Go Figure | Deborah Coe
Race—and how little we understand
It’s news to no one, except maybe to many white Americans: a child’s educational opportunities have a lot to do with that child’s race. The US Department of Education released new data in March reinforcing a connection learned quickly by most children of color. One of the main findings was that children of color are disproportionately suspended and expelled from schools. These same students are also more likely than white students to be enrolled in underfunded public schools where all teachers may not meet state teaching requirements and where students are less likely to have access to a full range of math, science, and arts courses.
Because the best way to alleviate poverty is through education, unequal access to quality public education means unequal access to college and successful careers.
Despite a plethora of books about racial inequalities, this information does not seem to get out to many white, non-Hispanic Americans. In a recent Presbyterian Panel survey, about 40 percent of the members and ruling elders who responded said they believe that children of color have about the same chance of getting a good education in the United States. Only about half understood the reality expressed by the statistics.
What can you do? Host after-school and preschool education programs in your congregation that provide free or low-cost registration for children from low-income families. Start a book study in your congregation (start with The Shame of the Nation by Jonathan Kozol). Visit PC(USA) websites to learn more about how you can help advocate for children: pcusa.org/racialjustice, pcusa.org/child, and pcusa.org/poverty-alleviation.
Deborah Coe is the coordinator of Research Services of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.