Monday, June 19, 2017

 

We Have No King


For Father’s Day, one of my gifts was control of the tv for the day.  I used it to show the kids Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a classic to which they might not otherwise be exposed.  (I fast-forwarded past the “Castle Anthrax” scene, for reasons obvious to anyone who has seen the movie.) The Boy, very much his mother’s son, liked it okay; he laughed a few times, and recognized the “it’s only a flesh wound” scene from some memes.  The Girl, very much her father’s daughter, laughed out loud throughout.  The catapulted cow brought an abrupt belly laugh that I never get tired of hearing.

I even took some parental pride in noting how she was able to follow the dialogue in the “king?  We have no king!” exchange.  A chip off the old block.

Later in the day, The Boy and I were out on some errands when the topic of white privilege came up.  I wanted to convey that it’s a real thing, and a problem, without making him defensive, so I used the example of my daily drive through a high-income area on my way to work.  In two years of driving through some places I could never afford to live, I’ve never been pulled over.  That’s a sign of a certain benefit of the doubt that isn’t universally shared.  It’s not my fault, or his, that we don’t get pulled over; if anything, I think that non-practice should extend to everyone.  But to pretend it isn’t there is to miss something basic.  He seemed to accept that.

Later, he started talking about putting together a college tour this summer.  I warned him that I intend to be an absolute, unapologetic nightmare on campus tours.  He’s resigned to it.

I bring these up because a couple of recent articles threw them into relief for me.  First was Eric Hoover’s piece in the Chronicle about a college adviser at a Texas high school with many low-income, homeless, and/or undocumented students.  The second was Annie Lowrey’s piece in the Atlantic reacting to Richard Reeves’ new book about upper-middle-class opportunity hoarding.  

The college adviser in Texas works with students for whom the FAFSA can be an insurmountable obstacle, whether due to low income, familial chaos, or immigration status.  One student had to write an essay to the financial aid office explaining how she lives on almost no money; I can’t imagine an upper-middle-class kid being asked to justify how he lives.  Bureaucracy that more fortunate students can effectively delegate to their parents becomes a real problem when the parents either aren’t there or aren’t in a position to help navigate it.  The recent decision to take down the IRS site that allowed access to previous years’ tax returns made an already difficult task that much harder, unless your parents were able to afford TurboTax or an accountant.

The advantages we’re giving our kids - lots of books, frequent discussion of politics and current events, a good school district, a stable home - will make it likelier that they’ll do well economically.  The advantages accrue over time.  That amounts, at some level, to the kind of hoarding that Lowrey/Reeves describe.  That’s not anyone’s fault, but it’s real.  


The issue is structural, as are the solutions.  I don’t apologize for giving my kids lots of books, or for putting them in situations likely to help them thrive.  As a parent, I consider that part of my job.  They’re great kids -- I’m biased, but still -- and I want them to be able to develop into the best versions of themselves that they can.  In my perfect world, every kid would get that chance.  The ethical obligation here is to use politics to pay it forward.  After all, we have no king.

Comments:
I have no doubt about the reality of white privilege, although I remember when being a "long hair" in the South could make you an honorary N-for-a-day. But only for a day, hence the privilege, unless you pushed it and became an "agitator" dead in an earthen dam. But that last bit was before my time.

However, although persons of the wrong color can still get pulled over for DWB or, worse, walking down their own street, the primary social problem is economic segregation. We have an entire school system that is quite legally segregated economically, and I'll bet that is also the case where you live. I think you've even blogged about it, although in your case it is probably by town. Here it is by neighborhood and shows up mostly as what appears to be racial segregation, but reduced price lunch is the real 'tell'. People just confuse correlation with causation, although it could be that the reason poor white kids get an inferior education is that they happen to attend school with poor black kids who are still not treated as if they can learn. If you build the nice new school in the right place, you have the means to that end. Realtors take care of the rest.
 
"After all, we have no king."

Yet.

Seriously. I taught for 25 years at Indiana University Northwest, which is in Gary, Indiana. Most of the students do not live in Gary, but, obviously, many of them do. The range of backgrounds is huge, and the difficulties some students face are equally huge. One of the steepest parts of my learning curve there (after having spent the rest of my career teaching at schools that were residential campuses) was figuring out how to help the students who needed it most...I'm not sure I ever quite got there...
 
"That’s not anyone’s fault,"

This is not even remotely true. It's not your kids' fault, but it is absolutely the fault of the people who work to make sure that as many children as possible do not enjoy access to good schools, stable home lives, or lead- and violence-free environments.

It is conservatives' fault. To expand slightly, it is white culture' fault, since conservatism is essentially a white phenomenon.

 
"the primary social problem is economic segregation"

Philando Castile says hi.

 
Toby Morris' comic is quite good about middle class privilege hoarding.

http://thewireless.co.nz/articles/the-pencilsword-on-a-plate
 
What happened to my comment? Must have forgotten to post it.

Yes, Punditus, DWB is still a crime in some places, which was the reason for my "for a day" qualification, but the issues raised by Dean Reed have transcended minority status. When racial segregation of schools is illegal, economic segregation takes its place, and this can happen even without making use of city boundaries. School location in conjunction with subdivision development will do.

I know some very conservative black men, but they know they are not viewed the same way by a cop as a white guy with an NRA sticker on his car. It is still dangerous out there. But that problem has no effect on the high quality of the schools their kids attend with white children of the same economic background, or the poor quality of the schools attended by poor whites and poor blacks alike.
 
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I have read the post with a smile and warm feeling in my heart. You make a great Dad! I firmly believe we have to do everything possible to show our children the best and most beautiful sides of the world. My kid is too small for reading books but he already likes music and I try to make my playlist for him as varied as possible. And of course thank you for the tip, I watched the Holy Grail too long ago (and I guess it was quite a background movie for me as I worked for EduZaurus then), have to see it again.
 
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