We Do Not Want Our Children To Learn With Poor Children

I might have been quite different from my classmates in college. Ateneo, after all, is an elite school attended mostly by children from wealthy families. Back then, while my classmates were focused on a paper they were writing for either philosophy or theology, my mind was often wondering whether we had something for our next meal. Clearly, I probably had a perspective different from what most students in Ateneo had. I was therefore offering diversity. And diversity is good. Plenty of research shows that diversity is good in education. But poor children do have worries other than their homework. Just imagine if my classmates finally figure out how many shirts or pairs of pants I actually have. As a result, we often exhibit behavioral issues in schools. Advantaged parents therefore have a reason to want their children enrolled in schools with less underprivileged students. Not wanting your child to be in a classroom with either less privileged pupils or Blacks or Hispanics is definitely not something one would hear directly from a parent in the United States. Yet, most schools in this country remain segregated either by race or family income.

Above copied from
The Century Foundation

In Fairfax county, schools are assigned according to the family's address. Thus, searching for a home to buy usually includes consideration of the schools to which a home is assigned. And it is no secret that prices of houses are correlated with the quality of schools in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, what we often perceive as a measure of the quality of school is the average score in standardized tests. These scores are, of course, higher in schools with few children qualifying for free lunch. These scores are also higher for schools with few Black and Hispanic children. Thus, buying a home actually reflects a desire to enroll our children in predominantly White and privileged schools. Yet, we say that diversity is good for education. In fact, we even know that diversity is not just good, but actually necessary for education. There is even a book published more than ten years ago that tells us "groups that display a range of perspectives outperform groups of like-minded experts."

Above copied from
The Princeton University Press

Still, schools remain segregated according to race and income. And recently, researchers at Harvard find that, given the choice, "White, affluent parents often choose schools based on the number of White, affluent students in attendance."

Above copied from
Making Caring Common ProjectHarvard University Graduate School of Education

Fairfax county supposedly has a much more progressive school board this year. Clearly, there is a need for a much more substantial effort to integrate our schools. This obviously cannot happen by mere wishful thinking. We need to "walk the talk".