Friday, October 12, 2012


I'm watching my second debate, this one for Vice-Presidential candidates. Sigh. I realize that I'm a cynic. Who's telling the truth? Whose facts are correct? What truths are being told and what truths are being bent? I'm not a political insider. I don't know. Nor am I really sure of which insiders to trust. This is a problem.

I'm more involved in a different debate. There is a debate raging in Boston about changes to the school system. One side says that the school system is trying to destroy neighborhoods. The other side says that the school system is trying to widen the gap between the poor and the rich. They shout words like "racism". The thing is, I know that both sides are wrong.

There have been many articles about the history of bussing in Boston:

It was started in the 70's to address the issue of schools being segregated because neighborhoods were segregated. What happened? People were outraged about their children being bussed away from their neighborhood schools to schools with strangers across town. Unfortunately, violence resulted.  What would you do if you were informed that next year, your child would be driven across the city to a strange neighborhood? I doubt you'd throw bricks at busses, but if you had the means, you'd move to a different town with more reliable and predictable schools. Or send them to private schools. Well, if you had the money to do so...

And that's what happened in Boston. Wealthier families who wanted to take control of their children's educations left en masse. That left behind the children of the poor and the children of immigrants - children who desperately need good educations and desperately need additional resources to make that happen. The elementary schools are full of the neediest children in town. That's a tough position for any school district to be in. Do they still need to rise to the occasion? Yes. But does that make it more difficult for all schools to be equally good? Yes.

The school district needs to lure back the wealthier kids to fill in more of the seats. And by "wealthy" I mean families that can scrape together about $7000/yr to buy a predictable parochial education. They need to prevent the flight of wealthier families to the burbs. Then they'd have more money to spend on all of the children. It isn't only the wealthy families (and again, I use the term "wealthy" loosely here) that want better schools. It isn't only the wealthy that want advanced coursework for their bright kids.

The school district (BPS) has been implementing targeted programs towards the children with the greatest needs, those who enter the system with linguistic and academic disadvantages. They have more plans ready for implementation. These are the poor (largely African-American and latino) and the immigrants that are being helped the most. How are they demonstrating ongoing racism? And the Superintendent of the BPS and most of the school administrators and Principals were African-American. Others were Latino and Asian. They were the ones presenting the possible plans. I'm scratching my head at how an African-American woman making school policy recommendations that largely affect African-American children can be accused of being racist.

When people care greatly about a topic, local or national, rhetoric gets heated. I realize this. But why does it have to be so nasty? And full of untruths? A mom on JPMoms wrote that she feels that this is "us vs. them". But why do we have to assume this? The mere fact that BPS is proposing 5 different changes, and vigorously soliciting parent feedback through surveys, meetings, and open appeals makes me feel invited and included in this process. The fact that I had facetime with the Superintendent at a meeting makes me confident that this isn't an "us vs. them" process. We can't all get exactly what we want. But this doesn't mean that they're not trying to find a good middle-ground solution. 

So I pray regularly now that we may all be given open minds, gentle spirits, and sweetened tongues. There are many debates going on right now that will have ongoing consequences. I pray that truth rises to the top of the fray, and good decisions can be made all around.