copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert
Today, I was reminded of how deeply divided this nation is. I read School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some. I discovered in an attempt to offer equal opportunities, indeed, schools discovered discrimination remained a dominant force. School Boards, Administrators, and the community-at-large concluded educational institutions would be more diverse if learners were assigned to schools based on family incomes. A plan was introduced and implemented. The outcome was mixed; however, the pupil populations were less so. Some races, colors, and creeds were abundant within a given institution; others were not well represented.
This findings were contrary to the expected and desired intent of educators. School Districts were determined to establish a sense of unity in their local schools. They did not wish to register or reject students on the basis of race. Family earnings were used to ascertain eligibility. Enrollment numbers were controlled; however the outcome was not as predicted. In a recent New York Times article Journalists Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder reported.
San Francisco – When San Francisco started trying to promote socioeconomic diversity in its public schools, officials hoped racial diversity would result as well.
It has not worked out that way.
Abraham Lincoln High School, for example, with its stellar reputation and Advanced Placement courses, has drawn a mix of rich and poor students. More than 50 percent of those students are of Chinese descent.
“If you look at diversity based on race, the school hasn’t been as integrated,? Lincoln?s principal, Ronald J. K. Pang, said. “If you don’t look at race, the school has become much more diverse.”
San Francisco began considering factors like family income, instead of race, in school assignments when it modified a court-ordered desegregation plan in response to a lawsuit. But school officials have found that the 55,000-student city school district, with Chinese the dominant ethnic group followed by Hispanics, blacks and whites, is resegregrating.
The number of schools where students of a single racial or ethnic group make up 60 percent or more of the population in at least one grade is increasing sharply. In 2005-06, about 50 schools were segregated using that standard as measured by a court-appointed monitor. That was up from 30 schools in the 2001-02 school year, the year before the change, according to court filings.
It is not a mystery why this might occur. Perhaps, as often happens, one child spoke to a classmate of his, stating an interest in a particular school or program. One mother chatted with her neighbor over the backyard fence. They discussed her son’s education. A father, in the local barbershop, mentioned his daughter would enroll in this facility or that. Another resident of that small community thought the idea a good one. They too entered their child in that facility.
People tend to discuss their decisions with those they know. Word travels; however not as far and wide as it might. We are acquainted with those that live near us. Likely, the person next door or down the street has an income similar to our own. Common interests are usual among people residing in the same community. Often, people of one race, religion, or creed associate with those of similar backgrounds.
Humans are rarely distant from those they relate to. In the workplace, the peons have no choice but to converse with those at their level. Corporate Executive Officers rarely confer with their subordinates. Middle managements lauds over the people that work for them. However, they do not frequently lean over and say, “Would you like to join us in a meeting, come to dinner, or call me, just to talk.” Our children watch us; they observe and absorb the characteristics that they experience. Our offspring learn from us.
Young persons typically admire their parents, or at least, those that care for them are an important influence. We teach the children. They learn their lessons well. If we loathe our brethren, we can expect that our offspring will too.
Hate is a learned response; so too is the gravitational pull to certain “types” of people.
As we assess the recent report or other news of the day, we might wonder why segregation is so prevalent. The answer abounds. We heard it again only weeks ago. The logic of Supreme Court Justices loomed large. After assessing the evidence as it relates to Parents Involved In Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1 these esteemed Jurists announced their decision.
“Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a plurality that included Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. “The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again — even for very different reasons.”
He added: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Again, we must acknowledge the attempts in San Francisco. That School district thought they did as the Chief Justice directed. Bay Area locals were resolute in their desire not to segregate on the basis of color. Yet, they realized their efforts led students into greater isolation. When School Boards concluded differences in incomes would lead to diversity, they negated an inherent fact. As cited earlier in this essay, but bears repeating. Frequently we forget, left to their own devices people prefer to be with their kind.
I believe this reality is not innate; nor is it healthy. It is a habit. Imaginary “boundaries” were developed long ago before any of us was born. The need to build walls and partitions has been passed down through the centuries. Generation after generation does as their parents did.
In prehistoric times, safety and a need for survival might have been a reason for concern. People were nomads; they did not know, nor did they have the time to become acquainted with their neighbors. Much has changed. Civilization led to the growth of communities. Now, we are connected, in cyberspace, and in cities. Even those in the countryside are not far from other people.
I think in order to make change we must be more conscious of our choices and what we accept as common wisdom. Among the most proverbial conventions is there will always be poor persons.
I believe as long as there are underprivileged neighborhoods, there will be disadvantaged schools.
Educational institutions in our slums serve students already facing difficulties in their daily life. The educators willing to teach in these facilities will likely be of lesser quality. There may be a few committed to a cause; however, this is out of the ordinary. Books will be borrowed, or cast-off when the elite schools think them obsolete. Indeed, the pupils in these locals will be fortunate to have text to read. The Center on Education Policy discusses this dynamic.
Black and Hispanic students tend to take less-rigorous courses. Though there are more black and Hispanic students taking academically rigorous courses now than in the past, whites and Asians still tend to be overrepresented in such courses. In part, this situation results from the lack of advanced courses at high-minority schools. In particular, researchers have found that schools in high-minority or high-poverty areas often offer a less-rigorous curriculum to begin with. They thereby fail to challenge students, since they cover less material or give less homework. This is a problem because research has found that students enrolled in challenging courses?in topics such as algebra, trigonometry, chemistry, and advanced English?usually have higher test scores than their peers.
There is a lack of experienced teachers. [Nancy Kober, author of the Center on Education Policy’s report] points out that black students are more likely to be taught by less-experienced teachers than white students. Researchers have cited this factor as one of the most critical variables for explaining the achievement gap: there is a correlation between higher teacher certification scores and higher student achievement scores. Teachers in districts where there are high percentages of black or Hispanic students tend to have lower scores on their certification tests.
Teachers set their expectations low. Studies have suggested that teachers sometimes have lower academic expectations for black and Hispanic children than they do for whites or Asians. Kober warns that by setting expectations low, teachers run the risk of perpetuating the achievement gap since they do not encourage black and Hispanic students to follow a rigorous curriculum.
Resource disparities handicap schools. Low-minority schools tend to be much better funded and have all-around stronger resources than do high-minority schools. The same relationship holds true for schools in low-poverty versus high-poverty areas. There is persuasive evidence that this factor contributes to the achievement gap. For example, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show the achievement gap between low-poverty and high-poverty schools increased throughout the 1990s.
Low-income and minority students tend to be concentrated in certain schools. Kober notes that if a school has high levels of poverty, that can depress achievement for all the children in that school, even if they are from higher income families. This fact hits Black and Hispanic children the hardest, since they are more likely to attend higher poverty schools than are whites or Asians.
Student performance anxiety hampers minority students. Some research has suggested that black students can become anxious about corresponding to negative racial stereotypes in their academic work. The result, researchers say, is a kind of vicious circle: Black students can be so worried about seeming stereotypically ungifted academically that their anxiety actually makes them perform less well than they could.
While on paper, Americans declare all persons are created equal, students know in practice this is not so. Our pupils experience separate is not equal. Even when “shipped” to schools far from home, they remain detached. Their personalities are split. They are the poor mingling amongst the rich. An education helps; nonetheless, it does not eradicate the deeper divide.
Discrimination is visible and it is our veracity. Those that we judge harshly are characteristically the poorest among us. Frequently and subtly, we deny these individuals their rights, and provide little so that they might achieve their dreams. They huddle in hovels and call these home.
Academics argue there is no need for a poor population. Nonetheless, their perception of why one exists is as skewed as efforts to eliminate poverty are. What is pervasive is too easily accepted, even expected. Expert, scholarly opinions, I believe, do not consider the whole or a truth. It seems what is too real for many is beyond the intellectuals’ ability to grasp. I offer one authors reading of the problem, and an answer I find troublesome,
A theorist, a scholar, and a Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, Dinesh D’Souza, writes in an article titled, Why Are There Poor People?
Mister D’Souza acknowledges and accepts the impoverished are victims of a collective configuration that does not reward them. He states . . .
The left-wing view is that poor people are the victims of unjust social structures. Historically this view is sound. Slavery, colonialism?these were oppressive institutions that prevented people from exercising their freedom and rising in society.
The left-wing argument is also an accurate description of the situation in much of the Third World today. If you take a train through the Indian countryside, you will see farmers beating their pickaxes into the ground, frail women wobbling under heavy loads, children carrying stones. These people are working incredibly hard, yet they are getting nowhere. The reason is that institutional structures are set up in such a way that creativity and effort don’t bring due reward. No wonder the people in these countries are fatalistic.
However, he continues, “institutional structures” that keep the poor down do not exist in America. Dinesh D’Souza states “capitalism and technology” provide opportunities for all.
[I]n the West capitalism and technology have worked together to lift the vast majority of the population out of deprivation and up to a level of affluence that, in the words of novelist Tom Wolfe, would “make the Sun King blink.”
So what about the underclass, the inner-city poor that we hear so much about? I agree: it is terrible to grow up in many parts of the Bronx, New York, or Anacostia, Washington DC, or South Central Los Angeles. But that?s not because of material poverty. Rather, it?s because of the shocking moral behavior of the residents. High crime rates, the crack trade, and the absence of stable families all work together to destroy the cultural ecosystem and make normal productive life so difficult in these communities.
This is where the right-wing argument gathers force. Conservatives contend that the bourgeois virtues of family stability, the work ethic, the respect for education and law are essential for individuals and groups to advance, and where those are jlacking, chaos is the predictable result. The solution is to recognize that prosperity does not come naturally.
Such is the attitude, the belief, and the perception of many in our society. Numerous persons say, the poor do not avail themselves of the opportunities within the market place. Capitalism offers chances for all. However, I must inquire, do people of color, those of lesser means and little education, truly have the same prospects the prosperous do.
I observe that not all in the Western world have benefited from free enterprise; nor do each of us have access to technology. Entrepreneurship is but a dream for those that have little education and few funds. People that experience discrimination because of their color or perceived background lack hope.
In America, for hundreds of thousands skills are lacking. Millions of people living in this country are illiterate or not well versed in disciplines that might help them climb from the clutches of poverty. “Equipment” is not evenly distributed. In impoverished areas, children are fortunate to have textbooks and teachers that care. Richer areas [are] more successful in attracting qualified teachers.
I must ask, if I am born to a welfare mother, a woman that is poor, or not white, will I have an equal chance to succeed. We know that schools and society discriminate against those whose flesh is darker and those of lesser means.
If my father had to work as a child to support his family, and therefore, never had the time let alone energy to complete school, am I likely to do well. If my guardian must work long hours, doing manual labor in order to provide me with food and shelter will she or he be available to assist me with my homework. Will they be in the room with me when I need reassurance or feel discouraged. If they are will, they be able to honestly tell me “Everything will be all right, it always is.”
Can a parent that has little knowledge of schoolwork or experience learning through scientific method teach me the habits that might benefit me, or society? A child born into poverty does not hope or dream of succeeding as other children do.
Discrimination leaves a legacy. The harmful effects of segregated schooling and similar forms of discrimination will continue to persist for several decades, studies show. These effects can persist as a family link: children whose grandparents? educational achievement was limited or restricted may not enjoy the benefits of a family that values or encourages rigorous academics. Such values may simply not be a part of the family?s culture, partly because past discrimination inhibited the grandparents? achievement. Moreover, other forms of discrimination, such as in housing or employment, can also negatively impact a child?s educational opportunities.
Home and community learning opportunities are critical. In general, minority children are less likely than white children to have parents with high levels of educational attainment. This factor, together with others such as lower family income and parents? work schedules, may limit the extent to which parents can foster positive opportunities for learning at home, Author of the Center on Education Policy’s report, It Takes More Than Testing: Closing the Achievement Gap, [Nancy] Kober claims. Hence, opportunities such as having access to books and computers?or even being read to before bedtime?may be more limited for minority children. Also, it is an established fact that high-minority and high-poverty communities tend to enjoy less access to such resources as libraries and museums that can benefit children. Finally, if the family speaks a language other than English at home, that can also affect a child?s learning opportunities.
Good parenting practices need to be encouraged. Parental approaches to learning at home differ, and cultural variations undoubtedly play a role in children?s learning and achievement. However, the most effective practices should be encouraged, although more research is necessary to determine which do provide the greatest benefits.
Contrary to the beliefs Dinesh D’Souza professes, only in rare cases does a blood relation or guardian teach criminal behavior. Most mothers and fathers have the best of intentions. Parents do not work to raise felons. No matter what their background, color, or creed people have ethics and values, customs, and traditions. Humans have emotions; they feel for their children. Moms and Dads want their children to achieve the accolades they did not.
Frustrations breed the social structure that inhibits achievement. All the computers, cameras, telephones, and televisions in the world cannot provide the connection a parent might. Technology cannot substitute for the tender, caring, touch of a Mom or Dad.
However, in a country where massive amounts of money are a must in order to maintain a menial subsistence, parents may not be as profound an influence as they might be. They may not be the best role models.
Nonetheless, a child can turn to another adult for guidance and quality instruction. Perchance a teacher in a good school will stimulate the mind and rekindle a heart starving for attention. Parents, not your own might help to involve an expectant pupil. That was the hope in the districts intent on initiating socioeconomic diversity.
The purpose of such programs is twofold. Since income levels often correlate with race, they can be an alternate and legal way to produce racial integration. They also promote achievement gains by putting poorer students in schools that are more likely to have experienced teachers and students with high aspirations, as well as a parent body that can afford to be more involved.
?There is a large body of evidence going back several years,? Mr. Kahlenberg said, “that probably the most important thing you can do to raise the achievement of low-income students is to provide them with middle-class schools.”
Economic integration initiatives differ from each other, and from many traditional integration efforts that relied on mandatory transfer of students among schools. Some of the new initiatives involve busing but some do not; some rely on student choice, while some also use a lottery. And so it is difficult to measure how far students travel or how many students switch schools.
The most ambitious effort and the example most often cited as a success is in the city of Raleigh, N.C., and its suburbs.
For seven years, the district has sought to cap the proportion of low-income students in each of the county?s 143 schools at 40 percent.
To achieve a balance of low- and middle-income children, the district encourages and sometimes requires students to attend schools far from home. Suburban students are attracted to magnet schools in the city; children from the inner city are sometimes bused to middle-class schools at the outer edges of Raleigh and in the suburbs.
The achievement gains have been sharp, and school officials said economic integration was largely responsible. Only 40 percent of black students in grades three through eight in Wake County, where Raleigh is located, scored at grade level on state reading tests in 1995. By the spring of 2006, 82 percent did.
“The plan works well,” said John H. Gilbert, a professor emeritus at North Carolina State University in Raleigh who served for 16 years on the county school board and voted for the plan. “It’s based on sound assumptions about the environment in which children learn.”
While this is impressive, and validates that those of any background can and will improve given quality education, the truer problem, for me, is not eradicated. Will these Black students find a way to enter college. Might they cultivate a career that will ensure financial success. If they are able to accomplish much, when they walk down the street will they be accepted as a wealthy white person would be. Might a person of color have the same prospects their Caucasian brethren do. Probably not.
If we continue, as we have, competing in a free market society will not be possible when the color of your skin is not white. The wad of bills in your pocket may help; however, perceptions too often take precedence.
Before an American child enters the workplace, where supposedly, opportunity abounds. They must obtain an education. We place a huge burden on our children if we remain separate as a society. We can bus our offspring, and perhaps we may have to until parents learn to adjust. However, asking our young to sit idly for hours while they travel to a world not their own gives rise to other issues. The most obvious is the plight of the poor.
As long as we, in the United States continue to have poor neighborhoods, we will have institutions that help sustain the cycle of poverty. If we send all the underprivileged to the better neighborhoods, who will attend the remaining pitiable properties intended to educate our youth? Why would we need facilities that favor no one. Indeed, why do we need communities that propagate a truth that we do not endorse, poverty.
Let us replace the myth that only hinders civilization as a whole. Discard what defines our youth and even their elders as deprived . They, we, are not Black or white, rich or poor, alien or native, advanced or behind. We are individuals; we must furnish all with what they need to thrive.
As Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard cautions, “Once you label me, you negate me.”
If as a culture we expect Black and Hispanic children to live in low-income families, they will. If their parents are not educated well, or accepted into society, the children will be less likely to live in neighborhoods that nurture an innate desire to learn. We must be willing to integrate our neighborhoods, and truly provide the means for all our citizens to live as equals.
We need to ask ourselves, do we truly wish to endorse a system where everyone is equal. If so, let us begin to embrace the challenge and create the structure our forefathers’ spoke of. If we do not we will continue to look for solutions that shift the responsibility to our children.
I believe we can live and succeed as a Union. We need only invest authentically in our offspring, all of them, and more importantly in ourselves.
If we decide not to fear our fellow man or see him or her as an alien, a stranger, the enemy, or someone we would not wish to be part of our family, then divisions will exist no more.
Diversity need not be our undoing. Please let us look at the United States Constitution and allow the principles that guide us to be our truth. Might we make this country great and preserve our integrity. We are one and all.
When you grow up in a totally segregated society,
where everybody around you believes that segregation is proper,
you have a hard time.
You can’t believe how much it’s a part of your thinking.”
Shelby Foote [Historian, Novelist]
Poor Schools, Poor Neighborhoods, A Sad State of Affairs . . .
School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some, By Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder. The New York Times. July 15, 2007
pdf School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some, By Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder. The New York Times. July 15, 2007
Parents Involved In Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1 Supreme Court Of the United States.
Divided Court Limits Use of Race by School Districts, By Robert Barnes. Washington Post. Friday, June 29, 2007; Page A01
pdf Divided Court Limits Use of Race by School Districts, By Robert Barnes. Washington Post. Friday, June 29, 2007; Page A01
Parents involved in Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1. Supreme Court of the United States. June 28, 2007
It Takes More Than Testing: Closing the Achievement Gap. A Report of the Center on Education Policy. By Nancy Kober. Center on Education Policy. Educational Resources Information Center.
lliteracy: An Incurable Disease or Education Malpractice? The National Right to Read Foundation.
Richer areas more successful in attracting qualified teachers. USA Today. April 24, 2006