Change starts with us, it always has, and always will. No place is this more real than in school segregation, where thousands of individual choices tend to reinforce racial and class separation and continue the cleavages emanating from America’s original sin of slavery.
And for too long, the hard work of racial progress has fallen on Black and Brown folks, and those lower on the economic ladder. Now it’s time for allies to take action. And all that is being asked is that you visit and with an open mind seriously consider some diverse schools.
The schools are getting better in Oakland, there are a diverse range of choices, and for those families practically able to make choices, please take some time to really see what is happening with the public schools. Please take the “Two Tours Pledge”, don’t just look up the schools with 10s on GreatSchools.net, but take some time to get to know your choices and hopefully some folks will start to vote for justice with their feet.
Particularly in areas like Northwest Oakland, where less than half of eligible children attend a public middle school (district or charter), and less than a third attend a public high school (district or charter). These are parents with choices that are opting out, and they could really help by opting in.
I am borrowing an idea from the Integrated schools blog here. But it’s a good one I hope folks will follow. Please take the pledge.
The Two Tours Pledge
As a Parent-with-Choice in support of the fundamental premise that all children have the right to a quality education, and with the belief that in choosing a school for my child I am also building the world they will live in as an adult,
- I pledge to tour 2 schools that serve a majority of students from different racial/socioeconomic backgrounds than my family. I will tour these two schools regardless of their test scores, reputation or any “bad/scary” stories I have heard about them. I will tour these two schools with an open mind and heart.
- I will find at least 2 positive things to say about each.
- I will tell 2 parent-friends about those tours & the nice things I found.
- I will encourage 2 parent-friends to also take this pledge.
- Furthermore, I pledge to ask 2 questions (or more!) about socioeconomic, racial/ethnic and linguistic diversity at all the schools I tour/consider for my child.
That’s it. The pledge isn’t asking you to enroll your children at either of these schools, or recruit your friends to enroll their kids there. It’s simply inviting you to check out two schools that you weren’t considering – that might have a reputation that caused you to dismiss them as not right for your family – and ask yourself if you could envision your child there. Ask yourself if maybe this school could be good.
As for that last item… when you are touring the schools that were already on the top of your list, the schools with the robotics labs and the PTA sponsored Musical Theatre club, and all the fancy programs that affluent-segregated schools provide… ask them two questions about the socio-economic AND racial-ethnic diversity at that school. (Here is a sample of some questions to ask)
How does this help build a more unified future for our country?
Our public schools are more segregated than ever before and unless we make conscious and deliberate decisions, our children will most likely attend school with kids just like them. While that might feel “safe” and comfortable now, the world that prepares them for is a continuation of the polarization that our country is currently experiencing.
There are piles of research showing that middle class kids are not academically harmed by attending a high-free/reduced-lunch school, and the benefits for kids of all backgrounds being educated together are transformational for kid and country, now and in the future. All children win when all children are together.
Read the research, hear the stories (we have compiled some resources here). Integration doesn’t have to be sacrifice.
Because YOU – not any school – are the most influential thing in your child’s life, because you are not only choosing the school that will help your kid become a successful, empathetic and well-adjusted adult, you are building the world they will live in.
What do you want that world to look like?
Take the pledge.