Racism in America’s Schools: 200 Years and Counting

Please Note: We are not afraid to state that this blog DOES represent the viewpoints and values of Trifecta Education. 


It is more important than ever for us to examine the educational systems of our nation.  How are our children being taught? What are our children being taught? And what structures are in place that support oppression and racism?


America's public education system is one rooted in the antiquity of the mid-1800's and was created during a time when our country’s leaders thought it best to develop adults ready to meet the specific demands of our growing nation. The economy of the United States no longer needed farmers, but adults with reading, writing and math skills and our schools were designed to provide learners with what they needed to graduate and assimilate into the workforce of the Industrial Revolution. At first glance, this may make some sense to you and even appear to be in the best interest of the citizens of the United States at that time. At first glance it may seem ideal-- learners would graduate, be able to secure a job in a factory or shop and ultimately be able to provide for their families financially.


Sadly, this is not true. Because most workers in the United States were very poor during this time, public education primarily served the upper class and capitalists more than it served the workers. The labor of the poor created more wealth and power for the elite, and only strengthened their hold on the future of our schools and country. White men created structures and systems to prevent the questioning of authority and instilled a sense of "do as you're told" that began in the school systems and continued throughout the life cycle of adults. Ultimately, the wealth of the rich continued to grow and the workers remained poor, oppressed and unsupported. Sound familiar?


It has also been documented that public schooling began in part to prevent immigrant values from corrupting American values. You read that correctly-- the origins of our educational system are rooted in ethnocentrism. Simply stated, ethnocentrism is judging other people or their traditions, values or beliefs in comparison to one’s own cultural standards or values.  It means believing that the way you do things is the only right way to do them, and that people or cultures that do things differently are wrong. The white men who designed and orchestrated the American system of public education intentionally created structures that supported their own beliefs and values. The result was biased teachings, racist content and significantly inferior educations for black and brown students.


Today, in the United States race, ethnicity, social class, and gender continue to affect the amount of learning that takes place, academic achievement and the socio-emotional wellness of learners. Black and brown students do not receive an equitable education in comparison to white students. Fact: By the end of high school, black and Hispanic students' reading and mathematics skills are roughly the same as those of white students in the eighth grade. Read that again. Imagine trying to make your way through life with an 8th grade education. In addition, disciplinary policies and practices disproportionally black and brown students. Fact: Black students are expelled at 3x the amount of white students. Did you know that students who are suspended or expelled are also 3x as likely to be in contact with the juvenile justice system within the following year? According to the ACLU, "there is a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems." The school-to-prison pipeline is real.


When you hear educators or policy makers speaking about the discrepancy between learner achievement based on race, they are referring to "the achievement gap." There are multiple studies and government documentation on the achievement gaps that exist in the United States and the affect it has on the futures of black and brown students. If you think racism does not exist in our schools, you could not be more wrong. It is ingrained in the system.


There are those who say our educational system is broken, but I challenge that statement. Our educational system is working exactly as it was designed to do—empower white males. Our educational system does not need to be revised or reformed, it needs to be dismantled and completely recreated to value every learner, regardless of the differences that exist. There is an educational revolution happening and the movement is growing towards more equitable and attainable learning opportunities for all. As parents, community members and citizens we must support and embrace new ways of learning that value the individual and seek to create adults who challenge the status quo, continue to think critically, value lifelong learning and act for the benefit of all.

This is the path we must take in order to create the next generation of leaders. Our children need opportunities to explore their own values and beliefs, the freedom to use their voices to promote change and the power to direct their own education and experiences. This is who I want to see leading our Nation in the future—empowered men and women from all backgrounds and experiences working to create new systems that support and free the oppressed. I want our children to have control over their futures, to take action and instigate change. Their futures should be in their own hands.


I challenge you to question how and what your child is learning that will prepare them to be confident leaders and change makers now and in the future.

If you’d like to learn more about the need for educational redesign and the organizations that fuel my passion and vision, here are some great resources: Education Reimagined, Getting Smart, and Education Next. Trifecta Education was created to address the inequities of our system, provide affordable access to high quality learning and embraces the idea that learning is a social process that flourishes when in community. 


Interested in exploring an alternative education for your family? Sign up for a free information session or complimentary family consultation at Trifecta Education, Educational Services.

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