Tuesday, December 04, 2007
The Browning Of Anchorage, Alaska: Anchorage School District Now Officially 50% Non-White
The latest ethnicity report released by the Anchorage School District on Monday December 3rd, 2007 shows that for the first time in the city's recent history, half of its students are non-whites. Full story published December 4th in the Anchorage Daily News. Broadcast story aired December 3rd on KTUU Channel 2 Anchorage.
Click HERE to view the 22-page 2007-2008 ASD Ethnicity Report in PDF format.
For years, the number of minority children among the district's 50,000 students has been climbing. Last year, 46 percent identified themselves as non-white. "It really reflects the world," said district Superintendent Carol Comeau. "Anchorage truly is an international city and I think it really tells that story. ... We need to embrace that diversity but, at the same token, it requires all of us to learn as much as we can about the number of different cultures and races that are here."
In 1976, when the district starting keeping track of diversity, 13 percent of the students were non-whites, so the demographic shift has been noticeable, although not as dramatic as in some areas, such as Southern California. Buena Park, which was 90% white when I was growing up there during the 1960s, is only around 30% white now.
The report complements similar recent findings that show that Anchorage is becoming more and more of a melting pot. According to a April 2006 study entitled "Anchorage In The 21st Century" by the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Institute of Social and Economic Research, 36 percent of Anchorage residents under the age of 20 are non-white. Of those over the age of 40, only 21 percent are non-white.
Superintendent Comeau said a challenge is to increase the diversity among teachers and the administration. The majority of Anchorage's teachers are white. Even at some of the district's most ethnically diverse schools, like Abbott Loop, Airport Heights and Ptarmigan elementary schools, there are only a few minority teachers, according to the school district. [Ed. Note: I understand what she's trying to get at, and I know she's committed to competency first, but that type of rhetoric, even from her, sends a message that whites are second-class citizens. The district is saying that although they will hire any qualified teacher, they would prefer non-white teachers. And that is implicitly an anti-white message.]
Some of the growth in diversity from last year to this year in the ethnicity report can be attributed to new reporting methods according to federal guidelines. Comeau said she believes the new questionnaire is a more accurate reflection of the district. Among its insights, it shows a significant jump in the number of Hispanic children, particularly children from Central America. Linguistic diversity also continues to rise, as there are now 95 different languages spoken by kids in the district. Other than English, Spanish is the most common and other top languages include Samoan, Hmong and Tagalog.
Comeau said the ethnic diversity goes beyond language. Kids from different cultures learn differently and have different manners in the classroom. She said the district needs to make sure "that we are teaching with sensitivity and reaching out to parents and family members so that they feel welcome in our schools." [Ed. Note: Sorry, Carol, but I gotta call "cop-out" on that one. The purpose should to Americanize the foreign kids. While I can buy off on the idea that they may learn differently, they all need to learn a common set of manners on campus. America cannot survive being a Balkanistic Tower of Babble.]
On Monday night, Superintendent Comeau shared some additional insight with KTUU, alluding to "white flight" to the Matanuska-Susitna Valley communities 40 miles to our north. "I think what's happening is there's a slight element of white flight going to the Mat-Su," Comeau said. "Part of it's affordable housing, but I also think people are moving out there and they're not as diverse. So I think that Anchorage has the diverse international community."
The district's ethnicity report indicates that the "browning" trend not only will continue, but will intensify. Page six of the report shows that, broken down into three categories, while 54 percent of high school students are white, 50 percent of middle school students and only 47 percent of elementary school students are white. This has been a constant trend over the years.
However, in reviewing the demographic breakdown for the schools, I notice an interesting pattern that differs Anchorage from other cities whose embrace of diversity has been much more of a "bear hug". Schools as well as neighborhoods fall into two categories. They're either majority white, or they are multi-racial. There are no schools where any non-white race constitutes a majority.
And this is why I believe that ill effects of diversity have not been nearly as pronounced here as they are in Lower 48 cities. For example, in Los Angeles, there are teeming black and Latino communities. Many other large Lower 48 cities have large black and Latino communities. They all have major problems with diversity.
This explains why, even if one wants a multinational state, one must have a single group which is large enough to serve as the demographic glue to hold the apparatus toegther. Those who believe diversity is so natural ought to look at the history of other multinational states to recognize this. Even a common race may not be enough to hold a state together. Look at Yugoslavia - they are all white, but their linguistic and ethnic differences overrode their racial similarities. So when the unifying factor, Josep Broz Tito, died, Yugoslavia soon experienced a very messy divorce. If ethnic diversity within a common race is problematic, one can imagine how difficult it is to make racial diversity work.
We may be making it work here in Anchorage so far, but in looking at Lower 48 cities, we may be the exception rather than the rule.