Guest Post by Alan McSurely
Originally published as "School board right to end ‘segregation,'" a letter to the editor of the Chapel Hill News.
Several letters and at least one News & Observer column by Rick Martinez have explicitly attacked the NAACP and, by implication, Valerie Foushee and Elizabeth Carter of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board, for our efforts to provide equal educational opportunities for each differentiated (and gifted) learner in our schools. These attacks suggest an organized effort to racialize this initiative.
A new member of the school board has been most vocal in asserting this racialized position. Mike Kelley has set up a phoney “either-or” situation that pits white families who want the best for their kids against black families who also want the best for their kids. He and his allies have trotted out the old racist argument that the only way educators can really challenge “smart” white kids is to segregate them from the “dumb” students of color. That racist position was outlawed in May 1954 when the Supreme Court rules that segregated education was, by definition, not constitutional.
Our school board is right, constitutionally and pedagogically, to liquidate new forms of segregation that are more oppressive to children of color than the old dual systems. The new form sets up two schools under one roof — one for white and Asian kids who have been labeled “gifted” in certain aspects of our culture and the other school for equally gifted kids who have not yet figured out how to play the academic game. This is as unconstitutional and pedagogically unsound today as it was 50 years ago.
I have taught middle school kids, been a juvenile court counselor, taught educational psychology at Antioch College and have been a community educator for 45 years. Like every parent, I want the best for our gifted” child who is enrolled in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools. I expect her teachers to follow the best pedagogical research and practice such as is found in the 1999 report “How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice,” national Academy of Sciences, at www.nap.edu.
All kids are gifted, Mr. Kelley. Keep that in mind. And our teachers can draw out their individual gifts by being sensitive to their differentiated learning styles. That’s what the majority of our school board, the Supreme Court and the NAACP want.
Alan McSurely is a civil rights attorney and an officer of the Chapel Hill-Carboro NAACP.