Serial: Nice White Parents - Full Season
August 22, 2020 12:45 PM - Subscribe

Nice White Parents is baaaaasically Serial Season Four, coproduced by the New York Times. It follows the model of Season Three, focusing on a single institution enmeshed in a larger system, instead of an individual case. In this case, the past, present and future of a single Brooklyn school's history of failed integration attempts.

"We know American public schools do not guarantee each child an equal education. Two decades of school reform initiatives have not changed that. But when Chana Joffe-Walt, a reporter, looked at inequality in education, she saw that most reforms focused on whom schools were failing: Black and brown kids. But what about whom the schools are serving? In this five-part series, she turns her attention to what is arguably the most powerful force in our schools: white parents."

Previous Metafilter discussion of episodes 1+2.
posted by kaibutsu (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Episodes 1-3 felt aimed at an audience that needed to be convinced that a problem exists with the status quo.

Episode 4 put my own public school experience in the 80’s & 90’s in a new context. Episode 5 shows a possible path to something better, while also being responsible re: describing what will be required to actualize it.

I guess what I’m saying is that the whole thing is good, but if you’re already part of the choir re:this problem and have limited listening time, the last two episodes may be the most valuable ones IMO.
posted by FallibleHuman at 4:20 PM on August 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

This reconfirmed many of my suspicions that people give themselves a lot of slack to be raging assholes in the name of protecting their children. The whole cultural edifice of the 'momma bear' or 'tiger mom' gives people cover for doing a LOT of damage in the name of protecting their kids. It's ultimately selfish, with convenient rhetoric to dodge responsibility for that selfishness: 'i wasn't doing it for /me/, but for /my kid/.'

The last episode is a good note of measured optimism, though; I think more people are aware of these dynamics, and learning to act more appropriately. The three stages of repeated history do show some modicum of development. In the first stage, the white liberals want idealized diversity, but won't actually follow through because they're ultimately boomers selfish. The second stage has the white parents actually showing up, but in their own carefully prescribed way, creating fiefdoms (sub-schools and gifted programs) that don't actually solve anything. And the third stage...

The ultimate success in the last act comes from the white moms changing their approach. They shift from using citizen power to /dictate policy/ to using that power to /get the institution to do its job/, as the institution (the school board) actually has the reach and the resources to change things, but has historically tried very hard not to. Arguably, the success is only possible because things had gotten so bad for white parents, and we'll see whether the success is actually a success in another five years, I guess. But I think there is some evidence of evolution in thought about how to address the segregation issue, so that's a bit of additional hope.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:34 PM on August 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Something that struck me about episode 5 is that ultimately, the white moms advocating for change weren't actually going to be affected by the change: it sounded like at least one (maybe both?) ultimately had their kid get into one of the three schools that white parents typically desired. It reminded me of the second episode in that way: white parents advocating for change that they might not end up being a part of. It did sound like in this case there was a real effort to take a more grassroots approach, both in raising up voice of POC but also maybe educating the white parents to some extent. But I do wonder whether it will stick.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 7:40 PM on August 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Chana discusses at some point hope transient all the parents are, especially at the middle school level. It's two years and out, so any fixes have to come from the institution (which as witnessed, sure as hell wasn't happening) or overzealous parents, of which there are plenty, but whose motives are pretty terrible on average.

So it seems like good changes from white parents can only happen after a) their kids are no longer involved, to get past the terrors of selfish parenting, and b) they've gotten over the whole white saviour complex. Which takes a long time, probably way more than those two years.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:06 PM on August 25, 2020

Episode 4 put my own public school experience in the 80’s & 90’s in a new context. Episode 5 shows a possible path to something better, while also being responsible re: describing what will be required to actualize it.
Interesting. I put it aside after the first episode and forgot about it. It's well made and I'm glad it exists, but as someone who first read Jonathan Kozol more than twenty years ago, I struggled to find much new in it. Maybe I'll skip ahead. Thanks!
posted by eotvos at 10:04 AM on September 10, 2020

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