By Irving Gonzalez
Usually, when we think about what school should be like, we picture teachers teaching small classrooms of competent students willing to learn.
That imaginative imagine has changed in my mind throughout my years as a New York City public school scholar. As time has passed, and I have been more and more educated in the New York City public school system, I have realized there is a big problem: segregation. Simply by speaking with others, one can tell to what extent schools are segregated.
A. Philip Randolph Campus High School, a large high school with about 1500 students, is in Harlem (a neighborhood in NYC). One can walk the hallways and notice one big characteristic: there is no racial diversity within the school. Some might say there is because the school educates mostly Black and Hispanic students, but that isn't diversity!
Schools that are stuck up in thinking they are diverse because they have colored students or schools that need diversity, should find better methods to implement within their schools. Why not lessen segregation in schools by making schools racially equal? Why not have Caucasian, African American, Asian, Native, Hispanic, etc. raced students all mixed in one classroom? Would that not better the way students think, and eventually lead to less racism in the country?
It is so sad to know that most of the top public schools in New York City are filled with Caucasian students. Isabel Gomez, a senior scholar at the Beacon School (a top public school in NYC), spoke to me about her encounters with school segregation at her school. She spoke to me and said, "I feel blessed to go to a school like the beacon school, but also feel bad because other students from other schools do not receive the same opportunities as I do." Meaning, racially segregated schools like the Beacon School, which educates predominantly the Caucasian race, do receive benefits for attending a school like that.
Since we now know school segregation is detrimental to one’s success, why do we not do something about it? Why is it that different class' are receiving different educational treatments based on the school they go to? Shouldn't all citizens be entitled to equal education and equal opportunity?
New York City public schools have the highest levels of segregation in the whole country. This is a huge problem because it leads to a poor education system that does not successfully educate a group of students that will be prepared to perpetuate the changes they will need to make to adapt in a cutthroat environment.
Growing up, I have always wondered why I never had a Caucasian friend, why I never had an Asian friend. It took me about seventeen years to find the answer.
Because New York City schools are structured the way they are, in a “survival of the fittest” way, students need to compete so much more at such a young age to get into the best schools starting at grade five. I remember trying my best to get into some of the city’s best middle schools at age ten. Why should ten-year old be worried about getting into schools like Columbia Secondary School or the Mott Hall School? Should not they be worried about the baseball tournament or the new X-Man movie? New York City’s public school system scares students at such a young age, when they should be providing students with optimistic mindsets.
I never had a Caucasian or Asian friend because they were better test takers than I was. The standardized tests they took to get into schools like Columbia Secondary School and Brooklyn Tech, were developed in a racially biased way. I was meant to fail those tests, they were meant to pass them!
“Strong school, strong community”? Yeah, I think what they really meant by that is, “Strong school, strong community budget”. It is shown that most of the best schools in New York City are surrounded by wealthy neighborhoods. And those that are not surrounded by wealthy neighborhoods are wealthy because they rely on the socioeconomically advantaged students’ parents to make donations to the schools; which ultimately benefits those students’ education, immensely.
Schools segregation does not prepare students for the real world:
Imagine being a student in a predominantly African American school. Sitting in a philosophy class, most students will have the same opinions because same cultures tend to raise their students the same.
Now imagine being a Caucasian student in a predominately Caucasian school. Sitting in the same philosophy class, most of the students will still have the same opinions because they were also raised in the same manner.
Now imagine sitting in a classroom full of diverse students. Would there not be more critical thinking taking place? If a classroom were to have equal amounts of cultures in it, students will be given the opportunity to intellectually debate, and intellectually round up opinions on worldly dilemmas. Unlike what is occurring now in the United States. Currently, students are maintaining the same conversations among the same cultures and it isn't preparing them to go onto the real world-- where there are many cultures one must interact with.
Ultimately, if this is not resolved, students will continue to have a bad opinion on schools. Students will be incompetent when it comes to schools; giving both teachers and parents difficulty educating students. Why not create a school system that mixes different races throughout the many schools across the city? Students would not compete as much to get into middle schools and high schools (and we all know that should be left till college applications!). Students will want to go to any school because they will now know they will receive the same education someone else in the city will be receiving.
Students will be given the opportunities to meet other students from all sorts of cultures; allowing them to develop opinions on different races and cultures beginning at a young age. Rather than what the city instills in us students now; a system that makes me wait till I get into higher education to meet my first Asian friend!
David Foster Wallace once said, education “is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.” If we do not begin to value socioeconomically disadvantaged students’ education, they will never know how to think for themselves.