Fifty years after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected “separate but equal,” Topeka schools are integrated, and students make friends of all races, reports the Washington Post. But student achievement is unequal.
On last year’s 10th-grade math test, nearly 60 percent of black students and 40 percent of Hispanics were rated “unsatisfactory.” Only 30 percent of white 10th-graders scored at that level. There were similar achievement gaps in reading and science.
. . . Much of the achievement gap can be explained by differences in socioeconomic status: White students at Topeka High tend to come from more affluent backgrounds than their minority counterparts. But some black teachers also bemoan the breakdown of the close-knit community that was part of the segregated school experience.
“We have achieved integration, but in the process we have lost a sense of community and social support,” said Topeka High Principal Clardy Vinson, who is black. “In the old days, black students had a built-in support system. They were in constant contact with people they could identify with — teachers, parents, pastors — who were working together to help them succeed. The achievement gap is the result of this support system not being in place.”
It was “not segregation as such that made black schools inferior,” writes Thomas Sowell, who frequently praises high-quality all-black schools.
In a previous column, Sowell calls the emphasis on discrimination a distraction.
The key fallacy underlying the civil rights vision was that all black economic lags were due to racial discrimination. That assumption has survived to this day, in the courts, in the media, in academia, and above all in politics.
No amount of factual evidence can make a dent in that assumption. This means that a now largely futile crusade against discrimination distracts attention from the urgent need to upgrade educational standards and job skills among blacks.
May 17 is the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.