Sunday, October 23, 2016

Let's Talk About Race (Part One)

Update: good interview on NPR with one of the researchers who founded the theory of implicit bias, Mahzarin Banaji.
BANAJI: In order to just think about where implicit bias comes from, it's a good idea to think about it as a combination of two things. First, our brains - human brains have a certain way in which we go about picking up information, learning it. If I repeatedly see that doctors are male and nurses are female, I'm going to learn that. But the second part to implicit bias is the culture in which we live.

But the mark of an evolved society is how quickly do we come to terms with it?
How quickly do we realize that finding out that we're biased need not mean that we have to remain biased? So I have great hope just because I look at the history of this country, where we used to be and where we are today, and I see nothing but a path that is on the way towards doing better.
End of update

We could start this discussion with the micro-view of what is happening in Seattle Public Schools.  But that doesn't work because that's just peering down into a silo and trying to figure out what's happening.

The real pressures of the entire society AND our nation's history cannot be ignored.  (This is one place where I part company with ed reformers who just want to look at the micro-view and ignoring what is happening out in the greater world.)  Poverty and racism do not stop at the schoolhouse door.

But we will talk about racial equity as it relates to schools in Part Two.

Rules of engagement:
- NO name-calling especially of children.  It will not be tolerated.
- We all bring to this where we were brought up, who brought us up and their thinking, our education (both K-12 and beyond), where we have lived and worked and who we partnered with, etc.  That is all part of where we ALL get our implicit bias.
- I do not profess to know everything on this topic nor have the answers.  I'm learning and I hope all of you have that desire as well.  But with these initiatives rolling out the district - without any widespread discussions in our communities - I worry about the outcomes.

Part One of this discussion is about helping each other learn. 

From Net Impact

Nothing bridges the divide of race and culture like informed dialogue that’s grounded in shared understanding. In my interactions with our network, it's become increasingly clear that people of color and white folks alike are fed up and more ready than ever to engage: in conversation, in protest, in revolution, or all the above. When it comes to tackling the issue of racial inequity, we have to combine that eagerness with preparation.

So let's prepare starting with implicit bias.

Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control (Blair, 2002; Rudman, 2004a). 
Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness. Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection (Beattie, 2013; Kang, et al., 2012). Internationally acclaimed social scientist David R. Williams grounds the conceptual in real world realities when he states (bold mine), 
“This is the frightening point: Because [implicit bias is] an automatic and unconscious process, people who engage in this unthinking discrimination are not aware of the fact that they do it” (Wilkerson, 2013, p. 134).
A FEW KEY CHARACTERISTICS OF IMPLICIT BIASES 
  • Implicit biases are pervasive and robust.
  • Everyone possesses them, even people with avowed commitments to impartiality such as judges.
  • Implicit and explicit biases are generally regarded as related but distinct mental constructs. They are not mutually exclusive and may even reinforce each other. 
  • We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favor our own in-group, though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our in-group . 
  • It’s important to keep in mind that there are lots of different types of implicit bias.
    It is possible that while you may not have a bias with respect to certain attributes, such as perhaps gender, you may hold biases related to age, race, or other characteristics. 
  • Implicit biases have real-world effects on behavior. 
  • Implicit biases are malleable; therefore, the implicit associations that we have formed can be gradually unlearned and replaced with new mental associations  
Debiasing is not simply a matter of repressing biased thoughts. Research has indicated that suppressing automatic stereotypes can actually amplify these stereotypes by making them hyper-accessible rather than reducing them.

Relative to the other domains addressed in this chapter, the education realm did not receive as much attention in 2013. Glock and Kovacs acknowledge and lament the lack of implicit bias research in the education domain.

Specifically, they call for more of this work “in order to gain a more fine-grained understanding of how implicit attitudes relate to teachers’ and preservice teachers’ decisions about students, independent of whether the decisions involve grading, tracking, or evaluations on the spot” (Glock & Kovacs, 2013, p. 514). 
They also note that implicit attitude research seems particularly interesting in a classroom context given that teachers often must react to situations under time constraints, a condition known to be conducive to the manifestation of implicit biases (Bertrand, et al., 2005).

Often thwarting these efforts are what Banaji and Greenwald call “mindbugs,” which are the “ingrained habits of thought that lead to errors in how we perceive, remember, reason, and make decisions".

Next, suggestions for how to think about thinking about race.


From Race Matters Institute:

 Place Matters: Talking about Race, Place, History, and Today’s Communities

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at a staff retreat with a group of K-12 educators and staff who were grappling with how to talk about race and identity with faculty in their schools, especially with new teachers. A common theme that continued to arise was the need for an awareness of the racial history of a place, understanding how the intersections of race and class impact education, as well as the changing demographics of communities.  Not only is the historical context important, but also the present-day challenges of students caused by that history.

Many organizations want to engage in this work, but are often unsure of how to start. Our work at the Race Matters Institute has shown us that organizations are reluctant to have productive conversations about race and racial equity because managers, directors, and other leaders don’t know where to start, don’t have appropriate support for learning and training, or are afraid they will be blamed for past actions in history.

Respect, Reflect and Resign
 It is vital to approach the topic of race with respect.
  • Respect for its weightiness and nuance.
  • Respect for centuries of pain and oppression. 
  • Respect for multiple perspectives and narratives: those that have been lifted up and those that have been pushed to the background. 
  • Respect for the person(s) you are engaging with. 
Race, racism, and the racial inequity it breeds are topics of discussion that can polarize a space very quickly. Coming from a respectful place goes a long way to diffuse potential dischord before it arises and preserve space for meaningful dialogue.
Put aside your preconceptions. 
This doesn’t mean personal experiences aren’t valid -- it simply acknowledges that personal experience can’t possibly give the complete view of such complex issues. It also creates space to see the reality and validity of other experiences.

Embrace the discomfort of not knowing.
On our way to new knowledge, we have to resign from a place of comfort and embrace the discomfort of not having all the answers. We don’t know what we don’t know. This is true in life and especially true when it comes to race. Software engineer Noah Kaplan says:
"Recognize that you don’t have all the sides to a story or know everything. Be comfortable with the feeling of not understanding or knowing enough yet. Be comfortable changing your mind. Don’t let it hold you back -- let it push you to learn more.”
Find out what you don't know.  Listen and be open to questions.
The simple proverb “listen to understand and then speak to be understood” rings true. Genuine listening takes patience and effort. Spending the least amount of time listening necessary to come up with a solution or response doesn't work in addressing racial inequity. Real listening often results in questions, and Yodit encourages us to embrace this approach:
“Never be afraid of questions. They aren't disrespectful. Asking questions shows a willingness to learn and to understand. Those who remain ignorant because they fear questions damage this dialogue.”
Internalize what you've learned.
New information has to pass through the gauntlet of your prevailing worldview. According to the Frameworks Institute, facts alone do not often change people’s views. It’s necessary to “change the frame so that people can hear the issue in a new way. Facts then provide important support to the new frame, when the facts are linked to broader values and meaning...” It’s so easy to hear something new, to even be convinced of its veracity and how it should impact our daily lives, and yet three days later return to the same mindset we held before.

Commit yourself to change.
One easy way to start internalizing this practice is by identifying whatever race-based bias you might implicitly hold – we all have implicit bias and setting up a daily reminder, like a sticky note on the mirror, to confront it.

Acknowledge your privilege.
Before having conversations about race, explore the history of race-based privilege in this country and put your privilege in context.

Privilege, loosely defined, is any unmerited or unearned advantage. In that sense, we all have experienced privilege.

Part of the privilege associated with whiteness is the luxury of not having to consider one’s own race -- let alone the disadvantages faced by many people of color. Bay had this to say about his own white privilege,
“It’s mine, and it doesn’t say anything about my value as a person. White people are not better people because we have unearned privilege -- we are also not worse people. We just have it and there is no way out of it. The more we can face the reality and take the value judgment out of [white privilege], the more we can work together to eliminate it.”
Being white and benefiting from white privilege does not disqualify you from having a voice in the fight for racial equity.

Privilege should not be a constant source of guilt. Rather, it should fuel action against the inequality that it breeds and sustains.

Another interesting take on talking about race comes from Bill Moyers' website, Moyers and Company by Eddie Glaude. (color emphasis mine)
My use of bad faith (mauvaise foi) comes from French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Put simply, bad faith is a form of self-deception. We deceive ourselves about the way the world is, and we tell ourselves that we don’t have much control over such matters. We do this because honestly confronting the world as it is, and facing up to our responsibility to act in it, fills us with anxiety. So we turn away or, like a scared ostrich, stick our heads in the sand.

Social scientists have long grappled with the paradox of the shift in racial attitudes among whites: that the vast majority of white Americans express a commitment to the principle of racial equality while simultaneously rejecting policies that would close the racial gap in this country. All of this informs our conversations about race.

In fact, we rush past the assumptions and practices that give black life a sense of precariousness to some vague notion of national unity that requires black people to leave their suffering at the door. In that moment, we all stand in bad faith.

The fear of triggering white fears often distorts black political behavior. We find ourselves swallowing our rage whole and refusing to speak difficult truths in order to maintain the illusion of civility. Like Sartre’s waiter whose movements “are little too precise,” there is something about our “calm” that doesn’t seem quite right. In that moment, we exhibit bad faith.

If you’re not interested in that, then shut your mouth and stop pretending to have a serious conversation about racism in this country.
Pretty to the point.

Some thoughts I have on the above.
  • Earlier this year, someone wrote about me, challenging both my race/upbringing and my commitment to students of color.  It's quite an affront to have someone that you have never met say that your background is not true/valid (the person isn't a decent writer so it was hard to tell.)  So I will not be challenging anyone else's race or background because it's just wrong.  As was stated above though, one person's lens, while helpful, cannot give the full extent of a situation as a whole.
  • No one who isn't African-American can truly know what it feels like to be black in this country.  Period.  
However, if you are trying to find common ground, you can look to the example of what our country did to Native Americans which was as bad.  If you are trying to find common ground, you can look to those of Jewish faith whose relatives were victims of the Holocaust.  Myself, I remember a story Ron Sims told, years back in a story in the NY Times, about when he was a little boy and his family was traveling in the South.   He got hurt in some way and they took him to a hospital and the doctors/nurses would not treat him because he was black.  As a mother, that brought tears to my eyes to consider how frantic his mother must have been and the cruelty it took to not treat a child because of the color of his skin.  As parents, we can all step into Sims' mother's shoes and feel that pain and panic.
  • I recently went to a lecture at UW by Dr Susan T. Gooden, professor of Public Administration at Virginia Commonwealth University on Race and Social Equity: A Nervous Area of Government (she has a book out with the same title.)  I'll have more to say about what she said in Part Two but I like her use of the word "nervous" because I think it best fits the discussion.  As she said, "nervousness equals anxiety" and most people do all they can to get away from issues/topics that make them anxious.  She said it was important to be "always thinking about what happens 'outside' but turn the mirror inward."  I prefer "nervous" to "fragile" because I believe it better defines the feeling.
I think this important because we are trying to have a discussion, not start a fight.  Don't get me wrong - I think it is time for loud public responses to these issues.  As Gooden said, "What happens when 'nice' approaches don't work?"  But I believe to create change around these issues, there needs to be a multi-pronged approach that is clear to everyone (and as we saw from our discussion of BLM, there's a lot that was not clear.  That's where you get confusion and that never helps any discussion.)  
  • But just as I believe in Gooden's idea of "nervousness" for white people, I also believe in Mr. Glaude's idea of "bad faith" for blacks and everyone else.  To feel - as blacks have for decades - that there is somehow a right way to behave in order to make white people feel comfortable (in order to get a job or even walk down the street) and yet still have to swallow hurt after hurt, yes, that is bad faith on the part of both sides but one that came with far more pain and psychic impact, through generations, for blacks. 
 But at this point, what I see are black Americans wanting all other Americans but especially whites, to understand the depth and breadth of their pain.  I want to be cautious here about what I say next (and this is just my experience) is being in meetings held to talk about these issues but, more precisely, how to do better for students and a lot of time goes by talking about the pain.  

But how do you put a timetable on long a person is allowed to talk about pain, both personal and as it affects their community?

Flip to the other side, when do you start talking about solutions?

That's where I get stumped.

I almost wish our government would create, as the South Africans did after apartheid, a Day of Reconciliation.  From Wikipedia; "The holiday came into effect in 1994 after the end of apartheid, with the intention of fostering reconciliation and national unity."

And boy, with this presidential election, do we need to find a way forward for national unity other than sports.

And not just create a day so that it's a one-off that governments - federal, state and local - can have to say that they did "something."

But a real commitment, from year to year, about who we are as Americans, what we have done to those who were here before us, who we enslaved to come here and those we chose to round up and put in camps (Japanese-Americans.)  Surely not a celebration but an acknowledgment - every single year - about who we are, where we come from and what kind of people we want to be.
Yodit Kifle, Corporate Citizenship Specialist at Johnson & Johnson, also brings an interesting perspective: 
“It's easy to feel disconnected from this history when you feel as though it has no direct tie to your reality. It's interesting that even for me – as an Ethiopian  there was a time when I didn't truly connect with this history of slavery and racism. I've realized that, at the end of the day, a love for humanity means a respect and honor for all pain and a oneness of purpose toward dismantling ignorance and pursuing justice. The moment you are here in the U.S., your reality is connected to a racial construct.”
Learn more:
http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/05/the-case-for-reparat...
http://rei.racialequityinstitute.org/wpsite/resources/
https://www.youtube.com/user/racialjustice
http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ727803.pdf
http://diversity.berkeley.edu/haas-institute-co-releases-science-inequal...
https://www.ted.com/talks/mellody_hobson_color_blind_or_color_brave
http://www.ywcabham.org/sites/ywca/files/u35/tar_resource_notebook_feb20...
https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

156 comments:

seattle citizen said...

Thank you for putting together all this info and posting it and your thoughts.
My initial comments:
1) implicit biases protect the group, yes, but perhaps more importantly they protect one's individual comfort: we unconsciously swerve towards lines of reasoning that create the least fuss for us.
2) related to this is something g I see again and again (just two hours ago in discussion): when someone is accused of being a racist or doing a racist thing, they often get very defensive and shut down. We must push ahead.
This is one reason I like to focus on individual acts or utterances that are racist, rather than saying, "you're racist."
Another - related - accusation by whites against discussions about race is that it's all about "white guilt" when it might more helpfully be about white respobsibility. If we are ignorantly saying or doing racist things, no guilt attaches.

Of course, if we KNOWINGLY say or do racist things we're guilty as, well, sin.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SC, exactly. Calling someone a racist will not make for a useful conversation. Helping us all to see what things - big and small - that create that action or atmosphere is how you open eyes to the issue.

And yes, instead of guilt, responsibility.

As for your last sentence, how many times (at least when I was growing up), someone would say something racist and then say, "Just kidding" or "I joke."

Anonymous said...

"No one who isn't African-American can truly know what it feels like to be black in this country. Period."

First of all why on earth would in one sentence you refer to a group by two different names?

My personal favorite is American Blacks so as differentiate between African descended people from other countries like Haiti, Brazil, Jamaica, France, the U.K., Somalia, Eritrea, etc.

Any of these groups and many more are surely familiar with the downsides of being African in appearance even though they have no ancestral experience with slavery. Like our current president, Barack Obama.

Now many argue Obama doesn't understand on some level the feelings of slave ancestors such as his wife, Michelle.

So I think the distinction needs to be made between the many different groups of the African diaspora. It is hardly monolithic and careless statements as highlighted above only further obfuscate a complex issue.

photon

Trish Millines Dziko said...

@photon, the intent here is for us to learn. I don't think you meant for your tone to be so harsh. Your point is understood, but if we want folks to continue to learn here, let's make the tone as such.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Photon, i wasn't being careless but using commin vernacular. Of course, there are differences but for the purposes of this discussion, I think you get my meaning. Not such a great why tomstart discussion.

Anonymous said...

"However, if you are trying to find common ground, you can look to the example of what our country did to Native Americans which was as bad. If you are trying to find common ground, you can look to those of Jewish faith whose relatives were victims of the Holocaust. "
If you are "white" trying to find common ground, I would also make a suggestion to research your own ancestral journey, discrimination, ethnic history in America, as well as in their native countries. Learning more about my own ancestors past, my genetic makeup, homeland history, was monumental for me. However, I also grew up with recent immigrant roots on one side of the family and in a culture that I identified with more than "white". It's interesting my mother visited the west and although she was born in the US (& her parents came in 1917!), made a comment that "real Americans lived out here". She thought I fit in better than she in WA being 1/2 Northern European with light skin. There are cultural differences between the East Coast "whites" of multi-ethnic backgrounds and "white" people out west who are primarily N European and/or do not identify with an ethnicity.
- EP

Carol Simmons said...

A friend of mine has told me forever that he does not read this Forum because "there is never a conversation about race."

Thank you Melissa. This conversation is so necessary.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Also, wanted to add that I read Booker T Washington's "Man Furthest down" A Record of Observation & Study in Europe. I wished I would have been exposed to it in school. He devoted a chapter on my ancestors and what terrible conditions they faced (including child slavery in sulfur mines his words) at the time. I tied it in with my own ancestry & learned my G grandfather had been given to an orphanage so he could eat. His older brother died as a child in the mines. Although not scholarly this aligns with what I read about one topic in Booker T Washington's book. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carusu
-EP

Anonymous said...

Do you plan to have a similar discussion about gender-based discrimination?

Chris

Anonymous said...

I would like to know if there will be one with regards to sexual orientation as well?

- LGBTQ

Anonymous said...

Choosing a different name than I usually use because of the sensitivity of the discussion. I think it's a good thing that we're grappling with race--it's long overdue, and particularly in this city that seems to pride itself on its liberality without wanting to examine the nuances of its history.

My worry is what happens to free speech as we talk about this difficult issue. In the very long HCC thread, there was a comment from a teacher that I found chilling. Don't remember the exact wording, but it was along the lines of "If you think this isn't about race, you're wrong and I will shut you down." I find this very, very troubling. Sometimes I know (white) people will hold back in discussions about race because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing or being shamed (we're awfully good at that in Seattle, don't you think). I don't think that's good for anyone. I think it just forces prejudice or misconceptions underground.

--newname

Perspective said...

"Eliminating opportunity gaps and ensuring educational excellence for each and every student is the issue of our time.... between black and white students" This is the opener for email recently sent out by Larry Nyland and Brent Jones to district parents.

I understand that racism is an issue, but to call this "the issue" for Seattle Public Schools?

Besides income inequality, gender, sexual orientation, world hunger, and all of the other issues, what about the fact that many of us don't know what school our kids are going to be assigned to next year, or for that matter then next eight years.

Yes, race is an issue that needs to be addressed. But the district needs to keep it in perspective.

Lynn said...

Melissa,

Thank you for posting these resources. I'm ignorant on issues related to race. I grew up in a town that was 95% white and 5% Native American. When I graduated from the University of Washington, less than 10% of the students were underrepresented minorities. Less than 15% of the degrees in my field are awarded to students who are Hispanic, Black and Native American. My neighborhood is 85% white. Contrary to the common assumption, my children's advanced learning classrooms have provided them with more access to diversity than any other environment they spend time in. I'll be doing some reading over the next few days and watching the discussion here.

Melissa Westbrook said...

We can certainly have a discussion about gender-based/sexual orientation discrimination.

Yes, Newname, I will be talking about some of various remarks made in other threads around race. But some teachers are taking a very take-no-prisoners stance on this issue and I don't that serves anyone well.

It's one thing to believe that the discrimination against black children, especially in public schools, is wrong. I'm not sure there is anyone that could disagree with that except an out-and-out racist.

It's another things to believe that there is discrimination against black children, especially in public schools, and that your answer to fixing that injustice is the "correct" one. There are many solutions to issues.

Perspective, I will be addressing your perspective on the district in Part Two.

Anonymous said...

Discussions of race lately have seemed to center on individual bias and "white privilege". Useful things to consider, sure. But racism doesn't exist because of the white middle class.

Racism was invented in 1600s Virginia to determine who is a slave and who is not. From there it was reinforced and maintained in order to ensure whites had access to power, rights, and opportunity. Starting in 1790, you could not be a citizen unless you were white. Only in 1870 could you vote if you weren't white (and even then you had to be a man). After slavery ended, racism was still reinforced in law.

So racism is first and foremost an act of power by government and by elites to oppress some people. Racism does take on a life of its own - if you define some people as superior and some people as inferior, human societies will start acting as if that's somehow true. Personal bias comes into play, and so on.

But that also means addressing personal bias doesn't solve the problem. Neither does complaining about "white fragility." The most effective victories against racism were won in the 1950s and 1960s. That happened when people came together to build what MLK called a "beloved community" where folks worked together out of mutual respect to dismantle racism and the systems of economic oppression for which racism was invented. That didn't mean there wasn't conflict within the beloved community, but it was resolved in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood. (A spirit that seems to be lacking in discussions of HCC, it seems.)

Those victories began to be rolled back not because of personal bias but because of political power. So sure, let's talk about personal bias. But let's remember that racism ends when we end oppressive systems and structural realities.

Myles Horton

Anonymous said...

In no particular order:

1. I think "white fragility" is an intentionally demeaning term and is also incorrect. I'd use "resistance" or "defensiveness" or even "blindness." When I first started learning about my privilege as a white person, I resisted the notion, but not out of fragility., rather out of my own complete unawareness of my privilege. It would be as if you came up to me on the street and said "You have blond hair." I'd have said that I did not, and that you were wrong. In considering where I was in life, I thought about my own hardships and hard work, and my upbringing where were some tough times. But while I resisted, I kept my eyes and ears open, and believed when people of color told me of their experiences, that they were not making things up. Recognizing my privilege was a very gradual process.

2. I personally feel a need or obligation to ally with people who are not treated fairly due to race, sexual identity or orientation, religion, or anything else. But ally-ship can be difficult. I don't think white people should lead the way, for instance, in deciding to have a teacher event supporting black students. It's not our parade, so while we should march or cheer, we should not be the drum majors.

3. We need different words for shades of racism. There's Ku Klux Klan racism, there's "I like black people but I wouldn't let my kid marry one" racism, and there's well-meaning condescension that communicates one's sense of superiority. I saw a Facebook post recently talking about the 10 ways well-meaning white liberals actually increase racism. Some of the things cited were obvious but others seemed pretty subtle to me. I know I'm biased and I'm working on it. Excess criticism of small transgressions scares away allies.

4. Our systems are complex and interrelated. Unintended consequences are unavoidable when tinkering with complex systems. Public schools are one gear in a complex system. Eliminating HCC may slightly narrow the gap within SPS, but a recent article in the Atlantic pointed out that parents pull their kids and go private, others supplement at home, and the gap within the whole community actually increases. Like plugging one hole and causing a bigger hole to open elsewhere. I also think that our schools do not provide adequate rigor for kids ahead of grade level, and that's a disservice to those kids. Two wrongs do not make a right.

5. The gap is a symptom of hundreds of years of differential treatment, less egregious today than in the past, but still. Someone mentioned that redlining is no longer done, but it was a "thing" when I was growing up, and my family bought a home in a better neighborhood and experienced more capital appreciation that aded to the family wealth, ability to send kids to college, leave money to the next generation, and so on. So as things get better, the residual effects of the past linger.

JMHO

Melissa Westbrook said...

Myles, I did address some of what you write about. We must both individually and collectively work on this issue.

JHMO, you bring up some good points. The way forward should come from those most affected. But I would agree that if shaming and blaming is brought up (rather than educating and gaining understand), many allies may turn away. They certainly will believe there is racism but they may not rise up.

There's a recent article about testing and the achievement gap that I will put up in Part Two that is quite interesting and goes right along with the discussion of racism.

Anonymous said...

I am the white mom of an African- American son, through adoption. I am also Jewish, so have grown up with an awareness of bias and discrimination. I have also spent a good amount of time in communities of color, both socially and working, and I am am comfortable talking about issues of race and bias, and identifying them as I see them. Despite these attempts to be aware and conscious of bias and racism, I carry plenty of my own biases around with me, and try to be aware of them, but don't always succeed.

In terms of this discussion, two things come to mind right away:

1. When i was a kid growing up in a middle class suburb of Boston, we never feared the police. They were there to protect us. This was an assumption I shared with my white friends, and it was never proven wrong, even when we did things wrong, like have parties with under-age drinking, we were treated with the utmost care by the police. Fast-forward to the present...we must now confront the reality that in order to keep our beautiful son safe, we must teach him a very different reality when it comes to the police. He must obey them AT ALL TIMES, keep his hands in view, no sudden moves...etc. These are shameful realities that African-American parents in American have dealt with, every day, for decades. These are words that my white parents NEVER spoke to me. That shift in realities takes my breath away.

2. My son attends an elementary school where staff elected to wear "change is possible" t-shirts on SEA's day of action last week, when over 2.000 SPS educators chose to wear BLM t-shirts. I am left disappointed by that choice, and wondering if there were staff at the school who could not get on board with the BLM message (hardly a radical position given that 2,000 teachers did so) and if so, why not. I will never know, but it does make me wonder if this is the right school for our son, and if it is a place where issues of race and bias can really be dealt with with the openness & willingness that is needed.

Just my thoughts for now.

~Bugsy

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you, Bugsy. To your first point, I share that sadness because that was also my experience growing up. To see, time after time, that black people, especially boys and young men, are suspect from the minute they walk out of their houses is disheartening. That any citizen would hesitate to call the police because of what might happen if they do is terrible.

To your second point, don't hold what the message was on teachers' shirts at your school. Again, BLM is loosely run and I think not understood by many and hence, the worry over having BLM on their shirts. Ask your PTA to have a night to talk about the issue. Daylighting of issues can help but if no one talks, then everyone has their own idea of what is happening.

Anonymous said...

Miles Horton said "The most effective victories against racism were won in the 1950s and 1960s. That happened when people came together to build what MLK called a "beloved community" where folks worked together out of mutual respect to dismantle racism and the systems of economic oppression for which racism was invented."

I think there is a definite shift from the approach of the 50s/60s to know. (full disclosure -I am a middle aged white guy who could very well be about to engage in "whitesplaining." But this is what I find to be an interesting perspective that some friends of color have shared.) My friends' take on the MLK era of civil rights movement was that collectively, African Americans pushing the cause had to make very public efforts to demonstrate that their conduct wasn't just as good as white people's, but it exceeded theirs. The strategy being that this was the only way to win a quorum of white people to their cause and actualize their fundamental civil rights.

But now that philosophy has evolved. There is a significant number of people in the civil rights movement today who don't want to employ that approach anymore because they shouldn't have to "earn" equal rights and opportunity by catering to the dominant powers that be; they should have access to those rights and opportunities period. And it is not up to them to have to jump through hoops for white people to make them feel safe and comfortable enough to share an equal piece of the pie - They are entitled to it no matter what.

And as a result, the tone of the modern day civil rights movement makes white folks more uncomfortable and nostalgic for how it went in the MLK era.

Hopefully this contributes to the discussion.

C-Hill

Anonymous said...

JMHO--"my family bought a home in a better neighborhood and experienced more capital appreciation that aded to the family wealth, ability to send kids to college, leave money to the next generation, and so on. So as things get better, the residual effects of the past linger."
One caveat, economic privilege is not universal history among all those considered "white". This was not the case in my husband or my family. They did not own a home or have inherited wealth & there was generational poverty. Discrimination and prejudice on where they could live etc a couple of generations ago, but not comparable to what African Americans still face today.
-RT

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just saw this:

A Webinar by Teaching Tolerance

“Why does whiteness fly beneath the race radar?” We explored this question in a recent Teaching Tolerance feature story, and readers clamored for more information. We’ll dive deeper in the final webinar of our four-part Let’s Talk! series, which covers a range of critical topics that can be difficult to discuss with students and colleagues.

This interactive webinar will guide you in reflecting on and defining white privilege through multimedia and group chats. We’ll discuss whiteness as a racial identity with the understanding that acknowledging whiteness—and the privilege and power attached to it—is a necessary step in working toward racial justice.

Title: Let’s Talk! Discussing Whiteness

Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Time: 03:30 PM Central Daylight Time

Duration: 30 minutes

https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/EventLobbyServlet?target=reg20.jsp&partnerref=fb&eventid=1255663&sessionid=1&key=C536E81F36CB313B3F30F0B3704D3650&regTag=&sourcepage=register

Anonymous said...

C-Hill, thank you for that reply. I am familiar with that movement and what has come since. What I will say is that this same discussion was happening in the late 1960s just as it is today. Much of what we see today has its roots in the Black Power movement, for example. Which is fine, and not necessarily wrong, but keep in mind it's just one strand of thought among many.

The MLK-era movement was about much more than respectability politics and many who were there didn't believe any person of color had to earn anything. There was instead a vision of a society in which everyone played a meaningful part. That includes whites. Now I fully get the point that people are tired of whites leading everything and taking up all the leadership space. So am I. At the same time, for any movement to succeed, whites will need to be a part of it. Some will lead. That's ok.

There's a difference between "whites need to make room for everyone and not hog the microphone" and "whites need to give stuff up." The former is something that can be the basis of a broad coalition. The latter isn't.

As we'll see when Melissa talks more about SPS, there is a view some have that it's wrong for white parents to be advocates for their kids, and that we will not have racial justice without white people giving something up that their kids need. This is quite wrong, and it's OK for us to say that. That isn't how racial justice works. Some believe that it is. And so we need to be able to have these discussions openly and in a spirit of common purpose. Maybe that sounds old-fashioned. But it works.

Myles Horton

Anonymous said...

I believe a discussion about race needs to also include discussion about the intersection of ethnic diversity, including among those considered "caucasian", history, socio/class etc.
-Lena

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, Lena, and I did say that in my thread. For example, I'm one-quarter Mexican and was raised right on the Mexican border. This informed much of my life even though I was not raised in a Mexican-American home (my parents divorced.) That's a perspective I bring to this discussion.

(That and being flipped out my freshman year in college when I saw that other students divided into racial and ethnic groups. Where I grew up, everyone hung with everyone else as well as dating everyone. Maybe that was a consequence of being in a small, isolated town but I just assumed it was the same in other places. I was surprised at the segregation when I got to college.)

Anonymous said...

You can't address racism and the achievement gap until you do something about special Ed. So long as there's a place where students can be placed, which is totally unaccountable to students, where there's no floor of acceptable performance for either students or staff, where there is absolutely no standard of practice, where there's a new management team every year, when there even is one... AND which is disproportionately minority... How will any performance gap be addressed?

Common Sense

Anonymous said...

Which is to say, you can't get minorities into Advanced Learning until you get them out of Special Ed, where they are.

Common Sense

Anonymous said...

I'me curious about the link between recognizing white privilege and working toward racial justice for all. Is the implication that one you recognize that you are a beneficiary of white privilege then you are expected to give up that privilege somehow, otherwise risk being called a racist? I've seen this in the HCC discussion. My mixed race child absolutely needs HCC, but as a white parent who has benefitted from my (and my ancestors') whiteness, it feels like I'm not "allowed" to advocate for my child's academic needs. When it comes to SPS, we can't separate race and income and education.

blanca

Jon said...

I agree this is a major problem, but I wonder if we are asking too much of our schools to solve it. To the extent they can be, our schools should be a sanctuary for our children, protecting them from the evils of society and history, and raising them up.

If we want our schools to do this, and I think we should, this is a matter of state funding. We need more than $10k/student/year to help our children thrive. When children struggle due to circumstances far out of their control, we need to lift them up. How do we expect, on the pittance we give our public schools, to provide food for the hungry, a place of safety for those in need, as well as an education for young minds?

Too much in Seattle, I think we fight over the scraps we are given rather than fighting for what is right. Our neighbors are not the enemy; they are part of the solution. What is right is full funding for our public schools, and we should work together for that.

Charlie Mas said...

The facts are indisputable. The pass rates on state proficiency tests are markedly lower for African-American students as a group than for White students as a group. This is also true for Latino students, Native American students, and South Pacific Islander students.

That's talking about groups of people, which should always make us cautious. The outcomes for individuals are diverse, and there is a wide range and diversity of contributing factors for those outcomes. There are high performing and low performing students of all races and cultures and for each student there is a unique constellation of contributing factors for that performance.

That said, there are themes.

Poverty plays a role. To close the gap we need to understand and address the effect of poverty on student performance. Poverty can mean malnutrition, inadequate healthcare, domestic instability, exposure to violence, exposure to substance abuse, exposure to mental illness. There is a culture of poverty in which the present emergency takes such priority that there is little opportunity to consider the future. People who have never been poor don't know how expensive it is and how difficult it is to escape poverty.

Trauma plays a role. I will leave it to others more expert than I to describe that.

Racism plays a role. Racism makes authorities believe some people - as a group without regarding them as individuals - are less capable of higher order thinking or making rational decisions than White people. Racism makes authorities suspect some people of ill-intent more than White people - without any evidence about those individuals. Racism makes authorities think that some people - as a group - need a harsher set of punishments to correct their behavior.

Institutionalized racism plays a role because it codifies the social norms of the dominant culture and outlaws the social norms of other cultures. To the extent a person resembles the dominant culture and shares its social norms their behavior is perceived as good. The more a person differs from the dominant culture and has different social norms their behavior is perceived as bad.

Culture plays a role. If education has worked well for a culture, that culture will value it. If something else has worked well for a culture, that culture will value that other thing. Children who come from cultures that have not historically benefitted from education will not be as motivated to excel in school as others.

It would be really sad and ironic for the district or the community to try to address issues of race and racism by grouping students by race and developing an approach that treats them as a member of that race rather than as an individual. That's kind of a racist approach. It's what we saw with the "Keeping it 100" pledge distributed only to African-American students. I would rather see the District work on learning how to counter the negative impacts of poverty, trauma, racism, institutionalized racism, and culture as they present in each student. The whole point of anti-racism is to see people as individuals and not just as a member of a racial or cultural group. What are the factors that are causing each individual student from achieving?

I acknowledge that this could be perceived as deflecting. I'm saying that Racism is part of the problem, but ending racism alone will not close the gap. The focus is supposed to be on the gap.

Melissa Westbrook said...

This is also true for Latino students, Native American students, and South Pacific Islander students.

Yes Charlie and earlier this year, when there was a Work Session on this topic, staff showed data that in some areas, Native American students perform worse than black students. In some areas, Latino students perform worse than black students. We have a lot of students who need help in closing that gap.

seattle citizen said...

Well said, Charlie. You articulated a number of important factors.
Two points:
1) Trauma - I have noted with my friends who are people of color (and, as a corollary, women) that they report feeling a sort of PTSD because of this election cycle, that with the reporting or racist (and misogynistic) comments they feel traumatized by reliving, or being reminded of long and tragic history. For SOME people of color, this would be centuries of torture, murder, and enslavement. For others, centuries of alienation, theft of lands, genocide both real (in the 18th and 19th centuries as settlement spread across the nation) and figurative (20th) on impoverished reservations.
Some "groups" don't have the same deeply disturbing, long histories of brutality. Though of course I don't say this to diminish ANY group's experience.
So trauma, in the form of generational experience of brutality (and, for women, a similar long-lived pattern of abuse and violence...) causes adverse psychological effects and impacts trust and other outlooks on how one fits into society.
I believe that these traumas are foundational in some of the issues facing this nation, and until the dominant race addresses its culpability, there will not be closure.

2) Your last comment is interesting as you say the focus should be on the gap, which is measured purely in a grouped way, while earlier you suggest we should focus on individuals. This is a long-term dichotomy, that we group students in order to get rid of grouping, that we use the results of that grouping to assign deficits to a group - I'm being unclear, but I propose that we need to rework how we disaggregate data in order to better assess and serve individuals, instead of relying on the results of assessments that are then grouped by race and used to enumerate "the gap."

Anonymous said...

"Culture plays a role. If education has worked well for a culture, that culture will value it. If something else has worked well for a culture, that culture will value that other thing. Children who come from cultures that have not historically benefitted[sic] from education will not be as motivated to excel in school as others."

Racist claptrap. In my opinion.

Iris

Melissa Westbrook said...

Iris, so only school-based issues are part of the gap? How can that be?

Charlie Mas said...

Iris, I'm interested in your opinion.

Are you suggesting that all cultures value education the same? I hope not because that is just categorically false.

Are you suggesting that only education has worked for all cultures? Education wasn't everyone's path to success when people could get good middle class, family wage jobs without a college degree - even without a high school diploma. Is education what works for agricultural societies? Do all cultures have a tradition of education?

And why do you equate culture with race? Are you suggesting that all White people have the same culture or that all Black people share a single culture?

Rather than making a cryptic and blanket dismissal of a statement, how about you tell us what's wrong with it. We sincerely want to know.

Anonymous said...

Blanca: I see privilege as more the absence of negatives: I'm able to walk into a store and not be suspected of being a shoplifter, able to get good service all the time at restaurants, have an easier time getting hired or renting, and I have not been stopped by the police, ever, for anything other than speeding (4 times in 40 years of driving). I don't think the idea is to give up these privileges, and I don't know how I even would, but rather, work toward a society that affords these privileges to all.

I agree that advocating for one's child as a white person leads many in SPS (administration, teachers and fellow parents) to consider you elitist and even, for some, racist. Sometimes I wonder what we did wrong....read to our kids? Have interesting discussions at the dinner table? Want them to learn at school?

There's an illustration SPS uses that shows three kids standing at a fence watching a ball game: a tall kid who can see over the fence, a shorter kid who can barely see over the fence, and the shortest kid who is staring at the fence, unable to see over. Then it shows middle kid who has one box to stand on and the shortest kid two boxes, and voila! the kids all are equal! If the boxes represent effort on SPS part, I think it's pretty accurate. Lots of effort at the low end, and kids who are ok (i.e. at grade level or above) get nothing, because they are ok. They can sit in class and learn things they already know, or learn new things within 10 minutes that the class spends a week on. All that's ok with SPS, in the name of equity. They could just as well argue with their illustration that it's ok to cut off the tall kid's legs to make them all the same height. I think that's hugely unfortunate. Keep advocating for your kid anyway, and do whatever you can for them.

I think the inequities we see in student performance are a reflection of societal issues, and that while the school should give extra support to those who are below grade level, they have an obligation to meet the needs of quick learners, too.

IMHO

Anonymous said...

Why don't you define 'culture' for us. Some examples too would be helpful.

Iris

Anonymous said...

Charlie, you wrote, "It would be really sad and ironic for the district or the community to try to address issues of race and racism by grouping students by race and developing an approach that treats them as a member of that race rather than as an individual. That's kind of a racist approach."

Would you agree, then, that affirmation action policies targeted to racial groups are racist? Would you further agree that any group identity politics based on racial categories are fundamentally racist?

Frank

Charlie Mas said...

Ah, Iris, conversation doesn't work that way. The ball is in your court. You are the one who made a statement without providing any supporting rationale. You clearly have an idea of what culture means to you, so you need to tell us how you equate culture with race.

But I will indulge you in the hope that it encourages you to be more forthcoming.

Culture is a combination of things which unite a people in their identity. It includes language and the arts, such as cuisine, literature, fashion, music, and dance; social norms, including etiquette, behavior standards, morality, and justice; values, such as priorities, taboos, and faith; and more. It's what people are referencing when they say "that's how we do it".

People can belong to multiple cultures. For example, we all participate, to some extent, in the mainstream American culture. Most of us have at least one heritage culture. We also participate in the culture of our region and community. There's also the culture of our workplace or professional groups and the culture of our clubs or leisure activity groups. We talk and behave differently when at home with our families, when we are at work, at school, out with our friends, at church, and when we are participating in organized activities. We are code switching all day.

Finally, within cultures there are sub-cultures. Although there's a lot they share, Northern Italian culture is distinctive from Southern Italian culture which is distinctive from Sicilian culture - at least to Italians. Two people from a shared culture may not be very similar culturally if they are from very different sub-cultures.

It's a big squishy word, "culture". This is from Dictionary.com "the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another."

That's what I mean by culture. For me, it is not synonymous with race. After all, people with Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Indian, and Japanese heritage may all identify as Asian but they are members of separate cultures (and sub-cultures within those cultures). People with German, Italian, Irish, Spanish, and Russian heritage may all identify as White, but they are not of a single culture.

Charlie Mas said...

Frank, that's a good question. There was a time when I would have agreed. But my understanding of racism has become more nuanced with experience and learning so that it isn't exclusively about thinking of people as members of groups rather than individuals and treating them differently based on that group membership. I have come to see that race-based treatment isn't enough to qualify as racism; it must include the exercise of power and that power must be exercised by a person in a dominant position to the detriment of a person in a subordinate position.

So group identity politics, even if it is race-based, is not necessarily racism.
Affirmative action would not meet this definition of racism either.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Charlie, for your explanation. Would you like, then, to change/modify the statement you made that I quoted?

Affirmative action policies and group identity politics certainly group people into race-based categories and apply remedies to racial discrimination, etc. to members of those groups, regardless of their individual standing and attributes. This is appears to be what you are against in what I assume is the SPS approach to African-American boys.

Help me understand your "nuanced" thinking.

Frank

Anonymous said...

Aprilia,

I am also curious, how would you define a culture here in Seattle that does not value education? I mean who exactly do you believe comprises that group?

I'm even wondering what your evidence is for the claim that such a culture exists?

F. Gump

Charlie Mas said...

Frank,

I think I was pretty clear that for an action to be racist it must be harmful and it must be an action taken by the dominant group to the detriment of people who are not in the dominant group. Affirmative action, as I stated, is not in that category, and I am not against Affirmative Action.

Do you see the pledge as something that helps the students? I don't. I read the pledge and I thought it was condescending to the students. I found it insulting that they would ask a specific group of students - selected by race - to sign a pledge to do exactly what all students are expected to do according to the student handbook. I read it as saying "A number of African-American students are not meeting this expectation so now we're going to ask all African-American students to acknowledge that expectation in writing and take responsibility for it."

If you think that the pledge were something that helped the students rather than insult them, then you would not see the pledge as racist. I saw it as completely unhelpful and insulting.

Charlie Mas said...

F. Gump,

It's not that there are cultures that don't value education, but there are lots of cultures that value other things higher than education.

There are a lot of people who value experience over education. There are people who value hard work over education. There are cultures that value family or faith or income over education.

Have you ever heard of a job going to the person who had experience over the one who had a degree? Have you never heard someone say that hard work - and not an education - is the way to get ahead in this world? Have you never heard of a child who missed school to care for a sibling? Have you never heard someone speak derisively of students who pursued an education in English, Psychology, History, or any other area of study that wasn't essentially vocational education? In all of those cases people were expressing values that put something else ahead of education.

There are cultures and sub-cultures, however, that do put a very high value on education. There are homes where the heroes are thinkers and scholars. There are families that would rather their child were a mediocre mathlete than a star athlete. There are families that sacrifice a great deal to support their child's education.

And there are families that wouldn't. Please don't pretend that everyone in the world puts the same high value on education.

Charlie Mas said...

Hey, folks, we can play these rhetorical games if that's really what you want. I don't think it's particularly productive. Instead, I think that folks like Iris, Frank, and F. Gump are being unnecessarily cryptic. They're trying to play some sort of clever debate game in the hope of catching me saying something wrong.

Whatever. That doesn't really constitute a conversation about race, does it?

If you have something to say, state it plainly and support it. If you disagree with me then state your case and support it. But let's bring this fruitless fencing to an end, okay?

Anonymous said...

"Culture plays a role. If education has worked well for a culture, that culture will value it. If something else has worked well for a culture, that culture will value that other thing. Children who come from cultures that have not historically benefitted[sic] from education will not be as motivated to excel in school as others."

Take the fishing families in Ballard. The kids will sometimes drop out to become fishers. These families value fishing more than education because it has worked better for them historically.

I get that, but when poor minority families are labeled as a culture that values education less than what "has worked well" for them, just what is it that has worked better? It's dog-whistle racial code for crime, welfare and laziness.

That's my opinion.

Iris

Anonymous said...

Agree with Iris. This notion that some "cultures" value education less than others is simply racist claptrap, used to justify privilege, with no basis in empirical reality. The fact that this offensive nonsense is being confidently spouted on this thread really demonstrates how much bias some people have and how it is tolerated. Nearly as bad are the platitudinous references to reading to "their" child and the lofty dinner table discussions. Talk about being tone deaf to privilege and its resonances.


Optimistic

Anonymous said...

Optimistic, have you ever lived outside of the US, or studied at an international school? Your assumption that education is universally valued is wrong. Furthermore folks with higher education levels are actively DIStrusted in some communities. It is ok to place family, experience, faith etc above education, it is when you disparage a community for doing so that has the potential to be racist.

Wasn't intrinsic bias just described? Yours is showing.

2boysclub

Melissa Westbrook said...

Iris, I think the point is that there some cultures - yes, poor minorities - who place education high at the top of the list in their lives.

I'm not sure "value" is the right word.

Optimistic, okay then, you don't like some of the discussion put forth. Now, what do you think is the real issue then around culture? Or do you not believe that is part of it?

Anonymous said...

I believe there is an attempt to create an issue around culture or to infer that students achieve less on account of low cultural or ethnical expectations rather than structural racism as it manifests itself through programs such as HCC, teacher bias etc. If culture can be mooted as an issue then it can also be blamed and the attention can be placed on it rather than the real issue of racism, elitism etc. That is exactly what has happened in this thread to date.


Optimistic

seattle citizen said...

I don't read it that way at all, Optimistic. I read 50 comments all trying to discuss race. It's complicated. Let's talk more.

Anonymous said...

white principal apologized at franklin for black student only senior pledge. you would think that we would get more from our leaders. of course there is wms and ghs where gifted programs are being dismantled in the name of site based decisions and anti tracking as it is perceived to be racist. or is that post two?


no caps

Anonymous said...



oh no optimistic : structural racism as it manifests itself through programs such as HCC.

prove it? you can't as it is all in the numbers. sorry private schools skew the sps numbers. take them out and hcc mirrors seattle's population, except for frl, ell and 2e. solve those issues and you will have a complete overlap. name calling will never solve those problems nor will sps.

no caps

Charlie Mas said...

Optimistic wrote: "This notion that some 'cultures' value education less than others is simply racist claptrap, used to justify privilege, with no basis in empirical reality." Really? No basis in empirical reality? You believe that research has shown that all cultures value education equally?

I strongly encourage everyone to Google "cultures that value education" and see all of the research papers that support the notion that some cultures value education more highly than others. Here are a couple: University of Michigan and Bakersfield College.

Anyone who tries to claim that all cultures value education equally is deceiving themselves and trying to deceive others. It's patently false. To claim that all cultures hold the same values is to deny the existence of culture.

Iris, if I wanted to say "crime, welfare and laziness" I would have. You're inventing outrageous meanings for my plain-spoken words. I am the one who is saying what he means here and if I meant that I would have said it. As it happens, that is NOT what I meant and I'm shocked that anyone would jump to that conclusion. It is utterly baseless.

I gave a number of examples of people devaluing education. Not one of them had anything to do with crime, welfare or laziness. Not one. Just the opposite. The higher values were put on hard work, family and vocational training.

Iris has invented a false meaning for my words in place of their plain and obvious meaning and then taken offense at your his or her own invention and blamed it on me. Forget it. I'm not taking responsibility for Iris' fevered imagination. Iris is going to have to take responsibility for coming up with that belief.

In truth, Iris and Optimistic are the ones derailing the discussion with their absurd claim that all cultures share the same values and will hinder some of the work needed to close the gap by ignoring students' home cultures.

Anonymous said...

"Dismantling Contemporary Deficit Thinking focuses on how scholars, educa-
tors, and policymakers have advanced the deficit thinking model to explain
school failure, particularly among low-socioeconomic status (SES) students of
color (such as African American; Mexican American; Puerto Rican). These
students have suffered, and continue to suffer, substantial overrepresentation
among those who experience academic problems and school failure (e.g., read-
ing below grade level; dropping out of high school),and such students are
prime and easy targets of the deficit thinking intellectual discourse that blames
them, their cultures, and their families for diminished academic success."

Richard R. Valencia

https://www.google.co.jp/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://samples.sainsburysebooks.co.uk/9781136988097_sample_864600.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwj6m6SuxvjPAhXLTLwKHcSBAw4QFghIMAk&usg=AFQjCNGNXaZmlZasS5Sdi8woVdQow3djkg

FWIW

Charlie Mas said...

If we are to believe that it is racist and wrong to suggest that families or cultures impact academic outcomes, then we are to believe, in the face of all of the data and research, that families and cultures have so effect on academic outcomes.

About half of the opportunity gap is in place on the first day of kindergarten. At that point there is no way that the schools can be responsible for it. So if not the schools, then who and what?

If you are unwilling - through fear or defensiveness - to address the real causes of a problem you will never be able to solve the problem.

Charlie Mas said...

Funny. When they want culture to matter, some people will demand cultural competence in the school staff to recognize and accommodate differences in students' cultures. When they don't want culture to matter, they will claim that it is racist to think that any student's culture is different from any other student's culture.

If it is racist to believe that any student's culture is different, then there is no need for teachers or school staff to develop any cultural competency, is there?

Of course the truth is that culture does matter, that cultures are different, and that teachers and school staff should learn about their students' cultures.

There's no claim that any culture is right or any culture is wrong. There's no claim that any culture is better or worse. They're just different. You can work to convince yourself that this judgement is implicit in the difference, but I'm not putting that judgement there. Each culture represents what has historically worked for their people - that's how they became the culture.

seattle citizen said...

So I'm white and maybe unqualified to take a stab at this, but I'll throw it out there:
Many blame blacks themselves for playing at being victims: they blame blacks for believing in their state of victimness and letting that impinge on their forward progress. This blame is, in the face of ongoing, demonstrated racism, disingenuous and ill-placed at best.
However, I might venture to suggest that there IS a culture of actually BEING a victim - not just feeling like one, not just crying oneself a river and thereby being unable to move forward, but actually LIVING in the reality of being the victim of oppression.
So we might suggest a real culture of being a victim. Not a culture of self-victimization, but a real culture of the victim.
This is a shared culture within groups and sometimes, perhaps, across groups: blacks, indigenous peoples, Pacific Islanders...and others to some degree or another, largely due to the color of their skin or their religion.
I would respectfully posit, and stand prepared to be called out on this idea, that these cultures of being an actual victim will result in shared traits, shared ideologies, that are disadvantageous to forward movement (how ever one wants to define that: "success"? or the ability to access all systems equitably?) because, hey, what's the use? The system of oppression isn't, in this view, changing, so why bother? Why bang one's head against the ceiling?
Other systems rise up around such a belief: internal economies, shared perceptions of the overarching structure...distrust of the ability of education systems to move one forward, because hey, forward movement is often curtailed.

Is THAT a type of culture? Or am I spinning tales from a privileged perspective?

Anonymous said...

Charlie, who is they "they" in this comment of yours? "Funny. When they want culture to matter, some people will demand cultural competence in the school staff to recognize and accommodate differences in students' cultures. When they don't want culture to matter, they will claim that it is racist to think that any student's culture is different from any other student's culture."

Like a few other commenters here, I am the white, middle-class, homogeneous city-raised mother of a biracial child. I also have two blond, blue-eyed Caucasian children. Because it's often been assumed that I am either not with my black husband or that my biracial child is adopted or a foster child, I've been privy to comments and actions by others that have made it very clear to me that people of color-black people specifically, are viewed and treated through a very different lens than the white majority by a startlingly large number of people. Some even believe they're being sensitive or helpful.

In my opinion, cultural competency in the context of schools means choosing assignments that are not Eurocentric all of the time. It means choosing writers from around the world, not just "classics" that are written by dead white guys. It means not assuming that a black child is entering your class "bad at math" or below-level reading, while assuming that the white and Asian kids are at or above standard. It means not shrugging one's shoulders and assuming that when a black child produces a poor assignment and thinking that's the best they can do. It means putting a stop to rude comments about a black girl's hairstyle. It means not assuming that because the majority of parents in a school work days that they're not interesting in their child's education or joining the PTA.

During my biracial child's education, I saw all of these things happen, at more than one school, in both the "bad" schools in South Seattle, and some "good schools" in North Seattle. There is a widespread (not just in Seattle) culture of low expectations of black children and harsher discipline of them.

What did we do about it? We spoke up, we advocated, and ultimately ended up leaving the district for one that appeared to offer us a better situation. How did my older, white children fare? Well, my son got pass after pass after pass in school, even when it was clear he was causing trouble, even when it was clear he was not working to his ability level. My older daughter watched a black friend get "counseled out" of an AP class after one difficult assignment and a poor grade, while that same teacher called me at home and asked what she could do to help my daughter fix her assignment.

But all along the way, in schools, at PTA meetings, at district meetings for parents of minority children, I saw parents who were deeply engaged, who cared very much about education and helping their children succeed. Even if the parents themselves had not succeeded in school, even if they weren't working or working 3 jobs, all of them cared. They might not have known HOW to help their kids, but they sure wanted to. I never met a one who had a "culture" of not valuing education. Charlie points to studies, but I wonder if those studies were designed to "prove" that certain cultures do not value education.

I'm not a scholar and I haven't studied education trends. I'm not an activist and I'm not a shill for some nefarious group. I'm just a parent of three kids who saw the difference in how white children and minority children can be treated right in front of my eyes. I've also read here, and elsewhere, comments by people who want to prove somehow that when minority parents speak up, that their reality isn't authentic. It's happening on this thread. And that, in a nutshell, I think is why there's always a lot of talk, but not a lot changes.

Biracial family

Anonymous said...

Maybe you can read Nietzsche's theory of slave morality which you are eerily manifesting with this (what seems to me) contorted attempt at respectability.

I think many researchers recognize generational trauma, and Rachel Yahuda's work
has been groundbreaking. She is very conscious about acknowledging the strengths
that result from trauma, as well as vulnerabilites. That takes the "victimhood"
right out of it without denying the reality of what has been experienced.

By your logic, you are an oppressor by virtue of being born into your culture since you say you are white and that has been the generational experience of your people.

From my reading of your comments on this blog, that flies in the face of your self identification as an enlightened one. God help your students if you actually believe that they are victims as a result of being born into their own culture.

FWIW

Anonymous said...

response to seattle citizen

FWIW

Anonymous said...

One piece that seems relevant here, and was briefly touched in earlier, is in the shifting focus to 'college ready', and how that standard, places, reflects or encourages academic, rather than vocational (or other), pathways. We should question whether assuming all students want an academic path, is just promoting the dominate cultures values. Why aren't trade programs more highly valued? The dearth of vocational programs, or even the success of Aviation High, makes me wonder if we could be meeting the needs of more students, if we stoppped assuming that all students want or need a college degree. Of course the challenge is balancing personal or cultural bias against trades, and also knowing how to manage the high or low expections teachers have of particular cultural groups. Ultimately it is very messy, with few easy answers!

2boysclub

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

No Caps, yes, that will be Part Two but it's okay to put it here.

2boysclub, voc ed (now called CTE) is making a comeback in a big way. Finally, educators and legislators alike are realizing that 1) kids want options, 2) not everyone will go to college and 3) being "college-ready" also prepares you for taking classes/degrees for new and higher-tech vocational jobs.

But again, the money, the space, the teachers. I am so sad that voc ed got taking out of the mix because it will be that much harder to bring it back.

It may also be a hard sell to some parents who may view it suspiciously ("are you saying my child isn't college material?") and see it as the dreaded "tracking." But if it is tracking of the child's own accord and interest, then that kid may have a better chance of graduating and going on to a very viable career.

NewName, I'm going to delete your comment because this isn't the right place for it and I don't want the discussion to get derailed.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I've also read here, and elsewhere, comments by people who want to prove somehow that when minority parents speak up, that their reality isn't authentic. It's happening on this thread. And that, in a nutshell, I think is why there's always a lot of talk, but not a lot changes."

Bi-racial Family, this is a very interesting comment and I'd like to learn more.

What does "their reality isn't authentic" mean. Are you saying that when minority parents speak up, staff or other parents don't get that family's life experience? Or are you saying staff or other parents can't relate to that life experience?

So while you are here, I would love to pick your brain about what you would want to change to make public education - just at your school if you want - better for minority students and their families?

I want this discussion to be useful so please drive it in that direction.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

What I mean is that sometimes, the implication is that parents/students of color are reading prejudice or racism into situations when it isn't really there. I think that it has been both-that staff or parents don't get minority families' life experience and sometimes it's that they can't relate. And I would count myself in that group. No matter how much I empathize, I cannot and will never have the experience my husband did growing up, or be faced with some of the experiences that my youngest had. So sometimes it's not intentional that parents or staff don't get the reality of racial experience. But sometimes these experiences and impressions are outright dismissed.

I guess my broad answer is that I'd like to see students/parents complaints at face value. That doesn't always happen.It's not just K-12 education, of course, it's a problem at colleges and workplaces. But the solution to all of it I think, is to listen, and believe, then work together for solutions.

I don't speak for everyone, only myself. In situations where we were successful with complaints, it was when what we said was taken at face value, and teachers and staff worked with us to form a solution. Where we were NOT successful, it was when our issues fell on deaf ears.

Does that help?

Biracial Family

Mike said...

After a Cultural Anthropology course, I subscribe to the idea that one culture will dominate when in conflict with others. As US slave culture (lately called Black culture) was designed to be separate from, lesser than, and dominated by American culture, the two clash and one must be subsumed.

American culture discriminated against the Irish and Italian races (as differentiated from the white race by speech and names) until their cultural traits were sufficiently subsumed. Likewise with any group that tried to keep its cultural traits on par with American culture, adherents of slave culture will be the victims of weapons such as structural and de facto discrimination until they let go of cultural traits at odds with American cultural norms.

If we're interested in resolution, I think study of what Irish and Italians went through to Americanize themselves could be instructive though insufficient.

Anonymous said...

@Biracial Family. "I don't speak for everyone, only myself. In situations where we were successful with complaints, it was when what we said was taken at face value, and teachers and staff worked with us to form a solution. Where we were NOT successful, it was when our issues fell on deaf ears."
Really helpful comment.
MP

fake name said...

I think we run into real problems at intersections.

Here are two examples, where I don't believe the actions were racist, but where they were interpreted that way.

A teacher had an allergic reaction to a hair care product and asked for a workplace accommodation for her disability. The teacher was white, the classroom was APP, and the student was black. The teacher was accused of racism and lost her job.

A third grade girl I know was subjected to sexualized bullying by a 5th grade boy. The girl was white, the boy was black. The principal refused to do anything, and implied that the father lacked cultural competence to interpret the situation.

Allergies should not disqualify one from teaching. Hair is touchy subject. Girls shouldn't have to put up with sexual harassment, especially in elementary school. There is a long history of false accusations of rape against black men. Every person is these interactions had a reason to stand up for themselves. It's more complicated than just race.

Anonymous said...

@ Bi-racial family - you nailed it!

Thank you for saying so clearly what I have felt and experienced. Especially the part about being told that your reality (or that of your child) is not authentic, couldn't have happened, you must have misunderstood... It's all there and painful everyday. - NP

Anonymous said...

I think you're right, I am feverish. I see racial aspersions in the comment from 2boysclub.

The most effective propaganda is that which is most hard to detect, the most subtle that enters one's awareness from underneath.

I just watched a good movie on about a cult called Holy Hell. The human mind is subject to delusion from others or oneself.

If you want to play word games Charlie and try and trick others into calling you out on your racial code words, I'm happy to oblige. You use racial code words.

They are called code words because they are easy for the users to explain as innocent speech yet still get the intended message to those who believe as the speaker of the words believes.

If you really are so intellectually pure, why can't you give examples of the black cultures here in Seattle and how they and all the other cultures here value education differently?

We are not discussing Italians, we are discussing Seattle public school families. So what are the cultures involved, who's in them?

Who's to blame for the poor performance of black students, in your opinion?

Because I think you blame black people themselves, it sure seems that is what you are trying to convince me and others to be the truth.

I'm not buying it. The fault in my opinion is the oppression of the white community and its non-white allies.

It's been an unbroken chain of dominance by whites, and it goes back a lot farther than 1600.

The oppressor has to justify the oppression, to rationalize it. You think slave owners didn't think they were on the side of God as they worked slaves and sold them?

White Seattle thought it was doing the right thing when it restricted blacks to the C.D..

No one wants to go to bed at night thinking they are racist. Anymore than we go to bed thinking we are cruel and uncaring because children are starving somewhere. Or sleeping in "The Jungle".

So we have a pretty obvious line between black and white students and we need to either fix it or rationalize it away.

All are my opinions, Iris

Anonymous said...

I agree with 2boysclub that there should be more emphasis on vocational training. For my brother, white like me, college readiness and an office-type professional job were not for him. He did well at the boat building school of Seattle colleges. It may have a different name now. I'm sure there are other careers that would be good for some people that may not be college material, no matter their race. So "college readiness", to me, seems to be a big disappointment to people like my brother. Now, decades later, there are technical jobs fixing high tech equipment. My friend is retiring from such a job now. He is not college educated, but he has worked on equipment in labs of the best universities across the country. So, I don't think, Iris, that saying not everyone is college material is necessarily coded racist wording.
GHSmom

seattle citizen said...

FWIW – Why are you sounding so antagonistic towards me? I'm trying to articulate my perceptions; must you attack me?
You are twisting what I said to suit your own agenda. I have not studied Nietzsche’s “mast morality and slave morality”, though I just looked it up on Wikipedia.

“Respectibility”? You think I’m trying to act respectable or sound respectable or something? Why would you think that? Do please explain the basis for that belief.

I am merely suggesting that the trauma that you and Yehuda reference might impact someone’s perspective. You seem to be arguing that we just shouldn’t call someone a victim, that that is not right and demeans them. But can’t a person be victimized (traumatized)? Can’t that be passed down through generations (even genetically, as Yehuda suggests), especially since the cause of the victimization continues?
If you prefer, I will not use the term “victim” and instead write “those who suffer trauma due to the color of their skin."

Slave morality portrays a set of cultural ways AND suggests, apparently, that that mentality seeks to overcome or overwhelm the “master morality” and replace it with its own, weaker mentality. Where did I say anything about that? You are reading too much into my words; you are adding your own interpretation to them.
Do I believe that a person born into an oppressed culture is more likely to suffer trauma, perhaps generational trauma, due to their race, ethnicity, etc? Yes. Many students report this. Don’t you believe that people of certain races are more likely to suffer trauma…be victimized…due to their race?
“By [my] logic, [I] am an oppressor”? Yes. In some ways. I am part of a culture that does continue to oppress. I am guilty of lapses into “implicit biases”; I am also in a position of power and have, no doubt, unknowingly oppressed students. So yes, by my logic I am an oppressor. Unfortunately.
Also, a student who has been traumatized as a result of their race might SEE me as an oppressor, which would be equally bad.

“God help [my] students”…? Must you engage in antagonistic hyperbole? That is not helpful to the discussion.

But maybe I AM engaged in some sort of unconscious attempt to "be respectable" or act like a "master"(?) Maybe there is no such thing as a victim. You will need to explain what you meant in much greater detail in order for me to understand that which you accuse me of. I certainly had no intent to denigrate anyone or "keep anyone in their place" as a slave.

Anonymous said...

I'm calling Charlie Mas out on using coded language, phrases and examples also. For instance using the example of the family who would rather have a mathlete than a star athlete. I guess it's HCC v General Ed and we all know what side Charlie Max is on. This is racial profiling pure and simple and has nothing to do with his tortuous definitions of culture.

Optimistic

Melissa Westbrook said...

"What I mean is that sometimes, the implication is that parents/students of color are reading prejudice or racism into situations when it isn't really there."

Do you mean that it isn't there on the part of the person saying/doing the action or that the parent of color is reading into the action? Isn't that a microaggression?

But I see from the rest of your comment that it's the feeling of being not supported/believed. I'd be willing to be that's probably a long timeline for many people of color.

Mike, I would agree with you. My husband's Italian family immigrated here when he was 9. They had all assumed the American version of their Italian names and wanted my husband to do the same. He did outside his home but always disliked it so when he got out of high school, he went back to his given name.

But another part of the Italian/Irish experience is that many of them found a working niche in life - for many Italians it was food and for many Irish, it was being cops.

I think when people wonder why the "melting pot" didn't work for later groups (and blacks) and complain, "Why won't they assimilate" or "Why won't they be "American," it's a hard answer to find.

Fake Name, your stories remind of when Chris Rock was on Oprah, promoting his documentary on black women's hair, called "Good Hair." I'll be honest; I knew black hair was different from other types of hair but I had no idea how sensitive a subject it was. One black woman in the audience got up and lit into Rock asking him how could he hurt and embarrass black women over such a sensitive subject. It was very enlightening.

So I'll have to write about code words but I will say that anyone can take any word and assign a meaning that the original person may not have even intended.

Optimistic (and others) we are NOT going to talk about HCC here. So don't go there.

So Optimistic, what do you think - in public education - are the major types of racial profiling that schools/teachers/principals and other parents do? Maybe trying to understand what everyday life feels like would help.

Anonymous said...

“We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.” --Ron Edmonds -NP

Melissa Westbrook said...

But NP, who is "we?"

Anonymous said...

Culture and the value of education

So why do people 'value' education? For pure knowledge sake? For well paying jobs? For status? For love of learning-which also can be found outside school walls?

I think people want similar things. People want happiness, fulfillment and security, be it financial, emotional, or whatever. If people believe education is one way to get it, they'll 'value' it.

When talking about valuing education, I look beyond formal education to include learning life skills which include survival skills, being a good listener, thinker and doer.

When people talk of culture and trying to define it, I believe it has to include the real everyday life people inhabits. Those experiences shape people's outlook alongside culture.

35 years when I went to college, a college degree was still the exception. In 1980's, average college graduate earned 45% more than an average HS student. Today, 50% of young college graduates are unemployed or are working in jobs that don't require college degree.
(https://priceonomics.com/is-college-worth-it/)

If you look at student's loan debt, poor students fare far worse in outcome. From priceonomics:

".....that largely unknown, inexpensive, poorly performing schools are responsible for the lion’s share of defaulting graduates and delinquent debt. The main evidence for this theory is the context of who holds delinquent student debt."

"The unemployed law school graduate facing a six figure student loan debt makes headlines. But student debt in default consists primarily of debts of one to several thousand dollars. Its holders are mostly individuals from low-income families who dropped out of college or even failed to complete high school (and took on student debt for a nondegree training programa or to pay for a child’s education). A disproportionate number are Hispanic or African-American."

What I see is there's a real dissonance between what policy makers advocate and what students face in the real world. It's not easy. On the one hand, there's this push for college education or vocational training like nursing assistant via community college as the way to better oneself. Yet, we have these for-profit and even non-profit educational institutions using aggressive marketing tactics by promising well paying jobs if students sign up for their programs.They make it easy for these students to get student loans. Loans which most cannot repay back and are very difficult to get out under. Yet the quality of these classes are poor or don't support the student's ability to successfully complete the coursework.

Where is the value of education then?

I want to add this perspective because I hear this a lot. To some people, it might appear they don't value education because they dropped out of school or speak with frustration of their experience. They dropped out because they have a family to care for, a full time job and a car that stopped running. They felt lost, far away from home, unsure in how to navigate this new world. When you are first in your family to attend college, there's very little guidance from the people you trust the most. It's not easy navigating student loan debts or trying to figure out ways to negotiate loan repayment when you have so many other things like other bills to pay. Think about the bureaucratic hurdle trying to sign up for Obamacare. All those different health plans to figure out and choose from. How confusing was the process. I see this happening not just in young people, but among long term unemployed people in their 40's, 50's and 60's trying to reeducate themselves to learn new skills and hitting a brick wall with no call back when applying for jobs or getting jobs which pay them far less than what they hoped for. They feel discriminated because of their age despite the fact they are qualified, prepared to work hard and bring enhancing life skills.

That's real life.

Mayberry

Anonymous said...

I just want to add this article from the Atlantic. It goes much further than what the title implies. It covers history and provides context. Did you know the Underground Railroad was regarded by many people during its time as a criminal enterprise. Martin Luther King regarded by the FBI as a national threat and treated as such. The Civil Rights movement in the 1950's was viewed by many as lawless, including prominent politicians like Richard Nixon, and in the same negative way people view BLM today. I think people need to know their history. Understand how history has been rewritten and cleaned up through today's lens so that we don't realize the heroes we honor now were not treated heroically when they were alive, but with fear and exteme prejudice.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/10/the-black-family-in-the-age-of-mass-incarceration/403246/

Mayberry

Anonymous said...

No time to post my thoughts with this crazy work schedule, so I'm posting pieces which say it so much better.

Last one I promise. This article addresses everything from valuing education to language usage and more with real studies to back up.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/28/five-stereotypes-about-poor-families-and-education/

Mayberry

Anonymous said...

@Melissa asks "who is "we?" I think "we" is all of us who care about children and their education. More about Ron Edmonds below-

"Ronald R. Edmonds (1935-1983), educator and author, introduced the concept of Effective Schools. Indeed, Edmonds was an educational philosopher in the tradition of Horace Mann (1796-1859), who fostered the notion of universal, free, non-sectarian public education, and of John Dewey (1859-1952), who transformed static, passive learning into active learning in modern classroom settings. Edmonds pioneered the idea that all students can learn, not just be allowed into classrooms, but actually learn there in spite of disadvantaged backgrounds and other issues. " from: https://www.lakeforest.edu/library/archives/effective-schools/Ronald_R._Edmonds.php - NP

Charlie Mas said...

I can only say what I have said before. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I do not write in code. To understand my writing, take the words at face value. Any other meaning you draw from them is meaning that you brought to them, not my meaning.

I am not playing word games. I am not writing in coded language. The people doing that here are those who are accusing me of it. Those are your games, not mine.

I will state it plainly again: the belief that all cultures share the same values is absurd. You can disagree with that, but it will only make you wrong and ridiculous. Where there are differences in values there will be some cultures that value something more or less than another culture. Again, that's not only simple common sense, it's simple math. If there are two measures which are unequal, one will be greater than the other and one will be less than the other.

I never wrote that there is any culture that does not value education. I would be hard-pressed to think of a culture that does not value education. Most cultures, however, do not make education their one top priority. They hold other virtues in higher regard.
I never defined education as formal education or college education.
I certainly never suggested that any culture is superior or inferior to any other. In fact, I specifically rejected any such idea.

It's okay if people disagree with what I write, but it's very disturbing when people disagree with me for what I didn't write but for what they (erroneously) presume I meant by what I wrote - even if I never wrote or suggested any such thing. Those who presume ill-intent will always read ill-intent, no matter what it written. They need to take responsibility for that ill-intent and that false interpretation; not the author. Because at that point the reader has taken over the duty of the writer to invest meaning in the words. The reader has rejected the writer's meaning for the words and replaced it with their own.

There are people on this thread who are actually denying that there are differences among cultures. That's bizarre. And they are claiming that anyone who recognizes differences in culture is a racist. That's also bizarre.

Charlie Mas said...

Iris wrote:
"If you want to play word games Charlie and try and trick others into calling you out on your racial code words, I'm happy to oblige. You use racial code words."

Actually, no, Iris. I do not want to play word games. I want you to take my words to mean exactly what they mean and not invest them with your ill-intent.

"They are called code words because they are easy for the users to explain as innocent speech yet still get the intended message to those who believe as the speaker of the words believes."

Maybe they are easy to explain as innocent because they are innocent. Ever consider that?
And if you are taking a message of racism from them, then, no, you are not getting the intended message and you are not getting what I believe. Instead, you are getting what you believe I believe, which is not the same. If you want to know what I believe you can ask me and I will tell you. In fact, I did, but you were so blinded by what you believe I believe that you couldn't see what I actually believe.

"If you really are so intellectually pure, why can't you give examples of the black cultures here in Seattle and how they and all the other cultures here value education differently?"

First, Iris, I'm no expert on the black cultures in Seattle. I never claimed to be. Culture was only one of a long list of contributors to the academic achievement gap. Poverty is at the top of that list. By focusing on culture you are diverting attention away from the biggest contributor to the gap, poverty and the consequences of poverty.

I will give one example, however. A teacher told me of a South Pacific Islander student in his class who missed a lot of school when a family member came to Seattle for a visit. The family decided that spending time with the relative was more important than going to school for that time. This is because family is held as a very high value in that community and school was a lower concern.

I believe I gave a number of other examples (caring for a sick sibling at home) of situations in which a virtue or a value superseded school for students.

"We are not discussing Italians, we are discussing Seattle public school families. So what are the cultures involved, who's in them?"

Seriously? Are you seriously expecting me to provide you will a complete and exhaustive list of every culture and sub-culture represented in Seattle Public Schools? To what end? So you can tell which ones I neglected to include in the list? What would that prove?

continued...

Charlie Mas said...

... continued

"Who's to blame for the poor performance of black students, in your opinion?"

Ah! Here's the real crux of your view. You want someone to blame for the underperformance of groups of students. Well, I've been pretty clear in my answer: First and foremost: poverty. Poverty creates barriers that obstruct families from supporting their children to develop to their greatest potential. I think I've been pretty clear about that.

I have consistently stated, for years, that our schools, now as ever, do a good job of teaching students who arrive at school prepared, supported, and motivated. And that our schools, now as ever, do a poor job of teaching students who arrive at school unprepared, unsupported, or unmotivated. Students generally get that preparation, support, and motivation at home, but the schools need to provide the preparation, support, and motivation for the students who need it.

So I guess I would say that after poverty, I blame a society that refuses to give schools the mission, the license, and the resources necessary to provide students with preparation, support, and motivation as needed.

"Because I think you blame black people themselves, it sure seems that is what you are trying to convince me and others to be the truth."

Yeah, well, you're wrong. Between us, I think I'm the more reliable source for knowing what I think. I'm not trying to convince you of anything Iris. You cannot be convinced of anything because you're not listening. You've already decided what I've got to say and no matter what I say you will twist it to fit your invented model for me.

Now how about you take a moment and re-read all of this at face value without investing it with your presumptions about my views - presumptions that are not only wrong and insulting, but entirely of your creation.

Anonymous said...

"We are not discussing Italians, we are discussing Seattle public school families. So what are the cultures involved, who's in them?"

"Seriously? Are you seriously expecting me to provide you will a complete and exhaustive list of every culture and sub-culture represented in Seattle Public Schools? To what end? So you can tell which ones I neglected to include in the list? What would that prove?"

That's a false argument. I want you to back up your claims with more than a random anecdote or two. Not to tell you what you neglected but to understand what the heck you are talking about.

Not Italians, not some kid who wants to see his relative, but the culture(s) involved in the achievement gap.

Iris

Lynn said...

Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are involved in the achievement gap. They have the lowest attendance rates in the district if I recall correctly. Whether that means they value school attendance less than other groups or find regular attendance more challenging isn't something I know enough to have an opinion on.

Anonymous said...

I personally think this focus on 'culture' has gotten this discussion on race off track onto an unproductive loop. My personal opinion is that the achievement gap starts in early childhood and is quite strong by the first day of kindergarten. Parents who have the free time to talk to their babies, read books with them, play with them in silly ways, go on walks and discover simple things, go to the board book area of the library will help their kids become good in school. Some people of any race are in non-flexible jobs or have no job but difficult economics that prevent the focus on developing their child's future potential in early childhood. It does not matter what the culture is. Educating new parents with in home nurse visits could help. And giving away books at the pediatrician visit or at the library or at WIC centers could help. Letting new parents know that babies don't need electronics, instead need face to face talking and imitating will help.
JAMSmom

Anonymous said...

"If we're interested in resolution, I think study of what Irish and Italians went through to Americanize themselves could be instructive though insufficient

Mike & Melissa- You know what is interesting? My DNA and ancestry as a sicilian is 1/3 Middle Eastern/N African, 1/3 Italian/Greek, 1/3 Spanish Jew. I have very dark skin. Sicily became part of Italy in 1860 after unification. But prior had so many rulers from everywhere due to being on a trade route and so close ( a couple of hours) to N Africa, Middle east as well as Europe. Sicilians don't identify as white but as Sicilian and have a multicutural racial ethnic heritage. There are other cultures (Malta etc. )similar that are multicutural, not white as in meaning Anglo. But in America they "became" white due to being associated with Europe, Italy and Northern Italians.Kind of like Puerto Rico becoming part of the US. They have their own history. Heard white will be separate ethnic category from N African and Middle eastern soon on demographic forms, but for now people check "white".
-Teresa

Anonymous said...

P.S Also, actually Sicily has been a territory of Italy since 1860, but they have their own government system and are an autonomous region due to their history. Sicilian descendants in America call themselves Sicilian and some Italian. I have met people with Puerto Rican heritage who state they are Spanish and some that state Puerto Rican or Latino. I read many Puerto Ricans have predominant European Ancestry. Many I have met are lighter skin than myself. Race and ethnicity and who is and who is defined as "white" (the definition changes) is complicated and changes with time in the US. It actually sometimes does not have to do with genetics or ethnic/racial history.It also is defined differently in different countries. I meet many people from Latin America with European ancestry that consider themselves "white". And people from Spain (which is Europe) check "white" hispanic. But many people are multicutural and checking one box does not fit.
- Teresa

Melissa Westbrook said...

Teresa, I agree. I wish there were more than one box to check.

But back to the other discussion. I'll have to go do some research to see what is said about culture and education. I think it would be interesting to see if there is research about what teachers think. Do they believe there are visible differences in how families perceive education?

I know from my own childhood that some of my Mexican classmates would be out of school for a week or more at non-holiday times of the year if their parents thought it more important to go see relatives in Mexico. That was important to their culture.

I agree with Charlie, though - it is much more about poverty than anything else. And, as JAMS mom points out, there is a time/knowledge factor. To keep house and home together, some parents literally have no time to read to their child or interact in ways beyond basic care.


I did recently write a post from the NY Times about how the gap between parents who know that the first five years are crucial and those who didn't know has been showing good signs of closing. I think that more after-birth hospital visits by a nurse or social worker talking to families about this would help as would home visits.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that when Charlie or Lynn want to give an example of a child missing school because the family has other priorities, they always chose a non majority example, e.g South Pacific Islander, never the dominant culture family that goes to Maui for a week or to Sun Valley. I guess these "motivated" children just don't need to be in school either. It's this noxious attitude that undergirds the discrimination that drives privilege in school and undermines the legitimate advancement of those less privileged. Again I call Charlie Mas on coded language. Words such as unprepared, unmotivated, unsupported carry a wealth of negative meaning and strong race and class overlay. Say any of these words in relation to students on a school playground in a well resourced area of Seattle and it will be clearly understood to whom you are referring. In addition this value laiden phraseology implies that something wasn't done, effort wasn't made, something was neglected. It's a kind of verbal shaming and it must stop.


Optimistic

Lynn said...

I didn't suggest I know why South Pacific Islanders miss school, I said they had the lowest attendance rates in the district. While dominant culture students miss school also, their average attendance rates are higher.

Lynn said...

Preparation, motivation and support are necessary for success in school. That's a fact not a value judgement.

Anonymous said...

Optimistic,
What things do you think should be done to help with the achievement gap? Your comments seem like you are trying to shame people.
JAMSmom

Anonymous said...

@Lynn,

Really, a fact? According to who? Sounds like dominant cultural quantification to me.

Optimistic

Anonymous said...

Optimistic,
How do you quantify or describe success in school (in a general way)? What do you think are some things that are either necessary or helpful for school success?
JAMSmom

Anonymous said...

As for missing school, I think it is a god point that dominant culture kids may miss school less often than minority kids because the dominant culture's beliefs and values are enshrined in many things, but especially school holidays. For example, observant Jews in Seattle miss school on several occasions because their important religious holidays are not accounted for in the school calendar. In NYC public schools, Jewish holidays (such as the High Holy Days) are honored and schools are closed. Same goes for some of the Muslim holidays, such as Eid (see link below). Here, only the Christian holidays such as Easter or Christmas are honored with school breaks.

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=28765366&postID=8216952776330632654

-NP

Anonymous said...

Sorry wrong link - correct one here

http://schools.nyc.gov/Calendar/default.htm

-NP

Lynn said...

Page 92: http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/16-17agendas/09_10_2016/20160910_Agenda_Retreat_Packet.pdf

2015-16 Rates of Chronic Absenteeism

White 10%
Asian 10%
Multi-Racial 12%
Hispanic/Latino 17%
African/American 20%
Native American 28%
Pacific Islander 40%

Anonymous said...

Lynn, is that unexcused absences or both excused and unexcused?

HP

Anonymous said...

Anyone else read the missive on racism that was just added to SfT by one of the site admins?

Reader

Lynn said...

HP - both.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Was it the admin who lives in a neighborhood where just 2% of the students are black and where just 27 black students attend her kid's school?

Anonymous said...

You know, I have to think when I read stuff like that post, it is a pretty significant economic "privilege" just to be able to sit in front of your computer and write stuff like this.

"The racial status quo is comfortable for most whites. Therefore, anything that maintains white comfort is suspect."

I think some of these white moms should watch Black Jeopardy from SNL.

aghast

Melissa Westbrook said...

dominant cultural quantification - That's an important concept because, in many ways, it is at the heart of many issues.

Wikipedia says this (partial:)
"In a society refers to the established language, religion, values, rituals, and social customs. These traits are often the norm for the society as a whole. The dominant culture is usually, but not always, in the majority and achieves its dominance by controlling social institutions such as communication, educational institutions, artistic expression, law, political process, and business.

In a multicultural society, various cultures are celebrated and respected equally. Dominant culture can be promoted with deliberation and by the suppression of other cultures or Subculture."

So this country was "founded" by white people fleeing religious persecution. They wanted to live their lives in peace. Naturally, the irony is that the people were were already here - the Native Americans - wanted the same thing. That didn't work out.

And blacks were not even moving here - they were brought and enslaved. They, too, had their own cultures but that was completely tamped down (and there was a fear that educating them would be too dangerous.)

But a weird thing about Americans is that we love to pick and choose what we like about different cultures. Food, words, music, art, you name it. You know, that big melting pot idea.

I think that worked, somewhat, because everyone was into building this country, building their families and their lives. Things needed to get done and so people assimilated. There were no planes so no one was going to go back to where they originated from.

I think for many cultures, it was "go along to get along."

The idea has been that if you work hard, you can have a decent life in the United States. That there was room for everyone to make money, educate their children and live that American dream.

I just heard a great interview on KUOW that I plan to link to when the link is available. It's with a former Black Panther who said he thinks things are actually worse for people of color than they were 50 years ago.

I had to think about it and that may be so.

I think two things happened in the last 8 years that have had a profound (and yet not exactly as we thought) change in this country.

One was the election of Barrack Obama. So much pressure on him to be the "black" president as if anyone knew what that meant. That he is bi-racial probably made it harder. That Congress decided to thwart him at every turn (even to the detriment of the country) created a morass of working not getting done.

The other was the recession which turned so many lives upside down. That the economy has righted itself doesn't mean individuals recovered. I think the recession showed the shaky foundations of our country and the cracks still show today.

But to circle back, when you have many more people in financial straits and many more homeless and many more very bad interactions with police, people get scared and frustrated and angry.

So the idea of trying to live up to some dominant culture probably seems unappealing and well, it hasn't worked for a lot of people so why bother.

I will say this - it is hard to run a country like ours. We HAVE to have some similar values. We HAVE to have agreement on a language for government. We also HAVE to live our value that we embrace everyone who lives here.

I do not blame anyone for their anger - I think at this moment in time we have more angry people than ever.

What will it end up meaning for all of us? We have to find common ground and someway to both communicate and heal.

Mike said...

For Iris and Optimistic, simply and without code, any kid of average intelligence who is sufficiently absent from studying as his classmates are studying is very likely to get lower test scores than his classmates. Whether the absence is due to illness, being hungry, being tired, being high, fulfilling family obligations, or personal lack of interest, test results will show a gap between that kid and average classmates.

Of the many ways to look at overall test results for a group, race is one. And, generally, in the US that perspective shows a gap. It means there was a gap on that test but doesn't explain why the gap occurred. Attempting to find out why those racial gaps exist and suggest ways to reduce the gap for all kids is what Melissa's statement of purpose seems to be aiming at in this , Part One, thread.

Both of you need to accept that the conversation has referenced culture because scholars tell us race (as defined in college dictionaries) is a part of culture.

Anonymous said...

"I strongly encourage everyone to Google "cultures that value education" and see all of the research papers that support the notion that some cultures value education more highly than others. Here are a couple: University of Michigan and Bakersfield College.Anyone who tries to claim that all cultures value education equally is deceiving themselves and trying to deceive others. It's patently false. To claim that all cultures hold the same values is to deny the existence of culture."
I agree with Charlie. I have read over and over again that my own culture (Sicilian) did not value education for multiple reasons. Overwhelming majority had no access to any education in Sicily and if they did, it did not translate into opportunity. The wealthy Italians from the north owned their land and seized their treasury during unification. They came here fleeing severe hunger and poverty, government strife etc Most who came (like my G grandparents) were illiterate. My grandparents had an 8th grade education & assumed working class jobs without much education. Many in the culture did not start valuing education until recent generations. In NYC the dropout rates of Italian Americans (largely Sicilian & Southern Ital heritage)was incredibly high until 1990 or so. I found it interesting that IQ levels of S Italians children of laborers were measured as lower in early part of the century. There were even affirmative action programs targeting "S. Italians" (Hunter college etc).http://qcpages.qc.edu/calandra/sites/calandra.i-italy.org/files/files/Youth%20and%20Educational%20Achievement.pdf
-Teresa

Melissa Westbrook said...

I would like to add that my lengthy thoughts were not in advancement of "assimilation" but asking how we find a way forward while everyone is seemingly so on edge and so angry.

Anonymous said...

An interesting article with some facts from Superintendent Association on immigrants now and past. Immigrants had a much larger achievement gap between native peers in past.
http://www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?id=8698
From the article:
"The immigrant challenge was so daunting that New York City started a special education program for slow learners. A 1921 survey found Italian children greatly overrepresented in these separate classes.Standardized exams seemed to confirm immigrants' inferiority. In 1919, the median IQ score of Italian 10-year-olds in New York City was 84; for native-born whites, it was 109. But when only those students whose fathers were unskilled or semiskilled laborers were compared, Italian and native IQs were nearly identical.Assimilation rates for later generations varied by ethnicity. Jews apparently adapted to schools and became fluent in English more quickly than other immigrants. Italians did so more quickly than Greeks.
-Teresa

Curious said...

My understanding is that the test score gap in Seattle stems partly from the fact that white students in Seattle score significantly above the state average. The "overperformance" of white students in Seattle compared to other white students in Washington is significant.

This makes me ask a lot of other questions. How much of the gap between different racial groups in Seattle is caused by the very large number of upper middle class white people in Seattle whose kids test extremely well? Is there some way that schools in Seattle nurture white students that is different than the way white students are nurtured in other parts of the state, that results in white students in Seattle having on average higher test scores? Or are the Seattle test scores just a reflection of these kids being largely middle and upper middle class?

Is there an education culture in Seattle that works really well for upper middle class white kids that simultaneously has a negative impact on African American and Hispanic students? Are there school districts in Washington where students of color do particularly well, and do they have a different type of school culture?

I can see how a school very quickly gets set up around white, upper middle class norms, and I can see how alienating that is. But wouldn't it be ironic if the schools in the more conservative parts of the state actually serve African American and Hispanic kids better than liberal Seattle does? I am not saying this is in fact the case, but I am curious.







Lynn said...

It's possible. When you look at the 15 districts with the largest number of Black students, Edmonds has the highest passing rate for Black students on the ELA SBAC at 52% and on the Math SBAC at 41%. I'd be interested in seeing a comparison of the poverty rate for Black students in Edmonds to the poverty rate for Black students in Seattle.

https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/Friday%20Memos/2015-16/May%2013/20160518_FridayMemo_DataBriefWhiteBlackAchievementGap.pdf

Anonymous said...

Curious- The gap is largest in cities with affluent, college educated "whites". In Detroit for example, low income whites are performing similarly to low income blacks. But that does not mean they are serving students "better".
http://news.stanford.edu/2016/04/29/local-education-inequities-across-u-s-revealed-new-stanford-data-set/
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may13/vol70/num08/The-Widening-Income-Achievement-Gap.aspx
-Teresa

Anonymous said...

A good summary, achievement gap research. In particular read page 3 historical perspective and economic perspective https://www.nwea.org/content/uploads/2006/11/AchGap_11.11.061.pdf
-Teresa

Anonymous said...

The issue is not whether absenteeism can affect achievement scores. It's that in selecting an anecdote about cultural priorities Charlie Mas chose to highlight absenteeism by a non majority example when he could have easily selected from the majority. He was using the example to demonstrate how in his view some people prioritise education less. There could be a million reasons why absenteeism occurs. Some may chose to take a vacation, others may have much more burdensome pressures. It doesn't mean people whose children are absent don't value their education. Implying that absentee rates correspond to cultural disregard for education seems far too big a claim to make without examining why the absenteeism would occur in the first place. But if you are invested in the idea that we have an achievement gap because some groups value education less than others, that it's as much a cultural problem as a structural one or an economic one, then you are approaching the issue from a place of cultural superiority and that in my view translates to elitism, which in this country unfortunately also corresponds to racism.

Optimistic

Jon said...

Now that we are asking for a way forward and constructive solutions, I'm going to say again what I said earlier.

When children struggle due to circumstances far out of their control, we need to lift them up. How do we expect, on the pittance we give our public schools, to provide food for the hungry, a place of safety for those in need, as well as an education for young minds?

Too much in Seattle, I think we fight over the scraps we are given rather than fighting for what is right. Our neighbors are not the enemy; they are part of the solution. What is right is full funding for our public schools, and we should work together for that.

Ama said...

1. I'm having a hard time seeing how this conversation and others like it is going to close the achievement gap.

2. Seattle's students and teachers could surely benefit from some how-to-recognize-implicit-bias training.

3. I see a lot of scores broken down by race, but does the district have diachronic test score data on how specific students' skills have grown over time by race? Maybe not from the SBAC since it's newish? But from MAP scores or whatever tests students have been taking over several years. The "achievement gap" seems like one of those photo finish images from a foot race showing who got over the finish line first and who was behind. But is there test data showing that SPS kids advance from year to year at different rates based on race? Or based on the school they attend? Because student A could get a lower score than student B on a specific test but have achieved a lot more if they didn't start in the same place. I'd like to see data on that.

4. We talk a lot about the achievement gap, but where's the conversation about the excellence gap?

Anonymous said...

seattle citizen,

We long-timers (which I get the impression you are, too, as a teacher) don't have the luxury of sitting on the fence. Some of us have read with unmitigated horror the headline of a former student victim(s) or perpetrator(s) on the front page. Trying to stay cordial to the "vibe" of this blog and being a progressive are not reconciliable.

Your post followed a series by Charlie that was, quite simply, not redeemable.
In my opinion, you were selling out in order to keep up your progressive cred
while simuultaneously attempting to stay in this blog's in-group. Hence, my term "cortorted".

I don't have that problem. I speak from the perspective that comes from the trenches
and the realities of watching lives unfold over time--the uplifting and the tragic.

My response to you: Get real. You can't have it both ways. You have alluded to your
privileged past on this blog. Maybe you aren't as enlightened as some people have told you are. Maybe compared to them, you are.

FWIW

Anonymous said...

"contorted" plus other erros

I left my reading glasses at school (not in SPS. Don't worry, readers).

FWIW

seattle citizen said...

Wow, FWIW. This is an important topic. If only I were as "real" as you so that I might contribute to the discussion without wasting time denigrating others and elevating myself above them. I bow before your perspective "from the trenches"; you have well-earned your progressive cred. You are rightly proud of yourself.

Oh, how I wish I wasn't merely sitting on the fence daily, and instead daily dealing with race! I'm so damn lazy. There HAVE been headlines about my students; would that I had read them, eh? You, FWIW, are more saintly than I, I'm afraid.

Oh, and on the issue of victimization, try Cornell West's take on "Nihilism in the Black Community" in Race Matters. Maybe we can have an actual discussion on important issues rather than going back and forth on who has more cred and less "vibe."

monkeypuzzled said...

This kind of virtue-off could not be less about the kids.

--newname

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ama, I'm just hoping to hear what readers believe specifically about race and the opportunity gap, what they believe would move the needle, etc.

What is the "excellence gap?" It's a term I'm not familiar with.

FWIW, when you speak in vague terms, I don't know what you are saying.

"you were selling out in order to keep up your progressive cred
while simuultaneously attempting to stay in this blog's in-group."

What does that mean and is that me, Charlie or both of us? And who is the "in-group" at this blog? And who is sitting on the fence (and about what?)

"You have alluded to your privileged past on this blog."

Again, me, Charlie or both and what privileged past? I mean, I am mostly white and I know that brought me privilege in my life but "privileged?" I'm truly confused at what you are saying.

Good point, Monkeypuzzled. While Roman burns, we argue over who has more cred. Jesus, can't we all just agree that no one would be here engaging in this conversation if we did see the problem and want to see change?

Anonymous said...

I understand you Optimistic.

People need to have the basics covered first. This is universal. In America, many families and children don't have that. Values and culture are reprioritized if you don't have basic needs met.

It's hard to explain. If wealth and power were equally distributed among all the races and ethnicity, gender and age, the conversation could just focus on poverty.

Finally, for those who want to make a different, take a break off the blog, consider volunteering at the health clinic at Seattle Center next year.

Mayberry

Anonymous said...

@Mayberry

Yes the essentials for a dignifed life do need to be covered and, of just as much importance, is that those who have to struggle harder to provide them should not have their children judged as being somehow deficient or lacking potential, and they certainly shouldn't have to bear the additional burden of being tracked educationally, which compounds the effects of historic injustice. In a forum on educational racial inequity the focus needs to remain on that.

@fwiw

I understand and applaud everything you have said above. True progressives don't need to curry favor or equivocate. While I deplore Charlie Mas's positions and remarks at least he doesn't pretend.



Optimistic

Optimistic

Anonymous said...

Pragmatism, sort of! The focus should remain on getting rid of tracking, says Optimistic. What else?
--newname

Anonymous said...

optimistic you applaud fwiw's attack on another concerned poster. perhaps that type of judgment is what derailed you in the past.

i agree with ama there should be as much consideration of sps' inability to deal with outliers on each side of the bell curve. also is this about race (aa primarily) or frl, ell and 2e which really are the factors that drive the achievement gap; especially when you mix in seattle's high percentage of kids in private schools.

no caps.

Mike said...

@ Melissa

"I'm just hoping to hear what readers believe specifically about race and the opportunity gap, what they believe would move the needle, etc."

Oops, "opportunity" gap is not the 'achievement in test score' gap I thought was the topic. I'll weigh in on what I'm guessing you mean by "opportunity" gap. If I've guessed wrong, please delete this post as it could be controversial and throw the thread off track.

Race as defined by skin color has nothing to do with either gap. It's long proven that skin color is not related to learning ability. So, it's not an explanation of an achievement gap. As to an "opportunity" gap, federal and state laws dictate and enforce the minimum opportunity for, access to, and breadth of education. That minimum level of opportunity is equally available. The quality of education usually differs class to class, school to school, district to district, state to state. But the opportunity is ubiquitous.

Sadly, the differences between the offerings at schools make some people jealous enough to forget 'opportunity' for education is not 'equality' of education. Rather, society's intent is to give the individual freedom to choose how much he wants to invest himself in learning - regardless of what his parents want for him or what others believe is best for him.

US society even went beyond simple opportunity to actually force kids into education up to the time they can emancipate as adults. Then we offer the opportunity to continue free public education through Grade 12. But we don't know and can't tell how much education each person must have for personal satisfaction. So, the minimum breadth we try to offer is a set of learning skills, embedded in reading, writing, and mathematics classes, that allows for life-long scholarship in whatever a person chooses.

Rightly or wrongly, society considers offerings beyond the minimum to be like desserts which aren't essential but are okay to offer so long as educational minimums are addressed.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mike, just to be clear:

1) It used to be the "achievement gap" and then someone said "no, it's an opportunity gap."
2) I never said race had anything to do with the ability to learn; that the gap exists for different racial groups is a fact. Why that is and how to solve it is the question.
3) "Sadly, the differences between the offerings at schools make some people jealous enough to forget 'opportunity' for education is not 'equality' of education."

You'd have to be more clear here. I think when you say "opportunity" you mean "equity." Is that right? Because equality is not equity and vice versa.

4) Public education is not there for each child's "personal satisfaction." I'm even sure you could measure that adequately. But yes, you are right about the minimum breadth. I wish we could go beyond that for civics, arts and science because those classes are also vital.So we are in agreement there.

Anonymous said...

@Melissa, you wondered about what people suggest for change. I think one of the main factors is SPS is socio-economic status (SES). Race plays into in that racism blocks and limits opportunities and thereby impacts SES. In a perfect world, there would not be such a huge disparity in SES.

However since we live in the real world, I would suggest that we move away from neighborhood schools and back to choice, or some type of choice. Seattle is pretty segregated by SES, which impacts the schools kids go to. When schools are more diverse economically, it is easier for a school community to rally around and support all of the families. When schools are poor, it is really hard to address all the needs. Families are often too poor or tired from working so many jobs to make ends meet that it is hard to rally around and support all the families in the school.

When we had choice, there was more of mix. I'm not sure how much of a mix. I would be curious how the SES mix impacts racial gaps in achievement in SPS. I wish HALA insisted on building more affordable housing units in all new housing so that our neighborhoods would have more of a mix.
Teacher

Lynn said...

We've had a huge increase in public school enrollment in this district precisely because we now have a neighborhood assignment plan. This provides stability for families and the ability to create lasting relationships within a neighborhood and school community. It was not so long ago that middle class families either moved to the east side when their child turned five or paid for private school.

Anonymous said...

Lynn,

Where is the evidence for that causality? This is not my field.

Kellie made the attribution of population and housing cycles
in a recent thread, and stated that the cycle is in the process
of stabilizing. Your point may carry some weight, too, but yours
is a blanket causality. Has the percentage of private school
enrolled students decreased since the initiation of this plan?
Again, I don't know but some evidence is in order when one makes
such a statement of causality.

Research is defitely irrefutable about this: Students who attend
schools with high FRL populations have measurably worse outcomes
than students with the same demographic who attend mixed income
schools.

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may13/vol70/num08/Boosting-Achievement-by-Pursuing-Diversity.aspx

Gerrymandering boundaries and expanding choice would improve the
lives of students by giving them a better educational outcome (which
is the main method of overcoming poverty).

FWIW


Anonymous said...

you mean not gerrymandering geo areas right, fwiw? look at the geo zone for meany. who came up with that? why should kids who live south of wms go to meany? many would be walking distance to wms but instead they will be bused to meany creating a higher frl grouping of kids in a dilapidated building. oh and the low frl lakeview folks get the new building!!!

no caps

Anonymous said...

I thought more kids came back to SPS because of the recession. I thought it was more of a cost issue than neighborhoods, but I really don't know.
Teacher

Anonymous said...

@ Lynn - where is the evidence for your claim? I don't think NSAP and neighborhood assignment has that much to do with the increase in SPS enrollment. We have a growing city with many more young families. This trend was pointed out years ago by Kellie, Meg Diaz, and others. What NSAP has done is lead to increasing segregation - and that was also predicted at the time. - NP

Anonymous said...

you mean economic segregation right -np? and i do think that nsap has increased interest in some families to go public versus private.

no caps

seattle citizen said...

no caps, economic AND racial segregation.
And, as analyses by those that NP cites show, NSAP might not be much of a factor. The city is getting bigger.

Anonymous said...

show me where you can see sps slotting kids due to race and i will print this thread and eat it. follow the money sc. there is no racial segregation in sps. using apartheid and segregation to describe sps is inaccurate and not helpful to the conversation we are trying to have here. it is a complex issue and i do think the district plays quick with frl data in assignments and i think that is wrong (see my post above about meany) but they are not looking at race.

no caps

NESeattleMom said...

My memory of the reason they stopped the choice program with clusters (where we wrote our preferences down in our cluster), was that taxpayers thought it was wasteful to have buses circling around the geographical quadrants wasting fuel and money.

seattle citizen said...

No caps, there's intentional and unintentional segregation. I was referring to the unintentional. It's a fact that some schools became more segregated with the elimination of choice.

Anonymous said...

Seattle neighborhoods are segregated by race and class. A neighborhood assignment plan reflects the neighborhoods in which people live. Without choice, magnet schools, lotteries, and other intentional draws our schools have become less integrated and less diverse. -NP

Lynn said...

This is a problem for the schools but I think it's what parents prefer. They're choosing to live in these neighborhoods.

I read the other day that the Archdiocese of Seattle has 2,000 empty seats in its schools. Many Catholic K-8 schools in the city were attractive for the stability they provided.

Anonymous said...

@ Lynn - Are you saying parents prefer segregation? -NP

Lynn said...

It's obvious that most parents don't prioritize diversity when choosing a neighborhood. That leads me to believe that they don't prioritize it in their children's schools either. (Choosing to live in an homogenous neighborhood makes no sense if you want your children in a diverse environment.) I doubt many parents would support giving up the convenience and stability of a neighborhood school assignment plan to increase diversity in the schools.

Anonymous said...

Lynn,

Where is the data to support your assertion about neighborhood schools? The
anecdote about Catholic school is not evidence. You are usually like Johnny
on the Spot with facts and figures.

As far as people choosing segregated neighborhoods, it does seem to be true
for white people:

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2016/07/when_white_parents_have_a_choice_they_choose_segregated_schools.html

The research is clear about schools with economic diversity being a proven method of leading to better outcomes for students living in poverty. Our court system is based on protecting the needs of the powerless and minority populations when those in power want to maintain the status quo. (See Brown v. Board of Education).

Your evasion of supporting facts when not convenient and willingness to ignore the best interests of vulnerable children in order to protect privilege is sometimes breathtaking.

FWIW

NESeattleMom said...

If white people move to diverse neighborhoods, isn't that called gentrification and somehow bad?

Anonymous said...

The research is about people with similar buying power who make housing choices based on racial preferences. Gentrification is about communities being displaced when those with more buying power take over.

FWIW

Mike said...

Melissa, I don't own a computer or cell phone and it's a chore to get to a library. So, it's taken some time for me to respond. Meanwhile, the thread's conversation has moved to a different tangent. I'd like to address your post to me anyway.

1) I thought the 'gap' in question was the gap between the skin color groupings on an achievement test. I've never heard of an 'opportunity' test.

2) I made a statement about race as the Let's Talk About Race (Part One) opening statement asked us to address race. I definitely didn't mean to accuse you of anything.

3) But I did specifically choose 'opportunity' and 'equality' to say laws guarantee kids can go to K-12 but ease of access, quality of buildings, and skills of teachers will vary so there is no practical way to guarantee equality of education. "Equity' would be a value judgment and I didn't intend to judge.

4) I'll strongly reiterate that a student's personal satisfaction is the paramount measure of successful education. And, no, it can't be directly measured but is clear in an individual's lifelong enjoyment of learning, curiosity toward all things, confidence, approach to the unknown, and other attributes which lead to whatever the individual calls a satisfactory life.
Parents and Business might want to believe test scores and grades represent successful education. But teachers know the significance is very limited. Test scores and measurements along the way during school years are very limited snapshots of a growing mind which doesn't reach maturity until years after high school graduation. We can analyze and compare those snapshots for some kinds of changes during K-12. But change is not proof of successful education. Only long after high school do we know if education has been successful.
Perhaps, you misunderstood personal satisfaction to mean 'self-indulgence'? Anyway, this topic belongs outside a thread on race.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, wrong link!

This one is about choosing housing,
The other one is about schools.

http://www.citylab.com/housing/2015/06/its-mostly-white-people-who-prefer-to-live-in-segregated-neighborhoods/396887/

FWIW

Anonymous said...

http://events.cornell.edu/event/choosing_segregation_the_importance_of_school_racial_composition_in_white_parental_neighborhood_selection


FWIW

NESeattleMom said...

FWIW, Some white people I know chose to live in a diverse neighborhood. How can you know their intention? And other people I know chose to live near their work. How can you know their intention? Do they choose to live somewhere because it's a neighborhood they like? Or are you saying they choose to live in a white neighborhood? I think that is impossible for you to know. When I read a recent article about the Central District an African American guy talked about how he is raising his family in his grandparents house but that most black families on his block or in the close vicinity had been unable through economics to stay in their houses. So is it good or bad for a white family to move in?

Anonymous said...

I didn't do the research, I'm just reporting it in response to Lynn's post about
neighborhood schools.

Apparently, according to the research, choosing homes and schools isn't as benign
as, say, one's choice of a coffee order at Starbucks.

Any questions you have can probably be addressed by emailing the researchers.

FWIW

seattle citizen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...



fwiw if i gave you two rocks i am sure you would try to convince me why one rock is better than the other... and regardless of what anyone said you would stick with that rock. think zen. think.

so property is now the new apartheid... unless you live north of the ship canal. shess!


no caps

Anonymous said...


this is money
this is not race

opportunity gap = money gap
sps doesn't want inequity and yet?

sps will never solve the problem without money.
there is no money to solve the problem so no solution.

social studies at tm and honors for all at ghs is just the beginning.
next it will be honors for none and no tracking - eliminating the efficiency for al.
mt
mg-j
carr
suxxx

NESeattleMom said...

FWIW, I read the articles you linked, and personally think just because the social scientists did face to face interviews in Chicago and Detroit that their conclusions would be applicable to Seattle. Plus, I think you can find many studies. The study I referred to just showed implicit bias that many are learning about now. How do you think things can get better

Anonymous said...



fwiw - knave - kids have their needs taken care of


all of u need to think about it/ and i can tell you it is about agenda politics and those agendas are are about folks who don't care; like carr and blandford and oh fwiw and mc and mt they are too afraid to admit that money defines this. or perhaps they want to say that because of money they will never define it.

no caps