In a recent article, Dan French, the executive director of the Center for Collaborative Education, reports that teachers and school administrators lack in their efforts to improve race relations in schools. New technology is necessary to improve schools for all children. Teachers and school administrators must understand that improving race relations includes overcoming the adverse affects associate with a dysfunctional organization.

According to the article, Colorblind Education Is the ‘Wrong Response’, school leaders and teachers must refrain from becoming reluctant to discuss race and gender issues in the classroom. French goes on to say, if school leaders want to play a significant role in improving race relations and narrowing opportunity gaps in their districts and cities, they must work to abandon the colorblind approach. Districts should recognize that black and Latino males need access to a rigorous curriculum that includes content reflecting their language, culture, and frames of reference. They need to see teachers and administrators who look like them. All of us must work harder to create schools that embrace students and families of all backgrounds, rather than places where some are asked to leave their cultures, languages, and experiences outside the schoolhouse door.

Requiring school leaders and teachers to remove the colorblind approach involves positioning teachers in circumstances that could be considered embarrassing, threatening or upsetting. The described challenges form the basis for a dysfunctional organization.

What are the characteristics of a dysfunctional organization that reject efforts to improve race relations?

Dysfunctional organizations exhibit several characteristics that are detrimental to its existence. The foundation for the dysfunctional organization begins with each person’s use of defense mechanisms for coping. Defense mechanisms are the unwritten rules an individual learns and utilizes to effectively deal with circumstances that are upsetting, embarrassing, or threatening.

The second level is skilled incompetence, which is the outcome of the defense mechanisms we have internalized. When the defensive behaviors we’ve learned are transformed into a learned behavior, that behavior becomes a skill – albeit an incompetent skill – that we consider necessary in order to deal with issues that are embarrassing, threatening, or upsetting. A skill that is learned from the regular application of a defense mechanism has a high degree of incompetence embedded within it, because we are unaware of how this skill will impact our future.

Skilled incompetence transforms into a defensive routine. Defensive routines are the third level. When the skilled incompetence is automatically exhibited at all times, the behavior is now a defensive routine.

Defensive routines lead to fancy footwork. Fancy footwork is the fourth level. Fancy footwork happens when individuals try to deny the behavioral inconsistencies they exhibit, or else they place blame on other people, which results in distancing themselves from taking responsibility for their behavioral inconsistencies.

Fancy footwork leads to organizational malaise. Organizational malaise is the final level. During this phase the individuals in the organization will seek to find fault within the organization rather than accept responsibility for their actions and correct their behavior accordingly. The individual continues the process by accentuating the negative and deemphasizing the positive in an effort to cover up their actions. The organizational malaise is further exacerbated by a refusal of one or all the members to discuss their area of responsibility.

How can schools improve race relations and avoid the characteristics associated with a dysfunctional organization?

Schools can improve race relations by promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships. Quality teacher-student interactions are one of the most important variables that influence student achievement in the classroom. Teacher-student relationships are at the very heart of the educational process. It is expected that this relationship should have an important bearing on students’ achievement. Long-term teacher-student relationships result in improved student performance. Higher student grades result when teachers and students have congruent values. Black student achievement has a high correlation with warm and supportive teachers.

Administrators and teachers can only improve race relations by promoting positive racial relationships in such a manner that the pitfalls associated with a dysfunctional organization are avoided.

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With your help, race relations can improve

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D. PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012


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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology

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