I wrote a “proximity is not destiny” column for the Reason Foundation that’s running on the McClatchy news wire. So far, the Sacramento Bee, Pasadena Star-News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram have picked it up.

Proximity is not destiny, educationally speaking. A generation of experience with racial integration has taught a clear lesson: Sitting black kids next to white kids in school is not a silver bullet that zaps unequal achievement.

However, the faith that proximity leads to equal achievement remains the cargo cult of education. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court barred school assignments based on race to increase racial diversity. So school leaders immediately began considering economic integration plans instead.

Sit poor kids next to middle-class kids. That should work!

Or not.

I see by the ID line that I am an adjunct scholar at the Reason Foundation. Nice to know.

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  1. Sitting poor kids (or black kids, or whatever) next to their more affluent peers may not guarantee success.

    But sitting them apart, so that they see only other poor kids (or black kids, or whatever) guarantees failure.

    By focusing on guarantees of success, rather than causes of failure, you are setting up a straw man argument. A very disingenuous one at that.

  2. Stephen-
    I think the whole point is that proximity guarantees nothing, whether its success or failure.
    Focusing on false solutions like racial or economic integration is a distraction that prevents real solutions from being implemented.

  3. Independent George says:

    But sitting them apart, so that they see only other poor kids (or black kids, or whatever) guarantees failure.

    Actually, it doesn’t. Follow-Through showed that; so did Jaime Escalante, KIPP, Green Dot, Downtown College Prep, etc. What guarantees failure is not teaching them.

  4. George –
    That’s such a silly comment. Everyone who really belongs in the educational community knows that the quality of teaching doesn’t affect student achievement…

  5. Ya George. You also need a heapin’ helpin’ of social justice with soupcon of educational equity. Or is it the other way round?

  6. Aleen said–Ya George. You also need a heapin’ helpin’ of social justice with soupcon of educational equity.

    Mixed in with extra helpings of constructivism, learning styles, whole language, and fuzzy math, George.

  7. OH, and lest we forget, schools need to provide lots and lots of self-confidence boosting activities to their students. Without that, students might never feel entitled to anything.

  8. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Perhaps sittig rich kids next to poor kids reinforces their contempt for the poor, leading them to vote democrat to keep the masses down.

  9. Don’t forget that schools also need to provide verrrrrry good benefit packages to teachers regardless of their ability. (In Michigan, the health benefit administered by the MEA’s chosen group, MESSA, costs a cool $2000/employee MORE than either the UAW or state employees. It is a major reason the Michigan budget is not yet balanced, but there is no political will to change it.) Detroit is an especial sinkhole of ‘education’ dollars and it is challenged only by the DC school system for its proven inability to ‘educate’ its charges.

  10. I think the fundamental problem is that we are trying to address social issues through the schools.

    IF there were mixed neighborhoods; i.e., mixture of races, mixture of economic classes, etc. — THEN the outcomes desired might be produced; i.e., respect for diversity, the co-mingling that might transfer value-beliefs between socio-econ groups. However, we as a society have not been able to produce that “on the ground.” Instead, we ask our public school systems to succeed at something that we as a society have failed to do.

    To think that placing rich kids next to poor kids during the school experience is going to overcome the reality of our residences/living experiences, is, in my opinion, to place an unfair burden/expectation on the schools.

    We are asking them to do what we, as a people, cannot. And then we hang them out to dry when they fail (a given), when WE have not even had the courage to try alongside them.