Because of the zoning of schools in Georgia and around the United States, there is a conspicuous homogenizing of students who attend the inner most city schools. Those with eyes on the educational landscape will notice that those students who are born of the city are left to attend the often underfunded and poorly supported schools, which remain within the heart of most inner cities. It is a new segregation of our schools.
In addition, there is a move that seems to zone the most affluent students to the schools with the most support and alumni funding. This zoning is not surprising to anyone who has watched those who use “the legal address indicated in tax records for the residence” of our students to determine where they can seek a higher education. However, this move to only allow students to attend their zoned schools robs urban students of exposure and a “truly integrated” educational experience. It is noteworthy that the zoning is doled out according to the taxation records of the citizens. Thus, it stands to reason that the schools with the most tax dollars flowing through their communities benefit from the better public services including schools. How do we redistribute the wealth that is the educational currency with which we seek to fairly educate today’s students? How can we make strides to increase diversity and level the playing field within education? For, the current situation with zoning has certainly given rise to what I call a new age of segregation, which is crippling innovative urban teachers and inner city students who are thirsty for new opportunities.
The New Segregation is crippling innovative urban teachers and inner-city students Click To Tweet
The Reality of the New Segregation
How do we even begin to address this “elephant in the room”? There is a very simple first baby step in solving such a complex issue. That step is to acknowledge that there is a problem with zoning and fair and equitable education. Here I must insert a personal experience of my own that shines a light on the effect of exposure. I can clearly recall that after teaching a few months in a rural area of Georgia, I was able to take my “disadvantaged free-lunch” students who had never traveled a mere 20 miles from home into the city of Atlanta to attend the High Museum and Shakespeare’s Tavern.
This experience impacted these students so profoundly that years later when I saw one of those students he detailed how that trip changed his outlook on life. Clearly, it was nothing mountain moving, but to be exposed to diverse experiences beyond the norm assisted my students in adjusting their myopic views of the world. Thus, it is no surprise that years later I ran a campaign to take 6 inner city students on a tour of London, Paris, and Rome. The effect of that trip left impressions on us all, as the worldwide classroom opened to my students and myself alike. To be clear, there is no such thing as a separate but equal education- even though people will argue that no such issue exists. Exposure to diverse opportunities outside of the norm should be a supported (funded) and mandated part of the educational experience. That is not to say that everyone deserves a trip to Rome, but we all should be immersed in the diversity that mirrors the world in which we live regardless of our “zone”.
Quite frankly, I don’t profess to have a resolute answer to this issue of “zoning” and fair education. Instead, I am offering experiences with the aforementioned zoning and exposure for our inner-city, rural, or “bound” students, who are stuck in their own unbroken circle of similar circumstances. I am struggling with what can be done to spread the wealth because I would never argue that the students in more affluent areas are not deserving of all the opportunities that the world has to offer. However, I am asserting that if we want well-rounded students who are aware of the world then we must find a way to break free of the “zones” which keep us from experiencing true diversity.
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