Like so many writers, I also teach. Like so many teachers—especially of literature, especially of younger students—I am female. This profession is largely and historically comprised of a female majority, so it’s no surprise that so many media outlets hate on teachers, so many leaders bust teachers’ unions, and so many good citizens ensure that teaching is not afforded social prestige. And yet, teachers in schools across the city and country are engaging with some of the hardest issues America faces. On June 18th, I joined a packed room of educators and parents from across New York City to learn more about racial inequity in schools. “Creating Racially Equitable Schools” was a panel discussion and fundraiser for Border Crossers, held at the Brooklyn Heights Montessori School. The notes below are woven together from quotes and paraphrases of the five panelists: filmmaker Joe Brewster, school leader Martha Haakmat, educator and filmmaker Ali Michael, Professor Pedro Noguera, and Professor Howard Stevenson.
REAL: New York City schools are among the most segregated in the country.
VISION: In racially equitable schools, all children see themselves reflected and respected in the curriculum and in the pedagogy. All staff understand the history of race and racism in the United States.
REAL: New York City is diverse—in the daytime. People ride the subways together and work in the same buildings, then go home to their largely segregated neighborhoods.