Why School Diversity is Important

Living in Detroit

As Detroit Public School (DPS) students, my kids are a racial minority. However, DPS does have more diversity than most people realize, making it about as racially diverse as the surrounding suburbs. However, my kids’ school (and I suspect other DPS schools as well) have an upper hand when it comes to socioeconomic diversity.

In my opinion, this type of diversity is just as valuable as racial diversity, and is non-existent in many schools. I recently read a USA Today article about this issue.

Here’s an excerpt explaining why (in the author’s opinion), socioeconomic integration is important. I would also argue that diversity of any type improves learning.

“Education researchers know that one of the best ways to improve public schools is through socioeconomic integration. It isn’t just a matter of pooling economic resources, it’s about sharing human capital. When advantaged families attend public schools, parents with influence gain a greater sense of urgency about improving things. Their own children’s learning is at stake. When problems arise, they get involved and make sure problems are fixed.”

I do have an issue with the above statement,  because it implies that economically disadvantaged families care less about their children’s education. However, it does reflect the unfortunate reality that people with more money have more power.

According to the author, integration will happen once parents change how they make decisions about schools (although I would argue, the problem and solution are much more nuanced in Detroit, and perhaps everywhere).

“Most parents don’t look up schools’ test scores and staff profiles. Instead, they focus on perceived class and racial composition, as Jennifer Holme described in Harvard Educational Review and Kimberly Goyette corroborated in Social Problems. Parents put much weight on their peers’ decisions, so it’s necessary to create a critical mass of families committed to integration.”

My question is, how do we create this critical mass the author suggests? In part, it involves overcoming prejudices, which is not an easy feat. If you have an idea, please let me know!

DPS logo

Diversity in Detroit

Living in Detroit

I won’t pretend that Detroit Public Schools (DPS) are diverse, although they’re just about as diverse as most of the suburban schools. It seems to me that there is a general, unspoken agreement about which of the two is better, but that’s a complicated topic for another post (if I’m ever brave enough to tackle it).

I was recently talking to an acquaintance, and it was clear that he assumed that BE and BC are the only two of their kind (or any kind other than African American) in their school. I explained that yes, the largest population in their school is African American. But, there is also a sizable Bengali population, as well as Asians, Hispanics, and Caucasians. The DPS Web site says this about its student population: “We also serve more than 7,100 students, speaking 44 different languages in schools throughout the district, to learn the English Language and American Culture while mastering core subject areas.”

I certainly would like to see more diversity in Detroit schools, but at this point, I’m also happy that my kids are experiencing more diversity than they likely would in surrounding cities. And, I won’t automatically assume that their minority position is altogether negative. In addition, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of socioeconomic diversity, which is present in their school, and is just as important as racial diversity. I’m planning a separate post on socioeconomic diversity in the near future.

For the Caucasian readers: have you ever found yourself in a “minority” position. If so, what was your experience?