Monday, November 19, 2007

Recommended Film

Watched a moving documentary last night. "God Grew Tired of Us" is the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan - their flight to safety in Ethiopia, then Kenya; and finally the immigration of a select few to the U.S.

I won't go into a full review here, but I wanted to comment on one particularly disturbing aspect of the film. It was embarrassing to watch these young men (who had endured incredible hardship, formed their own system of government, prayed fervently for peace, and learned a new culture) treated as if they were stupid, dangerous thugs.

As my wife and I discussed the film, we reflected on some of the prejudice and racism we see in our own community. We were reminded of recent conversations with people from our Multi-Cultural church - one conversation where someone expressed their frustration with 1st generation immigrants who were still learning the language, another conversation with a person who wanted their child in an all-anglo sunday school class, yet another where a person pulled a child from one school because there were too many of a specific ethnic group there. My wife, who sells used books, told me of a book she recently saw that talked about our education system being "dumbed down" because of other ethnicities in the system (I think it may be being "dumbed down", but if it is, it is because those teaching them think they are less capable.) Our son-in-law (an East Indian) has talked about being treated differently everywhere from public places to girlfriends houses simply because he's "brown".

It seems that the thinking goes something like this... "People who look, think, and act like me are smart. People who look, think, and act differently are stupid." Talk about stupid!

My friend Nathan explored this on his blog. Brad, a commenter on this blog, is an educator who is also passionate about cultures coming together in unity. I'm hoping he may have some insight on the education piece of this issue. Others, like Jennifer, have experienced this first hand as one of the growing number of inter-racial marriages.

In the end, I'm convinced that the new kingdom that Jesus invites us into is the only solution to this craziness.

In Christ's family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:28


Jennifer said...

Kevin and I have actually entered rooms where everything came to a complete stop and people stared at's pretty surreal. Whenever that happens, I often forget why. I don't see him as my Asian husband...he's simply my husband. The man God put into my life.

I'm really wrestling with this now that my oldest has started school. He came home the other day and told me that someone told him that he is a different color...his school is pretty diverse, but it makes me wonder what some of these Kindergarteners are hearing at home and why it matters so much. I hope that we will all be strong, positive examples of the inherent beauty of color...God loves and values a broad spectrum of color. If He didn't, everything in nature and everyone He created would be the exact same hue. How boring would that be?

Brad said...

Too huge to tackle here: but here's one perspective...

Public Educators are caught in a profound conundrum.
A. test scores for 'most' public schools are consistently 4 to 24% lower that public schools. Funding in public schools is averaging $6K per pupil. The student without special needs (not ELL, SpEd, short bus...) only average $4k per pupil. Federal/State and district resources to support special needs students - huge. The average public school has 20% population with special needs in classes that average 28 students. Please note - I am not suggesting that ELL students are 'special needs' (or not), it is just a similar funding approach.
B. Private schools continue to be beds of mono-culture. Jewish School, Jesuit School, Christian school - these are just fronts for mono-culture. One of the largest and most successful private Christian schools - Salem Academy - sports a 1% ethnic population. That 1% is A missionary kid born in Taiwan to US parents (white). These schools spend about $7k per student, in class sizes that average less than 20.

For an interesting look into this issue: search for a study called the 90/90/90 Report.

One of the most intriguing studies of the past years states:
-If a teacher 'believes' that teacher and student 'effort' is the number one factor in learning - they are 100% right. 100% correlative effect.
-If a teacher 'believes' that student success is tied to anything else (ethnicity, SES, gender, looks, parentage, etc.) they are 100% wrong. No correlative effect.

What do you believe?

Dean Christensen said...


The thing that bothered me about the book was that it seemed to imply that other ethnicities were dumbing down the system. My comment about teachers thinking they are less capable was reactive, and not really fair.

I'd like to edit my initial statement to "I think it may be being 'dumbed down', but if it is, it is due to circumstances other than their ethnicity. (class size, special needs requirements, funds, etc.)"

I appreciate you and others who have given themselves to educating young people. My comment wasn't intended to take a shot at you all, although I can see that it may have felt that way.

Thanks again for the insight into a troubling situation.


Brad said...


No harm brother - none at all! I agree with that general observation - that there is a 'dumbing down.'
The perceptions of so many of our ELL students is that the teachers do not respect nor do they understand culture. Fear and mistrust rules in so many of our classrooms. How can curricular progress and school reform (let alone cultural healing) take place when our students don't like their teachers?
I apologize that my passion for public education was crowding the main issue that you were highlighting.
I appreciate the opportunity to be heard.
bro brad

Anonymous said...

I think I gave into the stares tonight and am really bummed about that. We were are our son's basketball game. We were the only family that looked so stark against the brown walls and you can see all eyes follow you as you sit down. Our girls started getting silly and one mom let us know that she did not approve--boy did she! I came down hard on my girls because of her reaction to us. Other kids were in the gym too, but it was hard to not think she picked us out because of our make-up. I usually try so hard to keep an even spin on all of this, but tonight I lost and it was at my girl's expense. I think we expect more out of our children than is normal at times because we don't want to be classified by the stereotypes. I am sure my kids will be in therapy over this, but it is hard to always be above the eyes pressed into our family. Most of the time life is good, but when we enter a new arena I really do notice again that we are different.