Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Picture Says 1000 Words

Thus far, I have analyzed many statistics about the trends of school segregation and read many examples of schools that are still very segregated today; however, I have not yet analyzed photographs, which I think can sometimes say even more than a statistic, a story, or a report.

I came across the photo above during my research. It was taken in 1953, which was during the time of Jim Crow laws and prior to the Supreme Court case, Brown v. the Board of Education. Schools during this time were completely segregated, as demonstrated by this photo. All the students in the photo are African American. Some have lighter skin than others, but nevertheless, they are still enrolled in this school because they have traces of the African American race in them. Even the teacher in the room is African American, which shows a lack of diversity in the teaching staff as well. The teacher has a book in her hand, but none of the students except for one have supplies on their desks. Perhaps this is because of the lack of resources African American schools were provided with due to the Jim Crow laws. Isabelle Tashima, a classmate who researched the acheivement gap between African Americans and whites, said that at the time of Jim Crow laws, "Black children were required to attend schools in deteriorated buildings and use out of date books, taught by teachers who are paid significantly less than their white peers and had no educational opportunities." The teacher, who is not white, is most likely paid only a fraction of the salaray of a white teacher. Additionally, only one student in the class out of everyone has a book, so resouces are scarce. The photo is a clear representation of America during the time period in which it was taken - segregated and unequal.

However, this photo was taken 54 years later and looks almost identical to the first photo taken in 1953. If the 1953 photo so clearly representated that time period, does this photo represent 2007 and modern America?

Similar to the first photo, every single student in this classroom is African American. Unlike the first picture, these students all have books and supplies, which could possibily be as a result of the shift in emphasis from integrating schools to equal funding. However, if you look in the back of the classroom, all the computers look extremely out of date. In my school at the time this photo was taken, we had multiple computer labs full of the newest, Apple computers. Unlike this school, my school was majority white. We were given superior resources compared to this school, which is almost identical to the 1950s.

Unlike the previous two photos, this photo illustrates an all-white classroom. Another major difference is that this classroom is from a private school, while the other two pictures were from public schools. In order to get this photo, I simply searched "private school classroom" into Google Images. I did not need to write "white private school classroom", for every image that came up mirrored this image. All of the pictures were of white students who appeared to look extremely wealthy. From this, one could make the connection that private schools today are for the "white" and the "wealthy" and exhibit little to no diversity.

These students are wearing uniforms that are fairly formal and consist of multiple items - shirts, ties, sweaters, and pants. The all-black classroom's students wore uniforms too, but they were simply a red shirt. The white private school clearly places more emphasis on this and the uniforms represent the quality of education students receive. The students in this photo all look engaged, for many hands are raised. While we cannot see the teacher in this photo, one can infer the teacher is highly experienced for the students are very engaged in their learning and seem to prioritize their academics.

In what ways do you see segregation in your lives today? To what extent is it still apparent in our society?

Friday, April 24, 2015

An Invisible Fence

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post acknowledging the rise in school "segregation" in America today and last week, I wrote about different types of schools that are experiencing it. One of the primary reasons schools are still segregated in America today is because of the housing segregation in America.

The vast majority of high school students attend public high schools. In 2014, 14.7 million high school students attended a public school, while only five million students attended private schools. Public schools are determined by the location of one's home, so if there is housing segregation in America, then the schools will most likely be segregated as well. The number of public school students is so high, so many of them are exposed to segregation which makes it a huge American problem.

The primary reason to the residential segregation is the discrepancy in income between minorities and whites.

This picture illustrates a rise in the amount of income inequality from 1980-2010. While the percentage of lower income households has remained the same, the number of upper income families has increased by five percent within the past 30 years. The decrease in middle income families shows a decrease in diverse neighborhoods and schools, for these are usually inhabited by middle income families. The Gini index, which is a measure of inequality, has increased dramatically from 0.404 in 1980 to 0.469 in 2011.

The income inequality plays a dramatic role in the rise of housing segregation in America today because people from upper income households generally can afford houses in wealthy neighborhoods, which are segregated and separated from the poorer neighborhoods that the lower income families reside in. 

In addition to income, many people live in neighborhoods where they feel "comfortable", which often times means with people of the same race. Kyle Crowder, a sociology professor at the University of Washington, said, "Blacks tend to originate in neighborhoods with very high concentrations of blacks and, when they move, they tend to move to other places that have very high concentrations of blacks. Their typical destination is not a multiethnic neighborhood. The same is even more true for whites."

People live in towns with people similar to them, which only promotes further segregation of not only neighborhoods, but public schools as well. African Americans possibly only feel comfortable in minority neighborhoods because of America's negative portrayal of them in the past. The discrepancy of income and the desire to be with similar people create a large amount of residential segregation, which ultimately contributes to a large amount of public school segregation.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Two Cities, Two Situations

Like many other cities, a court forced the city of Louisville and Jefferson County (a county near Louisville) to integrate their schools in the 1970s. While many cities integrated upon the court’s orders, many of them slowly went back to having segregated schools because of a multitude of reasons. Despite what other cities did, Louisville and Jefferson County strived to maintain integrated schools.

In Jefferson County, more than half of the residents live below the poverty level; however, this does not stop students from obtaining a quality education. Both the city schools and schools in Jefferson County are in the same district and maintain well-integrated schools by busing students to different schools in the district. Neighborhoods in Louisville that are predominantly white have school demographics that are “49 percent white, 37 percent black, and 14 percent Latino and otherethnic and racial groups” because of busing. It is incredible that neighborhoods that are predominately white do not have predominantly white schools. This is extremely beneficial for students and one can argue that the tremendous amount of success Louisville has stems from the integrated schools and the valuable life lessons and corroboration skills they teach.  Students learn to interact with all races and classes. The principal at Hawthorne Elementary in Louisville said, “Our PTApresident will drive downtown into neighborhoods she probably would not havegone to, to pick up kids to bring to her house for sleepover.” People are willing to accept other people and bridge the gap between the rich and poor, black and white… what better proof is there than the sleepovers they have!

Unfortunately, not all school districts excel in having tremendous amounts of diversity like Louisville. Even in Winnetka, our schools are largely populated by whites and still very segregated. Everyone at New Trier is mainly white and wealthy, leaving little room for diversity.

Another city that is displaying large amounts of segregation is Detroit. Detroit and Louisville both had court orders in the 1970s that forced them to integrate schools by combining city schools with suburban schools. At the time, both areas were about 20 percent black and 80 percent white. While Louisville continued to keep the court order alive, Milliken v. Bradley wrongly released Detroit’s court order in 1974 and schools once again became segregated.

Myron Orfield, the director of the Insititute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota, found that in 2000, the average black Detroit student went to schoolwith less than two percent white students, but in Louisville, the average blackstudent went to a school that was half white. These comparisons show just how much the schools differentiated after the court order in Detroit was released and demonstrates the amount of power the court has on school segregation. These statistics ultimately led to African American students in Detroit being poorly educated and created a less accepting and unified world compared to Louisville, which has done everything right.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Downward Slope

While scrolling through many sites looking for information for my junior theme, one quote spoken by a parent of an African American high school girl stuck out to me:

The language in this quote is extremely significant. Walter Fields, the parent who said this quote, says that "now we arrive" at a place where segregation exists in the education system in America today. Americans are taught numerous times in their history curriculums about how schools used to be segregated prior to Brown v. Board of Education, which determined it unconstitutional to have separate public schools for blacks and whites. However, if schools cannot be segregated by law in America today, then how come we are "arriving at the point" where they are? Field's language suggests that American schools became less segregated, but are now once again returning to their segregated state.

I found this statement in this quote to be alarmingly true. The graph below shows the percentage of black students in predominantly white school. In 1954, right before Brown v. the Board of Education, there were no black students in majority white schools; however, after this was ruled unconstitutional,  the percentage of African American students started to rise until it hit its peak of 43.5% in 1988. This statistic isn't even that impressive, for over half of black students still attended schools that had a minority majority.  

Unfortunately, this percentage was short-lived and in 2011, we were at one of our lowest percentages yet with having only 23.2% of all African American students attend schools with a white majority. Clearly, school segregation still exists today and this graph shows an alarming trend in the future. 

While this graph represents schools nationwide, schools in Illinois are known for their segregated schools. In Illinois, along with New York, Maryland and Michigan, more than half of African American students attend schools where 90% or more are minority. Illinois continues to have one of the most extreme school segregation in a nation that already faces disturbing amounts of segregation.

In what ways have you seen school segregation in Illinois? How does this de facto segregation affect the education each individual is receiving?