When I was a child I went to an independent school that annually honored its founding fathers (maybe mothers?) It was a school that largely served upper middle class white New Yorkers–designed as a progressive school from K-12. The story was told about how the founders mission was to be a school for workingmen’s children so that they would learn to build a more democratic society, especially a more co-operative one. But year after year I wondered, why are we celebrating instead of grieving a lost opportunity. Because by the l940s, when I was a student, there were virtually no “workingmen’s” children and a few (very few) students from families of color.
I’m reminded time after time how easily we fall into such hypocrisies. Well-intended. As I visit schools these days I am reminded that while we still “celebrate” the Brown vs Board of Ed decision of 1954–we have abandoned the cause it was fought for long ago. We now design schools (not just charters either) to serve particular demographic groups, and develop for them what we think is what “they” need. It’s not just the Supreme Court’s fault–although they bear everlasting condemnation for their reversal of the Brown decision–but the fault of all those who have had a hand in designing local, state and federal policy. The very idea of Integration has become an old-fashioned “fad” that has long since been discarded.
Shame on us since we know that if we are to have a more democratic world we can’t live and learn in separate and unequal enclaves, with the message that our basic human needs can’t be met together.
Filed under: 2013 posts