Saturday, November 22, 2008

'That's nice!', or, 'That's patronizing!'

Is the following community service program at the Obama girls' future school, well, nice or patronizing?

Lower School has established a relationship with Brightwood Elementary School, a public school in Northwest Washington. Over 20 Lower School parents serve as lap readers, visiting the school weekly to provide one-on-one reading with children in eight classrooms, pre-k through first grade. These parents are encouraged to bring their children to share in the reading at least once per semester, with teacher approval.

On the one hand, yay books, yay reading, and yay taking note of one's own privilege and helping the less fortunate. (I know next to nothing about D.C., but am assuming prospects at this Brightwood are less than bright.) On the other... there's something that doesn't sit right about what amounts to rich-mommy-for-a-day, showing underprivileged kids what a good parent does, implicitly telling/reminding kids that their own parents don't read to them, whether because they have too much work, they're in prison/on drugs, or they can't read, English or generally. It's something about the age of the kids, and that it's "lap reading," so maternal... So, better than doing nothing at all, or a method of volunteering too wrought with socioeconomic and potentially racial condescension?

(I'm tempted to do my whole anti-private-school rant. Not that the Obama's don't have good reason to go this route, as parents and as likely targets of all sorts of crazies. They're making the right choice, as if what I think matters. But the tendency of upscale private schools to tell their students that those at public schools, even 'just like private school' ones, are by definition tragic, along with their tendency--the one I did K-8 at, at any rate--to place the very few and rarely-integrated students of color in every photo in every brochure, making a misleading point about the wonderful "diversity," when day after day one sees rows of towheaded children in uniform... but I'm not sure what my own anecdotes about situations like the above add to the question regarding this particular D.C. school.)

1 comment:

Petey said...

Off topic, but a sign of the apocalypse nonetheless.

Can't the U.N. just take France into receivership and re-open it as a subsidized museum?