Watching an issue get muddled: On its masthead, Education Week bills itself as “American education’s newspaper of record.”
We’re often struck by how poor the journalism can be in this paper of record. We had that reaction to a major part of Lesli Maxwell’s front-page report in the May 14 edition.
Maxwell was writing about the Brown decision, which turned 60 this month. She started with a fascinating report about the nation’s student population.
MAXWELL (5/14/14): 60 Years After Brown, School Diversity More Complex Than EverStudent demographics have changed in remarkable amazing ways in the sixty years since Brown. That said, we were struck by the way Maxwell continued:
American schooling will reach a milestone next fall when white students, for the first time, make up fewer than half of all children enrolled in public schools, according to federal projections.
Black enrollment, holding fairly steady in recent years, will hover between 16 percent and 17 percent.
Hispanic enrollment, meanwhile, will continue to surge, with its share of the K-12 population expected to hit 30 percent within the next decade. And the proportion of Asians and Pacific Islanders in public schools is also expected to be on the uptick, though much less dramatic than the rise for Latinos.
MAXWELL (continuing directly): But even with such ground-shifting demographic changes in the nation's public schools, the schools in many communities continue to be highly segregated 60 years after the U.S. Supreme Court, on May 17, 1954, struck down the principle of "separate but equal" education.Do schools in many communities “continue to be highly segregated?” Especially in the context of Brown, we’d say that construction is misleading, confusing, unhelpful.
"To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone," Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote of black students in the unanimous ruling overturning racial segregation in public education.
Today, it is still rare for white students to attend schools where they represent less than 25 percent of enrollment. Schools filled with students of a single race remain common. And one-race districts—especially in struggling urban centers and pockets of the rural Deep South—are not unusual.
As Maxwell notes, we continue to have all-white schools and all-black schools, even one-race school districts.
For ourselves, we’d prefer to see black, white and Hispanic kids going to school together. But for the most part, our all-black/all-white schools aren’t “segregated” within the meaning of Brown.
The Brown decision turned on the question of legal separation. As is clear in Maxwell's quote from Brown, the decision considered the effects of schooling in which children were separated from others “solely because of their race.”
The Brown decision didn’t outlaw racial imbalance in schools. We really can’t see the gain from fuzzing this distinction, which we progressives currently love to do.
Yesterday, we looked at the way Professor Perry fuzzed this distinction in Sunday’s Washington Post. Later in Maxwell’s report, a progressive advocate argued that “de jure segregation”—segregation by law, the type Brown outlawed—still exists, in this rarefied form:
MAXWELL: "The fact of the matter is that vestiges of prior de jure segregation still remain in many cases," said Leticia Smith-Evans, the interim director of the education practice for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Washington, referring to school segregation that was a matter of law or official policy.Sad. There is no doubt that some school districts maintain policies that amount to “de jure segregation.” In her report on Tuscaloosa’s schools, Nikole Hannah-Jones described the drawing of some district lines that seemed designed to keep white students out of all-black Central High School. Presumably, that procedure would be hard to justify under Brown.
"There are policies in districts that impact resource allocation, or which students are getting access to rigorous classes and gifted and talented programs," she said. "Desegregation is not just about student assignment."
It also may be that some black kids are denied “access to rigorous classes and gifted and talented programs” for inappropriate reasons. But it’s painful to see civil rights advocates straining to over-extend the term “segregation,” even the term “de jure segregation,” in the way found in that passage.
Next week, we’ll be looking at the “achievement gaps” which still obtain in our most reliable testing programs. Presumably, some black kids are being kept from gifted programs for inappropriate reasons. But many more are being held back because of low achievement.
It’s painful—it can be disgusting—to see “advocates” trying to wish such facts away. Speaking from her privileged aerie, Professor Perry played this same card in her ridiculous “Five Myths” feature.
D’Leisha Dent isn’t helped when The Atlantic says she “excels in school.” It’s time we stopped pretending about the real world and instead described our plan to improve it. (When it comes to low-income kids, we “progressives” rarely bother.)
We’ll look at these questions all next week. But in our various ivory towers, a lot of pampered, overpaid people like to pretend about the state of the world.
For the record, there’s much of interest in Maxwell’s report. We recommend the whole thing.