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Friday, May 14, 2004

CNN Presents 

This Sunday, CNN is doing a CNN Presents show on the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board. Apparently, part or all of the program will focus on my alma mater, Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Now, Shaker always seems to get attention whenever the subject is school desegregation, and for good reason (mostly). It's the only school I've ever heard of that's close to 50/50 in terms of percentage of black and white students (actually around 54/46 black/white now, I think, with only small numbers of Asian/Pacific Islanders, Latinos and Native Americans). Of course, its integration had virtually nothing to do with Brown, or school desegragation in general, as far as I know, so I'm not sure if it's a great example of where we've come since Brown.

Anyway, here's how some Shaker Heights PR flack describes the upcoming program:
This Sunday, May 16, CNN will air a special one-hour program looking at integration in Shaker Heights, in connection with the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Brown v Board decision. Crews from the network spent several weeks in Shaker Heights in preparation for the documentary, sitting in on classes and interviewing parents, students, community members, and staff. The program will air at 8 and 11 p.m. this Sunday and again at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. next Saturday, May 22.

Here is how one of the producers characterized Shaker's involvement in the piece:
The program is called CNN PRESENTS - The Gap: 50 Years After The Brown Ruling. It examines several aspects of the achievement gap from the perspective of the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education. In addition to profiling Shaker Heights' efforts to close the gap, the program also looks at the benefits of diversity in schools (using a longtime Shaker family's experience and the SGORR students today). The program also focuses on the role of poverty in creating an achievement gap long before kindergarten starts. Also profiles a successful charter school in New York's Chinatown that is attracting parents and children from other ethnic groups.

Shaker Heights was crucial to doing the program because of your long track record of tackling these issues head-on and for making use of outside consultants such as John Ogbu and Ron Ferguson (who is one of the experts we interviewed on camera.) The MAC scholars provided valuable insight into both the problems and showing a way to close the gap.
MAC scholars are African-American juniors and seniors who act as mentors to younger minority students. SGORR is Student Group on Race Relations, which is comprised of HS students who go to 5th and 6th grade classes to teach and talk about race.

It should be noted that Aaron Brown is the host of CNN Presents, and when I was junior in HS, he came to do an ABC special on Shaker Heights and intergration. I was selected as one of the people to be in the interview group, and well, while I never made it on air, I did learn one thing: Aaron Brown is an idiot with idiot producers who don't do their homework. He kept comparing Shaker Heights to Scarsdale, NY, I guess because they're both "good" public school districts, even though Scarsdale is about all white, and, even worse, he kept referring to the 50s and 60s when, he said, Shaker was mostly Jewish. Well, in fact, Shaker had very few Jews at that time. In fact, all property deeds in Shaker at the time had restrictive covenants that prevented sales to Jews and minorities. So, maybe it was his producer's fault, but it seemed like a basic point he could have gotten right.

In any event, watch the program. 8:00pm EDT on CNN (7:00 here in Chicago, duh.)
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