From identification to segregation

Oct. 8, 2006, midnight | By Ashley Lau | 14 years, 3 months ago

This editorial represents the views of the Silver Chips editorial board.

On the first day of school, senior Lauren Atha spent the better part of first period standing in line to receive her new white ID, only to be told that because she wasn't in the Magnet program, she couldn't keep it.

Many Blair students had similar experiences during the first week of school as they were told, one by one, that because they had a brown ID and weren't in the Communication and Arts Program, or because they had a red ID and weren't a freshman, their ID was invalid.

The new ID policy has left many Blazers questioning exactly why the administration has pigeonholed them into distinct categories by branding them with a specific colored-coded ID.

Instead of celebrating Blair's diversity, the new ID policy instead reinforces segregation. Self-segregation is already an issue in the student body, and the formal distribution of color-coded IDs has essentially institutionalized the phenomenon.

While the administration's efforts to improve Blair's learning environment through smaller learning communities are commendable, they are counterproductive - instead of building community, they deepen rifts. The ID system has left the student body visibly segregated, alienating students from one another instead of building a welcoming, cohesive environment.

According to Vice Principal Linda Wanner, teachers can now say, "This is my small little group" and inevitably make students feel "part of a group." The problem is that this "small little group" cannot stay together for all seven or eight classes in a day. If students are encouraged only to identify with other students wearing matching IDs, then Blair's melting pot will segregate into isolated subgroups.

Besides establishing a policy of de facto segregation, the new IDs have unleashed more divisive issues. Students are already being punished for failing to conform to new color-coding protocol. "My daughter was already confronted by Ms. Hurley for wearing a lanyard for a program she is not in," one parent wrote on the PTSA list-serv.

Because two of the programs in Blair are highly selective, students in these programs were already differentiated from the rest of the population. The new IDs have only reinforced the isolation. "We adults have to help by not giving the impression that one academy is any more intrinsically worthwhile than any other," another Blair parent wrote on the list-serv.

By departmentalizing into academies, the new color-coded IDs essentially undermine the multiple talents and interests of a diverse student body. Single-choice academy selection, and the accompanying color classification, leaves little room for the rocket scientist who loves poetry or the journalist who is also a calculus whiz. If students are reprimanded for wearing wrong-colored IDs, then Blair is failing to nurture students into becoming well-rounded, open-minded people.

Besides forcing segregation on the student body, the new IDs consequently exacerbate the hazing of underclassmen. With the issue already prevalent at Blair, the red-colored IDs assigned to freshmen will only further single out younger students for humiliation.

The administration should reconsider the decision to color-code student IDs and include student input in their decision before finalizing the policy. Since this misguided attempt to foster a sense of community was in the name of the students, it is, therefore, the students who the administration should be turning to.

Please click here for coverage of the ID policy and its history.

Ashley Lau. Born in Boston, Ashley is a huge Red Sox fan and sometimes wishes she could just live at Fenway Park. She loves to run, do tae kwon do, travel, cook, go to concerts and has a new obsession with the TV show 24. Someday Ashley … More »

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