- One Team, Separate Experiences - July 5, 2022
- What Recent SCOTUS Decisions Mean for Education - June 28, 2022
- Which is More Important, Equity or Winning? - June 28, 2022
- Suddenly Teammates After a Decade of Division - June 21, 2022
- Can Sports Heal a Segregated School? - June 14, 2022
- I Left Teaching for a New Career. Here's Why I'm Still Mourning. - March 31, 2022
- You Don't Hate Teaching, You Hate the System - March 15, 2022
- The Dismantling of Public Education Part 4: Regression - March 4, 2022
- Teachers Who Teach in Schools in Lower-Income Communities Don't Get the Respect They Deserve - February 28, 2022
- The Dismantling of Public Education Part 3: Privatization - February 25, 2022
The Educator's Room Reviews WNYC's "Keeping Score" Podcast
Keeping Score is a brand new 4-part series from WNYC Studios and The Bell. The series follows the real students of one Brooklyn high school building that houses four separate schools and recently integrated their athletic programs. Keeping Score hopes to unearth the structural inequalities of our school system by taking a closer look at this community as it undertakes a modern integration experiment. If you are interested in the previous reviews, here are parts 1 and 2.
Episode three kicks off with Kallie Moore, co-captain of the integrated John Jay Jaguars, who previously played for the Jayhawks. She describes how the Jayhawks were one of the few predominately Black volleyball teams in the white-dominated sport. This made them feel even more empowered when they succeeded. But, as the audience learns, this reality also came with challenges. In one instance, the Jayhawks experienced discrimination from another school's security guards after one of the John Jay players had been disciplined for theft. This was just another example to the players: they were not given the same respect and understanding as lighter-skinned teams.
The story then shifts back to the newly integrated team, where questions of equity still need to be answered. As previous episodes have described, there is a skill divide between mostly white and wealthier students who have benefited from access to club sports and their teammates who did not. Practice is split up by skill level, identified as the blue and gold teams, creating a noticeable racial split. After a couple of players approach their coach and suggest letting the higher- and lower-skilled girls practice together, the team as a whole feels it has created a more enjoyable experience for all players and helped all the girls hone their skills.
As the season progresses, the coaches and players describe a tug of war between equity and competitiveness. One of the Jaguar coaches talks about balancing these two competing forces while trying to do right by his players. This gets further illustrated during the Jaguars' game against their rivals Brooklyn Tech. Many of the non-club players know they won't be getting playtime in such a competitive game. One of the Jaguar co-captains, Mariah Morgan, acknowledges that overall, things feel more positive since integrating practice, but it is still difficult always being on the sidelines.
As the season goes on, the team's unity grows, and it shows on and off the court. After the team celebrates a couple of player birthdays, Kallie shares, "It was good seeing everyone as a person, not just as someone you are competing with. Like this person could actually be my friend, they're not just my team member." This solidarity is tested at one of their games. Mariah is singled out by a security guard when she is with a group of lighter-skinned teammates. Her teammates stood up for her and questioned the security guard, something that had not happened in years past. It seems to signify a real change in the dynamics of the integrated team.
Outside of the team, the unity shows too. Before entering the playoffs, the Jaguars are undefeated, and the bleachers are full of students from all four of the John Jay building's schools. The narrator also interviewed some of the team's junior varsity volleyball players, all of whom were students of color and have only ever known the integrated team in John Jay. The significance of that fact can be best shown by a JV player's response when asked how much of the merger is a story about race for them: "Honestly, we don't look at the merger as something about race. We view it as one big family. Once we get together, it isn't really about a race demographic; it's about doing what we love."
This episode shifted to make volleyball the central focus but uses it as a unique lens to view the dynamics of integration. Through the conversations with players and coaches, this episode did a great job of highlighting the unique and positive dynamic sports can have. It felt reminiscent of movies like Remember the Titans and Brian's Song, where sports become the vehicle for necessary change.
Moreover, the episode's ending really accentuated how sports team integrations are often a meaningful place to seek out these changes. Sports are deeply ingrained in our culture and sense of community. Teams function as a sort of microcosm of their community, and as players become teammates and even friends, it often has a spillover effect on the rest of the community.
Room for Improvement
I would like to see and hear more from the JV players and other students of the John Jay building. The last couple of minutes highlighted a really interesting sentiment from a JV player who felt the integration wasn't really about race, which I hope signifies there is more to come on this topic. It would be great to examine how the Jaguar's integration might unify four schools and how drastic that shift might be in only one season's time. I trust Keeping Score is laying the groundwork for these conversations in their finale episode, and I look forward to seeing how they close out this story.
Final Thoughts from an Educator
One piece of the Keeping Score puzzle that is sticking out to me is one of the players, Mariah. Throughout the first three episodes, Mariah has had a lot of airtime as a player who has been willing to step up and have tough conversations. As an educator, I am proud of her for feeling empowered and having the confidence to stand up for herself, but I also feel sorrow for her burden.
As a Black student, Mariah is juggling a lot (and she says as much) between working hard as a volleyball player, being a student, participating in the podcast, being anti-racist, responding to discrimination in her daily life, and taking the lead on addressing equity issues with the Jaguars team. Mariah's experience mirrors the experience of so many of our Black, Indigenous, and Latinx students of color who are expected to soldier on while carrying the weight of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, and microaggressions on their shoulders. The story of the John Jay Jaguars stands as a reminder that we expect children and teenagers to navigate challenging experiences with so little support or understanding. As educators, we are responsible for advocating for our students via new policies or initiatives and not expecting them to lead the charge alone.
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