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The dissuasion of African-American students begins in the class, not on the streets

It is no secret that America has a race problem. More specifically, there is a conception (in the context of education and conflict) that the black youth of America, because of their unsteady familial and communal life, often develop behaviour which leads to them being suspended or expelled from school, opening the door for them to engage in illicit violent activities on the streets. However, a study from the Yale Child Study Centre has come to refute the claim that their behaviour is the sole reason for this.


In 2016, researchers from Yale gathered 135 pre-school teachers from around the country, asking them to watch a video of 4 students in class (one white girl, one white boy, one black girl, and one black boy) to identify when any of them misbehaved. In reality, the children were actors, there was no misbehaviour, and the device on which the teachers watched the video was equipped with an eye tracking software which revealed some not-so-shocking results. An overwhelming majority of teachers spent the entire video solely focusing on the black children (more specifically, the black boy), waiting for misbehaviour that was never going to happen.


This study also had a second level. In this, the teachers were provided with a hypothetical student file which contained either a stereotypical white or black name, an offence the student had committed, and made-up details of a troubled family and community life. Again, an overwhelming majority appeared sympathetic in the punishment they suggested for the white students, while there was an empathy deficit in the case of the black students, despite details of a troubled life. Surprisingly, even black teachers showed this same disposition, as it almost seemed like knowing about the life of these students made all teachers more sympathetic towards the white students and unsympathetic towards the black students


This seems all too relevant in a landscape where over-the-top unjustified instances of police violence have started to take place in schools. Whether it’s Ahmad “the clock kid” or any of the hundreds of students of colour who are thrown in the back of cruisers over the most irrational claims, the effects are highly detrimental (and traumatising for the youngsters involved).


Not only is this reflected in the judicial system of the country (where black people are given harsher sentences for crimes that white people would get a slap on the wrist for) but it also shows that this conception begins not on the streets, but in the classroom. Most importantly, it shows the dire need for teachers receiving proper training on the topic of prejudice.


I am also attaching a link to the findings of the study down below if anyone wishes to read up on it.


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Thanks for bringing this up, Reza! Throughout our course, we discussed how conflict caused harm to education and how teachers should be trained to cater to the post-conflict educational crisis. However, in all conflicts, significantly less attention has been given to teachers because "conflict resolving "focuses on the hand of state affairs rather than building coping mechanisms for teachers, providing them with rehabilitation centers as they are also ones to recover from conflict. While mainly to talk about, teachers' behavior significantly impacts educational development and delivery to the students. Whether it is pre or post-conflict society or any society with diverse races, the educational system should ingrain this rule to teach neutrality, unbiasedness, rehabilitation centres, and post-conflict coping mechanisms to…

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This is a very intriguing read! It is very interesting how teachers' implicit bias displays itself in their interaction with the students who should all be equal to them. You mentioned that black teachers too tend to display racist attitudes towards black children, when one would expect them at least not to have a bias. However, I would like to add that while it is surprising, it is not uncommon. After all, American police has a history of violence/racism toward black people, even though a large chunk of cops are black people themselves. I would say an internalization of racist attitudes is at play here, which leads to scrutinizing and "othering" oneself, and examining one's own community through the white…

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You've raised a very good point. It's high time we understand that like everything else, the education sector is also primarily dominated by the ones with power and capital. So it does sometimes end up enabling the groups already in power and further pushing back the disadvantaged ones. It would have been really if our educators had towards reconciling the diferences. We read an article that mentioned discreet steps for this approach, and it focused on acknwledging the narratives of both sides. A country like America, with world class academics, should have applied that, but unfortunately that's not the case. Instead of working towards a better future by using education as a catalyst, they are using it as a means…

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Your post lends a fascinating insight into the complexities that complicate the Black youth's experience of education within America. The study provides a harrowing but an insightful look into the systematic oppression meted out to the demographic. Mostly when conversations regarding racial implications within the educational realm occur, they remain oblivious to the potential of the teacher's role as an abettor of conflict, assuming the figure of the teacher to always function without bias and with impartiality. As a post-abolition society, America has systematically ensured the suppression of the Black community's rights: when the subjugation of the entire race became criminal, the state criminalized the most vulnerable of the race through the thirteenth constitutional amendment which pertains to the incarcerated…

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This a very important point you have brought up regarding how education is being used as a tool maintain the status quo of institutionalized racial biases. I read a book by Victor Rios, which narrates the experiences of young black children who are criminalized by the education system even when they have never been involved in one. The book opens with an incident of how one boy's friend is shot dead, and when that boy returns to school he sent home after being called a threat. There are numerous instances in that book of how these kids end up fulfilling what's being said of them - because they are left with no other choice.

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