But where does the murky claim come from: In our tribe, we love to make that claim!
As if to prove our infallible point, Eric Levitz made the claim just yesterday. He did so at the start of a somewhat peculiar essay for New York magazine:
LEVITZ (8/30/19): New York City’s public school system is among the most racially segregated in America. It is also one of the few school systems that uses standardized tests to sort incoming kindergarteners into separate “gifted” and non-gifted educational tracks.By paragraph 3, the youngish scribe was linking us to videotape of George Wallace declaring, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!" Trust us:
Wallace wasn't endorsing unbalanced enrollment in gifted and talented programs. But so it goes as tribal devotion to yesterday's history spreads.
At any rate, consider that initial claim. "New York City’s public school system is among the most racially segregated in America!"
Our team loves that claim! On the down side, it isn't real clear what that claim even means, and standards tend to disappear when we attempt to source it.
In Levitz's case, he sourced the claim to this report by a New York City TV station. In fact, the body of the lengthy report makes no such claim as the one Levitz states. But for some reason which goes unexplained, its headline announces this:
NYC has the country’s most segregated schools; will the city’s plan to change that make its best schools worse?We don't know what the first part of that headline actually means. That said, its fiery claim goes beyond the weaker claim Levitz sources to it.
Do you see what can happen when tribal members start reciting sacred litany? Standards of sourcing go down the drain. And adepts don't even feel the need to explain what the sacred claim means.
That said, is it true? Is Gotham's giant public school system one of the most "segregated" in the country? Indeed, do we even know what that claim means?
Given the fact that it thrills us deeply, can you explain what the claim actually means? Could you describe the type of data on which the claim is based?
Almost surely, the answer is no, but we know that the claim must be true. We know this because the claim keeps appearing in front-page reports in the New York Times. Eliza Shapiro repeated it for the ten millionth time one week ago today:
SHAPIRO (8/24/19): New York is home to one of the most segregated school systems in the country. Black and Hispanic students make up 70 percent of the system, and white and Asian students represent about 15 percent each. About three-quarters of students are low income, and roughly half the city’s schools are more than 90 percent black or Hispanic."New York [City] is home to one of the most segregated school systems in the country." Shapiro repeats this claim all the time. But how can we know if this statement is true? And what does the claim even mean?
To answer your question, we decided to start clicking Shapiro's links. After an extended search, we were able to find the source of the Nile—the original source of her claim.
Along the way, we were forced to observe the slipshod behavior which characterizes modern tribal elites, on both the journalistic and the academic sides. That said, we still aren't entirely sure what the claim really means, or if the claim is justified or reasonably close to correct.
At any rate, let's get started! Our journey will take us through four or five links until we reach the tribal headwaters for this treasured claim.
The most recent source of the claim:
Most recently, Shapiro repeated this familiar claim in an on-line report with Vivian Wang earlier this week. Here's what the journalists wrote:
WANG AND SHAPIRO (8/27/19): For years, lawmakers in deeply blue, proudly progressive New York City have grappled with a seemingly intractable problem: Its schools are among the most segregated in the nation.Gotham's school "are among the most segregated in the nation," the scribes wrote. This was a slightly fuzzier version of Shapiro's statement from last Saturday's front page (see above).
Last Saturday, Shapiro provided no source for her claim. On Tuesday, a link was provided. Without fear or favor, we clicked.
Second source of the claim:
Tuesday's link took us to an earlier news report—to an earlier news report by Shapiro herself!
That's right! In sourcing Tuesday's claim, Shapiro merely linked to herself back in March. Here's what she wrote at that time:
SHAPIRO (3/27/19): New York City is starkly different today than it was 50 years ago. It is politically more liberal, and far more racially diverse. Yet one aspect has barely changed: The city’s public schools remain among the most segregated in the nation.Again, that's a slightly fuzzier version of the slightly more explicit claim. But what did Shapiro mean by that claim, and how could we know it was accurate?
At that time, Shapiro provided a link. Hungry for learning, we clicked.
Third (alleged) source of the claim:
The link Shapiro provided in March took us to academia. More precisely, it took us to this 2014 press release, issued in the name of UCLA's Civil Rights Project.
Uh-oh! Nothing in that press release says a single word about the extent of "segregation" in New York City's schools as compared to other school systems. The press release does describe a fiery report about segregation, but the fiery report in question was focused on New York State.
In that sense, the link Shapiro provided in March was a technical dead-end. On the surface, it didn't prove a source for the widely-repeated claim that New York City "is home to one of the most segregated school systems in the country."
For most readers, the search for knowledge would have ended there. That said, we're familiar with that UCLA report, and so we clicked ahead, two more times, to access its full text.
This took us to our fourth source. Inside that UCLA report, this pleasing claim appears right at the start of the Executive Summary:
UCLA REPORT (3/26/14): Executive SummaryWe're now reviewing the work of two major progressive scholars. As a general matter, we'll say this:
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.
Sad! Also, don't let the children know about what follows.
For starters, Professors Kucsera and Orfield were talking about New York State in that opening sentence, although they were too careless to make that explicitly clear. Perhaps for that reason, many tribals have seemed to believe, to this very day, that their report said that New York City "has the most segregated schools in the country."
Their report made no such claim. For whatever it may be worth, we'll also note that the data reviewed in the UCLA report are now ten years old. Those data can only hint at the degree of "segregation" found in various schools and school systems today.
As you can see, the professors did say, though only in fleeting fashion, that New York City was "home to one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation." But here's where things get really sad.
The professors make no attempt to explain or demonstrate the truth of this claim at any point in their report. Instead, they provided a footnote in the executive summary, thereby providing a source for their claim.
Refusing to submit to exhaustion, we followed that link. It took us to our fourth source.
Fourth source for the claim:
How did the professors know that New York City was "home to one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation?" And what did they actually mean by this claim?
In all honesty, there's no sign that they actually did know any such thing. Their footnote led to an extremely murky graphic in—you guessed it!—the New York Times.
The graphic they cited appeared in the Times on May 11, 2012. It appeared beneath this headline:
New York City’s public schools are among the most segregated in the country.There it was! The widely repeated claim!
The graphic seems to compare the degree of "segregation" in the public schools of thirteen U.S. cities. They seem to have been the thirteen biggest U.S. cities at the time of the 2010 census, although the Times didn't explain the basis on which the cities were chosen.
According to the graphic, New York City's schools were less "segregated" than those in Chicago and Dallas. On the other hand, they were more "segregated" than those in the other ten locales. In fairness, the degree of "segregation" in Philadelphia, Houston and Los Angeles seemed to come fairly close to that found in New York.
In that sense, Gotham's system was the third most "segregated" out of thirteen, though it came fairly close to ranking only sixth. But in what did this "segregation" consist? What did that fiery claim mean?
By way of explanation, the Times provided only what's shown below. We'll try to explain what this means:
"Percentage of students that would have to move to achieve integration among blacks and whites in the largest U.S. cities, 2009-10."That's all the grey lady wrote! Though few Times readers would have had any way to know what that meant, we'll guess it meant something like this:
Suppose you wanted the racial enrollment in every single school to match the racial enrollment of your school system as a whole. That would be a highly artificial goal, but suppose you wanted to do it.
How many kids would have to change schools to achieve that state of Nirvana? According to the graphic in the Times, New York City's number was something like 78%. Philadelphia, Houston and L.A. seemed to be right at 70%.
Is that what the graphic's claim actually meant? We can't say we're totally sure. Also, please note this:
The graphic only claims to involve black and white kids. This could completely skew results, given Gotham's large enrollment of Hispanics and Asians.
Meanwhile, were the Times' findings actually accurate? Who knows! The Times provided no source for the findings it was presenting in this murky fashion.
Had the Times done the research itself? Had the research come from some other source? We can't exactly tell you that and, judging from appearances, neither could the two professors, who seem to have passed on a claim for which they couldn't vouch.
In our view, it's amazing to think that Kucsera and Orfield would make a claim of that type based on a single unsourced graphic in a newspaper like the Times. But remember, these guys are so far gone that, according to their published definitions, the hypothetical school shown below is a "segregated school:"
Student enrollment, Public School AWe'd call that school "paradise." But according to Kucsera and Orfield, a public school with that enrollment is—what else?—"segregated!"
White kids: 45%
Black kids: 20%
Hispanic kids: 20%
Asian-American kids: 15%
(According to the professors, that school doesn't have enough white kids! We've explained this tribal lunacy in the recent past.)
Could Gotham do a better job spreading its white kids around? Presumably, yes, it could, though residential patterns may differ greatly in those thirteen systems. (Or not.)
That said, you also have all these other school systems. How much "integration" can we achieve in these systems, and in so many others like them?
"White" enrollment, U.S. public school systemsAre Gotham's school less "integrated" than Detroit's? How about San Antonio's? Compare, contrast and discuss. Try to stay in touch with the real world.
Los Angeles: 9%
Miami/Dade County: 6.7%
San Antonio: 2%
New Orleans: 9%
Camden, N.J.: 1%
Gary, Ind.: 1%
East St. Louis, Mo. 0%
Compton, Calif.: 0%
We've been promoting a "search for tomorrow" all week at this site. Next week, and also in future years, good, decent black and Hispanic kids are going to be going to school in school systems, schools and classrooms which are heavily black and Hispanic.
No furious link to Governor Wallace will change that.
Within our floundering liberal tribe, we're now focused on moving handfuls of white kids around instead of addressing the real-world, public school needs of those black and Hispanic kids.
We also spend a lot of time pretending that the achievement gaps which damage their interests don't really exist. We've been throwing black kids under the bus in precisely this way for at least fifty years.
The tribal behavior seems massively self-involved. We like to talk about 1619. It makes us feel tribally pure.
At any rate, we've offered you the original source of Shapiro's familiar claim. Based on data from 2009, New York City's public schools were said to be third most "segregated" out of thirteen, though there wasn't a huge amount of difference between third worst and sixth.
This was based on a somewhat exotic definition of "segregation." Hispanic kids weren't part of the mix. The research was apparently done by the New York Times.
The research is now ten years out of date. Even now, do you understand how that research actually worked? Or is that claim possibly part of a novel, a novel we like to recite?
Coming: More to come