The Manhattan report on safe and orderly schools makes recommendations as an alternative to the Obama administration guidelines on school discipline. The report in itself is an argument for eliminating the strategies that many schools employed to eliminate the perception of racism. The biggest challenge with the Manhattan Institute report is that it lacks a process for organizational transformation and placates the same mistake as other initiatives.
Max Eden, who is the senior fellow for the Manhattan Institute begins with the premise that the “Dear Colleague Letter” initiated by the Obama administration “…was a mistake, beginning with the claim that racial disciplinary disparity is due to adult bias. The differences are overwhelmingly due to student behavior.” Effectively, the blame is shifted from the adults to the students. Shifting blame is a primary component of a dysfunctional organization. Therefore, those schools that embrace this premise will find that tenets of a dysfunctional organization will dominate their future organizational activities.
The Manhattan Institute report begins the formulation of a dysfunctional organization by focusing on the fundamental values of bias and behavior. This level of attack is classic because it undermines the very reasons that biased teachers feel embarrassed, threatened, or upset. The foundational level of a dysfunctional organization are the circumstances that make people feel embarrassed, threatened, or upset.
In order to undermine this level of dysfunctionality, several examples are provided that condone the racial biases. There is a failure of including the other half of the picture. For example, the research indicates that teachers discriminate against students by stereotyping according to ethnicity. According to Rubovits and Maehr (1973), White females enrolled in a child development course for perspective elementary teachers who taught a lesson to a group of seventh and eighth grade students (a) gave less attention to Blacks, (b) ignored most of the statements made by Black students, (c) praised Black students less, and (d) criticized Black students more. “Research has revealed that teachers form negative, inaccurate, and inflexible expectations based on such attributes as the race and perceived social class of their pupils” (Joint Center for Economic and Policy Studies, Committee on Policy and Racial Justice, 1989, p. 17). White teachers may have difficulty in understanding minorities due to the teachers’ rejection of the students’ lifestyles (Ornstein & Levine, 1990). Schools have a bias against students who do not share the same characteristics as White, female, middle-class teachers (Washington, 1982).
The Manhattan Institute report continues to defend the racial biases of school administrators. Cummins reported in 1986 that “A major reason previous attempts at educational reform have been unsuccessful is that the relationships between teachers and students and between schools and communities have remained essentially unchanged”. Administrators are the purveyors of these relationships and establish the limits of operation. This limitation has caused children of color to continue to distrust schools.
Distrust between schools and Blacks results from hostile treatment of Blacks and discrimination in schools (Ogbu, 1983). Whites’ dispassionate and detached communication mode creates distrust among Blacks due to its similarity to Blacks who front which occurs when Blacks perceive there is a communication risk factor and chooses to remain silent in Black-White communication encounters. The factors associated with verbal and nonverbal communication are overwhelmingly absent in the Manhattan Institute report.
Remarkably, the Manhattan Institute report rejects programs associated with restorative Justice and Positive Behavioral Interventions. Instead, it recommends:
- Focus on improving, not decreasing suspensions
- Respect the rights of students who want to learn
- Do not expect Restorative Justice will work
- Reject the false choice between discipline reform and “zero tolerance”
- Listen to teacher and students
- Roll back failed policies
- Give students priority over statistics
In none of these recommendations does the report recommendations focus of the original problem Which is racism in schools. It is another attempt to provide policy makers with information that continue to harbor and facility racism that hurts all children of color due to the Manhattan Institute report.
All the best,
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
- Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
- Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
- The Raccelerate Formula App
- Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
- The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Racism Management
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Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools
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