Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Black-Kids Only Field-Trip - Racist Or Well-Intended?!?

If you were around here a few weeks ago, and caught the epic story of my French-class field trip, you'll know I'm not too fond of such excursions. Most of those I took while in school paled in comparison to the stuff my parents exposed us to in our own free family time, and most were really just excuses for kids to get out the classroom and hookup in the back of the bus cut the hell up in a slightly different environment. I don't really think it's the school's job to try and expand a kid's horizons. Just make the trains run on time, and leave that sorta stuff to responsible parents. Besides, my grade schools were in relatively poor parts of the state of NC, so we never went any further than the State Capitol or the county jail.

Talk about expanding horizons.

So, I suppose I could be a bit jealous biased in this area, especially when my nephew's private school is taking official spring break excursions to the freakin' Bahamas.

But I digress.

In Michigan, a state that's already infected with the tomfoolery of Detroit, an elementary school principal finds himself in hot water for essentially going' all 1960's on us, and taking some kids on a segregated field trip.
An Ann Arbor elementary school principal used a letter home to parents tonight to defend a field trip for black students as part of his school’s efforts to close the achievement gap between white and black students.

Dicken Elementary School Principal Mike Madison wrote the letter to parents following several days of controversy at the school after a field trip last week in which black students got to hear a rocket scientist.

“In hindsight, this field trip could have been approached and arranged in a better way," Madison wrote. "But as I reflect upon the look of excitement, enthusiasm and energy that I saw in these children’s eyes as they stood in the presence of a renowned African American rocket scientist in a very successful position, it gave the kids an opportunity to see this type of achievement is possible for even them.

A handful of parents have complained to district administrators about the trip, the group and Madison. More than a half-dozen parents contacted AnnArbor.com to raise the complaints, but none would agree to talk on the record, citing concerns of reprisals to their children by Madison.

While there’s no clear agreement between the two sides about exactly what happened, most of the controversy centers on a field trip taken last week by the Lunch Bunch for African American boys and girls to hear a black rocket engineer talk.

The program itself began earlier this year after the school received its latest achievement results. Margolis said the Lunch Bunch came from the school’s School Improvement Team and is tied to that team’s goals. She said several other schools in the district have similar programs targeting specific subgroups of students who are at risk.

District spokeswoman Liz Margolis said after the trip was over, those who went returned to their fifth-grade class and were greeted by boos by those who didn’t go on the trip. Margolis said Madison, who is black, heard the boos, and went to talk to the class.
I'm sorta on the fence with this one. Since one of my field trips involved a visit the county jail during which I was embarrassed in front of my entire class by an incarcerated relative, I think trying to do something positive is a good thing. Chances are these kids had never seen a black rocket scientist, and much like I was influenced to become an engineer by my uncle who was one, these kids might indeed be boarding the Space Shuttle, or whatever it'll be called then, someday as a result. So, on that note: good job Principal Madison.

On the flipside: c'mon bruh, really? Did you think a segregated field trip was really the best idea? Did it ever occur to you that just maybe none of the white kids had ever met a rocket scientist before either? Maybe they would have drawn the same inspiration from this trip as the black kids, and who knows, seeing a black guy who doesn't dribble a ball or rap for a living might have also enlightened these young kids.

Principal Madison needs to learn the difference between good intentions and proper execution. I'm sure he meant well, but he missed the mark. Badly.

Question: Was the blacks-only field trip a good idea? Were there better ways of exposing these kids to the rocket scientist?

Ann Arbor school district looking into legality and principal's actions in black-only field trip [AnnArbor]

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