One Step Forward & Fifty Years Gone

Well this post started out yesterday as a "Mid winter tale of cold weather woes and good food", but is instead turning into a blog about how progress doesn't always mean moving forward.

I opened the newspaper this morning and read two related articles that nearly made my head explode.  The first was on the front page of the CJ and was about our "redistricting" here in Jefferson County.  Now we are a big district.  We have more than 90,000 students and are ranked in the top 20 in the nation for size.  Keep in mind all of the drama surrounding D.C. schools in the last few years was about less than 3500 students.  As a teacher in the ONLY SCHOOL IN JEFFERSON COUNTY that DOES NOT have an equitable (or court mandated for that matter) student population split, I am frequently foaming at the mouth about this gross inequity. 

Our school system was taken to court in 2007 over using race to decide who goes to school where in a desegregation effort that was started in the 70's.  It lost and decided to use "Socio-economic status" to desegregate and the new policy is that every school in Jefferson County will have a 15/50 split, or no fewer than 15% of it's population and no more than 50% of it's population will be at poverty level (average household income is less than $41,000; where average education levels are less than a high school diploma with some college; and where the minority population is more than 48 percent.).  My school currently sits at more than 90% poverty.  I can't really even talk about that.  It's an entirely other blog entry.

When the Board of Ed was required to "Redistrict" students, the gloves started coming off on all sides of the table.  All of a sudden parents were up in arms about the fact that their kids no longer could attend their neighborhood school and were oftentimes on a bus for 40 minutes to an hour to get to and from their school.  We will temporarily ignore the fact that our inner city kiddos have been doing this since the 70's.  Now it was THEIR babies and it was no longer OK.   Parents are hysterical that they are no longer automatically given a spot at their neighborhood school and our Superintendent's position is to "leave it alone" and "let parents get used to it". 

I then read an article about Wake County Schools in Raleigh, N.C. and they have actually decided to do away with desegregation all together.  They actually said, "If we had a school that was, like, 80 percent high-poverty, the public would see the challenges, the need to make it successful.  Right now, we have diluted the problem, so we can ignore it.”  I think I still have brain matter all over my walls.  They should come on down to my school and we can look at those problems together. 

I do not know what the answer is to integrating schools.  No one does.  If they did, they would be gajillionaires and every kid would be getting a great education.  My issue with all of this is that we, as a society, as a civilized, equal rights-promoting society are FAILING our children.  This is no longer about how we adults choose to live, it is about the message that we are sending our children.  Diversity is such an important part of being a whole human.  When did this insulation take over?  When did "other" become kryptonite?   Or at least poor "other".  In my school's case, the District tell our kids that they are pre-disposed to failure, that they will not ever make it out, don't deserve an equal shot at education, and if their parents were just more involved, they wouldn't need to be in the ghetto anymore.  We tell them that by not taking a stand as a District and putting our school in the mix to bus kids IN.  It is political suicide to take that stand.  Some would say that it is our fault at the schools that we are failing.  I will tell you that those same people have NO IDEA what happens on a daily basis to get our kids in the building, much less ready to learn (see Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs for some insight here).  It is a miracle that some of my students can tie their shoes, so getting to school safe, fed, and ready to learn are some lofty goals. 

When does this become our problem instead of "their" problem?  When do those of us that have a voice have the courage to stand up and say, "THIS IS WRONG!!"?  When does it stop being about how much we can all buy/sell/get for our own and start being about getting us ALL to the finish line?  When do we stop worrying about the injustice that little Suzie has to be on a bus for 40 minutes and go to school with "those kids" and start worrying about the injustice that Jacquale hasn't eaten if he doesn't come to school and deserves the same chance at a better life that Suzie does?

Now I am not a socialist, I really am not.  And I know that everyone wants the best for their children.  But this attitude of "I've got mine, screw the rest if they can't get there on their own" is DETRIMENTAL to us as a city, a country, and a civilization.  The gap is widening every year.  How many baby steps before we become what we fled from across the pond all of those centuries ago?  50 years later, after civil rights were gained and desegregation happened, we are right back where we started and maybe even worse off because we are supposed to "know better" now.  As an educator, my daily goal is to do it better than we did yesterday/last month/last year.  It is ALWAYS about the success of ALL of our kids.  Why do we need to send some to sacrifice so that the best can achieve even more?  And who gets to decide that?

OK I'll quit for today.  It certainly isn't going to be solved today.  I will go back to recipes and winter woes with the next blog.  For now, I will ponder over how it all went so freaking wrong and what do we do to get back on track?  Maybe we let our kiddos speak a little louder...

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2 comments

  1. Girl - I can't even begin to accurately comment here. CMS (Charlotte's system) is huge as well (100k + students) and went through "un-bussing" about 10 years ago. It has been painful ever since. Magnets were supposed to squash "white flight" from the inner ring schools and all it's done is completely undermine the prosperity of neighborhood schools here in our area. We have a huge budget short-fall coming and schools (high-poverty/high-minority) are being closed b/c they are under populated and under performing. It is an absolute mess and as a parent who actually cares about more than my own child, I don't know how we fix it.

    Please know that I think what you have chosen as your profession has my utmost respect and admiration.

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  2. It is a royal mess everywhere. We have a magnet thing here too. They have worked in a few of the cases, but certainly not all. Not here.

    I know we are smart enough as a society to get this figured out. It is just so scary to watch us take more steps back after so long.

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