Last Thursday, our school hosted a viewing of the documentary Race To Nowhere, which deals with the insane pressure we are placing on all our students — and the schools — for everyone to go to college.
I am happy to report that we had more than 100 people — mostly from the community at large and not the school! — in a venue that could only seat 150. It was packed.
At the end of the night, our head of school engaged the audience in a conversation about the film. I loved the diversity of the audience and feedback we received: public school teachers, parents, students themselves and even counselors from every race and hue. A former Berkeley High School student shared her personal story about burning out of school. A concerned Asian parent asked that same student what she could do to help her own children and then received applause for asking how to better support teachers. “Where I come from, the teacher is always to be respected,” she said. “That’s what I teach my own daughters.”
A counselor from a non-profit group said it was important to ask children not only how they are doing in school, but how they feel.
One Oakland public school teacher said she felt that the film only addressed the concerns of “upper middle class families.” In hindsight, I could see how it was heavy on anecdotes from affluent suburbs.
But our English teacher, who is African American, got up and said that the pressures on the inner city are far worse. I could see that. With all the pressures to raise test scores related to “No Child Left Behind” — and lose funding for failing! — plus hold down a job to help support your family, oh and by the way, complete that college application to go to the “best” college and get out of the ghetto — that is a lot to ask of a child.
I choked back tears when I saw this film for the second time. I was the first person in my family to go away to a four-year college, and I too, saw the whole college admissions process as this sisyphean task. I remember ignoring my family and putting in some insane hours over Thanksgiving break to get my college application and essays into the mail. And when I learned that I had not even broken a 1,000 on the SAT? I thought my life was over.
Of course, that wasn’t the case, and I know when my children reach this crossroad in their lives they will be supported no matter their decision — including postponing college or reaching other career goals.
That said, it is hard to ignore that there is a race to nowhere, especially in the competitive enclave where I live. Most recently, I got sucked into this thread in the Berkeley Parents Network, in which a caucasian mother wondered if her daughter would feel “isolated” in school for being the only white child in her class.
She received mixed reaction.
I was a minority in 8th grade, living in Hawaii. It was difficult, and I was already shy. In the long run I probably benefited from it since I now know what its like to be a minority (I’m white). But at the time I was pretty lonely and generally on-edge, and that feeling lasted for years afterward. But, I didn’t have as much at-home support as it sounds like you would provide. I don’t know what it would be like as a younger child, since it sounds like your daughter would start sooner. Perhaps that would be better.
Personally, though–and take this with a grain of salt as I haven’t researched it much–I would probably be more concerned about basic safety issues in Oakland public (high) schools.
Yes, I think your daughter will feel isolated. We are in a richly diverse school in Berkeley, but it is a much more even split of African-American, Asian, Hispanic, white, as well as many mixed-race kids, and kids of European & Middle Eastern descent, etc. After several years at the school, it’s obvious to see that kids of the same race and cultures (parents’ occupations, religions, education, backgrounds, etc.) tend to stick together. They are friends with many other kids, but their CLOSE friends, the ones with whom they choose to have playdates, sleepovers, etc., tend to be of the same race. If you’re looking for a more mixed ratio of white to non-white students, consider the Montclair elementary schools, or Canyon School. But in middle and high school, you’ll be facing the same issues, if you stay in Oakland.
Send her to the school w the kids who have the best attitude toward education and who are most likely to go to college and grad school.
From the other side:
Trust me your kid will not feel isolated. Kids adjust to the place and surroundings very easily, its us adults who find it difficult and odd.
If you child notices difference in the way others look or their eating habits etc he might have questions which you could explain but i don’t think he will be odd child out.
You said he was 1yr old, by the time your child is ready for school he will be already familiar with the neighbors and people around, so it will be normal for him.
Your kid will be OK. It will probably take you, the parents, a little longer to adjust, but you will. Everybody is there for the same reason: they care about their kids. Middle school might be a little harder because the kids tend to clique up by race.
My family is white and both my children attend public schools in Oakland, both of which are predominantly black. Neither has had any problems associated with race; in fact I would say that being around people different from them has only enriched them – each has something to offer the other.
It is unclear from your question what exactly you are worried about and what sort of ”rough time socially” you have in mind. Oakland is one of the most diverse cities in the U.S., and is predominantly black; I’m not sure why you would live in such a city but not not send your child to a school that reflects the makeup of the city. It seems that in looking for diversity you are actually looking for a school that looks like your family because otherwise, your child’s attendance could only add to the diversity.
I’ve been on both sides of this issue — both the majority in a black and brown school (Miami) and the minority in a white high school in New Hampshire. FWIW, I do think it is harder to be in this position in middle school or high school. But a young child? Seriously, this mom is over-thinking things and putting her own baggage on her kid.
It’s unfortunate, but I have noticed that middle to upper middle class caucasian families tend to leave the Oakland public school system when their kids reach middle school. I don’t know the solution to this except to give the children left behind options to go with them. What do you all think?