In class, we've been thinking about the context of the photo The Soiling of Old Glory. While some people may think that desegregation ended with the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, educational segregation persisted. According to Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns, rather than embrace integration,"much of the South translated" the phrase with all deliberate speed "loosely to mean whenever they got around to it." Shockingly, "one county in Virginia closed its entire system for five years, from 1959 to 1964, rather than integrate." Chickasaw, MS, she reports, "didn't integrate until 1970. Private schools sprouted up all over the country to create a de facto segregation that complied with the de jure integration the Court had endorsed.
Sadly, such responses were not limited to the the 60's or the 70's or even to the South. In fact, we may see similar battles being fought right here in Chicago today.
In an article in last year's Reader, Steve Bogira argues that " the vast majority of CPS students are still in schools that are highly segregated, racially and economically."
Incredibly, "85% of all CPS students are [classified to be] low income" and
"nearly one-third of [CPS]schools have enrollments that are at least 95 percent low-income...[those schools] are also 97 percent Hispanic and African-American."
In part this segregation is attributable "to middle- and upper-class families enrolling their kids in private schools or moving to the suburbs once their children reach school age." Sound familiar?
Since the link between low income and low test scores is well documented, Bogira offers a bold proposal: "Rather than concentrating on raising test scores, school and city officials should focus on sharply reducing CPS's low-income proportion. Do that, and test scores and graduation rates will take care of themselves." Low income students would not be the only winners in an integrated school system. Middle and upper-class white students would benefit, according to an education analyst in the article, since "it's good for their children to be in a more diverse environment."
How possible, how plausible, is Bogira's proposal? To what extent can we say we've made progress as a nation on this issue of education?