The Wake County public schools in North Carolina are going through a problem many schools are facing as the United States becomes an increasingly diverse place. After watching its white population decline to the point that they were no longer the majority group in Wake County, school officials realized that their teachers were still mostly white. Wake County superintendent Tony Tata says his teaching staff is 85 percent Caucasian, 12 percent Black,and 3 percent Latino, despite the fact that the 2011 school year had a student body that was more than 50 percent minority.
Eventually most every school district is going to struggle the way they are in Wake County, where Tata and his colleagues are now recruiting minority teachers from as far away as New Mexico. Estimates are that America will be a “majority minority” country by 2050 at the latest, and with the populace changing so quickly, it’s becoming more important for the nation’s institutions to reflect the diversity of its citizens. Even in major metropolitan areas this isn’t happening. In 2005, in the megadiverse locale of Los Angeles, for instance, nearly half of the teaching staff was white. Beyond that, almost 70 percent were women. In a city filled with young Black and Latino men, we can’t expect that all the students are getting the kind of personalized education they deserve.
Of course none of this is to say that white people can’t do a really great job of teaching minority children. But there is undoubtedly some value in students being able to relate to their teachers in a way outside of the teacher-pupil relationship. It’s not crazy for a young Black man to want to see a great Black male science teacher, and the impact this could have on the child’s life is tremendously important.
(Photo: Baltimore Sun/MCT/Landov)