Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Racism in Reverse

Criticisms of the recent Supreme Court rulings on school integration (Seattle, WA, and Louisville, KY) ignore both the realities of our school populations and the details of the actual court opinions.
The ruling against Seattle schools highlights several troubling decisions by the district, including an effort to define standard American English as racist, sending students to a "While Privilege Conference," and a district policy statement that "individualism" is a form of cultural racism. These details appear on pages 80-86 of the decision. The decision even cites Seattle Times reporting on these policies.
My students at the University of Minnesota are not going to convince me that vernacular English is acceptable for papers and presentations. I'm also not going to give a "class grade" in place of individual evaluations. Our public schools need to prepare students for these realities.
Also, segregation is difficult to combat when the nation's largest districts have been abandoned by white and Asian families. Philadelphia has only 30,000 white students in a district of 210,000. New York's Bronx borough has a mere 9,000 white students in an area of nearly 250,000 students. Schools in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, D. C., face similar population trends.
Real change means sending the best teachers and the best materials to our urban schools. It means a willingness to implement "Robin Hood" redistribution of taxes — urban schools have higher costs and more needs than most suburban schools. Most importantly, it means, as leaders like Brack Obama and Bill Cosby have said, parents need to set high expectations.
Seattle was lowering standards and excusing poor performance. Using racial "tie-breakers" was more a symptom of their problems than a real attempt to improve education.

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