In the "The Problem We All Live With" radio broadcast, Nikole Hannah-Jones from the New York Times argues that integration is necessary in order for the "bad" schools to "catch up" to the "good schools". Listening to this broadcast left me in shock and ready to attack this blog post. Nikole brings to light the idea that integration is the key in closing the achievement gap amongst black and white kids in school systems. She mentions how most segregated schools have a high poverty concentration which means the majority of the students are from the same kind of lifestyle. Most of the students are behind and remain behind because they are all behind. Nikole argues that if integrated with other students, some advanced, there will be an all around improved environment for all students. Integrating the students would give the African American students the equal opportunity to be in the same facilities as the white students and access to the higher quality teachers.
Of course this idea comes with backlash and wave of negative opinions. Ma'Riah's story of her experience with integration in schools was nothing short of an uphill battle that in my opinion will open the eyes of many. Her mother, Nedra Martin shares that her daughter has always been an A student but after attending Normandy, her grades had dropped significantly. The teachers had not notified her about her slipping grades and said that there were too many students to reach out to all parents. It seemed as though the teachers did not care or were not as invested in the students that attended Normandy. She also mentions how the classes seemed to be unorganized and even dumbed down. Nedra, concerned of her daughters education decides to look elsewhere and find more information to have her transfer. After endless calls, Nedra weighs out the options and realizes that its unrealistic to pay tuition for a public school or a private school simply because she cannot afford it.
Newscaster: "New tonight, a major blow to a school district in the metro area. The Missouri State Board of Education is pulling accreditation from the Normandy School District" (Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The Problem We All Live With" )
This was great news for Ma'Riah, due to The Transfer Law which allows students attending Normandy to have the right to transfer to a nearby accredited school for free. However, there would be only one school of their choosing to have free transportation which was closer, but unfortunately in the same district. Ma'Riah was an honors student who wanted to receive the best possible education and wanted to attend Francis Howell which 1,000 other students from Normandy were also interested in. Francis Howell was 85% White whereas Normandy had been predominately a black community. There was an uproar for the parents from Francis Howell school at a Town Meeting on the subject matter that absolutely shocked Ma'Riah, Nedra and myself included. The meetings topics were the following:
- Accreditation- is a fancy word for the act of granting credit or recognition, especially to an educational institution that maintains suitable standards. (Google) A parent brings up the question, "Once Normandy comes in here, will that lower our accreditation?" with a follow up of cheering amongst the people at the meeting. Normandy has extremely low scores and, "In 2014, Points for academic achievement in English-- zero, math-- zero, social studies-- zero, science-- zero, points for college placement-- zero. It seems impossible, but in 11 of 13 measures, the district didn't earn a single point. 10 out of 140 points, that was its score." (Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The Problem We All Live With" ). Any parent should be concerned with the accreditation of their child's school system, especially scores like Normandy's. However, when they fight and resist the idea of the students entering Francis Howell school system, they are also resisting a student to receive the quality education their child is receiving simply because of their previous school system failing them, not the individual.
- Discipline- "So I'm hoping that their discipline records come with them, like their health records come with them." (Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The Problem We All Live With" ) This quote from the transcript blew my mind when I had first read it. The blunt-ness this woman had at the town meeting was astonishing to me. The Normandy district had a reputation to be a "bad" school with violence, drugs, etc you name it. However, I cannot help but wonder if she had ever stepped foot into the school and experienced it herself. Also the students who wanted to attend Francis Howell had to travel substantially farther without free transportation just to go to that school. Clearly they are looking for a better education and are grasping the opportunity to. The reputation doesn't mean the whole. I have experienced this kind of negativity for going to Woonsocket High school where it also had a bad reputation. When I would tell others where I went to school, they seemed shocked and couldn't believe that I went to such a "scary"school. Or they mention how everyone there must be dumb. That was the kicker. I was an honors student and excelled in my school, just as Ma'Riah has, the reputation does not mean the whole.
- Integration history- "Years ago, when the MetroLink was being very popular, St. Charles County put to a vote whether or not we wanted the MetroLink to come across into our community. And we said no. And the reason we said no is because we don't want the different areas [INAUDIBLE] coming across on our side of the bridge, bringing with it everything that we're fighting today against." (Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The Problem We All Live With" ) As I mentioned in the previous point, this parent assumes that the whole upholds the reputation of the school. The fact that this exists today should surprise me, however it doesn't. I've witnessed this kind of talking that is a "walking on eggshells" conversation because of the fear of being politically incorrect.
- Safety in school- "This is what I want to know from you. In one month, I send my three small children to you. And I want to know is there going to be metal detectors? Because I want to be clear. I'm no expert. I'm not you guys. I don't have an accreditation, but I've read. I've read, and I've read, and I've read. So we're not talking about the Normandy School District losing their accreditation because of their buildings, or their structures, or their teachers. We are talking about violent behavior that is coming in with my first grader, my third grader, and my middle schooler that I'm very worried about." (Beth Cirami, "The Problem We All Live With" ) I hope you are seeing a reoccurring theme amongst the parents attending the town meeting. As a parent, (even though I am not one) I can imagine that your child's safety is at the top of the priorities list. However, the parents seem to "jump the gun" and assume that every student being transferred is a delinquent and that Francis Howell school system will not be able to provide their children safety without metal detectors, as an example. "You have no choice like me. I want to know where the metal detectors are going to be me. And I want to know where your drug sniffing dogs are going to be. And I want-- this is what I want. I want the same security that Normandy gets when they walk through their school doors. I want it here. And I want it-- and I want that security before my children walk into Francis Howell. Because I shopped for a school district. I deserve to not have to worry about my children getting stabbed or taking a drug or getting robbed. Because that's the issue.(Beth Cirami, "The Problem We All Live With" ) Granted I have not met any of the students at Normandy or went to the school, but the descriptions from the parents seem to be extreme.
- Race not being the issue- "We have both-- my husband and I both have worked and lived in underprivileged areas in our jobs. This is not a race issue. And I just want to say to-- if she's even still here, the first woman who came up here and cried that it was a race issue, I'm sorry. That's her prejudice calling me a racist because my skin is white and I'm concerned about my children's education and safety. This is not a race issue." (Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The Problem We All Live With" ) This is the first statement that is mentioned that has somewhat of an argument in their favor. Parents are supposed to be concerned in their childs education and safety, and shouldn't have race as the focus when in their case it is not. Just because she is speaking out does not mean that she is a racist herself.
- ...... "And let me assure you, I personally know a family in the Fox School District that was shopping for houses in our school district that were negotiating on a home. And when this came on the news, they ended negotiations. So-- " (Nikole Hannah-Jones, "The Problem We All Live With" ) This is where the prejudice and racism come into play.
Students like Ma'Riah do not get factored into this equation. Nikole Hannah-Jones also mentions another student who transferred to the middle school, Rianna who had a negative experience at first because of the reputation her previous school had. A white student made a racial slur and was instigating a fight. The student made comments regarding her being ghetto, questioning her intelligence, etc which Rianna had not involved herself in.
"Because I feel like, if I was to run away, if I was to come back, then she was winning. And I had to prove her wrong. I had to prove to her I'm not stupid. I'm very intelligent. And just because I went to Normandy, that doesn't define who I am either." (Rianna, "The Problem We All Live With")
All I can say is S.C.W.A.A.M.P. Because the students were not part of the dominant power, the parents of Francis Howell students viewed them unfairly. Luckily Ma'Riah and Rianna were able to overcome the obstacles of the debauchery they had dealt with between schools. However, not all students, school systems, or parents, get involved enough in order to make changes in their education systems.
Here's the link for all you non FNED students if you're interested in hearing the broadcast/interview.