Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Imitating white privilege: Why our public schools don’t look like the public | The Hechinger Report

Imitating white privilege: Why our public schools don’t look like the public | The Hechinger Report:

Imitating white privilege: Why our public schools don’t look like the public

“Why can’t New Orleans have a charter school for middle class blacks?” A black physician and parent of a teenage daughter unashamedly asked me this question as we deboarded a first class cabin from our flight to the Crescent City. If I weren’t bourgie (African American slang for Bourgeoisie – pronounced boo-zhee), I would have cringed.
Our affectations won’t allow us to admit, but black middle class families really do need quality public schools. Many middle-income families simply can’t afford their pretentious tastes for private and parochial schools, and we also don’t want to send our children to overwhelmingly white environments for fear of cultural isolation.
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Click to read more columns.
So, who is fighting for the Bourgie Charter Academy?
A school may assuage the pressure that middle class blacks are feeling in New Orleans. Black families make up about 60 percent of the total population and approximately 90 percent of the public school population. Since 1999, the share of New Orleans’s black middle and upper income households dipped from 35 percent to 31 percent while their white counterparts increased from 60 percent to 68 percent. In addition, post-Katrina structural changes to New Orleans Public Schools altered the student bodies of the traditional middle-, working-class havens. Eleanor McMain and McDonogh 35 lost some of their luster after changes in their entrance requirements and demographics. Consequently, those schools have yet to prove it was the school and not its demographics that brought acclaim and pride.
Enrollment and social struggles among the black parochial schools also reflect declining numbers and the difficulty that comes with inclusion. Unfortunately, schools’ reputations seem to be negatively correlated with the number of poor folk they educate.
While I’m sympathetic to the burden of Bourgie black folk, class struggles within individual ethnic groups are yet another set of barriers that keep schools and communities from reaching their democratic and educational ideals. The middle and upper middle classes’ perceptions and prejudices of poor black children are a primary reason New Orleans’ schools ended up in this systemic spaghetti bowl.
Public schools should look like the public. But public schools are the manifestations of the projected fears of the middle class – poor, black children.
We typically talk about white flight when describing the period when white families abandoned the public school system. However in New Orleans, we can easily describe the phenomenon as middle class flight. Whites represent approximately 35 percent of the total population but approximately 60 percent of the private/parochial schools. Blacks comprise about 35 percent of the private/parochial market. Whites alone didn’t exit public schools.
“The middle class should try to end poverty instead of shunning poor people. Maybe then our public schools would look like the public.”

Middle class parents of all stripes feel they’re risking their children’s educations by placing them in schools with high concentrations of students in poverty. I held my nose when I placed my three year-old child in a lottery for entry into a popular charter school. (Pardon the digression. The idea of placing your child in a lottery offends bourgie parents) After not getting in the school, I did the middle class rite of passage. I Imitating white privilege: Why our public schools don’t look like the public | The Hechinger Report: