Letter from the Editor 

25441_358332447549_345684747549_3653738_2442414_n.jpg

At Monday night's momentous Memphis City Schools board meeting, the Rev. Kenneth Whalum asked a pointed question: "Why aren't white people sending their kids to Memphis public schools?"

As a white person who has sent two children and two stepchildren to Memphis City Schools, I feel qualified to at least offer an opinion. Choosing a school for their children for most Memphians — black, white, or brown — hinges on cost, locality, quality of education, and diversity. The best option for most of us would be a neighborhood public school offering free quality education and a racially and economically diverse population of kids.

I know lots of middle-class folks who send their children to Midtown public schools such as Snowden Elementary and Middle, Peabody Elementary, Idlewild Elementary, and Central High School. My 14-year-old stepson attended Idlewild Elementary for four years, and we were pleased with his experience there. My son, daughter, and stepdaughter graduated from MCS high schools.

That said, I've also sent some of my children to parochial school and private schools, because at various stages of their education, we felt the local public school wasn't the best option. I've also put my children in MCS optional schools outside my neighborhood.

Poor folks don't have the luxury of making such decisions. They have to take the local, free education. A school in a neighborhood that is 95 percent poor and black is going to have a poor and black student body. It's not racism. It's an economic issue.

If the Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools somehow become consolidated, it won't measurably affect individual schools. Schools in racially diverse jurisdictions will have racially diverse schools. Schools in areas that aren't diverse, won't be diverse. The sky won't fall either way. We can't control where people live. We can strive to provide an equal, quality education for all our children, rich and poor, black and white. In this case, a rising tide will lift all hopes.

But getting to that place will be a long, painful struggle, I fear. Tearing down the artificial boundaries that have long separated us will not be easy. Cool heads need to prevail in the coming weeks. We need to remember it's not just "about the children." It's about all of us. We can make history and begin to heal decades-old wounds, if we try.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

Comments (24)

Showing 1-24 of 24

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-24 of 24

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

Hungry Memphis

Korean BBQ To Open in Cooper-Young, etc.

News Blog

Marijuana Law Passes First Hurdle in Council

News Blog

Jones Opposes TVA Wells with Resolution Tuesday

Music Blog

Cities Aviv at the Brooks Museum

News Blog

Three Things to Watch on City Council Day

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: The Shieks

From My Seat

Q & A: Top Fuel Champion Clay Millican

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Bruce VanWyngarden

  • Tales of New Orleans

    I'd reached the point in the evening when a gnat in my drink seemed more like a feature than a bug. I'd reached the point where that line seemed like comic genius, so I tweeted it. I'd reached the point where having a small dog walking up and down the bartop seemed perfectly normal. I'd reached peak New Orleans ...
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • Schadenfreude at the Polls

    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Crap Shoot in the 8th

    • Aug 4, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • In Spring ...

    (such a sky and such a sun

    i never knew and neither did you

    and everybody never breathed

    quite so many kinds of yes) — e. e. cummings

    • Apr 30, 2015
  • ‘Night, Darlin’

    Remembering former P&H Cafe owner Wanda Wilson.
    • Feb 5, 2015
  • The Heart and Soul of Memphis

    Portland, Brooklyn, Nashville, and Memphis. Those aren't four cities you typically see referenced in the same sentence, but last week a Wall Street Journal story cited a Cushman & Wakefield national real estate report that lumped Memphis in with those three hipster-friendly cities ...
    • Mar 19, 2015
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2016

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation