Blair teachers weigh in on their experiences with integration
Silver Chips Online talked to long-time Blair teachers about their opinion of the changing conditions in public schools since the pro-integration ruling in Brown vs. Board.
Paul Grossman, Math teacher
Paul Grossman, who has been teaching at Blair for 10 years full-time after he substituted for the school, stated that "this is a much more integrated society than I grew up in."
Grossman attended Shepherd Elementary School in the 1940s and graduated from Coolidge High School in Northwest D.C., the school where Principal Philip Gainous was eventually the athletic director. Grossman stated that, of his graduating class, approximately 10 percent of the students were African American.
Grossman believes that "a couple of big changes" occurred over his years as a student, but the two that were most significant were the Brown vs. Board of Education decision and the Skelly Right Decision, a case in the District where a judge ruled tracking in schools illegal. Grossman believes that the latter decision is "a forerunner of what's happened in the country" and that we still see the remnants of the ruling at Blair, where some classes have mostly minority races while other classes have students of majority races.
Adamson admits that it's not a simple task to go to a school where you are a minority. In one instance, a white female student had to call her mother before the end of the school day because she felt so out of place. "It's not easy to be the only one," said Adamson.
Moving from L.A. to Silver Spring really opened up Adamson's eyes. "Children are the same," says Adamson. "The biggest variable more than race is class," Adamson explains. "When you're in economically depressed areas, you're dealing with students of color."
"I have never doubted the ability of students, it's just that circumstances put them at a disadvantage," she says. Reflecting on Brown vs. Board of Education, Adamson feels the landmark case was a "big step" in the right direction, but "we are nowhere near the ideal."
I lived in Teaneck, New Jersey. My neighborhood was pretty much white, but by the time I was five, many of the white families had moved out. One of the big pieces about Teaneck schools was that the powers that be in the town voluntarily tried to even out the schools, in terms of integration. In 1964 they voluntarily started an extensive bus system that exists to this day, to help with integration. But even in Teaneck, the segregation continued in the same way that it does at Blair: tracking.
One of the things that burns me up the worst today is that people will criticize kids that have been integrated into one school for breaking up into separate groups. In my time, there were clear social and class lines. Blacks and whites didn't date; those who did were ostracized immediately. I think that that's the root of that separation between the different groups [today].
Ultimately, what Brown did for the betterment of this country is that it broke the back of Jim Crow. I think that the next step [for us] is to work out the institutionalized problems, namely tracking."
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