A Cautionary Tale of Two Classrooms


The Civil Rights Museum - Birmingham, Alabama

The Civil Rights Museum – Birmingham, Alabama

Over 50 years ago, Chief Justice, Thurgood Marshall delivered the opinion of the Court with Brown v. Board of Education, stating “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. . .”

To this day, racial balance is not reflected in public education. In fact, the classroom is as segregated as ever. Putting ‘private independent’ in front of ‘school’ further exaggerates the socioeconomic and racial divide in education.

Recently, I had the privilege of chaperoning a civil rights and service learning school trip to Birmingham & Montgomery, AL. At the Civil Rights Museum, I was confronted with the historical and the contemporary, staring at replicas of two separate and distinctly unequal classrooms – a white classroom circa 1953 and a black classroom circa 1953. The tale of two classrooms really isn’t a tale at all.

Which classroom did I choose for my kids?

I chose one separate and unequal space, private independent (predominantly white) over another, public (mainly black and brown). This self-awareness came with not only self-critique but also self-affirmation.

Why had I made this choice? It’s simple: Exceptional education and resources.

How do I reconcile putting my kids in such a racially unbalanced space? I do it through high parent engagement and advocacy which gives me the agency to create partnerships in my school community that cultivate equitable and inclusive communities.

I have little faith that the racial imbalance in our systems of education will change over the next fifty years. Whether we choose public, charter, private or private independent, the overall success of our children is ultimately dependent on how we show up as parents. We must intentionally show up for our kids in powerful ways that remind them where they are, who they are, who they come from. We must teach them to engage, advocate, have agency, and of course, contribute back to communities that look like them.

Perhaps, our kids will be the generation bold and resourced enough to create classrooms that reflect diversity all the way around.


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One Comment

  1. Elaine
    Posted November 20, 2018 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for putting into words my very thoughts, I couldn’t agree with you more

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