We need serious discussion about our schoolsPublished 12:00am Thursday, April 11, 2013
Separate still isn’t equal.
When did we decide “separate but equal” was still a viable option for education in Adams County? Of course I believe that question is rhetorical. I am not sure we ever abandoned it in the first place. And because of that Adams County is still greatly divided. Having attended Cathedral from first grade until senior year of high school, I am probably not the best voice to speak up on this issue. But someone has to.
When I acted up in school (which happened a lot in middle school) my parents threatened me with public school. For some reason, that frightened me. Why should it have? Are the teachers there worse than those at private school? Are the students? The answer is no. For example I graduated with 30 other people, but began the year with at least 35. Take a look at the front of a 2011 year book and then the back. Faces disappear. We had some students kicked out and others who felt they had to leave to escape persecution from other students. Sixteen percent of our class didn’t graduate with us, and that happened in our senior year. I have to assume the percentage of seniors who left Natchez High can’t be far off and is possibly lower. Also, I know I had some great teachers and some terrible ones. Not to mention how hard it was to get a counselor to help me apply for any college that wasn’t LSU, Ole Miss or MSU. I was met with an incredulous look as well as, “You want to go where?”
Knowing all of this now makes me realize I would have been fine at public school because I had all the tools I needed to succeed outside of school. The problem is that most students who are in public school don’t have that. They depend on school to lift themselves out of poverty, and we as a community have not done enough to help these students. We may pay taxes, but we don’t pay attention.
We have three private schools in a county of 30,000 people. Each of which cost more than $5,000 for the first child and a slightly lesser rate for second, third and so-forth. The median income in our county is under $27,000 a year. This is only $2,000 above the poverty line. Most families can hardly afford to get by, let alone afford to send their kids anywhere other than public school.
By way of our private schools we have kept alive the tradition of “separate but equal,” one divided by class instead of race. We are invested in our great students, but they are not the ones who actually require attention. The poverty stricken students are the ones who struggle with how our system is set up. Their parents don’t have choices. They have Natchez High. And we haven’t made it a competitive choice. Our state is at the bottom for public education year after year because no one seems to care. We use it as a specter for the well off to keep up the good work and a prison for those who can’t escape it.
I think now about a lot of our elected officials in our community. I know so many whose kids I went to school with or who attended the other private schools. What does it say about a place when those involved in the public sector can’t embrace public education?
I have ranted a bit, probably never made a solid case, and of course I don’t have a solution. I just wanted to start a discussion. Not on the website’s comment thread telling me how dumb or misinformed I am, but with our community coming up with solutions and telling me how dumb and misinformed I am. To sum this up we have a major problem, and I want to see action. I want to see uproar that we have allowed ourselves to underperform for so long. We aren’t really helping anyone in the community by helping those who don’t need it.
I would request that those with experience in education to speak up. I want a discussion, and I want action to come from it. I know Alderman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis has a history of involvement in public education and that Supervisor David Carter has a PhD in Education. I would love if they would write editorials as well. I would like to see series in The Natchez Democrat to raise questions, concerns and hopefully involvement. Thank you for reading.
Martin Charboneau is a Natchez resident.