"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.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:
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).
A segregated school: Any school in which 50% or more 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.
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.
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 2018Warning! Those numbers were projections by the NCES. But they're the most recent numbers around, and we think you can see the point.
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
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 WobegonThose 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.
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%
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:
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.