Genii Weblog

Yes, that was my daughter on ABC tonight

Wed 18 Aug 2004, 11:35 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
For those who happened upon it, ABC had a special called The Reunion on tonight.  It showed how Shaker Heights began and continues a grand social experiment in racial integration (grand in the US at least), and how it has worked out for a class that attended kindergarten here together in 1964.  It also highlighted today's students, and particularly my daughter and her friend Karelle.  I think she did a pretty good job, but there is nothing like watching your daughter on national TV to give a parent a case of the nerves.  I'm glad it is over.

Oh, and they butchered the pronunciation of our last name.  Sigh!

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What has been said:

199.1. David Bailey
(08/18/2004 09:34 PM)

And who doesn't butcher your last name?

199.2. Andrew Pollack
(08/18/2004 09:35 PM)

Ben, anyone who hasn't had it pronounced for them does that....

It was a good story -- Princess was indeed a princess (or is she 18 now so we can use her name) and came off quite well. In fact, she was the only person who seemed to want to call attention to things that weren't perfect. ABC didn't mess up the piece by looking at anything not nice however.

I was curious about why they didn't go deeper into the idea of intentional and knowing reverse descrimination in the original neighborhood, and also why they didn't ask any questions like "hm, aside from integration, there is another common factor here with these kids growing up. They all had highly educated parents who had been willing to put themselves at risk just to see to their kid's education and obviously took a very active role in that education. I wonder if you could take ANY group of kids with that kind of home support and get similar results.

Its great that this small pilot attempt by these parents worked out and of course I think skin color as a basis for decision making is foolish and wrong (and pointless, as there are no genetic markers for anything that could be called "race" and there is not scientific classification for "race" -- phylum, kindom, family, ...nope, not there.) I just think there's more to the story here.

Anyway, great job Princess (and to King Ben for successfully raising a daughter who will be an asset to the country if we can just convince her that the Senate is the last place to go if you hope to actually influence anything).

199.3. Duffbert
(08/19/2004 04:42 AM)

Dude... *I'm* still not quite sure of the pronunciation of your last name... :-)

199.4. Carolyn Kraut
(08/19/2004 07:48 AM)

Like your daughter I grew up going to integrated schools. My public school even had African American teachers. Even after we moved from a fully integrated neighborhood to one that was less so, the schools were integrated through busing. This environment continued for me into college.

When as an adult I became fully employed, the places I worked were also integrated. So like your daughter I always took integration for granted and never thought it was such a big deal.

It wasn't until I moved to Boston as an adult, in the early '80s, that I discovered how big a deal it really was. Trying to find a neighborhood that looked like NYC was impossible. Here there were/are the Irish neighborhoods, the Jewish neighborhoods, the African American Neighborhoods, etc.

I think things in Boston have gotten better over the past 20 years - I haven't had a blatent anti-semetic remark made in my direction in about 8 or 9 years, some neighborhoods are more diverse, but it still has a long way to go. Many native Bostonians of my age still hold a grudge about school busing which was a very big deal here. Many neighborhoods are still segregated, and getting a good education in the Boston Public schools is still an issue for everyone.

Moving to Boston made me realize how insulated my life had been up until then, and it saddened me to see that race relations still had a long way to go. Reunion gives hope, but I can't help but wonder how representative it is of the nation as a whole.

199.5. Ben Langhinrichs
(08/19/2004 08:11 AM)

Sadly, I do not think it is representative of the nation at all. From what I can tell, the critical issue, certainly demonstrated in Boston, is not whether the schools are segregated or integrated, but whether the neighborhoods are. When kids live in the same neighborhood and have parents with similar educational and economic backgrounds, they just deal with each other as kids, and that translates to the schools. When kids with wildly different economic and educational backgrounds are thrown together, it tends to reinforce stereotypes rather than weaken them.

Even in Shaker Heights, the five different elementary schools have different experiences. Our local elementary school, Lomond, is the most "naturally integrated", meaning that almost everybody can walk to school and they all live in ell integrated neighborhoods (even if we are a bit on the "wrong side of the tracks" for Shaker). Lomond has the highest percentage of minorities, and by far the best test scores and lowest achievement gap in Shaker. In some of the other elementary schools in richer parts of Shaker, there is less integration of the neighborhoods, and less integration of friends and all in school. Living side by side seems to be important, and that is rare in America today.

199.6. Richard Schwartz
(08/19/2004 11:55 AM)

She did great, and the report changed my impression of Shaker Heights -- which I have to admit was mostly based on anecdotes from long ago and on one or two slight acquaintances from my days in college. I just figured that you had to be an exception to the rule there, much like I am here in New Hampshire. Nice to know that there's more acceptance and diversity in Shaker Heights than I had imagined. Gives me some hope that maybe someday it could be the case here, too.

I missed a few parts of the program (but saw most of the parts with your daughter). One thing that I'm wondering... I noticed that they mentioned that many of the alumni who have moved from Shaker Heights to other parts of the country have put their kids into private schools. Did they look at what percentage of kids in Shaker Heights go to private schools versus public, and how that percentage has changed over the years?