I’m searching for the cheapest retainer in Austin to wrangle in a wayward, crooked snaggletooth of mine. So I Googled “Orthodontist Austin Texas” and apparently nobody in East Austin needs braces.
Now curious, I searched “Plastic Surgery Austin Texas”:
And, then “SAT Tutoring Austin Texas”. My experimenting suddenly took a not-so-funny turn.
Are there no businesses in East Austin? Well, try Google Maps for “Mobile Homes Austin Texas”:
For a six and half years I taught mathematics in East Austin at Martin Middle School and Eastside Memorial High School at the Johnston Campus. I taught a total of no more than five White students. Most of the time I think our races went largely unnoticed by both students and myself. But there were certainly moments where I felt like an awkward ambassador for the White people.
“Miss, why do White girls wear scarves?”
“Why are there so many White people who don’t eat meat?”,
“Do y’all even know about DJ Screw (or Jordan’s, menudo, Dubs, etc)?!”
I recently bought a house right on I-35, the historic divider between East and West Austin. You can come over and watch traffic from my back deck with me and we can talk about what’s left of our city’s sad history of segregation.
Here is a summary of US Census Data highlighting some of those differences.
Do you see anything that surprises you?
I found this data on the second page of a report that also described the history of segregation in Austin, Texas. This is the first I learned of the details:
“East Austin has long been economically and racially segregated from the rest of the city. In 1928, the city of Austin institutionalized segregation through its master plan. This plan forced minority residents to move to East Austin using such measures as cutting off utilities to blacks living in Freedmen settlements at the city’s periphery and in other parts of the city, as well as moving their churches to East Austin and its neighboring communities. City leaders also pushed the relatively few Mexican immigrants out of downtown by relocating their churches and building Santa Rita Courts, the nation’s first federally funded housing project, in East Austin.”
It’s a painful history that is largely ignored by the larger Austin community.
I wonder just how bad segregation is in Austin. Specifically, what is Gini coefficient for Austin?
In Google Maps, I plotted the addresses of the Austin Independent School District schools that have been rated “Academically Unacceptable” by Texas Education Agency’s Accountability System during any point in the past 3 years. If we lump Green and Global Tech schools together as one school with Eastside Memorial High School at The Johnston Campus, 9 out of the 12 schools or 75% are East of I-35.
A charter school company from South Texas, IDEA Public Schools, will take management of two East Austin schools, Allan Elementary and Eastside Memorial High School. The charter school’s battle cry has been “NO EXCUSES!” The more I heard it and saw it printed on signs and blue t-shirts, I wondered if outsiders had images of myself and my former co-teachers sitting around at our desks in our classrooms saying things like, “Oh, well, you see they aren’t working today because they are poor.” Or “Yeah, he didn’t pass the TAKS test because he’s Black.”
The truth is poverty did rear it’s ugly head and impede learning at times. Poverty hurt in countless ways. I had a student who slept on a couch of a living room in a two bedroom apartment shared by ten people. I rigidly abode by my class rule of no sleeping in class, but despite “not making an excuse” I still had a sleep deprived 15 year-old every morning. Contacting the parent or guardian of a faltering student was difficult. More often than not, the telephone number listed in the electronic database did not work. Earlier this school year, I attempted to “flip the classroom” but found out from a survey that fewer than 40% of my students had a computer at home with an internet connection. I assigned a YouTube video on solving logarithmic equations as a preview to a class lesson. Roland Fryer’s recently published article supporting “No Excuses” school culture was fresh on my mind. So when an honest, hardworking student asked what he should do if his family didn’t have a computer at home, I retorted “Don’t make excuses! You can go to the library.” The same student came back the next class period to tell me, “I’m sorry I couldn’t do your homework. I went to the public library, but they don’t have earphones so I couldn’t hear the video.” What now, Roland Fryer?
I won’t make excuses, I haven’t been, and nor are the large majority of East Austin educators either. The teachers I know work hard and are persistent despite these barriers.
But do we ignore the glaring differences between East and West Austin? Do we really think poverty doesn’t effect our schools or children? Are we to use a one-size-fits-all education, pretend the history and the existing disparities don’t exist? How do we honestly teach our city’s history, recognize the inequality in our city, and work with our students for building a more equal Austin?