No Shades of Grey: School Diversity Hard to Find

I said way back when I started blogging that school diversity is important to me.  I want my children to be around kids who are like them and who are different than them, where no group is the clear majority, where they can cultivate relationships with kids of many cultures.  Last week I visited two schools which lacked diversity at opposite extremes.

One was Perelman Jewish Day School, where my children would be part of the majority in the homogeneous Jewish student body.  Making sure that my child has a Jewish identity is important to me, but in this school, it would be at the cost of exposure to other groups.  When asked about diversity, the tour representative responded by talking about socioeconomic and geographic diversity, and about some programs here and there that foster connections with other religious organizations.  That offered me some comfort, but there is more to diversity than annual income and once-a-year programs.

Jenks, our local public school, is at the other extreme.  According to GreatSchools, Jenks is 85% African-American, which more or less matched my observation.  At Jenks my children would meet lots of African-American kids, but few other groups (Asian and Hispanic make up less than 4% of the student body).  On top of that, there are few children there who come from a cultural background similar to ours (9% white, unknown number of Jewish students).  At Jenks, my son would likely be the only non-African American in his class and almost certainly the only Jewish one.  So there, I worry that we would end up needing to supplement our social circle outside of school to support the growth of our children’s Jewish identity and exposure to other cultures.  Of course, with the money I’d save going to Jenks, I my family could probably travel the world to experience these cultures first hand.  😉

With any school there are trade-offs that have to be made.  There is no school that perfectly matches all of my choice criteria.  Both Perelman and Jenks appear to do very well in other areas that are important to me, specifically community and academics.  Maybe diversity will have to take a back seat.  Or maybe I will decide on a school where there is a more balanced student population.  Unfortunately, I have found that there are only a small number of schools that seem to have a good balance in terms of race, income, and religion.

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