Archive for May, 2012

May 31, 2012

Some Thoughts on Public Schooling and Segregated Cities

Cities cleave along racial and ethnic lines, and every city I’ve ever lived in proves it. When I grew up in Manhattan, there was Harlem, which was black. And East Harlem, which was Hispanic. And the Upper East and Upper West sides, which was where I and most of my friends lived. I’m white and they were, too. Over the years, I watched the formerly Jewish Lower East Side, where my grandpa used to own a textile shop with a handful of his brothers, turn Chinese. Later on I lived in Oakland, where the hills were white. There’s a Chinatown there, too.

In Baltimore the racial divide feels more extreme. Small numbers of young Jews are moving back to town, but the Jewish community at large worships outside the beltway. The Spanish speaking population is growing but per the 2010 U.S. Census only 4.2 percent of Baltimoreans are of Hispanic or Latino origin. The racial split is almost purely Black and White, 63.7 to 29.6 percent. And a fifth of people here live below the poverty line.

Baltimore City School demographics are another indication of how segregated and poor this city has become. This school year, 2011-2012, the public school student population is 86 percent black, though there are still individual neighborhood public schools – like the one in Hampden – where the racial breakdown looks more like that of a New England liberal arts college than of an HBCU. That is, the percentage of students of color in Baltimore’s predominantly white public schools is large enough that an elite college with similar numbers would tout itself as highly diverse. (Everything’s relative.) The big difference: 84 percent of kids in Baltimore City Schools come from low income backgrounds.

Given my private school background, my thoughts on public schooling are skewed. My thoughts on  integrated elementary schooling are just as funky. I was born in Israel. Before my first birthday, my mother took me from Tel Aviv to New York, where I attended a yeshiva from kindergarten through sixth grade. I learned all the things most public school students would learn. I also learned about my cultural heritage and Jewish identity.

My background colored my thinking about the reports and opinions in the New York Times a few weeks ago – they came out around the time of the May 17 anniversary of the decision in Brown v. Board – about what is effectively segregated public schooling in New York City schools. My thoughts went something like this: If the de facto segregation in predominantly Black or Latino or Asian elementary schools included curricula that engaged students in learning about their heritage and grappling with the meaning of their identity as Black or Latino or Chinese, wouldn’t our pluralistic society be better off? Is it enough to prepare students for “democratic citizenship” (if that is what public schools are doing) by teaching them about the Declaration of Independence and Constitution? Maybe we would have a more vibrant political culture if we also prepared students by teaching them about themselves.*

Learning about where I came from when I was young shaped my thinking for life. Is there a better place to do that than in school? Is whitewashing personal and cultural history part of the tragic legacy of the separate but equal logic that led to forced and legally enforced desegregation?

Can public schools teach us about our complex identities? Should they? Do they?** Can it be done in schools where integration is forced?*** I have many questions and few answers. So I read.

* Baltimore-based writer Stacey Patton’s piece on Black studies in the Chronicle of Higher Education also got me thinking about disciplined approaches to teaching identity. The piece kindled a well contained conflagration of controversy when a blogger for the CHE not only questioned the merit of dissertations in the field but outright ridiculed them based on their titles. She was fired.

** Hebrew charter schools are ruffling feathers in the private Jewish day school world. I attended a panel at the Project for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) conference in 2010 that included the founder of the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School in Brooklyn. The school cannot teach prayers or engage students in religious study. They can teach Hebrew and cover topics such as Israeli independence. (Nevertheless, I found it online by searching “Jewish charter school.”) Washington D.C. approved a Hebrew language charter school on April 25, 2012.

*** In thinking about all this, I returned to the 20th century political philosopher Hannah Arendt’s controversial essay, “Reflections on Little Rock.” It’s difficult to make sense of her thinking without knowing something about her allegiance to distinctions between the private and public realms and her critique of the rise of the murky region she calls “the social,” but it’s worth a look.

Up next, some curated links to posts on and around these issues.

May 5, 2012

Baltimore City’s Hampden Elementary/Middle School #55 Gets a Gigantic U.S. Map!

We did it!

May 5, 2012

Map It! It’s Painting Day at Hampden Elementary/Middle School #55 in Baltimore!

The time has come. Today, the Wham! Parent Co-op will be at Hampden Elementary/Middle School #55 on Chestnut Ave between 36th and 37th streets painting a giant U.S. map on the playground blacktop.

Chris from Budeke’s in Fells Point helped choose the colors: Pool party (for water), purple lace, perfect peach, jasper yellow, and green coral. These are really intense in direct sunlight despite being in the pastel range. They also each look great next to every other color. I can’t wait to see how it looks on the ground.

Lots of volunteers will be there. Ciclovia 5 will be racing down the neighborhood a couple blocks to the east – so if you’re going to that, or you’re planning on strolling down The Avenue, take a short detour and check this out. The fun starts at 9:30 a.m.

Colors by Benjamin Moore 
People for Public Schools

#FAIRSCHOOLFUNDINGNOW

sachin CTV

"Only For Creative Thinkers"

India Tour Travel Packages

Honeymoon, Family, Pilgrimage Tour Packages- Balajitourtravel.com

Best Side Sleeper Pillows

pillows for side sleepers, side sleeper pillow, side sleeper pillows

Granny Smith: Unleashed

Observations and random thoughts from a "not so teenager."

Teachers' Letters to Bill Gates

Educators from the US and beyond: please share your teaching stories with Mr. Bill Gates. How have the policies of the Gates Foundation influenced your classroom, your students, your teaching, your schools, and your communities?

Lili Coffin's World of Wine

Featuring the best wine, travel and food of California.

A Stairway To Fashion

contact: ralucastoica23@gmail.com

irwanitnm

my personal web

bmorescience

Just another WordPress.com site

The Not-So-Adopted "Adoptee"

...the stories we have been told are someone else's stories ...

theyoungandthebreastless

Just another WordPress.com site

Reflections of a Second-career Math Teacher

“What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy." – John Dewey, 1900

zahrafahrani

Dreamers

educationalchemy

Authored by Morna McDermott-A blog dedicated to democracy, public education, and the power of the imagination to fight corporate greed--if the truth sounds crazy it is because we have become too accustomed to falsehoods

relativesbookshelf

Just another WordPress.com site

Notes on a Theory...

Thoughts on politics, law, & social science

%d bloggers like this: