The Difference Between a Good School and Choosing Whiteness and Wealth
July 3, 2019 6:32 PM   Subscribe

Choosing your child's school usually starts with choosing where you live. And choosing where you live starts with looking at the grading of schools. But what if that grading was skewed implicitly and maybe purposefully toward the white rich neighborhood school rather than the economically and racially diverse school that may also provide the education that will result in the child going on to college?

In New Orleans, this is question has more layers as the city has become the first major American city without any traditional schools.
posted by tafetta, darling! (36 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
this reminds me of another interesting read that also looks at the reasons behind some parents choices of schools for their kids.
posted by honor the agreement at 7:14 PM on July 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm at the age where a bunch of my coworkers are dealing with getting their kids into middle and high school.

Coworker A: Works in tech, wife is an exec, approximate household income is ~$3/4m a year. Coworker was debating getting his kid into a "worse" school district since he doesn't want his kids to be completely spoiled and he wants to spare them the problems the other rich kids have.

Coworker B: Household income $200k. Owns a house, but just moved his whole family to an apartment for the next 6 years while he rents the house out so his daughter can enroll in a "better" district.

The worse district for A is the same as the better district for B.

Funding schools from property taxes is dumb.
posted by mikesch at 7:32 PM on July 3, 2019 [57 favorites]

Somewhat related, They believe more students should attend neighborhood schools. But what happens when it’s their child? An intimate look at what happens when white, gentrifying parents choose to keep their children in the local, predominantly African-American neighborhood schools.
posted by peeedro at 8:00 PM on July 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

Most prominently: high turnover among teachers and administrators, which leads to an unstable academic environment. His daughter says she has become an expert card player because of all the free time she has had with substitute teachers.

Sounds so familiar... I work in an urban high school and we lost the entire science department last year, half the math department and two VPs this year. But the school is on the up and a much better place to work, overall, than it was when I started there a few years ago.
posted by subdee at 9:41 PM on July 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Compounding the issue is what data they're pulling to grade the school.

The local, demographically majority-minority grade school my daughter goes to just changed from a K-8 to a K-5 this past year, after the district finished refurbing a local middle school.

A high school in our district switched from being a monolithic high school, to multiple autonomous schools on the same campus for I think 3 years (including one just for teen parents with free daycare, briliant), and then back into one unified school again.

They can pull aggregate data for the whole district, but it's harder as a parent to accurately judge any individual school within it, without actually (you know) attending the school.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:44 PM on July 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

In our area, the primary determinant of a school's score is the proportion of ESL students. The ESL students should not be lumped in to the general test scores, it creates perverse incentives to minimize the number of ESL students and scares parents away from perfectly good schools with a minority Spanish speaking population. This is not to imply anything about the intelligence of ESL students, English speaking students forced to go to Mexico by ICE face the same hurdles due to not speaking the language of instruction fluently.
posted by benzenedream at 10:25 PM on July 3, 2019 [6 favorites]

“Good schools” is a dog whistle.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:22 AM on July 4, 2019 [26 favorites]

Was just thinking about this yesterday. The article centers white, progressive families, which is the author's perspective and that's fine. In these conversations, though, who thinks about the families and kids who don't have a choice? It's apalling that our education system is built on a system of inequity. I'm still only at the surface of learning about what we can do to change it.
posted by jj's.mama at 3:32 AM on July 4, 2019 [28 favorites]

Peeedro that wapo article is just crazy to me. I'm sympathetic to the parents because these decisions are so hard and unknowable and you only get one chance, but in my opinion the idea that for a kid as nerdy and academically successful as the daughter there will be anything but the tiniest diminishing returns on going to the other school is just fantasy. Maybe there were social emotional issues that didn't make it into the article, but this fantasy that minor gradations of academic rigor will have any impact on your future when in reality past a certain wealth/performance level its basically all based on luck and networking is just... wishful thinking.
posted by Wretch729 at 5:31 AM on July 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

Funding schools from property taxes is dumb.

No - the way it is done is dumb. There are models where those taxes go to a regional (state/provincial) government education agency. That agency then looks at things like... census data to determine the number of school age kids in a district and re-allocates funds accordingly. This is pretty much how Canada works... You can then send your kids to the the "most appropriate fit" in your city/town. If it is out of their assigned district, you may have to handle transportation yourself - but bussing is typically extra fees anyways.

This was all my experience in Alberta - they even managed to split the funding between traditional schools, Catholic schools and eventually charter schools - you could send your kids to any of those. Well - at least one member of the family would have to be Catholic, but no one had to actually "practice". As for charters, they could be more exclusive - your child might have to "meet" the charter requirements. (i.e. one school was for advanced/gifted learners, so the child would have to test at "2 years above current grade level, in at least one subject" to qualify)

This is not rocket science. No one complains when they are driving on roads built using public taxation and re-allocation of funds.
posted by jkaczor at 5:48 AM on July 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

I am a white person who grew up in a K-12 school system with court ordered forced busing for integration. My high school (and at the time, all schools in our entire city-county merged system) looked a lot like District B in the FPP article. I have a STEM PhD from a fancy pants school considered among the best for my subfield and work happily as teaching faculty at a college that looks a lot like District B, too.

When people tell me that they "just want what's best" for their precious child, I ask them how on earth my life would have been better if I had gone to all white schools while the black kids in Charlotte continued to go to neglected schools with secondhand books. Like, would I have gotten more PhDs?

One of my friends from all the way through K-12 is a black guy who now has a PhD in chemistry who would not have gone to the same schools I did without busing. Would the world have been better if I had somehow gotten a "better" education while he had gotten a subpar one? Because that's what's happening, again, right now.

Precious white kids Mykenzee and Chayden (sorry if those are actually your kids' names) are getting the best education segregation can buy, while kids of color are mostly back to attending schools with no white people attending or most importantly paying any attention to the degradation of the facilities, the lack of access to quality science, music, and art education, or the constant drain of qualified teachers.

It's not that I was not hurt by my integrated education. I was helped. I am a better person for it. I am a better teacher for it. And my classmates all seem to be better off, too.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:55 AM on July 4, 2019 [31 favorites]

You ever notice where mass school shootings happen? Lily-white suburban/semi-rural "good school districts".
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:22 AM on July 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

We’re thinking about this since here in DC there are a ton of schools which have not-great numbers until you actually break them down by family socioeconomic status and see that, shockingly, the kids from affluent, educated homes do about the same as their peers elsewhere. My partner is a public school teacher and is well aware of this problem — she once had an admin explain that poor attendance was due to the teachers not making school exciting enough, knowing full well that the student in question was staying home to watch younger siblings so the parents wouldn’t lose their jobs — so we’re planning to see how it goes at our local school but it is impressive how powerfully our society encourages fear about this. I think a lot of it goes back to meritocracy propaganda wanting to encourage the idea that poor outcomes are always due to individual choices, because otherwise you’d feel justified taxing rich people to even things out.
The ESL students should not be lumped in to the general test scores, it creates perverse incentives to minimize the number of ESL students and scares parents away from perfectly good schools with a minority Spanish speaking population.
One school here came up with a creative way to game the national rankings by doing the opposite: the score was calculated based on the number of students taking AP tests (not only those who passed) but had a threshold for the percentage of students passing at least one test. They pushed all of the students to take tests they were completely unprepared for (think a recent immigrant taking AP English after a year or two total of speaking English - there were years where math, physics, etc. had a 0% pass rate) to juice the first number, and then had a ton of native speakers take AP Spanish for the second. I’m not sure the local education reporter ever caught on.
posted by adamsc at 7:26 AM on July 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

The parents in the WaPo article who are worried that their daughter won't be challenged enough at the local school, and so are considering sending her to the (whiter) more "academically rigorous" school farther away (even though the local school has many of the same academic programming opportunities, from the sound of it), but are in a quandary about how this relates to their values, while having been heavily involved in local education issues and therefore really ought to know enough to break down data on student outcomes by family socioeconomic background not just school attended, as well as ignoring their daughter's stated preference for the local school, is definitely cringey. Here's an idea: they could volunteer their time, extra money that they would be spending sending the daughter to the other school, power and influence, etc. to help improve the local school (adding whatever bits of programming it doesn't yet have compared to the other school, addressing the issues that led to the higher teacher turnover rate, etc.).

This isn't even an novel new idea that I just thought of! My parents had similar values about public education to those claimed by the article's interview subjects. Social stuff that harms a kid is harder to solve when one also has a school administration that either implicitly or explicitly tolerates bullying - and that was an issue that my parents did look out for and would have/did consider changing schools for. (It doesn't sound like that's an issue for the family in the WaPo article, but I guess one never knows what's been left out of a story based on just one article like this.) But modulo baseline availability of academic programs (which, from the WaPo article, was not an issue in this case), a lot of upper middle class white parents have the resources to help a school make improvements(*) to academic programming or to supplement what their individual kids are getting in school.

(* Noting that minority-white schools that have adopted reading lists or curricula that better reflect their student population than the traditionally very white school curricula are already making an academic improvement that also happens to help white kids be better citizens and human beings; although some parents no doubt erroneously think that "academically better" curricula needs to be more white. See also: parents who think that teaching their kids only to do math computations by rote is academically better than math curricula that help kids develop an understanding of the "why" behind those calculations, balanced with enough practice for computational proficiency to support kids' development of number sense and estimation skills.)
posted by eviemath at 8:14 AM on July 4, 2019 [8 favorites]

I don't have kids, but I do own a house, and I've been thinking a lot about the politics of school zoning. My house is in a distinctive neighborhood that is sort of defined by the local elementary school. Actually, it's literally defined by the local elementary school: the neighborhood grew up around the school, and we share a name with the school. (I'm pretty sure the school got its name first.) People here have a huge amount of pride in the school, which recently celebrated its centennial. They think it's an absolute marker of wholesomeness that pretty much every kid in the neighborhood attends the neighborhood elementary school and that they can (and mostly do) walk to school. Another big marker of wholesomeness is that this is a neighborhood of owner-occupied houses. There's been a big push to limit the number of rental permits, and the city recently put a moratorium on new rental permits in our neighborhood. My neighbors, most of whom are liberal-to-left-of-liberal, believe that these things are central to their identity: that they live in a close-knit neighborhood of modest, owner-occupied homes where every child can walk to the local elementary school.

But here's the thing. If you define the catchment area of the elementary school based on who can walk to it, and if you set up your neighborhood so that the only people who can live there are people who can come up with a downpayment and get a mortgage, even for a relatively modest home, then you're going to have a pretty non-diverse school. And the local school is, indeed, pretty non-diverse. It is 85% white, and it is 25% low-income. Great Schools gives it a 6. The closest neighboring elementary school is 39% white and 75% low-income, and it gets a 2 from Great Schools. You could easily combine the catchment areas of these two schools, which would increase the diversity at my neighborhood school and make the nearest school less overwhelmingly low-income. You'd probably have to provide buses for some kids, but we're talking a really short bus ride, and many kids could still walk. (The neighboring school is about a mile from my house.) But people here would fight that tooth and nail, and they would completely deny that it has anything to do with race or class. It's just so wholesome that every child here walks to the same elementary school. It just gives the neighborhood such a distinctive, lovely sense of cohesion. I don't believe that you can separate that sense of cohesion from race and class, but I don't think very many people here would see it that way.

There has been talk about redistricting the elementary schools to make them more diverse, and I mostly didn't pay much attention, because I don't have kids. But now that I own a house, I feel like I have a stake, and I feel like I"m complicit in segregation if I don't support redistricting. I don't think that's going to endear me to the neighbors, and I can already hear the howls of "you don't have kids, so you shouldn't have a say." And in general, I can see the merit of people who don't have kids not having a say, but not on this one. My property taxes are paying for segregated schools. The value of my house is probably being propped up by school segregation. I'm part of this, whether I want to be or not.

(I also think we should stop limiting rental permits, but that's a whole other issue, and that's going to piss the neighbors off even more.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:25 AM on July 4, 2019 [22 favorites]

Conversely, our neighborhood (though rapidly gentrifying) is one of the few in the city with a historically black population, or with a lack of BANANA pushback on public housing.

I am very curious to see how many of my fellow whities keep pulling their kids out to charters or private schools, if there's some sort of magical socioeconomic ratio where that will stop happening.

I'm not holding my breath.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 8:41 AM on July 4, 2019

I grew up in a small town with only one high school, so there was none of this anxiety about where to go to school. You lived in our town, you sent your kid to Our Town High.

Three years ago, we moved to the outskirts of Houston, and--wow--it's a new world. Almost every time we met a new white person, they started advising us about which schools to avoid and which ones to try to get into. I know so many people who have moved after their kids finished elementary to get them into the "right" high school. Our neighborhood is zoned to an elementary that is very highly regarded and a middle school that is not, and I've seen several families move right after Junior finishes 5th grade--sometimes just a little bit up the road, as we're near the boundary line between districts.

I dismissed all this school anxiety as mainly racism, and decided to send our kid to the middle school we're zoned for, which is generally considered the second worst of the middle schools in our district. I knew how pointless these rankings are, and that smart kids with good support at home do fine wherever. That lasted one semester. She got tired of being called a bitch, tired of boys commenting on her body and what they'd like to do to it, tired of being pushed in the hallways, tired of bullying in general. It was oppressive. I contacted her teachers and principals, but no one seemed really interested in trying to make things better. My wife teaches at an elementary school in the neighboring, better-regarded district, so all we had to do was fill out a couple forms to send the kid to a different middle school--one that's actually closer to our house. And...she loves it. Had two dozen friends by the end of the first week, hasn't had any of the sexualized aggression she dealt with at the other school, hasn't been called a bitch even once. She looks forward to school every day.

On one hand, this is just our story. It's an anecdote, not generalizable, insert all the usual caveats here. But I learned that it was foolish of me to completely dismiss the warnings everyone gave us, and that there's more to it here than just racism. (I don't think there's a single majority-white middle school or high school anywhere near us, anyway.) Setting aside academic preparation, there's the matter of behavioral standards and school culture as well, and the difference between Neighborhood Middle School and Just Over the Boundary Middle School is huge here.

This whole thing was an enormous learning experience for our family. In my ideal world, I'd be able to talk forty healthy families with time and resources into moving into our neighborhood and helping me change the culture of the local middle school. But that's not going to happen, and I can't do it alone. In the meantime, what my daughter was experiencing was intolerable. So while I hate, hate, hate being yet another reasonably well-off white family who fled that school for the better one up the road, I couldn't sacrifice my kid on the altar of idealism, either.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:45 AM on July 4, 2019 [29 favorites]

(whiter) more "academically rigorous" school farther away (even though the local school has many of the same academic programming opportunities, from the sound of it)

That one was a complicated choice: the magnet school wasn't just a magnet/academically selective school, it also sounds like it was offering an alternative model of education. The local school did as well, in the form of the IB program. Alternative education isn't about being more or less rigorous - it's about teaching in different ways, some of which are much more effective for some people than standard modes.

I'm torn on these issues: I'm an adamant supporter of integrated schools, but I also benefited directly from being moved out of a racially diverse, low-income school into an academically selective and primarily white gifted program. Now, my previous school wasn't District B, it was District D-, with a racist, moronic principal and incompetent / bullying teachers (because anyone who could move elsewhere did); the staff were the problem, not the students (and when the staff changed, the school got better). I wish more kids had been moved out of my school, and I worry that bright children of colour were systematically disadvantaged when it came to the required recommendations. But I do feel like that move set me on a really different path for life than if I had remained where I was (where I was already academically "checked out" at age seven) - and it put me on the path for (eventually) finding the alternative education system where I thrived.

That said, I have no PhDs - and the person I know who did absolutely the best in university and then did well in a competitive graduate school went to a really enhhh high school. (I was going to say terrible, but I realised that really it was just below average - it didn't have a lot of crime or poverty, just a mixed bag of teachers). It did help that both of us grew up in a country where the best universities aren't especially selective, and how you perform in high school makes much less impact on your access to cheap, high-quality tertiary education.


I can say, also: as most racialized people are very well aware, being a racial minority has its own stress - particularly if you combine this with being nerdy or weird or otherwise not fitting in. The racial tensions where I grew up (a majority-visible minority community) were really palpable. Imagine being blamed for systemic racism when you're a six year old - yes, you benefit from whiteness, but you're also still a six-year-old who just wants to play with her best friend from kindergarten but now the older girls are saying she shouldn't play with you because she's black and you're white.

The adult me can look back and see all the shit that racialized (especially black) people have to deal with and can understand where they were coming from; the kid me just knew that they were losing their friend. So I can understand parents being worried about their children, socially - just as I know that racialized parents deal with this all the time. Ideally, a school would be integrated where no one ethic or racial group were a very small minority.
posted by jb at 9:20 AM on July 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you define the catchment area of the elementary school based on who can walk to it, and if you set up your neighborhood so that the only people who can live there are people who can come up with a downpayment and get a mortgage, even for a relatively modest home, then you're going to have a pretty non-diverse school.

Another thing that feeds into this, at least/especially in areas that used to have de jure segregation, is that the schools were placed where they were in order to be conveniently segregated. Of course there was housing segregation too, and a school for black kids would* be located towards the center of that so that black kids could walk there. Likewise in the whites-only neighborhood nearby.

Which of course means that even within that system/district there isn't any school whose natural catchment area would be integrated, and that actual desegregation requires busing or something similar until such time as the school system has built out schools not intended to be segregated (which obvs might be never).

*At least, if it was one of those places where they were segregated but didn't have their hearts in it instead of one of those places that was segregated and looked for any opportunity to fuck over African-American families.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:39 AM on July 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

Pater Aletheias: "In my ideal world, I'd be able to talk forty healthy families with time and resources into moving into our neighborhood and helping me change the culture of the local middle school. But that's not going to happen, and I can't do it alone."

Is it foolish of me to wonder whether there might be a way to define and enforce a healthy school culture? Having a healthy school atmosphere shouldn't require a ton of extra parent involvement; it should be the default, the standard, the norm.

I'm so sorry for what your daughter went through, and I'm so glad you were able to move her to a better school with a healthier culture.

I know you, from your posts here, and I imagine you also worry about the kids who - like the kids jj's.mama mentions - don't get to move out of that school. The world I want (and, I believe, the world you want) means a healthy and respectful culture for all students in every school. I wonder how we get there.
posted by kristi at 10:27 AM on July 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

Pater Aletheias: decided to send our kid to the middle school we're zoned for .....She got tired of being called a bitch, tired of boys commenting on her body and what they'd like to do to it, tired of being pushed in the hallways, tired of bullying in general. It was oppressive. I contacted her teachers and principals, but no one seemed really interested in trying to make things better.

I cannot get my head around the fact that this was Middle School. What is going on? This is 11-13 year olds behaving like this?
posted by indianbadger1 at 10:36 AM on July 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Whereas I am impressed that they found a place where that was not what middle school was like.

That was certainly what everyone I know when through in junior high in the 1980s and 1990s. All the worst sexual harassment and bullying had nothing to do with our schools being integrated--sexual harassment and bullying is what the children of white wealthy people do for fun from ages 12-14 (and many straight on through adulthood. See Kavanaugh, Brett).

That's awesome if there are places not like that.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:00 AM on July 4, 2019 [8 favorites]

I can say, also: as most racialized people are very well aware, being a racial minority has its own stress - particularly if you combine this with being nerdy or weird or otherwise not fitting in.

This is tough (my son is 7 and so far has been either the only or one of 2-3 white kids in his classes). One result of the extreme amount of segregation in schools is that resources for how to teach about race when your kid is both white and attending a majority Black school. It's not even remotely the same as the pain that Black parents have to go through in teaching their children about what it means to be Black in America. It is definitely a different context than what's usually assumed in the available resources targeted at, uh, woke white parents who want to talk to their kids about race and not fuck it up. Because as noted many times above, woke white parents more often than not have their kids in segregated schools. We've had to scramble a couple times to help our kid deal with some big feels about being "different" when that difference also includes massive racial and class privilege that he's barely aware of (last time this really came up in a big way was when he was in kindergarten and 5 years old so he really really didn't understand). If more white kids and parents found themselves in this situation, maybe I wouldn't feel like I'm flying blind all the time trying to parent around it?
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:22 PM on July 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

Pater Aletheias: decided to send our kid to the middle school we're zoned for .....She got tired of being called a bitch, tired of boys commenting on her body and what they'd like to do to it, tired of being pushed in the hallways, tired of bullying in general. It was oppressive. I contacted her teachers and principals, but no one seemed really interested in trying to make things better.

I cannot get my head around the fact that this was Middle School. What is going on? This is 11-13 year olds behaving like this?

Hey, so I think we should probably ask people who work in schools what they think about this. It feels kinda weird to me every time this subject gets brought up in public, as though there are no experts on education in the United States. In fact, more than 1% of Americans are teachers, so you probably know some of us. Ask us!

First, school districting and funding is a system that 100% maintains racial, ethnic, and financial hierarcies. I don't know anyone who works in education who feels otherwise.

Second, it's true that many parents choose to move/select schools based on data that basically reflects student demographics, or thinly veiled (and sometimes subconscious) racism. (In my personal experience, that's how about 80% of such decisions are made, but YMMV).

Third, it is absolutely not true that all schools are of equal quality. Standardized test scores and other similar metrics are not good measures, but massively unequal funding (in MA ranging from $10,676 to $38,061 per student per annum) starts urban, majority-minority, rural, and high-needs schools off with a disadvantage, even before we get to the realities of the students they teach.

This is not because the students are bad. This is because, for instance, in my district, up to 15% of students are estimated to experience some homelessness in any given schoolyear. Similarly, we estimate that approaching 10% of students have experienced serious (as in we would be mandated to report it and DCF would be breaking up families if we were told of it) trauma at home. Additionally, because of where the facilities tend to be located, children living in group homes or other similar arrangements are more likely to be in under-resourced districts.

In this environment, where students, unsurprisingly, have a great deal of difficulty with appropriate behavior, and we have precious few resources (we just recently improved to having one school adjustment counselor for every ~500 students), behavior is not well-managed, expectations tend to be low, and the experience of Pater Alethias' child might be not even noticed by most adults in the building because it doesn't stand out from much more egregious things that happen every day.

I hope this helps others to understand a bit, but please do ask if I can clarify/elaborate.
posted by thegears at 12:36 PM on July 4, 2019 [11 favorites]

Hydropsyche: your middle school experience was like mine, at a well-off, mostly white school, only I went in the 70's. (I remember when we GenXers were the "kids these days!") Back in that day, bullying was viewed as building character, and a nurturing school experience was "coddling." So at least most schools, educators and parents have moved beyond that.

For a country who talks a good game about "famblee values" and "our children are our future" we do a piss-poor job of actually valuing living children, especially older ones and not-white ones. A good school free of bullying, that children actually feel supported and valued in, should be the birthright of every child, not just well-off white kids with supportive parents. (And why I'm voting for Elizabeth Warren in the primary; she strikes me as someone who wants to achieve that.) This means yes, we have to throw money and people at the problem - a whole lot of money.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:52 PM on July 4, 2019 [7 favorites]

I've now put two kids through school and sent them off to college. You know what really determines what college your kids go to? The size of your bank account. Where your kid goes to elementary school doesn't matter.
posted by spudsilo at 1:17 PM on July 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

In Irvine we have white flight away from University High School because of parents who worry about it being too hard or competitive. Objectively Uni High is the better school statswise, but it's "too Asian."
posted by storytam at 1:31 PM on July 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

Pater Aletheias, this is a fraught conversation and I’m sure that you know what’s better for your child than some rando on the internet but “I couldn't sacrifice my kid on the altar of idealism, either” is exactly the offensive kind of thing that white liberals say when excusing why their kids don’t go to a racially diverse integrated school.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:54 PM on July 4, 2019 [7 favorites]

thegears, the info you provided is very illuminating. As I mentioned earlier, the public K-12 system in the U.S. is simply inequitable, and it's apalling that not more is being done. I fathom that if there were no schools with adequate funding and resources, only then would the general public start making a fuss. But for now, the families who have the privilege to afford to move and choose their neighborhoods, are appeased by how it works for them. I do want to learn more about how we can change this system. It is flat out discriminatory to fund schools differently. How is it that one school gets funded less than another? This is bonkers! People know this. But they don't care. We want to talk about how healthcare is a problem in the U.S. let's also talk about how education is also served as a privilege and not a right the same way healthcare is provided.

The U.S. is the most backwards country in the world, and I'm so ashamed to be an American. Not every American has the equal right to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. 4th of July is a holiday for some not all.
posted by jj's.mama at 2:22 PM on July 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

Regarding the sexual harassment and bullying issue. That's complex. Just the other day, reflecting on the #metoo movement, I started tracing back to the first time I was sexually harassed as a girl. It started in 4th grade for me while walking to the store on the street. By grown men. I was teased in elementary school, but it wasn't sexual. In middle school, I was in math class when a classmate commented on my legs and my body. I told my female teacher about it. She did nothing. nothing. It might have been the same class where, after a boy behind me wouldn't stop whispering a jingle using my name, I turned around, told him to be quiet in a loud voice, and i got disciplined. nothing happened to him.

I'm an educator but in a community college. Part of my job is keeping my students safe. However, I never felt safe in K-12. I suppose it depended on the teacher. I wonder if the culture is changing. Yet, this wasn't that long ago. I graduated highschool in the late 90's. I suppose my highschool was better. It was one of the wealthier high schools in the area. But, the issue of school culture is based on so many factors. And again. All students deserve well funded schools and a healthy school culture. So I don't feel better that I was lucky despite my crappy middle school years.
posted by jj's.mama at 2:37 PM on July 4, 2019 [9 favorites]

I found myself in the embarrassing position when I was twelve to get out of my seat and the back of my pale blue uniform had blood stains from my first period. For years after that, boys would spray red ink on the back of my skirt, snickering and laughing, like it was the funniest thing that they had ever done. My mother complained to the school principal, not really out of any sympathy for me, more that the red ink stains were hard to launder out of my school uniform. I am still gobsmacked that that was allowed to happen and no one was told that it was not the right thing to do. It was like boys will be boys.
posted by PollyWaffle at 12:42 AM on July 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

As a fairly sensitive Aspie kid, I'd have been eaten alive at a school with a serious bullying problem and overwhelmed teachers.

Whatever I lost by being in an extremely homogenous school (and I expect it was not inconsiderable) I just don't think I'd have made it out the other side nearly as intact if I'd gone to a poorly funded place.

Would I have gone to college anyway? Absolutely yes. But that is not the only metric.

I truly don't know what the hell I'd do if I were a parent now.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:08 AM on July 5, 2019

If we fund all schools equally and they end up as a result all being "poorly funded", then we need to raise taxes so that all kids can get a good education. There are plenty of sensitive Aspie kids who are not white or wealthy. They also deserve a good education. All kids deserve a good education.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:10 AM on July 5, 2019 [7 favorites]

Absolutely, the sort of education I had needs to be the default (except much, much more integrated). The ongoing misappropriation of school funds to wealthy communities is basically an ongoing crime. My home state legislature has been on and off held in contempt by the state courts for underfunding education.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:14 AM on July 5, 2019

The thing is, we know what works for school desegregation, because some districts did it successfully. You treat entire metropolitan areas as a single district, so white people can't avoid integration by moving out to the suburbs, and then you bus children to achieve racial and economic integration. It worked great in places like Louisville and Charlotte. The problem is that the Supreme Court has made it really difficult to enact effective desegregation plans. And I don't know what to do about that, because it's not like we're going to get a more-friendly Supreme Court anytime soon.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:22 AM on July 5, 2019 [8 favorites]

About the WaPo article: the parents in the article have been heavily invested in local school issues. The choice the daughter was making was not between a minority school and an all-white school, but rather a school that is a majority-minority magnet high school (43% white, 31% black) and the zoned high school that is basically 100% black. DC schools are different in that the "good" schools are much more diverse than many other affluent cities.
posted by schwinggg! at 5:06 PM on July 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

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