21st Century solutions are needed to deal with racial balance


This is an extended version of a letter to the editor that was cut due to word count restrictions. It is being run in full at the author’s request.

To the Editor

There are two competing theories of how to create an excellent education system in the Town of Greenwich.

The first calls for enforcing a uniform racial headcount across all schools. But this has no educational merit unless you believe that a minority child will automatically become smarter by sitting next to a non-minority child. And this theory becomes even more absurd when you realize that Asian American kids, (the ones whose parents are agitating for trigonometry to be taught in the third grade) are classified as “minority.”

The second theory is that our schools in each community should focus on the unique learning needs of the kids (and in some cases, the parents) in that community.

I believe in this type of community school because community learning in Greenwich is very effective. According to the July 10, 2013 Report to the Connecticut State Board of Education, Greenwich students qualifying for free or reduced price lunch (which is the surrogate measure for low income), as well as African American and Hispanic students in racially imbalanced schools are more likely to score at the advanced level and equally likely to score at the mastery or proficient levels in reading, writing and mathematics on state tests than similarly situated students attending racially balanced schools.

Doesn’t this finding call into question the supposed educational benefits of enforced racial balancing in Greenwich?

It must also be remembered that Digital Learning is being rapidly introduced into the Greenwich Public Schools. This will allow movement toward  “one on one learning,” which is personalized to meet educational needs of each individual child.

Not only does this allow each child to progress at their own rate in different subjects, but remedial efforts can be channeled where they are needed, such as remedial English or Math.

Community education, particularly at the elementary level, also reflects the history of Greenwich, which itself is a collection of communities that have evolved on their own over time as waves of immigrants have successively settled in town. These waves of immigrants have clustered in distinctive communities for economic and cultural reasons, not because of racial discrimination.

The causes of the supposed problems that the racial balance law and regulations are aimed at solving are based on faulty analysis aimed at a narrowly defined social engineering objective and not at educational excellence. Moreover, many parents believe that children must learn how to flourish in a multi-cultural society if they are to succeed in the future.

Greenwich schools already meet this need in their own distinctive way. We only have one high school. Therefore, by definition, it is racially balanced. And, our middle schools are closer to being racially balanced than Greenwich elementary schools, which reflect the home communities of the students. So, as kids get older, they get their multi-cultural experience in increasingly large doses.

This is a far better solution than forcibly busing seven-year-olds all over town.  Let’s not force a 1950’s remedy on our schools when a 21st Century solution is available.


Peter von Braun

The author is a member of the Board of Education.

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