[Change.org welcomes writer and journalist Tarice Gray to the Education blog. -- Eds.]
On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court made a groundbreaking decision: Schools could no longer enforce segregation. The Brown vs. Board of Education verdict was intended not so much as an invitation for educational unity, but for inclusivity in public schools.
Fast forward 56 years and one could argue that segregation is alive and exceedingly well in our school systems. Some educational institutes even embrace the concept. Charter schools have made it easier to do.
Two Minnesota charter schools cater to a specific group: Dugsi Academy, which focuses on the educational needs of East African children in America, and Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, which focuses on immigrant children primarily from Islamic backgrounds. The Albert Einstein Academy in greater Los Angeles embraces the Hebrew language.
The existence and proposed ideas of these institutions have been met by criticism. Some who continue to hold fast to the idea of educational inclusivity feel these schools should be challenged. Earlier this year, the Albert Einstein Academy was dealt a setback by the governing board of their school district.According to the Los Angeles Times, opponents argued the school would impede ethnic diversity.
Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy was also accused of being exclusionary. Two years ago, a teacher in Minneapolis questioned what she saw to be required Muslim prayer in school, and was put off by the inclusion of Islamic studies.
None of these schools refuse admission to any student, but their focus may make assimilation difficult. For some people, their very existence goes against the promise evoked by Brown vs. Board of Education, that diversity is good. Yet in diverse public schools cafeterias, and social areas, segregated students still congregate. Also, over the past ten years, our nation has slowly warmed up to the idea of single-sex education, expanding on the idea that girls and boys learn differently. It begs the question, should everyone embrace diversity in education? While it definitely has its benefits, it may not be for everyone.
Learning environments should be allowed to foster culturally sensitive and culturally specific schools and curriculum, if they work. Really, the more choices there are the better. Schools should not be condemned for promoting a culture, they should be held accountable for condemning a student to a bleak future for not educating them properly. That end result trumps the method to what some may see as madness. If it serves the right purpose, let it be.