The concept of racism in America's school system is nothing new. It's systemic, it's obvious, and it's everywhere. Pundits and protesters call it out on a near-constant basis, yet here we sit in 2018, and it is still a fact of life. It's such a large and longstanding issue that it's very difficult to feel anything but powerless to stop it.
The reality of the situation, though, is that the only way to fix the problem with the system is from the inside. According to the latest available statistics, 82% of American school teachers are white, while the percentage of non-white students in American schools continues to climb. Now, there's nothing wrong with white teachers, but if you pair the disparity in the racial makeup of the teaching profession, with surveys that indicate that as many as 55% of whites feel that they are the ones facing discrimination in their lives, it's clear that the educational system isn't going to improve on its own.
The only way to change the American school system for the better is for African Americans to make a generational effort to join the ranks of America's teachers. The biggest obstacle is that here in the U.S., it's awfully hard to become a teacher. That means that the first step has to be a push for our country to prioritize creating new and broad-based avenues for advancement for those seeking to enter the teaching profession.
It's certainly possible to do this. In fact, the pathways to becoming an educator are far easier and more plentiful in every other industrialized nation on Earth. In Australia, for example (another majority-white industrialized democracy), interested students can begin a teaching career with little more than a certificate III in education support earned through entirely online coursework. It's also worth noting that those courses are part of the TAFE program in Australia, which is a government-funded vocational training system that provides a pathway into numerous other careers as well.
The good news is that there are people within the education industry that are already making some progress. The Council of Chief State School Officers is working with nine states to provide support in crafting plans to increase hiring of teachers of color, which includes creating programs to increase educational opportunities for would-be African American educators. It's not much, but it's a start.
It's going to be up to our community to decide whether or not initiatives like these succeed. It's also going to be up to us to make sure that we promote and support politicians that are willing to vote for policies designed to increase educational diversity and therefore end racism in our schools. It's clear that the current crop of politicians in power have no appetite for such policies, or worse, are actively working to undo decades of previous progress.
In short, the future is up to us. If we, as a community, want to see an American education system that reflects the values, priorities, and needs of a new generation of children – African American or otherwise – it's time to step up and prove it. The classroom awaits for those with an appetite for change.