Hypocrisy: Progressive parents fight integration in their children’s public schools.
I live in a small slice of Brooklyn wedged between Brooklyn Heights, one of New York’s most prosperous neighborhoods, Dumbo, a relatively new neighborhood that is essentially a forest of condominiums catering to financiers, techies, and “creative professionals,” and Farragut Houses, a sprawling public-housing complex that borders the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Though you won’t find gated communities in this part of Brooklyn, you will find buildings with doormen, which is of course a quite similar phenomenon. The retail establishments catering to affluent professionals don’t formally exclude poor residents, but their high prices do the work of explaining who is welcome and who is not. Very rich people and very poor people live side by side in this part of Brooklyn, yet their lives rarely intersect. Rich Brooklynites and poor Brooklynites do, however, share their local public schools. And as you can imagine, not all of Brooklyn’s bourgeois parents are thrilled about this fact.
Kate Taylor of the New York Times has written a fascinating report on a school rezoning in my part of town. Basically, Public School 8 in Brooklyn Heights is massively oversubscribed while Public School 307 in Vinegar Hill, right by the Farragut Houses, is undersubscribed. The city has thus proposed shifting Dumbo families from P.S. 8 to P.S. 307, which seems sensible enough. So why are parents in Dumbo so outraged? Taylor explains:
P.S. 307’s population is 90 percent black and Hispanic, and 90 percent of the students’ families receive some form of public assistance. Its state test scores, while below the citywide averages, are closer to average for black and Hispanic students, with 20 percent of its students passing the math tests and 12 percent passing the reading tests this past year. At P.S. 8, whose population is 59 percent white, with only 15 percent receiving assistance, scores are considerably above the city averages. Almost two-thirds of its students passed each test.
Taylor cites evidence that blacks and Hispanics benefit from attending integrated schools. What she does not address is whether white and Asian students attending these schools also fare better, which is the chief concern of the largely white Dumbo parents subject to this rezoning. My first instinct in reading Taylor’s story, and in observing the anguished reaction from Dumbo parents who see themselves as committed progressives, is to note their hypocrisy. As Laurie Lin recently remarked, it’s easy to imagine how these Dumbo progressives might have reacted had this story unfolded in Atlanta or Birmingham — they’d surely chalk up resistance to the rezoning to racism.