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Saturday, April 21, 2007

But we're only a mile from Dorchester!

At the Saturday Course in Milton — frequently mentioned in this blog — we teach students from many different cities and towns, including Milton itself and Boston. So we were wondering why we don’t have a more diverse student body, since the majority of Boston public-school students are non-white.

The discussion took a brief diversion as we realized that our significant Asian minority doesn’t “count” — apparently only blacks and Hispanics count toward diversity. But that’s a story for another time.

Though our student body does have more than a handful of blacks and Hispanics, it’s still unrealistically few. “But we’re only a mile from Dorchester!” exclaimed one participant in the discussion. That is true. And since Dorchester is about 50% black and Hispanic, why do so few take advantage of the wonderful educational opportunity that the Saturday Course offers?

Let’s look at a few figures. About 17% of our total enrollment comes from Boston, including 7% of the total from Dorchester and 10% from other Boston neighborhoods. That’s fairly respectable, though we invite many more — and plenty of those 17% are white or Asian. What causes this problem? Is it a vicious circle, where a lot of non-white families don’t want to enroll because there are so few non-white kids? Or is it a transportation problem? Is attending an enrichment program on Saturdays too much of a middle-class white-and-Asian thing to do? What’s the cause of the under-representation of blacks and Hispanics in programs like this?

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