At the Times, it needs "desegregation:" Within one particular human tribe, everyone said that they loathed pubic school "segregation"—but no one could say what it was!
So we were told, in recent weeks, by several top future scholars. Concerning the insight we derived from this episode, we'd rank it as our greatest anthropological learning to date.
The top expert scholars to whom we refer were members of Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves, the despondent group which reports to us from the years which lie beyond the global conflagration they refer to as Mister Trump's War.
These experts were discussing one of the ways we in our current liberal tribe construct our tribal "fictions"—the mandated declarations of faith which establish tribal membership. They spoke, as always, in the past tense as they described our current liberal morés.
Everybody hates segregation, but no one can say what it is? In particular, these experts referred to current waves of mainstream upper-end journalism decrying "public school segregation."
They noted the promiscuous way this fraught term is employed, calling it part of the prehistoric process through which tribal bonding has always been formed. "Within this rapidly failing tribe, every sentence had to have a noun and a verb and the word segregation," one scholar mordantly told us.
Once we liberals have declared our loathing of public school "segregation," nothing else we say has to make any sense! So these gloomy anthropologists said, describing the way our tribe fell to ruin—and yes, they offered examples.
Within the past week, they spoke to us about last Saturday's front-page report in the Washington Post. Perry Stein's report about PTO groups started off like this:
STEIN (9/21/19): Mike Dixon left his first visit to his son’s new school deflated. The Dixons had scored a seat at a Chinese-language charter school in the District that families clamor to attend.Stein had made some peculiar claims at the start of her report, these experts skillfully told us:
His children would be attending a diverse public school—a rarity in a city where most schools are segregated and the student population is overwhelmingly black.
But when Dixon attended a school open house in 2012, he was one of the few black parents in the room. And when he returned for an evening parent meeting, he was again one of the only black parents. He believed he didn’t belong, so he stopped attending.
She said "most Washington schools are segregated," a claim she never explained or tried to define.
She said the District's "student population is overwhelmingly black," a claim she never attempted to quantify, and a claim which has a slightly strange sound.
Beyond that, she referred to a particular Washington public charter school—the Washington Yu Ying Public Charter—as a "diverse public school." With great sagacity, the scholars told us that we should fact-check all three of those claims.
Below, you see some of the things we learned when took this expert advice.
First, is the District's student population "overwhelmingly black?" To our ear, this statement has a rather strange feel, and Stein never offered real numbers.
We'll offer two sets of data today. First, here are the numbers for the District's traditional public schools in the 2017-2018 school year:
Student enrollment, D.C. Public Schools, 2017-2018Was that group of schools "overwhelmingly black?" To our ear, that peculiar statement has a slightly peculiar feel.
(Traditional public schools only)
White kids: 15%
Black kids: 60%
Hispanic kids: 20%
Asian-American kids: 4%
That said, almost half of Washington's public schools kids attend public charter schools. For demographics of those schools, you can just click here.
Combining numbers from those two groups of schools, here's our best approximation for the total student enrollment in all D.C. public schools:
Student enrollment, D.C. public schools, 2017-2018Is that population "overwhelmingly black?" It's pretty much as you like or perhaps don't especially like it.
(Charter schools included)
White kids: 11%
Black kids: 67%
Hispanic kids: 18%
Asian-American kids: 3%
Our reasons for checking those numbers will become clear below. Meanwhile, are most of Washington's public schools actually "segregated?"
We don't have the slightest idea how to evaluate that claim. Stein never explained what she meant by that rather fraught claim. As such, her claim illustrates what we were told about modern liberal tribal narrative in this fraught arena:
Once a liberal signaled her loathing of public school "segregation," nothing else she said had to make any sense.
According to these anthropologists, statements like Stein's served the purpose of affirming a tribal "fiction." Such statements served no other purpose, we were convincingly told. In particular, the attempt to convey information played no part in this hard-wired game.
This brought us to the third part of our assignment. We'd been told that we should see if the Washington Yu Ying Charter School was actually "diverse."
For ourselves, we'd say the answer is yes and no. In terms of "race" and ethnicity, the school's enrollment looked like this:
Student enrollment, Yu Ying Public Charter School, 2016-2017On its face, we ourselves would be inclined to call that enrollment diverse! In the abstract, that student enrollment looks A-OK to us!
White kids: 30%
Black kids: 36%
Hispanic kids: 5%
Asian-American kids: 10%
Multiracial kids: 19%
That said, this school is much more white and Asian, and much less black and Hispanic, than the D.C. public schools as a whole. And not only that! Its students come from much higher-income families than D.C. kids as a whole.
Good God! According to the D.C. Public Schools, 77% percent of its students are "economically disadvantaged."
But holy cow! At the Yu Ying Public Charter, only 10.5% of the kids are "economically disadvantaged!" As such Yu Ying is a school with a heavily middle-class student body, drawn from within a heavily low-income student population.
An irony therefore appears. In Stein's report in the Post, Yu Ying is described as "a diverse public school" within a larger system where "most schools are segregated."
But within the frequently muddled writing which has emerged at the New York Times, Yu Ying would be the type of school which needs to be "desegregated!" Its overall profile is very much like the academically selective middle schools in Manhattan which have attracted that newspaper's ire because they're more white and Asian than the city's schools on the whole, and because they're much higher income.
In the Post, Yu Ying is praised for being "diverse." At the Times, it would need to be "desegregated!" So it goes as our "liberal" tribe continues to move toward Mister Trump's War, or so leading experts have told us. And yes:
This is one of the conceptual jumbles which dogs "elite" thinking today.
Let's return to Stein's most striking claim—the claim that "most [D.C.] schools are segregated." Is that striking claim really true? And what does it actually mean?
As a matter of anthropology, none of that matters, top experts have said. Throughout its relatively brief history, the species in question ran on tribal fictions. In the case of this highly performative tribe, once you said you loathed "segregation," nothing else had to make sense!
"Man [sic] was the tribal animal." So future experts now claim!