Saturday, June 03, 2006

Virtually Integrating Our Schools

I take the persistence of poverty in America as a given. Those who care about eliminating poverty and classism in America are powerless to change its inevitability and ubiquity. And the consequence of poverty is racism, benign bigotry, and poverty community schools hopelessly mired in failure.

Our society continues to condone and tolerate this phenomenon with a vengence. NCLB pogram advocates only obfuscate the tolerance and further nurturing of a convenient underclass. The political invention of "failing schools" neatly skirts the fact that poor children are hopelessly trapped in urban social warfare reservations.

Recent studies uncover the lie that a child in a failing school can simply transfer across to the next school to get out of a failing one. Failing schools are clustered in geopolitical constructs that may as well be prisons of poverty and violence for those trapped in the confines of these ghettos. To call the recent rash of shootings and killings in Hartford a tragedy is not enough. Even tragedy mourns when one tragedy begets another and another. Any conscientious human being is numbed by the slaughter of children randomly shooting children.

In the one-upsmanship of American society, racism and classism observe no color lines. Those who empower racism and poverty are as likely to be black or spanish middleclass citizens as white. In every case, the same arguments are made. The shiftless and lazy arguments that forty years ago slurred minority populations are now exercised without question toward helpless and politically impotent child populations. The arguments are so compelling that arming poor kids with guns so that they can thin the ranks is de facto social policy.

My words will not change a thing so I resign myself to the same profession that Jonathan Kozol endeavors to be, merely a witness. I have rarely found truth to be a worthwhile virtue but I exercise the reckless honor anyway, usually at my own expense.

Assuming that nothing changes [and very little has in my lifetime] these violent urban operas will continue to persist and feed the nightly news broadcasts with a profitable fill of blood and tears and empty homilies.

However there is something that liberal educational evangelists can do to at least virtually integrate the classrooms of urban fortress schools and that is to advocate for the wide adoption of collaborative educational tools. There is little or no expense involved. Numerous online tools exist that can allow students in suburban school sto collaborate on a like assignment in an urban school.

For example, an English class reading the same book, might ask students to individually be teamed up with a counterpart at another school and write an essay or produce a dialogue about what they read. Recent studies indicate that a student is more likely to communicate with a person online than a student sitting next to them. while many lament this phenomenon, it offers opportunity to teachers to use it to broaden discussions beyond their school walls.

I created a writeboard here and sent it to some random educators. Let's see if they're saavy enough to respond.

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