Saturday, November 15, 2008


I participated at our District's Enrollment Fair last weekend. Why the District bothers is mystifying. It asks the parents to rank their top ten choices, then it puts all this other information-- ethnicity, socio-economic class, public-housing, zip code, language-spoken-at-home, etc into a lottery and the computer spits out a school. Often the school assigned was never even in the parent's choices. Why bother tantalizing the families with visions of exciting education? The net result is that those with money enroll their children in private schools and those who don't cross their fingers and the schools in the ghettos remain largely African American and Hispanic, and the schools in the chi-chi parts of town remain Asian and White, and just about everyone is alienated in the process.
The fair was huge (and, ironically, in the same facility as APE) and besides discovering how little I know about the GATE program I got to experience first hand, what every middle schooler knows, just how weird parents are.
Where Did all the CowKasians Go?
A grizzled man approached me. The unzippered front of his bike jersey revealed a leathery chest with curly salt-and-pepper hair. I was a few inches taller than him (I am 5'4" on a good day). Without any preamble he asked me,
"What is the ethnic breakdown of this school?"
"It is diverse. I don't know the exact numbers, but it is largely Asian and African American."
He paused and and gave me a sly grin, like he knew what sort of politically correct game I was playing.
"I'm shoe-ah it is diverse. You see, my son is CowKasian, and I don't want him to be the only CowKasian at the school, and be forced to hang out with the one other CowKasian... "
I pursed my brows as I waded through his eccentric East Coast accent as spotted bovines danced through my imagination. It would be hard being the only calf at the Institution.
"We all know," he continued, leaning back, with his arms folded across his chest, in triumph, "that Asians don't hang out with CowKasians." Then a steely-eyed group of Mandarins started shunning the poor calf.
"That is not true..." I started, but he didn't let me finish. He had already walked away.


M. L. Benedict said...

Are we never ever going to rise above the gorilla dominance thing (to mix a metaphor, so to speak)? Isn't there anybody who went to Sunday School and sang "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight"?

Camille said...

Good question.

So many things were going through my head during that exchange. For example, I thought of all the white kids who picked on me in junior high, and how students will take any difference and exploit it. How ethnicity is a poor predictor for kindred spirit potential, and how boring it would be if we only spent time with people just like us (yup, that would mean I'd have to go back to Redding to hang out with the white baptists).

The Nikkster said...

It's a good thing he wasn't down here in SLO town. There's been a huge uproar over some alleged "hate speech" by somes Ag students living in the Crops house. The Cal Poly campus is up in arms over the lack of diversity and too much discrimination. He would have been punched.

Kay said...

I know that man!! ;)

rosa said...

I love how Santa Cruz is so pro-diversity and then so largely white. It's sort of cute for some reason.

H said...

What do Cowkasians eat I wonder?

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