Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday has come and gone, already, this year so integration, discrimination, and segregation are a fitting discussion as we begin 2016. The celebrated civil rights activist helped, of course, to desegregate our communities, most significantly through encouraging the development of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. This movement began the cultivation of multi-ethnic neighborhoods and, more importantly, schools.
And in the past five decades, how far have we come?
This is precisely the core of the debate which took place at Seattle’s Town Hall, yesterday, as 350 students, teachers, parents, and educators took to the floor to expound upon topics like socially relevant math lessons and segregation in schools.
Really? Segregation in schools.
National Board Certified teacher Sean Riley, of Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, testifies “We are accepting ‘separate but equal;” of course, nodding to what appears to be discriminatory practices between different schools. He comments that there are glaring differences in resource access between his current school—Catherine Blaine K-8—and his former school—Global Connections High School (which is in the less desirable neighborhood of Tukwila.
Riley adds—or, rather, maybe warn–”Re-segregation is happening. Go 25 minutes up or down I-5, and you are in a whole new world.”
Indeed, at this particular “Ignite Education Lab” meeting, the theme of equity was a persistent one. The topic appeared to permeate nearly all of the 11 presentations, which pulled from 79 different applications.
Riley also goes on to say that when he was a student he bused from Interbay in West Seattle to Breacon Hill, in the city’s Center Area. This forced cross-cultural exchange which, he says, “nurtured my humanity,” benefiting his character. Thus, he argues that teachers should be able to collaborate between schools so that students can learn from each other as well as from the faculty and the books.
He boldly testifies “We must be more uncomfortable.”
Indeed, this is not a comfortable topic and will not be a comfortable road ahead, but The Road Less Traveled is rarely easy; but tends to yield the much higher reward in the end. In times like this, though, we need to make that reward more accessible to everyone.