Why school segregation is so hard to overcome

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Photo Credit: Vox.

In the American educational system, the students who are most in need of good teaching are the ones most likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers in rundown classrooms with old teaching materials.

In the American educational system, the students who are most in need of good teaching are the ones most likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers in rundown classrooms with old teaching materials.

This system perpetuates itself because most parents who live in a poor school district will try to get out if they can.  That means the concentration of poor students, especially poor black students, will steadily increase.

Amy Piller, a New York city school administrator, wrote a good article for Vox about how this works and her struggles to help poor and disadvantaged students.

She is making some difference, as you can see by clicking on the link to her article.  She is not making a fundamental change in the system.

I don’t see any obvious way to bring about fundamental change.  Most parents want not only what is best for their students.  They want their students to have a competitive advantage.  They will fight for their own children, but they won’t fight for anybody else’s children.

As long as Americans think of our society as a zero-sum game to sort people into winners and losers, the only way you can be a winner is if somebody else is a loser.  If you are a parent, that means you won’t want other children to gain an advantage over your children.

Here in Rochester, NY, reformers want the City School District and the affluent suburban school districts to merge into a county-wide school system.  Some of my friends say semi-seriously that the ideal system would be to carve up the county like a pie, with slices centering at the Liberty Pole in the heart of the city.

The idea is that if poor children and middle-class children are together in the same classrooms, middle-class parents will have a stake in improving education for all, and some power to bring it about.

This was the idea behind experiments in compulsory busing to achieve racial balance. But these experiments failed.

President Obama sends his daughters to the elite private Sidwell Friends School instead of the District of Columbia public schools.  I don’t blame him.  If I were a parent, and had the money, I would do the same thing.

Dedicated and creative educators such as Amy Piller do make things better.  I would never imply that people like her are wasting their time.  But unless we Americans start thinking about ourselves in a different way, she and people like her will face the same obstacles.

Affluent parents will not stand for children of poor parents getting anything their own children don’t have, no matter how the school district is defined.

In a capitalist democracy, political power is based on amounts of money or numbers of people.  Groups that are poor in money and few in numbers will be left behind until they can unite with others in a common cause.

LINK

I’m a New York City school administrator.  Here’s how segregation lives on by Amy Piller for Vox.  (Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist).

 

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