Friday, June 10, 2016

Flipping schools from black to white in New York

This is a detailed, long, excellent article about school segregation in the US generally and New York City specifically, centered on the school attended by the author's daughter.  The author explores a number of cruel ironies visited upon powerless poor minority parents by wealthy white parents and decision-makers.  On the one hand, wealthy white parents are usually reluctant to send their kids to nearby schools with mainly poor black and Latino students.  So the schools don't benefit from the presence of families with more resources coming into the neighborhood.  But then there's often a tipping point, and those same white parents send their kids to the school en masse and on their own terms, such that the poor black and Latino students are pushed out of the school, and again are excluded from any benefits that their wealthier neighbors might have brought to them.

It perfectly captures the situation of the Chicago Public School system I grew up in:  a few predominantly white schools that are diverse enough to be interesting but not threatening to white parents (I went to such a school), and a bulk of neglected, poorly-performing all-black and all-Latino schools that few whites or wealthy people are willing to send their kids to.  A constant refrain from the white parents in the article is that, while justice and equity may dictate that they should send their kids to predominantly black schools, they don't want to experiment with their kids' life and future prospects.  But if your family's household income is $200,000 a year, there's no way your kids won't have good prospects, regardless of where they go for grammar school.  You've already imbued them and will continue to imbue them with the social, cultural, and intellectual capital of the well-educated rich, and you can buy their way into a decent college, no matter what.  So while I understand and can even relate a bit to these parents' arguments against equitable integration, I can't accept them.  They merely amount to a clutching defense of an unjust, exclusionary status quo.

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