Educational Apartheid; American Style

To those who need to start a true journey of understanding by looking in their own backyard, an important area to consider is the process of 'Educational Apartheid;' American style.  

 

Schools have once again and increasingly become highly segregated and districts around the country, especially in the South, have manipulated local legislation and zoning to funnel majority and minority kids into different school districts even if they may sometimes live, literally, across the street from one another.

 

This is fact, folks….spend even a little time on Google instead of Fox News and you might be amazed what you will find.

 

Educational Apartheid; American-style has become increasingly possible to do via local court rulings which have been slowly gutting the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Topeka decision in 1954 and, more directly, when the Court ordered public schools to achieve minority/majority balances…'racial balance;' not separate AND equal public school districts via busing in 1971.

 

Politicians whose districts include highly urban communities don't have to typically do as much of a political dance to create these artificially segregated schools inasmuch as many downtown schools are already overwhelmingly minority and poor. I know; I graduated from a highly urban East Coast public school district and, some years later, spent time as a very busy behavioral consultant in that same highly urban school district.

 

All this, while uptown, suburban schools and under resourced rural schools remain, far better resourced and supported. While some of these differently constructed school districts sometimes are stronger than others, being 'separate AND incredibly unequal' is far more often the case.

 

The money and resources available between a 'downtown' public school and a 'suburban' public school perhaps only 10 or 15 minutes away can be stark and saddening. While the school building used by urban/minority children may be decrepit with poor maintenance and outdated with older teaching materials and textbooks, not too far away suburban schools may sometimes look more like a small college campus.

 

And this is just as true true in under resourced rural and non-urban public schools as well.

 

A primary issue, then, is not just minority and majority but impoverished communities compared to those not. Those who think all children in the United States to include American born children born to American born parents have an ‘equal’ chance are dead wrong.

 

Educational Apartheid: American Style and America’s covert ‘caste’ system are solidly in place.

 

I've consulted in both urban and rural schools where teachers routinely spent their own money for everything from classroom pencils and playground/gym equipment to, even, toilet paper handing children who need the bathroom a couple dozen sheets at a time. One teacher I consulted with only gave students 5 sheets – exactly - at a time for toilet use.

 

I've worked in under resourced urban and rural public schools where, if they even had a working copy machine, teachers were only allowed very, very small numbers of copies per week to include those needed for student learning.

 

Since, salaries, resources and support systems/materials are, much more often, far better focused uptown, in the suburbs and monied rural regions, teachers and Administrators understandably gravitate in that direction whenever possible.

 

So, what happens?

 

Not only are older and sometimes less skilled teachers more likely to teach in urban and under resourced public schools but so also are younger teachers who simply have less experience and simply want a job. And both groups include many who could become excellent teachers if they had more competent supervision, resources and supports. But these teachers often find themselves in urban and under resourced public schools since uptown/suburban and more resourced school districts have far more applications from which to choose.

 

This dynamic is then often further accentuated by less motivated, skilled, engaged and competent administrators who, even while their teachers are being subjected to more and more professional and political pressure for 'accountability,' are far too often given a free pass.

 

At the same time, I can absolutely assure readers that urban/minority and under resourced rural public schools also and often have brilliant, motivated and highly competent teachers and administrators whose ability to be productive are still greatly hindered by the exact same political, economic and resource variables.

 

And there most definitely are also excellent system examples where urban/minority and under resourced rural school educational professionals do and can create strong and remarkable outcomes for their students and schools.

 

Realize, however, that those urban/minority  and under resourced rural schools which are succeeding are definitely not the norm and are doing so DESPITE a system set up to create and predict their failure. And there are lots of reasons for these varied outcomes across school districts to include to include both systemic and idiosyncratic variables.

 

It is also important to note that there really is no longer a 'typical' student profile or classroom and public schools overall are dealing more than ever before with higher variability in the social-emotional needs, learning 'readiness,' cognitive/adaptive functioning and motivation of their students.  

 

And whether those students have single parents or both parents at home, their parents are typically working countless hours just to buy food and barely have time to do that which their child’s school should be doing instead. Schools often forget that parents are not on their staff.

 

The increased focus on vouchers, Charter Schools and drawing money away from public schools then means that urban/minority and under resourced rural schools wind up spending more spend time dealing with social-emotional, behavioral and more explicit learning needs of their students than those uptown, suburban and monied. And even the most skilled teachers most often do not have the specific training to effectively deal with these kinds of pivotal needs.

 

The changing national demographics referenced in this short column have actually increased the desperation of a large core section of majority fed politicians to speed up the pace of Educational Apartheid: American Style and direct money and supports to their majority 'key stakeholders' and associated schools. This is, in fact, a prime motivator in the so called 'school choice' and voucher movements.

 

If those same politicians were truly concerned about failing and struggling urban/minority schools and under resourced rural schools, they would provide THEM with stable and consistent funding and resources rather than suck still more money from these already unequal schools to distribute among their majority/monied friends and voters.

 

I strongly encourage readers to take a closer look at ‘Educational Apartheid; American Style' before passing judgment or offering broad and misguided perceptions.