Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Us vs. Them

Your team vs. my team. Parents vs. kids. Youth vs. adults. Rich vs. Poor. Black vs. white. Native vs. immigrant.
In the long and shadowy past of civilization, relationships have often separated into an us vs. them paradigm. We naturally, I think, notice our differences far quicker than we notice our similarities. Public education breeds such thinking. Our students are shifted to Honors classes and Fundamentals classes. We have kindergarten through twelfth grade. There are athletes and thespians. And none of this is to say that distinguishers are completely wrong. But the topic caught my attention this afternoon on the drive home as my wife relayed her field trip story. I will put it into my own words.

Pobrecito Elementary School has partnered with Well-heeled Elementary School for the purpose of learning through reading and writing together--a pen-pal program with a real purpose.
Pobrecito students boarded the school bus and bounced their way over to Well-heeled Elementary for a day of personal interaction. For the most part the day went well. Unfortunately, two of Pobrecito's students made some bad choices. One boy poked fun of a Well-heeled student, calling his gait something along the lines of effeminte--adding a four letter word for emphasis. The second boy decided he wanted to play a game that is often played on Pobrecito's playground: Hit Your Friend in the Nads. It's a simple game, played with friends. One simply tries to hit his friend in the groin. They play it in the middle school these boys will be going to, as well as the high school they will one day attend.
The Pobrecito teacher discovered the behavior, addressed the two young boys. They apologized; they lost privileges back at Pobrecito Elementary, and the teacher and boys moved on. The cooperating teacher at Well-heeled was made aware of the consequences and she moved on as well.
A week later, the principal of Well-heeled Elementary School phoned the principal of Pobrecito to "inform" him of the incident.

Now I wonder why Well-heeled's principal felt the need to inform Pobrecito's principal of the matter. My guess? The parents were so disturbed by Pobrecito students' behavior (them), that they demanded a meeting with the principal to lodge their complaints. Feeling the pressure, he made the phone call.
Then I wonder what is gained from such an experience. Do Pobrecito students come away in awe of how well-heeled their counterparts are, and in seeing what it "should" be like, change their ways? Do Well-heeled students walk away from the experience, in addition to a sore groin, somehow sensitive to "them" and their culture? Do Well-heeled's parents gain valuable insight into the struggles of the millions of families living in other areas like Pobrecito Elementary?
Other than the us vs. them separation, I'm not sure what is gained.

On the other hand, I become extremely defensive. Listen, I have issues with the way many of my district's students behave. I abhor their lack of interest in learning or putting forth the effort I think will make them successful. I hate that our students get away with wandering our halls and defying teachers. It pisses me off that we alone, the teachers, must carry the public's ire when the students fail.
But snobby principals of snobbier parents who are unable to recognize that much of their success is only attributable to being born to the parents they were born to, and to being born in this country at that time, inflame my deepest scorn.
Okay, I'm doing a lot of story creation here. I don't know the whole story, only one perspective (that I happen to trust). But I do know that the principal of Well-heeled never stopped by to visit his class of students who were hosting this exchange of human interaction. I'm calling that snobby.


At 5:54 PM , Blogger Amerloc said...

Y'know, I can understand sidetracked (I have been there, and revisit it often. I have t-shirt proof), and sometimes stuff just gets piled so high on an administrator's desk that they either have to deal with it during the school day or go home late. But going home late is why they get the extra money - it sure ain't for superior intellect

I truly don't understand ignoring guests on campus unless there was a 911 call involved.


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