#BLM Should Begin With Education
Since people love to judge a book by its cover, it might be good for this author to begin by describing herself. I am a small, white woman with green eyes and brown hair. I grew up in a violent home located in a nice white neighborhood in St. Louis. We were barely above the lower-middle class. My father held a union job but was very particular about not being considered blue collar. My mother always worked to help provide us with any extras.
As a young girl,
I went to North Glendale grade school, part of the Kirkwood school district. North Glendale was all white. I’ve always considered my parents as more prejudiced than racist. They were always worried about black people moving into the neighborhood and tanking the housing prices. Because my two older brother played lots of sports, we were around black people, mostly fellow athletes and some coaches, but we didn’t have black people as friends.
There was a in Kirkwood where most of the Black kids lived called Meacham Park, and I admit I have never been there. When we were in sixth grade, our school had a tradition of inviting all the sixth-graders from Meacham Park elementary to our school for a day. It was designed to help us assimilate to make race relations easier when we went to junior high at Nipher, which was 33 percent black.
For some reason, the state government of Missouri under Gov. Kit Bond decided our desegregation wasn’t good enough and we needed busing. The district changed our school to sixth and seventh grade and the other junior high, North, which was 2 percent black, to grades eight and nine. To get to the new school we would go by bus, a first in our school district. People on the other side of town were in an uproar about the number of black kids coming to their area. This part of the Kirkwood school district was wealthier and whiter.
The first day of school was something I will never forget. There were police officers surrounding the entrance. If I were scared, I could only imagine how the black kids felt. I quickly learned from them that they thought since the school district expected a race riot, a race riot they would get. The black kids began running all over the school, yelling and tearing things down. There was some pushing and threatening words, and I remembered one of the kids angrily coming towards me. She looked at my face and said, “Nipher.” I nodded yes and she ran on. That ended my first day of ninth grade, of busing, of racism. No one was hurt, nothing was irreparably damaged, and nothing was accomplished.
As an adult,
Many years later, I was elected to the Town Council of Silverthorne, CO where we had moved to raise our daughter. I remember the real estate agent explaining as we were looking for homes that Silverthorne was where the Hispanic working-class families lived and their children went to the local elementary school. We could select other towns in the county such as Frisco and Breckenridge to send our daughter to all-white schools. We chose the integrated school.
A new school was needed as the Silverthorne school was in poor shape. There were many protests where the school should be located. The most contentious location was a piece of agricultural land under consideration for rezoning and development, and as incentive, the builders offered land for the school. But it was taking too long. If we could pull off a land switch with another landowner, we could get a large enough space for the new school to be built in the next year. The location wasn’t perfect but we could get the land faster. One of the Democratic council members and I, an independent, led the charge to get this done. To this day I love driving by that beautiful school attended by different races, all there to get an education.
Why Education Matters
While I certainly don’t have the answers to fix the problems BLM raises, I strongly believe that education is a critical component. Too often neighborhoods of color attend the lowest-performing schools. The best teachers don’t want to work there because it’s harder even if they are incentivized with extra pay. But no one seems to take into consideration that if you live in a neighborhood that isn’t safe or a home that isn’t safe, and your parents have to work all the time because their jobs pay so little, that being productive at school is much harder.
What needs to change? First, based on my experience, the reliance on property taxes and additional funding favorably voted on by wealthier, more liberal districts to pay for schools. Schools should be financed at the state level and money allotted based on need.
There must be a required skills level that every child must pass that is not based on the current testing requirements. There must be a standard amount spent on educating every child. We must fund it if additional resources are required because a school needs more counselors or extra aids to help with kids coming from harder home environments. Pre-K education must be standard and after-school programs provided where needed.
We must educate each child based on their interests and 21st-century jobs. Educating a student to be a plumber should be equal to educating one to be a programmer. Counselors must be better capable of helping a child determine job interests and paths to success as well as understanding why a child might be falling behind (are there problems at home, is extra tutoring required?). We need an educational system focused on individual success and it should be standard for every citizen.
I know from personal experience that an education can change a life. My mother paid for me to go to college, which my father thought was a waste of money. While in college, I met a black teacher who helped me find my professional path. Without Jim Armstrong’s support, I never would have been as successful in my career.
I belong to an organization called P.E.O. All we do if raise money for women’s college scholarships. I would love to help a young woman, particularly one who is coming out of the foster system, get money for college or trade school. We have it and just need candidates. We do have some scholarships that require a high GPA and lots of community service, but we also have money to give that is needs-based. Any young woman in the Denver metro area can contact me and I will find them scholarship money. And I know lots of women who will do the same.
We must set as a goal in this country that every person regardless of color, sexual orientation or his/her’s parent’s income, has an equal chance to go as far in their educational goals as they want. Because it is proven that education makes a difference in quality of life. The U.S. And as a country we must raise all, particularly those that have barely been afloat for far too long.