Arne Duncan at Grady: Students willing to tackle race issues

In his whirlwind tour of Atlanta Monday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan seemed to have the most fun with the students at Grady High School. (See earlier blog on his session with educators and community leaders.)

The session was short but lively as the teens talked about bridging the racial divide at their midtown high school

Duncan joined 23 members of Grady’s Social Diversity Club. The education secretary listened far more than he talked, but was impressed with the students’ insightful comments about why teens tend to socialize with classmates who are similar to them. Some kids felt the racial divide had its roots in elementary and middle schools that were largely segregated due to Atlanta housing patterns.

 Grady High School principal Vincent Murray, left,  U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, center, Adolfo Carrion, director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs Policy, and APS Superintendent Beverly Hall listen to a discussion of the Social Diversity Club during Duncan’s visit to Grady last week. Bob Andres AJC

Grady High School principal Vincent Murray, left, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, center, Adolfo Carrion, director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs Policy, and APS Superintendent Beverly Hall listen to a discussion of the Social Diversity Club during Duncan’s visit to Grady Monday. Bob Andres AJC

Because of segregated neighborhood schools, students arrive at high school with tightly formed social circles already in place. A few students also felt the early sorting of kids by academic abilities created rifts and perhaps the practice of tracking should be rethought.

That led another student to say, “You can’t punish people for being intelligent.”

In noting their candor, Duncan asked Grady students why they were able to talk openly about sensitive topics like race. The students credited the accepting atmosphere of Grady and the school’s own willingness to air tough issues.

As a communications magnet, Grady has long been noted for its school newspaper, literary magazine and debate and mock trial programs. Kids come there who love language and who want to communicate. On top of that, the school draws the sons and daughters of Atlanta’s legal elite; kids whose parents are attorneys and judges are often strong debaters.

Before Duncan arrived at the classroom, one of his staff talked to the students about the visit and quizzed them. Likely unaware of Grady’s strong academic reputation, the guy began to explain the branches of government to the class. It took him about six seconds to figure out that these kids knew all about the branches of government and could tell him how many people were in the Cabinet.

Because Duncan was running late, the students had time to discuss a new cafeteria policy that many felt furthered class divides. Under the policy, students who buy the school lunch sit in a different area than peers who bring lunch from home. According to the students, middle-class white kids are more likely to bring lunch and lower-income minority kids are more apt to get the school lunch, thus creating a social divide.

(Duncan heard a quick recap of the policy when he came to the class, as did Grady officials who pledged to look into the unintended consequences.)

Anyone worried about the quality of public education would have left Grady as Duncan did, very impressed.

48 comments Add your comment

Things left unsaid

December 16th, 2009
5:29 am

Since the Grady students demonstrated the ability to guide the adults into sensitive topics, such as a serious conversation about the cafeteria policy, maybe they should have been given the chance to guide the adults into a conversation about the divisiveness that might be created when a dozen schools are under investigation for cheating. I guess when it comes to discussing that topic, race isn’t so sensitive to discuss after all.

What words reveal

December 16th, 2009
5:52 am

In giving praise to Grady in this post, a most telling statement stands out about Grady. The blog says that Grady educates many children of Atlanta’s elite, so lucid comments and articulate arguments are to be expected.

Why would anybody expect lucid comments and articulate arguments just because the school educates many children of Atlanta’s elite?

Doesn’t that go against everything this blog has tried to teach us, that the single most important factor, above any other factor, is teacher quality?

So why bring the elite status of the children into it, if it is such a secondary factor? Could it be because when they let their guard down for a moment, they reveal to us that even they don’t believe their own words on the subject?

Bill

December 16th, 2009
6:52 am

Teacher quality is a very important factor, and Grady has great teachers. But, the single best predictor of student academic success is the parent’s level of education.

Even though Grady educates many of the city’s elite, it is diverse. Because it is a magnet, students come from all over the city and a majority of the students are African-American. This article would have been better if more was said about the studens.

Big Dawg 97

December 16th, 2009
6:56 am

Dear “What words reveal…”

As you point out, “Why would anybody expect lucid comments and articulate arguments just because the school educates many children of Atlanta’s elite?” reveals that Maureen Downey is a racist.

M Anthony

December 16th, 2009
7:20 am

People cant you morons just for once take an article for what it saids. It praised the students of Grady High School for their positive interaction with Education Secretary Arne Duncan. And from the students, they want something done about a cafeteria policy that divides students. Kids learn the crap from adults and people who post all the negative stuff on these blogs. If have nothing positive to say then say nothing.

Re: Big Dawg's comment

December 16th, 2009
7:27 am

Downey did not say whether the kids that asked the lucid questions were black or white. She said that they were children of Atlanta’s “elite” (a term I hate, by the way). That may make her an elitist, but not a racist. The truth of the matter is that more intelligent, achievement-oriented parents are more likely to expect good work from their kids, so those kids are more likely to ask good questions than the kids of parents who are checked out at home.

Keith

December 16th, 2009
7:32 am

My wife works at an elementary school. She is constantly told by black students that “I don’t have to do what a white woman says”. I believe racism toward whites is taught at home at an early age.

Parents vs. Teachers

December 16th, 2009
7:33 am

Teachers are indeed important to a child’s education, but the impact of parents on a child is much more critical to their personal growth and likely success in life. Knowing how to work complicated math problems is useless if a child doesn’t grow up to be able to arrive at work on time, get along with others, and make good decisions.

Schools should focus on life skills as well as pure academics. Sadly, many kids aren’t getting those skills at home.

Maureen Downey

December 16th, 2009
7:35 am

Big Dawg, You make a good point. What I was trying to say was that the school attracts the kids of Atlanta judges and lawyers across races and the kids come with strong debating skills. I had “legal elite” at first and changed it, thinking people might assume I meant as opposed to “illegal” elite. I have changed again this morning. My point remains: the school draws good communicators because it is magnet for communications and it attracts kids — of both races — whose parents are in fields where communications skills are paramount, such as law.
I shouldn’t write anything after midnight.
Maureen

Jennifer

December 16th, 2009
7:42 am

Told ya the kids at Grady would be great. When we were up at the GDOE several years ago challenging the school board for requiring parental signatures for club activities as a ruse for trying to ban gay/straight alliance clubs in high schools, Grady students came to the rescue. They were an inspiration and dressed down the school board like I have never seen before.

The lunch thing is actually more widespread than you would imagine. About 8 years ago the Georgia PTA uncovered these types of lunch separation policies in some Georgia schools during a directed exercise. What they discovered was that high school kids were not applying for free lunch because they would only be able to get “certain foods” at mealtime and thus be required to go into a different line, thus segregating their lunch experience. They preferred not to qualify for reduced or free lunch. It is easy to uncover when you look at the patterns and % of free/reduced lunch in elementary and middle school lunches, and then all of a sudden in high school the % drops way down when compared to the feeder schools.

Don

December 16th, 2009
7:42 am

Racism is taugh at home .. then brought to school. Mainly by African Americans.

Racism

December 16th, 2009
7:50 am

Racism is racism, whether it’s practiced by blacks, whites, brown people, or striped people. It is prevalent in ALL cultures and is probably going to be around for a while. Groups that have hidden behind racism and used it as an excuse for their shortcomings need to “man up” and focus on family, hard work and electing qualified candidates to political office instead of blaming others.

Bill

December 16th, 2009
7:53 am

Just for the record: Grady is about 67% African American, 27% white. About half of Grady’s students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

G Cancryn

December 16th, 2009
7:56 am

Hey Don. Way to go. Obviously racism against white people, perpetrated by black people in america has been the true root of the problem for hundreds of years.
The lunch thing seems strange. I think the school administration should turn common sense issues over to the kids for debate and implementation. No time like the present to teach people to be involved and responsible for issues that affect your day to day life.

Corey

December 16th, 2009
7:59 am

Minority kids hear stories all the time from their grandparents and great grand parents about the sting of Jim Crow, but they do not get the proper perspective to go along with the stories, thus the blatant racial hostility among black kids.

V for Vendetta

December 16th, 2009
8:11 am

Racism is the lowest and most ignorant form of collectivism. I think many people on this blog would do well to remember that.

Quis custodiet custodes ipsos?

December 16th, 2009
8:16 am

I wonder if the elite students asked Arne about his role as chairman of his GLSEN and overseer of its conventions. This man’s organization has openly endorsed such stellar things as fisting for 7th grade gays. It is amazing what this paper does not cover for the sake of merely getting a sniff of Messiah Obama’s administration.

Corey??

December 16th, 2009
8:28 am

Corey, What would be considered the “proper perspective”?

Old School

December 16th, 2009
8:36 am

I wonder what improvements could be made if more students were asked for input on solving some of the academic problems in our schools. Perhaps if we actually listened to students and tried some of their suggestions, math and science scores would improve, discipline might become less of an issue, teachers would rise to the challenge of teaching engaged students, and students would buy into their own educations.

This could work. . . but only on a school by school basis and NOT a blanket, one size fits all mandate by educrats in their lofty ivory towers.

The Truth 2009

December 16th, 2009
8:36 am

I hope these highschool kids don’t buy into the “diversity is great” crap that’s shoved down their throats daily by a liberal race mixing agenda. I think its a shame that white women arent taught that black men beat their women at 4 times the rate of white men (in fact, Femicide is one of the top killers of Black women!)
And you would never see MTV tell young women that black men are 35 times more likely to have AIDS.
Don’t be a overly trusting liberal like the cancer researcher in midtown earlier this year, or the couple from Univ of Tenn that was carjacked BOTH raped (just like in prison the blacks raped the white guy as well) brutally tourtured and murdered in the worst HATE CRIME in the history of the US! Why was this not a ‘hate crime”? Because it was not committed by white people! If you look at cases all over the world, its clear that liberals believe the only ones capable of “hate crimes” are whites.

Roll Eyes at The Stupid People

December 16th, 2009
8:39 am

The Truth 2009

jim d

December 16th, 2009
8:39 am

Quis custodiet custodes ipsos?

December 16th, 2009
8:41 am

To the Truth – yuo’re a little insane, but I do bet that Arne Duncan would have spun the male raping into a “learning experience for the latent homosexual living in that victim’s body.”

The Truth 2009

December 16th, 2009
8:50 am

Corey: So if all the blatant racial hostility among black kids, is because of old stories about Jim Crowe…. then how come the blacks and mexicans hate each other in California, and how come the blacks are gang jumping asian immigrants half their size in Chicago?

Face it…its because most of these young blacks are raised without morals, and without family values. They are raised with 107.9 blaring in the background talking about “shawty wanna thug” … i know because ive been in thousands of peoples apts (projects included) thru Atlanta.
The most intelligent / best behaved young blacks i saw were usually raised by their grandparents, and had gospel or jazz music playing in the background instead of mainstream crap, and they were not allowed to play outside with the other kids in the hood.

G Cancryn

December 16th, 2009
8:58 am

The Truth, WOW!!!!! Look, I honestly believe that you could benefit from counseling. You sound one more incident away from standing on a rooftop with a rifle. Easy. If you want to balance things, think of Jeff Dahmer. He killed an consumed exclusively black men. That should balance your terrible race-o-meter. You should still consider some form of help, from a professional.

flipper

December 16th, 2009
9:56 am

I’m all for the lunch room policy. Kids who bring an edible, healthy lunch shouldn’t have to sit and look at/smell the festering slop that they serve as “school lunch.” Every time I see that gunk it makes my stomach turn. If I had to sit next to a tray of that stuff every day I’d never be able to eat lunch.

If they want to “desegregate” lunch, the schools would server edible food to poor kids … just like the “rich” kids get. Poor kids shouldn’t have to eat slop.

DeKalb Conservative

December 16th, 2009
11:15 am

@ Maureen – Please consider doing a follow up in the next few weeks to decide if the lunchroom situation has changed.

Now for my rant-
Here’s the painful truth about this story, the kids are right, the adults are wrong. Racism is more alive in the eyes of aging race pimps, looters and moochers common in the ATL than in the hearts and minds of the students they are looking to protect.

The compelling case that can be made her is around classism, not racism. There is an implication that all the white kids are eating some Whole Foods-made lunches in one section and the rest of the school is on relief at the lunch counter. This is insane. If I went to a school that kept hot lunch from cold lunch kids separate, I would have freaked. Plus it would have severely limited a person’s friend base.

DeKalb Conservative

December 16th, 2009
11:24 am

The bottom line is this is horrible news to people such as Arne Duncan that need continued divides among people in order to justify professional existence and relevance. If young people continue to think for themselves and have viable solutions around race, what will happen? Gasp, people might actually see each other and judge them by their character and not their skin color?!?!

If MLK saw this I’d like to think he’d be happy, but I’m not so sure Reps John Lewis and Hank Johnson share this vision as it would negatively impact them politically. If a bunch of racially diverse high school students can offer some common sense solutions and have an open discussion around race, why can’t the angry old career politicians of Atlanta in do the same with the same candor?

If Atlanta doesn’t get a race scandal real soon to “reset the clock back a few years” I fear that actual progress might be made by this generation of students. I feel shameful I both just thought that sarcastic statement and wrote it out as a result of reading this blog.

Mike Hunt

December 16th, 2009
11:57 am

The truth is dead on…preach on brother, preach on

Jigajamboofus

December 16th, 2009
12:34 pm

All you white folks is jes wrong. We likes to party and don’t likes the work too much, but we jes ain’t that bad, least most of the time. My chirrens can raise theyselves. I gots to take care of me. GO OBAMA! Yes we can!

lets call a spade a spade

December 16th, 2009
12:51 pm

Beginners Guide to Racism:

Its racism when you refer to acts that white people do.

Its not racism if the act was done by a “person of color”

Bringing up the achievement gap, 70% bastardy rate, AIDs statistics, drop out rates, black on black violence, and rape statistics….RACIST!!!

Reading this post…RACIST!!!

I’m sorry and I will be resigning my position and make a sizable contribution to the NAACP. ;)

SynamonSays!

December 16th, 2009
1:29 pm

Keith and Don obviously do not know the meaning of racism or racist. I salute the children at Grady!

James

December 16th, 2009
2:29 pm

The forced lunchroom segregation is odd. We have it all the way out in Forsyth County as well. They should label the two groups “kids with lazy parents” and “kids with parents that have at least a smidgen of a clue as to whats going on in their lives.” Why is it that “middle-class white kids are more likely to bring lunch and lower-income minority kids are more apt to get the school lunch” when bringing a lunch from home is cheaper than buying lunch?

@DeKalb Conservative – you’re dead on. Arne and her ilk have to continually promulgate racism regardless of it’s existence. If MLK Jr was alive today he would be thrilled with the kids of today. He would also be rather surprised at his family and what they’ve done with his legacy. An entire family that has made their living off of selling his name, image, and speeches.

ATLshirt

December 16th, 2009
2:54 pm

Proud to be a Grady Grey Knight Alumni!!

What words reveal-a missed opportunity

December 16th, 2009
8:15 pm

From earlier today, the comment was made that this blog says that Grady educates many children of Atlanta’s elite, so lucid comments and articulate arguments are to be expected.

People who turned the above comment into a racial commentary completely miss the point.
Almost as bad as the racial rhetoric, they set up a straw man easily knocked down by the author, allowing the author to escape discussing a far more important point.

That point that stands out about the author’s comment on the elite status of the parents is that this blog has been trying to constantly tell readers that teacher quality is the overriding factor. This blog has repeatedly pushed that agenda, and make no mistake it is pushing an agenda, that all other factors pale in comparison to the teacher.

Therefore the line in the article raises the question of why would the status of the children as the offspring of Atlanta’s elite be noted when discussing the lucid comments and articulate arguments of the students? If the status of the parents is secondary to teacher quality, like this blog like to claim, then why was the status of the parents as elite given primary consideration in the article? It’s a contradiction, to say the least.

Does this contradiction suggest that even the author doesn’t believe the teacher quality above all else agenda that is pushed on this board?

In fact when the author lets her guard down for a moment, it appears the author admits to what most people know to be intuitively true. The obvious reality is what parents bring to the table is of primary importance, not secondary importance. Of course many individual children succeed despite the most modest of family circumstances, and that should always be nurtured, both in schools and society at large.

But as the author appears to reveal with her words today, family is the difference maker. Of course our educrats aren’t ready to admit that, because by and large they aren’t ready for an honest discussion on education. More power to be gained from playing let’s blame the teacher.

And it also seems the author is playing games by choosing not to respond to the teacher quality vs. home quality debate, and the apparent contradiction in today’s words and the previous agenda on this blog.

Of course when the readers, in their haste to interject race into the discussion, set up the perfect straw man, who can blame the author for taking the easy way out?

just one little question

December 16th, 2009
8:35 pm

Of course Maureen is your classic leftist journalist hack masquerading as a “progressive” and “centrist” when it comes to matters of education. No surprise at all.

Maureen Downey

December 16th, 2009
8:41 pm

I have to laugh at people who complain of masquerading while posting under an alias.

Maureen Downey

just one little question

December 16th, 2009
8:57 pm

like we say down here in Georgia; “a hit dog will holla!” Merry Christmas to all.

What words reveal-a missed opportunity

December 16th, 2009
9:01 pm

Once again, the author has revealed some very telling words today when it comes to commenting on the elite status of the parents and the expectations of their offspring. And once again, rather than piggyback on that point, someone responds with a ridiculously easy straw man for the author to knock down. So easy to knock down, some of these posters should consider calling themselves I’m a baby, take my candy.

Ho-Hum

December 16th, 2009
9:44 pm

Oh puhleeaase! And who are you, the internet philospher? Go put your tinfoil hat back on.

Toto: exposing the per*vert behind the curtain

December 16th, 2009
11:20 pm

Quis custodiet

Don’t confuse Arne Duncan with “safe schools czar” Kevin Jennings.
http://biggovernment.com/2009/12/15/fistgate-viii-safe-schools-czar-jennings-org-promoted-book-detailing-gay-sex-between-first-graders/

Here are some choice quotes by Arne the education secretary…
http://www.joannejacobs.com/tag/arne-duncan/

Let’s keep these czars and cabinet members “transparent”.

Ole Guy

December 16th, 2009
11:35 pm

Flipper has brought to light some particularly interesting issues: Top of the list: What is the purpose…the OFFICIAL purpose…of this policy? In other words, what is administration’s take on the issue…this, of course, includes the principal’s views; not through a spokesperson, but from the “horse’s mouth”. This statement should, by all means, take place in the dining facility. Secondly, regarding the quality of the chow prepared on-site…this has probably been a student complaint since the days of the little red school house…not that I am doubting the sincerity of the complaint, or of the complainer. However, one cannot help but wonder if the policy of separating the consumption of chow prepared in-house from those bringing-in “outside chow” might expose some over-riding issues.

Afterall, Maureen, the entire purpose of this blog section, “Get Schooled”, is to identify those areas which impact upon the state of education, and to offer comments. While some comments may or may not bear on resolving the issues, one would be hard-pressed to find an issue so basic, so obvious, yet, if indeed found to be unsat, so easily rectified.

Of all the issues we have discussed, I feel this may warrant media attention at the earliest…

Ole Guy

December 16th, 2009
11:46 pm

Secondly on my agenda: What was the racial composition of Secretary Duncan’s audience?

Thirdly: Other than a simple “He was running late” explanation for his (one would imagine) abbreviated visit, why could he not spend a little time in an attempt to “explore” some of the issues. One would imagine the purpose of this visit was, like many within the leadership from Washington, a “fact-finding”tour. One cannot find facts, and act effectively upon those facts, when one is “running late”.

Quis custodiet custodes ipsos?

December 17th, 2009
7:52 am

Thanks, Toto. Got it messed up in my head. Duncan is the former Chicago school chief who’s now under investigation for financial fraud, right??

jim d

December 17th, 2009
10:42 am

That’d be the one—partner in crimes death too?

jim d

December 17th, 2009
10:43 am

never forget this is chicago style politics

Ole Guy

December 25th, 2009
1:54 pm

I like Old School’s idea on seeking student input relating to academic and deportment issues. One would presume the SGA (Student Government Association) is not a long-gone institution of the past. These are the student bodies from which some possibly meaningful input could eventually lead to (borrowing an ugly word from the world of politics) educational reform. REAL MEETINGS (not these 10-minute “I’m running late gotta go” visits) could be established between local/state educational chieftains and SGA representatives on issues which have thus far eluded real workable answers. The only real hurdle to such meetings would be political aversion to the very notion that not all answers lie under that circus of a dome.

Maureen, do you think anyone under that dome may be up to the challenge?

Glad I Don't Live in Georgia

December 31st, 2009
1:38 am

Some of you posters are REALLY ignorant (you know who you are) and have completely missed the point of the article. It would be a waste of time to make any further comment here.