"SEGREGATION" AND SCOLD: What makes New York (State) the worst state of all?


Thanks to lazy scholarship, we can't really say:
According to the leading authority on the subject, Gary Orfield was one of two co-founders of the Civil Rights Project.

According to that same authority, the "renowned multidisciplinary research and policy think tank" was founded at Harvard in 1996.

In January 2007, the institute moved to UCLA, perhaps in search of a more suitable climate in which to grow the various beans it unhelpfully counts to this day.

At any rate, in March 2014, the Civil Rights Project published one of its most widely-cited reports. Professor Orfield wrote the Foreword—and that Foreword started like this, in somewhat ambiguous fashion:

New York’s record on school segregation by race and poverty is dismal now and has been for a very long time.
The children who most depend on the public schools for any chance in life are concentrated in schools struggling with all the dimensions of family and neighborhood poverty and isolation. In spite of the epic struggle for more equitable funding in New York, there is a striking relationship between segregated education and unequal school success. Although many middle class families of all races would like their children to be educated in successful diverse schools, there are few such opportunities.

A great center of American liberalism, New York seemed to turn away when race issues came close to home. The city, its leaders, its members of Congress, its intellectuals, its religious leaders, the great philanthropic foundations, were on the front lines of the struggle to desegregate the South. New York’s Kenneth Clark was one of the intellectual leaders in this struggle that led to Brown v. Board of Education, but his pleas to do something about New York’s separate schools were largely ignored. There were very big protests asking for school integration in New York City. The truth is, however, that most of the country’s effort to end segregated schools came during the civil rights era of the l960s and early l970s, and were located in the South. By the time the urban desegregation issue was seriously raised in the North in the mid-1970s, there was little will to do anything serious about the issues in most of the state. In some suburbs there was true leadership and Buffalo, for example, was an early pioneer in magnet schools, but these were exceptions. For a while, state leaders tried to initiate action but the effort was abandoned. The failure of New York City’s school board to keep its promise and integrate a single school in Harlem led to the school decentralization movement. This broke the city up into more than 30 school districts, in hope that local control would produce educational breakthroughs, but it left inequality largely untouched. For several decades, the state has been more segregated for blacks than any Southern state, though the South has a much higher percent of African American students.

Early on, New York was also the leader in segregating its Latinos. As immigration from across Latin America has surged and families have grown, so has Latino segregation...
Let's start with a basic observation. In theory and in principle and surely in practice, "racial isolation" is an actual problem in many of our American public schools.

In theory and in principle, such isolation is bad for American kids, as it is for American adults.

That said, a basic question comes to mind when we read the Foreword to that 2014 report. Our basic question is this:

Did Professor Orfield know that his report was a study of the schools of New York State?

As most people know, there are two large jurisdictions which operate under the name "New York." There's New York City, the largest city in the nation, home to the nation's largest school system.

Then too, there's also New York State, a much larger geographical entity whose racial and ethnic demographics differ markedly from those found in the city with which it shares a name.

Did Orfield know that his report was a study of New York State? Did he know that the basic conclusions his report would state would pertain to the public schools of New York State, not to those of New York City?

We're prepared to assume that he did. Indeed, the title of the 2014 report specifically settles that question. ("New York State’s Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction and a Damaged Future")

That said, we ask our question because it's not entirely clear, as Orfield's Foreword begins, that he was clear in his mind about this basic point. The reader can deduce the answer to this basic question from the material we have posted, but we'd have to say that this basic point isn't clearly stated.

As his Foreword begins, Professor Orfield fails to tell us which "New York" he's talking about. This may help explain why some observers seemed to think that Professors Kucsera and Orfield were talking about New York City when they made their dramatic pronouncement at the start of their Executive Summary:
Executive Summary

New York has the most segregated schools in the country:
in 2009, black and Latino students in the state had the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools (less than 10% white enrollment), the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools. Heavily impacting these state rankings is New York City, home to the largest and one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation.
If you read that paragraph carefully, you may realize that the highlighted statement is a statement about the public schools of New York State.

That said, many people don't read with great care. That includes many of our nation's journalists, especially when they're given an assist by relatively lazy scholarship.

Alas! When this report was released in March 2014, at least one major publication seemed to think that the report had found that New York City had the most segregated schools in the nation.

For background, see yesterday's report. To this day, headlines continue to state and restate that mistaken assessment.

As for the actual claim about New York City found in that Executive Summary—the claim that New York City is "home to...one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation"—the professors' lengthy report makes no attempt to ground that claim in any definitive research of their own.

Instead, the professors cite a 2012 news report in the New York Times—a news report which made a highly imprecise claim which was very poorly sourced. This is the type of scholarship the professors brought to this important report, a report which is widely cited to this very day and concerns a deeply important topic.

To our demanding ear, Professor Orfield wanders the countryside in that Executive Summary. In our view, UCLA should be embarrassed to see such lazy, stream-of-consciousness musing brought to bear, under the university's name, on such a serious topic.

Because the topic is so important, one might sensibly wish for more stringent scholarship. Instead, we get a bewildering array of statistics whose principle objective seems to be the furtherance of so-called Liberal Scold Culture, in which we liberals get to complain that Amerikkka has betrayed its principles and its promises to an extent which goes beyond anything Mother and Dad ever said.

How strange is the scholarship in this 2014 report? As best we can tell, it was in this report that Orfield and Kucsera first offered their most peculiar concept, in which they state their definition of what a "segregated school" is.

Yes, they actually presented this definition, as we showed you last week:
KUCSERA AND ORFIELD (page 32): We also explore school segregation patterns by the proportion or concentration of each racial group in segregated schools (50-100% of the student body are students of color), intensely segregated schools (90-100% of the student body are students of color), and apartheid schools (99-100% of the schools are students of color). Such schools, especially hypersegregated and apartheid schools[,] are nearly always associated with stark gaps in educational opportunity.
Yes, they actually said it! In the brave new world of this report, the hypothetical school presented below would qualify as a "segregated school:"
Student enrollment, Public School H
White kids: 50 percent
Black kids: 30 percent
Asian-American kids: 20 percent
In the brave new world of that widely-cited 2014 report, that's a "segregated school!" Remarkably, there are too few white kids in that school to please the professors' palate.

Indeed, since the American student population is now only 47.5% white, every school in the whole country would be a "segregated school" if we could wave a magic wand and produce perfect racial balance all across the land! So it can go as we liberals seek ways to scold those in Other tribes.

In the brave new scholarship of the professors, Public School H is a segregated school! This helps explain why future anthropologists have adopted that "Liberal Scold Culture" framework in discussing our present-day world, even describing the professors' work as an example of "Preapocalyptic Tears of Rage Syndrome."

Whatever! However one might assess the lyrics to the Dylan song, future scholars seem to have agreed on a basic understanding, in which the "scold culture" of this era helped propel Trump to power in the years before his war.

That said, let's get back to the basics! Ever so briefly, let's consider the basic claim the professor made in their 2014 report—the pleasing claim that "New York [State] has the most segregated schools in the country."

As we'll show you tomorrow, everybody understands why New York State has the most, or perhaps the most, "segregated schools" in the country once you've accepted the professors' terminology and methods for counting the beans.

As everyone knows, the reason involves the aforementioned vast disparity between the demographics of New York City—home to 37% of the state's public school students—and the demographics of the rest of the rather large state.

(We're using data from the 2009-2010 school year, the school year the professors used in their 2014 report.)

Everyone knows why states like New York, California and Illinois top the charts for "most segregated schools," once you've accepted the professor's procedures. The professors published an endless array of such charts in their earlier report, "E Pluribus...Separation?," which appeared in 2012.

Everyone knows why those states appear at the top of those charts. What we still don't understand, even after reading the professors' 2012 and 2014 reports, is why they say that New York State in the nation's biggest villain instead of, let's say, Illinois.

Granted, the professors have invented a wide array of ways to spot "segregation." In the portion of the (2014) Executive Summary we've posted above, they cite three different ways in which New York State is most heinous of all the states when it comes to the maintenance of "segregated schools."

In their 2014 report, the professors were working with the endless data they presented in 2012. When it comes to our leading villain states, they explained things in more detail back in 2012:
ORFIELD, KUCSERA AND SIEGEL-HAWLEY (page 42): For over three decades, Illinois, New York, and Michigan have been consistently at the top of the list for extreme segregation of African American students. President Obama’s home state has the second highest level of black segregation in the United States (topped only by New York), even though black students make up less than a fifth of the enrollment.
In their later declaration about New York State, the professors cite this 2012 report as their source. In that earlier report, the professors say—speaking about "extreme segregation" of black kids—that Illinois "has the second highest level of black segregation in the United States (topped only by New York)."

In fairness, the professors have so many ways of identifying "segregation" that it's hard to say that any such overall judgment could ever be wrong. But when it come to "extreme segregation" of black kids—when it comes to attendance in schools which are 99-100% nonwhite—these were the numbers the professors reported in that same 2012 report (see page 46):
Percentage of black kids attending schools which are 99-100% nonwhite
Black kids in Illinois: 41.4 percent
Black kids in New York State: 23.6 percent
As the professors state on page 44 of that report, "A staggering two-fifths of black students in Illinois attend a school where less than 1% of the student body is white." Given these data, we don't know why New York State was pleasingly fingered as the number-one villain in the pleasing 2014 report.

In theory, it would be better if no one went, or at least was forced to go, to such racially unbalanced schools. But those are the data on which the professors were relying when they said, in 2014, that New York [State] had the most segregated schools in the nation for black kids.

Poring over the reams of data from all the beans the professors counted, we can't say that we understand the basis on which they said that New York [State] was worse than Illinois. But this is the kind of scholarship with which these pointers of fingers approach this important topic throughout.

According to anthropological experts, Liberal Scold Culture was deeply counterproductive in the years preceding Mister Trump's War. According to those same future scholars, it didn't help when academics approached an important topic like this in a somewhat cavalier way.

To this day, we can't tell you what made New York [State] a bigger villain than Illinois. We can tell you why the state of New York had so many "segregated schools," once we've accepted the professors' definitions and terminology.

In fact, everyone understands why that is, though the professors made almost no effort to explain this basic point in their widely-cited report. So it went as our tribe's Scold Culture kept moving us closer to war.

Tomorrow: The demographics of New York [City] versus those of the rest of the state


  1. "In January 2007, the institute moved to UCLA, perhaps in search of a more suitable climate in which to grow the various beans it unhelpfully counts to this day."

    It isn't enough to denigrate the particular report on desegregation that Somerby has been obsessed with, he has to criticize the whole civil rights project. On the basis of "bean counting," his derogatory term for gathering statistics to explore a research question.

    So, Somerby is not only against professors and research, but also against civil rights.

    What a complete and utter asshole this man is.

    1. I would imagine you get triggered quite often.

    2. 8:22, you are confusing 10:40 for deadrat.

  2. What possible difference can it make whether NYC or Chicago claims the title of most segregated? Both are highly segregated. Why does Somerby raise this point at all?

    1. He is completely bored and unable to face his own lack of efficacy in having any influence in public discourse, so he has turned to gaslighting liberals - his version of a Trump war.

  3. Sounds like Somerby is equating research with liberal scolding and is proposing that we address school segregation by stopping research on the topic.

    I would bet money that liberals are more likely to live in racially integrated neighborhoods than conservatives. In CA (the place I am familiar with), the Fair Housing Act was passed to eliminate redlining and restrictive covenants. As witness of its success, Orange County has changed from a largely white haven of white flight into a majority minority county that votes Democratic. Los Angeles remains heavily minority because immigrants join family members who already live there, and because it is where jobs are and public transportation. But minorities can and do move out of Los Angeles when they have the chance, to suburbs, just like whites have done.

    But this is not what Somerby is concerned about. He is hypercritical of professors describing segregated schools and I am not sure why or what his point is.

    1. ...this is not what Somerby is concerned about.

      Somerby is more interested in focusing on ways to improve the academic and economic prospects of the disadvantaged over the immediate and medium term. Others seem to want to be seen as leaders in decrying the problems the disadvantaged face by focusing on a problem that, under any scenario, will take decades to rectify and, in any event, is not the result of the public school policies that are currently in place in across most of the country.

    2. Cmike, this country can chew gum and walk at the same time. Government does work one issue at a time.

      If school segregation takes fifty years to fix, it is still fixed, a worthy achievement.

    3. 1:23 AM,

      You lost me, the country can do two things at once but the government does things one at a time?

      And here's the thing, you're not going to better integrate public schools by approaching it from that angle, public schools will be better integrated racially when, and not before, residential communities are better integrated racially. In any event, this is not an outcome public school policy can drive.

      Here's the real issue Democratic liberals are dodging by suggesting it's integration by some sort of osmosis that's going to overcome socioeconomic disadvantage. Putting aside certain awkward to talk about cultural priorities that would improve the quality of life prospects for the children of certain demographic groups we are left to avoid the issue Democratic centrists/neoliberals/meritocrats really don't want to talk about, namely class inequality LINK.

      The solution is not to wait around until public schools are integrated, the solutions are to tailor curricula to the capabilities of individual students throughout their grade school years and to adopt Bernie's economic Bill of Rights and his call for pre-K enrichment programs that would double as a child care resource for working parents, a $15/hr federal minimum wage, single payer healthcare, and a public works program as part of a Green New Deal.

    4. 1:23 here, yeah my bad, I left out the word "not".

      I agree with your points and thanks for the link, his take on universal solutions is good, but it does not preclude one from dealing with racism or sexism directly. Identity politics can be effective, lord knows it has worked well for white men.

      It does seem there is wide spread agreement that school segregation solutions are tied to the housing issue.

      The degree that Democratic centrists/neoliberals/meritocrats are still relevant is dwindling. I think Biden's numbers will go down after one debate.

  4. I have lived in both New York and Chicago and my personal experience is that Chicago is more segregated in terms of racial mixing and animosity between the races than NYC or Los Angeles. Obama moved to Chicago because it is a center for African American politics and he wanted to establish a strong African American identity to support his political ambitions. He could have stayed in NYC or gone back to LA. Not only are African Americans self-segregated in Chicago, but other ethnicities too, going back to influx of German and Polish, Irish and Greek immigrants, all living in distinct neighborhoods. NYC has had that too, but less entrenched and more fluid. Not sure why. Maybe someone who reads urban sociology can help explain this.

    In integrated schools, kids self-segregate by race and ethnicity in the cafeteria. Prisoners in prisons are segregated by race and ethnicity. It is where many white inmates learn white supremacy. On college campuses, kids self-segregate to a greater or lesser extent. Biracial kids are strongly pressured socially to declare a black racial identity.

    If we would like kids to cross these racial lines as adults, we need to give them opportunities to learn to interact with diverse others before the tendency to self-segregate becomes entrenched. It is unclear whether the grouping are because of discomfort with others, but if greater comfort is encouraged at a younger age, perhaps the lines can become fuzzier and people can have greater acceptance of each other as adults.

    This is, of course, distinct from education goals. The main reason for integrating schools is that resources follow white students. If minority schools are to receive better funding and other resources, they need to be integrated.

    Why does Somerby only hint and never talk about anything substantive?

    1. Substantive issues are not in play here - it is a vanity blog.

  5. The report is
    “a report which is widely cited to this very day and concerns a deeply important topic.”

    The topic of the report is segregation. So, is Somerby saying segregation is an important topic?

    He uses the term “racial isolation”:

    “In theory and in principle and surely in practice, "racial isolation" is an actual problem in many of our American public schools.”

    “In theory and in principle, such isolation is bad for American kids, as it is for American adults.”

    He has previously objected to the very word “segregation” as a relic of the Jim Crow South. And he objects to the definitions and levels of segregation used in the report. And yet, the report details the level of “racial isolation” in New York schools, using the term “segregation” as a measure of “racial isolation”, which, as Somerby assures us, he believes is an important topic.

    And then we come to this:

    “Because the topic is so important, one might sensibly wish for more stringent scholarship. Instead, we get a bewildering array of statistics whose principle objective seems to be the furtherance of so-called Liberal Scold Culture”

    Yes, the topic is “so important” that he objects to a statistical, academic study that uses statistics. That he labels these statistics “bewildering”, is an admission that indicates his own ignorance, or bad faith; no one can ever say for sure which. Any halfway competent person can read and understand the statistics. And he resorts to his favorite word—“seems”—to ascribe motive to the report and its authors.

    If the topic is so important, why can’t Somerby see beyond the use of the word “segregation” and understand that the report is a serious study of the very topic he claims to find so important?

    The answer is that he *cannot* or will not see beyond the word segregation. Aside from a few ridiculous quibbles, his entire criticism of the report is based on that word. Somerby’s failure to get past this semantic objection prevents him from dealing with a serious report about an important topic in a serious way. It makes his treatment of the report frivolous.

    1. Exactly. Seems that way, anyway.

  6. "...perhaps in search of a more suitable climate in which to grow the various beans it unhelpfully counts to this day"

    Mmm-mmm good.

    "In theory and in principle and surely in practice, "racial isolation" is an actual problem in many of our American public schools."

    Yeah, right. And you know where else, Bob? In DR Congo and in Inner Mongolia. So why don't you immediately start busing pale-skinned children your zombie cult controls to those places?

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