Separating students is racistWhile I agree wholeheartedly...

the Forum

April 20, 1994

Separating students is racist

While I agree wholeheartedly with Susan Reimer's opinion (column, March 10) that schools must move away from placing children in groups by their learning abilities, I strongly object to her approach.

By the second paragraph, she has divided the world in two: the "white middle class," and the "poor" and "black".

If we are to truly dismantle the outdated system of tracking children, we must embrace a new method in which all children receive the same opportunities for learning, no matter what their ability.

Classes become heterogeneous and contain children on several different grade levels for a given subject. The curriculum is structured so all children strive to reach the same goals by the end of the semester.

Some children grasp the concepts immediately, and some take weeks and even months longer.

The joy of this system is that the children who learn more quickly tend to turn to their peers and offer assistance, fostering priceless values such as sharing, compassion, patience and learning to value the differences each brings to their environment.

A problem surfaces, however, when detracking is approached with biased beliefs such as those held by Ms. Reimer. Although in essence she is in favor of grouping children heterogeneously (a much more true-to-life situation), she is unfortunately doing some "tracking" of her own.

She states, "By high school, you have honors courses dominated by middle-class white kids, while hallways and bathrooms are dominated by kids -- often poor, often black -- who have gotten the message that they can't succeed in the classroom."

Perhaps this is the message that these children have gotten, but the fault does not rest entirely on the shoulders of public school teachers and principals.

What kind of message is Ms. Reimer sending, referring as she does to detracking as a "social experiment"?

Ms. Reimer is guilty of perpetrating a dangerous paradox. On one hand, she supports breaking down the walls that separate some children from others who may be of different learning abilities.

On the other, she facilitates a belief that the good children must be white and middle-class, and that the "behavior problems," as she calls them, must be "poor" and "black."

News flash: Not all children with behavioral and learning problems are poor and black, just as not all gifted and talented children are white middle class.

She tries to reassure other moms like herself that detracking "is not such a risk for us." A risk? A social experiment?

Our children need to learn the lessons of equality in all aspects of life -- that we are all in the same group, whether we learn quickly or slowly, and whether we are black or white. Children are born innocent, unbiased and accepting. It is only through adults that they learn the ways of hate and superiority.

Ms. Reimer's article is . . . as offensive as painting a swastika on a wall or attending a KKK rally.

We must not advocate the attitude that, in essence, the white middle class parents are allowing their children to be put in classes with those children, and are doing the rest of the world a big favor.

Detracking is "the right thing to do." But lose the us-and-them way of thinking, or you will be encouraging parents and children to follow much more dangerous tracks than "college" or "vo-tech."

Use your power to teach children that they are no better or worse than any other children, regardless of color, family income or address.

Laura Lockard


County school cuts

We just received notice that our elementary school, Rodgers Forge in Baltimore County, has been reduced in staff by 3.8 positions. This will significantly increase our daughter's class size next year.

Dumbarton Middle, our son's school, is also experiencing tight staffing. We feel these cuts are a direct result of skewed spending priorities in the Baltimore County public schools.

Money spent to establish new magnet schools and keep their class sizes artificially low is being taken from funds to meet basic needs of the remaining schools.

The promised extra special education staff has never materialized to take care of the additional special needs children included in the regular school.

This means that not only are class sizes larger, but the regular teachers must cope with more diverse needs. The number of special education children has not even been taken into account when establishing staffing cuts.

School Superintendent Stuart Berger wants to put the child first. My children do not feel "first," they just feel crowded.

Baltimore County public schools must redirect its spending priorities to reducing class size at all schools, not just a selected few.

Louise Teubner-Rhodes

Don Teubner-Rhodes


Smoking costs

In reply to Charles Johnston's letter April 12, I agree that "a person with an addiction for a legal drug such as nicotine" should be provided areas to smoke in.

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