Saturday, March 12, 2011

A peek at the past shines a light on today

“Do School Changes Baffle You?”
– Charlotte News headline, 1960

Last month, as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials had the last of their items moved out of the Education Center, an employee found some large binders in a trash bin. They didn’t look like they should be trash.

There were four in all, dark blue and dusty. They were filled with old newspaper clippings.

“I opened them and went ‘ohhhhhh,’?” said CMS spokeswoman LaTarzja Henry, who had the binders brought to a conference room at the Government Center. “I saw names like Garinger. I’d only known that name on a school.”

The clips begin in 1958, a year after Charlotte schools integrated. They end in 1964, four years after the city and county school systems consolidated. They include news stories and features, editorials and photos. They are charming and disturbing and maybe a little too recognizable, in that way history can be.

Charlotte was at the front end of a boom then, and the clips reflect a city growing like a gangly teen. “Suburban school trend already apparent in Charlotte,” said a prophetic headline to one 1959 article. Another, from 1963, examined a proposal to purchase 20 mobile classrooms for $100,000. It was, school officials stressed, a solution that was “temporary.”

There’s plenty more to make you smile. “Today’s kids mature faster,” said one earnest 1959 headline, while one photo, also from 1959, featured Superintendent Elmer H. Garinger’s secretary, Miss Jean Little, sitting tidily at her desk. “Beauty in Business,” read the photo’s headline, almost quaint in its political incorrectness.

Then there were the Observer articles about the N.C. Medical Society protesting what it saw as the promotion of socialism in school textbooks. The Medical Society, according to one clipping, believed the textbooks endorsed a philosophy that had Congress on the verge of legislation guaranteeing health care for all.

“Socialized medicine,” the group called it.

Recognize that? How about this big-type headline: “BOARD PONDERS BIGGER OPERATION, LESS CASH.” Or: “Your children will find classrooms more crowded.” Or this: “West Side of Charlotte Feeling Neglected.”

Those headlines topped budget-related stories that examined the debate over how much the city should spend on new schools, which neighborhoods should get them, and which were feeling like they weren’t getting much of anything.

And as now, it all was argued against the backdrop of class and race.

“School Board Hears Demand,” read one 1960 headline, which outlined student assignment friction between Charlotte’s blacks and whites. Since integration, blacks had been pushing for their children to attend better schools in white neighborhoods, even if it meant transporting students across assignment lines.

“I will exhaust every remedy to see that my son will receive a desegregated education,” said one mother, trying to get her son into a Dilworth school. It’s not hard to imagine those exact words, and that geography, in a story on this page today.

And yes, the issues then were triggered by different dynamics. Budget writers were deciding on which programs and services to add, not the cuts we’re facing now. Schools were moving away from segregation, not inching back toward it, as critics say CMS is now.

But pull the lens back, and we’re essentially asking the same questions of ourselves – questions about money and fairness, about balancing what’s best for our kids with what’s good for someone else’s.

And still, even now: How equal can we make separate? And is that the kind of equal we want?

Fifty years – and the answers still elude us.


Anonymous said...

Who on earth was throwing all the old articles away? Seriously!

Charlotte said...

Thank goodness the binders of articles were saved. You'd be surprised at the kinds of cool things that can be found in govt offices...if they escape being trashed, that is! Great article, Peter

Anonymous said...

It's not our governments job to ensure blacks are sitting next to a white's that a bit backwards to think that a black student needs a white student to learn or have a good educational experience that is fair and equal? I argue that the mentality of integration is overrated and is the idea of paying 4 times more for a student on the West side because their parents aren't involved compared to the the rest of the city...

Christian said...

WOW, I wished i found this piece of history.

Wiley Coyote said...

Is there an echo in here?

Where have you been Pete?

I've been saying nothing has changed in the past 40 years... forever....

Define "equal".... is it equal to spend more on underperforming schools or kids defined as FRL, than schools elsewhere in the system?

Is it equal to continue to support a school lunch program even though you know it's rife with fraud, where 23,000 students have to pay for lunch but almost 75,000 don't?

Same for sports, same for AP/IB tests.

Please pull the lens back.

The you might be able to see that huge elephant in the room getting in the way of progress...

Anonymous said...

1958 was bad. Charlotte city schools and Mecklenburg county schools were also consolidated as socialist engineering creeped in to begin its assault on what was once excellence in education. America was first on the planet in everything including education.
Time to deconsolidate. Go back to the future with 2 school systems. Undo the failed mess after unannexing all stolen land back to the county so more suburban cities can be created with names like Ballantyne Lake Norman University or Lake Wylie.
Bust up the hog size cities in NC into smaller ones with trust busting like they did big corps such as AT&T and others. Ditch laizze faire. Sherman anti trust needed. Change NC law to prohibit future big city glut annexation.
Property taxes could be cut 50%.
Stop feeding the monster.

Larry said...

Good, proof positive that we have been in the rut for the last fifty years just throwing away money.

In fact billions on a wasted scheme. Now we can focus on Vouchers and new ways that reflect the real world and not the social engineering that everybody wants to see.

Yes thanks for this find it will give us all the proof we now need to help direct our future and show we have actually thrown away too many futures for too many students with out dated things that should have been torn down as they had toxic things in them with our us knowing it all along.

Vouchers is the way to go folks get in on the meeting. We are meeting at 3PM Monday at Panera Bread on North Tryon across from The Hospital to talk about getting people to run for office and taking back our schools.

We need you.

So join us on Monday the 14th at 3PM Panera Bread on North Tryon across from the Hospital or call me 704.919.1230 Larry Bumgarner

We need people who are interested in running for office and interested in Vouchers

Oh Observer we invite you to join us.

Anonymous said...

New York City always had the advantage of an all encompassing city-state name for representation and perks for the entire state.

Its time to consider the advantages of changing the name to the "The City of Carolina" and Observer to Carolina Observer.

"Carolina" was a single state/colony until 1729 when it split into north and south.

Contrary to popular misconception "Caroline" is not a royal female name. Caroline or Carolina is instead a Latin term for "Charles-Land" named for King Charles II of England.

The "new" City of Carolina would portray deep historical roots encompassing symbolic significance that goes back to the founding of America.

The Lost Colony on Roanoke Island on the Outer Banks in 1685 by Sir Walter Raleigh was the 1st settlement by England.

Anonymous said...

Political incorrectness made this country great.

Could we have won WWII without "racial" stereotyping of Germans and Japanese?

I kinda doubt it. You should see some of the now-banned cartoons of that era.

Every German was a Hitler clone and every Japanese had buck teeth and bug eyes behind thick glasses.

And, of course, there were the Negro stereotypes as well.

Amos 'n Andy were very popular on both radio and TV.

Today, Bugs Bunny has been censored for the anti-German and anti-Japanese cartoons of that era.

And Amos and Andy are about as rare as all-night Sambo's restaurant.

All that "backward" thinking just looks funny in today's politically corrected environment.

It's hard to believe that a majority of our society considered those attitudes "normal" just 50 years ago.

But one thing still hasn't changed.

Black parents STILL think that going to school with white kids is going to solve their education problems.

So, when are THEY going to advance from their backward thinking?

Anonymous said...

The Lost Colony was 1585.

Anonymous said...

It grieves me to hear people that believe Blacks just wanted to be with Whites,get over yourselves. The whole era was about equality. Due to hatred within the heart of man, basic needs were denied.Blacks never thought Whites were superior in any way as far as a person because we were all created by God. Just being heard in the past 50yrs, I think Blacks do quite well. If the playing field had been leveled from the beginning then the comparion would be fair.Do not bring another race into the equation because everybody else came her by choice. But nevertheless the article was great.

Anonymous said...

C'mon now.

Didn't blacks think that going to school with whites was pretty much the only way they would get equal access to resources.

And that access to these "resources" was their biggest problem?

It sure seems that way. But today, they get resources.

Many more resources if you look at the funding, so what's the problem with re-segregation?

Anonymous said...

Back in December, you were going to research stories that showed the Observer did not stereotype blacks.
Why don’t you take a look at how the Observer in pushing the stereotypes with its basketball tournaments coverage.

pstonge said...

Anon, 3:34: As I said then, writing about blacks having success at basketball is not stereotyping, so long as we write about successes in other things, which we do.


Anonymous said...

And, what was the racial and poverty make up of the district when the black woman was pushing for her child to attend school in Dilworth? You asked the question: Can separate ever be equal? Not when middle and upper middle class students leave the county for public schools in Union or Iredell or private schools in Mecklenburg...because they feel that their kids are getting short shrift in CMS.

Anonymous said...

And, for about the millionth time: Inequality in CMS is not about black, white and brown. It is about class. I submit that there are far greater differences between upper middle and middle class blacks and those on the free lunch program than there are between the races. I submit that there are virtually no differences between upper middle and middle class whites and upper middle and middle class persons of all other races., including blacks In this country, all have worked (or their forebears have worked) to achieve what they have.

Anonymous said...

Back then we got a real education, not a "pass the test" education. We had School officials that really cared about children, unlike Dr Gorman.