While working on the digitization of the John Fischer Collection, I came across a situation I found particularly interesting and worthy of sharing. In 1966, a new middle school in Harlem was being opened under a white principal. Black parents protested and demanded a black principal and even refused to send their children. The principal resigned to allow a black principal to come in, but the teachers decided not to staff the school in protest. More details can be found here.
The attached documents are the Board of Education's Proposal for the improvement of education in disadvantaged areas like Harlem and the response of the parents of Harlem to the proposal. Upon reading the Board's proposal, my initial reaction was positive. Finally something was getting done to improve the horrible state of education in Harlem at that time. However, the response of the parents was something that caught me completely off guard and radically shifted my view on the proposal. Here's where it gets interesting: the parents were offended by the proposal, and justifiably so. I encourage you to read the response, but basically the parents tell the board that their proposal implies that there are inherent flaws in African American and Puerto Rican communities and that they need an intervening task force to set them straight.
They argued that the schools did nothing to match with the culture of their children and that the lack of parental involvement was actually the Board stripping power from the parent boards set up in the community. Now both sides have their strong and weak points, but this situation paints a profound picture of the racial and the political landscape of New York City in the 1960s. The fact that the board could go and publicly announce something like this plan when it was ignoring the local boards set up by parents is a powerful thing. Do any of you see things like this happening under our current Department of Education? I know several teachers in the system haven't been too pleased with it.
|Proposals for improving education in schools in disadvantaged areas.pdf||310.3 KB|
|Response to board of education proposal for improving in schools in disadvantaged areas.pdf||200.94 KB|