Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Public Schools, Private Schools, and Carl Carter

My first 12 years of education were almost totally segregated.
Carl Carter, my 2nd grade classmate, and whose family had the courage to integrate A.W. James Elementary school in Drew, Mississippi, has been the subject of a history book, "Silver Rights", and a children's book "The School is not White". Can a movie be far behind?
Carl was the only minority in my 2nd grade class. His mother had decided that he and his sisters were going to have the best education possible. Tradition be damned. Carl Carter was our Jackie Robinson.
During my 3rd grade year, a 1st through 12th grade private academy was formed to circumvent the government's intent to integrate the public schools of the Mississippi Delta. White children left the public schools by the thousands. Carl Carter and a few of my white friends stayed behind.

I got a good education at the private academy. I got a great background in English, despite my tendency to use too many parenthetical expressions, commas, and cliches. (I read better than I write....) As a public speaker, I can usually hold a crowd's attention. Ruby Sue Issa taught us a lot more than history in our Social Studies classes. My faults are not because of my school or my teachers.
But even as a middle-schooler, I knew something was wrong. At one point, I sat down with my parents and discussed transferring to the Public School. I told my parents that the private school just wasn't right. I didn't say it was evil, I didn't say segregation was wrong. I didn't have the ability to articulate what I felt. I simply knew that something wasn't right. But then I talked myself out of transferring, simply because it was unheard of.
We weren't too upscale, but if your parents had the money and you were white, you went to the private academy. By the time I graduated, I was once again totally comfortable with the place.
Then one of my sisters went through a similar phase. She tried a different academy, hated it, and came back.
When my youngest sister started making the same noises, my folks decided to move to a town with good public schools. The schools happened to be integrated. My sisters and brother weren't bitten by anyone.
(My old school has since re-invented itself as a "Christian" academy. I hope they will find a way to integrate the place sometime soon. After all, it's 2007, and there's no shortage of minorities there to use as integrators....)
Then, having moved to Texas, I found myself with a daughter who needed educating, and sent her to a (barely) integrated church school through grade 6. My mother thoroughly enjoyed the irony of my kid attending a private academy. For middle school, she was in an integrated charter Arts school. High school has been the traditional public school. (But not the high school in my own beloved funky East Side neighborhood. That school is a Gladiator Training Center. I might be extremely liberal on some issues, but I ain't stupid.) Various strings got pulled to get her into the best public high school in the area, a public school that is nowhere near my house. I'm both happy with the decision, and proud of it. We didn't move to a White-Flight suburb.

Wait a minute....

Where the heck was I going with all this? My intent was to sit down and write a brief intro to the link below, which is a great Boston Globe article about keeping the Government out of the schools as much as possible. See below......But then I led off with Carl Carter and his family.
Don't leave educating our children to the government - The Boston Globe
I hope you read Jeff Jacoby's article.
Before I started writing this, I agreed with the whole thing. Now, I still agree with individual sentences, and most of the paragraphs, but I have to rein in my Libertarianism there. I can't agree with the entire article.

I still hate the idea of an educational monopoly. Or any other monopoly.

I think bi-lingual education is a joke. (No matter how little money I have, I'll always be able to pay some unfortunate victim of bilingual education to mow my yard.)

The overall public school expense to society, as comparated to a private school, is ridiculous.

But Jeff Jacoby erred in this article when he didn't give the government a slight tip of the hat for integrating A.W. James Elementary school. It wouldn't have happened any other way, and Carl Carter's life would have been immeasurably impoverished without the government's intervention. (But if I still lived in Mississippi, would I now avoid A.W. James Elementary as a "Gladiator Vo-Tech", like my parents did?)

It's funny what you can remember when you sit down and start typing.

(That sentence would have been a nice sentimental ending to this post, wouldn't it ? But I can't resist throwing in this....Jimmy Carter and I sent our daughters to Public Schools. Bill and Hillary didn't. Therefore, they're racist Arkansas Hillbillies. There. That feels better.)

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