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Don’t play race card in education

Beebo TurmanBerkeley
Monday January 07, 2002

Just a week ago an editorial by Iris Starr (Dec. 22, 23) stated that there are “educational inequities between whites and people of color.” She claims that many adults “deny the students - needs, life experiences and cultural and racial identities are ignored;” and that “the Board of Education and the Superintendent have only acknowledged an achievement gap with no action taken, year after miserable year.” 

This seems an exaggeration of the situation. I have lived in Berkeley for 31 years, and have been very involved in Berkeley schools (the Maintenance Advisory Committee, the BHS Grounds Committee, the Steering Committee for the Edible Schoolyard, the BHS Development Group as well as helping start many school gardens and being Recycling Coordinator for five years). Most people in Berkeley, white or people of color, try very hard not be racist, sexist or ageist. We, the parents, teachers and administrators believe in giving all students the utmost in care and quality time and the long hours teachers spend with students illustrates that they are achieving that goal. 

In my daughter’s experience (BHS class of 1999) all of her classes were diverse, from her science class at King to her math class at BHS. Her BHS Freshman and Sophomore years were the first to have Core English and History, with only 20 students to a class, meaning all the students got more individual care. 

I don’t think the problems of the underachieving students can be solved only by the schools. More attention needs to be focused on the family situation. If you ask teachers, they would say students often come unprepared, which means they are not getting the support from home they need. By helping single parents, we will see students who can concentrate more on whatever is important to them.  

We all talk about the disintegration of “The Family,” but we need to strengthen the weak connection between the family support and the work assigned at schools. 

Specifically, the Small Schools movement is a good one. Do the BUSD parents know that there are already eight small schools ? 


These Small Schools already give students the kind of atmosphere they need to do well.  

By hiring more teachers, more counselors and establishing Mentor programs we can assure all students that they will get the attention they need. 

I’m tired of hearing people say that our Berkeley community doesn’t honor and respect part of it’s population; that is just not so. I see people of color and whites work side by side in our government and our schools, daily. 

They all make the extra effort not to stereotype someone who may not think or talk the way they do. I am proud to say I live in Berkeley and work for the schools, and I think many citizens feel the way I do. 


Beebo Turman