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.)

On Gantelope, Andrew Coulson notes that equalizing school funding also hasn’t led to equal achievement. And here’s a plethora of links recommended by the Fordham Foundation.

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  1. Hunter McDaniel says:

    Just my $0.02 but I believe “kids who need structure and rigor” pretty well describes the majority of students.

  2. 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.

    Damn shame the man needs to state the obvious about this. I can not see the point of a plan that emphasizes social engineering over attaining educational standards. I don’t understand the idea that people of different races learn differently (what is this based on?), or that it matters which race you’re sitting next to – in my experience it’s all about the attitude: either you are there to learn, or you’re there to slack off and socialize.

  3. The amazing thing is that there are still people around who think litigation is the way to close the academic achievement gap, or bring about a race-blind society. A solid body of evidence shows that the private sector, not bound by any court ordered desegregation plans, is doing a better job of closing the achievement gap and is more likely to encourage meaninful voluntary integration among students of different races.

    I blog about it, with links to the court cases and research, here.

  4. Richard Nieporent says:

    In the San Francisco Chronicle, Clarence Johnson argues that integration has failed because children of different races and genders learn differently.

    Very interesting. Wasn’t that the same type of thinking that lead to segregated schools in the first place?

  5. All kids need structure & rigor.

  6. Some girls do better in all girls schools. Some boys do better in all boys schools. And some blacks reportedly do better in all black schools.
    There is no reason to believe that whites do better in all white schools, however.
    Certainly children should be grouped by ability rather than by age.

  7. Walter Wallis says:

    …and no one learns in a school bus.

  8. I remember when I first heard that old canard about how students learn differently by race and gender. I was an undergraduate. By then I had tutored enough children of enough different races to know that it was a crock. I’d seen siblings who learned differently from each other, and similarly to other kids from different races and cultures. My own learning style was more similar to that of boys I knew than it was to many of the girls I’d tutored.

    This sort of crap can only be asserted by people with either (1) no real-world educational experience or (2) incredible cognitive dissonance coping skills, because it flies in the face of any real experience teaching.

  9. Wacky Hermit,
    I agree with most of your post but not the conclusion. There are differences in the way most males learn versus the way most females learn. As you pointed out though it is not binary and some males learn better the female way and some females learn better the male way. I don’t know what the solution is but it does seem like taking into account the different learning styles and trying to group students accordingly would have some merit if done correctly.

    I have no clue about learning styles by race. I have read the paper on gender differences but I don’t remember any studies done on learning styles by race.

  10. When people talk about learning styles differing by race I think they are mostly trying make the point that cultural differences are the key without explicitly talking about culture.

    As long as the focus is kept on race its easy to keep the moral high ground. When the focus shifts to cultural (or subculture) differences then we are forced to address really hard and uncomfortable questions.

    Its also really difficult to extract money or develop political power when the issue is cultural rather than racial.

  11. Another difficult conundrum is that the IQ of african americans consistently averages one standard deviation below the IQ of asians. This is even true at four years old, before any schooling has taken place, and the gap seems to widen in adulthood. So how do you group blacks and asians for teaching together in the same classroom? By age? They are not likely to be at the same achievement level if age grouped.

    IQ may have nothing to do with ability or potential achievement, but it might have something to do with learning style, and differences in age-appropriate teaching methods.

  12. IIRC, the original IQ test was commissioned for the purpose of tracking children according to their probable academic ability. So unlike a lot of other venues in which IQ is probably applied inappropriately, it may actually be a consideration in school performance. And actually, for schools with a high percentage of high-IQ or low-IQ students, this may be an argument for finding alternative ways of teaching.

  13. Michelle Dulak says:

    Re all-boys’ and all-girls’ schools, I thought the main rationale wasn’t that boys and girls have different “learning styles,” but that boys and girls learn better in the absence of the other sex. Advocates of girls’ schools, for example, argue that girls in mixed-sex environments are cowed by the more aggressive boys.

    Frankly, I think the biggest benefit would be in the amount of time, effort and money that students now spend during school hours trying to impress the opposite sex that might be diverted into other pursuits.

  14. What seems to matter is that we have good teachers and administrators doing their job. It is a parents responsibility to make sure their kid is ready for school through discipline and good morals and values. As a society, we are constantly looking at what we think the problem is, yet doing nothing to help resolve it. We have given teachers and administrators every reason to believe the populace does not care. The are some of the lowest paid, yet most important professionals on the planet. All the BS about boy vs. girl is ridiculous. Getting back our good teachers and administrators, along with good teaching resources, are more important. How many people are up for giving back schools all the public funding (remember they are public schools) they have lost just over the past 10 years?