Recently, the courts decided that school vouchers are unconstitutional in Louisiana. Apparently, giving parents a choice in where their children attend school is a no-no. It seems history is repeating itself. I mean, school vouchers are simply the latest way to “integrate” schools where the distinction is not race-based, but income levels. Historically, public education in Louisiana and other states, was a situation of “separate but equal”. Quite frankly, I believe that would have been the best way to keep things but for two facts: 1) The rationale of “separate but equal” was based on the erroneous belief that whites were superior to non-whites and therefore, separation of the races was for the best. The second fact, 2) the schools were never “equal”, but simply an extension of the superiority belief of one group which led to inferior classrooms, materials, and equipment for the other group. If there had ever been any equality, I doubt integration would have needed to be dictated by law. I’ll even go out on a limb and postulate that there were innate racial differences, one group was more aggressive, more innovative, more willing to stop at nothing to succeed, etc., which may support a need to separate the groups. But, not everyone “drank the koolaid” back in the day and bought that superiority lie. And not all non-whites were champing at the bit to go sit in a classroom where they clearly were not wanted.
So, after racial segregation was struck down, economic segregation took its place. Families now worked two and three jobs to put their kids in “good” schools. A lot of these “good” schools just so happened to have a specific religion at its core philosophy, and it was a religion that few non-whites (it just so happened) practiced. And if they weren’t religious-based, their fees were so astronomical, if you could afford the fees, race was a non-issue. Bingo, segregation is back, and there’s nothing the courts can do about it. Now here comes a governor who wants to pull up state education rankings and decides school vouchers are the way to go.
No protest from the private schools – they simply reviewed their admission requirements, tweaked them as needed, and declared they would only accept a limited number of voucher recipients. This satisfied the basic requirement of the governor, which was simply dismantle or weaken the public school system.
Limited protest from parents. Some wanted out of the public school system but couldn’t afford it. Some didn’t care either way. Some simply wanted the school system to be fixed.
Anyone speaking out against the voucher system was not looked upon kindly by the Jindal administration.
Anyway, nobody in this mess has considered the human component – institutions work only if the individuals all buy into its philosophy. Teachers are human. They bring their foibles and assets with them, you can’t train it out of them completely. For instance, a teacher may have bias against children who remind him or her of a person they don’t like. Guess what, they either work at reducing the effect of that bias on those children, or they allow it full reign. That bias doesn’t ever go completely away. Now, instead of having to teach one or two kids who fall into that unfortunate category, many more of them are at the door. But the poor teacher can’t quit, not just yet. A career change may be just around the corner, but in the meantime….
The teacher may simply decide to teach certain students and ignore others. Males in one class are elevated and groomed; girls are patronized and prepared for domestic life. In another class, students whose parents are professionals are given preferential treatment over those who receive free lunch. In yet another class, the teacher thinks brunettes are smarter than blondes, and doesn’t pass up an opportunity to illustrate this fact to the class. Or another who sympathizes with black children, but sees them as inferior through no fault of their own, gently skirting subjects she believes these children can not comprehend. The list goes on and on. This is what happens if 1) the teacher feels they are being forced to teach children they don’t resonate with and 2) teaching is a stepping stone to another career.
So back to the voucher system, it simply replaces the decades-old forced racial integration. Are these children really beneficiaries of this system? I can imagine that these kids may face some type of discrimination, albeit economically based. Even before racial integration, children brought the characteristics of homelife into the school. Upper income children brought their expectations and behaviors same as lower income children did. Teachers could see the difference. Some acted on those difference in positive ways, others used the differences to further perpetuate stereotypes. And after integration, the differences were skin deep, but hey, why go further and really see the child for who they were when you could simply slap on characteristics commonly attributed (whether false or not) to that child’s race and simply go from there. And now the voucher system, which says, you couldn’t afford to go here on your own, so you were given a helping hand. Economic discrimination.
Parents and public school teachers should fight this latest form of integration.
Parents should accept that they are parents (yes there are some who haven’t come to grips with that) and act accordingly. If they became parents unintentionally, they ought to volunteer to speak to teenagers about the perils of unprotected, unwed sex. But being parents, they ought to realize they should work to protect the fabric of society by being decent people to their children. Feed them, teach them and love them. Don’t send a neglected, damaged child into the school system and then act surprised when that child comes back home uneducated. Schools can not do the job Mother Nature intended for the parent: that of nurturer, provider and protector.
Public school teachers have to fall in love with teaching again. Teaching was once a vocation, then it became a career for those who couldn’t or didn’t know anything else to do, then it became a launch pad for other careers, and at its’ worst, teaching became a job. When teaching stopped being a vocation, it became vulnerable to human faults and prejudices. When teaching is a person’s calling, they don’t care who is in front of them when they are in that “zone”.
When these two things happen, a good portion of what ails the Louisiana Public School system will be cured.