Inspirational and thought-provoking messages informed by my faith, ministry in education and community development
Dr. Flowers' Blog
What shall we say to our children during this era of civil and social unrest?
Just as it was for us during the assassination of the Kennedys, Malcolm, Martin, 9/11, Katrina, Sandy Hook, Trevon, George the waves of turbulence continue to place parents into positions of having to try help their children make sense out of nonsense. The African proverb referring to grass suffering is a reminder that often the actions or inaction of adults yield devastating consequences for our children. The role we must take as educators and parents involve a consistent formula for helping our children. That formula is the same one that proved to be critical in our being able to endure decades of unexplainable circumstances in our nation and throughout the world.
To help our children it is important to constantly remind them that God is on the throne and HIS GLORY shall prevail. We are to raise them to understand that the world has a darkness that cannot be seen. We must let them know that darkness loves surprise because it is more impactful when it catches you off guard. Just like the sudden ambush of a power outage, we have to raise them to understand trouble, tragedy, and evil lurk, but the light of Christ is a light that shall prevail and not be overcome.
For us as adults, we must be reminded that in the darkest of times the light shines brightest and take deliberate action to make sure we keep our hearts laser-focused on the light of Christ.
As we continue on into 2021 and beyond there are likely to be more incidents that reveal the fragility of America but do not abandon faith or forsake hope. Faith and hope sustained our nation through tragedies like the 16th street Baptist church bombing, the Mother Emmanuel shooting, and the Charlottesville massacre. ONE nation under God calls for UNITY and strength is never ultimate where division dwells
Let us keep praying for our children as the fragility of our nation fostered by our fore-parents and fanned by forces of today continue to become exposed. Elephants will continue to tussle, even in their play they are oblivious to the damages to the very sustenance they rely on.
The title of this WID-WID has nothing to do with the popular band from the 1980s nor is it long related to the St. Philip’s annual 6th grade academic excursion when they visit the Grand Canyon. This WID-WID is intended to insert imagery in the mind of the reader when reflecting on educational disparity.
For decades, I have maintained that America does not have a gap in learning between brown children and white children. Technology and research have been undeniably clear on the disparity. We are not dealing with a gap in academic performance across America. We are confronted with trying to close a canyon.
As we trudge into 2021, the canyon confronting our schools is Expectedly Expanding Exponentially (EEE). There are two major factors that I believe will cause us to come up with a word even more grandiose than canyon. The first is COVID related. We are hearing about it from states across the nation. Screen time is not effective. Kids are not showing up for class. Teachers are burning out. The list of to-dos is lengthy, and the impact is adversely affecting kids of every ethnic background.
The other factor that places us at risk of never being able to close the gap, gorge, or canyon of academic disparity has been brewing for 20 years. The civil unrest and racial tensions that confront us have moved the issue of mediocrity from a state of percolating to brewing. The calls to eliminate testing, academic competitions, grading systems, and graduation requirements are not new. However, there is now a surge which is gaining the listening ears of school boards, legislatures, and even unions in the name of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are on the brink of experiencing a massive buckling in a quest for excellence in our schools. We must not allow further corrosion of our nation’s racial achievement gap to be interpreted, viewed, and analyzed under the veil of attempting to achieve equity for our students. The bar does not need to be lowered. Excellence is hard. Completing engineering, medical, or law school is hard. We must acknowledge that keeping the bar high yields results for even those who abandon the path before reaching the goal.
At St. Philip’s the message to our students is that when they try; even if they don’t hit the target, they will be somewhere close to the top. I call this the “associated rewards of high expectations.” School should be hard; success is often accompanied by discomfort and even pain. School being “hard” is acceptable and should be natural for any educator who is serious about the profession and the best interests of children. As a friend of mine, Jay Wagley, conversed with his child, “life is hard….get a helmet.”
African American success stories are filled with the vestures handed down from generation to generation. Stories with lessons about working twice as hard or going above and beyond leveraging the struggles of ancestors. The St. Philip’s Creed captures the acknowledgement of historical and current day disparity and devastations. Instead of lowering the academic bar, our students are taught as Calvin Hill’s father taught him: “many reasons but no excuses.” We will not allow historical strife and present-day injustice to deter us of our God given rights to succeed. Lowering academic standards is a handout. The hand, however, is on top of your head pushing you down to the depths of destruction.
To Parents: Don’t get drawn in.
To America: We must strive for excellence for all!
For those who are at the forefront of the movement to drop the standards, I have two encouragements. First, I acknowledge the testing system is significantly flawed with bias unfavorable to children of color. Our targets need to be aimed at the content not the complexity to ensure relevance is representative and equitable for all. Second, there is a universe of knowledge surrounding how to teach children who learn differently. Only 1 percent of children of color are enrolled in schools that are specifically set up to meet the needs of students with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. Energy used towards school reform that meets the needs of students who are nearly absent in these types of schools is desperately needed. More of these services and schools would begin to bring the canyon down to the size of perhaps a creek.
We all need to be on guard. The current movement is not in the best interest of students of color. American education is guilty of much. We have a legacy of riding trends from NEW Math to STEM, STEAM and now STREAM. As we look to do what is best for all of our children there is a truth that still abides, “Reading is still fundamental. We must not diminish our quest for excellence.”
Please do not get wrapped up in the masked or unmasked ball of confusion. In 2020, and soon 2021, it is easy to become entangled and lose focus on THE TRUTH. Although denied by many who do not realize that every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess, THE PEACEful transition of power has taken place.
Through birth, life, death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have received an opportunity to have the power of everlasting life and have it more abundantly. This power comes with a supernatural peace which surpasses ALL understanding migrated from God with the gift of our option to accept Christ.
As our students are taught “it’s okay to pray and make an A.” Believers should block out the noise of unrest knowing God is with us. This realization should bring us comfort in a time when the ultimate PEACEful transition of power is being lost in the translations of politics, posturing, and pompous portrayal.
The ultimate PEACEful transition of power initiated on the silent night, the holy night, which should allow us to sleep in heavenly peace even amidst these turbulent times.
In 1823, the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas was published. This familiar story, written by Clement Clarke Moore, has stood the test of time. It is known for its vivid depiction of the anticipation of Christmas Day, St. Nicholas, and the reindeer. Its opening sentence, “’Twas the night before Christmas” reminds us of the excitement, joy, and expectation of Christmas.
Advent (the coming) in the Church calendar also allows for reflecting on, preparing for, and awaiting the celebration of the coming birth of Jesus Christ. The truth is, 2020 has confronted many with a different type of hopefulness. This year has ravaged spirits, emotions, and even hope. There is a common yearning for the end of 2020 and longing for the arrival of a new year.
As we move closer to Christmas, St. Philip’s invites you to embrace a lesson we work to instill in our students year-round. As with “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and Advent there is an invaluable life lesson to embrace. With regard to the wise men, we can all learn to take joy in waiting. This joy in waiting, especially surrounding God’s promises to humanity, is an elusive lesson for many adults. Finding joy in our waiting brings about fuel to our faith, which allows us to keep optimism even in the toughest times. As difficult as it may be, the many benefits of waiting let us all dwell on major outcomes that have emerged as a result of the current state of our world. Just as it was with the coming of Jesus and now His return; let our joy be in the waiting.