Education and access to knowledge hold a sacred place for Black Americans. From the time when it was inaccessible to us, the risks that we took to acquire it, and the opportunities that have arisen for us from its acquisition, we have always valued learning and education.
Our demographic – the Black members of generations X and Y – have become the caretakers of that tradition. Now in our prime parenting years, we are faced with difficult choices as we consider the scholastic portion of our children’s education.
This series of articles chronicles five aspects to consider as you choose the right school for your child. There is no one strategy that will help you to find that “best fit”, but these basic guidelines will be beneficial to you on your search.
2. The overall health of a school can be measured by its commitment to diversity.
The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) considers “diversity” to consist of eight cultural identifiers: ability (mental and physical), age, ethnicity (includes country of origin and ancestry), gender, race, religion, sexuality, and socioeconomic status. Where a child falls within each of these eight categories – each one a continuum in itself – goes a long way toward determining who he or she is. The ideal school then, considers every student a “special case”, because the specific set of cultural identifiers they possess makes each child very unique. The best schools not only recognize these traits, but they also work actively to understand and support each and every one of them. This extends far beyond making sure that the right words are in their mission, making sure they celebrate a certain ethnicity’s “month”, or having a heterogeneous racial population. I have seen schools that had little racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and religious diversity in their population do a phenomenal job of educating their students about it, as well as acknowledging the differences that they shared despite their visual homogeneity. (At a glance, the school simply “looked like” a lot of White folks!) Conversely, I have seen schools that completely abdicated any sort of commitment to diversity because their leadership assumed that the fact that their student population was racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse meant that they had no need to address it.
While the way a school looks racially and ethnically does play an important role in how it can address diversity, look under the surface to see what they actually do. Ask administrators what they have done programmatically to address diversity at their school. Find out how they address difference in the curriculum. Does each student see their own cultural identifiers amongst the people in their lessons? Do they see those that are unlike themselves? Does the school have and support cultural affinity clubs like FJA (Fellowship of Jewish Athletes) or BSU (Black Student Union)? And I can almost guarantee you that a school that has a strong GSA (Gay / Straight Alliance) is truly unafraid to address difference, and has an active commitment to diversity.
Also be wary of putting your children in a situation where they will have to be the trailblazers. It takes a special child to cope with that type environment, so make sure that both you and your child are equipped to navigate that terrain. This subtopic alone could be another entire article, so I’ll save it for just that.
Ultimately, look for a school that purposefully and properly addresses cultural differences. Make sure that you feel comfortable with its commitment to diversity, and make sure that the substance of what they actually do in addressing difference matches the style in which they present it.
Check back in to alumniroundup.com for Part 3 of this series: Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data