Friday, January 21, 2011

Is it a school's responsibility to promote diversity?

By the title of this blog, you might know where we fall on that question, but this post I read on reminded me of a conversations and comments I've heard recently.

First, the important bit of the post. (The first paragraph is from a story from the washington post)

"The new school board has won applause from parents who blame the old policy - which sought to avoid high-poverty, racially isolated schools - for an array of problems in the district and who say that promoting diversity is no longer a proper or necessary goal for public schools. (emphasis added)

I find that a bold statement. I personally believe that one mission of public schools is a civic one. We have public schools, in part, to produce good citizens. And I think that, particularly given the changing demographics of our nation, good citizens are those able to thrive in a diverse environment. So public school seems a logical place to address the growing segregation of our citizenry."

So, Anne O'Brien believes that public schools' mission is a civic one. I think ultimately that I agree with that. I was talking with Ann Jurewicz, an excellent teacher at the high school here in St. Louis Park, and she mentioned that people in the education debate begin thinking too much about how we are doing compared to the rest of the world rather than on how we can prepare well rounded human beings. I apologize to Ann if I didn't get that quite right, but that was the jist of it.

However, on the other side of it, is a statement I read recently that stated that people need to start viewing education as a economic service rather than a social service, because a social service can get cut, but an economic service is vital to the functioning of our economy. I think Anne O'Brien would agree with my colleague in saying that we must help to shape well-rounded human beings, which would include providing a diverse learning environment.

However, perhaps that statement I had read recently is right, and this washington post article is just another example of how when we make it a social issue, it can be cut, but if we argue it in economic terms it becomes harder to cut.

Perhaps we need to show that by learning in a diverse learning environment a student will earn more in their lifetime than a student who is a segregated learning environment. That's a big project, but perhaps that would convince some of our government officials who are less inclined to support social services.

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