The back-to-school blues


Back-to-school season has officially kicked off. Students in their new uniforms, shoes and backpacks crowd the hallways and parent pickup areas nervous about the new start. Teachers who have relaxed and vacationed all summer are back and ready to strengthen and empower a new generation of children. 

Every year we wish for the same things for our children: to be safe, to get good grades and to always be on your best behavior, just like how you were raised. 

Look deeper

On the surface, another amazing school year is ready to develop. However, beneath the surface of first-day photos and press conferences is a serious situation that no one likes to discuss or comment on. With our local schools being ranked as “D” schools more and more, the public school system is failing our Black children. It’s time we demand action.

In America, there are millions of children who struggle to read at the same rate as their fellow students. Some claim that teachers don’t pass out homework anymore. What is going on with our education system? Children don’t learn how to write in cursive, they don’t learn about branches of government, or many key concepts most of us learned in fourth grade. 

When there’s no inspiration, students become uninterested in what goes on in class and more excited about recess or playing video games at home. If schools made material more engaging for Black children, our literacy and graduation rates would vastly improve. 

Teachers unappreciated 

Teachers, who sacrifice their minds, time and mental wellness to teach our children never get the respect or benefits they deserve. The fight for educators’ rights has been going for a long time and the effects are beginning to show on our children. If a teacher is severely underpaid, teaching an overcapacity classroom with outdated or raggedy materials or supplies, how can the teacher inspire your child? 

Teachers are crucial to the development of future leaders. They are there to make sure each student, no matter the financial or racial background, gets a quality education. As a consequence of poor living conditions, school is a chance for some children to escape reality, bond with their classmates and (sadly) have a complete and full breakfast and lunch they don’t get it home. For some students, school lunch is the only daily meal they receive. 

Most important is the lack of cultural and historical content being taught to our children. During our annual Malcolm X Day celebration, we asked several students from Palm Terrace, Turie T. Small and Westside elementary schools who was their favorite civil rights leader. All they could say was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Barack Obama. 

Teach the truth

Black children – who are completely different from other children – are being told someone else’s history, culture and accomplishments in public schools. When will Black children learn of the incredible African civilizations that shaped this planet, or all the amazing inventions by Black scientists? Why aren’t schools teaching real Black history year-round, especially in urban communities where majority of the students are Black?

Children aren’t inspired because they have nothing to look forward to, according to public education. Self-esteem, self-worth and self-love all come from being taught how great your history is. Until we get back to that, some of our brightest and most ambitious students will continue to fail in the long run. 

In an era where school shooters have become society’s norm, and with some of the biggest and most controversial budget cuts in school history, we must be proactive and demand change in the public school system. 

A real embarrassment 

I’d be embarrassed to be a leader, elected official or in position of authority in Daytona Beach and know that Palm Terrace is currently a ‘D” school. I’d be embarrassed if I ran an organization that threw lavish galas, dinners and parties with the illiteracy level in our schools at an all-time high. Maybe we should focus less on the press conferences, photoshoots and field trips and establish a connection with students that would be a source of strength and inspiration for them.

Get involved. Keep demanding that the Volusia County School Board investigate low test scores. We have a chance to stop the school-to-prison pipeline right here in Daytona Beach. 

Rell Black is an award-winning activist, blogger and the founder of Community Healing Project Inc.




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