Thursday, January 6, 2011

Resegregation? Maybe. Racism? Nope.

Part 2: Is School Resegregation Really Make-Believe Racism?
For Part 1, please click here

OK - I admit it.

I've done a lot of hypothesizing regarding the interrelation between ecru flight, the changing demographics of urban and suburban populations, and the market forces behind exurbanization.

But the reason I've done so supports my even larger claim that McKissack is wrong to drag America's public school system back to the stone age of pre-1954 in terms of legalized racism. I've attempted to draw a vastly more complex picture of what has been taking place irrespective of the desegregation of schools at the dawn of suburbanization. These have been forces that may have started out with blatant racism as a motivator, but have dissolved into a murky mixture of post-industrial hubris, the human preoccupation with greener pastures, and the housing industry's sometimes illogical build-it-and-they-will-come business strategy.

It Gets Worse

I haven't even talked about the auto industry pushing for the interstate highway system, an invention which ended up spiraling completely out of control; aggressive corporate investment in urban schools to diversify their staffs and develop minority managers; and the migration of office centers from downtown cores to far-flung suburban outposts, which meant some urban workers drove against traffic to get to their jobs.

Nor have I talked about how the social indoctrination of public school pupils has pushed more and more middle-class families into the formerly rarefied world of private education. As liberal academics and educators tinkered with time-proven teaching methods; school districts waffled on discipline issues; and ill-substantiated special interests tucked classroom syllabi full of inane causes, holidays, observances, and preferences; parents who thought their kids were supposed to be going to school to be prepared for the real world suddenly found their kids couldn't read, write, or multiply. Well, they could multiply, but that was because of new sex education classes and free condom distribution in their schools.

At first, middle-class parents tried to fight the systems that were mandating all of these extra-curricular programs and theories. Then churches of all denominations started launching their own schools. Then homeschooling caught on with parents who wanted to further control what their kids were and weren't learning.

Even though they aren't as costly as the prototypical New England boarding schools, private schools run by churches still cost money. So only parents who hold stable, lucrative jobs can afford them. Homeschooling, too, costs money in that it denies at least one of the parents the opportunity to earn a paycheck. So single parents and minimum-wage earners - which describes many minority familes - can't really wing it, either.

Blaming Racism is too Easy

But are these problems created by racial strife? What strictures exist to prevent black people from earning enough money to send their kids to private schools? Come to think of it, who's preventing black parents from beating down the doors of their inner-city neighborhood schools, demanding that the social experimentation being conducted on their kids be stopped?

No, no, no! For McKissack to claim that America's educational tapestry is becoming "resegregated" betrays more of a stubborn refusal to recognize reality than to accept that economic class, not race itself, is dividing America.

First, McKissack writes that "in the 2006-07 school year... about 40 percent of black and Latino students attended schools that were 90 to 100 percent minority."

But he fails to acknowledge the reasons for that homogeneity. It has nothing to do with politics or race, but everything to do with generational poverty, a well-documented ambivalence towards education among poor minorities, and increasing frustration among more affluent parents regarding ineffective public school standards. It shouldn't be too obvious that the main polarizing influence in this scenario is income, and in the United States, income is tightly bound to education. And education comes from simple tenacity and a willingness to subordinate instant gratification for future rewards.

Second, McKissack presumes that "desegregating schools is not about political correctness or a cultural exercise. It's about the fundamental commitment to equality of opportunity."

Says who? Equal opportunity is a concept that has gotten so distorted that it hardly means anything anymore. If McKissack wants kids in generational poverty to have "equal opportunities" for education as white kids, then how can he explain all of the billions of dollars that are spent every year by urban school districts - amounts that rival or exceed those expended by suburban and exurban districts? In New York City, every teacher must either possess or be working towards a masters degree. How many suburban and exurban districts have that requirement?

Why This is Important

The reason McKissack's refusal to face facts is so important is because slinging racial mud on the education divide in this country won't solve anything. I'm not saying we don't still have problems with racism in this country. But neither am I admitting that having classrooms full of black and Hispanic kids somehow intrinsically inhibits their education. Particularly today, when institutionalized racism of the past plays no role in whatever "resegregation" may be taking place.

If, indeed, McKissack has a point in terms of disparities in educational quality between mostly-brown and mostly-white schools, he's not helping find a solution by relying on the liberals' old crutch of racism. How many generations of students have already been wasted on ethereal, capricious educational experimentation in urban and suburban school districts? Where's the proof that school districts and those that govern them are colluding to stratify the pupils in their care by subjugating minorities? If those schools which claim minority-majority enrollment can't attract whites - which we haven't even considered to be a viable educational tool anyway - why don't they?

Let's face it: the schools every parent wants their kids to attend are the schools where all of the other parents are involved in the education of their children. The more parents who shrug off their obligation to participate in the educational experience, the worse the school is going to get.

It doesn't depend on the color of one's skin.

And to insist that it does, despite all of the proof to the contrary, risks painting yourself, Mr. McKissack, as the one with a race-based agenda.

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