Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bayard Rustin on the importance of class size

Bayard Rustin (1912 –1987) was an American civil rights activist, important largely behind the scenes in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and earlier. He is credited as the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (from Wikipedia)

Rustin also gave a renowned speech in 1964 in Santa Barbara, entitled "Negro revolution in 1965." The whole speech is worth listening to, but one of the topics he spoke about was class size in NYC public schools. He thus is one of many brilliant individuals who realized the importance of this issue, along with Maimonides, John Dewey, and Kurt Vonnegut. Here is an excerpt:

The school system of this country is a bad school system for many reasons, but one of the reasons in our large cities, take Harlem for an example, teachers teach three sessions within the regular period. They become cops, they become babysitters, they become nursemaids.

And yet we look at the unemployed Negroes and we say they are without skills. Well, I am here to say that some of the most skillful people in the world are unemployed Negroes. Because they have reared their own children, they have reared two or three generations of white children. And they are skilled with love and affection for children.

Let us, therefore, elevate them to assistant teachers, the state gives them $4,000 a year, they go into the school, and they take from the teacher all of this police work and babysitting work. And the teacher is, then,
if we can get many more schools built, if we can get smaller classrooms, I mean a smaller number of children in classrooms, these people can play a very vital role.

9 comments:

CitizensArrest said...

I think that based on the type of public figure she is, Oprah is a weak link in the chain. She should be pressured by us, her viewers and others to have PAA on a show so that the deformer agenda can be laid bare, so that our voices can be heard. She went over to the dark side with her support of Waiting for Superman. Others have told me she’s been there for some time. A good part of the public has eyes on her for an assortment of reasons, and she has to pay attention to ratings.

The Reflective Educator said...

Certain truths are enduring.

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LearningByReading said...

The importance of manageable class size can not be overstated.

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blogeria said...

If you don't know about the beautiful documentary on Bayard Rustin, Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin, you must see it (coming soon to Netflix if they get a few more requests). The companion website is also terrific at www.rustin.org. A true leader and hero.