U.S. education reform is in many ways centered on figuring out how to properly educate Black and Hispanic students in public school systems around the country. More often than not, the core assumption of the problem has shifted from under-resourced schools and the woeful decay of professional respect for teachers, to the students themselves being the problem. There is the false assumption that because a student is Black or Hispanic, they are broken in some way. In a way that now there is a cottage industry of academics and enlightened social entrepreneurs lined up to fix them. There is a shingle on nearly every corner for services or experiments of some kind to fix children of color. So deep has the assumption gotten that people, likely with good intentions, are beginning to refer to Black and Hispanic children as if they are some strange species and not simply children like all others.
I have come across academics who suggest that White graduate students, need special training to learn how to interact with URM youth. Recall that “URM” is the dehumanizing moniker which stands for Under Represented Minority. I have seen some that base the selection of researchers into their particular education reform program on, the demonstrated ability to interact with URM’s. I even saw one that suggested that Black children are better able to learn when material is couched in musical contexts.
I find this language and the aggregation of assumptions about Black and Hispanic children insulting and degrading. Does a White graduate student need special training to deal with my daughter because she’s Black? What would that manual say?
Culturally sensitive work is always good and cultural sensitivity is an acquired skill that we should all strive towards. The training necessary; however, is not how to deal with Black and Hispanic children. They, in fact, are just children. They come in all shapes, sizes, dispositions and interests that all children come in. Their color and ethnicity are merely coefficients on the core variable - child. The necessary training is on how White academics can disentangle their good intentions from a simplistic and outmoded view of Black and Hispanic people who are different from themselves.
Lesson one: do not confuse the color of a child with the summation of their identity.