As I sat in the overflow room of the district office for the meeting of the Santa Barbara school board on Tuesday night, March 2, I witnessed ignorance take the form of rich, white, smug parents. And even worse were some of the speakers during the public comments session.
The first speaker claimed that education relies on three tiers: The gifted, the average, and the low-performing. Although he was not a teacher, he spoke as if he had authority. What he advocates, in fact, is what us teachers like to call perpetuation of social inequalities.
The next speaker preached that bringing GATE [Gifted and Talented Education] students down to the honors-student level would make it too tough for teachers, who would have to teach to the lowest level. Since she spoke as if she were a teacher, I was horrified at her low expectations of students, wondering how she was able to get a teaching job in this county, when she had never even heard of differentiation.
After talking to a board member I discovered that the speaker, in fact, is not a teacher. Nevertheless, her ignorant speech caused the parents around me to applaud. When an hispanic speaker, during her time at the podium, said that the current admission policies of the GATE program were racist, everyone around me guffawed just as I was thinking to myself, “Finally, someone said it.” I turned around and said quite bravely to those around me, “She’s right. She’s right. Standardized tests are racist. Numerous researchers have shown that the scores directly correlate to students’ socio-economic status, and minorities tend to be of lower socioeconomic status.” The woman next to me only said “I disagree.”
These people similarly snickered at every speaker in favor of the board’s move to combine GATE with honors at the secondary level… . I got up and moved to the main room.
To support the claim of racist admissions, a Spanish-speaking parent told her story of information being withheld from her on how to enroll her daughter into GATE.
When a GATE student took a turn addressing the board, she spoke what I consider to be the most effective piece of the evening. She articulated that her GATE classes, being the pockets of white that they are, do not represent the culture of her school or the larger community. She spoke the truth, as Justice O’Conner herself did, agreeing with countless Amicus Curiae reports, that racial and ethnic diversity is key to this world-class education that GATE supporters are so keen on.—Teisha Tallman