Why school integration has failed | august | 2020 | Writing


Has education in America remained racially segregated because of white people who speak well, but do not walk?

That’s the question The New York Times poses to five commentators on race and education – including Sonya Douglass Horsford, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Teachers College – during a panel discussion published under the headline “How White Progressives Undermine School Integration”.

The answer, by and large, is yes – but Horsford, founding director of TC’s Black Education Research Collective and co-director of the College Urban Education Leaders program, adds a twist to a point she has raised elsewhere: Many blacks have given up. on “separate” and are much more focused on “equal” – and “safe”.

“DIFFERENT CONVERSATIONS” Horsford argues that black families today are more concerned with equality and security in education than with inclusion.

“I think the integration conversation is more of a conversation taking place among those with a certain level of privilege – good white parents,” she says. “Where is the bottom line in the efforts and support for integration led by blacks and other disenfranchised communities?” I just don’t see the families coming that integration is supposed to benefit.

“Integration is no longer the most important issue for black families. Today, black parents are worried about whether or not their children will be safe, whether it is from COVID or campus violence, hate crimes or police brutality. Right now, talking about integration sounds like such a distraction. “

The Times roundtable was inspired by “Good white parents”, a new podcast from the newspaper and Serial Productions. The other commentators on the round table are Dana Goldstein, national education correspondent at the Times; Tiffani Torres, a rising freshman at Georgetown University and recently graduated from Pace High School in Manhattan; Richard Buery, president of Achievement First, a charter school network in the North East; and Chana Joffe-Walt, journalist and producer at This American life, and the host of “Nice White Parents”.

Horsford’s perspective is particularly poignant as she and others bear witness to the benefits of true integration.

Integration is no longer the most important issue for black families. Today, black parents are worried about whether or not their children will be safe, whether it is from COVID or campus violence, hate crimes or police brutality. Right now, talking about integration sounds like such a distraction.

– Sonya Douglass Horsford

Goldstein, who is white, cites sociological research on the benefits for white and middle-class students of attending more racially and economically diverse schools. “It seems to have a real long-term impact on their social beliefs, their tolerance for diversity, their willingness to live in more diverse neighborhoods, and their enthusiasm for sending their own children to integrated schools,” says -she. She calls a desegregation program she herself attended in Ossining, New York, “one of the most positive and powerful aspects of my life.”

Horsford was also part of a school integration effort when she was growing up in Las Vegas. This experience required that the small population of black students in the area be transported by bus to other neighborhoods, but she did not see this as a negative.

“I had a diverse group of friends, depending on where I stayed,” she says. “I have had exposure and experiences with people whose backgrounds were different from mine. We also shared a lot of things in common.

But the problem today, she concludes, is that “rather than focusing on the things that we share in common, we are so obsessed and focused on the things that make us different.”

About Michael G. Walter

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