Battlepanda: Elusive Intergration


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Elusive Intergration

Ezra points to a good interview with Jonathan Kozol, a guy I have not heard of before. Here be snippets:
There’s the greatest irony of all: If you want to see the most segregated
school in America today, ask to see the school named after Martin Luther King.
Or Rosa Parks, or Thurgood Marshall. New York City has a school named for Jackie
Robinson. Is this an integrated school that represents the ideals for which
Jackie Robinson is honored? Of course not. It’s a 96 percent black and Hispanic
school. There’s a school in New York named for Langston Hughes that’s 99 percent
black and Hispanic. The principal of Martin Luther King High School even said to
me, “Honestly, here we are at Lincoln Center in New York in a school that’s
named for Martin Luther King and I have to hunt around the building to find my
eight white students.”
The words of Brown v. Board of Education were clear: Even if segregated
schools could ever be made equal in physical facilities, faculty, etc., as
schools attended by white children, they would still be destructive to the souls
of segregated children by the very fact of segregation in itself. We have placed
them in isolation because we don’t want you to contaminate our own schools. It
sends a destructive message for young blacks, and they recognize it very well.
One teenager in Harlem said to me, “It’s like if they don’t have room for
something and don’t know how to throw it out they put it back in the garage.” I
said, “Is that how you feel?” She said, “That’s exactly how I feel.”
And these schools are not simply segregated; they’re wildly unequal. Nationally,
overwhelmingly non-white schools receive $1,000 less per pupil than
overwhelmingly white schools. In NYC, to give a dramatic example, there are kids
in the South Bronx who get about $11,000 a year towards their education while
right next door in the white suburb of Bronxville, they get $19,000. Kids that I
write about are treated by America as if they were worth half as much as
children in the white suburbs.
I often hear privileged white people say, “Well, that doesn’t sound quite fair, but can you really buy your way to a better education for poor kids?” Typically people who ask that question send their kids to Andover and Exeter. And still, the parents who spend $30,000 a year to guarantee their child a royal road into the Ivy League have the nerve to look me in the eyes and ask me about buying your way into a better education.

Ezra expressed some guilt over being the unwitting beneficiary of the unlevel playing field. As do I, especially since I goosed up my SAT scores somewhat with a Princeton Review course (nevermind that my mom made me take it). Of course, more intergrated schools will not make up for all those extra private benefits our family heaped upon us. But it seems like an obvious starting point.