Brown’s Legacy c. Board Of Education remains unfinished

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NOTseven decades after the United States Supreme Court’s unanimous landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954, the court’s stated goal of an integrated education remains unfulfilled.

American society continues to become more racially and ethnically diverse. But many K-12 public schools are not well-integrated and are instead attended primarily by students of one race or another.

As an educational sociologist, I fear that the nation has effectively decided that pursuing Brown’s goals is simply not worth it. I also fear that accepting failure portends a return to the days of the case that Brown overturned, that of 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. This case established “separate but equal” facilities for different races, including schools and universities, as a national priority.

The Brown decision was based on the rejection of this idea and the recognition that “separate but equal” was never achieved. I remain convinced that it never will be.

A historic push

In many ways, it would be surprising to declare the ideal of inclusive schooling a lost cause. Integration was so important in 1957 that Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to ensure that nine black students were safe when they enrolled in Central High School in the city.

Despite federal government intervention, in the 1960s and 1970s many communities across the United States experienced considerable conflict and even bloodshed. Many white citizens actively and violently opposed school integration, which often took the form of court-ordered busing of black students to schools in predominantly white neighborhoods.

School integration walk

Chicago March for Inclusive Schooling Mid-1960s Source: Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty

Despite opposition, many Americans have worked hard to make integration happen, and its benefits are clear: many American children have enjoyed better educational opportunities and academic success as a result of these efforts. .

Separated, if not separated

However, in 2018-19, the most recent school year for which data is available, 42% of black students attended majority-black schools and 56% of Hispanic students attended majority-Hispanic schools. More strikingly, 79% of white students in America went to majority white schools during the same period.

These statistics signal the existence of what is, in effect, a racially segregated education system. But these race statistics do not show how common separation by socioeconomic status is in most urban schools in the United States. Low-income black and Hispanic students are most likely to attend schools where the majority of children are poor and the resources available to serve them. are inadequate.

Since 2001, education policymakers have made bold promises to close what has been called the “racial achievement gap.” Yet they have largely ignored the fact that nationwide, poor children of color are more likely to attend schools where they are not only segregated by race and class, but where the quality of education they receive is lower than that of their white peers.

Choice of accommodation and school

Several factors help explain the degree of racial and class separation and educational inequalities that are now pervasive in America. For starters, many communities across the United States continue to be characterized by a high degree of racial and socioeconomic separation. However, while residential patterns are a barrier, a 2018 Urban Institute study found that neighborhood segregation does not by itself explain current patterns of school segregation. The study identified several towns and suburban communities where schools are significantly more segregated than the neighborhoods in which they are located.

Policies that allow parents to choose which public school in their district their children attend have done little to change these trends and, in fact, may contribute to the problem. Several studies have shown that public charter schools are more likely to be intensely racially divided than traditional public schools.

Additionally, in most major US cities, affluent residents are more likely to enroll their children in private schools than in public schools. This includes many affluent parents of color, who often choose to enroll their children in predominantly white independent schools in search of a better education, even when their children experience race-related microaggressions and alienation.

Over the past 20 years, cities like Boston, New York, Denver, Washington, D.C. and Seattle have seen affluent white populations grow — but the overwhelming majority of public school students in those cities come from black and Hispanic households. low income. . These kinds of racial imbalances have increasingly become the norm.

Integration can succeed

When the poorest and most vulnerable children are concentrated in particular schools, it is even more difficult to achieve racial equality in educational opportunities, either through integration as advocated by Brown, or by seeking “separation but equality” as advocated by Plessy.

There are good reasons to be concerned. For decades, there has been consistent evidence that when schools serve a disproportionate number of poor children, they are less likely to improve student academic achievement.

Evidence also shows that when black and Hispanic children attend racially integrated schools, they tend to outperform their peers who do not. For example, students who participated in the Metco program, a voluntary desegregation effort that allows children of color in Boston to be bussed to affluent schools in the suburbs, did better academically than their counterparts who stayed behind. in racially isolated schools in Boston. . Research does not show whether this is due to the superior resources available in predominantly white suburban schools or the fact that they have parents active enough to get them into suburban schools. Both factors may play a role.

A 2018 UCLA study found that all schools that produce significant numbers of black students eligible for admission to the University of California are racially integrated. Unfortunately, the study also found that most black students in Los Angeles do not attend inclusive schools.

However, the study also found a notable exception: the King/Drew Health Sciences Magnet High School of Medicine and Science in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. This school, which enrolls almost exclusively black and Hispanic students, sends more black students to the University of California than any other high school in the state of California.

At King/Drew, students benefit from a rigorous and enriched training that includes many specialized and advanced level courses. These opportunities are the norm in many affluent suburban schools, but they are rare in public schools in urban areas.

The paucity of schools like King/Drew — well-resourced and serving a low-income or majority-minority student body — should serve as a reminder that racially segregated schools are rarely equal. When Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP took on the Brown case, they knew that education funding generally followed white students.

This was true in 1954, and it is largely true today. A recent study found that non-white school districts in the United States receive $23 billion less in funding than predominantly white schools, despite serving the same number of students.

For this reason, on the 68th anniversary of the Brown ruling, I think it is important to remember why and how civil rights and educational opportunity remain so intertwined. Despite its flaws and limitations, the nation’s school-based racial integration effort has been and continues to be important given the kind of pluralistic and diverse nation the United States is becoming. It also plays a pivotal role in the continued pursuit of racial equality.

Pedro A. Noguera, Dean of USC Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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