Best European columns
Segregation for students of color
Orhan Agirdag and Michael Merry
Segregation in Dutch schools “is not going away,” said Orhan Agirdag and Michael Merry. Most children from minority groups, primarily of Moroccan, Turkish, or Surinamese origin, go to what we call “black schools”—schools where more than 60 percent of the students are children of color. That’s partly because of a history of white flight from immigrant neighborhoods. But it’s mostly because parents have freedom of school choice here, and “the color of a school seems to play a very important role in the selection process,” at least for white Dutch parents. Immigrant parents who don’t speak Dutch or are unfamiliar with the system often aren’t even aware they could send their children to a school outside their neighborhood. Given this reality, the Dutch government needs to do a better job teaching the children in the high-minority schools. The curriculum at black schools is almost entirely Eurocentric. Even the languages taught are European. Children who arrive fluent in Arabic or Turkish aren’t seen as multilingual, the way a French immigrant would be, but rather as at a disadvantage for “language delay.” Speaking another language gives them “less cultural capital, not more.” The solution is to hire more teachers of color and emphasize diversity in the curriculum. “Even white schools” could benefit.
The banana republic of Europe
Austria has lost its reputation for competence, said Rainer Nowak. We used to be seen as “boring but functional,” but now we can’t even hold a presidential election properly. The first time we staged the runoff between leftist Alexander Van Der Bellen and far-right candidate Norbert Hofer, in May, the vote was so close it came down to the absentee ballots. Van Der Bellen won by a razor-thin margin of 30,000 votes in a land of 8.5 million. But Hofer’s supporters argued that the absentee ballots were mishandled, so the high court ordered a new vote, scheduled for early October. Now, though, there’s yet another glitch. The new absentee ballots were printed up on folding cards with faulty glue strips that come unstuck in the mail, and hundreds of damaged ballot papers have been reported. This is “an incredible embarrassment for the government, for politics, for the whole country.” The election will now likely have to be postponed— or maybe we should scrap it altogether, seeing as we’ve been muddling along just fine for months without a head of state. In the future, we should consider bringing in electronic voting instead of messing with paper and glue. Although, “given the level of amateurism” in electoral oversight, maybe computers would be too complex for us.