OK, I taught for many years in a College of Further Education in Coventry (England). The nature of Coventry is such that my classes were usually very diverse (except for the Media Studies ones, for some reason).

Almost the first thing I learned was that Black and Brown students were motivated to learn, while the White kids were more concerned with dossing about.

The White kids had decided that they would probably never get a job. They were resigned to living their lives on benefits, and as often as not had come to the College at the behest of the then Department of Social Security as a way of ensuring that they continued to get those benefits. Do a course for a year or two on some kind of grant, qualify, then sign on again. End of.

The Brown kids - mostly of Indian, Pakistani or Bengali extraction - received a good deal of community and parental pressure and support. The status of their families, the chances of a good marriage, their own status within community and family, were all at stake. Success was vital.

The Black kids had something to prove. More often than not, their fathers (and occasionally older brothers) regarded their plans and efforts as Quixotic at best. "Do what you like, but you'll still end up driving a bus, you're Black and that's all they'll let you do. It's not a bad job, after all. I do all right." The pressure there came from themselves, their own wish or need to do better. Any support came from mothers or girlfriends (there are few forces of nature equal to a determined Black woman, as I found out).

I'm not a nice or patient person, and I will admit that there were times when I was strongly tempted to let the White kids go to Hell in their sullen, desultory way. If it were not for the rewarding feeling I got from seeing the other kids pitch in and work their socks off, I might just have done that, but it gave me the energy I needed to bring all of my students on.

Snapper-up of unconsidered trifles, walker of paths less travelled by. Advocate-in-Ordinary to His Satanic Majesty.

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