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Integration: a goal for schoolchildren

It really is important for every school child in the US to go to school with children from different cultural, racial, academic, and socio-economic backgrounds.

There are a few school districts in the US which are racially or culturally isolated -- the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana, for example. And there are a few school districts which now incorporate in each school a good mix of children from many different backgrounds.

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But the majority of districts do not now offer their pupils an oppurtunity to go to school with children of different cultural backgrounds. And many think such a goal to be "impossible," or close to impossible given housing patterns and present school district zones.

To reach the goal of multicultural schools, suburbs would need to merge their populations with those of portions of inner cities. And city school districts would have to be broken up into new districts; into districts which cross racial , cultural, and socio-economic lines.

Such radical and emotion-laden changes are not easy to make, but communities which do not make some effort to place children in school with children from other cultural backgrounds are short-changing all the pupils. Are restricting those in the local majority racial group as well as those in the minority.

Because almost all the families living on the Blackfoot Reservation are native Americans, cultural diversity among the school enrollment may not be possible. There just aren't any nearby suburbs with which to form a metropolitan school district.

This forces such school districts to find imaginative ways of having their children mix with others through field trips, student exchanges, youth jamborees , summer camps, and so forth.

But there is almost no excuse for cultural isolation within 20 miles of a major US city.

We're a marvelously deverse nation -- multiracial, multicultural, truly pluralistic.

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And we need to learn to get along with each other. What better way to start learning about each other than during those first 12 y ears of school?

Next week: Integrating teaching staff

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