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

Inside I’m Hurting: a wider vision

Adoption

As the last entry in my series of book reviews on Louise Michelle Bomber’s book, Inside I’m Hurting, I’d like to include a quote from her final chapter. I really respect Bomber’s vision for working with attachment-challenged children in schools. Unfortunately, I think it’s very unlikely that her suggestions could be adopted in the U.S. (Bomber is from the UK). But it’s nice to dream.

Bomber writes, “My vision for the future would be that one day, every school would have teaching assistants or learning mentors who are trained and specialized in being additional attachment figures for children who have experienced trauma or loss.”

Inside I’m Hurting: permanency

Adoption

Permanency is the topic of this post on the book “Inside I’m Hurting” by Louise Michelle Bomber. The book is written for educators and is a manual on working with attached challenged children in schools.

In chapter 8, “Permanency and Constancy,” Bomber explains why many attachment challenged children struggle with the concept of permanency. Bomber describes permanency in this way, “A child who has negotiated the psychological developmental stage of permanency will be aware that objects and the parent exist and will continue to exist, and that he or she (the child), exists as an individual and will continue to exist despite not being seen or directly connected to the parent.”

However, as Bomber explains, attachment challenged children may not have mastered this stage. “A child that has experienced neglect, chaotic and inconsistent parenting or traumatic experiences, however, may become very stuck, not understanding this important developmental concept,” she writes.

Bomber writes that kids in this situation may often do everything they can to stay connected to the significant adults in their lives.

After reading this, I understood somewhat why my kids can be so needy. But, I’m not the most patient person in the world, and the constant demands for attention can get on my nerves fast. So what do I do?

Bomber suggests that it’s important to help these children experience being connected to others. She recommends the following tactics to do this:

1. Sensory reminders: for example, using a visual image that will help children remember that they have not been forgotten when away from the parent.
2. Personal touch: using cautious touch to make a connection.
3. Reassurance: verbally reassuring children of your connection to them.
4. Eye contact: giving children sustained eye contact.
5. Physical presence: connecting through physical presence.
6. Hide and seek: not necessarily the traditional game, but a variation, involving hiding objects and finding them.

Bomber offers encouragement to parents and educators about this issue: “… the time will indeed come when the child will be able to internalize the concept of permanency to such an extent that they can throw away the ‘props’ – the symbolic representations of the fact that you actually do keep them alive in your mind.”