Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Deseg and Reseg: How it affects us

Kinsey is going to have to move schools. We're being rezoned. That's how it affects us. We haven't told her yet, because what good will it do? She can't do anything about it and it would just be a distraction from her school work.

Now for the real fun.

The other way that it affects us is that many of the inner city kids will not be a part of her life. Some might consider this a good thing, but honestly, I don't. Here's why. I went to high school at an academic magnet school downtown and then taught at one close by where at least 30% of the population had to be African-American. That's why MAGNET schools were created to draw white students to the inner city. One of the happy things that came out of that was an exposure to other races and ideologies that I would not necessarily have been exposed to. In high school, my circle of friends included a Korean, an Indian (subcontinental), a couple of white thrashers, and an African American. And we all just kind of hung out together and didn't worry about race.

What I worry about this is that our kids will not be exposed to different cultures to the extent that they were before. Are neighborhood schools a good thing? Yes, I think they are. And hopefully, in the inner city, they will encourage more parent involvement in the schools, but they also are de facto resegregation. And maybe we've been moving toward this for a while. Most private schools are de facto resegregation (and unfortunately, if you look at when most private and/or Christian schools were started here in Nashville, you'll see a sad correlation to when the desegregation court order was passed and enforced). When I was teaching and we had assemblies where kids could sit where they wanted, it was like the Red Sea parting: African Americans on one side, Caucasians on another. I don't think it was intentional racism; it was simply cultural affinity and comfort within that setting.

What I'm afraid that this rezoning will do is remove an excuse for people to have to interact with those different than themselves. I know that I'm a more rounded person because of my exposure to different cultures and races. And hopefully, we can help Kinsey and Connor do it outside of their school educational experience.


belinda said...

WOW - I totally agree with you! I went to an all-white private school through 9th grade. I chose (actually begged) to go to a public county school and my parents finally gave in. What an eye-opening experience! My parents made a lot of mistakes, but prejudice was one thing they never taught me. They thought they were doing the right thing sending me to a private Christian school. My kids always attended a public school. I am a firm believer in exposing them to things - how are they ever going to learn to deal with the world otherwise?

Clarissa said...

very with you. I knew no difference, spending 5th-10th grades at Caldwell/Meigs, then Hume-Fogg.

When I went to Hunters Lane I entered the great divide and felt so confused by the separate tables, the separate sides of the hall ... it just made no sense to me.

My friends through the prior years had been Vietnamese, Korean, African-American, and all sorts of Caucasians from different socioeconomic and cultural (or debatably not-so-cultural!) backgrounds. I missed all that.

But diversity is so much more than even racial, cultural, or economic ... but I won't hijack.

Amy said...

I understand your thoughts and feel the same way. We just moved our girls from private to public schools at just the ages most people do the opposite. For the very reasons you mentioned.

Random fact: I was the only white chick on my high school track team (in Mississippi, no less). Great experience - I got quite an education!

I have a feeling your children will find ways to connect with you leading them.

Eli MF Cash said...

Amen Amen Amen. I feel very lucky/blessed/fortunate to have gone to King and not McGavock. A friend showed me the Koran in the 7th grade and I was watching traditional Hindu dances by the 8th grade. That being said, I feel as the neighborhoods themselves become less segregated, the neighborhood schools will follow suit.

Lori said...

I continue to count myself blessed for having the opportunity to go to MLK rather than McGavock (again, backing up Eli's comment). I know that where I would be in life today would be a very different place, and probably in a negative way. I learned to love and appreciate all kinds of people and today people joke about how I wouldn't even know the Blue Man group was blue people if it wasn't for the name. LOL. Being exposed and in collaboration with people from so many walks of life is one of the best blessings I could've ever been given. It would be a shame to rob our future generations of the same opportunities. In some ways, I see that we are slipping backwards instead of continuing to make progress in our attempts to accept and embrace people of races other than our own. If we do not learn from our history, we are destined to repeat it.

And on another note, it's only 2 1/2 years until our 10 year reunion and I am really looking forward to it (even though, as you mentioned, not everyone will be there).

Anonymous said...

Hey Phil, just discovered your blog and came upon this post. As I've traveled throughout the country, I've often extolled the virtues of MLK and magnet schools writ large for the very reasons you highlight.

For predominately suburban areas in particular, it's very difficult to create the sense of community with those of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds than one's own that magnet schools seem to seamlessly (mostly) create for young people. In urban environments, these opportunities seem to be more readily available. Significant changes in socioeconomic and racial makeup in geographically compact areas are common. In my experience, Suburban areas tend to be more homogeneous in both their ethnic makeup and racial makeups, with plenty of exceptions to be sure.

The value of being exposed to people of diverse backgrounds and experiences cannot be underestimated. The opportunity through exposure to explore a culture separate from one's own is one of life's great pleasures.

Like those who posted before me, I am very grateful to have had that experience. Maybe your children will have a similar opportunity to attend a magnet school.

-Josh Jowers '99

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