I have many friends who are staunchly “anti-choice” when it comes to educating black children. They are awesome people, folks you would trust with your children or money, but I find their hypocrisy alarming.
They can be broken up into different categories. However, one trait they all share is that they consistently exercise choice for their children, yet they expect black families to only exercise patience.
While there are some moves to disenfranchise black people further through fake voting fraud investigations that several states, including Pennsylvania, are rejecting, there are other, more pervasive ways that Black folks continue to be marginalized and their enfranchisement wholly and consistently undermined—namely, denial of access to quality of schools.
Schools that educate our black children, in particular, in our own neighborhoods have always been undermined through the restriction of funds, quality staff, and other resources. And, the resistance to educational justice for all, one of the most basic human rights that include clean water, clean air, wholesome food, comes from all angles—even from our so called liberal friends.
I say my friends are hypocrites based off of stories they have shared with me over the years. None of them could be considered anything less than middle-class economically. Many of them not only choose their children’s schools, they exude an inordinate amount of energy to choose their children’s classrooms, exerting pressure to ensure their children get the best teachers as they matriculate throughout schools. Some have even threatened to pull their children out of a particular school if they don’t get their wishes. Seems like choice to me.
I don’t believe there is really anyone who is anti-school choice. What they are, by and large, is rabidly pro-choice for their own children.
Other well-to-do families find another way to ensure that their children thrive in educational ecosystem of their choosing. These parents can afford the tutoring, trips, camps, and experiences that can supplement what they believe their children need. Not only are they choosing, they have access to an entire menu to choose from. Often, these same folks frown on others who don’t financially have access to this menu of choice.
There are many other fraudulent anti-school choice folks who choose their schools by choosing the neighborhood (gentrified, suburban, etc.) they can afford to live in. There are others who choose criteria-based schools that segregate entry by the abilities of children. These types of “anti-choice” folks operate at the most confounding levels of hypocrisy, often falsely and loudly declaring that charter schools are not public schools. Many of these hypocrites attended and/or send their children to the most private “public” schools around.
Listen, if I want to visit a public library, there is no criteria to visit. It is public. The same with a public bathroom. Charter schools that are open to any child are far more public than magnet and criteria-based schools that select based off of the highest test scores, best attendance, most talented interviewee, and most astonishing presentation by student applicants.
In Philadelphia, what is most vexing are the politicians who have, or whose children have, attended magnet and criteria-based schools—schools that have historically been closed to most black children, have fewer children in poverty than the city’s average, fewer students with special needs or ELL support, and who screen entry of its students studiously, and vigilantly. Despite all of these barriers to entry, these politicians—like Rep. James Roebuck, Jr., who talks often about his (magnet) public Central High School education—blast charter schools and school choice and champion their almost-impossible-to-get-in-if-I’m-black schools as the definition of public. Meanwhile, City Councilwoman Helen Gym, a poster child for anti-school choice, is well known to have consistently exercised school choice for her kids and community.
I am not anti-magnet schools. I embrace them as a part of the portfolio model that cities like Philadelphia are developing. Some of these magnet schools focus particularly on a theme and they work diligently to ensure that the children they accept are great fits for the environment, culture, and mission of their schools.
But, what they need to stop doing is feigning like they are all about public schools and demonizing charters for not being public. These politicians should advocate for their constituents’ right to choose a public school that works for them and stop “faking the funk.”
I don’t believe there is really anyone who is anti-school choice. What they are, by and large, is rabidly pro-choice for their own children. Many families will use every trick, loophole, legal and otherwise, to ensure their children get the best classroom, school, and educational experience as possible.
Families are starting to see that some of you only care about having choice for your children, while other folks are on the outside looking in. Please, don’t come for these public schools, unless sent for.Header Photo: Robert Daly