Resegregating the Schools

I was up all night thinking about this, still.  It seems to me that there are three facts on the ground–1.  That our public schools are already pretty much segregated.  Folks with enough money send their kids to private school and the folks with enough money to send their kids to private school are predominately white.  2.  Bussing kids sucks for those kids.  It means, often, that they can’t participate in after school activities, that their parents have a difficult, if not impossible time picking them up when they’re sick or traveling themselves to any extra curricular activities, and that they have to travel long ways, often by other schools, to get to school and home again.  3.  Nashville is still casually segregated socially.  Anyone who has lived here longer than about 15 minutes can sit down with a map and circle for you where the white people live and where the black people live and where the immigrant communities are located.  There is some mixing, of course, but overall, our city is still very segregated.

So, the fact is that, if parents want kids to go to school in their own neighborhoods, those schools will be segregated, not by legal policy, but by social custom.

I don’t know what the right thing to do is in that case.  Desegregating schools in a city that remains staunchly segregated is kind of a joke, in terms of public policy.

But I also know that I look at the rezoning maps and I, too, am deeply suspicious.  Peruse with me, please (sorry, PDF).  There are a couple of things that stand out to me.  One is that we still let the river act as a dividing line, as we have always done.  (And you can bet that, if we’re still doing something we have always done, one consequence, intended or not, will be that black and white people are, for the most part, separated.)  Second, though some of the zoning (such as for the Hillwood cluster), does seem to be about feeding all the kids in a community into a high school, there’s a lot of hinky stuff going on in the clustering.

Why, for instance, are kids in the predominately white Sylvan Park area or the predominately white areas around Vanderbilt being sent clear out to Hillsboro and not to Pearl Cohn (which appears to be much, much closer)?

Why in the world are Hunter’s Lane, Maplewood, and White’s Creek High Schools so close together?  If Hunter’s Lane were closed and a High School put up in the Rivergate area, you wouldn’t have the Stratford cluster looking as enormous and unweildy as it does.

I mean, we cannot assume that our ideas about “neighborhoods” are value neutral.  If we really want kids to be able to easily get to school, then those schools should be evenly distributed throughout the city,  Something like a river, when there are bridges that cross it, should not be a “natural” boundary line between one cluster and another.  Folks living within blocks of one school should not strangley be sending their kids to another farther away school with more similar racial make-up.

And you know, I’m tired of hearing about “Oh, if only the middle class would come back to our schools.  Then everything would be okay.”  How long have middle class parents been yanking their kids out of our public schools?  Thirty years?

It’s time to stop counting on them coming back, hoping they’ll come back, or dreaming that they’ll come back.  We’ve got to move forward as if they’re not coming back because, unless they suddenly drop out of the middle class (which, with this economy, is a possibility) THEY’RE NOT COMING BACK.

We’ve got to move ahead without them and serve the kids we have and meet their needs.

Anyway, I don’t have any clever way to wrap this up.  I was going to point you to this self-serving piece of wank by the old Superintendant, Pedro Garcia, and try to tie in his “Let’s try everything!” approach to this whole mess, but it is what it is.

Maybe if he’d written up that little history of African Americans in the South and given it to the kids who went to his schools that were sitting next to me at the ball game the other night, they wouldn’t have been asking what the Civil War was.

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