I am very lucky to be where I am at this time in history. My school, Career High School, has been designated an interdistrict magnet school: its student population will be drawn from both the suburbs and the inner city, and be deliberately (by quota) diverse. One of the most important aspects of my position at Career, as Magnet Resource Teacher, includes promoting the school to other districts, advocating the concept, and increasing the likelihood—through development of the staff, education of the students, and liaison with our university, business, and government partners—that its mission will be successful.
The millions of dollars the state of Connecticut is spending to build the new state-of-the-art Career High School (ready in the summer of 1998) to attract students come with strings in the form of quotas. One-third of the students in the new school
from the suburbs, one-fourth
white. By comparison, the present statistics are, respectively, four percent and nineteen percent.
After devoting a year to promotional activities, and sitting in on innumerable meetings with students, parents, and educators, I can state that getting the numbers to work is the easy part. The challenge lies, rather, in including the new students (and staff) in Career’s “village” culture.
It is often said that we learn most about ourselves—and our culture—by looking at what is so obvious we take it for granted, as the fish takes water for granted: our assumptions. It will prove beneficial, therefore, to examine the assumptions behind this interdistrict mission. And from a teaching/learning perspective it is essential for the students themselves to examine the assumptions. What are these assumptions?
The means (quotas) justify the ends (a diversified student population).
A diversified student population is advantageous.
Race itself is a meaningful concept.
Later on I will discuss the processes where the students will engage in the conversation around these three assumptions.