Article Featured: EDITORIAL • Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline
By the Editors of Rethinking Schools
One of the first things I had heard of when I was introduced to the world of social justice was about the School-to- Prison pipeline for African American males. I have heard and seen various statistics on the rates of African American males discipline within schools and then incarceration rates. But in this article, something that I hadn’t seen before was the fact about Pearson’s United States History textbook being almost 1,300 pages but not having a single bit of information on the growth of the prison population in the last several decades.
The educational bias that comes out of privatized textbooks is startling in and of itself, but to see the kind of information they leave out is simply baffling. In addition to leaving information out of the textbook, there is also a bias in the facts that are present. Most textbooks are framed in a way that sees the United States as the winner, as the country that is always right. Many times in the actual classroom these issues are not addressed, producing a population of students that blindly trust in the United States and everything it does or does not do. And this isn’t always the fault of the teacher, but a product of the standards not leaving any room in the curriculum for classroom discussion of these issues.
If students aren’t exposed to these harsh truths in their textbooks or in their classroom discussions, many of them will never know that there is even a problem that needs fixing. Speaking from experience, I had no idea what the school-to-prison pipeline or white-washed education even was until I got to college, and even then I felt some resistance to the idea that what I learned was biased. I had so much faith in what I was learning for so long that when someone told me that my education wasn’t as perfect as I thought, it freaked me out and I didn’t want to believe them.
After some time and listening to the facts, though, I was able to see and understand the reasoning and realize that I was the one who was wrong. My education wasn’t inclusive and encompassing, I don’t go to a diverse school, we don’t live in a fair system—these were all things that I learned only in college. And even though I had a better education about social issues than most of the other students in my school system, I still met these facts with some resistance. What I mean by this is that there are many other students who will not be as willing as I was to listen to the other side, to understand that I am privileged because of the color of my skin even though I swear I’m not racist, and to realize that the system is so biased that many people can’t even see it.
That isn’t to say that I’m perfect at social justice; I’m still a work in progress and I’m willing to admit that because I know that I want to do better, to be better, and to help others do and be better as well. Social justice issues should be introduced sooner, before everyone makes up their mind based solely on the biased education we receive because of who writes our textbooks. If we present all students with both sides of the story, then not only are we giving them a fair and just education, but we’re also producing students who are able to accurately decide on their opinions before it’s too late.