Why have some school districts sustained school desegregation over many years while others have resegregated by race and income? Can we tie these differing histories to the attitudes and values of residents in these areas? Have attitudes and values in Wake County, North Carolina, regarding school desegregation changed over the last few years?
These are some of the questions I am investigating following the 2015 publication of my book with Andy Taylor, The End of Consensus: Diversity, Neighborhoods, and the Politics of Public School Assignments. In that work Andy and I reported the results of a mixed-methods study that used interviews, focus groups, archival data, case studies, and a 2011 representative survey of Wake County adults to understand school assignment policy change in the county.
During recent debates over the flag, the history of the South sometimes appears as a straightforward tale of unrelenting proslavery leading up to the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era. But there’s another aspect of southern history that is sometimes overlooked—the antislavery of the early antebellum era.
Are preferences for neighborhood schools and diverse schools really polar opposites? As Wake County has debated policies of public school assignments over the last several years, many have framed the debate this way. Media coverage often juxtaposes assignment plans that promote diversity in schools and classrooms with others that place more emphasis on children attending schools close to home. Citizen groups have formed on both sides. Races for school board have focused closely on candidate preferences. In The End of Consensus: Diversity, Neighborhoods, and the Politics of Public School Assignments, Andy and I have discovered that despite this very public polarization, many citizens actually favor both diverse and neighborhood schools.
When a new school board majority elected by Wake County, North Carolina, residents in 2009 began to alter the jurisdiction’s long-standing diversity assignment policy, it drew attention from media outlets across the globe. The story conveyed by reporters was that the county—possibly still believed to be a sleepy southern backwater by many—was fractured in two by this decision, with conservative white suburban residents supportive of the change and a coalition of liberal white urbanites and African Americans in vocal opposition. Although Wake’s school board politics are ostensibly nonpartisan, the new majority had ridden into office on a strong Republican tide that existed as a mild swell in the county just fifteen years before. They instituted, according to stylized accounts, a revolution in policy of similar magnitude.
“Why didn’t we learn about this stuff earlier? I can’t believe I’m in college and this is the first time I’m learning in class about present-day racism, sexism, and homophobia.” These are the types of comments that I often hear from students in the classes I teach on Urban Education, Youth Identities, and Gender & Education. Once, a white young woman, a graduate student, broke down in tears during class as she opened up about her sense of shame. She was outraged about the indignities experienced by poor children of color in urban schools and she felt ashamed that she was previously unaware of these realities. I can see on their faces when it begins to dawn on them that not only have their educations been amiss in preparing them to take action against injustice, they have not even been given the tools to see or acknowledge the inequalities of which they themselves are a part.
Fatima was an adventurous designer of third space identities, a non-hijabi who was at the same time religiously devout, socially liberal, sexually conservative, and politically aware. When Fatima entered the gates of Georgetown, having newly graduated from a strictly Islamic school, she was horrified to find that some of her Muslim friends drank alcohol.
But the Act has another flaw, deeper and more consequential than its 100 percent proficiency mandate. Written into NCLB is an assumption: that imparting basic math and reading skills should be the purpose of our schools. In mandating a tested-and-sanctioned proficiency in these basics, the Act quickly reduced the purpose of public education to a very narrowly defined type of academic achievement.
I won’t argue the importance of reading and math—these are necessary skills. But I will argue that schooling should be about more than reading and math, especially the sort of reading and math that can be measured on a state test.
This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that found racial segregation in schools unconstitutional. In large measure, the decision worked. Though it took many years—and the added weight of executive orders, U.S. troops, and the Civil Rights Act—slowly, the nation’s schools began to integrate. By the late 1980s, gains in desegregation were significant, particularly for black students. The South saw the largest gains: the year of the Brown decision, no black student was attending a majority white school, but, by 1988, 44 percent were. The South had become the most integrated region of the country. Today, though, we see a different reality: our nation’s schools are resegregating.
Recently, I took (and passed) my citizenship test, and the interviewer asked me if I had a middle name. When I said no, she asked if I wanted to change my name. Hmm, I thought, am I supposed to, to become an American? For many Americans, including those born and raised here, there’s an assumption that they must prove just how American they are. My research participants felt that way much of the time, but those who practiced certain kinds of behaviors—drinking, dating, dressing in mainstream Western fashion—felt the pressure less. Diya was relatively indistinguishable from her White American friends in terms of lifestyle, but then she came under question for just how Muslim she was. If she didn’t wear hijab, was she a nominal Muslim? Amber, a hijabi, was on the other hand perpetually being required to speak up for Muslims in classroom discussions on Islam and terrorism, or Islam and gender. Almost all of my research participants felt that because of the pervasive nature of Muslim stereotypes, they were always or often having to prove that they were really American, normal, empowered, peaceful Muslims.
It is fitting that in this 80th anniversary year of the 1933 rally the North Carolina NAACP is once again in the headlines, this time for its leading role in the recent Moral Monday protests at the state legislature.
According to Goldstein, the most exciting part is the “opportunity is to reach a much broader audience.” Because his class with Thorp is on innovation, teaching it as a MOOC provides a unique opportunity to marry form and content. “We’re interested in the interactive aspect because innovation and entrepreneurship aren’t passive—they’re active,” he says. “Entrepreneurship is about impact and taking innovative ideas to fruition. The key notion of MOOCs is creating a global reach with an entrepreneurial mindset that allows opportunities in those spaces between innovation and execution that is key to social change.”
Now, and available for the first time in paperback, William A. Link’s second edition of the acclaimed biography William Friday: Power, Purpose, and American Higher Education is updated to trace William Friday’s remarkable career and commemorate his legendary life.
The modern civil rights movement fought for racial equality and to create an interracial “beloved community.” People in the movement did not make a distinction between action in the schools, the voting booth, or the streets toward those goals. Education was another arena for fighting racism and securing equal resources and opportunity. Seeing school desegregation as an integral part of the civil rights movement reminds us that an equal education is a basic human right that has been fought for but not yet achieved, and that overcoming racism in the classroom as in the community remains a moral imperative. For many local people, like Suzy Post, in Louisville and Jefferson County, the civil rights movement continues because the struggle to protect desegregation and through it achieve educational equity and better human understanding has not yet been won.
For historians of school desegregation, Louisville’s story challenges a narrative that has been dominated by resistance, disillusion, and failure. For citizens, these stories remind us how our predecessors struggled for equality in education and inspire us to keep up a fight that is far from over.
It was 150 years ago, on April 28, 1863 in Columbia, South Carolina, that nearly seventy delegates from six Confederate states met to form the South’s first and only national teachers’ organization, The Educational Association of the Confederate States of America.
Produced with the cooperation of numerous individuals and institutions, the enhanced e-book features more than 150 interview excerpts, documents, and photographs, each embedded in the text where it will be most meaningful.
It’s a Twitter event! This Wednesday, December 12, from 9-10 pm EST join @LoriRotskoff, @uncpressblog, and @MamaDramaNY for a Twitter celebration and discussion of the 40th anniversary of Free to Be…You and Me, the popular nonsexist children’s album/book/TV special that has helped shape the childhoods and parenting practices of generations.
It’s not easy to write a biography of a living person, for a variety of reasons. Bill made it easy. I spent more than 40 hours interviewing him. He was unfailingly generous in offering his time, including a last round of interviews after I had written a draft of the book. We got to know each other well. I developed a habit of drinking Diet Cokes because that was what he always offered, and only recently have I shaken the habit.