Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bloglines - Well, yeah, but

August J. Pollak -

Well, yeah, but

Oliver links approvingly to the story of a 13-year-old from a public school in New Jersey winning the National Spelling Bee. Unfortunately, I think he misses the point in his argument here.

I'm only pointing this out because the fact that the last few winners have been home-schooled has been used as a talking point by the right-wing in order to both slam public school and flaunt the alleged superiority of home-schooling (a practice I find odd, personally, but I'm not going to totally get down on what is generally parents striving to have the best educational environment for their kids).
Kerry Close's education had nothing to do with home-schooling versus public schooling. It had to do with rich schooling versus poor schooling.

Close attended a 300-student school in Spring Lake, NJ: a tiny town with a population of around 4,000 people, and located in Monmouth county- one of the more wealthy, and nearly all-white, regions in the state. According to the last census, the median family income in Spring Lake was just shy of $100,000.

I'm sure some people are rolling eyes when I mentioned race as a factor, but it's a direct correlation to individual wealth and the interest in financing the school system. As Jonathan Kozol, author of Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, pointed out a few months back:

Nationally, overwhelmingly non-white schools receive $1,000 less per pupil than overwhelmingly white schools. In NYC, to give a dramatic example, there are kids in the South Bronx who get about $11,000 a year towards their education while right next door in the white suburb of Bronxville, they get $19,000. Kids that I write about are treated by America as if they were worth half as much as children in the white suburbs.

I often hear privileged white people say, "Well, that doesn't sound quite fair, but can you really buy your way to a better education for poor kids?" Typically people who ask that question send their kids to Andover and Exeter. And still, the parents who spend $30,000 a year to guarantee their child a royal road into the Ivy League have the nerve to look me in the eyes and ask me about buying your way into a better education.

When a 13-year old minority student from Newark, about an hour's drive north and one of the poorest cities in the nation, wins the National Spelling Bee, I'll consider it a landmark acheivement of the public school system; until then, we have nothing to celebrate in what is honestly just another example of the apartheid of public education.

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