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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Carrie Abramson, February 21, 1999. Interview K-0275. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Integrated experience inspires belief in public education

Abramson says that her experiences at West Charlotte made her believe in the potential of racially integrated public schools to offer a "broad educational experience." Abramson's participation in the open school program informed her belief in the value of diverse viewpoints, and in a way, racial diversity might play the same role: exposing students to the value of different perspectives.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Carrie Abramson, February 21, 1999. Interview K-0275. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PG: Well, these are thoughts. I think I’ve asked most of the questions that I had. Are there any things that were important about your experience at West Charlotte or your experience with school in general that we haven’t talked about? CA: [Long pause.] Not really, other than when I look back on my school, one of the things that I’m really interested in long term is education, and improving the public education system. I feel like I have benefited from it in so many ways, that many others have not had the same opportunity to do. Not based on race at all, but just based on the quality of their own school system. And I think that my education in Charlotte and the schools that I went to, particularly the open schools, but also the fact that we had racial integration has really, really shaped sort of my belief in the possibility of public schools and what public schools can do and are capable of. And when I look at things like charter schools and a lot of the new movements that are coming out in education, I’m very supportive of anything that improves the quality of education because I think that’s critical. But I also have a really strong belief that they need to be integrated and that you need to have diverse cultural backgrounds as well as diverse racial backgrounds in order to have a truly broad educational experience. That no matter how good you are academically, if you don’t give children that opportunity they will not grow up to be as productive and as focused on sort of the common good as they would in a more integrated community. And that that’s critical to success in the U.S. public school system. So, having come from this background I think has been critical in thinking what I believe and what I see happening and what I notice and my political views and all of those things. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I know a lot of people now, I know many more people now who have gone through very different educational systems, either private schools or the New York Public School System, or you know, completely different backgrounds. And I feel like my education was very, very strong in comparison. But what really sets it apart and makes it better was having a much more integrated experience. And that the people who have not had that opportunity do not have the same openness and sort of respect, I think, that is required to operate in the international world that we live in today, which I think is critical. So. PG: You mention the sort of developing and understanding of the common good. How did your school experience help you to do that, relate to that? CA: We had a lot of choices, and I think this must have, might have been something that was more open school system versus traditional. I don’t know that for sure. It is one of the limits of only coming through one school system. You want to be able to go back and do it again and see what the difference is. But we had a lot of choice in what we could do as a class or as a group. What play to put on or what game to play. And there were a lot of values that were communicated from teachers in that environment about what people, you know, what the right answer is and what the right answer should look like. And that the right answer should be fair, and the right answer should include everybody, and nobody should be left out. And very communal, you know, sort of beliefs. And all the way through high school there was a big focus on, that there was—although there was an acknowledgment, probably, at least in my mind, that there were difference communities, or different cliques, or different groups within the high school, there was an acknowledgment that everybody needed to be included, and that everyone’s viewpoint was as important as important as anyone else’s. And that it was really important to have representation from different voices as well as listen—just listening to different voices. That that was important and that was expected, and it wasn’t acceptable not to.