School segregation is something that most people think is in the past but

School segregation is something that most people think is in the past but, in reality, school systems are more segregated now than they have been in the last forty years. Even though the Supreme Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for African American and Caucasian students unconstitutional as a result of the Brown v. the board of education case, races are still geographically separated. Caucasians tend to move out of integrated communities, avoid moving to them, and chose not to send their children to schools in urban communities because they do not want their children associated with lower income classes thus perpetuating racial stereotypes and isolation from other minority groups, which has an extremely negative effect on all races. African Americans are less likely to move out of racially mixed areas. Suburban areas are more expensive, leaving only families with a higher income able to move out of urban areas which then leads to racial and economic segregation in communities and African Americans to live in segregated, high poverty areas. Public schools in urban areas are more likely to have inexperienced teachers, less likely to offer a college prep curriculum, and have very few resources. Aside from the educational disadvantages of segregated schools, children living in urban areas also face many self-esteem issues which can be detrimental. Integration in a good middle-class school leaves a lasting, positive impact. African American children who attend desegregated schools are more likely to graduate and 22% less likely to be incarcerated as an adult.
How is this topic relevant to the discourse of Sociology?
The topic of education is extremely relevant to Sociology. Schooling is one of the agents of socialization. It has many important functions in society. School teaches children social skills, how to respect authority, it helps students learn society’s rules, and qualities that make obedient and efficient workers. While in school, students must obey instruction while having no control over the curriculum and gaining little to no inner gratification during their time of learning. Students learning these norms and values in an educational institution makes them willing to accept similar conditions as adults. Most modern political systems recognize the importance of universal education. An informed public is essential to democracy. Though education benefits everyone, it does not benefit everyone equally and inequality in the school system reflects inequality in a larger society.
Sociologists have always been interested in the lessons that students learn indirectly in school but play a major role in socialization, otherwise known as a hidden curriculum. A hidden curriculum reinforces conditions of social inequality by reinforcing what is “right”, “wrong”, “good”, or “bad”. For example, while in school, white and Asian students might notice there are few to none black or Hispanic students in their advanced placement classes thus perpetuating the idea they are smarter than black or Hispanic students. These micro-inequalities result from macro-inequalities. To gain a sociological perspective on school, it needs to be understood that educational achievement is as much about social stratification as it is about individual ability.
How is this topic an issue in society?
In the 2014-2015 school year, 88% of white students graduated high school while only 75% of black students graduated. Only 15% of people from low-income families went on to earn their bachelor’s degree, while an outstanding 2/3 of people from a high-income family achieved their bachelor’s degree. Structural functionalists might say schools are not intended to provide equal chances. They may argue educational inequality is preparation for occupational inequalities later in life. School segregation, though a major issue in society, is not something talked about much. The unnoticing or little care about inequality in educational institutions by many, continues the cycle of inequality in larger platforms of life. Not only is school segregation detrimental to black students but it affects white students as well. The lack of interaction white students have with students of other races at an early age damages their view of other races, as well themselves. Racism can be taught in the abstract but if a school is primarily white, important nuances can get lost.
There is not a simple solution to this major issue in our society but half of the battle to fixing this problem is having members of our society willing to fix it. There are different small- and large-scale solutions some school districts throughout America have adapted to. For example, Boston, Massachusetts has a voluntary program that sends inner-city children to schools in suburban areas and Louisville, Kentucky has developed a complicated school assignment formula that has resulted in more integrated schools. With the school assignment formula set in place in Kentucky, 90% of families with children going into kindergarten get their first-choice school. Though these models may not be perfect, it is still a huge step in the right direction and it should be important for people to be invested in these types of solutions. The topic of school segregation tends to get framed as an issue with parents and their children though it really has to deal with issues adults have with each other. These students grow up to be adults that suffer the repercussions of segregation which is unfortunate because it would be massively beneficial to members of society, and society as a whole, if people from all different walks of life interacted at a younger age.
Review of the Literature:
The Supreme Court’s ruling in the 1954 case “Brown v. the board of education” declared state laws that had separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The administration under President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s pushed integration. School districts that had been uncooperative with integrating students were threatened by Johnsons administration with federal funding cuts and lawsuits. By 1988, schools in the south were almost fully integrated with 44% of black students attending primarily white schools. Most people were led to believe school segregation was only a problem in the south but school districts in the north were just as guilty. Even after the ruling in “Brown v. the board of education”, some cities in the north, New York for example, never really integrated because the north was thought to be much more liberal than southern states even though statistics proved otherwise. The rise of integration in southern schools did not last. Lawsuits were filed by President Reagans and President George H.W. Bush’s administration to release districts from orders to integrate and by 1991 the Supreme Court sided with both administrations. The “Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Powell” ruled a school district can be freed from an injunction to desegregate if it can demonstrate compliance with the order and will not return to the former ways of segregating schools. From 1990 to 2009 courts released 45% of school districts under court oversight. Today, typical white students attend schools that are 75% white but only 1/8 Latino and 1/12 black. To put that percentage in perspective, in a classroom of 30 children, 22 are white, 2 are black, 4 are Latino, 1 is Asian and 1 would be listed as “other”. There is an abundance of information and research concerning school segregation in America today. The general consensus of the articles listed below is that segregation in schools is still a major problem. Each of these references mentions the root of the problem of school segregation being racial and economic segregation. Black and Latino children represent more than half of students in schools with the most poverty. For many of these children, this means less qualified teacher, poor facilities, and scarce materials which leads to more disciplinary issues and lower test scores. In low poverty schools, 95.2% of students graduate while schools in high poverty areas have a graduation rate of 77.6%. It has been proven through sociological research and studies that integration has many enduring and auspicious effects for African Americans and by narrowing the achievement gap between African Americans and Caucasians it increases success for African Americans and has zero effects on Caucasians. A study done by Rucker Johnson, a professor at the University of California at Berkley, found that for every year a black student attended an integrated school, their likelihood of graduating went up 2%. The longer a black student stays in school, the greater his or her odds are. Johnson found that schools under court supervision benefit from higher per-pupil spending and smaller student-teacher ratios. Another benefit he found to attending a school under court oversight is higher wages later in life and a smaller chance of experiencing poverty. In his research, Johnson found that with a five-year exposure to court ordered desegregation, the average effect among blacks resulted in a 15% increase in wages (an extra $5900 in annual family income) and an 11% decline in yearly incidences of poverty.
Thesis Statement: Segregated schools are still a major problem in America, leaving African American children affected the most.
List of References:
De la Roca, J., Ellen, I. G., ; O’Regan, K. M. (2014). Race and neighborhoods in the 21st
century: What does segregation mean today? Regional Science and Urban Economics
47, 138-151.
Ferris, K, Stein, J. (2016). The real world: An introduction to sociology.
Hilbert, J. (2016). Restoring the Promise of Brown: Using State Constitutional Law to
Challenge School Segregation. SSRN Electronic Journal.
Hughey, M. W. (2015). Educational Inequality. Humanity & Society, 39(4), 476.
Johnson, R. (2011). Long Run Impacts of School Desegregation and School Quality on Adult
Attainments. National Bureau of Economic Research.
Lawrence, E., & Mollborn, S. (2017). Racial/Ethnic Patterns of Kindergarten School Enrollment
in the United States. Sociological Forum, 32(3), 635–658.
Rohde, N., & Guest, R. (2013). Multidimensional Racial Inequality in the United States. Social
Indicators Research, 114(2), 591–605.


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