WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two top teacher union leaders say the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman has important ramifications for America’s educators.
National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten are calling on teachers to join the NAACP-led effort to get the U.S. Justice Department to charge George Zimmerman with civil right violations for his role in the death of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teenager, reports The Washington Post.
“As educators, it is our responsibility to our students to set the example by acting to seek justice, to teach fairness, and to provide comfort to students and families who grieve,” Van Roekel wrote in a recent letter to NEA members.
Weingarten echoed those views in her appeal to AFT members.
“This case reminds us that the path to racial justice is still a long one, and that our legal and moral systems do not always mesh,” Weingarten wrote.
“Sign the (NAACP) petition,” Weingarten continued. “George Zimmerman must face the consequences of his actions.”
Economics professor and syndicated columnist Walter Williams agrees that the Zimmerman trial should be a wakeup call to teachers, but not in the way Van Roekel and Weingarten say.
Instead, Williams says the performance of Rachel Jeantel, a witness for the prosecution in the Zimmerman trial, “put a face on (the tragedy of black education) for the nation to see.”
According to Williams, Jeantel’s performance on the witness stand was an indictment of the public school system that has been educating her. He cites Jeantel’s inability to read cursive handwriting and her overall poor grammar and communication skills as an indication that her teachers have failed her.
Jeantel is a senior at Miami Norland Senior High School, which has a predominately African-American student body.
“Jeantel is by no means an exception at her school. Here are a few achievement scores from her school: Thirty-nine percent of the students score basic for reading, and 38 percent score below basic. In math, 37 percent score basic, and 50 percent score below basic.
“Below basic is the score when a student is unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at his grade level. Basic indicates only partial mastery.”
“Few Americans, particularly black Americans, have any idea of the true magnitude of the black education tragedy. The education establishment might claim that it’s not their fault. They’re not responsible for the devastation caused by female-headed families, drugs, violence and the culture of dependency.
“But they are totally responsible for committing gross educational fraud. It’s educators who graduated Jeantel from elementary and middle school and continued to pass her along in high school. It’s educators who will, in June 2014, confer upon her a high-school diploma.”
He’s spot on.
That leads to an obvious point: If Van Roekel and Weingarten were genuinely concerned about the justice and fairness for the black community, they’d spend far less time focusing on sensational cases like the George Zimmerman trial and more time on trying to fix an education system that’s leaving a generation of African-American students completely unprepared for adulthood.
Before injecting themselves into the ongoing Zimmerman controversy, the teacher union bosses should tend to their own business first.
What happened that February night in Florida last year was a tragedy, no question.
But an even greater tragedy is the fraudulent education that’s being given to students every day in classrooms all across the U.S.