"SEGREGATION" FOREVER: Segregation comes to Wobegon!

FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2019

"Segregation" today and tomorrow:
For the record, Garrison Keillor was only kidding when he invented his fictional town.

In his weekly monologue about the (fictional) town, he would call his imagined community, Lake Wobegon, "the little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve."

The closing words of the monologue may have become more famous than the rest. Keillor would say the following about the (invented) town:

"Well, that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

The children were all above average! The claim sounds silly, but it isn't impossible, depending on the group to whom some actual town's actual children are being compared.

As a general matter, there are very few towns where the kids are all above average. That said, our professors have now created a world in which our nation's public schools could all be perfectly racially balanced, but "segregated" at the same time!

We refer to the world created by Professors Orfield and Kucsera in their work at UCLA's high-profile Civil Right Project.
In a widely-cited report in March 2014, Kucsera and Orfield unveiled a new definition of "segregation" in the context of public schools.

Forget what Governor Wallace had in mind when he made his famous speech demanding "segregation forever." Wallace pictured the type of "segregation" where the black kids would all go to one school, the white kids to another.

That was then, but this is now. Providing some unintentional humor, Kucsera and Orfield redefined "segregated school" in the manner shown below. See page 32 of their frequently-cited report:
KUCSERA AND ORFIELD (2014): We measure evenness of racial group members across schools in a larger area using the dissimilarity index and the multi-group entropy (or diversity) index. These measures compare the actual pattern of student distribution to what it would be if proportions were distributed evenly by race. For example, if the metropolitan area were .35 (or 35%) black and .65 (or 65%) white students and each school had this same proportion, the indices would reflect perfect evenness. At the other end, maximum possible segregation or uneven distribution would be present if all of the schools in the metropolitan area were either all white or all black. With the dissimilarity index, a value above .60 indicates high segregation (above .80 is extreme), while a value below .30 indicates low segregation. For the multi-group entropy index, a value above .25 indicates high segregation (above .40 is extreme), while a value below .10 indicates low segregation.

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. To provide estimates of diverse environments, we calculate the proportion of each racial group in multiracial schools (schools with any three races representing 10% or more of the total student body).
Before we're done today, we'll briefly return to the dissimilarity index and the multi-group entropy index. But as of March 2014, this is the way the Civil Rights Project had redefined "segregation" in our public schools:
A segregated school: Any school in which 50% or more of the students are nonwhite.

An intensely segregated (or hyper-segregated) school: Any school in which 90% or more of the students are nonwhite.

An apartheid school: Any school in which 99-100% of the students are nonwhite.
All next week, we'll be examining the "intensely segregated schools" and the dispassionately named "apartheid schools" to which the professors refer.

We'll be asking why so many kids in certain states—for example, in the state of New York—are assigned to such schools.

Beyond that, we'll examine the way these kids get thrown under the bus when progressive professors examine "segregation," often through a borderline crackpot lens, while ignoring everything else.

But that's what we'll be doing next week. For today, let's stick with the unintentional humor which results from the definition of "segregated school" posted above.

As you can see in the passage we posted, Kucsera and Orfield told the world in March 2014 that any school in which 50 percent (or more) of the kids are "non-white" is a "segregated school."

The comedy starts when we consider the actual nature of our nation's student population. Let's do that right now.

Our schools are full of beautiful kids of a wide array of societal descriptions. Bean counters of the world, unite! This is the way the numbers looked when the National Center for Education Statistics counted the beans last fall:
Student enrollment, United States public schools, September 2018
White kids: 24.1 million (47.5%)
Black kids: 7.8 million (15.4%)
Hispanic kids: 14.0 million (27.6%)
Asian-American kids: 2.8 million (5.5%)
Biracial kids: 1.6 million (3.2%)
Native American: 0.5 million (1.0%)

Total enrollment: 50.7 million
Warning! Those numbers were projections by the NCES. But they're the most recent numbers around, and we think you can see the point.

Perhaps you can see where those numbers take us. Let's imagine that someone takes a magic wand and makes every public school in the land reflect those demographics.

It would be true in Lake Wobegon, but also everywhere else. Every school in the country would be perfectly racially balanced.

Every school would be perfectly average—and our schools would all look like this:
Student demographics of every school, not excluding those in Lake Wobegon
White kids: 47.5%
Black kids: 15.4%
Hispanic kids: 27.6%
Asian-American kids: 5.5%
Biracial kids: 3.2%
Native American kids: 1.0%
Those would be excellent schools! But as of this current school year, that's what every American school's "student distribution would be if proportions were distributed evenly by race" on a national basis.

Here's where the unintentional humor comes in. In terms of race and ethnicity, all those schools would be perfectly balanced—and each of those schools would be "segregated," according to Kucsera and Orfield!

Every school in the country would be more than 50 percent non-white! And according to The Westwood Two, any such school is "segregated!" You can see that in their report!

Question: How in the world can top professors produce a conceptual regimen that's so blatantly daft? We'd have to say this follows a pattern which is quite widespread in our tribe.

More and more, our self-impressed tribe enjoys an unattractive type of performative morality built around (frequently embellished) issues of gender and race. When the professors defined "segregation" the way they did, they were handing us a perfect new world—a world in which the average American school could be officially called "segregated" all through the annals of time!

"Segregation forever!" Governor Wallace once said. As of March 2014, Kucsera and Orfield had strangely invented a modern-day, pseudo-progressive version of that unfortunate dream.

They were keeping the word "segregation" alive. Even in a perfect world—a world of endless Lake Wobegons—"segregation" would always obtain in every American school!

Briefly, let's be fair. Let's choke out the words in which we assume that the professors' hearts are in the right place.

Let's also say that the professors identify some actual problems, or perhaps some obvious shortcomings, with the racial and ethnic distributions found in many American schools, especially in our big urban systems.

That's especially true when they count beans concerning "intensely segregated schools" and the dispassionately named "apartheid schools." We'll be looking at those topics all next week.

There—we're finished with that! In fact, even in the counting of beans which we'll look at all next week, the professors have their thumbs very much on the scale—and they engage in the noxious behaviors our tribal elites seem to love, the kinds of noxious behaviors which helped place Donald J. Trump where he is.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. That said, our tribal elites often spill with ridiculous conduct, as in the current example.

When they please themselves in these ways, they throw low-income kids under the bus. We'll examine this problem next week, after which we'll return to the work of the New York Times, which loves schools branded "elite."

"Every man a king," Huey Long once said. Kucsera and Orfield seemed to get into the joy juice too.

"Every school a segregated school," they said in 2014. After that, their version of a gruesome old cry:

"Segregation" forever!

Next week: Kucsera and Orfield pleasing shocker: "[The state of] New York has the most segregated schools in the country!"

Click here, see page vi.


  1. Somerby seems to be arguing that integration cannot be achieved because there are insufficient white kids to achieve it in urban areas. Is that true? Probably not, because in most urban areas there are white kids but they are not going to public schools. That is the civil rights issue -- not games with demographics.

    In all of the many articles he has written on this topic, I have not seen Somerby address this problem -- that white parents are sending their kids to alternative schools and avoiding public schools.

    Instead he rants at those professors who want to use the term segregated to refer to schools without white kids.

    If Somerby ever dealt with the racial aspects of this issue, he would have some standing to complain about labeling, but he never does. That makes him sound suspiciously like an apologist for abandoning civil rights for minority kids.

    Why is this a civil rights matter? Because resources and results improve for schools attended by white students. Separate just isn't equal these days. Further, there is an educational benefit to both minority kids and white kids when they go to school together, instead of isolating themselves. After graduation, all kids will work in a multicultural world and it is better if they feel comfortable with people who may be different than themselves culturally. So integrating schools to the extent possible is a worthwhile goal. Not one that should be mocked by folks like Somerby.

    Somerby has never explained why urging greater integration is throwing low income kids under the bus. What is bad about it?

  2. I know people who say they are not comfortable living in California. They move to places like Idaho and Wyoming. Do you imagine they are moving there so that they can vote Republican and own guns? They can do both of those things in California. They are moving to get away from the increasingly minority population of the state, and especially the urban areas. Is it racist to want to live separately from brown skinned, Spanish speaking people or Asian-American people?

    There are people who dislike seeing signs printed in Spanish or Chinese or Vietnamese. It makes them upset and angry to see neighborhoods with multilingual businesses. They are taking their children to places where they will never encounter anyone different, not even any different religions.

    What used to happen on the neighborhood level is now happening on the state level. Is it a good idea to encourage this? Or should communities try to create opportunities for people to understand each other, get along and value diversity?

    Now look at it on the school level. Should we all just shrug and say, "well, there just aren't enough white kids to truly integrate all schools everywhere, so let's not talk about it" or should we try to create school communities where all kids can feel valued, even white kids?

    If this argument were turned around and the schools were largely white and there were only a few black kids to go around, would we be arguing about whether to include them as much as possible (avoiding segregation) or would we be ignoring their existence and not worrying about it (or whatever alternative Somerby thinks is right)?

    Given that racial separatists prefer to have not one single black or brown face nearby and cannot seem to tolerate even a little mixing, we should be demanding that all schools attempt inclusion and that inclusion not rest on how many kids are available in each district but on the policies and practices in each district.

    Somerby wants to argue that we cannot use demographics to measure success at inclusion or anything else about this issue because there aren't enough white kids to make the effort worthwhile. That's ridiculous and he needs to stop this before we suspect he is actually arguing that white people should be left alone so that they can abandon public schools in favor of white havens, such as charter schools (which Somerby favors) or private schools, or homeschooling. Or moving to Idaho and Wyoming where all the schools are white and the kids are happy and their parents get to shoot things in the woods.

  3. "That said, our tribal elites often spill with ridiculous conduct, as in the current example."

    Not "often", Bob. Everything you zombie cult priests preach is flat-Earth-style bullshit. Every word of it.

    But hey, your pet zombies love it, and ask for more, so all's well.

  4. Deadrat keeps insisting that Somerby is only concerned with the immediate confusion over the word "segregated" and not with any broader issues. But why would a grown man post about a quibble over terminology, day after day, if he didn't have some larger point to make?

    My problem with Somerby is that it is unclear what his larger point is because he never states it directly. Deadrat doesn't understand what I mean by that, because Deadrat focuses only on the language issue -- the use of the word segregated and what it must mean. But can Somerby really be that trivial when he majored in philosophy in college? Wait, have I answered my own question?!

  5. “More and more, our self-impressed tribe enjoys an unattractive type of performative morality built around (frequently embellished) issues of gender and race.”

    This is the crucial passage in Somerby’s post. He essentially wants liberals to quit talking about women’s issues and African-American issues as separate issues. He would rather liberals discussed “corporate looting” (as he termed it recently), in other words, he wishes liberals would focus exclusively on economic issues without looking at the ways in which economics or “corporate looting” hurts women and blacks more severely than other groups. He views these discussions of women and blacks as exclusive of the needs of others, presumably white males, and that they cause liberals to lose votes from voters he presumably thinks liberals need. This is why he works so hard to discredit the so-called liberal discussions of women’s pay and segregated schools.

    He tells us that, for the same work, women earn close to the same as men. The implication is that there is no problem, and liberals therefore shouldn’t make a big deal of it.

    Similarly for segregated schools. If the notion that present-day schools are segregated is ridiculous, then there is no reason to talk about it.

    He is calling liberal concern for the specific plight of women and blacks “performative morality”, meaning it is insincere and ought to be abandoned. A “true” liberal such as himself knows the real issues lie elsewhere, though he himself never discusses these so-called real issues, so it is hard to guage the true meaning of liberalism that he has in mind.

    The problem is that corporations foster the conditions which create underclasses, and segregated schools and lower pay for women are an integral part of that, not separate from it.

  6. Years ago, Somerby approvingly trotted out Richard Rothstein, because of an article he wrote for Slate that pointed out the large score gains by black students on the NAEP math test. (Example of a TDH post: http://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/2016/09/where-naep-scores-are-truly-spectacular.html)

    It turns out, Rothstein also wrote this: “The Racial Achievement Gap, Segregated Schools, and Segregated Neighborhoods – A Constitutional Insult”, in which Rothstein says “Education policy is constrained by housing policy: it is not possible to desegregate schools without desegregating both low-income and affluent neighborhoods.”

    He also says: “The notion of de facto segregation is a myth, although widely accepted in a national consensus that wants to avoid confronting our racial history.”

    And: “But the conventional wisdom of contemporary education policy notwithstanding, there is no evidence that segregated schools with poorly performing students can be “turned around” while remaining racially isolated.”

    He mentions a study that shows the (positive) effects on achievement of desegregation: “NBER WORKING PAPER SERIES - LONG-RUN IMPACTS OF SCHOOL DESEGREGATION & SCHOOL QUALITY ON ADULT ATTAINMENTS”
    By Rucker C. Johnson (https://www.nber.org/papers/w16664.pdf)

    It is no mystery why Somerby never talked about THIS Rothstein report, because it undermines every single thing Somerby has ever written about education.

  7. As far as I remember, TDH has only written about the following two topic in public education: 1) the NAEP gaps and how the media refuses to report on them and 2) the media’s fascination with phony feel-good stories about school progress.

    The RCJ paper that you cite claims that sociological research can disentangle the threads of influence on schoolchildren to isolate the effect of attending integrated schools and show the benefits of that integration. Could you tell me how that contradicts “every single thing” TDH has written on education?

  8. TDH gives the impression that the report has made a damaging mistake by labeling schools as “segregated” and “apartheid,” and he’s right that these are charged words that were probably best avoided. And he complains that the falling population of white students makes segregation inevitable by the report’s standards.

    But it’s not like the authors are unaware of the demographics. Gary Orfield, one of the co-authors writes in the foreword

    New Yorkers often tell me that integration might be a good idea but it is impossible,
    because there are too few whites in the state’s big cities and the distances are too great to
    desegregate everyone. This is true, of course, about achieving full integration in some
    circumstances, but the argument that because
    everything cannot be done, means nothing should be done makes no sense.

    If TDH intends to dismiss the report because of terminology, I think he’s on the wrong track. The report contains an in-depth history of school integration efforts in New York, a review of the evidence for the beneficial effects of integration, and an exhaustive analysis of the demographics of the state’s schools. If TDH doesn’t like the word “segregation,” perhaps he can get behind the report’s synonym, racial isolation.

    As a bonus, the report is clear, well-written, and remarkably free of cant.

    The report also includes a list of recommendations that alas, remind me of the Month Python skit about a children’s TV show called “How to Do It,” in which one presenter, Alan (John Cleese) announces that the show will teach how to play the flute, how to split the atom, how to construct box girder bridges, and how to irrigate the Sahara. His explication of the first topic as he picks up a flute: “Well, you blow in one end and move your fingers up and down the outside.”

    The problem is that school “segregation” in New York follows housing segregation. And as the historical review makes clear, white communities are die-hard defenders of local control and ferocious opponents of allowing the proximity of lower-income families. And when they lose on either front, they move or at least move their children out public schools.

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