I watched American Promise tonight, a documentary on two African American boys and their experience in education from Kindergarten to 12th grade. It was eye opening, it had me looking at my desires for my son’s future education in a new light.
The two boys started Kindergarten at the prestigious, predominantly white The Dalton School in New York City. The documentary followed the boys through their highs and lows through 13 years. I watched as the two boys struggled academically, socially, and were even labeled as disruptive at one point. Administrators acknlowedged the struggle to keep black boys enrolled at the school, noting that the black girls usually excelled there.
I won’t give away too much more of the documentary, but I looked over at my son, my bright, curious, active 7 month old boy, and thought about the kind of educational experiences I hope for him.
Growing up in inner city public schools, mainly magnet and honors programs, my experience was different from that of my male counterparts. The boys in my classes especially in elementary and high school, were far outnumbered by girls. Especially amongst minorities. I can count all the black boys in my high school honors classes on one hand.
I think about what I want for my son. On one hand I want diversity for him, similar to the upbringing I had, as well as my husband. But then I think about what was sacrificed-aside from my middle school years at a majority black school on the other side of town, I had very few teachers and administrators of color, that looked like me. I don’t recall a black male teacher anywhere prior to middle school. I am thinking I want a different experience for my son.
I want him to thrive academically, socially. I now appreciate the caring family/community I experienced at the HBCU I attended, as well as the inner city campus of the community college I graduated from. Those two experiences alone were more formative than any other time in my life academically-I was empowered, encouraged, to pursue opportunities that my peers at majority white institutions weren’t necessarily exposed to. I was in an environment that not only was I encouraged to excel, but was expected to.
I want that for my son.
My nephews are thriving in a diverse suburb, after struggling in inner city schools. But I also wonder what my son’s experience will be like if placed in a similar setting, as I remain hesitant to enroll him in the worsening city schools my husband and I graduated from.
Only time will tell what we will decide, but we will fight for our son to have the best possible education.