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Schools In The Next America

A reader sends in this Sarah Carr article from Slate, talking about how schools are changing and will have to change to accommodate the fact that whites will be a minority in the US. It’s already the case that whites are a minority among the school-age population, she says. Excerpts:

As public school students diversify, qualities such as empathy, self-awareness, open-mindedness, and understanding are more important than ever in our teachers—just as they will be for all of us in an increasingly diverse society. Teachers will need to have the capacity to serve not just as instructors but also as cultural brokers and social leaders, aware of their own biases, empathetic when confronting difference, comfortable with change.

OK, but that is a hell of a lot to expect from a teacher, especially on the salaries we pay them. More:

There’s a second, even more complicated trial confronting America’s rapidly diversifying schools: How can we create integrated school communities at a time when many white parents, long accustomed to various forms of privilege and preference, fear their children being in the minority, and when schools already struggle to meet the needs of diverse students and learners?

Oh, here we go. For Columbia University professor Sarah Carr, the only possible reason white parents take their kids out of more “diverse” public schools is because they are racists who are sore because they’ve lost their privilege. More:

Today, countless suburbs that were once almost exclusively white offer some of the greatest hope for school desegregation as their populations diversify and schools tip to majority-minority. But that shift has led to a new round of white and middle-class flight in some communities, as families leave for whiter, wealthier suburbs or private and charter schools. “Integrated communities in the United States have a hard time staying integrated for more than 10 or 20 years,” write Myron Orfield and Thomas Luce in their 2013 report“America’s Racially Diverse Suburbs: Opportunities and Challenges.” And the resegregation of black and brown families typically leaves their communities with fewer resources, more concentrated poverty, bleaker economic prospects, and less societal support.

It’s telling that Carr sees desegregation as something so obviously good it doesn’t need to be argued for. Well, a new Department of Education report shows why at least some white parents prefer for their kids to go to less diverse schools:

Nationwide, 2.8 million students were suspended from public schools during the 2013-2014 school year, according to the Civil Rights Data Collection, which the U.S. Education Department releases every two years. That represents a drop of nearly 20 percent compared to the 2011-2012 school year.

But black students were nearly four times as likely to be suspended as white students, and nearly twice as likely to be expelled. The same pattern showed up in preschool: Black children represented 19 percent of all preschoolers but accounted for 47 percent of those who received suspensions.

“Fewer suspensions is an important sign of progress,” said Education Secretary John B. King Jr. “But I don’t think there’s any way you can look at this data and not come away with a tremendous sense of urgency about continuing to close our equity gaps.”


I cannot find recent statistics on how crimes committed in schools break down by race. FBI data from 2000-2004 show that whites committed 59 percent of crimes in school, while blacks committed 22 percent. But because the stats didn’t separate Hispanic from white, they are of limited use in understanding this problem.

There are two ways to read the data that the Education Department released today. One is that black kids are the victims of racism in school discipline. That is the orthodox liberal way to read the data. But why can’t one look at this data and conclude that black kids overall make schools more chaotic and unsafe? That may not be true, of course, but I fail to see why it is a less plausible conclusion to draw than the one the Education Department is drawing.

Why are fewer suspensions necessarily “a sign of progress”? If kids are committing offenses that would normally get them suspended, but school administrators are turning a blind eye to it because they don’t want to be thought of as racist, that’s not progress.

The thing we don’t want to talk about is that some cultures are better than others in terms of preparing people for certain tasks. Take race out of it. The other day, talking to some people in town for the Walker Percy Weekend about education, someone said that the moral culture in many schools is not something that parents want their kids to be thrown into. The observation is obviously true — and it had nothing to do with race.

If parents pulled their kids out of School A and moved them to School B because the moral culture within the School B population was preferable to that within School A, is that not a kind of self-segregation that makes sense? It is perfectly understandable to fret about the loss of social solidarity in our country; the social fabric really is unraveling. But why does that obligate parents to send their children to a school that is demonstrably less safe and conducive to learning, just to demonstrate that they aren’t bigots?

If you’re a white parent, and the price of not being called a bigot is to compel your kids to attend a school where they are less safe, and less likely to get a good education, then you might well decide that you don’t care what they call you, because you’re going to protect your child.

The Obama daughters attend (or attended; Malia just graduated) Sidwell Friends, the post Washington, DC, private school, where tuition runs nearly $38,000 per year. Sidwell Friends loves loves loves diversity, welcoming students of all races whose parents can pay $38,000 per year to attend (caveat: some of the kids are there on scholarship). Barack and Michelle Obama didn’t want their daughters to experience the diversity of the DC public school system, and who can blame them? But see, this is the kind of sham diversity that many liberals extol. They get to feel good about sending their kids to a “school that values diversity,” and are entitled to overlook the class component that filters out diversity from the rowdier segments of society. If Sidwell Friends looked more like the nearly all-minority public schools in DC in terms of class — or, for that matter, all-white public schools in Appalachia — it would be much less desirable for the upper middle class and wealthy parents who send their kids there. Why? Because those poorer kids from less stable family and social backgrounds would bring their culture with them into the school.

If Sidwell Friends really wanted to reflect the actual diversity of its city, as opposed to superficial diversity, it would be a very different school — and a much less desirable one for the children of the ruling class. The Obamas almost certainly send their daughters to Sidwell Friends, and not to DC public schools, because they judged that their kids would receive a better education there, and be far safer than if they went to a DC public school, which are far blacker than Sidwell friends. And they’re right!

But why can’t the same benefit of the doubt be extended to white parents who put their kids in majority-white schools? Sure, some of them probably are racist. But maybe they are doing what the Obamas did: looking at the options on the table and making a rational choice to do the best they can by their children. Why is that so unthinkable to the US Education Secretary and Sarah Carr?


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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