Seeing the Whole

Hannah-Jones faces the ultimate dilemma of what she feels is best for her child and her family when thinking about education. She had a lot of pressure as a mother to send her daughter to a majority white privileged school, just because they could potentially be better opportunities, that is what the other families believed. Hannah-Jones says, “I didn’t know any of our middle-class neighbors, black or white, who sent their children to one of these schools. They had managed to secure seats in the more diverse and economically advantaged magnet schools or gifted-and-talented programs outside our area, or opted to pay hefty tuition to progressive but largely white private institutions.” She could not see herself sending her daughter to a school that was low income if she could send her daughter to a school with more opportunities and resources. She could also think about that if she believes these schools, such as P.S. 307 are not good enough for her daughter, why should it be good enough for anyone’s child. Also, that teachers at this school are not doing a “good” job, but they are just assuming that because of test scores, teachers are sitting at their desks and watching TV, while students are running wild. This is not a reasonable way of thinking. Schools have to run and they have to be doing well, or they would be shut down. I also believe that motivation and hope can go a long way, especially in this situation. The students, parents, and administration have to come together and try to make opportunities and resources for these schools. It takes a village, and that village has to extend to the community and not inside of the school walls. Hannah-Jones also says, “Getting Najya into one of the disproportionately white schools in the city felt like accepting the inevitability of this two-tiered system: one set of schools with excellent resources for white kids and some black and Latino middle-class kids, a second set of underresourced schools for the rest of the city’s black and Latino kids.” Her dilemma is that she wants the best for her child, but does not really know what the best decision is. There are larger structural issues and making this decision to go with what she believes in and that could make a bigger impact in the end. Hannah-Jones also says, “I understood that so much of school segregation is structural — a result of decades of housing discrimination, of political calculations and the machinations of policy makers, of simple inertia. But I also believed that it is the choices of individual parents that uphold the system, and I was determined not to do what I’d seen so many others do when their values about integration collided with the reality of where to send their own children to school.” Her husband also had his own opinion and one thing the article says is, He worried that we would be hurting Najya if we put her in a high-poverty, all-black school. “Are we experimenting with our child based on our idealism about public schools?” he asked. “Are we putting her at a disadvantage?” He was afraid of making the wrong decision regarding his child’s education, but there was a larger issue at hand. One structural issue is that parents are their child’s biggest advocate. Allowing parents to be involved in schools’ decisions and being involved in what goes on in the classroom is very important. Housing discrimination puts the children in the schools, but not allowing their parents to be involved is something that CAN change, but it is up to the schools and districts. This is an issue that is premeditated and can be changed to be in favor of the student’s best interests.

In “When We Fight We Win”, there is a story about the Chicago Teachers Union’s strike. They made signs that expressed their dreams, which included: “We need more art, more music, more gym”, “We need air conditioning”, “Stop the testing”, “Schools are not businesses”, “Our children are not products”, “Parents have had enough. Students have had enough. Teachers have had enough.”, “We’re standing up. We’re saying no. Enough” (p 42). This strike ignited people across the country and this created a domino effect. Once people have enough knowledge about the issues of education, they begin to see all the issues and want to create a change. This was the same situation with Hannah-Jones and her situation. She gave into the stereotypes when trying to describe the choices of schools for her daughter and when she went to the “lesser” of the schools, she saw that what she thought was wrong. The school was impressive and she then wanted to change and fight for the school. She became incredibly involved and loved P.S. 307. While volunteering in the canal, the students are the stereotypes that people judge. They are “P.S. 307” and their lives are written for them when they are born into a certain area of the community. They have to try really hard to prove themselves, but once people see their potential, they are willing to fight for these students. Canal Alliance UP is one of those programs that take students from the canal with a certain GPA to help them get out of the stereotype and attend a four-year university.

I found it so interesting when the parents of P.S. 8 were so afraid to send their children to P.S. 307 that they were threatening to send their children to a private school. It is interesting that these parents can only look at the exterior of the school and the students in the school and not see what amazing accomplishments that the students did. One of the parents said, “We bought a home here, and one of the main reasons was because it was known that kindergarten admissions [at P.S. 8] were pretty much guaranteed,” one parent told The New York Post, adding that he wouldn’t send his child to P.S. 307. Another parent whose twins had secured coveted spots made the objections to P.S. 307 more plain: “I would be concerned about safety,” he said. “I don’t hear good things about that school.” These parents of P.S. 8 worked so hard to be able to purchase a house in the same school district of P.S. 8 to ensure that they would be at the “better” school. The parents are also not compassionate and empathetic towards the students at P.S. 307. One would assume that the students are doing well and so would their P.S. 8 students. One parent said, “There were kids in the school that were really high-risk kids, kids who were homeless, living in temporary shelters, you know, poverty can be really brutal,” Goldsmith says. “The school was really committed to helping all children, but we had white middle-class parents saying, ‘I don’t want my child in the same class with the kid who has emotional issues.’” Having trauma in your life does make you have emotional issues, but who is to say that the students at P.S. 8 do not have emotional issues as well? Every child has their own trauma, whether it be only spending time with a nanny and not a parent, or having a learning, physical, or mental disability. The students at P.S. 307 are not given the same benefit out of doubt because of their living situation and the way they look.
 When looking at other articles, I found 7 New York City Schools Will Reserve Slots for disadvantaged Students by Benjamin Mueller. This article is about allowing 7 schools to reserve slots for children from low-income or non-English speaking families. It will take effect for the upcoming kindergarten application cycle, to make it a smooth transition. In the article it is stated that, “Students learn from the diverse experiences and cultures of their fellow students, and it’s important that our schools match the diversity of our City,” Ms. Fariña said in a statement announcing the program. This is a very good point because students learn from each other and it is better to learn about the history of the student sitting next to you, rather than in a textbook. It is also stated that, “Under the new plan, Castle Bridge would give children with incarcerated parents priority for 10 percent of its seats and students from low-income families priority for 60 percent of its seats.” This gives students a second chance and to not live in the shadow of their parents. They can make a new life for themselves. These facts are important and research matters for social change. We cannot just share our stories and not back it up with evidence. This article and the article by Hannah-Jones opened my eyes to how real these structural issues are and how they are harming a huge portion of the children in America and other places.

Other quotes I enjoy:

“I understood, even then, in a way both intuitive and defensive, that my school friends’ parents weren’t better than my neighborhood friends’ parents, who worked hard every day at hourly jobs. But this exposure helped me imagine possibilities, a course for myself that I had not considered before.”

“It’s hard to say where any one person would have ended up if a single circumstance were different; our life trajectories are shaped by so many external and internal factors.”

“Yet the idea of placing our daughter in one of the small number of integrated schools troubled me. These schools are disproportionately white and serve the middle and upper middle classes, with a smattering of poor black and Latino students to create ‘diversity.’”

“Saying my child deserved access to “good” public schools felt like implying that children in “bad” schools deserved the schools they got, too.

“Putting our child into a segregated school would not integrate it racially, but we are middle-class and would, at least, help to integrate it economically.”