Statement to Flint Board of Education
Re: School Desegregation
The Mott Foundation wishes to take this opportunity to respond to your reaching out to the total community for concerns and ideas relative to school desegregation. We wish to state the Foundation’s views on the school desegregation issue, the process you have used to involve the community, and the implications of desegregation for Community Education.
With regard to the basic issue of segregation vs. desegregation, we feel that human dignity is essential to all aspects of community life. “Dignity is that permanent element of human nature which, when expressed, affords equal rights without suppression; recognizes that understanding does not require agreement, nor does disagreement require conflict; does not equate compromise with defeat; and is dedicated to the peaceful interaction of all people. It is represented in the best traditions of human struggle to overcome obstacles and limitations.”* An appreciation of human dignity is certainly a goal of Community Education and as we view it, a goal of all education as well. With this perspective, The Foundation is unalterably opposed to school segregation and vigorously supports the desegregation of schools and integration of the people in those schools as a means of enhancing opportunities for all children to develop to the limits of their potential, regardless of race, ethnic origin, or economic status. The Foundation believes in the highest possible quality of education for all people, and that quality and integration can be synonymous within the Flint School District. We recognize that schools everywhere bear a disproportionate share of the segregation burden. Coupled with any effort the schools make, there should also be emphasis on equal employment opportunities and fair-housing practices.
The process you have initiated to get community input on school desegregation is a commendable effort in participatory democracy. We know the community advisory councils and community organizations have spent many hours developing their position papers and we feel that their statements reflect positive and constructive thinking. The Flint community has a unique opportunity to voluntarily desegregate its schools; citizen participation should enable you to carry out the voluntary desegregation process with broad community support. A recent national newspaper reported that Minneapolis came up with a desegregation/integration plan that was a product of the community through more than 100 meetings of the public in all of that city’s schools. The plan has worked. With similar community participation here, there is no reason why a community-inspired Flint Plan should not work.
The concept of Community Education can and must work in concert with integrated schools. There is no justification for segregation in the community school. When the community school becomes improperly exclusive in fact or in spirit, when it is viewed as being reserved for only certain community elements, it does not serve the purpose of democratic education nor does it serve the purposes of Community Education.
The Foundation has no method to suggest as a means of desegregating Flint’s schools. We only encourage your efforts in voluntarily desegregating the schools. We are confident that any plan a free and responsible community proposes will reflect the integrity of that community and will result in the most appropriate means to do the job.
*Dignity of Man Foundation, The Basis of Global Understanding (California, 1974).