Education Segregation in the United States
Education is a critical component of a country’s future, and the quality of a country’s citizens determines the level of prosperity its community will enjoy. In multicultural societies emerging in the modern world, there exist variables among citizens that limit their access to education. An advanced country should have in place an education system that offers all children the chance to a quality education. Nonetheless, many advanced countries education systems displays weaknesses that inhibit the ability of some students to acquire a meaningful education. Kozol examines this situation in his article, ‘From Still Separate, Still Unequal: America’s Educational Apartheid.’ His major contention is that there exists a wide disparity between America’s urban public schools, largely attended by black, Hispanic, or Native American students, and the schools attended by white children. While efforts towards integration of the education system to suit the requirements of all American students, there continues to be wide drift between the quality of education received by disadvantaged and privileged children. This paper argues that the public education systems in many multi-ethnic societies such as America, lack the capacity to offer competitive education on the same level as the one enjoyed by privileged children.
Jonathan Kozol’s article kicks off with an emphasis on the racial composition of reputable public schools across major cities in the United States. The year 2002-2003 saw Chicago public schools recording 87% African American or Hispanic. White students made up less than 10%. The position is comparable in many other cities, with Los Angeles recording 84%, Washington, D.C., 94% . These figures immediately point towards an underlying problem that leads to public schools selectively attracting students from certain racial groups. Whereas statistics do not suffice as a pointer towards segregation, the author explores the underlying factors that lead to this situation.
In the article, ‘Race Is Not Neutral: A National Investigation of African American and Latino Disproportionality in School Discipline’, the authors assessment the observed trends of office discipline recommendations in 364 institutions to make their conclusions. Through their descriptive and logistic analysis, the authors find that African American students are two to three instances more probable to be recommended to the office for behavior-related problems in comparison to Caucasian students . Further, the authors find that their findings are in line with a history of similar observations while at the same time advocating for exertions in policy, exercise, and study redressing the pervasive cultural and ethnic inconsistencies in school discipline.
‘The Race Discrimination System’ is an article by Barbara Reskin, attempting to show the effect of race across various domains of multi-ethnic societies. Her argument is convincing, where she evaluates the interdependence between the domains, and how they individually compromise an integrated system . While she acknowledges government efforts in reducing these racial disparities, she points to the haphazard manner in which policy interventions are applied to the failure of integration efforts. She recommends a systems approach in integration efforts attacking the system, simultaneously reducing achievement gaps between disparate ethnic groups.
‘Shadow Education, American Style: Test Preparation, the SAT and College Enrollment’ examines some of the factors that confer educational advantages to students in an already privileged position. The authors rely on a national educational longitudinal study where the student’s possibility for participation, and impact of SAT preparation on quality of education of American students. The authors choose the SAT examination owing to the importance it holds for American students. The authors note how SAT preparation services have grown into a multi-million industry . Inherently, the services are meant to benefit the affluent who can pay for the service, segregating the majority who cannot afford these services. This situation has seen concerns raised from various quarters on the fairness of standardized tests since they are administered to students who have had differing levels of preparedness.
David Autor in the article ‘Skills, Education, and the Rise of Earnings Inequality among the “Other 99 Percent”’ analyzes earnings inequality that affects the majority of citizens, citing the 99% vs. 1% income inequality. The author contends that demand and supply of skills are central in determining the levels of income enjoyed by various segments of society . He uses a discussion on the ever-rising skills demand in the developed countries, and how this model can be replicated to benefit all segments of society. He recommends that public policy take a central role in promoting skills acquisition as well as preserving economic mobility to all segments of the population.
Charter schools have come under deserved scrutiny in the discussion on segregation in the American education system. The article, ‘Schools without Diversity: Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools, and the Demographic Stratification of the American School System’, the author examine chartered schools and their contribution to education integration. Proponents of chartered schools argue that there are a high number of economically underprivileged and minority students in chartered schools. On the other hand, opponents of this claim hold that these numbers are explainable with the fact that most chartered schools are in urban areas where there are large numbers of underprivileged and poor residents. The authors examine this issue by evaluating whether chartered schools integrate students on four demographic indicators namely; ethnicity/ social arrangement, socio-economic position, disability/ special condition, and language facilitation. The study concluded that chartered schools exacerbate segregation in education.
The education situation in any society is a product of its social structure. The demographic realities in the country are reflected in the education system, with the privileged and their less privileged counterparts receiving differing qualities of education. The efforts taken towards making the schooling system inclusive for all has to a large part failed, with public schools continually recording an extreme majority of their students from the underprivileged such as the black and the Hispanic communities. From the revolutionary age of integration, where success gap among the black and the white students reduced for three consecutive decades up to the 80’s, the gap has since widened . Further, the mainstream society media included applies evasive techniques when addressing the issue of segregation in schools. Schools with as low as five percent populations of white students, are referred to as diverse in a cunning move to dilute the apparent segregation in public schools. With the dominance of chartered schools regarding performance, in comparison to the public schools, arguing that chartered schools promote integration would be misleading. Studies show that chartered schools advance segregation, where only a quarter of the schools reported a composition that mirrored the home district . The disparity in achievement levels between children of comparable ages but from varied backgrounds is a multipronged issue that needs comprehensive redress, especially for the benefit of underprivileged learners.
Addressing segregation in public schools should be a concerted and sincere effort by all stakeholders with the primary aim of improving the society through strengthening its education system. When a section of the population receives under par education in comparison to the dominant, their chances of competing for economic opportunities are seriously limited. Children of privileged families are always going to enjoy the best chances that their resources can afford. The underprivileged who have to rely on the basic education available need to have their access enabled to rival, if not come close to the privileged sections of society.
Autor, D. H. (2014). Skills, Education, and the Rise of Earnings Inequality Among the ‘Other 99 Percent. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 843-851.
Buchmann, C., Condron, D. J., & Roscigno, V. J. (2010). Shadow Education, American Style: Test Preparation, the SAT, and College Enrollment. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 89(2) 435-461).
Kozol, J. (2005). From Still Separate, Still Unequal: America's Educational Apartheid. Harper's Magazine, 41-54.
Miron, G., Urschel, J. L., Mathis, W. J., & Tornquist, E. (2010). Schools Without Diversity: Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools, and the Demographic Stratification of the American School System. Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit, The Web.
Reskin, B. (2012). The Race Discrimination System. Annual Review of Sociology, 38 (17-35).
Skiba, R. J., Horner, R. H., Chung, C.-G., Rausch, M. K., May, S. L., & Tobin, T. (2011). Race Is Not Neutral: A National Investigation of African American and Latino Disproportionality in School Discipline. School Psychology Review, 85-107.