BREAKING: What can Gotham hope to accomplish?


Through "desegregation:"
Could New York City improve its public schools through some form of "desegregation?"

Could the city improve the social experience its children receive in their schools? Could the city expect to produce academic improvement?

Hardened figures like Kevin Drum say this is unlikely.
We're strongly inclined to agree with Drum when he "goes on" in this way, based in large part on the student demographics of Gotham's public schools.

Depending on how you want to define it, there's only so much "desegregation" you can produce in a giant school system with the student demographics detailed below. Given standard progressive models of how you improve academic performance through types of "desegregation," it isn't clear that you can engineer any academic improvement at all:
Student demographics, New York City Public Schools
White students: 15 percent
Black students: 27 percent
Hispanic students: 41 percent
Asian-American students: 16 percent

Low-income students: 75 percent
To make the numbers believable, we've taken them from the New York Times—from this June 2016 magazine piece by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who has often written about public school desegregation, for the Times and elsewhere.

Liberal academics have been amazingly inventive in their ability to generate new definitions of "desegregation," a term which is historically fraught. That said, common sense suggests that there's only so much desegregation you can achieve within a system with New York City's student demographics.

In terms of academic improvement through desegregation, the challenge is especially daunting, if we consider the standard models for such strategies of the past twenty years. That said, you'll rarely read about such topics in the Times, which tends to use "desegregation" as a type of magical talisman—as a brand- and identity-builder.

At one time, "segregation" referred to schools where kids from different "races" were kept totally separate from each other as a matter of law. New York City's schools aren't legally segregated in that way. Plenty of kids already attend public school in New York with kids of other "races."

This further limits the possible gains to be achieved through additional "desegregation"—that is to say, through efforts to produce greater racial and income balance within each of the giant system's many schools.

That doesn't mean that such efforts would be a bad idea, although they always could be. It means that the possibilities are limited, unless "desegregation" is mainly a tool made for the use of glorifying our own flawless and pure liberal souls.

In this semi-back-to-school week, we'll be taking a look at recent efforts within the Times to glorify this liberal or possibly pseudo-liberal crusade.

Last Thursday, this report was produced by a new, and youngish, New York Times reporter. In our view, the report was a study in the insulting, uncaring foolishness the Times routinely promulgates in this realm. Warning to those youngish scribes:

It's great to land a job at the Times. But the Times will dumb you way, way down, especially in this area!

This morning, the Times has gone front-page with this 3000-word further paean to the "desegregation" being imagined for Gotham's schools. The new chancellor is "all in" on this crusade. But if we care about Gotham's kids, to what extent does this make ultimate sense?

Our final thought for today:

Take another look at those student demographics. With those data in mind, how much can Gotham sensibly hope to accomplish through "desegregation?"

How much can Gotham expect to achieve? Please disregard any possible gains to our glorious liberal tribe's all-important self-image.


  1. "Could New York City improve its public schools through some form of "desegregation?""


    This has been another edition of easy answers to lib-zombie questions.

  2. Let the devil take tomorrow. Lord, tonight I need a friend.

  3. BTW the Brown vs. Bd of Ed decision specifically said that it was primarily government-mandated school segregation that caused psychological harm to blacks.

    "Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The effect is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system." .

  4. Maybe a better question is whether it does any harm to desegregate kids (regardless of the definition), and whether, if the costs aren't prohibitive, it hurts anything to do it on the assumption that teaching kids how to function in a diverse world is good preparation for living in diverse workplaces, neighborhoods, and in a society that values diversity. Where else will they learn such lessons?

    If there are kids who are still being taught that they cannot do something because of their race, that is reason enough to pursue "desegregation," no matter what the larger demographics of a city might be. Playing games with numbers doesn't obscure the truth on the ground when children and adults recognize that some schools are where most of the white kids go, while other schools are shunned.

    It is unclear to me whether Somerby believes this isn't a problem anywhere (due to those figures), whether he believes it exists but isn't worth addressing, or whether he thinks racial differences have become unimportant to children's self esteem since Brown v. Board of Education.

    1. Nice 'gotta indoctrinate the kids' argument you have there. But do you have any evidence it actually is beneficial to them? A new documentary coming out soon, America to Me, focuses on one very 'diverse' school in the Chicago burbs, and from the reviews, this premise seems more than a little questionable.

    2. Diverse doesn't mean largely minority. It means mixed, having lots of different people with different backgrounds, experiences, characteristics, etc. There is a large business, social psychology and organizational psychology literature on the benefits of diversity to both individuals and organizations. Schools prepare kids for later life.

      You may be fighting multiculturalism with every fiber of your being, but it is already here. If you cannot function in that environment you will be one of the losers, economically speaking. Like someone who wants to be a chef but cannot speak Spanish, the primary language of kitchen staffs everywhere. You can hole up in Idaho and pretend it is the good old days when the only diversity with Irish, Italian, German, Norwegian, Swedish, Chinese, and so on, but this has always been a diverse country and our schools have always existed to help children both assimilate and respect each others' differences.

      You might have been home sick the day they taught that.

  5. To cure a problem, one needs to diagnose it properly. I think it's Bob's opinion that the lack of white classmates is not a significant barrier to black learning.

    1. There are other social benefits to desegregation that are not measured by the NAEP.

    2. It prevents people from becoming nasty little White Supremacists like those in Charlottesville. The best proof is that Trump, who did not attend desegregated schools, is a stone bigot and racist. Of course, he wouldn't do well on NAEP either.

  6. "The new chancellor is "all in" on this crusade."

    Um, no, Bob.

    From the article: "Ultimately, Mr. Carranza said he believes parents have the right to do that. ", referring to school choice.

    Also, "Mr. Carranza says that he isn’t comfortable with deadlines or ultimatums — he wants to change hearts and minds."

    Part of Carranza's job is public relations. He has to respond to constituents, such as Ritchie Torres, "a City Council member representing the central Bronx", who "wants the city to consider busing across neighborhoods, with or without the acquiescence of white parents. He also wants the city to set a deadline, within a year, for all 32 community districts in the system to adopt an integration plan."

    Carranza doesn't have the luxury of dismissing the concerns of someone like Torres as merely serving the "glorious liberal tribe's all-important self-image." He has to address those concerns while also worrying about school performance.

    The Times article also makes clear the De Blasio, whom Somerby has accused of wanting to start a race war, is not pushing for any kind of forced integration citywide. About integration, DeBlasio said this: "When asked about rezoning schools to make their student populations more diverse, Mr. de Blasio demurred, saying he wanted to “respect families who have made a decision to live in a certain area, oftentimes because of a specific school.”

    As always, the article and the so-called "self-important" liberals it describes are more nuanced than Somerby pretends.

  7. "He [de Blasio] quickly delivered on his campaign promise of providing universal access to public preschool."

    If you read the Times article, you would know this.

    Somerby never told you.


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