My partner recently completed a training program for a technical field that introduced them to the first Black instructor they’ve ever had in all of their educational history — and they have a Bachelor’s degree.
All the trainees were low-income, in the age range of 18–24, and most were Black and brown without any college education. The purpose of the program was to provide them with the opportunity to advance quickly in IT fields and gain hands-on experience with major companies, many with the promise of employment afterwards. It’s a rigorous, demanding setup that takes up more hours than a full-time job. Difficult, but many of these young people were up to the challenge for a chance at starting their careers off strong.
Think of the most disrespectful way a person could talk to you and you’ve got a baseline understanding of what this man brought to his classroom.
The coding instructor for this cohort of students of color was a Black man with a very particular teaching style. It namely involved all manner of degradation and verbal harassment: screaming, cursing, belittling, insulting. Think of the most disrespectful way a person could talk to you and you’ve got a baseline understanding of what this man brought to his classroom.
Within two months, the program was down to nearly half of its original class size because of the amount of students dropping. Despite doing well with the course material itself, my partner was constantly stressed and on the verge of an anxiety attack before and after each class. They completed the program as one of its top students, but only after insisting that they be placed in a class with a different, far less irate instructor.
Of the students who stayed, many were convinced that it had to be this way. That the instructor’s penchant for verbal abuse was “tough love” meant to make them more resilient and better prepared for the workforce. But there’s nothing “professional” about treating people that way.
The concept of “tough love,” particularly in education, is pretty commonplace and…