Saturday, March 14, 2009

A catastrophe for the children of Tennessee Wednesday on the Hill, and the media missed it; racism is alive and doing well in our state

The little African-American girl in pigtails and a nice checkered school uniform of dark gray and white had gotten up at 4:30 in the morning to board a bus from Memphis to Nashville.

She was joined by other classmates and their parents. Their destination and purpose was to encourage legislators to support open enrollment for charter public schools in Tennessee. That would mean that any child who is being failed by a traditional public school could go to a charter public school to receive help in catching up and then moving forward according to her age and class level.

The success of this method has been proven at Smithson Craighead Academy in Nashville. I know. I am chairman for the board of development and I teach some classes there on writing. And one fourth grade class I visited last week was the best in catching on to what I was teaching than any other Middle Tennessee class I'd been before.

The great potential is there. The problem is that we have to go through a Legislature that does not give a damn about these children become of the color of their skin and difficult environment from which they live.

That was proved when most lawmakers were not even available for these children to talk to, the show their model behavior and to speak of their dreams. Leadership had changed the day's schedule, fully knowing these children and their parents were headed to the Hill. Lawmakers was forced into subcommittee and committee meetings to move their bills forward. And these bills are for people who come from the right side of the tracks with the correct skin color.

I witnessed the most dehumanizing sight of my life -- poor black children dressed in their best with their parents leading the way, being bounced from empty office to administrative aide like ping pong balls. Some doors were even closed.

Each group had been given a schedule of lawmakers to meet by the charter school association organizing the day. They might have been given a route to walk to Hawaii. That's how useful it was.

The last politician to really give a damn about these children was Bobby Kennedy. And you could tell by the way he caressed the backs of the necks of these children in Watts and Harlem. He knew that when these young people reached the age of 12, they came to the realization that there was no hope for them as characters they'd been watching on TV realizing the American Dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Only if they can become like LeBron James was there any way out of the societal trap that has been set for them from centuries of bigotry. I must apologize to Attorney General Eric Holder for my rebuke of him lecturing this nation about being a nation of cowards over race. We are. And we have damned children such as those from Memphis who drove six hours on Wednesday only to be ignored.

Just the day before, President Obama strongly endorsed charter public schools. Such schools are public -- your tax money follows these children to the schools.

In Nashville, that is per pupil spending of $8,176. Charter public schools have proven to be more successful than traditional public schools due to drastically lower administration costs that allows more tax money to get to classroom instruction. Charter schools also mix behavior modification into the curriculum to bring the social skills of the students in line with their age and grade level. Teachers are taught these skills first, so they can more effectively reach the children.

There is no easy way out of Smithson Craighead. Some kids wants to get thrown out so they can roam the streets. They've learned that such fortune won't happen as in traditional public schools. CEO Sister Sandra Smithson makes sure of that.

O America, my America. God shed his grace on thee. But your indifference and outright hate for these children from the wrong side of the tracks and with a different skin color is most worthy of God's wrath.

If I am not blind to this, He is neither. And his righteousness will ultimately be swift and terrible. Ignore these children, and you ensure more crime, more unwanted babies and more prison costs. Embrace them, and you ensure a better and safer future in this nation, and one in which America deserves the claim of being under God.

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