Friday, May 16, 2014

Celebrating 60 More Years Of School Segregation?

As first published in DelawareLiberal by Progressive Populist on 5/16/2014

Much is being written and broadcast this week about the U.S.A. celebrating 60 years of school desegregation by way of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.  This was the year I graduated from my mostly segregated high school.

I say mostly because I was one of a busload of army brats transported daily to a nearby civilian high school.  The only reason there were a few black kids in my school was I guess the local school board couldn't find a way to prohibit my fellow army brat kids who were black from attending their otherwise all white school.

But to my point.  No, we no longer have de jure school segregation.  But Americans have found a way to maintain this stupid practice by simply boycotting and fleeing inner city public schools mostly populated by low income black and hispanic kids.  Result?  De facto segregation and very much separate and unequal educations.

Further, while the separate but equal doctrine is no longer applies legally, it applies in practical application in the way many if not most public schools are funded to provide middle and upper class public schools with enrichment tools the affluent parents fork out extra money to get for their kids while less affluent parents are powerless to provide such things as gyms, computer labs,  ball fields, art and music classes, band uniforms and instruments and great field trips.
So, 60 years later, little or no change?  Not much really to celebrate.  Post racial America?  that's a cruel joke.

With my own eyes and ears I saw stonewalling up close and personal in a Texas city.  By 1970, 16 years post Brown v. Board, our huge urban school district was totally segregated, save a few scattered middle class black kids populating suburban schools.  So, a highly motivated group of white liberal, black and hispanic urban residing parents banded together, got organized and in a year tossed out most of a segregationist white school school board and integrated our school district.

But, concerned about white flight, our group, of which I was privileged to be involved with my wife and kids, our board and new superintendent created the first magnet school program outside of NYC, including our own High School For Performing and Visual Arts (yes, we even put that on a very long bumpersticker !).  And our integration program mostly left neighborhood elementary schools alone and concentrated the magnets in middle schools and high schools, to limit the busing of the little ones.

In a few short years, all these programs,  designed to ease the angst of white families and create imaginative new opportunities for all kids, utterly failed to stem white flight.  White "christian academies" sprung up, suburban Catholic schools flourished and new suburban school districts sprouted up all over the region, all touting their educational excellence. People knew what those code words meant.  White.  in a decade or two the integrated urban district went from 60 % anglo to 91% black and hispanic.

Ok, this was so called conservative Texas.  But what of Blue and liberal areas?  Well, my home of origin, marvelous Marin County in northern California doesn't look a whole lot better, known to be a liberal elite bastion.  Nor does the very Blue Delaware in which I am now residing.  And from what I read, most of the liberal Blue areas, north, south, east and west look pretty much the same,  school segregation wise.

Yes, I know, this is economic segregation where  the people across the tracks so to speak just have to work harder to break out, the conservatives tell us.  Apparently all good things just take time in America.  60 years was simply not  enough time to change attitudes about "those people".

I'm waiting.  Not much time left in my opinion.