• Share
  • Read Later

(5 of 10)

"I am deeply frightened about the implications of all this, and of such acts as teachers showing hatred of one another." The children most in need of schooling are the most affected, noted Harry Beilin, a professor of education and psychology at the City University of New York. He said: "The long-term effect of the strike is an undermining of the ability to respect authority." For those in high school, particularly students who hope to go to college, a protracted strike could be catastrophic.

Ironically, the area least affected by the strike is Rhody McCoy's eight-school Ocean Hill-Brownsville district. Recruit ed during the summer from all parts of the country, McCoy's temporary teachers form one of the brainiest public school staffs in the country. Eager, dedicated and inventive, with a heavy emphasis on the Ivy League—"I'm a bum," quips one principal, "but all my teachers wear Brooks Brothers suits"—they come early and stay late, refusing to bow to the stale pedagogic commands that emanate from 110 Livingston Street, the Board of Education's central office in Brooklyn. Many have attended law school, and regular teachers complain bitterly that they are in Ocean Hill only to escape the draft.

The people are overjoyed to have them, whatever their reasons for coming. "It has to work," says Mrs. Lolita Chandler, veteran teacher of P.S. 178. "It will work. In spite of everything that people are doing to crush this beautiful thing. We have been floating around in this sea of negativism for too long. People don't have the courage to face the fact that the status quo just hasn't worked. Instead, they get themselves frightened by such ideas as Black Power and militancy. It's not that at all. It is just a simple matter of accountability."

The district's mistrust of many veteran teachers is often unfair, if understandable. The menacing atmosphere of most slum schools is enough to cow even the most devoted teacher, who in any case is seldom equipped professionally to deal with the specialized problems of the deprived child—let alone the disturbed or disruptive student who is too often rejected as "uneducable."

Need for Upheaval

Many Negro students would probably be better off not even attending the typical New York school. A splendid tool in assimilating and liberating past generations of immigrants, the city school today seems incapable of helping the ghetto children. Each year they fall farther behind. In one Manhattan school, 47% of the second grade are below the national reading norm; in the third grade, 52% of the children were behind, while 72% of the fourth grade lagged. The notion is often advanced that black parents do not care. The experience of Ocean Hill-Brownsville, as well as simple observation, says differently. Few can forget a demonstration last year in an East Harlem school where an elderly black woman, tears streaming down her face, cradled the head of her nine-year-old grandson and lamented, as if chanting a dirge: "He don't read! He don't read! He don't read!"

How can teachers' rights be protected as the system is decentralized? It should be possible to work out intermediate stages between completely local and completely central control, thus combining both teachers'

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10