Astute viewers, not to mention English teachers, may note that these are sentence fragments lacking a verb. What, you might wonder, was Singleton trying to say about these teachers?
The snippet comes from a 30-minute interview with Singleton that has been making the rounds. It was posted Jan. 7 on IntersectionsRadio, an online station affiliated with the White Privilege Conference. You can listen to the whole thing (be prepared for some poor audio, including brief dead air at the beginning) or go to about the eight-minute mark to hear the interviewer, Eddie Moore Jr., ask Singleton about white teachers' "ability or inability" to serve increasingly diverse groups of students.
Singleton puts them into three groups: First, veterans, some of whom are "counting down to their last days" and may be reluctant to change their principles and beliefs to better meet the needs of students of color. "I can't say that phenomenon is limited to white teachers," he notes.
The second group is mid-career teachers, he says, for whom "this new population and these new mandates create a new challenge for them. I have been heartened by the number of white middle-class teachers, particularly female teachers, who have risen to this challenge."
Finally, he describes brand-new white teachers who arrive enthusiastic but unaware of the culture their kids come from. Their egos may keep them from learning what they need to know, Singleton says: "The world has told them that they're bright and they're capable, yet they're facing a problem that no one in our society has yet been able to institutionally figure out."
The interviewer then poses a challenge to Singleton: Should young black males be kept out of the hands of young white teachers? Could racial segregation actually help such students?
Singleton's answer: "I want to see a skilled, qualified teacher who not only believes in the educability of the students that he or she is seeing, but has the tools and the wherewithal to bring that student to standard through instruction. I'm not as focused on whether that teacher is white, black, brown (or) multiracial."
That's similar to what Singleton told me when he visited Charlotte in December, meeting with education advocates and community leaders to potentially prepare the ground for work with CMS (read my January article here). He, Morrison and school board members have all told me there are teachers of all races who can succeed with students of color -- and teachers of all races who are failing them.
How Singleton speaks about white teachers -- and how they perceive it -- will be important if he's hired, given that 71 percent of CMS teachers are white. Morrison, who has worked with Singleton in two previous districts, insists his work isn't about blaming or driving off white teachers.
Having read Singleton's two "Courageous Conversations About Race" books, I can attest that it is about bluntly addressing the role of whiteness in holding back students of color, which seems to be the message intended by the WBTV quote. Singleton's views are also more nuanced than a news report or blog can convey.
Whether Singleton's views will become part of Charlotte's discussion on race remains to be seen. Morrison had originally said he'd make a decision in January. Now he's saying "very soon."