Audience: Unstated, but from context likely Missouri state education officials.
Link to original: https://petercrobertsonarchive.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/curriculum-speech.pdf
It’s not often that I get a chance to hear the critique of previous speakers, tailor my remarks, and know what to say and what to avoid. For example, I sat up until 2 o’clock last night preparing a very impressive list of proposed ideas for curriculum changes you might consider and I have now been told that you probably won’t do anything about them. I’m not easily discouraged.
It’s certainly a pleasure for me to come here to discuss this topic with you. I had thought I was going to discuss one topic and when the program arrived in the mail the topic that I was assigned was different — it was: “Challenges That Must Be Met In Making Democracy Work In an Era Marked by Civil Rights Controversy.” I have taken the liberty of changing that a little bit. I have rearranged the word order: “Challenges That Must Be Met In Making Education Work In A Democracy When That Democracy Faces Controversies Such As Civil Rights.” A slight change but I think after I looked over the outline that I had written that it seemed to fit a little better.
Because I interpret the scope of your organization as dealing primarily with curriculum I will direct my remarks primarily toward ideas that might be in your mind in developing curriculum in the future.
I realize full well that you probably can’t look at curriculum as an isolated item from the rest of the whole school administrative program. Certainly you cannot talk about new curriculum ideas unless you have an idea where you’re going to get the people who will be able to teach them, or the facilities if need be, such as language laboratories if you are going to undertake a concentrated language instructional program. You can’t do these in a vacuum without thinking of personnel, equipment and all other aspects of school administration, but, with that warning, I will aim my remarks primarily at curriculum.
CIVIL RIGHTS BACKGROUND
Now, it seems to me that before I get down to curriculum, it would be useful if I did go into some general background of the history of human rights and civil rights in the United States and perhaps a few words also about the new federal civil rights law. Let me then offer a quick historical survey, if I may. For ease of discussion I would like to divide the history of American race relations into three periods and like any attempt to classify human experience under neat categories this has a lot of shortcomings. The various periods that I talk about overlap each other in different geographical areas of the country and they overlap each other certainly in different areas of concern. We may be in different stages of development and integration in the schools in one state, and another stage in housing, and in another state another stage in employment, etc., but with that additional warning let me venture forth on a quick outline.
FIRST STAGE: OVERT OPPRESSION
The first stage in the history of the development of race relations in the United States that I would like to talk about I call the stage of overt oppression or overt segregation. Now, of course, this starts out with the slavery era — a time during which one man is owned as chattel by another.
This was supposedly brought to a close at the end of the Civil War with the adoption into the United States Constitution of the 13th, 14th and 15 amendments. The framers of these amendments certainly thought that they were ending once and for all this stage of overt oppression and overt segregation. Needless to say, they were wrong, and in many areas of our country this stage of overt oppression and overt segregation continues literally right up to the present day.
Certainly in all parts of the country and in all aspects of our national life, overt oppression was very much a part of the 70 or 80 years directly after the Civil War. The institutions of our society, both public and private, were organized in the most parts of the country and in most areas of concern toward the direct segregation and oppression of our Negro citizens. The policeman in many of our southern cities still has as one of his unwritten duties the job of keeping the Negro citizens in line, keeping them in their place.
Now, of course, in the area of schools you know that the first Supreme Court decision, Plessy v. Ferguson, that it didn’t deal with schools specifically but it laid down a doctrine that was applied to schools and that was that we could have facilities which were “separate but equal.” Well this wasn’t overt oppression in a sense but it was simply overt segregation and, based on the doctrines outlined in that decision, you had a period in which all aspects of American life were segregated.
OVERT SEGREGATION IN MISSOURI
The Commission for which I work made a survey in 1958, sent out a 27 page questionnaire to each of the counties of the state and two of the major cities, St. Louis and Kansas City, seeking information on the extent of discrimination in the State of Missouri. It was the conclusion of that study that discrimination was widespread in all areas of state concern and in all political areas of the state. Among the recommendations which were made in that study was the passage of the state fair employment practices act and state equal access to public accommodations law. The equal employment law passed but the public accommodations law has not yet passed.
SECOND STAGE: PASSIVE NONDISCRIMINATION
Well, this brings us — talking about this kind of law — brings us into the second stage. The first stage I said was overt oppression, the second stage I would call the stage of passive nondiscrimination. This is a stage which, of course, was marked by the Supreme Court decision saying that separate schools were inherently unequal and making it unconstitutional for a school board to maintain segregated schools on the basis of race. And it was marked in the legislative end of things by the passage of laws in a number of states making it illegal to discriminate because of race, religion, national origin and ancestry. In some states they threw in discrimination because of age. These laws made it illegal to discriminate on these grounds and set up an administrative remedy for individuals who felt that they had suffered discrimination of prohibited type.
Now, I call this the stage of passive nondiscrimination because it is the state in which two things are noticed. One, the vindication of the right of an individual who is discriminated against depends pretty much on his willingness to come forth and file a complaint and make the claim that he has been discriminated against and go through the trouble of having his claim filed with a government agency. It is also a stage in which the employer, the school and other institutions take a very passive role. For example, this is the stage in which if you are lucky you can persuade an employer to say, “all right, send me a qualified Negro and I’ll hire him.”
Well, I won’t get sidetracked into discussing this term “qualifiedNegro.” I’m beginning to think it has gained the status of a single word such as “damnYankee.” We never hear anybody talk about a “qualified white man.” I go through life with the awesome thought that I was born with my qualifications embedded in my skin pigment. But speaking of “qualifications,” we investigated two cases one week alleging discrimination in employment. Excuse me if I do get sidetracked, but this is one of the more amusing stories I have run into in administering the fair employment practices act. The complaints were against two banks. In one case we had a girl just out of high school who filed a complaint alleging discrimination and, of course, we got a long song and dance that they wanted qualified people with experience of different types and so on. They showed us that in fact they were hiring people of this type. Three days later we got a complaint against another bank and the applicant there, she was a schoolteacher; she had a college degree; she had half fulfilled her requirements for her Masters degree; she had specialized at mathematics at one stage; and seem to me to be the perfect person for work in a bank. I went to talk to the bank about her. “Oh,” they said, “naturally we didn’t hire her. We want to get people just out of school and train them ourselves.” Unfortunately it wasn’t different people applying to the same bank, which would have pointed out the contradiction.
But I don’t want to get sidetracked into this anymore, but just tell you that the [term] “qualifiedNegro” is sometimes very abused and overused.
This is the stage then in which the employer says, “send me a qualified Negro and I will hire him.” Now I could go into long details of lots of things that have been done in this so-called passive nondiscrimination stage, but rather than do that I am going to make the assertion that this stage has been inadequate to solve the problems which face us [so] that we are now just beginning to realize that we have to move into a third stage. And this is the stage which we have come to call affirmative action. I do not mean preferential treatment, and I will comment on the difference in a minute. The third stage is a stage that I call affirmative action. Why a third stage? Now I think I’ll owe you some justification as to why I claim the middle stage has been unsatisfactory and I think we have to move into this third stage, and then the next point will be to discuss some of the implications of this third stage for our school systems. Let me bore you, if I may, for a second with a very few statistics to point out how inadequate the second stage has been. These statistics, incidentally, are taken from a very reliable publication which came out this morning — published by the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. I have the first copy off the press here. It discusses population, it has a little map showing where the Negro population is predominantly located, it has graphs and tables on income, unemployment, housing and various aspects such as this. I would like to quote from it what seems to me to be the most impressive statistic, and I confess I was somewhat shocked by it. We had talked a great deal in the last few years about progress particularly in the fact of a rise in the series of demonstrations and demands for our Negro citizens. We with white skins tend to say more and more as a part of this discussion “gosh, look at the progress we have made,” and certainly if you look back hundred years ago we have made very impressive progress. If you go back even ten years ago in many situations and in many areas we have made impressive progress. But let me give you a statistic which shows how little progress we have really made in terms of basic help to the masses of our Negro citizens. The economic disparity, the relative economic disparity between the whites and Negroes has increased rather than decreased in the last decade. The median income for Negroes in 1950 in the state of Missouri was 72.4 per cent of the median income for whites. The figures were $1611 for Negroes and close to $2224 for whites. The median income of the Negroes was 72.4 per cent ten years ago of the white man’s. In 1960, after 10 years of this progress we have heard so much about, it was 66 per cent. That is a decline of about 8 per cent. Now the Negro’s median income rose from $1600 to $2500, so the Negro has made progress. But the point is that the white man has made significantly more progress. Our median income has risen from $2200 to $3800. Now I don’t think you will remember all of those figures, but I think you should also bear in mind the basic concept and that is the relative position of the two has changed to the disfavor of the Negro so that rather than catching up he is falling further and further behind. Now why — how do you break this down, why is the Negro earning less, what is his position in the economy. We point out in this study that there are several stages at which the Negro is on the shorter end of the stick in the economic picture. To point this out to you I will use a number of economic terms which I’m sure you all are familiar with. One of the terms that is used in appraising the employment in a workforce is to talk of individuals who are “in the workforce.” This means people who are actively out seeking work. Unemployment figures don’t tell the whole story because a man who is not seeking work and doesn’t have a job isn’t considered employed, he is not even figured in that batting average. 69 per cent of the non-whites consider themselves in the workforce and 75 per cent of the whites do. It is a slight percentage but it shows that more Negroes than whites view their chances of getting a job is so low or their qualifications are so low or what have you, that they are not even considering themselves as looking for work.
Now of those who get into the workforce, the Negro is much less apt to find a job. The unemployment rates of Negro men in some areas of this state are almost twice as high as the unemployment rates for whites. Now if he gets into the workforce and he gets a job, he is of course more likely to get a low-paying job. 21 per cent of our Negroes who are employed in the State of Missouri are employed as laborers. Only 5 per cent of whites. The ratio is four times larger for Negroes. So you have a three stage disadvantagement (I’m not sure that word is _______) to the disadvantagement of the Negro which underlies this difference in median income because from economic change in our society which the Negro has. Now it would be easy to say that the whole explanation to this is education and qualification, but I think the statistics which we point out in here indicate that while this is true in part — while 37 per cent of whites in Missouri have graduated from high school and only 23 per cent of the Negroes, so this is certainly part of it. There are also statistics which show that even with the same educational background the Negro comes out much more poorly. For example, 2/5 of Negroes with some college education were in professional and technical work. The ratio for whites is 3/5. Again another statistic.
But I think the cumulative effect of the figures does serve to show that we have not made quite the progress that we sometimes pride ourselves on having made. I outline the statistical facts, as I say, is somewhat of a justification for suggesting that we should move into a third stage, into a stage of affirmative action. Now this is not a stage, I should say, which is required by statute. I suggest that it is not a stage which is required by the Constitution, it is not a Missouri state statute, it is not in the new federal civil rights bill. It seems to me that it is a stage that is required by common sense. We are faced from one end of this nation to another with what some people have called the revolution of rising expectations, some people have called it America’s own colonial revolution, speaking of the Negroes as if they were a colony [t]hat had been within this country all of these years. There are all sorts of terms that are being used for it, some aren’t very polite. Needless to say we know what we are facing. And I think that if we failed to take the kind of affirmative action that is necessary to make some real progress we haven’t begun to see what kind of a revolution this can be. Now if those are scare words, I apologize, but I sincerely believe that the depth of oppression which are minority group feels in this country and the depth of exclusion which they have suffered require perhaps that we be a little bit afraid of what lies in store if we don’t consider pretty carefully our responsibility. I would like to give you an example of affirmative action by telling a very true story that occurred in the St. Louis area. I’m sure you are all familiar with the demonstrations which occurred over a six or eight month period at the Jefferson Bank. I know those of you who come from St. Louis will never forget them and I expect the publicity reached all over the state. The demonstrations began on a Friday, the 30th of August last year. They were announced in the newspaper on Monday of that week. Monday, the 26th of August. Well I was in the office in the state capitol, and the newspapers came in and the article was on the front page that CORE chapters demanded for Negro jobs from the bank, that they would demonstrate if this was not forthcoming. Well, I sort of felt that this was the handwriting on the wall and might be the first and really significant demonstration that we have had, and I felt that it was worthwhile to discourage it if we could. So I literally went right out of my office, went home and picked up my toothbrush, and drove into St. Louis, and I went to meet with the president of the local CORE chapter. He is a lawyer and I’m a lawyer, and I said to him, what we have — bear in mind as I am talking to him I am thinking about the second stage, this stage of nondiscrimination.
I said: “look, we now have on the books here in the State of Missouri a law prohibiting discrimination in employment. People are marching, picketing and getting squirted with fire hoses and even dying in the South just to get this kind of law on the books that we have got on the book[s] here and you are not utilizing it.”
And they weren’t up until that time. We had had very few complaints filed under that law. And I said: “why don’t you … if you think this bank is discriminating … have the people they are discriminating against file complaints. We will process it, investigate it, and if we find discrimination we will take the action that the law requires.” His answer to me was very frank and very straightforward. All I do is report this to you — it is not my desire to ratify it or condone it in any way. I think if we don’t understand it we don’t really realize where we are going in this field. He was perfectly frank and he said:
“we don’t have an applicant who has been turned down. I don’t know of anybody who has applied to the Jefferson Bank. All I know is I go in there and there are a hundred white faces. There is no Negro employed there. Now I don’t have the resources to run an employment agency. Let the Urban League, let the NAACP, let your agency, let someone else run an employment agency. All I know is that as an American I have great faith in the ability and the capacity of America’s business leaders to take action when it is in their own selfish profit motive. If something needs to be achieved and they can be convinced that achieving it is going to help increase their profits to keep their profits from being decreased they will do it and they will come up with a way to do it. And my view of my role in this thing is that I’m going to make them feel that it is in their own profit motive to get out and hire these poor Negroes just as quick as they can.”
Well, he didn’t file a complaint with us, they picketed, they claimed it got out of hand and they didn’t plan to develop from picketing to where everybody went in and lay down on the floor of the bank, but that is what did develop whether planned or not. A number were arrested and went to jail and cases are still in the courts although they are out on bond pending the appeal. Well now, the newspapers reported that in the 60 days which followed this demonstration on a Friday, the banks in St. Louis, not including the Jefferson Bank, the other banks in St. Louis in the 60 days following this demonstration hired more Negroes than they had in the previous 60 years. Now I don’t claim and I know that they don’t admit that for those 60 years they have been discriminating. But this young man, like it or not, hit it right on the head. When they felt it was in their own selfish profit interest to go out and take some affirmative action they were able to go out and recruit and find Negroes to fill those jobs. Now it seems to me that against this kind of background what rational men should be doing is appraising what kind of affirmative action we can be taking on our own because it is right, because it is good for the health of the society, rather than waiting until somebody comes and sticks a figurative gun at our back or picket sign at our front door and then forces us to do it. There was a cartoon in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, an architect for a large company was talking to the boss and he had plans stretched out on the table and he said, “now here’s a new thing we’ve worked into this. It’s a shelter outside the front gate for the pickets.” Well, you laugh, but there are almost no cities of over 100,000 population which have avoided demonstrations and many smaller have had some form of picketing and demonstration. Ironically enough, it is the people who have done the most in advancing equal rights who have had the pickets outside their door. The president of the St. Louis school board, I’m sure you will recall, had some visitors at his residence last year. The president of McDonnell aircraft has, I don’t know if they’re still there, that they were last week, had some visitors at his door. I think that among cities in the country, St. Louis has taken some very strong positions of leadership on some of these problems. McDonnell aircraft was hiring Negroes 20 years ago during the war, before most of the firms in Missouri ever dreamed of hiring Negroes. But the underlying feeling of frustration which leads to this picketing sometimes isn’t based on a rational appraisal of the specific situation. I think that insofar as it is based on an overall picture that they have pretty valid reasons for them being frustrated.
Now what is the implication for affirmative action the field of education. I am not going to get involved in the kind of affirmative action some people have talked about in terms of do you have a responsibility for affirmative action to bus people from one area to another. This is a waste of time to discuss. I think that much more important than where we are educating people is how we are educating them. The quality of the education we are giving them. And I think that the implications of where we are, the stage we are at the development of these problems suggest that we ought to do some serious re-examination of the extent to which our schools are playing a positive role in tearing [down?] stereotypes and removing prejudices, and so on, and a positive role in motivating and helping to increase the opportunities and the training of our minority group citizens. Now as I get into some more statistics I do so with some trepidation. Quite frankly I have not done a detailed study of what every school system in the State of Missouri is doing and I’m sure that every point I will outline here is being done in one place or another. For those of you who are already embarked on different programs of different types, I don’t mean this as any criticism or any suggestion that we are lagging behind. I hope you will accept these ideas and points in the spirit of a mutual discussion of things that ought to be discussed.
I went to one conference once — a two day conference — to make a talk in an area where I knew as little as I do in the area of curriculum, and the person who it spoken the night before, I could tell from his credentials knew a great deal more than I did and I was speaking in the afternoon. And as we sat around the luncheon table, somebody remarked to his neighbor, boy wasn’t that awful speech last night. He didn’t say anything we hadn’t read 10 years ago. Well, I almost tore up my speech and went home. Maybe I should’ve done that here after the warning I have had on the critique of yesterday’s sessions. Quite often people come home from curriculum conferences and don’t make any changes in their curriculum. Certainly I am not an expert on curriculum. But I think there are items of persuasive evidence that our school systems are not [–] and I say this without singling out any one system which may be doing it [–] that our school systems as a general rule are not doing what they should be doing to reduce stereotypes, to tear down prejudices and to increase the motivation of minority view. I think before I get into this — I offer this as a sort of criticism — and certainly before I get into detailed criticism, I should perhaps outline what I view to be the ideal of the goal of the educational system in this context. I think that there should be two goals. I think first of all we should in a democracy — now I am talking in the framework of the topic I was assigned — in a democracy we should, of course, seek to educate our students and our children in certain basic democratic values. Now that is sort of a circular statement, but I think we cannot emphasize or overemphasize it too much. We should talk at all times about the basic equality of people, teach our youngsters to appreciate the innate work [worth?] of each individual realizing, of course, that basic gifts, that people have different talents, etc., but that there is persuasive reason to give each man a chance to develop his talent and that he will, if given that, quite often turn out that much more work than we thought if we had judged him on a stereotype. We should certainly teach him that discrimination and prejudices are the antithesis of a democracy. Secondly, we have a job I think with the minority group, a group which has come to be called the culturally deprived, somewhat larger than our Negro citizens, although certainly the largest segment I think in most areas of the culturally deprived would be Negroes, we have a job to make sure that we are encouraging him to make sure he is [_______] his potential to the greatest possible extent and to prepare himself to take advantage of the increasing opportunities which are being opened. We should make sure that the teaching materials we use and the things that we discuss in the classroom are not structured so that he is made to feel excluded from the society. Now are we doing it — are we achieving these goals. I wanted to do part of my preparation for coming up here, I wanted to do a brief examination of some of the textbooks that have been approved for use in the Missouri schools, and I didn’t get the time to do it. I was chatting with somebody about this about two days ago, and I discovered that a study of this type was underway at Lincoln University and I was privileged to see some of the rough notes on it and I would like to share, if I may, just a few of the things that these rough notes, and bear in mind that they are rough, pointed out. Incidentally, I also had access to a study done by the Anti-Defamation League on the treatment of minorities in secondary school textbooks in the format of the study done at Lincoln to some extent draws on some of the ideas in this study. It draws on them to the extent of some of the evaluated criteria that are used, and let me give you an idea of a few of those. There are seven listed here, and I won’t list all of them, but one criteria is the criteria of inclusion. There is information about Negroes, of Jews, of persecution by the Nazis, or information about immigrants in the United States, and this is included in relevant portions of different texts. The criteria such as balance or [are?] all aspects, positive and negative, of a subject given reasonable and balanced attention. Such things as realism are social evils such as Nazi persecution of the Jews and restricted immigration laws here in the United States and many of our unsolved problems — are they given frank treatment or are they defended, minimized and ignored. While this is just a few of the criteria, let me give you a few of the conclusions. None of these books attacked any minority group head-on. Maybe in times past this might’ve happened, but this was not done, but the average textbooks simply ignored the Negroes[’] position in contemporary society. Most of the references to the Negroes were in the period before 1876 and pictured the members of the Negro race as slaves or as bewildered freedmen after the war and perpetuated the stereotype of a child-like inferior group of people. There was a great lack of scientific data on the races of mankind. Textbook illustrations were very inadequate, a very limited number of illustrations dealing with Negroes and a high percentage of the illustrations which were in the book put Negroes in the primitive African setting or in slave settings, often of course in historical context, or in menial jobs. Very few of them[,] in discussing the work done by the Negroes during this slave period[,] commented upon the number of Negroes who actually did very skilled jobs for their masters — weaving, carpenters, spinners, blacksmiths, etc. Very slight mention of that sort of thing. Very little mention of the United States Supreme Court decision of 1954, which I have mentioned here, which was limited in its direct scope to holding the segregated schools were unconstitutional but whose implications it permeated all aspects of our society today. I would like to read just one quote that I jotted down that dealt with slavery in a book published in 1962. It was said that the slaves of the good master had many happy times after their hard day’s work was done. Sometimes they danced. The sweet summer air was filled with the sounds of the banjo, fiddle and mouth organ. The planter and his family often sat on the veranda of the big house. They liked to listen to the music – lively and colorful. They like to hear the voices of the Negroes as they sang the songs of the plantation. Strangely enough, this author failed to mention in any way some of the abuses of slavery. Well maybe I’m expressing historical point of view and maybe there are historians who would quarrel with me, I think that this is an inaccurate picture to present to our kids of just what slavery is all about. There were arguments pro and con on slavery, and I mentioned that one of the criteria that the study suggested was appropriate was a criteria of balance. Certainly it would be appropriate to give the arguments in historical study the arguments that were used in favor of slavery. If you left them out you would be guilty of a lack of balance, because to give only one side certainly makes a big mistake. Now I point out these brief notes not because I think that every school system in the state may be using these books. There were half a dozen books we discovered that were doing a very good job, and I had no idea, quite frankly, how this list of approved books works. It may be that every system in the state is actually using the books that were found to be good, that were found have an exceptionally high number of pictures of Negroes doing skilled jobs, that showed interracial situations, books that had good treatment in their text of slavery and its context with treatment of Negroes at the present day. But I throw out these comments to the end that we be thinking about them as we select a new textbook and reappraise the books that we have, we might be thinking of the question of whether they are really presenting the kind of picture that ought to be presented. Now the textbooks are important for both groups of students that I talked about. Important from the point of view of the — I don’t want to call him a majority group student, because I guess in a sense we are all members of a minority group. I was born in Wyoming. I’ll bet there are not many of you here who are born in Wyoming. I don’t say that just to be absurd, but it’s hard depending on the context it is hard to know what you should really define as a minority group. But I think we’ve got to view the textbooks from the point of view of how they affect the minority group member stereotype of himself, and the minority group member, whether he feels included in the society and part of it, if he is forced to read a textbook which has 87 pictures in it and not one picture of the Negro except in menial jobs, and I think we have to ask what effect we are having on the white student when we let him be confronted with these. Every time, prior to the passage of the federal bill, and often since it, many times when I have discussed the desirability of the state public accommodations law, I will get a reply from a person whom I presume is well-meaning, gee, you’re not going to solve these problems by law. They’re going to be solved in the hearts of men. But then you go out and find the books that are being used to start to solve the problem in the hearts of men and you are a little bit discouraged sometimes. So I think that these are items that ought to be looked into. Now what are some of the other aspects of school life that are relevant to this problem. What are some of the other points you might want to consider. These I will go into in somewhat less detail. Among the materials that I put on a table outside of the door — some of you came in before I put them out — is a Reader’s Digest reprint discussing the work that Dr. Samuel [Shepard] has done down in St. Louis with the culturally deprived children, predominantly Negro, in some of the central city areas down there in terms of motivational problems. Well I’m sure you all know the scope of the problem that is faced, the critique of yesterday’s session, discussing the poverty bill, mentioning people who are third-generation relief recipients, a study that was done in one city shows that 72% of the drop-outs had fathers who had been drop-outs. These are kids who are raised in a family environment which is very different from the family environment of a lot of us. It is a family environment [in] which you would assume that the person is going to drop out rather than what he’s going to do when he finishes high school or even talking about where he’s going to go to college, not if he is going to go to college, but where he is going to go to college. That is a framework within which you have to work. Now some of the things that Dr. [Shepard] has done have been done elsewhere. I don’t think he has a complete monopoly on this although he has gotten a fantastic amount of national credit and publicity on this, and I think we should be very proud of what he has done here in our state. Among the things that he has done is to institute an intensive program of motivation of the parents. Even so far as having the teachers make home visits. The written note or the written letter to the parent. In these areas he points out most written communications involve something of an unpleasant nature.