Apologies are due for no post yesterday. A return to # (numbered) posts is forthcoming, but a quick observation while awaiting a connecting flight from lovely Huntsville, Alabama.
Roughly a decade (plus or minus a few years) ago I attended space camp in Huntsville, viewing Mercury, Saturn and Apollo-class rockets/spaceships that once heralded mankind's march into space.
The drive and determination that once propelled America to the moon is on display in Huntsville, though it is sadly behind transparent glass in museums, viewed by mere tourists in awe of all that was once achieved. Smiling back at the visitors who flock to Huntsville to partake in Space Camp are pictures of men who had the right stuff.
Those who currently reside in Huntsville could be said to have the wrong stuff.
Resting in eerie silence while contemporary Americans parade past the paraphernalia of Pre-Obama America (in all its pomp and circumstance, these relics of a space race when the hope was for man to land on the moon and then progress onward), these mementos of a past whose inhabitants once dreamed of a greater future are a constant and debilitating reminder of all that is lost.
Visiting Huntsville and the space museums there is akin to visiting a mausoleum, as the realization that giants once walked this earth is on constant display, yet the sad reminder that no such visions of grandeur for a dynamic future inhabit this country anymore and the current crop of men/women who lead us today allows one to understand the somber experience they undertake by visiting this city.
Now the goals of America are in line with rebuilding Haiti, maintaining the hegemony of Black Run America (BRA) and paying tribute to Black people who enjoy the excess of tax payers' largess. A desire to penetrate space has been put on hold in an all-out effort to bridge the gap and better relations with the Muslim world.
Huntsville is a town that has a highly-educated population and is home to a number of major NASA programs (though no evidence is available to show that NASA's primary mission under Mein Obama is being vigorously pursued):
A Web site dedicated to showcasing the problems of the Black community can be found here, and with this information you will know that the 30 percent of the population they represent is one that adds precious little to the overall community. The sons and daughters of this burgeoning Black population fail to perform at the same standards of those son and daughters of the men who lead NASA:
Huntsville is a city located primarily in Madison county in the central part of the far northern region of the U.S. state of Alabama. Huntsville is the county seat of Madison County. The city extends west into neighboring Limestone county. Its population was 158,216 as of the 2000 census, while in 2009, the estimated population grew to 179,653. The Huntsville Metropolitan Area's population was estimated at 406,316. Huntsville is the largest city in the four-county Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area, which in 2008 had a total population of 545,770.John Hunt first settled in the location in 1805. It was named Twickenham after Alexander Pope's English home at the request of LeRoy Pope. However, the town was renamed "Huntsville" on November 25, 1811 after its first settler. It has grown across nearby hills and along the Tennessee River, adding textile mills, then munitions factories, to become a major city, including NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command nearby at the Redstone Arsenal. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Huntsville to its "America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2010" list...
As of the census of 2000, there were 158,216 people, 66,742 households, and 41,713 families residing in the city. The population density was 909.0 people per square mile (351.0/km²). There were 73,670 housing units at an average density of 423.3/sq mi (163.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 64.47% White, 30.21% Black or African American, 0.54% Native American, 2.22% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.66% from other races, and 1.84% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.04% of the population.
A dual school system is re-emerging in Huntsville, marked by race, separated by geography and sorted by income.
For the first time, blacks account for 43 percent of the students in Huntsville. That's an increase of four percentage points in five years. But what sounds like a high-water mark for integration is just the opposite.
Despite rising numbers, black students here increasingly attend school among themselves. In 1997, Huntsville had five schools where more than 90 percent of the students were black. There are 10 such schools now.
The racial divide is similar among teachers, principals, even janitors and lunch ladies.
Across the nation, studies show that public schools are rapidly separating by race. The U.S. Supreme Court has backed away from desegregation efforts. Busing is ending. Magnet schools are fading. Whites move to isolated suburbs. Private schools are booming.
Academics call it resegregation...
In Huntsville, some administrators have long watched what is quietly called the "tipping point." The notion dates back more than 20 years, when no high school and few elementary schools here were majority black.
The idea is that when a school crosses the 50 percent threshold - the tipping point - white students won't return.
Today, about half the city schools have more black students than white. Schools in the center of Huntsville are changing.
In the last five years, five Huntsville schools have shifted to majority black.
Huntsville's white flight started in the 1970s, when northwest Huntsville was mostly white and the school system had 35,000 students. Forced busing among four northwest elementary schools launched the migration.
"City fathers were shortsighted," said Ann Fee, former president of the city school board. "They sacrificed (the northwest). People just moved."
By 1980, forced busing had ended, and Johnson High remained majority white. But a shift was under way. Homeowners flocked to south Huntsville. A decade later, Interstate 565 would speed the migration to Madison and finally the rural reaches of Madison County.
By 1995, Johnson had just 120 white students.
Butler High and Lee High were still majority white, but that soon changed. Since 1997, Butler has shifted from 54 percent black to 65 percent. Lee, though bolstered by a magnet program, has shifted from 51 percent black to 59 percent.
Dr. Harry Smith, principal at Lee, says he has the city's most diverse school. Van Barnes, principal at Butler, makes the same claim.
But in the last five years, whites have been leaving those two schools, too. And Butler is about to lose a racially mixed group of 200 suburban and military students to a school the city is building on its western edge.
"I'm worried about Butler," said school board member Topper Birney. "I continue to worry about that."
Snapshot: Transferring out
Separate schools look like Davis Hills Middle, and they look like Challenger Middle.
Davis Hills in north Huntsville had 502 students last year, 97 percent of them black. Challenger in south Huntsville had 649 students, 6 percent of them black.
Davis Hills suspended 263 students in the first semester last year, while Challenger suspended 28.
Davis Hills had 69 unauthorized absences. Challenger had one. Davis Hills listed 363 cases of students defying a teacher. Challenger listed 47.
Davis Hills reported 75 fights. Challenger reported one.
During a typical day last year at Davis Hills, 92 percent of students came to school. At Challenger last year, attendance ran at 95 percent.
In Huntsville, students in the racial majority are allowed to transfer to a school where they join the racial minority. Last year, 15 students used a race-based transfer to leave Davis Hills. Six chose to travel across the city to Challenger Middle. A second set of 31 students left Davis Hills for the special course work at Williams Technology Middle.
At Challenger, only one student transferred out last year. None chose Williams Middle.
Geography: Madison hideout
A Huntsville Times analysis of Alabama high schools and high school programs shows a slight drift toward the extremes throughout the state.
Of 386 high school programs in Alabama with 25 or more students, Harvard would label 31 as apartheid. That means 99 to 100 percent black. That's three more apartheid schools than the state had in 1998, the earliest figures available through the state Department of Education.
There are also 74 high schools that are 99 to 100 percent white. That's up from 60 four years ago.
Some rural areas remain well integrated. That's because many small school systems offer only one choice for high school.
"Once you begin to build more than one high school in a city, that's the beginning of the problem," said Dr. Wayne Flynt, a professor at Auburn University and noted state historian.
In places such as the Black Belt, whites use private schools to avoid majority-black public schools. In some segregated regions, the state would have to bus students from other counties to desegregate the schools, said Dr. Mary Jane Caylor, who represents North Alabama on the state school board. That won't happen.
"No matter the race of a person, people want their children to go to a school in the community in which they live," she said.
In Huntsville, parents have proven they will flee forced attempts.
Forty years ago, when financial ties to Washington, D.C., drove Huntsville to stay off the front of The New York Times during civil rights protests, there was nowhere else for white parents to go, Flynt said.
"'Now there are lots of places for whites to hide," he said. "Now if you want to hide from blacks, city problems, crime, whatever bothers you, now you can move to Madison."
Geography: Aging Out
Only 30 percent of Huntsville residents are black, yet the school system is 43 percent black.
In part, that's because white residents here are growing older, while black residents have younger families.
According to the 2000 Census, the four areas of town with the most children are each majority black. In five neighborhoods, more than a third of the residents are seniors. Each of these neighborhoods is largely white.
Educators call this "aging out," meaning that kids have grown and moved away. This could explain some of the growth in minority percentages within the school system, but not all of it.
Sadly, Huntsville's schools that have large percentages of Black students provide scant evidence that these scholars have the academic aptitude for one day becoming engineers capable of constructing future space craft. They can't even read the construction manual to put together toy rocket ships:
Perhaps the biggest surprise on Monday among local systems was in Harvest, where Sparkman High School failed in several categories.Perhaps no video personifies Huntsville and the future of America represented among the shadows of replicas of rockets that once propelled man into space then the video of one Antoine Dodson. Of course, our good friends at NPR couldn't help but apologize for Mr. (or is it Miss?) Dodson's behavior.
Fewer than 82 percent of African-American students and students from poor families were able to pass a basic reading test there. Sparkman was cited for the third year in a row for a low graduation rate, and also cited for low test scores among special education students.
Meanwhile, at Butler High in Huntsville, fewer than about four out of five juniors were able to pass the reading portion of the graduation exam.
"This is a test for minimum standards, the minimum requirements," said Dr. Cathy McNeal, who oversees testing for city schools. "Everybody who gets a driver's license must pass that test; this is the same kind of test. It's the minimum you have to know."
Two elementary schools in north Huntsville also had the same problem. Martin Luther King Jr. and West Mastin Lake both failed to see enough students read on grade level. Students at West Mastin Lake also struggled with math.
But most of the local warning labels on Monday were for low scores among special education students. Those students, by definition, have special needs when it comes to learning.
Testing and labeling used to be clear and easily understood. Alabama's "academic alert" label of the late 1990s meant a school had posted average test scores well below the national average. No longer do warning labels relate to national averages.
"It really sends a very bad and confusing message to people," said Dr. Mary Jane Caylor of the state school board. "I could talk until I'm blue in the face and say we've shown improvements in math and reading. But you've got some federal criteria you've got to be judged by."
The future is so bright...