by Ryan Almodovar
Those who have read my articles may have noticed that I am pretty attached to my city, Lancaster, PA – the only city that has total coverage by cameras on every corner and an Amish market that sells empanadas (Pot pie and arroz con gandules is an amazing combo – just trust me). Not surprisingly, this hometown boy also happens to be pretty attached to his alma mater – J.P. McCaskey High School. What sets my old school apart, besides the fact that I once graced their hallways, is the fact that it is the most diverse school in the area – all races, religions, and all kinds of people learn and grow here. This diversity is one of the best things this school has going for it, and the lessons I learned as a result have been invaluable in my life. So you can imagine my surprise when I came across this article a few days ago.
Seriously? Segregated? Read the article, but in a nutshell, they’ve started creating homerooms that divide students into groups by race and gender, as a means of empowerment and ultimately to improve the ever important ‘test scores.’ Now, I will admit that despite the happy memories I’ll spin about this place, McCaskey is one of those schools that is always under threat of being shut down by the state due to poor academic performance, but you could say the same of any number of inner-city public schools – especially ones with high populations of Latinos and African-American students. I realize test scores are important, but segregating students as part of the solution?
I tried to reason with the idea, I really did, so I felt as if I had to break this down. A school who is subjected to a test—let’s ignore race/gender for a second, and the amount of financial support that school gets is based on test performance. If the school does poorly, you have to find a way to get your students up to par. Let’s assume you have the statistics available to you, and you identify a population that maybe has performed less favorably in some areas. You support that group, and give them the tools and motivation to succeed, so they can do better next year. All else being equal, this idea makes sense.
As well intentioned as this is, you can’t segregate like this. Yes, it is a good idea to give kids role models, and there is evidence showing having a role model of the same race can be beneficial, but you cannot make it mandatory. I’m thoroughly disappointed with my school, and it’s a shame to see the values and qualities that make this place great kicked to the side to satisfy a requirement for a broken system. I will bleed McCaskey Red and Black until I die, but as long as this ‘experiment’ is allowed to continue, whatever benefit that will be gained will be far outweighed by the damage done to your students.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.