I have been teaching children ages 7-18 for about 35 years. Based on this experience, I think that the MMSD has lost its mind.
MMSD currently promotes an aggressive victimization mentality toward children of color. I think this serves as cover for its institutional hostility to opening up real educational alternatives. Two challengers in this year’s MMSD Board race for seats 4 and 5 are unwittingly buying into this game. MMSD kids are told, from the time that they first enter this system, that they are victims due to their skin color.
My own approach in working with children is the opposite. My first priority is to teach kids more self-confidence. It doesn’t matter what color of skin you have, or if you were born with a disability. If you view yourself as a victim, you become a victim. I think identity politics is child abuse on a mass scale. Proponents of identity politics want children to be reduced to the color of their skin. Not proud of who they are as individuals, who have taken initiative in the face of challenges and are overcoming them, but to view themselves primarily by their skin color. Intelligent kids know this is pandering. Growing up like this is profoundly demoralizing and exhausting. This is certainly not what Martin Luther King was about.
This racism offers remarkable levels of hypocrisy. Consider Sherman Middle School. For the last three years, Superintendent Jen Cheatham and the MMSD Board were perfectly happy to grind up what used to be a well-functioning school serving a large percentage of minority children, run by a beloved principal, into a hellhole of chaos, violence and disorder.
This was due to the hiring of a totally incompetent principal by our superintendent. Over 30 percent of the staff ended up leaving over the last three years, while our superintendent continued to coddle and excuse this principal, simply because her skin had the color she wanted. Children, with skin that had similar shades of the same color, were deemed expendable by her on a wholesale level. A veteran teacher of 16 years, beloved by her students and staff, finally blew the whistle when she resigned. That publicity forced the principal to also quit within a week. To understand the depth of this madness, you must read Karen Vieth’s “Why I’m Closing the Door on MMSD” and responding comments.
Regarding MMSD leadership, I can pinpoint the date I learned how dangerous Superintendent Cheatham is for children. That was March 26, 2014, after reading an Isthmus article “Zero Tolerance Run Amok” regarding MMSD’s brutal expulsion of an honest, straight-as-an-arrow honors student at East High.
What is the answer to such things happening in our school district? I think the only lasting solution is school choice, particularly a voucher system. That way parents of all races, who are not rich, can find a way to opt out of such abusive institutional control over their children.
My website, amosroeforschoolboard.org,offers detailed thoughts regarding many aspects of this issue. This includes the all-important issue of why our faith in testing, as a barometer of successful schools, is actually deeply flawed. It also addresses the important economic concerns of teachers currently employed by the system. I am soliciting insights from others regarding the latter issue in particular.
My thoughts are a reflection of many years of teaching and reading/thinking about children and schooling. I hope that they may be of use to those who are honestly searching for true solutions, rather than just blindly defending a broken system.
Amos Roe is a candidate for Madison School Board Seat 5.