This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In My Ideal World...

...schools would be diverse *and* community-based. We all live integrated by default, not by force.

I was lucky. I lived the diverse life, not by force. As a military brat living primarily overseas (on the Pacific side), this was my exposure. I am eternally grateful for it because I believe that has made me the "diverse" individual that I am.

As a mestiza (a child of mixed race), I grew up with other mestizas and mestizos. This mixture was varied: black with Filipino, white with Filipino, black with Thai, hispanic with Thai, and so on. You get the picture. So my BFFs around me were white, or mixed from many possibilities.

The community we made was military brats. We united based on our common theme of being from a military base.

Our schools were not always community-based. We had to ride to the nearest school that was off the base. However, when I was in elementary school at some bases, I could walk or ride my bike to school.

I have had the best of both worlds.

I like the idea of community-based schools in the world that I grew up in: my kids and I can walk to school, join school activities without driving through traffic everyday, and they mingle with their classmates of all cultures and backgrounds.

Community-based schools also alleviate traffic and the number of buses that need to be employed.

It also allows kids to go to school with friends that they play with _after_ school.

The ole bitties of the neighborhood can watch out for who's good and bad and tell on them.

But my world doesn't discriminate based on class either. Again, in the military, us brats were all one class...except for NCO vs. officers' kids, but in the end, they were part of our community. We all lived in similar housing on the base. No one had a better neighborhood than the other.

I don't have my 'armchair quarterback' answer to this problem. We are facing it BIG TIME here in Raleigh. We were even mentioned in this USA Today article, pointing out the 'desegregation' of schools in our nation.

But I believe strongly that busing 'lower class' communities to schools too many miles away to meet a diversity number is wrong. In Raleigh, when a majority of minorities are working class citizens, this is logistically unfair. These are people with strict job schedules (unlike us white collar workers) who don't have the leisure of working, perhaps, only 8 hours a day, or can take off whenever they want, or can AFFORD to take time off to go to the other end of town and meet with a teacher. It's ridiculous to expect these families to do this...

And I have to ask: who are the biggest proponents for diversity? The yuppie parents, driving around in their big-ass, expensive SUV, drinking their Starbucks, boasting with their fellow McMansioned neighbors about how their little Johnny has a black friend and how culturally diverse he is for it?

Cheesy statement to be revealed: Cultural diversity starts within your heart, your home. You can't FORCE it. You can't put a statistic to it and then stamp yourself DIVERSE and walk around feeling good about yourself.

To what you wanted to see good, has made you blind
- Soundgarden


  1. I know you and I have talked about this some before, but how do you propose to even out educational opportunities when there is such an economic disparity between various communities in our county? I look back at my public high school - we had a planetarium and indoor pool IN the school. We had a football stadium with astroturf. We had state-of-the-art science labs. The opportunities were endless, and all the top students went to Ivy League schools. On the other hand, my mom volunteers across town in the school all the homeless children attend where the library is in shambles and opportunities to excel are rare because the facilities, teachers, and supplies are so under-funded. If our education is truly PUBLIC and paid for with PUBLIC money, then it seems like it shouldn't matter whether you live in the rich section of town or the poor section... you ought to be able to attend a good school with the same opportunities as the kids across town. I think that is what bussing is trying to accomplish. Granted, it has drawbacks. I would love your ideal where we all live in diverse neighborhoods and go to diverse community based schools. That may be possible from a race standpoint, but I don't think it is possible from a socioeconomic standpoint, and that is where we run into problems with schools. My daughters' elementary school classes have a parent volunteer helping out with centers EVERY day. That is such a huge help for both teachers and kids. Like you said, in lower socioeconomic areas, with hourly wages and strict schedules, that type of parent involvement isn't possible. I feel like bussing has been a good effort at trying to even out the education all of our kids receive, but I'm sure there are other solutions as well. I'm not convinced that the new community-only based plan is going to be the best move either. There must be some sort of middle ground that would work better for everybody.

  2. Bussing should go the other way. Make the lower socioeconomic neighborhoods magnet schools since the yuppie, upper class folk are the ones that seem to (over)think what education their little johnnies should get. They have the time to drive across town, after grabbing groceries at Whole Foods along the way.

    Leave the lower class folks in the neighborhood and let them have the money to have the magnet school. This allows buffie and biffy to tell everyone how diverse their little kids are.

    I see the diversity issue more along the line of upper, white folk wanting to feel like they can have the best of both worlds: my neighborhood has a great school and bus minorities to *my* school so I can feel good about myself.

    Sorry. I am a bit cynical on this subject. It's never geared to the minorities or the lower class, IMHO...much like most other issues going on in our nation, i.e. healthcare.

  3. I think magnets are great, and they certainly seem very popular and successful here in Wake county. I definitely think they are a good idea. I just don't know (like truly have no clue) if that is enough to even things out from an educational standpoint. Like for a hypothetical situation, what if in turning the lower income schools into magnets and keeping all those kids at their nearest neighborhood school, there was only space for a few application kids. The kids in the school would have the advantage of the magnet program, but not the advantage of parent involvement, a strong PTA, etc. Maybe that stuff doesn't make a difference, but it seems like it does.

    I'm not necessarily arguing in favor of bussing... just thinking outloud... wondering if magnet schools are enough of a solution to provide low income kids with an education equivalent to what higher income kids are receiving.

  4. Like you, I have no idea. I just don't think the people who yell out "segregation" at the suggestion of community-based schools have a clue either. And I don't think the current board does, so I am certainly not a supporter of them. I just think it's all a mess.

    If you read the article in the post, there is a school in one of the poorest districts, renovated and made into a magnet school focused on math & science. But parents are still not drawn to it because of where it is at.

    In the end, I think you and I agree that (based on what we discussed before): an excellent education should be available to all children. I agree with this 100%. I just think this gets sidetracked with the whole racial diversity issue, which I stereotype as being an important issue only to those who aren't minorities.

  5. Absolutely... we need good education for all children. I think race and socioeconomic diversity get mixed up sometimes though, and that factors into this whole discussion. My kids go to a school with a very low F&R percentage and yet it is extremely racially diverse. I think E's class last year only had 6 white students in it... so only about 25% of the class was white. In the case of that school, even without being very diverse from a socioeconomic standpoint, they are very diverse racially. I also disagree with the people yelling out "segregation!" I do worry though that with community schools, we will have schools with extremely high F&R numbers, and looking at the stats, it is easy to see that those schools are not the high performers. If bringing money, resources, and great teachers to those schools will fix that issue, then I'm all for it. I'm not convinced the board has a plan for that though. They seem to be all about "community schools", but not what to do about the poor communities that will need more support in their schools.