"Segregation" today: A few weeks back, Kevin Drum published a post about the state of American public schools. It ran beneath this headline:
"Why Are American Schools So Segregated?"
In what way are American public schools currently "segregated" at all? In his opening paragraph, Drum made an accurate statement. Then, defaulting toward the rational, he perhaps made a bit of an error.
Drum's error came from an understandable place—he was defaulting towards (relative) sanity. For better or worse, our current liberal tribal discourse doesn't automatically do that.
That said, Drum's possible error is highly revealing. Headline included, here's how his post began:
DRUM (5/18/19): Why Are American Schools So Segregated?Drum started with an accurate statement.
You’ll often read or hear that American schools are more segregated today than they were 50 or 60 years ago. The technical measure used to demonstrate this is usually something like the number of schools in which non-white students make up, say, 90 percent or more of the total enrollment. But why has this increased?
It's true! You do "often read or hear that American schools are more segregated today." In fact, we liberals love to say that! After we say it, we may tend to strut about, posturing about the admirable way we so very much care.
Drum's first statement was accurate. The possible error came when he defaulted to something resembling common sense, or perhaps displayed a general tendency to avoid The Crazy.
Drum was avoiding The Crazy. On balance, though, we'd have to say he was wrong when he offered the relative sanity of this inaccurate claim:
"The technical measure used to demonstrate this is usually something like the number of schools in which non-white students make up, say, 90 percent or more of the total enrollment."
Drum referred to schools in which non-white students make up 90 percent or more of the enrollment. He seemed to say that this is the way our tribal shouters, eggheads and posers now define a "segregated school."
On balance, that pretty much isn't the case. But just for the record, this might be the student enrollment at such a modern-day "segregated" school:
Student enrollment, Public School AAccording to the definition Drum cited, Public School A would be classified as a "segregated school." Does that way of thinking make sense?
White kids: 10 percent
Black kids: 30 percent
Hispanic kids: 30 percent
Asian-American kids: 30 percent
It's pretty much as you like it! Without any question, that school's enrollment would not reflect the national student population, whose contours we will examine as our reports this week roll along.
On that basis, Public School A could clearly be described as "racially imbalanced" as compared to the student population of the nation as a whole. On the other hand, that school would not have been seen as "segregated" back in George Wallace's day.
For background, see yesterday's report.
Indeed, when Wallace gave his famous 1963 speech demanding "segregation forever," that school would have been considered a public offense against segregation. In fact, in Governor Wallace's state, Public School A would have been illegal!
In 1963, in Wallace's state, "segregated schools" looked like this. There were no other examples:
Student enrollment, Public School BThose were the "segregated schools" the governor had in mind when he made his famous speech. Those schools were "segregated" de jure—by law. By law, black kids and white kids were kept totally separate.
White kids: 100 percent
Black kids: 0 percent
Student enrollment, Public School C
White kids: 0 percent
Black kids: 100 percent
In fairness, language use routinely changes over time. Also, even back then, reference was sometimes made to "de facto" segregation in some public schools which operated outside the "dual systems" of the South.
For ourselves. we wouldn't be inclined to describe our current-day Public School A as a "segregated school." To our ear, that locution, when applied to such present-day schools, stinks of stolen valor and of tribal posturing, a stance at which our liberal tribe increasingly seems to excel.
We wouldn't be inclined to say that Public School A is "segregated." But in that recent post, Drum was applying a much saner standard for "segregation" than the one tribal leaders now use.
To consider the standard our savants employ, we must travel to the offices of UCLA's influential, widely cited Civil Rights Project. This journey will take us to, or close to, Westwood 90095.
What the heck is the Civil Rights Project? It's the institution you'll typically see cited when our tribe begins to declaim about public school "segregation." The leading authority on this matter provides the basic background:
The Civil Rights Project...is a renowned multidisciplinary research and policy think tank focused on issues of racial justice. In January 2007, The Civil Rights Project moved from Harvard University to the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA.Not that there's anything wrong with it! But as the leading authority states, the Civil Rights Project has published a series of reports on "school segregation," reports which are widely cited in newspapers and academic journals.
It was founded by Christopher Edley, Jr. (formerly of Harvard Law School, now Dean of Boalt Hall Law School at UC Berkeley) and Gary Orfield (formerly of Harvard Graduate School of Education, now Professor of Education at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies) in 1996 to provide needed intellectual capital to academics, policy makers and civil rights advocates.
The Project has published a series of monographs on school segregation in various states. These studies are frequently cited in national publications with comparative statistics by state.
Almost surely, the Civil Rights Project's most commonly cited report on "school segregation" is its 2014 report on New York State. In a statement we liberals often seem to find both astounding and pleasing, that report announced that "New York [State] has the most segregated schools in the country."
You can peruse that 2014 report here. Warning! Professor Orfield's carelessly-written Foreword may lead you to think that the report is a study of the public schools of New York City rather than New York State.
To this day, publications sometimes say that this report claimed that New York City "has the most segregated schools in the country." We'll assume that this lingering error may have gotten its start with Orfield's somewhat undisciplined prose.
(To see this howler emerge in real time, see this March 2014 report from The Daily Beast.)
Whatever! When we march to our holy wars, our habits may sometimes slip. But the Civil Rights Project is the go-to source for reports about present-day "segregated schools," and its report on the schools of New York State may be its most widely cited publication.
In his recent post, Drum erred on the side of not being just this side of insane. When the professor finally gave their definition of "segregated schools," they took the lonelier road.
What are modern-day "segregated schools?" They don't have to resemble the "segregated schools" of Wallace's day!
On page 32, the professors explained. This is what they said:
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.For today, let's ignore the dissimilarity index and the multi-group entropy index. According to Professors Kucsera and Orfield, a "segregated school" was, as of 2014, any school in which 50% or more of the students were non-white.
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).
In fact, the measure Drum described is the measure the professors use to define an intensely segregated (or hypersegregated) school. If a school has virtually no white kids at all—think all the schools in Laredo, Texas—that school is an apartheid school, these dispassionate scholars now said.
At any rate, there it was—"Segregation" 2014! If half the kids in a public school are white, that means the school is "segregated!" We've truly come a very long way from Wallace's futile bold stand.
Tomorrow, we'll look at the sorts of modern-day schools which are "segregated" according to this definition. On Friday, we'll briefly visit Lake Wobegon to imagine a sprawling continental nation in which every school is "segregated," if only by tribal diktat.
Along the way, we'll think about the reasons why so many people think our tribe is totally nuts. Also this:
We'll say a prayer for all the kids whose lives and interests we disregard when we self-display in this manner. More on those kids next week.
Tomorrow: "Segregation" today!
Coming Friday: "Segregation" forever!
Next week: The sidewalks (and the empty forests and fields) of the big sprawling state of New York