Is Developing Race-Specific Parent Groups Really The Way To Go?

According to a recent article in the Madison, Wisconsin newspaper titled In Madison, an effort to get minority parents involved in their kids’ schools, one school has increased parent involvement by starting separate Hmong, Latino, and African-American groups.

I applaud the school for recognizing the problem, and for putting time, energy, and resources into trying to solve it.

However, I wonder if this kind of strategy is really the way to go (I also recognize that the article might not tell the full story).

I can understand the importance of occasionally having a specific day or even recognizing the efforts of a particular group, but I wonder if this kind of on-going organizational separation by ethnicity can backfire in the long run. During my community organizing career, we always found that the greatest opportunities were created by connecting people together around common self-interests, instead of separating them by race. We used rudimentary technology to have simultaneous translation, and I know that our school’s parent groups (including parent university) uses far more advanced tech now to do the same.

Getting parents to be engaged with schools, and with each other, around their common stories, hopes, and dreams — including the ones they have for their children — are worth the added logistical and organizational challenges, I think.

I also have to add that I have been instrumental in pushing for specific African-American, Latino, and Hmong student clubs/classes at our school. However, one difference — at least with the design of those classes/clubs — is that they specifically spend a lot of time looking at history and how some of the biggest successes in an individual ethnic group’s history is when they develop allies with others. The groups/classes are also encouraged to work together. Finally, I think these kinds of groups have a different purpose, and certainly a different constituency, than a school parent or community organizing group

What are your thoughts?

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