Equity is the new buzzword that pops up in every other article on PPS these days. My simplistic understanding is that “Equity” means social engineering, bussing, gerrymandered district borders, so that rich kids and poor kids will be forced to go to school together.
I get asked not infrequently what would make me send my kids to Public School. Let me tell you one thing that will NOT make me come to PPS: “Equity.” Better academics? Yes. High-quality teachers, world-class facilities? Yes. Small schools with small classes and a gentle, loving, community environment? YES. “Equity”? No, not really on my agenda. Am I supposed to feel Guilt about that statement? Maybe. I’ll leave that to my mother.
I’m just being painfully honest here. Do I believe in Equity as a concept? Sure, sounds great. Am I going to enthusiastically send my child to a school with reduced academic standards (cookie-cutter schools won’t have enough money for full AP course offerings), and a cultural environment that I don’t love? (Again, being painfully blunt: if your mother didn’t go to college, you probably have speech & behavior patterns that I don’t want my child to learn, because it will not benefit him in life.) Answer: No.
So: What exactly are we trying to achieve with all this social machination? What I hear:
- We want poor children to have access to the same academic opportunities as rich kids. Great, but that’s a funding question, not a geographic one.
- We want poor children to be exposed to rich children who have college & career goals. Role modeling needs to come from within the community. From my own experience, throwing disparate groups together can indeed make people learn something about each other – but cannot change fundamental group culture, for better or for worse.
I was very impressed with SEI when I toured that facility a few weeks ago. Clearly we need more organizations along that model. We also need to acknowledge that if we are going to really shift the needle in a getting Portland to a college-bound culture, we are going to have to invest a LOT of money into social services, with very early and ongoing intervention efforts, and be mercenary about it. The superficial dabbling that we are currently doing will only drive away those who have the means to go, and is simply postponing a real solution onto future generations. I dread the idea of being here in Portland for the next round of 25-year planning and still be talking about the same things.