the on-campus student lounge with a personal bartender. Or the white and asian students have parties in the hotel-like student lounge of the dorms.

Most of the groups of people you see dotted around campus are all-white or white-and-asian. The campus is mostly white with a substantial number of asians but has a serious dearth of black or latino students--and I almost never see the other black students.

You wouldn't believe the amounts of implicit racism I've experienced here. Twice while coming on campus I've been stopped in a hostile and condescending manner by newly-hired guards who, having seen my ID, told me that I am 'ok' since I was a groundskeepers or a day worker for the animal facility whose staff is mostly black and latino.

Coming to my dorm, almost every six months someone gives me a hostile look in the foyer as if I'm some intruder. When I attend lectures, I meet the same hostility until I ask a serious academic question of the lecturer.

When someone new comes to my lab, they'll automatically either intentionally ignore me or attempt to condescend to me. Scientific sales reps will intentionally ignore me and proceed to the white guys who are also just students. Believe it or not, this one white girl who rotated in the lab would speak to me in a passive-aggressive/patronizing manner. And almost everyone in the lab, despite my being there for years and attempting to form working relationships with them, never come to me casually or attempt to have conversations (work or otherwise) with me unless I initiate the conversation and never at the casual or intelligent level they have with each other.

I noticed the other two black guys, who are accomodationists (and overrepresented with respect to the real dearth of black students on campus), also attempt to have conversations with the white people in the lab but they are always the ones to initiate the conversation.

After five years of being here, the only thing I've learned is that white and asian people are the only people competent enough to be scientists.

A maintenance staff guy wrote an article in the student rag praising the university's president in light of the great hall of European philosophers like Kant and Hume and the great European scientific tradition. Additionally, the sense of ownership and privilege among other students is just incredible.

I'm beginning to think that biomedical science is almost a white supremist enterprise by default. Science is supposed to be a collaborative endeavor with a free collegial exchange of information and support, but when people are constantly patronizing or condescending to you, such is a psychological assault informing you that you are inconsequential, "tolerated" or unwelcomed. I read a report somewhere that around half of black graduate science students drop out of their programs. If they meet the same kinds of hostility or implied white supremacy I meet, small wonder.

critical processes said...

(2 of 2)
I've especially felt a sort of patronizing attitude right off the bat from many of the white female students on campus. White women, with the help of affirmative action, have made great gains in both scientific student bodies and faculty, but you would still be wont to find black faculty and only a little more lucky in locating black students in scientific graduate programs across the country. That aside, most of my interactions with white females on campus has been unnecessarily hostile and patronizing.

There are two other black male students who happen to be in my lab; they're very sycophantic towards the white male students, which surprised me. They're always kissing up, laughing nervously, you know that trying to court your attention laugh, around these other white males who are just graduate students like them. They prick up their minds and attempt to engage the se white guys with crisp, intelligent conversation. They'll go to the white guys equally whenever they have a problem as if they are the fount of knowledge, (I've never seen them approach any of the white girls or the Indian guy when they have problems, but they will approach them for prick-up-your-mind 'casual' conversation, more than they give me [or each other]). When explicitly in the company of the white guys (which never seems to be together with each other), they intentionally ignore me or will attempt to condescend to me. It's irritating to watch white guys no better than the average black guy get their egos stroked day after day by white girls and sycophantic blacks while they also slap themselves on the back. It's not like they're especially brilliant or that this science is just so difficult that only superiorly intelligent white supremists like James Watson can do it.
I don't even want to get into the student listserve conversation I had to observe in the wake of James Watson's comments back in 2007. Some of them practically endorsed the man with statements like "science is about objective data, not political correctness" or "what does giving a writing prize for his autobiography have to do with him making statements that any old man would make"?

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