Friday, March 23, 2012

Shame, Cross-Referenced to Morally Reprehensible, Really? Still?, and Just Plain Sorry

I'm reading The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathon Kozol. I'd read writing by Kozol before, and this news is, unfortunately, no news to me. It's been seven years since its publication, and there doesn't seem any indication that there's been any reform in desegregating the schools:
Looking specifically at racial segregation, both White flight and minority flight are evidenced in charter schools. Compounding the effects of the nation’s highly segregated neighborhoods, policy makers must consider the economic, social and ethnic segregative effects of charter schools along with potential segregation that may be driven by other forms of school choice.
(As reported in the Daily Kos a few months ago. I'm a little behind on my blog-reading.) 

It's not just charter schools, as reported in Colorlines:
But now more than ever, mustering the energy to address, head-on, the roots of educational inequities is an issue of utmost urgency. Students of color are 44 percent, and growing, of the U.S. public school system. Racial segregation is a legacy we’ve yet to shake off, nowhere more than in American public schools, where students of color are educated in schools that are today both separate and unequal.
I believe this, in spite of Clarence Thomas:
"It never ceases to amaze me that the courts are so willing to assume that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior. Instead of focusing on remedying the harm done to those black schoolchildren injured by segregation, the District Court here sought to convert the Kansas City, Missouri, School District (KCMSD) into a "magnet district" that would reverse the "white flight" caused by desegregation.... there is no reason to think that black students cannot learn as well when surrounded by members of their own race as when they are in an integrated environment."  --Justice Clarence Thomas, 1995, Missouri v. Jenkins concurring opinion
(Speaking of amazement, that Thomas could write this without his pen bursting into flames of hellfire amazes me. If I may speak frankly.) It's not that the students isolated by policies that establish and inexorably enforce segregation "cannot learn as well," but rather that the segregation creates inequities that necessarily rob students of opportunities and tools for learning, that rob them of even a decent environment in which to learn. Which I think we can all agree (in theory, anyway) is still a right in the United States, rather than the privilege it has become--an idea supported by the New Jersey Supreme Court last year:
The New Jersey Supreme Court delivered a sharp setback to Gov. Chris Christie's determination to destroy New Jersey's public schools. The court by a 3 to 2 vote on May 24 voted to uphold the New Jersey state constitution's provision which guarantees a "thorough and efficient" education to all New Jersey children. The court ruled that the Christie administration must restore $500 million to the state's 31 poorest school districts.
Back in 2005, when The Shame of the Nation was first published, Nathan Glazer responded in the NYT with the kneejerk white majority response of Yes, yes, but it's not that simple, and Who, me? I'm not racist:
TO be sure, the case for both integration and equality of expenditure is powerful. But the chief obstacle to achieving these goals does not seem to be the indifference of whites and the nonpoor to the education of nonwhites and the poor, although this is what one would conclude from Kozol's account. Rather, other values, which are not simply shields for racism, stand in the way: the value of the neighborhood school; the value of local control of education and, above all, the value of freedom from state imposition when it affects matters so personal as the future of one's children.
Unbelievable. But maybe the NYT was just trying to stir it with a stick, you know how public feuds are fun to read, and Glazer was someone that Kozol had "criticized severely and repeatedly" in the past, so really, how likely would it be that Glazer would be willing to extend the right hand of fellowship and seek common ground?

Here is a tiny bit of Kozol's response to the above quote from Glazer:
Is it not strange that no such exculpation was provided by Mr. Glazer or by any other reputable Northern intellectuals to white segregationists in Mississippi when they raised exactly the same clarion call of "freedom from state imposition'' (or, in that case, "federal imposition'') to defend their own apartheid system 50 years ago? Why was it so transparently "racism'' in the South? And why is it now conveniently discovered to be "other values'' when it comes to Northern states such as New York?
(The whole of Kozol's response is well worth reading--you can read it here.)

As a nation, as citizens, as neighbors, as fellow parents, as human beings--how can we allow this to continue? How can we participate in this as if there is any kind of reasonable justification? It's wrong. And if we cannot understand how we are hurting children, can we understand how we are hurting ourselves by so doing

UPDATE: Fixed typo. You know the drill.

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