A few weeks ago, MMSD School Board President James Howard came to our school to read to kids during "Read Your Heart Out" day. In my son's class, he read Freedom on the Menu and led the kids in an insightful discussion about race, class, and equality in the civil rights movement.
At one point, an African-American boy turned to the Hmong girl sitting next to him and asked, “Do you ever feel like you don’t have equal rights in Madison?” This started another conversation about immigration, language, and life in Madison. The kids respectfully discussed tough stuff with honestly and directness.
Why do we adults not manage this?
This article on Huffington post on the equity and excellence commission report is interesting, stating:
"Because the current system of distributing educational resources short-changes poor and minority students...it "exacerbates the problem" of an unequal starting point on the road to being a productive member of the economy. "As a result, we take the extraordinary diversity -- including linguistic backgrounds and familial relationships -- that should be our strategic advantage in the international economy and squander it."
I think the elephant in the room is our country's dismal failure to distribute educational resources. We can argue until the cows come home whether the achievement gap is because of race, income, or parenting. We can argue whether a charter school is a better structure or an unfair squandering of resources. We can argue that teachers unions are good or bad. But under all that arguing, we are losing sight of the simple fact that we aren't funding our schools. That's what we need to fix.
Full disclosure: I'm a supporter of James Howard in this year's school board race. I'm also a supporter of TJ Mertz. I support them because I think they both have the ability to look beyond the current conflicts, respectfully work with their differences, embrace the extraodinary diversity of Madison schools, and take actions to close the achievement gap.
(And yes, the kids did lobby the sitting school board president for a longer summer and shorter school day. Good luck, BOE, with that one.)