U.S. Schools : Segregation Worse Today Than in the 1950’s

“The Problem We All Live With” by Norman Rockwell. Photo courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

U.S. schools are more segregated today than in the 1950s

In California and Texas segregation is spreading into large sections of suburbia as well. This is the social effect of years of neglect to civil rights policies that stressed equal educational opportunity for all.

October 1, 2009

[This story is Number 2 in Project Censored’s “Top 25 Censored Stories for 2010.” It is based on the study “Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge,” by Gary Orfield, the Civil Rights Project, UCLA, January 2009, with student researchers Melissa Robinson and Rena Hawkins and faculty evaluator Sangeeta Sinha, PhD, Southwest Minnesota State University.]

Schools in the United States are more segregated today than they have been in more than four decades. Millions of non-white students are locked into “dropout factory” high schools, where huge percentages do not graduate, and few are well prepared for college or a future in the US economy.

According to a new Civil Rights report published at the University of California, Los Angeles, schools in the U.S. are 44 percent non-white, and minorities are rapidly emerging as the majority of public school students in the U.S. Latinos and blacks, the two largest minority groups, attend schools more segregated today than during the civil rights movement forty years ago. In Latino and African American populations, two of every five students attend intensely segregated schools. For Latinos this increase in segregation reflects growing residential segregation.

For blacks a significant part of the reversal reflects the ending of desegregation plans in public schools throughout the nation. In the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that the Southern standard of “separate but equal” was “inherently unequal,” and did “irreversible” harm to black students. It later extended that ruling to Latinos.

The Civil Rights Study shows that most severe segregation in public schools is in the Western states, including California — not in the South, as many people believe. Unequal education leads to diminished access to college and future jobs. Most non-white schools are segregated by poverty as well as race. Most of the nation’s dropouts occur in non-white public schools, leading to large numbers of virtually unemployable young people of color.

Schools in low-income communities remain highly unequal in terms of funding, qualified teachers, and curriculum. The report indicates that schools with high levels of poverty have weaker staffs, fewer high-achieving peers, health and nutrition problems, residential instability, single-parent households, high exposure to crime and gangs, and many other conditions that strongly affect student performance levels.

Low-income campuses are more likely to be ignored by college and job market recruiters. The impact of funding cuts in welfare and social programs since the 1990s was partially masked by the economic boom that suddenly ended in the fall of 2008. As a consequence, conditions are likely to get even worse in the immediate future.

In California and Texas segregation is spreading into large sections of suburbia as well. This is the social effect of years of neglect to civil rights policies that stressed equal educational opportunity for all. In California, the nation’s most multiracial state, half of blacks and Asians attend segregated schools, as do one quarter of Latino and Native American students.

While many cities came under desegregation court orders during the civil rights era, most suburbs, because they had few minority students at that time, did not. When minority families began to move to the suburbs in large numbers, there was no plan in place to attain or maintain desegregation, appropriately train teachers and staff, or recruit non-white teachers to help deal with new groups of students. Eighty-five percent of the nation’s teachers are white, and little progress is being made toward diversifying the nation’s teaching force.

In states that now have a substantial majority of non-white students, failure to provide quality education to that majority through high school and college is a direct threat to the economic and social future of the general population. In a world economy, success is linked to formal education. Major sections of the US face the threat of declining education levels as the proportion of children attending inferior segregated schools continues to increase.

Rural schools also face severe segregation. In the days of civil rights struggles, small towns and rural areas were seen as the heart of the most intense racism. Of 8.3 million rural white students, 73 percent attend schools that are 80 to100 percent white.

Our nation’s segregated schools result from decades of systematic neglect of civil rights policy and related educational and community reforms.

According to the UCLA report, what is needed are leaders who recognize that we have a common destiny in an America where our children grow up together, knowing and respecting each other, and are all given the educational tools that prepare them for success in our society. The author maintains that if we are to continue along a path of deepening separation and entrenched inequality it will only diminish our common potential.

Source / Project Censored

Go here to read the full report.

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3 Responses to U.S. Schools : Segregation Worse Today Than in the 1950’s

  1. dospesentas says:

    This is wrong on so many levels.

    Perhaps we should examine the skyrocketing rate of illegitimate births and the failure of the family. HALF of our public school students are on some form of welfare. A high percentage are unable to speak english. Most come from single parent homes where supervision, mentoring and an emphasis on education is absent. Blaming ‘segregation’ for these failures only continues the denial of the real problems – hey but it’s easy!

    PROOF? If segregation is the problem, why do private schools, religious schools and schools in communities with a majority of two parent households excel? Why did graduation rates in the 60’s, in the 90% range, plummet almost percentage point for percentage point with the illegitimate birth rate? Why do children on welfare generally do worse academically? These are clues to the real problems. Responsible parenting, a priority on education, parents who can afford to provide the basics for their child (without welfare and government programs paid for by others), self reliance and positive role models are in short supply. We are becoming a dumbed down dependent society. Many parents (and aunts, grandmothers, uncles, etc. who stand in for the biological parent) are unable to properly raise (and afford) the current crop of students – so we leave it to ‘state’ to act as babysitter, mentor, health insurer, entertainer, food provider and parent to our growing ‘dependent’ society. We are turning into a cradle to grave dependent society. Government will provide health care, jobs, food, a monthly check, housing, etc. What happened to the independent, pioneering spirit that made this country great? With an $11T national debt, $1.2T annual deficit and more ‘entitlements’ on the way, reality is not far off. We need to stop making excuses and subsidising bad behavior before it’s too late.

    When China stops lending and we have taxed the rich into poverty, who will fund our dependent society?

  2. Our nation’s segregated schools result from decades of systematic neglect of civil rights policy and related educational and community reforms.
    I read the article. I found a lot of statistics. What I didnt read was a single example of modern day civil rights violations or educational policy mistakes that the author claims are segregating schools. The truth is that Equal Housing laws and Equal Employment laws ensure that minority families can live wherever they have the means to live and utilize the schools in those communities.

    If the schools are as segregated as the author claims, it has nothing to do with civil rights violations. You will have to look at the thorny issues of personal values and cultural norms to find the answer.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dospesentas, it’s because of segregation that all of your examples occur. It’s a vicious cycle, propelled by white bias/racism, the impoverished backgrounds of minorities, and the way schools are funded. The reason private schools do so well is because a majority of them are funded/attended by rich white people.

    Extremist, the reason you can’t find any obvious civil rights violations is because desegregation in the 1960s only affected public schools.

    The reasons behind this continued trend of segregation are too much to explain in a limited blog post, so here are some links that will hopefully explain it:

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