Friends

This 1973 photo of five children playing in a Detroit suburb has gone viral on the Internet. The children were Rhonda Shelly, 3 (from left), Kathy Macool, 7, Lisa Shelly, 5, Chris Macool, 9, and Robert Shelly, 6.
This 1973 photo shows Rhonda Shelly, 3 (from left), Kathy Macool, 7, Lisa Shelly, 5, Chris Macool, 9, and Robert Shelly, 6.

Joe Crachiola/Courtesy of The Macomb Daily

This 40-year-old photo of kids playing in a Detroit suburb has gone viral, reports NPR. Joseph Crachiola, who took the feature photo in Mt. Clemens, Michigan for his newspaper, recently posted the photo on Facebook. In the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, the photographer hopes adults can learn from the innocence and acceptance of children.

“It was a very simple picture of innocent children being themselves,” he said. “But you have to remember the context it was taken in. This was five years after the Detroit riots and right in the middle of the busing controversy between Detroit and the suburbs.”

Robert Shelly, now 46, works for the Macomb County Road Commission as a mechanic. His sisters also stayed in the area. Kathy and Chris Macool live in Texas, where their family moved in 1975.

A reunion of the five is possible, reports AP.

“My mother raised us to be color blind,” Kathy Macool told AP. “You treat people the way you want to be treated. I was asked by someone if there was any racism when I was a child. I don’t know, I don’t remember, but I know there is now. I think racism is way worse today than it ever was.”

“It didn’t matter back then to us what your color was, we never thought about that,” said Shelly. “My mother taught us to love everybody.”

Teaching Trayvon

Common Core standards drafters want inner-city students to reach high standards, but don’t want teachers to “link literature to our students’ strengths,” writes John Thompson in the Huffington Post. That doesn’t show respect for students, he believes.

If he was back in the classroom, Thompson would be playing Bruce Springsteen’s American Skin:

41 shots, Lena gets her son ready for school
She says now on these streets Charles
You got to understand the rules
Promise me if an officer stops you’ll always be polite
Never ever run away and promise mama you’ll keep your hands in sight

The song always sparked discussion, Thompson writes.

In the first verse, Springsteen wrote from the perspective of the white New York City cops who shot a Nigerian immigrant, Amadou Diallo, 41 times thinking he had a gun, even though it was his wallet. “Forty-one shots, and we’ll take this ride, cross the bloody river, to the other side.”

The second verse was from the perspective of a black mother warning her son in case he was racially profiled. The third verse was from a universal perspective as we are “baptized in each others’ blood,” and a crucial change is made in the chorus, “Is it a gun? Is it a knife? Is it in your heart? Is it in your sight?”

Asked the source of Springsteen’s image of “the river,” a girl replied, “Langston Hughes!”

“Great,” I answered, throwing a copy of Hughes’ poems to her, “Support your answer.”

Kesha read, “I’ve known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers….”

When “curriculum alignment became the district’s gospel,” Thompson played the song during orientation to illustrate issues that would be studied in Government and help English teachers teach “repetition, point of view and metaphor.” A high level administrator objected. “Our kids don’t have time for Bruce Springsteen.”

Did school crime cover-up lead to Trayvon’s death?

By covering up students’ crimes, Miami-Dade schools contributed to Trayvon Martin’s death, argues Robert Stacy McCain on the American Spectator‘s blog. District policy was to treat crimes as disciplinary infractions, shielding students from serious consequences.

. . . Chief Charles Hurley of the Miami-Dade School Police Department (MDSPD) in 2010 had implemented a policy that reduced the number of criminal reports, manipulating statistics to create the appearance of a reduction in crime within the school system. Less than two weeks before Martin’s death, the school system commended Chief Hurley for “decreasing school-related juvenile delinquency by an impressive 60 percent for the last six months of 2011.”

Four months before his fatal encounter with George Zimmerman, Martin was caught at school with women’s jewelry that matched items stolen from a home near the high school; he also had a screwdriver that the school resource officer called a “burglary tool.” Martin said a friend had given him the items. Instead of telling the police, the school suspended Martin for graffiti and stored the jewelry as “found property.”

Days before his death, Martin was caught with a small amount of marijuana. Suspended again, he was sent to his father’s girlfriend’s house in Sanford.

When the Miami Herald reported on Martin’s disciplinary record at Krop High School. Chief Hurley launched an internal investigation to determine who’d leaked the information, inadvertently revealing the report-no-evil policy.

If Trayvon Martin had been a little older and wiser, he’d have walked straight back to the house instead of doubling back to confront and punch Zimmerman, giving him a viable self-defense case. (The evidence and witnesses — both prosecution and defense — support this scenario.) Sadly, Martin never got the chance to grow up.  If he’d been arrested for burglary . . . ? Arresting teenagers usually doesn’t turn them into model citizens. Unfortunately, neither does not arresting them.

Talking about Trayvon

Should teachers talk to their students about the Trayvon Martin controversy in Florida?  As always with current events, it’s a sensitive question.

Jeffrey Carpenter and Scott Weathers at Education Week say yes; it’s a teachable moment.  (Subscription barrier)

Teaching for Change has an (obviously politicized, since it’s Teaching for Change) list of suggestions about how to discuss the issue with young children.

But perhaps one should just talk — as a teacher was fired in Michigan for, it seems, running a fundraiser with her students for Trayvon Martin’s family.

I think that teachers discuss it, but only as a sort of concrete springboard for more abstract issues.  They should probably avoid talking specifically about the details of the controversy unless they’re going to do at least several hours of serious research into the various alleged facts of the case and the various ways the narratives have shifted since their inception.  Is Zimmerman white?  That’s a complex question.  Was Trayvon shot for wearing a hoodie?  It’s not clear the hoodie had anything at all to do with anything; Zimmerman only mentioned the hoodie after he explained to the operator why the man was suspicious, in response to a question about what the man was wearing.  Was Zimmerman injured?  Did he mutter “coons” or “cold”?  At the very least, teachers should be aware that these are questions, and not facts.

There’s also the question of understanding the legal issues.  I’ve personally seen two teachers discuss the matter with their students in the last few weeks.  While both teachers were well-intentioned, intelligent, and quite up-front about their own biases in the case, and handled themselves admirably insofar as they were discussing delicate, politically charged issues,  they both fell victim to a simple lack of legal understanding.  They didn’t really understand the burdens that police face in making an arrest and their knowledge of the facts was very clearly limited to one or two sources that they’d read.  It’s not that the teachers were really doing anything wrong — like I said, they tried very hard to present the issue fairly and to make clear their own presumptions– but they just didn’t really know what it was they didn’t know.  And that’s treacherous ground for an educator.

I’m not saying that teachers need to be lawyers.  That’s clearly asking too much; I am a lawyer, and I’m not at all sure I’d want to talk to a high school class about this case because there’s so much I just don’t understand about what’s going on.  If I did talk to a high school class about this, it would be primarily to flag issues and explain what I (and, by way of the lesson, the students) simply don’t know.  But even if I’m being overcautious, if the teachers aren’t going to take the time to understand, for example, that “Stand Your Ground” laws probably have nothing to do with the case, then I think they really should just avoid talking about it in anything except the most general of terms.

The Martin-Zimmerman situation is, fundamentally, a legal issue right now.  (Or it should be, if we want to avoid simply defaulting to mob rule.)  That means that the applicability of various statutes and burdens and presumptions really, really, matters.   The law really matters.  If you want to discuss the situation in detail with your students, if you want to make it a teachable moment and not just an opportunity to inflame passions, then you either need to do the hard work of gathering the often conflicting allegations and bits of evidence and  understand what’s going on with the law, or you need to accept the limitations of your knowledge, make them explicit, and only speak more generally about society’s racial tensions, the sorts of problems that face minority youth (which are real; I know from my own experience), the way that the law protects us from mob rule, and other related issues.

College expels Trayvon Martin shooter

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch member who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, has been expelled from community college. College officials say Zimmerman’s presence on campus would endanger students — and him. Zimmerman has been in hiding since the case hit the media.