Divided we fall

Posted on Jan 22 2014 - 9:20am by Christine Dickason

More than 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, our country has failed to realize the goals set forth in the landmark Supreme Court case. Increasingly, schools are experiencing “resegregation.” This is neither healthy for the individual students who are isolated from other racial groups nor a good indicator for a promising future for our country.

According to a 2012 report by the UCLA Civil Rights Project, “80 percent of Latino students and 74 percent of black students attend majority nonwhite schools,” and “the typical white student attends a school where three-quarters of their peers are white.” The majority of minority students attend a school where the student body is overwhelmingly impoverished. This leads to an inequality in resources that often results in lower success rates at the economically starved schools.

There are some outliers to this rule. KIPP schools, for example, tend to be largely minority schools, and they are frequently rated as successful schools, when judged by standardized test scores and other state standards.

But should the achievements of a school solely be judged by test scores?

This narrow definition of success is dangerous to promote. The goal of education is broader than to ensure that students test well. An education should prepare students for postgraduate paths, whether that is college enrollment or workforce entry. Moreover, education is an opportunity to expand students’ minds and introduce them to new ideas.

These goals cannot be achieved in segregated schools.

Immanuel Kant wrote that human beings should be viewed as ends in and of themselves, rather than a means to some end. His assertion is grounded in the notion that human beings have inherent value, which should be acknowledged and respected by others. Allowing our school system to separate students along racial lines encourages the idea that there is something that divides us due to skin color, making us inherently unequal, or, at the very least, different.

The perpetuation of racial divides in our society weakens the democratic ideals on which this country was founded. John Dewey writes that the purpose of education is to prepare people “for intelligent organization, so that they can unite with each other in a common struggle against poverty, disease, ignorance, credulity, and low standards of appreciation and enjoyment.”

This statement gets to what I believe is the core of the problem. When divides are created within towns due to differences in skin color, people lose the sense of shared responsibility, which is vital to our nation’s strength. Not only does this fail to prepare people for encounters with diversity in the world, but it also promotes a perilous “us vs. them” mentality.

Martin Luther King Jr. believed that both the segregated and the segregator suffer. He asserted, “(Segregation) scars the soul and distorts the personality. It inflicts the segregator with a false sense of superiority while instilling the segregated with a false sense of inferiority.”

The U.S. will not prosper as a nation until we take a strong, unified stance against this type of segregation. Government policy must seek to address this problem so that every child in America can attend schools in diverse, accepting environments that teach them the inherent value of every person, regardless of race, socioeconomic status or background.

Christine Dickason is a junior public polcy leadership major from Collierville, Tenn.


Christine Dickason