Reflecting on White Fragility as a Montessorian – Diversity in Schools Then and Now

One of the things that Robin Diangelo asks us to think about is our schooling. What kind of school did you attend? What was the racial makeup? What about your teachers? Were they male or female, Black or white?

As I have said before, I attended Montessori school from preschool through 6th grade. I would say that whites were definitely the majority of the students, but we still had a lot of diversity. My first friend was Black. My second and third were Jewish. I had friends who were Indian, Chinese, and Bangladeshi. And of course, there were lot of other kids who were white like me.

Our teachers were all white women. There was a Black teacher in the early childhood program, but she came on board during my sister’s time and not mine. I remember having white male gym teachers.

For junior and senior high, I went to public school. Again, it was primarily white. I remember a couple of Asian kids and one Black guy in my grade. Again, most of my teachers were white women with some men.

College honestly didn’t look much different except in the gender and sexuality area. But that is a topic for another time.

By the time I moved to the other side of the coin as a Montessori educator, there was a little bit of change. But in 20 years of being in three different schools, I still think I could count the Black students I had on one hand. I had many more Chinese students, but I attribute that to the local universities and businesses. I did finally have a little bit more diversity in my coworkers, but not a lot. And the white privilege always reigned supreme.

I don’t think the racial disparities in schools really hit home until I moved to where I am now. I live in a semi-mixed neighborhood in the city. I definitely have more diversity on my street than any of my friends do out in the ‘burbs. And yet, their schools rank top in the state and my home district has been dead last. Looking back at my home district, I attended one of the top public districts in my home state. The city districts were, and still are, definitely a lot more mixed and tend to struggle.

I don’t have the answers for creating more equity and equality in the education world, whether it’s Montessori or otherwise. I do know that one of the first steps has to be in becoming aware of what your current situation is. You need to keep educating yourself and having conversations with an open mind. You have to pay attention to who is on the various school boards and work to educate them. You need to teach children how to really see each other and to be accepting. You have to go after government officials who make decisions about schooling. It’s not easy work. But it’s important work.

I would love to hear some of your thoughts.

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