Friday, September 12, 2014

Separate is not equal

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?

7 comments:

Spencer James said...

Bogira's proposal is intrguing and I do agree that raising the average income of CPS families would raise test scores. However, Bogira makes this feat sound far too simple. If it was easy to raise the income of a given area in a city, it would have already been done by now. I think that any move that the city makes, from raising the minimum wage to changing taxes based on income, would have its both positive and negative consequences, and take years to change academic peformance of Chicago Public Schools.

Ellie L said...

This proposal sounds promising and beneficial in writing, but is virtually impossible in reality. If raising the income was truly a possible option, it would have already been done. While I agree that this would be beneficial, I do not believe that it is possible.

Isabelle Tashima said...

I completely agree with Bogira that reducing CPS's low-income proportion would raise test scores and keep children in school longer. However, this "simple" idea is not so simple a proposal, as raising the average income of these families would be extremely difficult based on the current economic state of society. Making a large change (raising wages, providing higher-paying jobs, etc) would be necessary in order to reduce the low-income proportion, but this is not something that I see happening in the near future due to the difficulties that would be encountered during the process. It is a good idea, but maybe a far-fetched one.

OC said...

Thanks for your comments, but I wonder about the logic that "if it were possible it would already be done." Might not people have said that about ending slavery, giving women the right to vote, or same-sex marriage? What of Bogira's discussion of feasibility? The example of Newton, MA, and the hopeful changes in the attitudes of the young? Last, we might also consider the CONSTRUCTION of our current system. While many argue that we don't have the money to change the system fundamentally, we have spent over 1 trillion dollars in the so-called "War on Terror." Doesn't that suggest that we've had the money all along? Isn't it really a question of priorities?

Claire H said...

I completely agree with Mr. O'Connor. If we used the logic, "If it were possible it would have already been done", nothing in this country would ever change because we would think everything is simply "impossible". While it is not "impossible", it would be very difficult to change the amount of de facto segregation in the CPS. I wonder how Bogira was planning to reduce the low-income-proportion in CPS. Would he want the government to raise wages and provide higher paying jobs to raise the income for lower-class families like Isabelle suggested, or was he planning on trying to bring more upper/middle-class, white children to the CPS to balance out the proportion. In the second case, I think there would be lots of resistance. We discussed in class awhile ago how we thought our parents would react if we were forced to go to a school in the CPS instead of New Trier, and most students suggested their parents would be very opposed to it. There are multiple ways one could go about reducing the proportion, but they all include some form of resistance and a high level of difficulty to achieve.

Thomasina R said...

I agree with Claire and Mr. O'Connor--Borgira's proposal will be difficult to put into action and will take time to make its full effect, but it is not impossible. Mr. O'Connor made a very interesting and true point when he mentioned the 1 trillion dollars spent on the "War on Terror." I think that the money that is being spent on war should be very small, and that our government should focus more on improving the everyday lives of America's citizens--by raising the funds of education.

Colin W said...

I completely agree with Bogira's proposal to fixing the problem of fixing the segregation that is currently active in CPS schools today. I actually blogged about a similar topic earlier this year that talked about the amount of african american and hispanic students compared to whites. However, I think that Bogira's proposal is very unlikely to happen. Once segregation between races starts, it is extremely difficult to get rid of as we have seen in our history. The idea of upper-class people moving into CPS districts is highly unlikely due to the environments surrounding these schools. The teachers in these schools are not equipped with the learning resources in higher class schools. The neighborhoods surrounding CPS schools are also worse compared to upper class neighborhoods. In order for this proposal to be more logical, CPS school environments need to improve as well as neighborhoods surrounding the schools.