Zip Codes Didn’t Matter Then: Ron, Diane and I

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Richard Rothstein, Harvard educated professor, writes about the role zip codes play in the under education of children. This is a starting point for me because Dr. Rothstein is so on target. Yet back when I was a child in Los Angeles my husband Ron, and Diane my dear friend, were raised in those ZIP Codes of limited success Dr. Rothstein talks about; yet we went on to have professional careers in different pathways leading to lifelong success and prosperity. And we are products of the wrong zip codes. I appreciate the research of Dr. Rothstein; and it’s like that elephant fable: depending on what part of the elephant you come upon as a blind person; it is indeed is all true.

In a behemoth city like LA, Ron, Diane and I attended three large urban high schools with Diane at Jordan, which would be closest to the flame point for the Watts Riots; Fremont High is further north and Ron’s home school; and I attended Manual Arts which was closest to downtown Los Angeles. What Ron, Diane, and myself share being African descended students was articulated by esteemed scholar W.E.B. Dubois when he wrote, “Does the Negro Need Separate Schools?” He offers the following rationale. The historic past of African descent children/students is best overcome by an effective relationship between a child and teacher where there is respect for the unique heritage and experience of these students. Such a relationship enhances the student/teacher beyond the status of “Other” as identified by Dr. Toni Morrison in her writings about race in America. We three all experienced teachers of this ilk in our journey through school. These teachers were enablers of our talents; often telling upcoming teachers of our strengths as students and of our affable personalities.

Diane and I meet at a reception for Delta Sigma Theta Scholarship winners as we graduate from high school and move on to the college which becomes California State University at Los Angeles. We are both English majors and follow different pathways to becoming award- winning principals in California and Colorado. Ron would eventually complete his degree in Colorado. His career journey was as the Trade Act Administrator for the Division of Labor and Employment for the state of Colorado. I am celebrating conquering the zip code theory. But on the way to closure on this Ron notes his work with the Department of Labor and Employment. He was the point of retraining authorization for Coloradoans whose jobs are moved outside the United States. These individuals from all over the state of Colorado universally required remediation in secondary educational skills before entering retraining curriculums.

This reality left him pondering the status of public education teacher preparation programs. What changes are relevant to meet the demands of strengthening the educational toolkit at the colleges where teachers are readied. Time for some dynamic review and evolution. This topic will be developed in its own unique article.

Ta Nehisi Coates, award- winning writer provides the concluding statement for this message.

Black people must revel in their community and find joy in it because it is what they have. The struggle is hard but it provides meaning in this life.

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