Letter: Public Schools and Race Politics


Indy readers certainly continue to get our fill of public school related race pandering across the political spectrum. I’ll get to vengeful, divisive far left-of-center race pandering by Jean Hastings Ardell in due course.

But first there is “Regarding Anti-Racist Curriculum,” by Hugh Rouse (Indy, April 9). This was a disturbing autobiographical narrative by a “former English and History teacher” at Van Nuys High School, who missed his calling to mentor students facing adjustment challenges during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s demands comment. No wonder he was removed from front-line teaching and, as he explains, “eventually became Librarian.”

And how sad that as Librarian he chose to make life just a little bit harder for black students transported by bus from black schools and enrolled in white schools under racial desegregation ordered by federal and state courts to end the racist regime of “separate but equal” public education in America. Rouse’s unintentional confession of his own failure to adapt to social change and connect with Black students who found sanctuary in his library is painful to read.

No “To Sir, With Love” happy ending here.  Even worse was Rouse’s misdirected admiration for an English teacher who found black students unfit for instruction in a class reserved for the white academic elite.  Talk about missing a teaching moment, according to Rouse, this “Boston Jesuit School graduate” suffered a “nervous breakdown,” leaving teaching rather than integrate black students.

I’ve worked closely with Jesuits throughout the third world in successful multi-cultural and multi-racial reconciliation to heal injustices of colonialism and institutionalized racism.  Any Jesuit worth his salt would be ashamed of the academically, professionally and morally failed English teacher Rouse describes, who abandoned his mission when needed most.

The linkage between the self-indulgent white privilege attitude of the English teacher whose flawed character Rouse unintentionally reveals and his educational background in Boston may also have historical relevance that “history teacher” Rouse failed to see. For nowhere in America, including deep in the Jim Crow southern states, was white resistance to court-ordered integration of schools more vociferous and outright ugly than in Boston.

Clearly, Rouse missed out not only on the greatest teaching moments of his public education career, but on some of the greatest historic moments in the history of our never ending work of making our nation more perfect.

Howard Hills, Laguna Beach      

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