Re[2]: request for info by Schichor

KatherinH (
Mon, 6 Oct 1997 10:09:18 -0400

I agree with the points raised by Julian, Carolyn and others about the benefits
of diversity--since the 70s my children attended Boston schools, lived in one of
the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, and thrive...both socially and
I want to make sure that we do not respond to Nina's question -

> "Does racial and ethnic islation in public schools
>really adversely affect the quality of middle or high school education?"

only in terms of the social justice/valuing diversity point--which i strongly
support and make myself--but we also need to ask--what do we mean by the quality
of middle or high school education? Key word in the question for me is "really"
I think that we need to be clear that the quality of middle or high school
education is not always what we would like...otherwise students in such high
numbers would not be ill prepared as citizens, so many would not be leaving
school before they graduate, etc. We also know that for many students of color
or from ethnic, economic minorities, the experience in the mainstream education
is often an education of "assimilation" in which we are often unconciously told
about our role, lack of power, etc. That said, we need only to look at the
history of our education system to see long-standing patterns of inequality in
education...books in poor neighborhoods that are out dated, school buildings
that need to be repaired, schools with high enrollments of students of color
with the most inexperienced or ineffective teachers. This routine and often
unrecognized isolation already exists in many schools and districts--and
students who attend those schools are often not able to receive the quality
education they deserve. I think we need to examine assumptions about which
students get what resources now...often they are concentrated in those schools
with large percentages of middle and upper income students, leaving little for
poor students--isn't this in fact isolation? I want to make sure that we
interrogate our education system from a social justice perspective that demands
quality of opportunity and outcome for all students. Unfortunately, while we
may assume that education is equitable, I keep coming back to historian James
Anderson's comment that

within American democracy there have always been classes of oppressed people and
that there have been essential relationships between popular education and the
politics of oppression. Both schooling for democratic citizenship and schooling
for second-class citizenship have been basic traditions in American education

In the long-run, isolation hurts everyone, whether that isolation is in
"segregated schools" or within the diverse classroom. It hurts students of
color, students with disabilities, students whose first language is not
english, students from different religious and spiritual backgrounds, poor
students, females, and european-american students. It prevents us from
building the kind of democracy we value, and it certainly ensures that certain
groups of students continue to receive a quality education at the expense of
other groups, maintaining an inequality in the democratic and economic life of
the country.

Katherine Hanson

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