Since today is the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education, every media outlook in the country has at least one school desegregation story. Nearly all say that desegregation has been a disappointment. Integrating schools hasn’t equalized achievement. William Raspberry writes:
Fifty years after Brown, we should have learned that there is no magic in white classmates. The magic lies at the intersection of educational opportunity and attitude — the coming together of teachers who know how to teach and children who are ready to learn.
No one thing — not the ballot, not changes in school governance, not desegregation — will produce that happy confluence. We have to demand that the schools get ready for our children. But we also have to make sure, using every resource at our disposal, that our children are ready for school. In many cities, middle-class whites (and often blacks) have fled the public schools, resegregating by income as well as race. San Jose, where Mexican-American parents brought the segregation lawsuit, faces the same problems.
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Clarence Johnson argues that integration has failed because children of different races and genders learn differently. He wants “elite schools to meet the particular needs of the children who go there.”
. . . Superintendent Arlene Ackerman is bringing the concept to San Francisco with three “Dream Schools” this fall and 12 more by 2006. The schools will be culturally sensitive and will have student uniforms, longer schedules, parental pledges of cooperation and rigorous academics.
I don’t think children learn differently based on their race or gender, but I agree that schools targeted to the needs of specific students — kids who need structure and rigor, for example — are more likely to be successful. (I agree with commenters that most kids need structure and rigor, but some need it more than others.)