Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Roma Children in British Schools

Europeans hate the Roma. The gypsies, as most Americans call them, are the lowest rung of European society. I remember a conversation with a left-wing German, in the U.S. working on a thesis about Franklin Roosevelt, who launched into a rant about racism in America. I acknowledged the problem but pointed out that it is hardly unique to America; look, I said, at how Europeans treat the Roma. That's entirely different, the German leftist said; gypsies really are scum. And, honestly, the Roma really are a problem in much of Europe. If your pocket gets picked in a European airport, the odds are quite good that the culprit is a gypsy, and you can't go anywhere in Europe without having some gypsy woman with children in tow thrust a card in your face with her life story written out in miniscule print.

It's a chicken and egg question; are Roma over-represented among European criminals and beggars because of discrimination against them, which keeps them from getting jobs and educations, or do people hate them because they would rather be criminals than take regular jobs or go to school?

Via the Economist's Eastern Approaches blog, a new study of immigrant Roma in British schools shows that, if welcomed, they can do quite well:
Now a new pilot study of Roma children in the UK gives some statistical beef to the contention that the problem is the schools, not the children. The children interviewed did only slightly below average (not surprising given that they arrived in the UK speaking no English and from families with limited cultural resources). Most importantly:

All the parents interviewed during this study valued the overall atmosphere at school, their children’s feeling of being welcome there and their experience of equal treatment, equal opportunities, and the absence of anti-Roma sentiments and racism expressed by their children’s non-Roma peers and teachers, which they all said their children had experienced in various forms in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. They all said the prospect of their children’s education and employment was one of the most powerful driving forces behind their decision to move to the UK. Many of them thought it would take generations to change these practices and attitudes in Slovakia and the Czech Republic and some doubted whether they would ever change. All of them believed their children’s chances to succeed later on in life were much better in Britain than in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

There is certainly a strain of Roma culture that celebrates their outlaw status, their own gangsta rap, if you will. But the evidence is that most Roma want good jobs and middle class lives, just like everyone else.

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