School choice, privilege, and impact in Kansas City

It is so important for us to think about school choice, privilege, and impact in Kansas City, where we are so full of school options. We have dozens of private, charter, signature, and neighborhood choices. Over 30% of school aged children are white, yet only 10% students enrolled in public schools are white. The zoned areas for our public schools often include diverse neighborhoods, yet we see schools enroll upwards of 70% students eligible for free/reduced lunch, while other nearby schools serve much lower percentages, some as low as 18%. Enrollment boundaries for neighborhood high schools drawn east to west include neighborhoods on both sides of Kansas City’s historic racial dividing line. Yet these high schools, zoned to include affluent, and often predominantly white neighborhoods, like Brookside, Countryside, Waldo, West Plaza, Volker, and Hyde Park, enroll fewer than 10% white students. What are our children learning when they hear you say there are only a few “good” schools that you would consider for them, or that you were relieved when they got accepted into a “quality” school and weren’t left with the only option of moving to the suburbs? What are the students at the other schools learning when you say that? We cannot arrive at equity when we perpetuate the idea that there are “good” and “bad” schools. We can support other schools and other students without bringing down our own. We can acknowledge that judging schools by test scores and ignoring their demographics doesn’t really show the quality of these schools or their teachers. We can talk about how isolating children into schools where all the students are just like them does a disservice to their education. We want our children to understand the injustice of how society treats them differently from others, but we only contribute to this injustice by seeking out what is “best” for our child while ignoring the others. We need children who will grow into adults that can function and thrive in a society that is full of diversity. And seeking out separate schools and social spaces for our children is not the path to achieve this.

“If affluent, white parents hope to raise children who reject racial inequality, simply explaining that fairness and social justice are important values won’t do the trick. Instead, parents need to confront how their own decisions and behaviors reproduce patterns of privilege. They must actually advocate for the well-being, education and happiness of all children, not just their own.

Being a good parent should not come at the expense of being — or raising — a good citizen. If progressive white parents are truly committed to the values they profess, they ought to consider how helping one’s own child get ahead in society may not be as big a gift as helping create a more just society for them to live in in the future.”

– LA Times: White Progressive Parents and the Conundrum of Privilege by Margaret Hagerman

Margaret A. Hagerman is a sociology professor at Mississippi State University and author of “White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America.”

Her book will be the subject for the November 13 Integrated Schools Book Club. This online book club is a great way to discuss these tough subjects and connect with other parents who are also on this journey. Click on Integrated Schools Book Club to register and learn how to get a discount on your own copy of the book!

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