Monday, April 16, 2012

Conjunction Junction


In the 1940s and 50s, when my grandfather was a little boy his family lived on a farm in Mississippi. There was a school house run by the church and all the colored children went there. After primary school, when most of the farm children would drop out, my great grand father insisted that all 12 of his children continue their education.

When my grand father was high school age there was no busing system and his school was so far he had to live with my great aunt throughout the school year. By the time the youngest of his siblings started high school (about two decades later) they experienced the long bus rides to get to school.

By the time my mother was born in the 60s, schools were desegregated but hostile all the same. She didn't have to leave town to learn, but she was harassed for being there.

Fast forward to the 80s, I started going to school in the immediate vicinity of my home, but as my sisters and I got older my Nana was not satisfied with the education and sent us to schools further and further away. Long bus rides were a way of life, and although I was often the only black girl in my class my Nana felt the school was worth it.

Last year I decided to send my children almost 30 minutes away in order to attend a better school.

The irony of being on the receiving end of 50 years worth of civil rights successes only to be forced to make similar decisions concerning my own children's schooling!

Back in our home district I both tutor and work with children being under-served. Kids who are intelligent but have parents who do not read with them. Children being passed along when they still can not regroup two digit equations. Kids being kicked out of class prior to interventions being pursued.

Many families don't have the money for private education and are resigned to home districts are wasting their children's time. After all the marches and rulings and funding initiatives it seems we've arrived back at the same junction. Separate and unequal.

What keeps me from screaming like a madwoman is seeing all the people who do care. The teachers, tutors, and volunteers toiling. Trying to turn the tide.

Choosing to be one of those people baling water out of the ship. 

But these children still need their parents, board members, politicians, and President to find ways to fix our ship. Otherwise we're all going down. Buses and all. This crazy, patchwork, insufficient education system can't produce the type of thinking adults America needs to survive.

It's time to revision what educational equality truly means to us. It's time to rebuild.