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13 year old girl Persecuted for 'Controversial' Frederick Douglass Essay

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Did you guys catch this story a few months back?

(By the way, this incident did not take place in the South. )

Jessica reading the essay that she wrote:

Jada Williams, 13 years old, Connects Frederick Douglass Narrative to Today's Education System

Article about the events surrounding her essay (Disclaimer: I do not at all agree with the use of the terminology "throwaway students" to describe the students. )

Source: The Frederick Douglass Foundation of New York

In Case You Missed It

13 Year Old Jada Williams Persecuted by the Rochester City School District Over her essay on Frederick Douglass.

On Saturday, February 18, 2012, the Frederick Douglass Foundation of New York presented the first Spirit of Freedom award to Jada Williams, a 13-year old city of Rochester student. Miss Williams wrote an essay on her impressions of Frederick Douglass’ first autobiography the Narrative of the Life. This was part of an essay contest, but her essay was never entered. It offended her teachers so much that, after harassment from teachers and school administrators at School #3, Miss Williams was forced to leave the school.

We at the Frederick Douglass Foundation honored her because her essay actually demonstrates that she understood the autobiography, even though it might seem a bit esoteric to most 13-year olds. In her essay, she quotes part of the scene where Douglass’ slave master catches his wife teaching then slave Frederick to read. During a speech about how he would be useless as a slave if he were able to read, Mr. Auld, the slave master, castigated his wife.

Miss Williams quoted Douglass quoting Mr. Auld: “If you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there will be no keeping him. It will forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master.”

Miss Williams personalized this to her own situation. She reflected on how the “white teachers” do not have enough control of the classroom to successfully teach the minority students in Rochester. While she herself is more literate than most, due to her own perseverance and diligence, she sees the fact that so many of the other “so-called ‘unteachable’” students aren’t learning to read as a form of modern-day slavery. Their illiteracy holds them back in society.

Her call to action was then in her summary: “A grand price was paid in order for us to be where we are today; but in my mind we should be a lot further, so again I encourage the white teachers to instruct and I encourage my people to not just be a student, but become a learner.”

This offended her English teacher so much that the teacher copied the essay for other teachers and for the Principal. After that, Miss Williams’ mother and father started receiving phone calls from numerous teachers, all claiming that their daughter is “angry.” Miss Williams, mostly a straight-A student, started receiving very low grades, and she was kicked out of class for laughing and threatened with in-school suspension.

There were several meetings with teachers and administrators, but all failed to answer Miss Williams’ mother’s questions. The teachers refused to show her the tests and work that she had supposedly performed so poorly on. Instead, the teachers and administrators branded her a problem.

Unable to take anymore of the persecution, they pulled her from School #3. Wanting to try another school, they were quickly informed that that school was filled and told to try “this school.” During her first day at this new school, she witnessed four fights, and other students asked her if she was put here because she fights too much.

Long story short, they took an exceptional student, with the radical idea that kids should learn to read, and put her in a school of throwaway students who are even more unmanageable than the average student in her previous school. To protect their daughter, her parents have had to remove her from school, and her mother has had to quit her job so she can take care of Miss Williams.

To date, the administrators of School #3 have refused to release her records, even though she no longer attends the school, and they have repeatedly given her mother the run around. We at the Frederick Douglass Foundation have contacted school administrators in regards to this situation and have also been told to hit the pavement.

That’s what we intend to do. If this school will sacrifice the welfare of an above-average student whose essay, that they asked her to write, they find offensive, we intend to make everyone aware of this monstrous injustice. The school has a job, and it is not doing it. We would like as many folks as possible to call the Principal of School #3 and complain about this injustice. Her name is Miss Connie Wehner, and she can be reached at (585) 454-3525. This treatment of Jada Williams cannot stand.

See Video of Jada reading her Essay Here

Read Related Blog posts Here, Here and Here

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In a bold comparative analysis of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Jada Williams, a 13-year old eighth grader at School #3 in Rochester, New York, asserted that in her experience, today's education system is a modern-day version of slavery. According to the Fredrick Douglass Foundation of New York, the schools' teachers and administrators were so offended by Williams' essay that they began a campaign of harassmentkicking her out of class and trying to suspend her—that ultimately forced her parents to withdraw her from the school.

In http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=T-lG1Wb2AfM, which was written for a contest, Williams reflected on what Douglass heard his slave master, Mr. Auld, telling his wife after catching her teaching Douglass how to read. "If you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there will be no keeping him," Auld says. "It will forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master."

Williams wrote that overcrowded, poorly managed classrooms prevent real learning from happening and thus produces the same results as Mr. Auld's outright ban. She wrote that her white teachers—the vast majority of Rochester students are black and Hispanic, but very few teachers are people of color—are in a "position of power to dictate what I can, cannot, and will learn, only desiring that I may get bored because of the inconsistency and the mismanagement of the classroom."

Instead of truly teaching, most teachers simply "pass out pamphlets and packets" and then expect students to complete them independently, Williams wrote. But this approach fails, she concluded, because "most of my peers cannot read and or comprehend the material that has been provided." As a result, she continued, not much has changed since the time of Douglass, "just different people, different era" and "the same old discrimination still resides in the hearts of the white man." Williams called for her fellow students to "start making these white teachers accountable for instructing you" and challenged teachers to do their jobs. "What merit is there," she asked, if teachers have knowledge and are "not willing to share because of the color of my skin?"

According to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Williams' parents transferred her to another school, then withdrew her altogether. The conservative Frederick Douglass Foundation gave Williams a special award, saying that her essay "actually demonstrates that she understood the autobiography." They have also reached out to the school for an explanation of the 13-year-old's treatment.

While the issues Williams raises are controversial, even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has acknowledged that closing the achievement gap requires more black educators in the classroom. But because the large majority of current teachers are white, they have a responsibility to figure out how to be effective with children of color.

Given that only 19 percent of School #3's eighth graders were proficient in language arts last year (and just 13 percent in math)—well below the state average of 60 percent—it's clear that the school and its teachers need to change their approach. Attempting to silence Williams by branding her a troublemaker and driving her off campus isn't the answer. Now she is walking away from this controversy convinced that white teachers don't want to educate black students at all.

As the parent of two black boys I know firsthand that white teachers can excel at teaching black children. What set those outstanding teachers apart was their genuine desire to see my boys succeed and hard work to build relationships with them and with our family. What if Williams' English teacher had used her essay to turn a critical eye on her teaching practice and her expectations for black students? What if the school had used it as a jumping-off point to start a student-centered dialogue about what everyone—teachers, students, and parents—must do to improve the struggling school? Until that happens in our schools, America's achievement gap will endure.

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It's obvious, these people fear the truth.This is sad and insane.

And what a smart 13 year old.May she continue to shine light onto darkness.

[some of our young people do have their heads on right, and then to get punish for it by some uptight so called educators]

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