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