The end of the year brings with it a slew of “top 10/best of/worst of” lists. This week’s issue of Time magazine(with Ben Bernanke on the cover as Person of the Year) provides a number of lists, from books to gadgets, business deals to scandals. On the page of Top 10 Essential Stories, there is an asterisk with what they cite as “The Most Underreported Story of 2009”
According to a January report from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, African-American and Latino schoolchildren are more segregated than they have been since the time of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, in 1968. In the 2006-07 school year, nearly 40% attended schools–many of them subpar “dropout factories”–where students of color made up 90% to 100% of the student body.
The report they are referring to is Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge , written by noted education and civil rights scholar Gary Orfield.
Not only do many public schools remain segregated by race, the report points out, but also by income as those same schools tend to be segregated by economic class. Add to that the fact that those schools tend to be more likely to have unprepared teachers, college prep courses and enrichment activities and you have a whole class of students starting far behind.
If segregation is so obvious, why don’t we hear more about it? Orfield provides this explanation of why whites think segregation is over:
Even as black and Latino students are becoming more isolated, the typical white child is in a school that is more diverse than the school white children attended a generation ago. This factor makes it especially hard for whites to understand the degree to which resegregation has taken place. In 1988, 53% of white students attended schools that were 90-100% white, but that number has slipped to 36% in the newest data. 94% of whites were in majority white schools then, but that has dropped to 87% in the most recent data. The share of whites attending multiracial schools has risen from 7% to 14%.
So, whites are becoming less segregated, but African Americans and Latinos are becoming more segregated. Overall, segregation is growing because non-whites are growing in proportion to whites. But apparently that still isn’t much of a story.