Sample Editorials

Not sold on single-gender school plan

Is it worth it? Is it wise?

Can a district already so strapped for cash that it has to scrounge to keep teacher assistants on the payroll one more year afford to launch a multi-million dollar experiment to save the boys of Durham?

Last week, The Herald-Sun reported about a proposed partnership between Durham Public Schools and Maureen Joy Charter School that would establish two single-gender schools aimed at potential first-generation college kids.

Truly, it’s a well-intended idea and we’re impressed that DPS might be willing to collaborate so closely with one of the charter schools that have been seen as a mortal enemy of the district in recent years.

But is it worth it? Is it wise?

When Superintendent Eric Becoats first talked about the idea of just an all-male school last year, with plans to focus on black students from low income families without the distractions that come from trying to learn around girls, it seemed like an idea worth exploring.

But in the months since then, the concept has morphed and ballooned in potential expense. Due to legal concerns about student equity – if a girl wanted to get into the all-boys academy and succeeded in winning a lottery seat, DPS would have to let her in – administrators decided to make one school for boys and one for girls.

Now we’re looking at perhaps as much as $12 million get the schools off the ground, including the cost of fixing and expanding W.G. Pearson Middle School’s campus.

Is it worth it? Is it wise?

Proponents like DPS board member Minnie Forte-Brown argue, emphatically, that it is absolutely worth it to build a school that lifts up children who are stuck in what she describes as a “prison pipeline,” in a population of students who perform at the lowest levels but are among those most commonly slapped with long-term school suspensions.

But it’s an awful lot of money to throw at a problem 350 students at a time, with no guarantee of return on investment, especially when you have to divert part of those resources to a girls’ school for which there is no clear demand in the community.

Omega Curtis Parker thinks it’s worth it because “we don’t know that it’s not going to work.”

But how wise is it to invest so much on the chance that this might be the silver bullet that suddenly fixes a problem that is nothing new to Durham or, indeed, other urban areas throughout the United States?

Why not give all the other projects – the retooled Southern School of Energy and Sustainability, the Moving in the Middle programs, the new magnet schools, the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy – more time to prove themselves?

Always chasing the next new thing, even in the name of collaboration, can be expensive and unwise.

And, right now, we’re hard pressed to agree that it’s worth it.

He would not be deterred

When Julius LeVonne Chambers shook the foundations of intolerance with U.S. Supreme Court cases to force school system desegregation in Charlotte, opponents bombed his car.

That didn’t stop him.

A civil rights lawyer who also fought employment discrimination, Chambers saw his home and office bombed by enemies too.

That didn’t stop him, either.

Jack Boger, dean of UNC School of Law, knew of Chambers’ work when Boger was still a law student at UNC in the 1970s. He met Chambers in person for the first time while working at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

“I was certainly aware of all that great work and aware as well of the courage he showed,” Boger told The Herald-Sun’s April Dudash. “They tried to fight him away, they firebombed his home, they burned his office down …. None of that deterred him or made him angry or vindictive. He was a remarkably decent and determined person to bring about the kind of racial reconciliation, racial integration, that he so believed in.”

Chambers, who served as chancellor of N.C. Central University from 1993-2001, died on Friday at age 76.

In his time, he fought for desegregation in North Carolina’s public schools and pushed for higher admittance rates of black students in predominantly white universities. The Mt. Gilead native grew up in an era when black students were denied the right to attend school with white children. He had wanted to attend UNC Chapel Hill in the mid-1950s, but racial prejudice blocked his way. So he gained a master’s degree at the University of Michigan and then, when UNC began accepting black students, Chambers earned a fellowship to the School of Law.

He opened the first integrated law practice in North Carolina and served as director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Chambers didn’t want the fight to end with his generation. He led UNC’s Center for Civil Rights, where young law students could learn about racial and economic injustices.

He’s gone now, a great loss, but his remarkable legacy remains. This doesn’t stop what he believed.

In a 1997 speech, Chambers told students: “Many years ago, we defined [civil rights] as the rights of African Americans to get equal opportunities in life. Now we have to broaden that focus and talk about the rights of all people, regardless of race, creed, economic condition or sexual preference.”

The work continues. We can’t let this loss stop us. We should not be deterred.

Maybe more labels are the answer

Maybe Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. Department of Transportation are onto something.

Sure, it’s culturally and politically insensitive to start branding people with labels on their driver’s licenses. Right enough, many of the people who would receive these special provisionary licenses are Hispanic immigrants who were brought to this country as children and haven’t committed serious offenses.

Okay, so it’s not that great a leap to compare actions like this to demanding that people wear patches on their clothes to broadcast their religious affiliation.

That’s what brought together church leaders in Chapel Hill on Sunday to protest the licenses that would proclaim “NO LAWFUL STATUS.” John Friedman, senior rabbi of Durham’s Judea Reform Congregation, said members would add pink tape to their licenses in solidarity with the immigrants.

David Mateo, associate pastor at United Church of Chapel Hill, said the markings appear designed to humiliate and oppress those who carry it.

“Beyond the motivations of putting the color on the driving license, [it’s] just saying to the community, ‘We know who they are and what they are,’” he said. “The purpose of the driving license is not that. It’s just to say ‘This is all right, you can drive.’ But it’s become an instrument of repression in some way.”

But those who are so offended by this should consider looking at it from another point of view. Maybe the pink-striped license is just a good start.

We’ve already got labels for corrective vision and organ donors, right?

Maybe we can just start cranking out a bunch of new labels so that no one feels left out.

– Black-and-white checkered flag: DRIVES TOO AGGRESSIVELY

– Snarling dog face:  RAISED BY WOLVES

– Glowing smart phone: TEXTS DURING MOVIES

– Bottle in a bag: ALCOHOLIC

– Dark blue border: DUKE FAN

– Light blue border: TAR HEELS FAN

– Crimson border: WOLFPACK FAN

– Burning cross: UNREPENTENT RACIST

– Unmade bed: SLEEPS AROUND

– Hands on keyboard: HIDEOUS INTERNET TROLL

– Nose with a clip on it: SNORES

– Crying baby: WON’T PAY CHILD SUPPORT

– Dollar bill with an X over it: DOESN’T TIP

– Teary eyes: CRIES DURING THE FIRST 10 MINUTES OF “UP”

– The word “Oops:” UNDERPAYS UNDOCUMENTED YARD WORKERS, BUT WANTS THEM TO WEAR LABELS

Well, on second thought, we see how this could get out of hand. It’s a bad idea. It’s unfair. And it’s insensitive. The reason these immigrants are getting licenses is because they are putting themselves on the grid and acknowledging their heritage. They have to renew every two years until they earn citizenship, regardless of whether they drive.

They don’t need that status splashed around every time they open their wallet.

Don ‘t do this unless we’re all ready to bear our own labels too.

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Wes Platt

Lead storyteller. Game designer and journalist. Recovering Floridian.

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