On the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education I don’t believe we are working on the issue of school integration in the least when it comes to public schools. Here are the two biggest examples:
1. In 2010, the UCLA Civil Rights Project determined that charter schools “isolate students by race and class” yet charter schools have multiplied across the country, with no proof that they are better than real public schools. Ironically, we have seen these charter school increases continue to occur under our first black, Democratic President and other civil rights activists like Al Sharpton.
2. The bitterly divided Supreme Court also nixed any further attempts of integrating public schools by discontinuing integration based on racial assignments, prevalent, in the past, after the Brown v. Board of Education decision. In 2007, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No.1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education sought and succeeded not to allow race to dominate student placement.
Fancy speeches and acknowledging the importance of Brown does nothing. Unless you focus on the real issues dividing our country, when it comes to race, and quit dividing the nation further with a dual school system, which, hmm, looks suspiciously like before Brown, nothing, I repeat nothing, is being accomplished. And that is, of course, very sad.
How much time has been wasted? Yet, we still don’t seek to truly demonstrate to our young people how they can and should get along with one another. How will this all play out in the future? I wonder.
In honor of yesterday’s anniversary, I am reprinting one of my favorite posts from last August. It reminds me that Americans could work on this serious issue if we wanted, but, as a nation we apparently choose not to when it comes to public schools. I hope this changes.
Further Apart in Public Schools than Ever Before
As an educator, I look at civil rights progress through the lens of a teacher, and I see little to be happy about when it comes to public schools and race relations. I think we’ve gone backwards. Which reform groups address this issue authentically? With all the “achievement gap” talk how are we pulling together as people—to help one another?
I am old enough to remember when efforts to pull the races together in our public schools meant something. Brown v. the Board of Education had teeth. In the ’80s and ’90s they had race counts. State and federal workers would actually visit the classroom. There were regulations. It mattered.
I recall the uproar when my middle school in Tallahassee was “rezoned,” turned from an almost all black school to “mixed.” We were lucky to have a sensitive PTA who understood students and education. Lovely moms and cool dads supported the teachers. They asked what we needed to help our students adjust. We were in it together.
Were there problems? Sure. I once entered the cafeteria and spotted only segregated student groups. What’s the point? I wondered.
Sometimes there were fights—especially in the spring. White and black students would get hauled to the office to work it out. Looking back, even that meant something. Mediating disagreements can matter. It can matter in the long run.
The more we worked together, white, black, and brown, faculty and parents, changes occurred. Some were small, others big. It wasn’t perfect—but noticeably better. Before I moved away, I remember chaperoning a dance, surprised to see students mixing it up a bit.
And then two fellows developed a friendship. The white student whose dad drove a Trailways bus became friends with the black student whose dad drove the Greyhound bus! They were smart young men and funny too—colorblind. They set the example and we all learned by watching.
Eventually, more and more white girls strolled down the hall with their black girlfriends, chomping gum and chattering about the boys. And black guys got together with white guys, gossiping about girls, and worrying more about the next football game than who wore which skin color. Not all parents were onboard, but it was those who were that made the difference.
After I moved away from my middle school I often thought about how it had changed for the better.
Now? We still have poor black schools. And we have black charter schools and an increasing number of white charter schools. Hispanic schools exist too.
Don’t forget religious charter schools and charter schools that leave out the disabled. Many in ALL races and ethnic groups embrace these separations. I wonder why. In all the testing, competition, leaving no children behind and racing to the top, there doesn’t seem to be any real coming together at all.
But then I guess I’m still looking through the lens of a teacher…and who likes them anymore?