Who knew a school system in Kentucky would be the poster child for the power of continued, focused desegregation efforts? Despite fierce resistance by hate group the Ku Klux Klan and legal challenges that went as high as the US Supreme Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky has the highest ratio of poor, rich, white, and black integration in the state, and remains higher than many places around the country. How is this fantastic program being attacked? By the educational equivalent of gerrymandering via a bill being pushed that would require a “return to neighborhood schools.”
“This is a bill that will resegregate our schools, taking us back to the ’60s and ’70s,” said Chris Kolb, a graduate of Jefferson schools and a member of the county school board, which opposes the measure. “This will be the death of integration.” Source: Washington Post
This is one large example of many of the pressure on our school systems to resegregate. While proponents of charter schools, vouchers, and the [very coded and charged] “school choice” movement like to hold up the flag of accountability and quality as their reason du jour for the push to segregate, it’s hard to hide the racial and class bias that is driving the movement. Integrated schools teaching a diverse curriculum and encouraging experiences outside of class or race boundaries create a better educated, more well-rounded and accepting group of kids. Instead, proponents of educational segregation want to knock us back to the 1960s or beyond, removing opportunity for anyone not already born into it.
What are some of the benefits of diverse learning environments?
- Diverse school environments promote and enhance improved cognitive skills, including problem-solving and critical thinking.
- Mechanisms of general change toward diversity and inclusion decrease the distance separating racial and class groups over the course of generations, putting more equal opportunity in reach for all.
- Greater cognitive growth and cross-boundary inclusion due to diversity in education in early childhood leads to better education opportunities and outcomes at college-age and in adulthood.
- For the first time in our history, the K-12 student body across the nation is reflective of our country’s true melting pot status: less than 50% white, non-Hispanic. This means segregation would put students of all races and classes at a competitive disadvantage as adults.
- College-level education policy and K-12 level education policy have diverged widely in respect to addressing diversity and integration. More research on the benefits of diversity and integration at the college level combined with affirmative action policies have created more diversity at the top of the educational food chain. Meanwhile, political bickering, implicit individual bias in policy makers, and too much focus on testing outcomes over true needs and real results. This results in less diversity in students moving from K-12 to higher education.
- Diversity and integration promotes more than just cognitive skill. It also enhances general knowledge, student satisfaction, student motivation, and intellectual self-confidence. Additionally, students with more open minds thanks to diversity have more engaging classroom interactions, debates, and discussions.
- The APA draws a direct line between implicit bias, lack of diversity, and disrupted cognitive functioning for not only minorities and lower class students, but majority and higher class students as well. In short: systemic racism harms everyone.
What you can do: Advocate for your school system to be inclusive, become involved in politics at the local level – like your school board – to ensure policies take all students into account, and donate to organizations that support education.
Source Antonio, A., Chang, M., Hakuta, K., Kenny, D., Levin, S. and Milem, J. (2017). Effects of Racial Diversity on Complex Thinking in College Students – May 06, 2016. [online] Journals.sagepub.com. Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.00710.x [Accessed 1 Apr. 2017].
Source Wells, A. (2014). Seeing Past The “Colorblind” Myth of Education Policy. [online] National Education Policy Center. Available at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/pb-colorblind_0.pdf [Accessed 1 Apr. 2017].
Source Hochschild, J.L. and Weaver, V., Burch, T. (2017). Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America. (eBook, Paperback and Hardcover, Princeton University Press). [online] Available at: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9688.html [Accessed 1 Apr. 2017].
Source: Patricia Gurin, Eric Dey, Sylvia Hurtado, and Gerald Gurin (2002) Diversity and Higher Education: Theory and Impact on Educational Outcomes. Harvard Educational Review: September 2002, Vol. 72, No. 3, pp. 330-367. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.17763/haer.72.3.01151786u134n051
Source: (2017). Groups.psych.northwestern.edu. Retrieved 1 April 2017, from http://groups.psych.northwestern.edu/spcl/documents/blk_stroop.pdf
Source: Race-Conscious Educational Policies Versus a “Color-Blind Constitution”: A Historical Perspective – Oct 13, 2016 . (2017). Educational Researcher. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3102/0013189X07306534
Source: When the classroom speaks: A public university’s First Amendment Right to a Race-Conscious Admissions Policy (2017). Scholarlycommons.law.wlu.edu. Retrieved 1 April 2017, from http://scholarlycommons.law.wlu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=crsj
Note: Many of the sources for this article came in turn from a much (much) broader and deeper report in the state of integration in education put out by The Century Foundation. Highly recommend reading it in its entirety.
image credit: “Unity amidst diversity” by EddyPua