Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Integration in Schools

Michael Meyer has a NY Daily News op-ed decrying some New York charter schools that happen to be mostly black:
Today marks 55 years since the Supreme Court outlawed intentionally racially segregated public schools, declaring that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Back then, blacks welcomed the news that we would never again have to "prove" that segregation harms black children in ways unlikely ever to be undone - as demonstrated persuasively by my mentor Kenneth Clark's breakthrough experiments using black and white dolls.

All that is yesterday's headline. Today liberals of all skin colors cheer all-black schools and separate classes for boys and girls as the means to the end of raising these children's "self-esteem" in their "race" (race is a term I don't believe in) and gender. , , ,

Opportunity Charter School is 92% black and 8% Hispanic. Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem is 92% black and 8% Hispanic; Luis Munoz Marin Bilingual School is 92% Hispanic and 7% black. Harlem Day Charter School is 94% black and 6% Hispanic. Harriet Tubman Charter School is 94% black and 6% Hispanic. . . .

Here's one "why not": because Kenneth Clark's research, which in 1954 helped sway the Supreme Court by demonstrating the damage that segregation does to the development of children - even when separate is "equal" - hasn't changed.
Leave aside the fact that Meyer is equating charter schools voluntarily attended by black students and established for their benefit, with a system of state-wide oppression that was neither voluntary nor intended for the benefit of blacks. Meyer's argument is still wrong: while forced segregation is wrong for many reasons, it's not because of Kenneth Clark's research.

As law professor Roy Brooks points out in his book Integration or Separation: A Strategy for Racial Equality, Clark's research was misrepresented to the Supreme Court. On page 14, Brooks notes:
Clark’s conclusions regarding the effects of segregation . . . were not scientifically compatible with several crucial findings in the study inself. First, the responses to questions 1-4, which indicate racial preference, actually reveal a lesser percentage of out-group preference among southern children who attended segregated schools than among northern children who attended racially mixed schools. Thirty-seven percent of segregated children, compared to 28 % of integrated children, preferred to play with the brown doll; 46% of the segregated children, compared to 30% of the integrated children, believed that the brown doll was nice; 49% of the segregated children, compared to 71% of the integrated children, said that the brown doll looked bad; and 40% of the segregated children, compared to 37% of the integrated children, felt that the brown doll had a nice color.
Moreover, Clark's research was hardly the last word on the issue of segregation and self-esteem. Many researchers looked at the same question over subsequent decades, and found that segregated schools produced black children with higher self-esteem (with the theory usually being that blacks in a segregated school were isolated from the discrimination that they would have experienced in an integrated school).1

By 1980, one researcher noted that “the weight of empirical evidence suggests that segregated blacks evidence self-esteem significantly higher than that of their desegregated peers.” The same researcher found, in a study of 194 southern schools, that black self-esteem was “lower in racially balanced schools than in predominantly black schools.”2

Again, forced segregation is wrong for many reasons. But dubious and outdated social science isn't one of them.


1 See Benjamin J. Hodgkins and Robert G. Stakenas, “A Study of Self-Concepts of Negro and White Youth in Segregated Environments,” Journal of Negro Education 38 no. 4 (1969): 370-77; James E. Greene, Sr., “A Comparison of the ‘School Morale’ of White and Negro Students in a Large Southeastern School System,” Journal of Negro Education 31 no. 2 (1962): 132-38; E. Earl Baughman and W. Grant Dahlstrom, Negro and White Children: A Psychological Study in the Rural South (New York: Academic Press, 1968), pp. 417, 445-447; Gloria J. Powell, Black Monday’s Children: A Study of the Effects of School Desegregation on Self-Concepts of Southern Children (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1973), pp. 255-261.

2Darrel W. Drury, “Black Self-Esteem and Desegregated Schools,” Sociology of Education 53 no. 2 (1980): 88-103.

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3 Comments:

Blogger nicholas said...

It wasn't clear to me reading through the post exactly where you came down on the issue. I would venture to say you feel that schools in which students (or their parents) have voluntarily chosen to be segregated should not be ridiculed as harmful to the students sense of well being. Thus you are in favor of such schools, if this is what the student/parent prefers.

If so, then I would agree, though I believe the goal (of the parents anyway) would be for their child to get the best possible education, regardless of how he or she might feel about their self-esteem on any given day.

I just read your comments on Conor Friederdorf's piece on education from May 7th. Your running exchange with matoko_chan in the comments section was a lesson in patience. They may have not been of much use to matoko, but they were to me. You never know who your audience will end up being.

Best of luck.

12:52 AM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

That's about right: If black parents choose a mostly-black charter (or private) school for their child, there's simply no reason to expect that they will have done some great harm to the child's self-esteem.

12:03 PM  
Blogger nicholas said...

Well really, it’s more than that.

You would expect that the parents will be acting in the best interests of their child. Thus, for the state to come along and claim that the state knows better is an affront to the parents and an embarrassment to the rest of us. Our children should not be sacrificed on an alter of political correctness. It's the height of arrogance and an unsupportable notion of moral superiority that would ever lead someone to such an offensive stance.

Truly embarrassing. Good post though.

5:25 PM  

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