When I sat down at the computer to write today’s blog, I was at a loss. There was absolutely nothing I could think of to write about.

Then I saw Jerrold H. Jensen’s op-ed in the local paper. It reads, in part:

Does race matter in teaching? I don’t know. But every one of us can probably identify teachers who were role models for us — the odds are they looked and sounded a lot like us, too. Not doubt many teachers can inspire the children of immigrants, but perhaps we don’t have enough of them. Perhaps what we really need are more teachers who were, themselves, children of immigrants, who can relate to and motivate the kids we are losing.

To idly bring race into the equation without offering a workable equalizer is to be just another kind of bigot. Though common racial or cultural ground may help students, good teachers also have to have some amount of content knowledge.

It’s all well and good to say that having ethnically diverse teachers should be a goal for the school district — as there are, in fact, stated practical benefits — but how would you enforce such a policy if, as Jensen assumes, “children of immigrants” aren’t graduating high school and are the principle reason the district’s dropout rate is so high?

After all, if “children of immigrants” aren’t graduating high school, how are we going to get them to become teachers? To get your credential, you need at least a bachelor’s degree and therefore also your high school diploma.

Our first solution to getting more “children of immigrants” through high school can’t be getting more “children of immigrants” through high school. There are plenty of policies that could help our students. The ones inspired by circular reasoning shouldn’t be our first choice.

Maybe I’m just reacting to the headline some well-meaning copy/layout editor tacked on: “Diverse students need diverse teachers.” To be fair, he does have a worthwhile suggestion tucked in the middle of his racial observations and it involves breaking the school district into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Sounds good to me. Let’s try that.


  1. I just deleted about 3 different drafts in response to that article. I can’t make them coherent. Argh!

    My particular offense to this article is that I *am* a son of an immigrant – I’m a first generation American, yet I’m apparently still not eligible to teach his kids.

  2. It’s worth mentioning that “children of immigrants” is his phrase, not mine.

    He uses that phrase when he really means to say “children of Hmong or Mexican immigrants.” I’d like to think that a teacher’s race matters less than simply that the teachers know what they’re doing.

  3. dkzody

    Did you notice that Mr. Jensen is retired and he only served on the school board in Visalia? I don’t see how that qualifies the man to discuss what we do in the classroom, especially in inner city Fresno which looks a whole lot different from Visalia. That article was just another one of those cases where the teacher is blamed for all that is wrong with education.

    I really wanted to write a reply that asked him to come talk with the parents of Hispanic girls who want to keep their girls at home to take care of smaller children or older grandparents. Or how about the parents who take their kids out of school to be interpreters when they must deal with a problem? How would a teacher of color help with those scenarios?

  4. You should write that reply. Come to think of it, you already did — just send in the comment to The Bee, and I think it stands a good chance of getting printed.

    Oh, and I did notice that he served for a couple of years in Visalia. I’m not quite sure how that qualifies him to suggest much of anything, either, but I figured I didn’t need to get him on that when his principle argument is so flawed to begin with.

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