Part 2—Tribal happy talk: Should mainstream news orgs—news orgs like Slate—cover reports of microaggressions at Yale?
Presumably yes, they should. We'd also say that news orgs like Slate perhaps shouldn't overdo it.
As everyone knows, every time a Yale graduate student is asked to produce her ID card, the American people are just a bit less free. On our own first weekend in college, we were asked by a campus policeman to go inside our own dorm room and come out with our college ID, so we're especially aware of the severity of this type of problem.
We may flesh out that experience before the week is done. At any rate, thismuch is plainly true:
When young people go to Yale, they shouldn't feel that they're being harassed on the basis of race. Presumably, news orgs like Slate might want to report on perceptions to the contrary.
That said, we liberals! We seem much more interested in highly privileged students at Yale than in the low-income first graders living nearby in New Haven. We dote on the experiences of the one group, tend to throw the other group under the big yellow bus.
And not only that! Even when we deign to speak to the issues affecting low-income students, we may tend to remain rather firmly within our own preferred tribal frameworks. Consider the report on "desegregation" which appeared in last Friday's New York Times.
Sharon Otterman's news report dealt with a perfectly newsworthy topic—"a lawsuit [filed] against the State of New Jersey on Thursday, calling on it to desegregate its schools statewide." The suit has been brought by "the Latino Action Network, together with about a dozen other plaintiffs," Otterman wrote.
Does the state of New Jersey currently have "segregated" schools? It certainly has a lot of schools which are racially imbalanced! In the passages shown below, Otterman laid out some basic facts:
OTTERMAN (5/18/18): The lawsuit cites statistics to show that without legal action, segregation has only deepened. The number of New Jersey public school students who attend schools that are at least 99 percent nonwhite, for example, grew to 107,322 in the 2016-17 school year, from 93,614 in 2010-11.Assuming the basic accuracy of those data, New Jersey's diversity seems to make it a candidate for court-facilitated attempts at greater "integration" within its public schools. When such facilitation goes well, it can, at least in theory, provide improved experiences for a state or community's public school students.
Statewide, 46 percent of the 585,000 black and Latino public school students attend schools that are more than 90 percent nonwhite. Of the 622,359 white students in New Jersey public schools, 43 percent attend schools that are at least 75 percent white.
When such facilitation goes poorly, less valuable outcomes may occur.
Is there a legal basis for ordering "desegregation" of New Jersey's schools? We don't know, but we were struck by a classic upbeat reference to the magnificent desegregation which has been achieved in one of Connecticut's largest school systems.
Assaults on the dignity of Yale elites take place in New Haven. Not too many miles away, Hartford—the capital of the Nutmeg State and its largest city—operates the second or third largest school system in the state.
In most ways, Otterman's report on the New Jersey lawsuit was perfectly professional. That said, our incomparable gorge did threaten to rise when we read about the spectacular desegregation accomplished up north in Hartford:
OTTERMAN: New Jersey is rare among the states: Its courts have declared even de facto school segregation unconstitutional since the 1960s. Such segregation has persisted, and worsened, however, because “no one has done anything about it,” said Gary Stein, a former New Jersey Supreme Court justice on the court that ordered equal funding for the state's districts.Otterman was reporting the facts, just the facts—the facts about what the high-minded lawsuit alleged. That said, we'll have to admit—we were skeptical concerning the glories allegedly achieved in Hartford in the past 22 years.
“Here in New Jersey, we have segregation that’s more intense than any state today in the South,” he said. “What we have got in New Jersey, frankly, is an embarrassment. We have segregation at a level that is just intolerable for a state like ours, and we have never addressed it.”
The lawsuit suggests several remedies, including the creation of magnet schools that draw from multiple towns and districts and tax incentives for municipalities to create more diverse schools. It points to an effort in Hartford, stemming from a 1996 desegregation lawsuit, that created clusters of magnet schools so attractive that suburban children are bused into inner-city Hartford to attend them.
When "desegregation" is capably handled, kids may tend to benefit from a better social experience in school. That said, how well do these procedures address the massive achievement gaps concerning which our Yale elites have so little to tell us, even in the useless decades following graduation?
Last Friday morning, we returned to our sprawling campus from a local Starbucks. Upon re-entry, we demanded a full review concerning the glories of Hartford.
Desegregation had been ordered in 1996. Suggestible readers of the Times were now being told that 22 years of desegregation had created schools so attractive that you couldn't keep the suburban kids away!
In response to our demand, the analysts scrambled to their research stations. Using the data from Professor Reardon's study, they hit us first with the demographics of the Hartford Public Schools:
Student population, Grades 3-8"Finally!" we shouted, perhaps hysterically. "Finally! A student population which 'looks like America!' "
Hartford, Conn. Public Schools
White kids: 9 percent
Black kids: 38 percent
Hispanic kids: 50 percent
Asian-American kids: 3 percent
Median family income: $27,000
Timorously, another analyst asked permission to approach. Visibly shaking, he handed us the printout for the suburban West Hartford Public Schools, located just west of Hartford:
Student population, Grades 3-8All data come from Professor Reardon. For the record, the Hartford schools enroll about 21,000 students. The suburban West Hartford schools enroll roughly half that number.
West Hartford, Conn. Public Schools
White kids: 62 percent
Black kids: 8 percent
Hispanic kids: 15 percent
Asian-American kids: 14 percent
Median family income: $100,000
Frankly, our eyes began to fill. We hadn't seen so much successful desegregation since the time of Louise Day Hicks! Needless to say, we felt fairly sure that, with all those suburban children being bused into Hartford to attend the city's attractive schools, Hartford had surely eliminated any achievement gaps too!
We barked an order at the analysts; they quickly delivered the goods. Twenty-two years later, here's the Arcadia which is found just up the road from New Haven:
Where the average student stoodSure enough! After 22 years of desegregation, the achievement gap barely exists in the Hartford Public Schools!
Hartford Public Schools
Grades 3-8, reading and math
White kids: 0.8 years above grade level
Black kids: 1.6 years below grade level
Hispanic kids: 2.4 years below grade level
According to Reardon, the average white student in the Hartford schools is only 3.2 years ahead of the average Hispanic kid at the start of sixth grade! Given our liberal world's complete disinterest in the lives of our low-income kids, we're willing to call that even.
It's fairly clear that Hartford is a type of post-desegregation Eden. That said, fairness will make us report that the gaps get a bit larger is you factor in the West Hartford schools.
Using the graphics at the New York Times, we haven't been able to find a full demographic breakdown for the academic levels achieved in the West Hartford schools. That said, the Times graphics do tell us this:
Where the average student stoodBased on that overall number, we'll guess that the average white student in West Hartford is something like 2.0 years above grade level. That would create a 3.6 year achievement gap with the average black kid in Hartford—and a 4.4 year gap with the average Hispanic kid, presumably at or near the start of sixth grade!
West Hartford Public Schools
Grades 3-8, reading and math
All students: 1.5 years above grade level
Why do we offer these data? Let's return to the reading experience of the average New York Times reader.
Last Friday morning, that average reader received a standard plate of tribal gruel. He or she was told about the wonders of desegregation in Hartford. Continuing from the text shown above, Otterman offered this:
OTTERMAN (continuing directly): Children who attend integrated schools do better than those who remain in segregated schools, research shows. And while the benefits of desegregation are most profound for black and Latino low-income students, diversity also helps white students by exposing them to children of different socioeconomic backgrounds and broadening their perspectives.None of that is necessarily untrue. Beyond that, nothing that has happened in Hartford negates the possibility that "desegregation" can help lower-achieving "minority" kids improve their academic performance in public schools.
“We think that white children who attend segregated white schools are disadvantaged,” Mr. Stein said.
The data from Hartford don't and can't settle outstanding questions about the possible academic value of "desegregation" plans. That said, that picture of all the suburban kids streaming into Hartford's attractive schools is a typical plate of tribal happy-talk. In these ways, we liberals are constantly fluffed about the lives of the low-income kids we plainly don't care much about.
Within our rather selective tribe, we do care about the graduate students found down the road in New Haven. Their bumps in the road are important to us.
By way of contrast, first-graders attending the state's public schools can pretty much go hang in the yard. We quit on those kids a long time ago. Few things could be more clear, though we do love our happy-talk.
We liberals! Routinely, we pleasure ourselves with feel-good descriptions about those kids and about the sources of their struggles. At present, we're easily pleased about low-income kids, bears about Eli elites.
Tomorrow: Campus policeman pulls gun!