Can segregated school districts be effective?

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Hope (not verified)

I work in the 2nd largest

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I work in the 2nd largest school district in Illinois. We are being sued by several Hispanic families because of our re-districting policies which essentially segregated the low SES groups (predominately Hispanic) and the upper-end SES groups. There seems to be a trend of sending kids to their neighborhood schools, which in effect is based on clear racial and SES status. Prior to this policy, Hispanic students (primarily mono-lingual Spanish speakers) were bussed outside of their neighborhoods into hostile environments where they were not accepted or wanted. This action, while perhaps better for both communities as relates to understanding other cultures, further disenfranchised a group of people who did not feel connected to their communities or the school. My feeling is that Hispanics were bussed because they continue not to vote, therefore the predominately white school board would never be voted out because of these actions. I believe this move occured for "neighborhood" schools because an upper-end neighborhood with very little racial integration had started proceedings to separate from the district. The district would lose money as well as the prestige of the higher test scores. Meanwhile, the district has done very little to create an all-inclusive environment for the primarily Hispanic schools. Most principals and school principal secretaries do not speak Spanish, nor are they Hispanic - instead, a Hispanic liason is hired to interface with one group of people - the mono-lingual child and parents. Only recently, have I begun to see a change in the main district office - now one can see Hispanic faces in secretarial positions and some very upper level positions. With these type of practices, Hispanic communities will never be able to take control or have a real say in their schools because the leadership is unable to communicate with them in meaningful and knowing ways. Having said all this, the question still remains - does community control necessarily mean better instruction? If a community is empowered with this type of control, does it just mean that the faces will change, but not the politics? I don't know if we will win the law suit, but I do know that we are expending lots of money that we don't have to win the law suit. In Rockford, Illinois, where a similar law suit was filed - they lost. In the end, the community of Rockford suffered financially and great racial divide continue to be felt throughout the community and schools. There just has to be a better way of doing the right thing.
Patricia A. Smith (not verified)

Everyone here has spoken

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Everyone here has spoken solidly from his or her own experience. Everyone has stated his or her own opinion in a highly professional manner. One piece of the issue I have not seen addressed concerns the right of a community, or, in the case of Omaha, NE, a large city's three constituent communities, each smaller community's right to self determination in the area of determining how their children will be educated, how it will be financed, who will pay for it, and, of course, who will attend school in which constituent community. The city Omaha went to court to request permission to break up into three consituent smaller communities for educational purposes because breaking up along community lines would CREATE a situation in which segregated schools would be created. Why would segregated schools be created where they did not exist before? The answer lies in the fact that people have already chosen, more or less, to live where they do. Should we ask people to move, so that ALL THREE communities are forced to be more diverse? I am not, by any means saying we should not educate our students to be world citizens. I am very fortunate to live in a very diverse community, and teach in a school which is approximately close to being half black, between a third and a half white, with the rest Hispanic, with the Hispanic population growing yearly. It is a student population teeming with creativity and brilliance that is truly wonderful to nurture and watch grow, as a teacher. However, these folks live together here, because they WANT TO, not because anyone forces them to. To force the city of Omaha to continue as a unified school district, when it would be better served, in the minds of those selected to serve as guardians of the school system, by breaking up into three smaller school systems, is, to my mind, wrong. Much has been written elsewhere concerning a need for smaller communities within large high schools, as well as project based learning, and safer environments for students. Perhaps the caretakers of the Omaha system truly believe their population is better served in this way, REGARDLESS of the racial makeup of the three constituent communities. It is my opinion that, many times, many of us see racial motivations or racism, when there are simply other issues we either would rather not address, or feel overwhelmed by. It does not make us racist to address those issues, or to feel that we need to put race on the back burner and address a myriad of other problems first. Teenage pregnancy, high school dropout rates, a need for young people to have more realistic preparation for life in the work communities they face after high school: these issues, to my mind, are more important than race, and if we are wasting time and taxpayers' money with court cases, the children are going to be the losers. I believe that the three new constituencies need to keep in mind that educating for cultural literacy is an important part of ALL childrens' educations and that they cannot leave their children behind when it comes to learning how people around the world live, think and create. It is more difficult to do this in an environment where most people are homogenously grouped, whether it is by race, or by another factor, such as socioeconomic level, or cultural group. But, it can be done. As a music teacher, I will never forget teaching my youngest students how to sing in Japanese, or teaching fourth graders Australia's "unofficial" national anthem, Waltzing Matilda, this past year. Will any of these children ever visit those places? More than likely, no; however, they are beginning to gain an awareness of a wider world away from here, where people act and think, and communicate very differently than any of the cultural groups in our school. However the Omaha situation turns out, I wish all the people the best of luck in restructuring their educational system in order to better serve those who we must always keep in mind: the children.
Scott Guild (not verified)

We are a society that is

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We are a society that is becoming more diverse rather than less, E pluribus unum means from many one. This phrase related initially to the many states becoming one nation but it also applies to the fact that our forefathers came from many cultures but elected to adopt the title and culture of being American, So this phrase also applies to the citizens of this country. We are one nation, with one set of rules and should have one set of expectations for all. Separate but equal was a practice that demonnstarted how unequal separate schools, equipment and allocation on money could be. I can understand how some Americans may fear the demographic changes that are occuring to them. However, the way to respond to these changes is not to retrench, but to work harder on delivering the American dream for all.
Rhonda Browning (not verified)

I don't think that the issue

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I don't think that the issue is whether segregated schools can be effective or not. Of course they can teach literacy and numeracy, stuff in test taking skills and, also provide a quality education. It does not matter as to effectiveness. Rather the issue is whether segregated schools can be equal. The problem with racial differences in achievement is not really a racial issue in the first place. It is a socio-economic issue. Poor kids do not have the resources that wealthy kids have. They don't have the early education, the life experiences that make one educated, and, often, they don't have parents who know what to do to develop the minds of their children or are too busy just trying to keep them fed to do so. Unfortunately in many places, a larger percentage of brown people are poor than white people. Therefore, a socioeconomic difference looks like a racial difference. Middle class African American students do just as well in school as middle class white students. Poor white students score like poor black students. The problem with segregated schools is that they do not prepare the children for the real world. If the only people you are around are people who look like you, you are not likely to be comfortable with people who do not look like you. The best way to learn about individual and culture differences is to be around people who are different. I have been around a whole lot of African Americans. Some of the people closest to me are black. There are cultural differences, but even they are not absolute. I have found however, that the only real consistent difference between white people and black people is what you do to make your hair behave!!! That is it. Black people put oil based hair products in to make their hair smooth and shiny. In a pinch, some use vaseline. White people wash their hair frequently to take the oil out so it does not look like they washed it in vaseline. Children are not naturally prejudiced. They have to be taught. Children learn best with hands-on experiences. Hands-on eucation readily extends to sitting in a desk next to your friend whose mama combs oil through her hair so it won't be tangled, while your mama washes, conditions and painfully combs out the tangles in yours. I learned this many years ago by watching my black college roomate fix her hair.
Alpha Quincy (not verified)

Separating students speaks

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Separating students speaks louder than anything they are taught. Students should not be separated on the basis of race, gender, economic condition, nationality, ability, test scores or any other criteria. It seems logical that a "like" group would be easier to teach, but that is based on the assumption that all students should be taught the same material the same way. This doesn't work. All students are different, no matter how they are sorted and separated. Students learn when they are comfortable that they "belong" and somebody cares. That can be achieved in smaller groups and smaller schools near their homes where they get to know each other and know the teacher, and a qualified, intelligent teacher can know each of them. My experience covers fifty years of teaching all ages from pre-school through graduate school. I have also been a consultant, principal, member of the board of education, writer, and state curriculum commissioner.
Mildred Santamaria (not verified)

It would be unrealistic and

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It would be unrealistic and unethical to segregate students in a society which is so culturally diversified. What would be the purpose of our democracy if we return to segregated schools? This, of course, doesn't mean that segregation does not occur. Many students are already segregated due to special needs be they academic or language. Respect for all human beings regardless of who they are is the most important lesson we can teach our children; the adults of tomorrow. We do not have to like everyone, but we need to learn to respect the dignity and worth of each individual. Let's stop being afraid of each other and start learning about each other and valuing each other.
Marisol Carreras (not verified)

I think that the important

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I think that the important point is to understand the reason for segregating in this or in any other case. It is not the same to segregate because you consider a person inferior than because you consider that a person, in this case a student, has a special need. But at the same time, it seems to me that there is not need to segregate one racial group from the other students because we have had plenty and enough experience on how different groups have influence.
John K. (not verified)

The question in my opinion

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The question in my opinion leaves me wanting further definition - "effective" as WHAT? There is no question in my mind that any educational environment can be effective academically regardless of its demographic construction. A segregated school with effective planning, adequate staffing and a healthy atmosphere can be just as robust academically as an integrated school. No question. But that perhaps is not the only role our schools are intended to play in our society. Our schools - and public education in particular - were intended by our founding fathers to also promote a social and even a civic role within our communities. Education was - to Thomas Jefferson - a vital component in creating citizens imbued with civic virtue and the vocational call to responsibility. Obviously we live in a multicultural world, one in which diversity is celebrated and promoted by a global economy. Therefore education should help our students - all students - prepare for that world in a responsible manner. The more important question therein is: "Can a segregated school be effective at promoting tolerance and celebrating diversity?" The answer is a qualified "Perhaps", but these schools must certainly be committed toward teaching those virtues with the very same ardor and enthusiasm as they exhibit when teaching models of writing, or strategies for mathematical problem-solving. Tolerance can be taught. Civic responsibility can be taught. Human nature can not. I must admit that I have always somewhat queasily felt that forced integration careered tediously close to forced segregation in terms of being an ardently controlling, almost paternalistic view of human nature. The intention is of course good. It is as morally benevolent and as humanitarian as it could possibly be, but it is still manipulating communities, and the effect - as Senator Chambers alludes - may be the homogenization and dilution of the very ethnicity and heritage that we purport to celebrate. It is human nature that we are drawn toward people who share some bond of connection with us whether it be race, class, or shared interest. Mensa did a fascinating study some years back wherein they held a party and invited an extremely diverse group of participants. Half of the group (carefully chosen to representative all ethnicities, genders, ages, etc.) were given red circular name badges, and half of the group (equally diverse) were given blue triangular shaped name badges. By the end of the night, the group had self-segregated into Reds and Blues. They were unaware of why, but they sought a common bond where there was no other observable bond. This was an obvious - if subconscious - institutional form of prejudice based on name tag alone. Fascinating. We do that all the time - we seek out communities, activities, friends who share some common bond with our own perceived version of self. This alignment of like personas does not impede our tolerance of others, but it does segregate us and requires us to take an active role to break through own benign (for the most part) prejudices. Obviously, the fear of a regression back to days of separate and unequal is a very real one and can not be readily dismissed. I don't think we as a nation have any desire for that, and I certainly don't think the law that was signed in Nebraska moves in that direction. We have standards for math and language; science and social studies, perhaps it is time for a set of standards based on civic responsibility and tolerance. Only then can we assure that we are truly one nation moving together towards a future that was dreamt of so many summers ago, when all of us had a dream...
Diane Wright (not verified)

We already have created

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We already have created schools that are segregated within themselves. Walk through a school that is racially diverse, then compare the honors classes to the standard classrooms. I am not an expert on the statistics, however I am sure that all parents know if they don't want their kids with "those kids" they put them in honors classes where they really don't belong, mainly so they can be separated. On the flip side, you have the minority kids feeling that they want to stay away from those classes because there aren't enough folks that they can identify with in them. I wonder if this is the root of the idea that if you do well in school you are "acting white".
Sandra Holt (not verified)

I wish you had asked about

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I wish you had asked about seperating by gender. All one gender classes are much more productive from my experience.
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