Tale of Two Schools: Race and Education on Long Island – Part 1
This is David. This is Owen. They’re both navigating senior year in a Long
Island public high school. Everybody in the school knows me and there’s a lot of kids in the school who look up to me. Sometimes, I question why, but, you know. I’m very outgoing, so it’s easy for me to make friends. I’m friends with like everybody, pretty much,
in my grade. David and Owen have many similarities. My grades are high, I’m Vice President of my school, I’m Captain of the Track Team. Track meets every day until like 4-ish and then right after that, I have my extracurriculars.
My average is really pretty good. Alright, it’s nothing phenomenal, but. I was raised by my mom. My brother, my sister, and I live with my mom. My family is not the
wealthiest, you know. And so, the extra money I get, I help pay bills and stuff. My mom, she had a lot of things already that
she pays for, so I got my job so I can help pay for stuff during school. Currently, I’m working at Carvel. I work at Carvel. David and Owen may have many similarities,
but they go to very different schools. In other schools, they have more opportunity
that we don’t have here. We don’t have the best textbooks here. We don’t really have any AP classes here. We don’t have as many teachers. I know that there’s more out there. This is a great school. I think that everyone should have the opportunity to go to schools
like this. That’s what I think. As a society, a society that has a devotion
to individuality, we have a hard time seeing structures. Either we don’t see them, or when
we do see them, they look like completely natural and inevitable Long Island is a suburban region that’s incredibly fragmented which means fragmented tax base, fragmented job sectors, and fragmented school systems. When you have this fragmentation in America, you’re almost always likely to have racial and economic segregation. You have these systems where, on one hand, you have a school system that’s apparently working okay and right next to
them, they have a school system that’s not working okay. It creates a lot of internal
tension. And internal tension affects everybody. (You got about 20 seconds before the lockout
bell. Come on. Clear the hallways.) (Alright, the bell’s about to ring. You’ve
got maybe 5 seconds.) You’re going to wait for the guidance counselor?
Okay, just have a seat, make yourself comfortable. I just got to make sure that everything for
my college stuff is done. My guidance counselor, she’s like, she’s head of student government, she’s head of National Honor Society. She’s all over the place. So, when she’s available,
I can ask her for help, but most of the stuff, I do by myself. My mom works all day, so I can’t really ask her to really help me. My oldest sister, she’s
going to a trade school, so when she’s home, I’m at school and when she’s at
school, I’m home. I don’t think I get any help from my older sister. She said 20 minutes. I’ll be back. I used to live in Queens – Jamaica, Queens.
Not the best neighborhood. So, my mom did a lot of research and she wanted me to go
to this school. And, so when my mom told me I was going to Rockville Centre, I was nervous,
because I was like “alright, this is not going to be fun.” Since there’s like, not that many
black kids in the school, I’m just like, “okay, it’s not going to be the best here. Maybe
people won’t treat me different.” For Owen, the first time I saw him, I recognized
him as being new because I knew – I knew – I at least recognized most of the black kids.
When he first got here, he wasn’t part of that crowd right away, so, I guess, initially,
there was a little bit of estrangement there, but then, once I was in class with him, I
got a better picture of who he was. Now, I’m very good friends with him. I give him a ride
to school every day, there’s plenty of nights where we’ll be working on some kind of paper,
project together. I’m able to help him with work, like homework, occasionally. He helps
me. We sort of balance each other out, I guess. (Oh… that’s the book you were talking about.
Remember, I told you…) When I got to this school, I came in towards
the middle of the year, like two weeks before midterms. David would help me out in subjects
that I needed help in. You know, like, there are certain kids are just nice. I didn’t think,
like, I didn’t expect that to happen. When we isolate students into rich school
districts and poor school districts, we have tremendous disparity in terms of resources. All administrators stand in the hallway every period to get them to move along and
be where they need to be because that’s what they need: that interaction. I mean, I will
point out: the fact that we have metal detectors here in our school because it is a reality
and if we’re going to keep our students safe and we need to use every technology that we
can to make sure that students are safe. In a school like Wyandanch, we already know
that there are so many challenges that our students come with throughout the community,
but we don’t have the resources, the financial resources to give the students what they need:
more teachers, more school psychologists, and more social workers. Our school district
doesn’t have a lot of businesses so the money to fund these programs (and it does cost a
lot of money to fund these programs) have to come directly from the community. Meaning
that any program that we want to implement, we have to tax the community to do it. This
community has no businesses to help support that taxing. We always have to worry about our budget, just like everyone else, but we’re lucky enough
to have a community that really is very supportive in terms of funding education. (Hi, I’ll be with you in just a second) In terms of Long Island, Rockville Centre
would be in the middle of the path in terms of resources. You have to have resources.
If you have class sizes of 45, if you can’t afford to have support classes, you’re not
going to be able to serve your students well. I mean, that’s a given. You know that the economy has been really bad. We’ve had a lot of losses on Wall St.
So yesterday, Governor Patterson had to introduce a lot of cuts to the budget. Some of them
sound very strange. Here’s a killer! Roosevelt School District, supposed to get $12 million,
cut back to 6. So you know, the million and a half that we needed, (it ain’t here) You
will not be getting. So we’ll be very fortunate to keep all of
our teachers next year. As one of the last ones hired, you know, I’m a little worried.
So that means y’all really gotta… Yeah we do.
Now, wait wait wait! Hold it! Hold it! Hold it! There are a couple of other things, okay?
State University Deal: the tuition is going to go up another $620 a year. What? We can’t afford it as it is. Wait wait wait! I can’t make out anybody!
If everybody is losing jobs, how do they expect you to (why are they increasing) exactly. Why do you think he’s making all these drastic cuts? Is he trying to help us? I think he’s
trying to hurt us. His intentions is to help us, but in our point
of view, it’s hurting. We’re going to do it with a show of hands.
“I am an independent thinker. I know my own mind.” (Yeah) Independent thinker, I know
my own mind. “I can remember pieces of music easily.” “I enjoy logic problems/puzzles.” The philosophy of the school is to really play to the multiple intelligences of students. South Side and the IB program really have
a commitment to diversity and to all students. We learn to sort of question what we learn. When you have cultural diversity in class, it adds the dimension of understanding for
every child in the class. And amazing things start to happen.
Alright, hit finish. This is your class profile. The question is: does this shape who you are?
Do you tend to be these things? Not necessarily. I scored higher on Linguistics
than my Maths and I want to pursue that in college. Okay, there’s a difference between
liking something and being good at it. When I’m going to look for a job, I’m not
going to look for what’s interesting or what’s fun. I’m going to look for money. That’s all
I care about. No, I’m actually serious. People have different motivators. Is money a motivator? For some people, it is. For some, it is simply a satisfier.
You all just read “Death of a Salesman”! In the last scene of “Death of a Salesman”, at
the requiem, Biff says, “No, the only way we’re going to be happy out here is if I go
out there, work with my hands… I don’t care how much money I make, as long as I’m happy
doing the job.” What’s Biff’s point? Anybody can do anything. Alright, you really can.