As we enter the countdown to the American election, I find myself jumping between websites to get the latest news and poll results. By chance I came across a site new to me called Mother Jones (MoJo) and the article ‘Black Teachers Matter’ by education reporter Kristina Rizga. It chronicles the shift from when local schools were the heart of African American communities, staffed and often led by black teachers. The policy shift to focus on test scores has led to the closure of many of these schools. Students are forced to travel outside their community, school buildings decay and black teachers and leaders are made redundant. An estimated 26,000 African American teachers have been lost from public schools and the heart ripped out of many communities.
There is a lot we can learn from the American experience, particularly the parallels between Māori and African American experiences. Here in Christchurch, there has been the controversial closure of Phillipstown school and a Press article early this year (20th April) reported 5% of teachers in Canterbury being Māori or Pasifika yet the 2015 student cohort makes up 17%. This is a big issue. The teaching demographic does not mirror the rapidly changing student and community demographic. But, enough for now, check out the article and MoJo.