Democrat and Chronicle prints “Teacher gave concerning lesson”

Democrat and Chronicle prints “Teacher gave concerning lesson”

[Captain Charles Price addressing the “What makes us, US? Conflict and Community” (2012) from Looking at “1964″ across the generations at World of Inquiry]

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, May 8th, 2022

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, May 8th, 2022

Today, the Democrat and Chronicle published my letter, “Teacher gave concerning lesson.” In the first paragraph, the editor did change “1964 riots” to “1964 civil unrest.”  Originally, the second paragraph concluded with “The forum was anything but racist.” Instead, the editor replaced that sentence with, “The forum was educational and productive.” The first change is an improvement. I would have kept the sentence with “racist” or some variant on the theme. Also, I live in Brighton not Rochester.

My letter was in response to a controversy involving School of the Arts middle school social studies teacher Patrick Rausch.  As explained in “Rochester teacher under investigation after social studies lesson on slavery goes viral.” (WXXI News, 4/29/22), Rausch, in his lessons about slavery and how cotton is processed, reportedly had students pick cotton seeds out of a cotton boll, and call Rausch “massah.” White students were allowed to stop picking, while Black students were not. In another lesson, to recreate the experience of slavery, Rausch allegedly made Black students wear handcuffs and leg shackles.

When word of the lessons reached outraged parents and concerned administors, Rausch was placed on administration leave and under investigation. Some parents have demanded he be fired or at least never teach again.

As I wrote in the letter, while Rausch may well have used poor judgement, we need more facts before drawing final conclusions. Rausch is known for his alternative educational approaches. We need to ascertain what was the supposed pedagogic purpose and value of the lessons.

I remember in 2007 and 2008 when Rausch participated in the “Reworking Rochester-Rescuing City Schools Democrat and Chronicle blog.

Democrat and Chronicle, 06 Mar 2008

I appreciated that Rausch took the time to share his insights on improving education.

I also remember in 2007 when Rausch led an alternative, ambitious and important learning program called Rochester Matters. The project was to create an interdisciplinary, hands-on curriculum built on experiential learning.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, SPEAKING OUT, Sep 09, 2007

As Rausch writes:

The premise behind Rochester Matters is that children are most engaged and apt to learn when they can connect the topics and issues they are studying in school to their own life experiences.

I appreciated the commitment Rausch showed to his students.

I met Rausch in 2012 at the World of Inquiry School #58. At the time, I was a substitute teacher and was also the Democrat and Chronicle‘s “Make City Schools Better” blogger.  I came across his class as the students were doing what’s called Expeditionary Learning. They were doing research and preparing power points for the project that would include interviewing participants in the 1964 civil unrest and others: Captain Charlie Price, Rochester’s first African-American police officer, Constance Mitchell, Rochester’s first Black woman legislatures, Dr. Walter Cooper, the first Black resident in Pittsford, Darryl Porter, former Assistant to the Mayor and President and Board Member at the Rochester City School District, and former Mayor William Johnson. The students were engaged and enthusiastic.

The public forum that included all the interviewees was a great success. Rausch’s students took the project very seriously and were enamored with the guests. As seen in my article about the forum (BELOW), the students created an impressive video on the event.

As I said, Rausch may have demonstrated egregiously bad judgement. At the same time, I’ve known him as dedicated and innovative educator. I don’t know what the investigation will reveal, but I hope there are grounds for Rausch to keep his job — his calling.

Looking at “1964″ across the generations at World of Inquiry

• February 27, 2013 [This article first appeared in the Democrat and Chronicle‘s “Make City Schools Better” blog]

In the last few days, Rochesterians have been reading about the riots of 1964, including a front page story, “Decades after the 1964 riots, what has changed?” The article was a prelude to a forum hosted by the Rochester chapter of the League of Woman Voters: Facing Race, Embracing Equity (FR=EE). Following a screening of the documentary, July ’64 (2004), the forum encouraged a discussion of the current state of racial inequalities — topics ranging from housing to education — and how these disparities can be diminished.

The history teacher in me relishes such public dialogues, especially by examining how past events continue (or not) to influence present conditions.

The history teacher in me is also prompted to ask the ever-ongoing question: how can contemporary students become engaged with the kinds of issues raised in such forums? Let’s face it, to today’s generation, 1964 seems as far away as 1764.

World of Inquiry School # 58

Actually, such projects are taking place throughout city schools. A prime example comes from the World of Inquiry High School that uses an Expeditionary Learning model in which students investigate topics throughout history that changed and affected communities in both positive and negative ways. In Spring 2012, within the context, “What makes us, US? Conflict and Community, the 8th grade worked with local community members to learn about Rochester during the Great Migration, the Great Depression, WWII, the Civil Rights movement, and in one powerful segment, the 1964 riots themselves as told through the eyes of participants.

The trailer to their documentary is five minutes, and well worth your time

You will see a classroom of interested 8th graders (not yet fully fledged jaded teenagers, 8th graders can still be captivated), interviewing one Rochester leader after another: Captain Charlie Price, Rochester’s first African-American police officer, Constance Mitchell, Dr. Walter Cooper Darryl Porter, and former Mayor William Johnson.

Constance Mitchell addressing the “What makes us, US? Conflict and Community” (2012)

Hopefully you will have seen the leaders of tomorrow. To some of the students, the project was probably just another school exercise. To others, making the documentary may well have sparked a lifetime interest. So, when it is their turn to host and attend League of Women Voter’s forums, they’ll be ready, willing and able.



Democrat and Chronicle prints “Pioneer for Black police officers guarded King one night in 1958” and much more on Captain Charles Price (1923 – 2021)

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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