By Damita Miller-Shanklin
You may remember Ms. Olyvia Green from our issue back in 2018. She was the first Black teacher at Pease Elementary. I reached out to her again because she is an Educator and I wanted to get her opinion about the school related issues in our country and black communities related to book bans, erasing of our history and more. I have been concerned about these issues and was glad to speak with Ms. Green.
Education is very important for all people. However for Black children it is how we improve our life and have options as to what we can do. If you are a parent you may be making choices about where you want to send your child to school because what you want for your child’s education is just not there in our public school setting. Does our educational system give our children a good education?
Green points out “parents are trying to get the best education for their children. So if they feel like the private school is doing a better job than the public school, then they send them to the private school.” When I was going into high school my mother wanted me to go to a different high school out of my district. She went to the school administration office and asked for a transfer. So I see where this is a true situation parents are struggling with even now.
Governor Abbott is proposing a school voucher program. Supporters are calling it educational freedom, but what does a voucher program mean? School vouchers are the use of tax dollars to pay private school tuition. (tpr.org). There is concern that if your child stays at a public school how much funding will be available for an equal education? The Governor says public schools will still be funded. But at this time, public schools are struggling to provide teachers with what they need. If the money follows the students, it seems that a child that chooses a private school will get more opportunities. Do you believe the Governor when he says “If you like the public school your child is attending, it will still be fully funded?” (texastribune.org)
The other issue we are facing is educators, parents, and students have to consider the push to remove books that tell our black history and AP courses dealing with books that tell Black historical journeys. All cultures have a history and a journey where their ancestors took for freedom and a better life. As an educator, Green reminds us that Black history is really American history because we are all in America. We are Americans.
The concern is when books are removed and classes are removed from curriculum how will our children learn about who they are? It will become more important that our children get their history at home from their parents and family members. But is that fair to our history? We exist then and now. The struggle happened. There were slaves. Green became upset when books were removed from the library. As Green pointed out, if they don’t get it from home, where will they get it? The book shelves will be empty.
The focus is on Black history right now. Are they going to take the books that black authors wrote? What about the other races? Are they going to destroy those books too? It’s not consistent. There are activists using their voice to stop it or try to help control it. But will it work? What can we do when the situation is so big?
Ms. Green feels in order to make a difference we will have to have meetings with people and gather ideas. This is how the community leaders did it before to get results. It has to be strategic. Once you get all these ideas, then go to the school board meetings. This can include neighborhood meetings and don’t forget to church. Florida and other states such as Memphis are having the same issue of removing Black history. There are other states, including Memphis, Tennessee. having the same issue..The powers that be will not listen to one person.
Has Green seen any comparison with what she had to do in order to teach? Do you see any kind of parallels? Or is it new? There are not any parallels. The only person teaching Black history at Pease Elementary was her. “After white teachers saw me trying to do something, they wanted to know what I was doing. Then they asked if they could do something together.”
We as Black Americans need to be aware we are under serious changes that will impact our lives in a negative way. From education to women’s rights, we have to be “woke” about the injustices and racial discrimination we are seeing right now. It is all very transparent and we all have to do our part.