If you’re close to a radio (or an internet connection) this weekend, be sure to tune to WNYC for a look at why otherwise strong suburban schools fail minority students. The hour-long documentary is produced by reporter Nancy Solomon and focuses on a school that’s close to home — Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Solomon’s website has the full piece up already, along with a set of audio slideshows featuring students and teachers at the school discussing how they grapple with race and education. In one of the segments, sociology and history teacher Melissa Cooper says that it’s important for minority students to have teachers they trust will understand their experiences.
“There is an assumption that I understand them and I get them, and sometimes that’s true and sometimes it’s not,” says Cooper, who is African American. “But there’s a comfort level, and I wonder how it affects children to go through perhaps their entire daily class schedule and not have people whom they believe can get them, or know their world, or understand a story about mom or dad or aunt or uncle.”
Cooper also says that suburban school districts will be where Americans next figure out how to address racial equity in public schools.
“This is going to be the place where we’re going to hash this out, and I don’t mean “this” as in, “Columbia High School;” I mean, American suburbs—this will be the place where we’ll hash out, once and for all, are we going to have segregated schools in America forever?”
“Mind the Gap” airs on 93.9 FM tomorrow at 2 p.m. and again Sunday night at 8 p.m. on AM 820. Segments from the piece will also air in a two-part series on NPR’s Weekend Edition.