Part 3—We're not in 1968 any more: Long ago and far away—actually, it was in the spring of 2011—we were told to read a story to a kindergarten class in Durham, North Carolina.
Teacher made us do it! Frankly, it was pretty scary. That crowd wasn't tough, but they were young. We'd never done that before.
In the front row sat one of the two little girls in the class who weren't yet speaking English. Other little girls who were bilingual—that included the delightful child, now much older, who'd brought us to visit her class—had scrambled over desks and chairs to whisper in those little girls' ears, helping them process various events in the day's first hour.
Those kids were eager to help. But we remember the face on the little girl in the front row who wasn't yet speaking English. Her face told a very old story:
It's no fun to be the 6-year-old who isn't yet speaking the language.
(To listen to a similar story about Anne Frank's first day in kindergarten, you can just click here. Her friend wasn't speaking Dutch yet. Truly, YouTube is powerful.)
We don't know the family history of that little girl in Durham. We don't know if she was born in the U.S., or if she'd recently arrived from somewhere else.
That said, the presence of those little girls tells part of a major story about our nation's changing demographics—more specifically, about the changing demographics of our student population.
In our view, it's a beautiful story. For the record, there is no law which says that everyone else has to agree, or which says that our judgments are right.
That said, the story is a major story about America's public schools. It was disappeared by Alvin Chang in his recent report for Vox about the alleged "resegregation" of those public schools.
The story is hugely relevant to the accurate factual claims around which Chang builds his highly fraught tale. But, despite its huge relevance, it went completely unmentioned by Chang. So these things tend to go.
To what demographic change do we refer? Before we answer that question, let's get clear about the accurate factual claim around which Chang based his fraught report.
For the third straight day, we present the highly fraught claims which anchor Chang's piece. The text shown below is perhaps a bit murky. But the graphic which appears beneath it helps us see what Chang means by his claims:
CHANG (1/8/18): The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.Is it true? Are schools in the South really "as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago," in 1968?
Headline on graphic:
Percentage of black students in the South who attend schools that are at least 50 percent white
Because of that fraught term—"segregated"—that claim packs a punch. Beneath the claim, within that graphic, we see what Chang means by that claim.
As Chang notes, his graphic comes from Professor Orfield at UCLA (click here, see page 90. According to the graphic, 23 percent of black kids in the South were attending schools which were "at least 50 percent white" in 2011.
According to that graphic, the number had been the same in 1968. In that year, as in 2011, 23 percent of black kids in the South were attending such schools.
In the meantime, it hadn't been thus. As of the late 1980s, 44 percent of black kids in the South were attending such schools, according to the graphic Chang correctly attributes to Orfield. For better or worse, the percentage steadily dropped after that.
According to Chang, this means that our schools are "resegregating." In his report, he rather clearly attributes this change to deliberate action by school districts, who allegedly gerrymander their school attendance zones to heighten racial imbalance.
Do these claims make sense? They quickly make a lot less sense if you consider some information in Professor Orfield's report—information Chang blew past and disappeared.
For the record, Professor Orfield is the industry leader in claims of "resegregation." It's a wonderfully exciting claim, one which thrills us liberals every time.
We aren't big fans of Orfield's choice of language. But consider the information he provides in the iconic report to which Chang has linked, from which he has taken his graphic.
Why are so many fewer black kids attending white-majority schools? As is frequently the case, there may be more than one (demonic) reason. But Orfield includes the demographic information which Chang disappeared.
How has America's student population changed down through the years? In his iconic report, Orfield's discussion of that matter starts early, on page 6.
How has our student population changed? Under the heading included below, Orfield starts laying it out:
ORFIELD (2011): Changing Nature of Public School EnrollmentIn that passage, Orfield describes "a fundamental social transformation;" he says it produced a massive change in student demographics. As he continues on page 7, Orfield describes the extent of the change as of 2011:
At the peak of the Civil Rights era, the U.S. was still a nation with a large white majority, reaching the end of a massive baby boom, and at a historically low point in immigration...Though black population was growing rapidly, it was only the beginning of a fundamental social transformation that included the first great immigration of nonwhites in U.S. history, which followed the l965 passage of immigration reform laws.
In little more than four decades, enrollment trends in the nation’s schools (between l968 and 2011) show a 28% decline in white enrollment, a 19% increase in the black enrollment, and an almost unbelievable 495% percent increase in the number of Latino students...White enrollment was almost four times the combined black and Latino enrollment in l968, but only about a fifth bigger in 2011.
ORFIELD (continuing directly): The changes occurring throughout in the nation appear in even more dramatic form in some of its regions. By far the most populous regions of the country, where the great bulk of American growth is concentrated, are the South and the West. For generations, the growth of the country has been focused on these Sunbelt areas. Both of these regions now have substantial majorities of “minority” students. The West has only 40% white students and the South only 45%.As of 2011, only 45 percent of public school students in the South were "white!" You may already have discerned what this does to Chang's presentation, but let's record the passage on page 9 where Orfield states the obvious:
ORFIELD: Given the vast changes in U.S. school enrollment, even if there were a perfectly even distribution of students from all racial groups, there would still be a decline in contact by students of other races with whites, because the share of the total who are white has declined substantially.Duh. Now let's think about the harrowing metric Chang employs as he discusses "resegregation."
Laggards, let's stop and think. Even in 2011, only 45 percent of public school students in the South were white!
Suppose you'd waved a magic wand and created a world in which every public school in the South matched the region's overall demographic. In that case, no black students in the South—zero, none—would have been attending schools which were "at least 50 percent white."
Every black kid would have been in a school which was 45 percent white. According to Chang's harrowing lexicon, they'd all have been victims of "resegregation." The percentage of black kids on that graphic would have dropped to zero percent!
Does this mean that no school district is drawing attendance lines with the goal of increasing racial imbalance? No, it doesn't mean that.
It does mean that at least one other major cause explains Chang's thrilling graphic. At least in some substantial part, fewer black kids are in white-majority schools because there are many fewer white kids in the public schools, exactly as Orfield said:
"Given the vast changes in U.S. school enrollment, even if there were a perfectly even distribution of students from all racial groups, there would still be a decline in contact by students of other races with whites..."
This isn't hard to grasp. But we progressives love to put our thumbs on the scales when dealing with topics like this. This produce scary representations which establish the evil of Everyone Else and the great moral glory of Us.
Dearest darlings, here's the news—it's no longer 1968! Our student demographic has massively changed in the past fifty years. That change includes the two adorable little girls who sat in that kindergarten class in Durham, not yet speaking the language.
Math is hard, but the math works out like this. You can't produce a string of majority-white public schools if you don't have a majority gaggle of white kids to begin with!
Meanwhile, if you say that every other type of school is part of "resegregation," then you're going to find a whole lot of "resegregation" out there! This is what Chang and Vox have done. We think it's a horrible but fully typical look.
Before we quit for the day, consider a few more statistics. How much has the student population changed just since the late 1980s, when 44 percent of black kids in the South were in majority-white schools?
We can't give you an exact figure, but it has changed a lot! According to the NCES, these were the numbers in the Naep's Grade 4 math tests in two relevant years:
Students tested, all U.S. schoolsOver those nineteen years, white kids moved from 72 percent of the student population down to 52 percent. Three years later, the number of "minority" kids passed the number of "white" kids for the first time. You can read about it here.
Grade 4 math test, Naep
White kids: 72 percent
Black kids: 18 percent
Hispanic kids: 7 percent
Asian-American kids: 3 percent
White kids: 52 percent
Black kids: 16 percent
Hispanic kids: 24 percent
Asian-American kids: 5 percent
Almost surely, you'll have fewer majority-white schools if you lack a majority of whites! Meanwhile, how about the Durham Public Schools? According to the system's web site, its current charges break down like this:
Student population, Durham Public SchoolsHow many schools which are "at least 50 percent white" can that school system produce? According to Chang's report, the whole darn system may be "segregated!" No gerrymandered zones need apply!
For various reasons, progressives often say that black kids are better off in majority-white schools. We also like to render exciting claims about the horrors of modern-day "segregation."
Is anyone more reliably faux than we are? We love "the browning of America," hate the schools it gives us.
That school in Durham struck us as a joy. To Chang, it's "segregated."
Tomorrow: In response to Chang's report, the Times does Tuscaloosa