Saturday, February 19, 2011

MCS/ County School Systems: Issue of the children or race

The school consolidation in Memphis has been a subject that has constantly been on my mind being a graduate of Memphis City Schools. While I am constantly torn in between the idea of consolidation as an issue or as advancement, I do believe that some of W.E.B DuBois' arguments are relevant for today. In the text we read for class, DuBois believes that we must progress on our own and not rely on others to help us advance ourselves. He also states that ""hated here, despised there and pitied everywhere; our one haven of refuge is ourselves". This can be applied to this issue with the school system in Memphis because many people believe that the entire issue of consolidation boils down to the issues of race segregation and class differences.

While Memphis City Schools’ student body is predominantly African American, Shelby County’s school system is the exact opposite. Many times Shelby County School are placed higher than MCS due to their higher numbers in test scores, less disciplinary problems, and a host of other reason. What many people fail to realize and embarrass is the differences in the student body’s of both school systems. People are comparing apples and oranges when considering the outcome of test scores and the number of suspensions that each school system experiences. In some ways, Shelby County does not want to be affiliated with MCS due to the stigma associated with the school system in the city. In my opinion, I see this as a form of assimilation because I think that we are giving up on our kids and surrendering a charter to a school system who is doing all they possibly can in order to stay separated from the city school system. In the words of Malcolm X, “I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in the brotherhood of anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me.”

I think this blunt rejection of wanting to be affiliated with MCS should be inspiration to try and change those negative perceptions that come along with the city school system. DuBois said that we must change on our own and stray away form so much whining and complaining. If the schools consolidate, we will not be combining ideals from both systems but surrendering to the structures of the county schools which will not be successful with the city’s student body. Different children require different structures and rules. While I am not completely sure where I stand on this issue, I do think both sides have very beneficial factors. March 3rd is the day I will be voting, wish me luck!


  1. The MCS consolidation debate is no doubt multifaceted, and much of the discussion revolves around racial prejudice and segregation. In the chess board racial geography that is Memphis, there are major problems in trying to give each student equal opportunities. Some see consolidation as the answer, and I have to say the proposition seems promising at first. You state that surrendering to the county school structure will not be successful with the city's student body, but in what ways? Your idea supposes that the city children are different than those of the county (which is no doubt true), but perhaps the county system will be able to address some of the problems that the city system certainly hasn't been able to work out.

  2. One of the main arguments against the consolidation is that it would spread resources too thin. The Shelby County school system has about 49 schools, whereas the MCS system hosts around 190. I can see how the consolidation would seem like a huge problem. Not too say that there aren’t also racial undertones to the issue, but there are more concrete concerns. The Memphis City Schools system is in need of help in more ways than one so this consolidation may be good for them, but would all of the schools receive equal attention in one large school system of 239 schools? We already see the detrimental effects of stretching limited resources and supervision over 190 schools so would this change really help matters? Who is to say?

  3. I really found this article to be interesting, and has some similarity to your post:

    This school separates their black students from the other students for a period of time each day. Apparently their radical approach has done some good; a third of the black students have scored proficient or advanced in reading on last year's assessment tests.

    "Let's look at the data, let's not run from it. Let's confront it and see what we can do about it"-- a quote from the school's principal.

    This also goes to the whole "post-racism" idea-- is this segregation or have we come far enough to look seriously at statistical data and move forward?

  4. All of you touched on some of really complex issues underlying the question of school consolidation, which have contributed to the vigorous local debate surrounding the issue. I think you are right to frame this as a race-class issue. In my understanding, one of the largest arguments for the consolidation is the tax structure of Memphis-Shelby country: city residents pay county taxes (thus support SCS), whereas county residents do NOT pay taxes for MCS. Although one could boil this reality down to a simple accident of weird tax loopholes, the fact is that there are profound racial and class implications inherent in the division between county and city. One thing that has been so profoundly interesting, if not, alarming, is that in some of the rhetoric I have read in local publications, suggest a deep-seated racial fear shaping many (but not all) responses to consolidaition. Sophie's question is a great one: is this de facto segregation? And if it is not, than why is race emerging defining feature of this debate?

  5. The article Sophie brings up is quite revealing. It brings to mind the show "The Wire" in which one season focuses on the students in inner city Baltimore. In response to students who act out in class, a program is created to give these students their own class where their individual issues can be worked out and such. It shows how the approach of treating every student the same doesn't always work out and some students need to be given space or classes specifically designed for them. At the end of that season of "The Wire", Namond, a corner kid who's father was a hit man, turns his back on the drug game and focuses on his education.

  6. Eventually the county will have to stop running from Memphis, that it's trying to stray away from. Not even in the school system do we see this separation, we also see it in the residency of the city, the more the city moves into the county, the further the county moves out.

    Then again, although I do feel that in a way the city is giving up on it's students, I don't believe that they can do it by themselves as far as funding goes, and this assimilation could go further than we think.

    The problems with race inequalities and color blindness can be faced head on where privileged children are forced to interact with children with different backgrounds as them as see more than what their elders have taught.

    Even if the school systems are consolidated, it would be a long time before the city school system sees a change in its numbers.


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