Even though public schools are desegregated, school lunchrooms often are not.
A group of Farmington area students talked about that and other issues during a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day panel hosted by the Farmington Community Library. The event was part of a virtual celebration that also included a vehicle procession, book discussion, and on-demand videos.
Panelists included members of IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Acceptance) groups at Farmington Public Schools (FPS) middle and high schools and other students.
“This year, we have an opportunity to reflect with a group we don’t normally hear from, our own young people,” librarian Jen Hassell said. “They add a needed dimension to our conversations.”
FPS interim superintendent Bobbie Hayes Goodrum moderated the discussion, which started with the lunchroom question.
Alyssa, a North Farmington High junior, pointed out that schools are a reflection of the community.
“Although communities are moving toward diversity, people still feel more comfortable with others who look like them,” she said.
“It’s also a generational issue,” said Victoria, a junior at Farmington High. “There’s still going to be that apprehension to socialize. We still stick with what we know, and what our parents and their parents taught us.”
Farmington High freshman Sanjana said avoiding people who look like you can become dangerous. “Your world becomes an echo chamber. That’s how radicalization happens.”
Students also felt strongly about schools offering an anti-racism curriculum. James, an 8th grader, said that if young people don’t learn anti-racism now, “it’ll just be a repeat of the stuff that’s going on right now.”
However, Victoria said, “Putting a picture of Rosa Parks in the hallway isn’t anti-racism. That’s the bare minimum. If you want to change how people think, you have to start from the roots.
Students also advocated for having “difficult conversations” that include more complete information about historical figures and bring more contemporary role models into their lessons. Victoria said that by acknowledging the not-so-perfect aspects, “we could solve a lot of problems.”
Farmington High senior Akhila said lessons in world history, for instance, focus on Europe and cover Africa only after Europeans arrived.
“We have a colonized version of education,” she said.