I just wrote a new post at my other blog, Engaging Parents In School, titled Is Developing Race-Specific Parent Groups Really The Way To Go?
It reflects on a school in Madison, Wisconsin that has organized separate African-American, Latino and Hmong parent groups.
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on it…
Larry – It would be politically correct to tsk-tsk about setting up different groups of parents based on ethnicity. But different groups of parents have different backgrounds, expectations, and even languages. Assuming that it’s best to put everybody together because everybody will benefit is too simplistic. Some parents come from a tradition where nobody questions the teacher or the school. Some barely speak English. Some have no clue how to approach the institution of a school.
Do we want to help these parents become more involved in their children’s school in the way you feel most comfortable, or in the way that may make them most comfortable. It is a lot easier to approach a group of people like yourself than a group of complete strangers. Bringing the groups together can come later.
I’ll bet when you were a community organizer you didn’t start with huge groups of people – I’ll bet you started with individuals and their needs. That’s what good teaches do, too. Start with individuals and their needs. Not with with where we want them to be, but with where they are. Where we want them to be comes later.
I agree that starting with “where people are” is an essential first step in moving forward. And I think you’re right that most people are more comfortable with people like themselves. I just think, in the long-run, it’s better for schools, parents, kids and the community at large to start with encouraging people to share their hopes, dreams and concerns so that they find that those are the areas where there is a ton of commonality. Yes, it’s harder. I’ve just seen those kind of ethnic groupings often not be a means to the end of coming together but, instead, the end in themselves.