Who goes where

In Louisville, Kentucky and Seattle, students may be denied admission to neighborhood schools on the basis of race. The goal is integrating schools even when neighborhoods are not integrated. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments today on the Seattle and Louisville cases.

The Bush administration is siding with parents against the school districts, arguing the policies are an unconstitutional, albeit well-meaning, “racial balancing” without a compelling justification. “A well-intentioned quota is still a quota,” the administration said in a brief submitted on the Kentucky case.

Civil rights advocates say it’s impossible to achieve “diversity” without taking race into account in school assignments. And they’re probably right. The question is whether integrating school enrollments is so great a benefit that it overrides everything else.

In Louisville, the average bus ride is 45 minutes. Some students get on a bus at 5:35 am for a 90-minute ride. That’s got to make it hard to learn.

In Seattle, 10 percent of students “were denied the school of their choice because of their race,” AP reports.

“We stand for all the school districts in this country that believe Brown v. Board of Education still applies,” said school district lawyer Shannon McMinimee.

“Communities are still segregated, either by the history of racism in America or by current circumstances like the affordability of housing. This is about what a school board can do to remedy the effects of past segregation,” McMinimee said.

I thought Brown was about assigning black kids to their all-white neighborhood school instead of sending them across town because of their race. Silly me.

Unlike Louisville, Seattle has no history of segregation, notes Discriminations.

Seattle public schools recently declared valuing individualism and planning for the future are examples of racism. Forced by critics to retract, the district’s equity and race relations director rejected a melting pot or color-blind mentality as an obvious failure.

My book, Our School, is about a San Jose charter school, Downtown College Prep, that’s 90 percent Mexican-American. The school recruits students who earned D’s and F’s in middle school — ninth graders average fifth-grade reading and math skills — and focuses intently on teaching them the basic and advanced skills they’ll need to succeed in college. The school works because it’s not diverse. Most students share a set of educational challenges, such as a limited English vocabulary. They buy into a single mission: Prepare for college.

In Cross X, the story of a successful debate team at a nearly all-black Kansas City high school, author Joe Miller describes a school that’s given up on educating students. Even the star debaters who are quoting Foucault in national debate competitions graduate without being taught college-prep writing or math skills.

In a court-ordered desegregation scheme starting in 1985, Kansas City schools received $2 billion over 12 years to create programs that would lure suburban whites into inner-city schools. Some of the money created a massive and hugely inefficient district bureaucracy, Miller writes. The rest paid for lavish physical facilities, thousands of computers and magnet programs designed with no regard for the interests or needs of urban black students. Teachers weren’t trained to develop courses for the special programs to which they were assigned. When the court ended the plan in 1997, the schools were more segregated than ever and test scores were just as low.

That’s what happens when getting the ideal racial mix becomes a higher priority than educating the students you’ve got.

La Shawn Barber scoffs at St. Charles, Illinois school officials who think anti-busing parents see diversity as an “abomination.

“Hardworking, taxpaying parents move to decent neighborhoods with decent schools for their kids, some with great sacrifice, and disconnected, head-in-the-sand liberals like (Bobbie) Raehl want to undo all that by shipping high-performing students to low-performing schools to save themselves from the embarrassing reality of low-performing schools…unbelievable.

It’s the education, stupid.

About Joanne


  1. Actually, I don’t think “the question is whether integrating school enrollments is so great a benefit that it overrides everything else,” but rather whether race overrides every other aspect of a student’s character. After all, it is not a “school” that benefits,but the individual students within that school.

    This does not mean we are still not suffering, of course, from the wretched effects of racist ideologies, but Louisville is perpetuating, not ameliorating the problem, with its kinder, gentler, up-to-date Jim Crow. Now, all students, regardless of race, can be discriminated against and dehumanized–it’s a new era of equal inopportunity. Maybe we should update term to “Jason Crow” or, better yet, “Jennifer Crow” or “Jen Crow.”

    “Race” is an obsolete pseudo-scientific criteria; why not sort students by which of their four “humours” are dominant or their astrological signs.

  2. Jeff Z wrote:

    why not sort students by which of their four “humours” are dominant or their astrological signs.

    Because you couldn’t pretend you were a part of the Civil Rights era by dividing kids up by their humours or their astrological sign.

    These days you have go looking for racism, and there are so many flavors to choose from if you’re not too picky, since the easy, obvious kind is no longer around. No fire-hoses, attack dogs, night riders, no Klan or only the tattered remains of the Klan. If you want to find racism to combat you’ve got to look to people’s subconscious minds wherein lurks racism people don’t even know they’re possessed of.

    There’s institutional racism which is somehow different from individual racism. Perhaps something in the choice of letterhead or an ugly resistance to having your hiring policies dictated to you by people who take no responsibility for the repercussions of those policies.

    If neither of those will serve then there’s the legacy of racism which, like some movie zombie, stumbles around the nation seemingly eating the brains of what, under other circumstances, would be relatively well-balanced individuals. The neat thing about the legacy of racism is that it doesn’t require any actual racism and is an all-purpose excuse.

    Last, but certainly not finally, there’s diversity to which any resistance is deemed racists since the the original excuse for affirmative action is starting to wear thin.

    All the really good under-dogs are gone so new under-dogs have to be manufactured.