This we know, but let’s say it again: “Research shows that middle-class students tend to do as well academically in economically mixed schools. But more than that, there’s emerging research to suggest that, indeed, middle-class students benefit from both economic and racial diversity. As we become a majority-minority nation, more millennial parents are recognizing that it’s a skill to thrive in diverse environments, and employers are looking for people who can get along with individuals from all different backgrounds.”
Yes, opting in to integration is both important for the common good, and the good of your own kid.
But Baltimore isn’t down. This: Part one of a four part series: Bridging the Divide: The Struggle to Move Past Segregated Schools. Reporters Liz Bowie and Erica Green write about the process of redrawing school boundaries and (spoiler alert!) another win for segregation under the guise of “property values” and “discipline issues” etc etc. No surprise that parents from the largely Black and Latinx school felt that their kids “— the ones they saw as smart and full of potential — were seen only as liabilities” and “as if we are some disease to be avoided.”
But, you know, it’s uncool to “to hold it against parents [who] are looking at what is going to happen to my child, and not the greater good.” But but but… your child is part of the greater good! And your child is going to be an adult someday in a world that you’ve helped create… is that going to be a legacy of equity or of more privilege-seeking? And, you know, “middle-class students benefit from economic and racial diversity.”
But I stopped short at this line… “Baltimore County has never taken that step [toward integration] because no political pressure has been put on leaders to do so.” We’ve heard from a few folks that the work of integration really *must* take place at the policy level and that fighting this Integrated Schools hearts&minds campaign of ours is nuts. The problem is, though, that WE need to put the pressure on en masse. WE have to opt in to integrated/ing schools in order to give our electeds and policymakers the courage to make decisions that uplift integration. This is not to say that our work shouldn’t include policy, but until we have raised our parent voices, Baltimore will happen again and again. And again, it’s on us.
So like Sylvia Mendez says, whose parents fought against Mexican-only schools in California eight years before Brown v. Board of Education, “we have come a long way, but we still have a struggle…”
Our friend Rebecca Mackinder Wells has been working the struggle hard in Chicago! The Chicago School District is considering a merger between Odgen (a largely privileged/white overcrowded K-12 school with one campus in the Gold Coast and another in West Town) and Jenner (a neighborhood, predominantly black K-8 school in Cabrini-Green). Needless to say, there is some, ummmm, resistance.
Here’s the speech Rebecca gave at the most recent forum:
People ask me all the time “Why do you support this merger?”
I have to admit, sometimes it has been difficult to articulate.
The catalyst for my being involved in this conversation was because I went to an Ogden LSC meeting over a year and a half ago to discuss a potential over-crowding problem….
I jumped in with both feet, working as part of an Exploratory Committee to uncover a variety of solutions and opportunities for our school… which in turn, led us to the discovery of Jenner, just 7 blocks away.
After 18 months of intense research, reading dozens and dozens of articles, having one-on-one discussions with education thought leaders, esteemed professors and politicians, along with continued outreach to parent groups across the city and the country that are working diligently to improve THEIR SCHOOLS …..
It hit me.
Fighting for equitable education for ALL children is so important! And it is something I can make a POSITIVE IMPACT on right here in this community.
Also, through my research, I learned that there are lots of schools within CPS that are in a similar situation as ours….a predominantly white, upper middle class school facing overcrowding with an almost 100% black, low income, bordering school struggling with under enrollment and facing potential closure.
This is not unique to Ogden and Jenner.
What IS unique, though, is that we are here tonight to talk about what a successful merging of these 2 schools would look like!
And I am thrilled that Dr. Jackson and Mr. Claypool consider this potential merger worthy of their time. Even as recently as this morning, I heard Mr. Claypool on NPR talking about how he wants to fight for equitable education for the black and brown students within CPS – he is even part of a newly filed lawsuit against the State of Illinois.
One of his comments really struck me: “the State treats CPS’ schoolchildren, who are predominantly African American and Hispanic, as second-class children, relegated to the back of the State’s education funding school bus,”. I could not agree more!
Merging these 2 schools, helps not only the 200 students from Jenner gain academic opportunities that were never available to them due to financial constraints, but all of our children will gain increased levels of empathy and academic skills that will position them to be successful in a global economy. The increased diversity in our school community will teach all of the children life skills that they will learn and carry with them for years to come.
We have an opportunity in front of us to make a difference for ALL of our children. This isn’t about me. This isn’t about MY son. We are talking about making a difference in ALL of these children’s lives for generations to come.
These conversations are hard and figuring out the details is going to be messy,
BUT SO VERY IMPORTANT.
Indeed, these conversations are so very important. Thanks for sharing this with us, Rebecca! Hope the community meeting you had this weekend went well.