Okay, there are some mean, nasty people out there with bad ideas, and I think it might actually be a turn of good fortune that we’re seeing them so publicly lately. In general, though, I think people have good intentions. But often, good intentions aren’t good enough.
Especially when it comes to Education. A friend of mine sent me a great piece, “Civics, Community, and Allyship: Why We Chose Our Local Public School,” from the provocative site IntegratedSchools.Org, which has the tagline “families CHOOSING integration.”
The writer, the Los Angeles-based and enigmatically named ILOVECAKE, starts off by talking about sending her child to kindergarten and getting that awful question, “Is it a good school?” Teachers work there. Kids learn there. What do you think? She describes her school:
It is, and has been, historically ignored by the majority of affluent families and community members in our neighborhood. Year after year, it stands proud, despite the silent avoidance of many, a school desperately eager to serve the children of this community, regardless of their families social and intellectual capital.
Her school doesn’t have “glossy brochures.” But it does have “potential and excellence, despite many families and people in our neighborhood who ignore it or don’t consider it worth attending and supporting.” (Myself, I’m keeping a file of such brochures created by the marketing engines at local private schools. Some of these are nicer than college materials I receive. I wonder if school metrics include a “glossy brochure” category — ’cause that sure don’t seem like education to me.)
Similar to maintaining that strip of grass in front of her house, the writer says her “local elementary school is also that — my responsibility. My responsibility to patronize, to trust, to support.”
We have to do better than good intentions, she writes. We have to manifest our intentions in our everyday behaviors:
Because unless I am intentionally placing my children in diverse settings, both socio-economically and racially, unless I am intentionally acknowledging and addressing the issues of school segregation that have divided this great city, I will raise a racist. I won’t mean to. But intentions are no longer enough. Unless I am forcibly putting her out in to the world, confident in her resilience, humanity, and grit, I will keep her cloistered and separate from the truth of what it really means to be an equal among equals.
Sometimes you have to act for the good of all. Words aren’t enough. The things you don’t do are as important as the things you do.
She says that her white children have to grow up in with difference, because if they don’t — well, I’m going to quote her at length again:
[…] they will normalize their white privilege and when it comes time (sooner rather than later) to educate them about structural racism and classism and their part and responsibility to dismantle that system, they will have no context if the only thing they have seen is tokenism, poverty porn, and “model minorities.” Filling a bag full of hygiene products for homeless people, attending a women’s march, donating toys or clothes to low-income kids at Christmas. Those are ego-inflating, guilt-assuaging attempts to to teach empty parables of gratitude, meritocracy, and capitalism. They are good things to do, but if that is the only contact my child has with the real world, no amount of “education” will undo the tacit biased social contract that this creates and reinforces.
The writer lives in a place with charters and other “choices,” and she recognizes that her “privilege is her choice”:
However, in the practice of being a member of this community who cares about equity in education, in the practice of being an anti-racist ally who will use my privilege as a force for good, in the practice that my kid deserves as good of an education as EVERY kid in my neighborhood (nothing more, nothing less), it is no longer enough to condemn this two tiered, race and class based system of education. I refuse to propagate this system by being willing to sacrifice another child’s educational opportunities for my own’s.
I don’t know your reaction to this piece or the material I’ve quoted from it, but it’s worth remember that, powered by central politics, the re-segregation movement is finding new life, as U.S. News & World Report reports in this piece.
In the end, ILOVECAKE sent her kid to school realizing it would be “imperfectly perfect.” She concludes by saying, “That maybe if my kids lives and educations aren’t perfectly orchestrated or curated or cultivated they could still be amazing humans.”
Our intentions aren’t good enough. We need to engage fully with our society — and schools are at the foundation of this.