expert opinion

2005-11-02 - 11:37 a.m.

I've been reading a book about LUPS. I'm going to be sneaky -- it's called Cl***ass D**ism$$$$issed.

It's an interesting book in lots of ways -- and I think it's shown me the many ways in which LUPS is not at all like MY public high school.

But one sort of irritating thing about it is that it keeps talking about the "rich white hill kids" (as opposed to the poor kids of color from the flats, I suppose.) It keeps referring in a not-so-nice way to the rich white parent volunteers, and how the rich white kids have college counselors, which of course the poor black kids don't have.

To a certain extent this is true, except I'd argue that the rich hill kids are not all white, and not all rich, either. Also, I'd argue that without those volunteer mothers, the school would come to a grinding halt, and it seems unfair to blame them for the fact that poorer mothers of color either can't or won't participate. The fact that the school HAS rich white kids is actually a benefit to the poor black kids. I don't know what you do about the fact that black (by which, by the way, I think we really mean poor) parents don't come to the back to school night. Poor parents are a)busy and b) perhaps not so invested in education -- or perhaps put off by the atmosphere of a school, an atmosphere which of course feels very homelike to middleclass parents -- the ones she calls rich.

I guess education is sort of the fulcum or the meeting point for all these social inequalities which we tend to generally ignore. It's where rich and poor intersect. And I really don't know how you go about getting kids from poor families into AP classes. It's a huge social issue.

But I don't think the way you go about it is to deny kids AP classes. In the first place, I don't think it's fair. In the second place, I don;t think it's useful. If the public school is perceived by people like me to be not a place for my kids, I just won't send them there. People who don't use the public schools are generally less likely to pay for things like new gyms -- which are used by rich and poor kids -- or more teachers.

I have't actually read the whole book, so I am perhaps not representing it fairly.

But I don't see why we shouldn't try to do both things: have a challenging curriculum for kids whose backgrounds and life experiences have primed them for those classes. Somehow, and I don't know how to do this, educate and include everyone. Help everyone to see the value of an education, make it so it's not impossible for all kids to come to school, to learn at school, to benefit from school, and to take AP classes.

I mean the problems don't start at LUPS. They start in elementary school and really in the way our society is set up.

I don't know. I'm sure people have dedicated their lives to thinking about these issues, and I'm sure they have a lot more info and insight than I do. But I do think that although some kids have a much easier time of getting through high school than others, and that some kids have way more support than others, it's not exactly an easy thing for anyone. It's not easy to grow up, actually.

There's my expert opinion.

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