Are we heading toward an even more segregated society through our schools?

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There is something that I’ve been turning around in my head. I want to throw it out there and let you maybe turn it around in your head. Let me be perfectly clear here, this post doesn’t include any acquisitions and it may not even contain any facts. Its just thoughts that have been rolling around in my and I’d like to bring them out for you to consider.

We’ll start off with a bunch of under performing schools. Schools say that are in the lower 5% of all schools. Everybody knows something has to be done. The state is supposed to do what the local municipalities can not, so its the perfect opportunity to encourage the state to take action. The state in turn creates a special school district, you can call it the Recovery district but Achievement district sounds much better. This achievement district doesn’t want to depend on the same folks that have been “failing”, they call in the Charter Schools.

Now Charter Schools know you can’t do the same old same old and expect to get different results. They implement stricter disciplinary codes. Teachers implement eye tracking policies. Kids stand in line going from room to room. Parents sign contracts that they will adhere to certain guidelines and meet certain obligations. Longer school days are instituted and increased pressure on teachers. Its also known that nothing good happens unless people know about it. The PR machine is engaged.

Let’s now add another wrinkle to the process. People argue all the time about the role of poverty in education, but I think its safe to say that these lower performing schools are made up of lower income and minority students. Charter school advocates have gone on record as saying Charter Schools shouldn’t be responsible for creating diverse populations. They are after all just reflections of society. So, I think it probably a safe assumption that the demographics of these schools stay primarily minority and lower income students.

There are some very good educators involved in the Charter school movement and some excellent PR people. That means that some of these students will thrive and the schools will be portrayed as successes. Those that don’t, well they can always be advised that they would probably be better served in another school. After all, every school is not for every kid and by not encouraging a child to pursue other opportunities better suited for them would be detrimental to the child.

Meanwhile, the parents at the schools in the higher income primarily white districts are scratching their heads. Why do their children have to go to either private school or crappy public schools when all this special focus is being placed on lower income and minority students. That doesn’t sound fair at all.Their children deserve the same amount of attention as the at risk kids.

Luckily there are some charter schools that are willing to take these students. Now since creating a diverse population is not the obligation of  charter schools, most of these schools are made up of white and upper income students. It’s not their fault that our neighborhoods are already segregated. Schools should be able to draw from their neighborhood.

However, higher income parents as a rule don’t go in for all that rigid discipline. No eye tracking for their offspring and if you expect them to sign a contract, well they may sign it but odds are, they are already involved enough with their child. Their children have different needs. They need to be challenged and develop problem solving skills, not develop discipline and learn to close read so they can better follow instructions.

The public schools that are left behind become more and more devoted to special education and English learners. The rest of the population further splinters off into other segregated avenues. The charters on both sides of the gap keep an eye open to recruit any children that might fit their prescribed demographic. The teachers are either forced out or gravitate to one or the other of the charter groups, further limiting the traditional schools.

So the questions I have are how does this scenario differ from our situation pre-Brown vs the Board of Education? Another question would be the implications for our society as a whole. It seems we are creating two trajectories. One group will go on to become the workers utilizing the discipline and ability to follow orders to better serve the creative management types who have the ability to think outside of the box.

Another question I have would be is this a intentional widening of the opportunity gap or is it a by product of thinking solely as education being about the child? Should we not recognize the important role that education plays in the foundation of our society? Are there more important things then being college and career ready? What obligations do we have to be good stewards of both our children and our democratic institutions?

Again this is just me thinking aloud and applying the things I hear people say. It could be that if we take care of the child they will take care of the society. It could be that some have decided that if you rig the game you can control the winners. It could be either, neither or a combination of both.

I do know that the supporters of segregation never accepted the rulings of Brown vs Board of Education. I do know that they initially attempted to create separate “splinter” districts to circumvent the courts ruling until that too was deemed illegal. (Wright v. Council of the City of Emporia; United States v. Scotland Neck City Board of Education) I do know that Virginia closed its public schools in the aftermath of the ruling. White students went to private academies while black students didn’t return to schools until 1963. 

Truth is our society has become more segregated over the years. Therefore our schools themselves have become more segregated. Segregation hasn’t just grown by color of skin but also by wealth. There is more income disparity now then at any time in our history.  I don’t believe that this is something we should just accept. Perhaps now is the time to be more diligent instead of more laissez faire. After all, are schools not  but a microcosm of our society? Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. That’s the question we have to ask ourselves.

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One comment on “Are we heading toward an even more segregated society through our schools?

  1. Jerry says:

    Schools should be a microcosm of the society we WANT to live in. And cultural diversity needs to be a goal.
    But let’s not deceive ourselves. Putting a student from one culture next to a student from a different culture does not automatically improve the learning potential or efficiency of either child.
    The reason that the courts rejected “separate but equal” were that the schools were NOT equal and the politics and demographics of racism made it impossible for the courts to assess and enforce the equality concept.
    In fact, one could argue that children should be separated into different educational environments based on factors that will reflect the way that they will best learn and/or what the most efficient ways to instruct them are. That would seem to make more sense than separating or combining them based on the shade of their skin or the national origin of their parents.

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