Editorials

Which is rarer: Unicorn or black male elementary teacher?

Marcell Cannon, aka Luh Cell, shoots a video for the single “Honor Roll” at Paul Dunbar Elementary School in East St. Louis. While Cannon’s single promoted academics, students need role models like him as teachers.
Marcell Cannon, aka Luh Cell, shoots a video for the single “Honor Roll” at Paul Dunbar Elementary School in East St. Louis. While Cannon’s single promoted academics, students need role models like him as teachers. Belleville

If you are a black male student, the chances of you spotting a unicorn are about the same as spotting a black male teacher during grade school.

There’s a greater chance of a black man teaching you in high school, but even then it becomes more like the odds of seeing a meteorite hit.

Illinois has 90,500 teachers in public elementary schools. Of that, 575 — or 0.6 percent — are black male elementary teachers. Only 465 are Hispanic males.

By comparison, about half the students in Illinois are black and half of them are boys. Studies repeatedly show minority boys do better academically when they have role models who look like them.

A black college freshman recently told the Chicago Tribune that he became an elementary education major after a black college dean encouraged him.

“When I become a teacher, I want to make sure that I give my students what I never had: A young man who they can look up to, a person of color who they can look up to, and they can see that they don’t have to just go become basketball players, or football, or athletics, or a rapper or anything like that,” Ja’Waun Williams said.

It sure would be nice if all we needed was to encourage some bright youngsters, but Illinois puts up roadblocks. Check that, it puts up walls that would make our President proud for its ability to hold back all people, but especially minorities.

You cannot be an education major in Illinois unless you pass the Test of Academic Proficiency, an issue repeatedly raised and studied by former Belleville elementary superintendent and McKendree professor Jim Rosborg. Four parts. Must pass all. And as Barbie briefly said, “math is hard.”

Only 1 in 5 students pass it. Miss Othmar doesn’t get to teach kindergarten unless she can show proficiency in trig and analytic geometry.

So if you are a kid from one of our academically challenged districts, and add on a lack of role models and mentors, what are the chances you will help grow the population of black male elementary teachers anytime soon?

Better, if someone tells you that you can start changing the world by choosing to teach.

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