What Kind of Schools Do Black Children Deserve?

For me the trip to New Orleans brought to the surface a painful and troubling truth about educational equality. It's a truth that's often forgotten, or buried under subtext or coded language. The fact is, when we talk about school reform we're talking about race.
This truth is especially palpable and sensitive in a place like New Orleans. Even before the trauma of Hurricane Katrina this was a city struggling with a deep history of racism. Race is especially relevant if you're talking about New Orleans public schools considering that roughly 8/10 of the white students in New Orleans attend private schools.
When you visit a school like John McDonogh Senior High School, you can't help but to ask yourself, "Is this the best we can offer for black children in this country? Is this what we think they deserve?" Without even getting into the murky waters of teacher quality at this school - I didn't spend enough time in classrooms here to make fair conclusions - the building itself serves as a clear example of what we're willing to subject children to if they are born with the wrong skin color, in the wrong neighborhood. 
I don't think that anyone on either side of the debate in New Orleans can ignore this reality, and neither can we. 

This post and others can be found at Beyond Appian Way, a blog by students from the Graduate School of Education writing about travels outside of Cambridge, MA.


Mad Jack said…
Harvard and Cambridge. I should have been able to guess this. I didn't.

I've spent time in New Orleans. I always enjoyed it. The thing you have to realize about the situation in New Orleans is that the people who are studying the school system for whatever reason, hoping to achieve their own goal have never been more than 150 yards from a flush toilet, have never gone hungry and not known where their next meal is coming from, do not understand that the policeman is much more than just not your friend; the policeman is your enemy, and that the only person who will protect, feed and help you has just acquired a brand new baby-daddy and a brand new baby, and your auntie's new boyfriend doesn't want you around.

Now think about all that and tell me why the grade school students in New Orleans aren't learning.

It isn't race. It's economic inequality combined with daily hardships that I do not believe that you, personally, would ever be able to overcome.
GranolaGwen said…
We need system in which the people make decisions spend time in the spaces those decisions will impact. This isn't idealism. This is necessary. Mad Jack is naming the disconnect between paradigms. Kids in poverty in New Orleans have very little in common with people in power in New Orleans.

We all need to spend more time striving and struggling to understand one another. This will be uncomfortable and inefficient, in the short term. But the only way to more lasting justice.

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