GAPS AND SEGREGATION: "Segregation" in New York City's schools!

TUESDAY, MAY 8, 2018

Part 2—Plus, what is "intense segregation?"
Just this once, let's be clear. Mara Gay didn't claim that "desegregation" could erase the achievement gaps in New York City's schools.

She certainly didn't say that desegregation could erase the large gaps which exist nationwide. Mara Gay didn't say that!

Gay did suggest that "desegregation" could help black and Hispanic kids do better in school, and she cited one possible reason. We'll discuss this part of her recent New York Times essay before the week in through.

Gay didn't say that "integration" could erase our achievement gaps. That said, she issued the kind of stirring cry which tends to thrill our liberal hearts—especially if we're the kinds of liberals who, in truth, pay little attention to the lives and interests of low-income "minority" kids.

Gay's essay called for "desegregation;" she said recent movement in that direction made her want to cheer. No indolent liberal could fail to be moved by this ancient battle cry. Today, though, it might be good to get clear on the type of "segregation" to which Gay's essay refers.

At the start of Gay's Editorial Observer piece, she describes the type of "segregation" found in New York City's schools. She also makes a slightly startling assertion:
GAY (5/5/18): It was enough to make you want to cheer.

On the Upper West Side last week, a middle school principal stood before a crowd of angry white parents—furious about a plan to help the poorest students gain access to some of the city's most desirable schools—and told them they were wrong.

''There are kids that are tremendously disadvantaged,'' Henry Zymeck, principal of the Computer School, told the parents, his voice filled with the disappointment of an educator whose pupils had betrayed their most sacred lesson. ''To compare these students and say, 'My already advantaged kid needs more advantage, they need to be kept away from those kids!' is tremendously offensive to me.''

How thrilling it was to hear those words in a city with some of the most segregated schools in the country, a city where black and Latino children are often herded into classrooms with such concentrated poverty that one out of four of the students are homeless, while other children attend public schools with P.T.A.s that can raise $1 million.
In that passage, Gay seems to discussing a type of "segregation" which involves both race and class.

Black and Latino kids will "often" be herded into classrooms such that a quarter of their classmates are homeless, she says.
Other children, perhaps with angry white parents, may be attending schools with PTAs which raise large sums of money, apparently for those particular schools.

Presumably, these distinctions do exist. We don't know how often it is that a classroom will have that many homeless kids—and Gay doesn't go into detail about the way private money enhances the budgets of certain individual schools.

Are certain schools massively resourced, while other schools go without? That would be an interesting report, but Gay didn't offer it here.

Instead, she presents a familiar story, one which evokes years past. At least in one part of Manhattan, angry white parents are standing in the schoolhouse door, trying to keep lower-income black and Latino kids out.

It makes Gay "want to cheer" when she sees pushback against this state of affairs. On the one hand, the reaction makes a type of perfect sense.

On the other hand, it may involve a type of delusion.

Gay seems to be talking about "segregation" by race and class, but in the end, she mainly seems to be focused on race. When she notes that some schools accept or reject kids based on test scores, she says such scores are "a disturbingly effective proxy for race in New York City."

When she says that "some of the city's most desirable schools" may tend to lack "children from low-income families," she says that low income is "another relative proxy for race in New York City."

Gay wants to see black and Hispanic kids walk through that schoolhouse door—and there's no reason why she shouldn't. That said, it doesn't help when we lazy, indifferent liberals are sent to bed happy at night with a misleading picture of the ways we can change the world. It seems to us that this may have occurred when the New York Times' foppish readers perused Gay's sheerleading piece.

In Gay's piece, those foppish, indifferent readers may gather several cheap thrills:

Early on, as noted above, they're told that New York City has "some of the most segregated schools in the country." A bit later on, they read that some or all of Gotham's schools are "intensely segregated."

We lazy liberals know how to respond to such claims. We may write a check, then go back to sleep, secure in our tribe's moral greatness.

For better or worse, it seems to us that these stirring claims may perhaps be misleading. To what extent can "desegregation" help struggling kids in Gotham's schools? We'd have to say that "desegregation" looks like a limited tool.

Is "integration" a limited tool? To ponder this point, and to understand some of Gay's assertions, let's return to a lengthy piece by Nikole Hannah-Jones from June 2016.

Hannah-Jones' essay appeared in the New York Times magazine. In it, she discussed the way she and her husband chose the Gotham public school their young daughter would attend.

Hannah-Jones essay bore this title: "Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City." Along the way, Hannah-Jones described the basic student demographics of the New York City schools. "Desegregation" will likely be a limited tool in a giant school district like this:
HANNAH-JONES (6/9/16): In a city where white children are only 15 percent of the more than one million public-school students, half of them are clustered in just 11 percent of the schools, which not coincidentally include many of the city’s top performers. Part of what makes those schools desirable to white parents, aside from the academics, is that they have some students of color, but not too many. This carefully curated integration, the kind that allows many white parents to boast that their children’s public schools look like the United Nations, comes at a steep cost for the rest of the city’s black and Latino children.

The New York City public-school system is 41 percent Latino, 27 percent black and 16 percent Asian. Three-quarters of all students are low-income. In 2014, the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, released a report showing that New York City public schools are among the most segregated in the country. Black and Latino children here have become increasingly isolated, with 85 percent of black students and 75 percent of Latino students attending “intensely” segregated schools—schools that are less than 10 percent white.
Several questions get clarified in that passage. Let's start with the overall student demographics of New York's public schools.

What would happen if we could wave a magic wand and institute a perfect and sweeping "desegregation" of this city's schools? Each of the system's million kids would attend a school like this:
New York City student demographics
White kids: 15 percent
Black kids: 27 percent
Hispanic kids: 41 percent
Asian-American kids: 16 percent

Low-income kids: 75 percent
If it's access to white kids that we want, this magical systemwide desegregation would seem to place a rather large burden on the 15 percent of each student body which would be composed of such kids.

To what extent might a lower-income "minority" kid find his achievement enhanced by attending a school with that rather modest number of white kids? It seems to us that "desegregation," however desirable in some moral or social sense, may be a rather limited "educational" tool in a giant school system like this.

The same observation might be made concerning student income. After that magical "desegregation," lower-income kids in each New York school would outnumber their more advantaged peers by a ratio of three to one. We'll guess there wouldn't be many schools whose PTAs were raising millions of dollars. We'll further guess that some of the families providing that cash would have left the city's public schools, making attempts at numerical "integration" that much harder.

Meanwhile, note a second point. Almost surely, that passage by Hannah-Jones explains what Gay means when she says that some or all of New York City's schools are "intensely" segregated.

In her essay, Gay quotes Professor Noguera from UCLA. Two years earlier, Hannah-Jones referred to that school's influential Civil Rights Project.

For better or worse, UCLA's faculty has played a key role in devising the way liberal "intellectuals" now tend to discuss "segregation." In her piece, Hannah-Jones explicitly applied some of the peculiar language which has emerged from that institution.

According to Hannah-Jones, a public school is intensely segregated if its student population is less than ten percent white. Traditonally, a school which was nine percent white wouldn't have been "segregated" at all. Under the guidance of UCLA, a school like that is now said to be intensely segregated.

That language is straight outta Westwood. In part, it has been designed to help us modern liberals mount a herd of extremely high horses, one of the few things we do well.

UCLA has helped reinvent the language. Other liberals have come along and further extended this regime. Last month, for example, we were now told, at The Atlantic, that a pubic school is now "segregated" is its student body is only 39 percent white!

Does your child attend a school which is one-third white and one-third black? If so, she's been sent to a "segregated" school! So our tribe now conjures.

Westwood's professors have perhaps helped invent a slightly misleading new language. Applied to the realities of New York City, the strangeness of this exciting new language may perhaps come clear.

Good lord! In New York City, a school which is 9 percent white isn't just a "segregated" school; it's intensely segregated, an even worse abomination.

Meanwhile, a school which is 15 percent white represents the "desegregation" ideal! On such slender distinctions our liberal language now rests.

This new taxonomy may seem to come straight from a pseudo-liberal cuckoo's nest. Lazy liberals who don't give a flying felafel may thrill to unclear formulations which traffic upon these minute distinctions. At the same time, their cheering may keep us from seeing what the realities are in the sprawling school systems which are being described.

At any rate, that's what Gay presumably meant when she said that some or all of Gotham's public schools are "intensely segregated." At best, though, her integrationist dreams are quite limited. There simply aren't enough of those wonderful white kids to go around!

Are New York City public schools "intensely segregated?" If we adopt that misleading BruinThink, well yes, they certainly are!

Meanwhile, does New York City really contain "some of the most segregated schools in the country?" It all depends on what the meaning of "most segregated schools in the country" is!

Just how "segregated" are New York City's schools? Tomorrow, we'll show you numbers from elsewhere all across the land.

Today, we considered New York City alone. Before we cheer a solution called "desegregation," we may want to know where we stand.

Tomorrow: Mayor de Blasio visits Detroit—and Brownsville, El Paso, Laredo


  1. When it comes to hiring people or choosing a cast for a film, the call is for 'diversity' which is intended to mean fewer whites. But when we're filling our schools, fewer whites is branded 'segregation' and is considered a very evil thing indeed.

  2. You've finally lost me on your education posts, Bob. As one interested in learning and examining the issues and challenging the accepted wisdom, I have been willing to hear your point of view. Unfortunately, you cannot or will not present that viewpoint in a systematic, dispassionate, logical way. You hate the idea of "segregation" or "integration" as a possible solution. Fine. But you spend 50% of your posts bashing liberals: liberals don't care, they think they are virtuous but aren't, etc. You are entitled to your opinion, but that is no way to make a persuasive or convincing argument, especially to those of us not married to any "preferred" solution. Your approach emboldens your conservative readers by reinforcing their pre-existing stereotypes about liberals, and it turns away liberals seeking a real discussion and better solutions. Ultimately, your constant attacks are the main thing anyone remembers about these posts, and not any specific, coherent criticism or well-argued policy ideas. Hence, your education posts fail to truly inform anyone.

  3. I used to argue that Bob’s barbs against “liberals” were pointed at the msm (MSNBC, CNN, NYT etc.) who were purported to be as such, though I’m not sure in fact how that’s determined by anyone. I guess you could call it Fact Wars.

    Anyway, the quote above seems to dispel that notion. But I would disagree that Bob's posts fail to inform. You just have to wack past the weeds. And I do wish he would offer solutions as he sees them. He seems to hide behind the curtain of media criticism on this topic. At least he could give me an idea of to whom I should write a check.



    1. What's CMike's take on this, Leroy?