Excerpts from Debunking the Middle Class Myth: Why Diverse schools are good for all kids
Introduction, p. xxii
Schools with diverse student populations constantly battle myths that these schools are less desirable. The reality is that a diverse school can provide a first-class academic education. Learning comes alive when wisdom is shared not only by competent teachers and textbooks, but also by fellow students with life experiences and cultures that illuminate whole new worlds. With a teacher who encourages all students to speak their minds and listen to others, classroom discussions with students from varying backgrounds are rich and challenging, fostering critical thinking skills. Students learn there are a range of perspectives on issues, motivating them to study and thoughtfully define their own views. These schools provide world-class academic environments.
Ch. 3 Myth 3: The best teachers prefer homogeneous middle-class schools, p. 18
For many (teachers), the meaning they seek becomes crystal clear at a diverse school. They love the challenge of reaching so many different types of students and providing just what they need to excel. They love the richness of resources in their own classroom and the community — not resources of paper and computer disks, but of human souls with life experiences that teach many lessons. And they love the appreciation of students who have overcome grave adversity to be sitting in that classroom, students who truly understand the value of a free education.
Ch. 11 Society Reality 1: Our youth must learn how to actively participate in a diverse national and international society, p. 65
One of the lessons our society has learned is that a school must become a place where students learn to accept those who aren’t their mirror image….
Diane Brody says she realized what a special place her local diverse elementary school is when her son was in kindergarten in 1986. He developed an autoimmune skin disease called alopecia areata and within a year had lost all the hair on his head. The administrators at Groveton Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, let him wear a baseball cap even though there was a no-hat rule, “but he finally just took his hat off and didn’t care,” says Brody. The other students didn’t even notice anything different about him. “The kids just saw this kid is brown, this one is black, this one has a turban, and this one has no hair,” Brody says. “I took him to a few conventions so he could meet other kids with the same condition. We heard horror stories about reactions of students in other schools, including special private schools. I came away with a real appreciation for the power of a diverse classroom. I could not have paid for him to go to any school in the country to have a better experience than he did.
Ch.13 What about schools near me? p.76
I visited an amazing school in Dallas: Walnut Hill Elementary. As soon as I walked into the building I knew I was someplace special. The bright halls were filled with creative work of the students…Every teacher I spoke with was brimming with positive things to say about the students, as well as their colleagues and the principal. The classroom where “gifted and talented” students received enrichment included students of every race in the school. The teachers enthusiastically spoke of the many collaborative projects involving faculty and students across grades, including new English learners and special education students. Principal Jo Anne Hughes’ office was not only packed with student work, but plaques recognizing the many teachers who have won awards, the national and state honors for the school, and her own recognition as Dallas Principal of the Year. Yet as Hughes and I discussed the innovative approaches to learning throughout the building, we also talked of the many middle-class parents near the school who chose to send their children to private school. I cannot believe that any one of those parents ever stepped foot in the school because once there, every myth they believed about this diverse school would evaporate. Many terrific schools around the country fight this battle every day. “If we could just get the parents in the door…,” I hear over and over.
Ch. 19 Parents: The critical connection, p. 128
…(P)arent organizations that truly build community in diverse schools (have distinct characteristics). There is a commitment on the part of the parents who are actively involved to strengthen the entire school by increasing opportunities for all parents to become involved with their students’ education. It is true that most of these parents initially became involved to support their own children. But in a well-run diverse school, the commitment to building community becomes so strong that active parents start thinking in broad terms of helping all parents, particularly those who that don’t have the experience and skills to negotiate the complex American school system. They recognize that by increasing opportunities for these parents to be involved, they not only help those families, but they build links among all families in the community, strengthening the school culture, and increasing opportunities for growth for themselves and their children
Ch. 7 Myth 7- Minority Parents Don’t Care about the Education of Their Children, p.38
“The belief that minority parents don’t care couldn’t be farther from the truth,” says Assistant Principal Roni Silverstein, who has worked in many diverse schools in Montgomery County, Maryland. “When you talk to them you realize that our American schools are the answer to their dreams. What they have had to go through to get their children here is remarkable. Many of them work two or three jobs to stay here. They have the American dream in their hearts. If anything, they care more.”
So why aren’t they more visible in the schools? Schools can be an intimidating place for a wide variety of reasons, some relating to language barriers, some cultural, some based on past experience. In the culture of immigrants from Asia or the Pacific Islands, for example, teachers are respected authority figures and parent involvement in school may be viewed as interference. Latino cultures value the welfare of the family above all else which means Latino parents are reluctant to leave young children home to attend a meeting. For other parents, school is associated with negative experiences, making them distrustful of getting involved…
The overriding issue is that many parents don’t feel comfortable in the realm of school. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about their child’s learning; in fact, many are doing all they can to support their child’s education at home. “Studies are finding over and over again that minority and low-income parents are just as involved as white middle-class parent in their child’s education,” says Anne Henderson, author of a series of books summarizing research on family involvement.