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30 Years of Changes in Education

By Richard Myers
Posted: 10/25/2023
Tags: history, education, social change

The group had a guest speaker, Brian Biery, Adjunct Professor at Pacific Oaks College and local historian.  The video presentation about 30 years of change in education was recorded and the link is available on the Pasadena Village YouTube channel.  As with previous conversations with Brian Biery the exchange was lively and deeply personal at times.

 

The meeting began with an exploration of the state of education in the United States.  Mr. Biery reminded attendees that understanding the history of education is an ongoing process. With current research impacting an understanding of the effects of decisions in the present day.  Mr. Biery reminded attendees that the experiences in Pasadena were similar to other cities at the same time.  He suggested considering effects on the present and influences on the future.  He asked that individuals consider how they were connected to public education and how the Village might be or develop relationships to the local school district and families and agencies serving the school district.

 

Mr. Biery next reviewed the historical elements of segregation in Pasadena, it's foundation in real estate inequity and early people and organizations attempting to make change.  He pointed out that for many, Pasadena was assumed to be a progressive and inclusive community.  This was not necessarily true over time.

 

The group then explored the role of public education in a democratic society.  The attendees suggested public schools support democracy which depends on an educated populace. This prompted a discussion on who defines the content of that education and how it forms the basis for an informed voter.

 

The group next shared individual stories of their own education experiences and concepts they had about public schools.  Some participants attended public schools solely, many reported a combination of public and private school attendance.  Some shared a belief on the part of their families that public schools provided a lesser educational program than other options.

 

The group was asked to reflect on the question "what was life like in Pasadena for students?".  Many shared that when students in a neighborhood attended school together they developed circles of friends in the neighborhood.  Today there are many public school options, such as magnet schools or schools of choice, which reduces the sense of neighborhood community.  Rather students have circles of friends based on activities at their schools not communities. 

 

The group then reviewed and reflected on education in Pasadena over the decades.  In the 1880s the educational system was one of separation and exclusion.  A 1941 study by James Crim of USC was used to demonstrate community attitudes.  The study participants were white and many had significant financial resources.  89% of these respondents favored separation by race in schools. The impacts of these historical views were thought to be: overcrowding, lower staffing ratios, poor school facilities and maintenance and less experienced staff.

 

The attendees then reviewed the 1970 decision by Judge Manuel Real to desegregate Pasadena public schools in 27 days.  This decision was the first desegregation order outside of the South.  No school was to have a majority minority student population.  There was federal intervention in the operation of Pasadena schools to accomplish this task. Students were bussed to achieve the racial balances required at individual school sites.  Seven thousand white students, which was 40% of the total school district enrollment, withdrew from the district.

 

The School Board, at the time, developed an anti-busing platform, opposed federal intervention, banned books, focused on competition rather than cooperation in the operation of the district, teachers were censored, and student dissent was limited. Over time, curriculum focused on the 3 Rs and the development of schools of choice. At the present time, the number of school age children in the city is about 28,000. About half attend public schools. There are 55 private schools in the city and 23 public schools.

 

The meeting ended with the questions "What is your individual role in supporting the public schools?", and "What is the Village's role?"

 

The next meeting with be on November 3rd at 10am PST. Sharon Kyle and Dick Price will lead a discussion about Wokeism and  Critical Race Theory.  Sharon and Dick have long published the award winning newsletter, LA Progressive, and have been students of race issues for many years. Sharon and Dick are a mixed race couple and have previously spoken to us in a very engaging presentation about what they have learned from their perspective of being a part of that kind of relationship for many years. Click on the link above to read about the presentation and find the video recording. Both of the terms referenced have two distinct meanings. One is what they refer to when the terms of reference where originally used and an entirely different meaning in the current conversation that dominates the news coverage. Sharon and Dick will be able to help us understand the distinctions. We expect another exciting conversation and we look forward to having you join us. Click here to register for the event. You do not have to be a Villager to attend, we welcome guests.

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