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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

America's Apple Pie is Rotten says this Old School Teacher


RACISM 101 America Apple Pie is Rotten 

Catholic Charity Workers at rallies for The Poor Peoples March often carry signs that say Fight Poverty Not the Poor.  War everywhere is war. Make no mistake in this land of the free and the brave there is a war on poor children and the teachers who teach them. 

This has been my toughest teaching year, not because things are hard where I am at. Things have never been better here at our CCSU Literacy Center. CCSU has given us a dream space, and room to dream. 

What is tough is hearing from the teachers I work with about the vast inequitable learning and working conditions between schools that educate White Affluent Children, and schools that educate Black, Brown, and Poor Children. It crushes me to hear stories of legally required special education and literacy not being provided to our Black and Brown children in poor schools. To hear about middle schools without specials, (art, music, Home Economics, Wood and Metal shops. Middle schools without Literacy Specialists, and Librarians. When Michelle Alexander writes about the School to Prison Pipelines these are the schools she is writing about. It does not surprise me in the least that these schools are mainly located in Black and Brown communities.  America has never given the same resources to all our public schools. My thinking is this America Apple Pie has two halves, one side rotten, and the other is ready to eat and enjoy. 
Wealthy Affluent White Schools have it all, while poor urban and rural schools that educate Black and Brown Children lack the very basics of public education that can transform schools from prison pipelines to learning and teaching places of possibility. At CCSU I teach teachers and children from that two-sided apple pie. I do my best to lift all teachers, go out of my way to lift children and teachers from that rotten side of America Apple Pie. 

Our Literacy Center provides the model of what should and could be. It is the place where all children, parents, and teachers are lifted. I do my best to make our CCSU Literacy Center as inviting and welcoming as possible. Everyday our teachers and children have hours of that better place. 

This year, the vast inequalities sometimes break me.  Alone at the end of the night, I clean up a bit, turn off the light, and sit in the dark and cry. I live in an America who cannot find it in its heart to do right by all our children, teachers, and public schools. On the tearful nights I find myself thinking maybe it is time to retire, you can do it, you have the years, you can walk away, and leave the fight to others? I pick up my bag, lock the door, and think I cannot leave now. Someone needs to say it can be different. Someone needs to say come in, rest your weary loads, and stay for 3 hours of what should be. I wish it were different. I wish America would declare war on poverty not the poor, not on Black and Brown children, their teachers, and schools.

I am an old school teacher, taught by old school teachers. Teacher who has us read John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. My Old School English Teacher Mrs. Stansfield said this book is banned in many places. Banned because some say it has offensive language. There is not one word of profanity in it, but truth rings loud on every page. We shall read it together, and then watch the old black and white movie as well, cause Henry Fonda voice gives life to the life of Steinbeck's Tom Joad at the very end. We shall read it not because it is on the approved curriculum. We shall read it, because it offers America Hope. 50 years later I can still hear Ms. Stansfield read it, still see her cry when Henry Fonda gives voice to Tom Joad at the end. 
It is not just the inequality that is hurting Black and Brown children today, it is the silencing of the voices of old school teachers with test driven mandates.  I can hear that old school teacher reading:
“You don’t aim to kill nobody, Tom?”
“No. I been thinkin’, long as I’m a outlaw anyways, maybe I could — Hell, I ain’t thought it out clear, Ma. Don’ worry me now. Don’ worry me.”
They sat silent in the coal-black cave of vines. Ma said, “How’m I gonna know ’bout you? They might kill ya an’ I wouldn’ know. They might hurt ya. How’m I gonna know?”
Tom laughed uneasily, “Well, maybe like Casy says, a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but on’y a piece of a big one — an’ then —”
“Then what, Tom?”
“Then it don’ matter. Then I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where — wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ — I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build — why, I’ll be there. See? God, I’m talkin’ like Casy. Comes of thinkin’ about him so much. Seems like I can see him sometimes.”

 Until the pie is made healthy and good for all, I will be here every night, and you will find me fighting the good fight every chance I get outside my schoolhouse door.  I am an old school teacher to the end. 

My teaching heart is breaking, but not my teaching spirit,
Dr. Jesse P. Turner
CCSU Literacy Center Director 

I shall be an old school teacher to the very endI
I shall be an old school teacher to the end

If you like to listen to the song that inspired my morning walk this morning. It's Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello performing "The ghost of Tom Joad"

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