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How Schools Weaponize Power

Since everyone of us comes of age with our own unique biases, as formed by our own life experiences, backgrounds and worldview, we (often unknowingly) project our flawed beliefs and prejudicial thinking onto other unsuspecting people. I suppose harboring a negative bias is harmless if you exist in a fortress of solitude like bubble and never encounter people centered careers, relationship partners, have children or otherwise exercise your unchecked behavior in a manner consistent with influencing others’ quality of life. Except few of us operate in such silos and since we’re fortunate enough to interact with humanity in an intimate way – throughout life, we are repeatedly prompted to learn, grow and expand our psyche in such a way as to become more tolerant of differences and to refine our previously biased beliefs and practices. This pattern of growth and maturity becomes complicated and far less cut and dry when power dynamics are in play. Hence prescribing a literal recipe for disaster on the mis-education landscape.

Consider that while students arrive to the learning environment as generally trusting of authority, receptive to knowledge and having great expectations of both the value and benefits of an education, educators come to the profession with degrees, varying degrees of relevant theory, very little (if any) practical experience and yet bestowed with all the power to shape and mold impressionable minds. Given the wide disparity between students of color and the overwhelming numbers of white, privileged educators – its easy to comprehend how skewed the power imbalance is., in favor of mis-education. For Black and Latinx children in America, many of our initial encounters with weaponized power, bias, discrimination, racism, sexism, classism and having been unrighteously profiled as less than – came not at the hands of law enforcement, but rather from the teachers and school officials who effortlessly weaponized their power.

Having worked exclusively in both Black and Hispanic American school communities, I have been privy to what could essentially be described as criminal misconduct in countless cases of miseducation, involving students of color and the unchecked, weaponized power of the adults who are tasked to serve them but who instead add insult to injury, abuse and harm. It’s sad, even infuriating to be in the presence of financial improprieties, gross misinformation, low quality standards and instruction, poor academic expectations of lack and mediocrity and a toxic combination of leadership and teacher apathy or feigned ignorance, where there should be vision, culturally relevant value, exceptionally high expectations and hope for the future.

Instead, examples of miseducation abound and have become more common. From a recent Tik Tok post in which a teacher proudly recorded a “brain break” featuring 99% Black primary students singing and rapping the most vile and inappropriate lyrics. To my own ability to bear witness to an entire K-8 school comprised of 99% Latinx students in free fall towards closing. This potentially charming and high quality institution is such a model of miseducation largely due to ineptitude and nepotism from within. Despite the looming threat of the loss of their charter, abysmally low expectations of the students is simply the norm from both the leadership and the teachers. Parents, while not necessarily ignorant of the importance of education are sadly far too trusting of authority or seemingly overwhelmed by the minutiae of their own lives to exert the necessary influence to ensure change. Ultimately, what results is the nearly universal condition of miseducation by our own permission and endorsement. Until our Black and Latinx communities decide for ourselves that our greatest asset is our children and we prioritize the collective work to ensure that their quality of their education rises to meet the demand for career and college readiness . . . We can rest assured that the future is limited to only mirroring the skewed power dynamics that our educational system has duly prescribed: going through the motions of teaching and learning. The inevitable consequence of miseducation is all-encompassing hopelessness and despair for the oppressed masses.

We must be duly forewarned of this sobering reality.

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