Why am I the only white person in the room?


At a social event in the last year that I attended with other educators in my district I had an interesting discussion about education and what African-American male students need. A school psychologist said, “If I had my dream, I’d build a school just for African American boys.” She said this out of fondness and frustration, because from her work with these students, she felt our schools were not addressing their needs and were setting up classrooms in a way that just didn’t work for these students. She viewed the pathology as not neccessarily being in the students, but in the adults involved. Jon Becker wrote about this in his excellent series on the Acheivement Gap at Change.org. This is why folks once at the forefront of school desegregation, are now working for charters and vouchers for academies aimed at providing seperate services for the same demographic groups we used to say needed to mix with whites to fully participate in education.

My son started the school year at a new charter middle school. It’s not aimed at the “black” demographic, but it’s goal is to prepare children from a variety of backgrounds for college, not just those that are well-off. The enrollment has more boys than girls, though just slightly. The ethnic-mix is pretty even. In contrast, the district middle-school that he would have attended is largely non-white,and has an African American plurality. We were warned that the school was “dangerous” and full of “bad kids”. My tour there showed kids with high spirits, but well under-control. Kids were not running out of classes between periods, and there wasn’t a line of kids at the office for discipline. The decision to place Leroy at the charter was due to the smaller size of the school, and smaller class size. But, I’m worried about what is happening in this district.The schools are segregating. The other charter middle schools are overwhelming white and Asian, as parents flee regular district schools, especially the one in our attendance area.

Those thoughts were in mind as I read Scott McLeod’s post on Ron Clark Academy, and whether or not it was a replicable model. I commented that it was disturbing to me that the school’s population on the video appeared to be overwhelming black.  I originally had a pretty boring title on this post, “Race, Poverty and the Re-segregation of American Schools”, but the new title better reflects a lot of my personal experiences teaching, and the experience I was seeing in the Ron Clark Academy video, a school with huge percentage of black students, and a lot of white teachers. Just to clarify, I don’t fault Mr. Clark or his academy for this, I just find it sad that the only solutions we offer for “curing” the achievement gap involve segregation, and the fact that white parents can’t “see” their own children going to these schools, even if they have great test scores. This is a problem. No good has ever come from segregation. It allows whites to get lousy ideas about blacks, and isolates/ghetto-izes blacks.

Next up, more on why this matters…

by posted under politics/policy | 2 Comments »    
2 Comments to

“Why am I the only white person in the room?”

  1. October 5th, 2009 at 9:21 pm      Reply Kobus van Wyk Says:

    We are grappling with exactly the same issues in South Africa. Tweny years ago our schools were strictly segregated (by law), then we were integrated (by law) and now some schools are becoming segregated again (by choice). An interesting phenomenon (which has become a big political issue) is that prominant black politicians and businessmen send their children to “white” schools in the quest for a better education. The debate raging here is: should they or shouldn’t they!

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