On Wednesday, The New York Times published an opinion piece by a “social emotional learning specialist” arguing that white parents who have created learning pods for their children during the coronavirus crisis are likely perpetuating “racial segregation” and “white supremacy.”
Clara Totenberg Green, who works in the Atlanta Public Schools, acknowledged that the learning pods “seem a necessary solution” during the crisis. Then she turned to her charge that they are potentially racist, continuing, “But in practice, they will exacerbate inequities, racial segregation and the opportunity gap within schools. Children whose parents have the means to participate in learning pods will most likely return to school academically ahead, while many low-income children will struggle at home without computers or reliable internet for online learning.”
In case the reader might miss that this is a problem caused by white parents, Green made her position perfectly clear: “Based on what I’ve seen online, the learning pod movement appears to be led by families with means, a large portion of whom are white. Paradoxically, at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement has prompted a national reckoning with white supremacy, white parents are again ignoring racial and class inequality when it comes to educating their children. As a result, they are actively replicating the systems that many of them say they want to dismantle.”
More about those racism-perpetuating white parents and their privilege: “As is the case across the country, white families largely socialize with one another, white children are disproportionately represented in gifted and talented programming, and white parents dominate parent committees.”
Green linked to research from the Public Religion Research Institute, whose founder Robert P. Jones authored a book, titled “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity,” and another, titled “The End of White Christian America.”
In a country where 75 percent of white people report that the network of people with whom they discuss important matters is “entirely white, with no minority presence,” it is not a leap to predict that learning pods will mirror the deeply racially segregated lives of most Americans.
She went on to ask if “privileged families,” whom she described as having “limited exposure to the virus,” will “willingly opt into learning pods with children of essential workers.” She also pointed out that some pods hire people to help supervise, asking if that is even an option for low-income families.
In the concluding section, Green hammered home her charge of learning pods “perpetuat[ing] racial inequities rooted in white supremacy”:
Whatever parents ultimately decide, they must understand that every choice they make in their child’s education, even the seemingly benign, has the potential to perpetuate racial inequities rooted in white supremacy. The history of public schooling in this country is one in which white parents have repeatedly abandoned public schools, or resisted integration efforts at every turn. As a result, schools are more segregated today than during the late 1960s.