Re: A meeting on diversity in svs-model schools

anne romeyn pittman (romey@wam.umd.edu)
Wed, 11 Sep 1996 17:11:24 -0400 (EDT)

On Tue, 3 Sep 1996 Mbradford1@aol.com wrote:

> To: Diversity Discussion
> From: Melissa Bradford, Liberty School Founders, Joliet,

> On Learning About Other Cultures:
>
> I think that bringing minority students in order to "enrich ourselves and our
> schools", as Romey suggested, is self-serving.

First of all, I feel as though the discussion has deteriorated into one
about "bringing in" certain students or not. They are not educational
materials to be "brought in" and no one here is suggesting coercion of any
kind. I would agree that doing that would be self-serving, indeed
immoral. I was trying to respond to the implication that many folks
seems to make in their writing, that "we" (those who have a concern about
the cultural homogeneity of schools) are acting out of "guilt" or charity
or something.
> Would you choose to put a higher priority on the admission of a
> student if it is known that he/she is an outstanding violinist and could
> possibly teach others about the beauty of the violin?

I would love to have a violinist at my school for similar reasons. I
think variety is enriching on any level. Would seeking the donation
ofmaterials for a sound proof music room or putting up a flyer at a music
school constitute social engineering? Maybe it would...I would not,
however, violate the (open) admissions policy of our school to "put a
higher priority" on his or her admission.

> Romey uses the example of only adults attending the school meeting as being a
> problem, but I don't think any sudbury model schools address the problem by
> then requiring students to attend. I am of the understanding that they allow
> things to take their course and that in time the situation rectifies itself.

As I and others have said, no one is trying to require anything. But I'll
bet schools where that has happened have discussed it and thought about
why it is and tried to make sure that they are not doing anything to
discourage kids without knowing it.

> Romey suggests that students will be unable to "sort out the mixed racial
> messages,....work out what equality of rights means, etc....if the school's
> population doesn't include more than one racial group." I disagree.

Just to clarify -- I did not suggest that they would be "unable" to do
anything. I do believe race, in particular, is essentially tied into our
conceptions of equality, of rights, and of justice in American society. I
think it enriches a school environment when more than one race is
represented.
(No one seemed outraged when one school at the Conference expressed
frustration at not having any teenage boys (or was it girls?). They sought
balance and a range of viewpoints and interests, and God forbid, they were
attaching those things to gender and age, superficial characteristics
having nothing to do with true diversity, right?)

> On Suggestions for Improving Diversity:
>
> We do our best here in Joliet to get the message about sudbury model schools
> out to anyone we can. Although we make no effort to keep track of such
> things, I would guess that we have about 15-20% blacks on our mailing list.
> We were covered by the weekly newspaper that focusses on African-American
> issues, which resulted in two black men attending one of our informational
> meetings. We have sent press releases to the Latino papers in our area.
> Maybe our efforts will result in actual minority students when we open next
> year, and maybe it won't. If it does, great. If it doesn't, I'm not going
> to worry about it as long as I know we did and continue to do our best to
> reach everyone who might be interested.

That is really all any of us have been suggesting. You have clearly been
getting the word out to a variety of cultural settings, and I would be
surprised if that happened accidentally. My sense is that most other
groups have not done so much to get the word out about their schools to
other than the mainstrean or "alternative" papers, and put flyers up
wherever they go anyway, not in ethnic grocery stores or whatever. It
really is not much to be debating here... a little thought, a little
effort, a little self critical glance now and then to make sure those
follow up calls are not going just to those "types" you think are most
likely to enroll. The defensive posture - "If they come fine, if not
that's okay too" and the quota-based, coercive, clearly anti-Sudbury
posture are not the only two possibilities.

Romey