Sarah Carr is a gifted writer who has covered education in the U.S. for 15 years. This article, recently appearing in Slate, is a wakeup call for anyone involved in education. Far too often people come forth with ideas, especially political leaders, that give the impression they are still living in the land of Ozzie & Harriett and white picket fences around suburban homes.
As Sara points out, nothing is farther from the truth. And the rapidly changing demographics of our nation’s student population has HUGE implications for us all.
Here are excerpts from this article. I encourage you to read all of it.
“If you want to know what America will look like in a generation, look at its classrooms right now. In 2014, children of color became the new majority in America’s public schools. Over the last 20 years, the number of Hispanic public schoolchildren has more than doubled, and the number of Asians has swelled by 56 percent. The number of black students and American Indians grew far more modestly—but the number of white students fell by about 15 percent.
The majority-minority milestone has arrived in our public schools early—a consequence of white children’s overrepresentation in private schools and the relative youth of America’s black and Hispanic populations. It is not a fluke. It is a preview of a transforming country.
We live in a country where minorities frequently face worse outcomes than their white counterparts and where racial fault lines cut deeply through our public life. Right now, schools and school systems across the country are confronting a question that our society at large will need to answer in the coming years: Do Americans have the will and understanding to build a more inclusive, and less deeply segregated, nation? In many parts of America—urban, rural, and suburban—that will require a radical upending of the status quo.
Our schools face two central challenges as they diversify. First, how do we train and retain educators to relate to students from a broad range of racial, cultural, socioeconomic, and linguistic backgrounds? More than 50 percent of public school students are now low-income. One out of 5 speaks a language other than English at home. And nearly one quarter are foreign-born or have at least one foreign-born parent. Meanwhile, about 80 percent of America’s public school teachers are white—down from 86 percent 20 years ago—and more than three-quarters are female.
Our teachers, most of them hardworking and committed, can’t be everything to every kid. But we all pay a price for a lack of tolerance or understanding in the classroom. It ripples into society, chasing children as they enter young adulthood. If a child acts out because he is hungry, for instance, and receives punishment but no support, he can grow alienated from schools and learning, reducing the likelihood that he will thrive in work or in life.
There’s a second, even more complicated trial confronting America’s rapidly diversifying schools: How can we create integrated school communities at a time when many white parents, long accustomed to various forms of privilege and preference, fear their children being in the minority, and when schools already struggle to meet the needs of diverse students and learners?”