I started listening to The Problem We All Live With on This American Life recently. I haven't been able to listen to the whole thing and there's two parts to it, but it's about education and desegregation. The first story focuses on Normandy High School. Normandy is part of the school district where Michael Brown went to school in Ferguson MO. They started the show with a clip from one of the news affiliates taken on the day of Michael Brown's death. In that clip you can hear Michael's mother, Lesley McSpadden, screaming at the police, telling them that her son had just graduated from high school. "Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to finish high school?" You can hear everything, all of it, in her voice and all I want to do is put my arms around that woman and just hold her in hopes that she finds some little tiny bit of comfort. Because how could she ever be comforted? How can she ever not have a constant ache from losing her child? But that's not the point of the story.
The story is about poor education in poor neighborhoods. It's about a high school doing so poorly, it loses it's accreditation which gives those students the option to bus to a better school district. The Normandy District chose a school thirty miles away when they had a perfectly good high school in Clayton county, five miles away. The reason is simple. Make it harder to get to the better school and students will opt to stay at Normandy High. A thousand students took their chances with the school thirty miles away, Francis Howell. When the court ruling came that these children would be bused to Francis Howell, that community (85% white) held a public forum. The local NPR station recorded that forum and as they played back excerpts of the people voicing their concerns about Normandy students being bused in, I felt my stomach turn. One woman said her concerns had nothing to do with race even while she listed stereotypical fears. Busing in these black children would be the equivalent to busing in criminals. What was going to keep their children safe from guns and drugs?
I could not believe how these people were speaking about children who just wanted a better education. I could not believe how short sighted these people were being, how a better education is a start to ending the poverty/crime circle. God! Even terrorists know this. It's why they target schools all the time. It's naive to think that segregation ended in 1954 with Brown vs Board of Education. America's public schools are segregated by race and poverty. In fact about 48% of public school children in this country are poor. But again...poverty is a whole other hot mess. We have a serious racial divide in this country that has many of us beating our heads against the wall on how to bridge that divide. Yes...a better education is one way. All of the children in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA are deserving of a good education. But also, white kids need to be in school with non white kids and vice versa. This is how you teach kids the beauty of diversity. Make them interact with each other. How else are they going to learn to interact with each other as adults?
Some might say that I have no right to say anything about how kids should and should not be educated. I do not have children of my own in those schools systems. I don't know what it's like. Blah blah blah. As a tax paying citizen I have every right to question the lack of education we are providing for our future tax paying citizens, our future voting tax paying citizens. Many studies have shown a direct correlation between education attainment and incarceration rates. More than half of state inmates failed to complete high school. We could save the country billions of dollars in crime related costs just by providing kids with a better education and giving them an incentive to get that education. It's called making America the best country in the world as opposed to the mediocre one we have become.