Friday, July 27, 2007

Mourning in America

Is focusing on the positive in the schools cases, the small remnants of Brown preserved for future generations, a mistake? In Patricia Williams's column this week in The Nation, in which she compares the decision to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Williams argues that it is:

"What concerns me at the moment is the general lack of outcry that has met the decision that public school districts cannot take voluntary action to overcome racial inequality. This represents, for all intents and purposes, the overturning of Brown v. Board of Education. Yet the response in many quarters has been to put a positive spin on it. At least it was a plurality decision. At least Justice Kennedy allowed that diversity is an interest....

And while the Supreme Court may force schools and employers to turn a blind eye to racism's ruinous cost of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty, the "war on terror" has reinvigorated profiling by race, religion, ethnicity and lord-knows-what-else. We seem well on our way to resurrecting a dual society, at one level of which no one sees a thing--the show must go on, so to speak. But some of the rest live in a shadow nation where race is a mark of unspeakable yet indelible consequence. "


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Impact on Higher Ed: Better than Expected, Worse than It Seems

Gary Orfield, Erica Frankenberg and Liliana M. Garces of the Civil Rights Project wrote on July 24th in Inside Higher Ed that the Supreme Court's decision in Parents may not be cause for relief. They said "While a bullet was dodged, optimism should be restrained. The dike protecting affirmative action has held but the river that brings diverse groups of students to colleges may be drying up as a result of the latest decision."

Orfield, Frankenberg, and Garces argue that selective colleges and universities depend on attracting qualified applicants of color to their schools, and many of those applicants come from interracial schools. They go on to note that highly segregated schools produce less academically preparared students who are " often not ready to function socially on a largely white, affluent campus."

Rising segregation in schools, the authors state, will have two major implications for higher education: "First, rising segregation is likely to bring a rise in educational inequality and less prepared black and Latino students. Second, all incoming students are likely to have fewer interracial experiences prior to attending college meaning they will be less prepared for effective functioning in an interracial setting."

Orfield, Frankenberg, and Garces call for institutions of higher education to help limit the ill effects of the decision and keep alive the legacy of Brown by assising local school districts in finding legal and workable solutions to maintain diversity and taking a public leadership and education role in continuing to argue for the importance of integrated educational settings.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

An Imbalance Grows in Cambridge Schools

In today's Boston Globe, Tracy Jan reports that Cambridge, touted as a national model for its economic integration plan, has become more racially segregated over the five years that the plan has been in practice.

"Under the plan, parents list their top three choices and are entered into two pools, depending on whether their children qualify for federally subsidized lunch, which serves as a common gauge of poverty. To qualify, a family's annual income, depending on its size, must range between $12,740 and $43,680; 45 percent of seats in each school are reserved for low-income students to reflect the district average. Schools could fluctuate 15 percent above or below that amount."

Unfortunately, however, while the plan has been modestly successful at economically desegregating the schools, Jan writes that "[P]arents choose schools where they feel the most comfortable, and their choices often split along racial lines. Some high-poverty, mostly minority schools have low-income families on their waiting lists but have trouble filling spots reserved for middle-class students. And some higher income schools popular among middle class families have empty seats for low-income students."

For schools looking to bring their integration plans into line with the recent decisions, Cambridge's combination of parent choice and economic diversity guidelines might be a good place to start, but changes must be made to ensure that racial diversity does not suffer as a result.