"Eyes Wide Open" says:
Forthright, bravo for recognizing a shortcoming to this area. The inability to recognize and embrace change is a tradition of the Delta that would be better given up. I freely admit that I am not a native Deltan, but that does not make me blind to the problems of this town. The state of education I blame strictly on the above mentioned plague. Had the families of those who started streaming into private schools embraced the desegregation of schools instead of backing themselves into a corner, things with Greenville Public Schools would have been different.
The area would have gone through the natural process instead of holing up and keeping their tradition going. By turning the private and public schools into "ours" and "theirs", no changes for the better have been accomplished and only room for them to get worse over the passing years has been left. I hear so many people complaining about paying for private school tuition, but most of their parents (the generations of Deltans Ten Cent so proudly refers to) are those who share the responsibility for the poor educational system in the area. Their lack of challenging the system and want of keeping their kids where it is still mostly white was in essence the beginning of the downturn.
So call yourself a Deltan proudly if you choose, there are a lot of traditions here to be proud of. But recognizing one's weakness is the only way to get stronger; pride greater than the knowledge that we all have those weaknesses will surely lead to one's downfall.
To Eyes Wide Open:
As you stated, you are not a native Deltan. Did you move here before or after 1970? That was the year that the public schools began busing students across town and effectively ended the neighborhood schools. Yes, many parents put their children in private schools. The total white population was over 30% in the city at that time, a little greater than what it is now. But the current students at the private schools largely come from outside the city of Greenville, so their effect on a return to the public schools would be diluted and minimal at best.
To blame the "failure" of the public schools on white families gives way too much credit to one race over the other, and is a back-sided insult to the blacks in the GPSD---and to the whites who stayed. My family was among them. Have you made a similar choice for your children? Are you willing to sacrifice your child's education to support your cause? I wasn't. And there are weak links in every segment of society, but there are some very, very fine community-minded citizens who support the private and parochial schools, yet are actively and visibly giving their time and resources to making Greenville a better place, without regard to the color of anyone's skin.
Look at the OpEd page in tonight's DDT. There's a column by the editor of the Greenwood Commonwealth, titled "The Familiar Ring of Futility." In his comments about a 2008 report from a Task Force to Revitalize the Delta, he states: "It's well known that the 18-county Delta region has traditionally had some of the highest unemployment rates in the state. As a group, the jobless figure hovers around 10 percent, at least two points higher than the state average. Jobless figures, though, are based on the numbers of people who are actively looking for employment. They don't take into account those who, for whatever reason, have no interest in finding a job.
In the Delta, that represents a startling 49 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 64, compared to just 29 percent statewide. There is no easy way to gloss over that. Put bluntly, there are an awful lot of able-bodied Delta residents who would rather get by, however meager the existence, on public assistance than report to a job every day." Now, the private schools don't have a big problem with unmotivated children who drop out and get on the public dole. Their parents WILL NOT ALLOW IT. The problems in the public schools are home-based, and no amount of taxpayers dollars and white folks' largesse is going to change that. They have to want to help themselves. Period.
Education in the Delta is a complex issue. In the 1970's, forced integration was mandated by the Federal Government and it was a bitter pill for many parents to swallow (both black and white). The late 60's had offered "freedom of choice" in public education and very little changed in the demographic make up of most Delta schools. Some interpreted this as a sign that neither race wanted to change the status quo and thumbed their noses at the integrationists.
Undaunted by the "will of the people" the government decided to "mix it up" and in the fall of 1970, Greenville was a wash of yellow school buses rushing to and from places unknown to most of the riders. The only activity moving faster than the yellow buses was the speed at which private schools were being built. Overnight, schools sprung up in churches, hotels, downtown buildings and funds were quickly raised to "cement" these symbols of free choice.
Yes, now everyone had a choice... parents and teachers alike. If you were white, you could choose the comfort and security of the "known" and simply follow your class, or classmates to a new location. If you were black, you probably had little choice except to ride the yellow bird in hopes that it was taking you to a better place. Black or white, it was a most confusing year for the children who understood very little of why their lives were being "up-ended".
So, did forced integration work or did the "will of the people" over-ride the good intentions of our government? It is still hard to tell. White flight certainly preserved the status quo of education for most white citizens. Black students had only to gain by inheriting better facilities and more educational opportunities... so who lost?
We all did. As Forrest Gump so aptly noted, "life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you will get".... (unless you try it.)