In May of 1957, the Supreme Court found state-sanctioned segregation of schools to be unconstitutional. Yet, in 2020, the United States is still facing a highly segregated public school system. But why, after over 60 years, is there still segregation in schools?
This is the question the podcast “Nice White Parents” explores as it analyzes the effects that affluent white parents have on a public school system that disproportionately fails students of color. “Nice White Parents” was released on July 29, 2020 by Serial and The New York Times and it is a five-part podcast series that follows a school in one of the most segregated school districts in America.
The plot of the podcast tells the story of Brooklyn’s I.S. 293, a public school that underwent many changes over its near 60-year history. Many of these changes, as the podcast reveals, were highly influenced by white parents and voices.
Each podcast episode touches on the history of I.S. 293 and its corresponding school district. It starts off in the 1960s when white parents caused the location of I.S. 293 to be moved, and goes all the way to the 2010s, when white parents finally used their voices to call for integration, something parents of color had been doing since the 1950s.
Each podcast episode touches on the history of I.S. 293 and its corresponding school district.
Although deeply fascinating, this history gets confusing at times, since I.S. 293’s name changes constantly and the sheer amount of information contained in the podcast can be overwhelming to some listeners. With the shortest episode lasting 45 minutes and the longest episode lasting over an hour, listeners may want to consume this series over several sessions, versus all at once.
Nevertheless, the editing of the podcast was masterfully done. The podcast deftly incorporated audio from interviews, news footage and even calls between New York City mayor Bill De Blasio and his constituents. Every new soundbite added something to the narrative and it never sounded choppy or out-of-place, an impressive feat when editing audio.
The reporting done by host and journalist Chana Joffe-Walt is truly remarkable. To create the podcast, she spent years reporting on I.S. 293, poured over the New York City Board of Education archives and interviewed countless people.
Her hard work paid off, making the quality of her podcast impeccable. Her analysis of the segregation and inequalities prevalent in I.S. 293 and New York City in general is insightful and well-researched and acknowledges the importance of recognizing intersectionality when it comes to educational segregation.
Most importantly, “Nice White Parents” sparks dialogue about the white supremacy that permeates every layer of society, including the education system.
Most importantly, “Nice White Parents” sparks dialogue about the white supremacy that permeates every layer of society, including the education system. Federal law requires the education system to be equal for all students regardless of race, but in reality, the American education system tends to favor white students. White students get disciplined and suspended at far lower rates than students of color and they are more likely to graduate high school than Black or Hispanic/Latinx students.
Educational segregation is still a very real problem, even here in Florida, where 20% of schools are intensely segregated. Towards the end of the podcast, Joffe-Walt calls on other ‘nice white parents,’ like herself, to use their power in the education system for the good of all students, not just their own.
Overall, “Nice White Parents” is a great podcast and an important listen about the inequalities in our education system.
- Brings up important conversations.
- Can be confusing at points.
- Long episodes.
Photo courtesy of Milled