Observing Black History MonthMalcolm X, one of this...

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January 27, 1994

Observing Black History Month

Malcolm X, one of this century's outstanding revolutionary leaders, gave a realistic and pragmatic reason for Black History Month: "When we send our children to school they learn nothing about us other than that we used to be cotton pickers. Why, your grandfather was Nat Turner; your grandfather was Toussaint L'Ouverture, your grandfather was Hannibal. It was your grandfather's hands who forged civilization and it was your grandmother's hands who rocked the cradle of civilization. But the textbooks tell our children nothing."

Although today the contributions of black Americans are slowly finding their way into American history textbooks, they have yet to fully enter the subconscious of the American mind. Further, although Negro history is indeed interwoven into the whole fabric of our civilization, many aspects arising from slavery have placed the black American in a real dilemma.

That dilemma arises from the concept that with the exception of the Indian, Negro roots go back further into the history of this republic than any other ethnic minority's. Yet since his early arrival into this new land over two centuries ago the black American has been associated with what historians call the "house of bondage." It appeared that both philosophically and historically, the black man was fated to remain a slave in his own land.

This plight was destined to change with the advent of the Civil War in the 1860s. A careful reading of history reveals that as soon as the war broke out, hundreds of Negroes began freeing themselves by running away. When the noble President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, he was merely acknowledging the fact that blacks were freeing themselves. In retrospect, it must be said that Lincoln did not originate the concept of freeing the blacks; he merely had to accept the fact that their time for freedom had come.

Since that time blacks, through hard work and dedication, have made immense gains. They have, however, continued in many respects to be victims of discrimination. Much of back history seemed forgotten or neglected in the textbooks of American history and culture.

Black History Month gives all Americans the opportunity to study and reflect on the rich heritage of black history, which is an integral part of the overall history of American civilization.

It gives us all an opportunity to broaden our understanding of one another and realize that mistakes and injustices, which must ultimately be totally rectified, were committed.

The study of black history is a study of American history, for in the march of the American republic toward greatness, the blacks and other minorities have been present, helping to shape each event.

John A. Micklos

Baltimore

City schools: a report from the trenches

For 15 weeks, I have been observing and teaching at Patterson Senior High School in Baltimore City. I have experienced students with broad socio-economic differences, students at varying skill levels and of various ages (14-18).

I believe that education is in serious need of overhaul. I don't mean the tearing down of old buildings and construction of new ones. The methods and procedures inside the building need to be overhauled.

A young person cannot be expected to learn in an environment that is not conducive to learning. A young person must be able to be exposed to many different methods of learning. He must be able to find out which way he can best learn.

I don't believe that mixing skill levels, also known as mainstreaming, works the way it is intended. I believe that a student who is not able to compete on an intellectual level with peers, over a period of time, only regresses and feels even less worthy.

The intellectually impaired students who do have the confidence and the will power to participate in mainstreaming should have the option, but mainstreaming should not be a procedure.

Next, I believe that the teachers need to be given more incentive to teach, and less incentive to quit.

A teacher cannot be expected to teach a class of 45 students when, as we all are aware, not all 45 are interested in the same lines of thoughts. Not all 45 can keep their minds on what the teacher is doing for the same amount of time or to the same degree.

I am not trying to say that a classroom of 20 would necessarily be better, but the odds are in your favor to have less problems.

I believe that teachers have too many distractions. Teachers sometimes are required to spend their planning period walking the hallways, looking for students who do not belong there. After school, they can be required to stay in a faculty meeting until the sun goes down.

After several years, you have no choice but some form of burn-out, some form of regret.

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