Danny Westneat's column in today's Times is, yet again, another eye-opener. I come away with the sense that many people are NOT on the same page (and may never have been). Some highlights:
-many people believe there is - surprise - an overemphasis on the issue of race in our district by our district. One teacher who taught in the Oakland school district said she had never been made to feel this way there.
-Principal Chris Drape from The New School (a kind and dedicated guy but I have to wonder after this column) saying to Danny, "What I see in your column is what I all-too-often see in our Seattle white community - wanting to have conversations take place on our terms , wanting to see solutions that work on our terms." (Drape is white.) He also called the previous column an example of "unexamined white privilege". He also said that "It means setting aside our own agendas, and understanding that education is about a lot more than advanced academics and enrichment activities." (His example is social justice." Danny points out that he still doesn't get why wanting the arts or foreign language is wrong.
-A reader saying, "What did you think an inner-city school was like? Did you think it would be cool for your children to hand with the 'brothers' and 'sisters' and get some culture, while not having to deal with the reality of that life?" That is a really unkind statement. The white parents knew the school was on the rocks academically and was, given the neighborhood demographics, mostly African-American. They still chose it because it was their neighborhood school and they didn't care what the enrollment was. To accuse them of being self-serving, at the most base level, is unfair.
We have a problem here that no amount of workshops is going to change. This needs real discussion but who wil have the courage to start it on a district-wide level? What happened to the results of Courageous Conversations?
What I have seen, especially over the last year as I had the opportunity to visit many schools, is that many parents (as I said previously) want their child to see faces that look like theirs. I also note that the Technology Access Foundation, in talking about their academy, very specifically wants it to be for African-American students and would want the district to manage the enrollment plan so it is that way (whether or not the neighborhood has other races that might want to go to the school).
So does this mean that African-American parents truly want their own schools? That there is something about the black experience in America that others cannot understand or be a part of? That, when we see lower test scores for African-American students, it means that they would do better if they were in schools with only African-Americans with heavy-duty academics and nothing else?
By something like 2025, this country's minorities will make up the majority of our population. (I believe the majority minority will be Hispanics.) Whites will be the minority. Maybe that change will allow us all to see others' viewpoints. (I personally think it would very, very interesting if the minorities used their group status as the majority of population and voted in minorities as leaders starting at the top with President and Vice-President on thru nearly every state legislator and major city. That would be eye-opening and life-changing for us all.)