While we technically don't really need a study to tell us that many Latino and African-American students in Los Angeles feel depressed from being ignored and receiving substandard schooling in comparison to their white counterparts, we continue to believe that separate is still not equal.
A recent Los Angeles Times article reported that depression is rampant among South Los Angeles high school students. Of the 6,008 students surveyed, many claim to be "frightened by violence in school, [and] deeply dissatisfied with their choices of college preparatory classes."
A history of segregation and white flight has made South L.A. neighborhoods synonymous with poverty and crime. The schools are not viewed as any better.
South L.A. is an example of our country's history of racism, legal and social segregation, and an increasing financial disparity between rich and poor. The children in urban schools are products of societal factors they have little or no control over.
The results are neighborhoods with rising levels of violence, deteriorating schools and many students who have a hard time envisioning a future, let alone an optimistic one.
One student reportedly felt that racial tension and gang violence in her high school made it feel more like a prison.
These students have every reason to feel depressed because their country has a track record of abandoning them. The United States' history of institutionalized racism has created public policy that has overlooked inner-city neighborhoods.
The California State University system is the largest manufacturer of K-12 educators in the state. It's not a tremendous leap to assume many Cal State Long Beach-trained teachers will enter the workforce in these same distressed schools.
The onslaught of budget reductions to all levels of education and social services will only exacerbate problems and, consequently, create deeper depression and hopelessness for these students.
Often, the most positive reinforcement these children receive from the education system comes by way of tracking or military recruiters. And at worst, they always have the school-to-prison pipeline to count on.
South Central Youth Empowered Thru Action, the youth organization that conducted the survey with help from Loyola Marymount University's psychology department, says the word "pushout" is more fitting than "dropout."
Education is a necessity and a right that these students have been deprived of. As students, we understand the importance that every child/person is educated to reach his or her fullest potential, and this means equally.
Time and again Supreme Court rulings have mandated the system to provide just that - equal educational opportunities for all.
The 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka declared that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." This sparked an integration movement that would still fall short 54 years later. As we have seen, many of these rulings have set precedents but don't always achieve the intended results.
Today, we are smacked with an achievement gap defined by gender, race and socioeconomic status. Standardized testing and dropout statistics have seemed to fine tune observation of the problem, while not actually addressing or fixing it.
There is said to be no one clear cause as to what contributes to the achievement gap, but we can guess that it may have something to do with historically disenfranchised groups being pushed into communities to be stigmatized, overlooked and passed by.
The depression found amongst the South Los Angeles students clearly indicates one thing - our public institutions have ignored red flags for much too long.
Daily 49er Staff. “Our View - Deteriorating urban schools compounding student
hopelessness.” Cal State Long Beach. 6 May 2008. The Daily 49er. 14 May 2008