Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Segregation in all forms should be left in the past

Segregation is something that this nation got rid of a long time ago with the forced integration of the Little Rock Nine in 1957. Today, students of all races learn together in diverse classrooms with diverse teachers.

However, previous civil rights and integration efforts do not apply for one  Pennsylvania high school, who recently experimented with a racial mentoring program. In late January of this year, the school separated students based on their color and gender in the name of education. Now they are under criticism and  current suspension, the  principal  still defends the program.

Students met for a few minutes each morning segregated in homerooms for a session similar to mentoring. It allows students to have a role model to boost performance and  achievement.

McCaskey East High School  justifies their “segregation” by claiming that, according to previous research by the school, “grouping black students by gender with a strong role model can help boost their academic achievement and self esteem.” Already strong bonds had formed between the students and mentors.

The program of separating students battles something that I tried so hard to ignore in high school–that I was different because of the color of my skin. Many times, it was difficult to have  conversations because others would talk slower and simpler because of the way that I looked. One time when I was volunteering at a  barbecue, a lady came up and started to talk slowly to me while pointing to things that she wanted to order in a  derogatory  manner. Another time, the school had pulled me out of class in high school on the basis of English language learner status because of my race.

They must have thought that I did not speak English well enough to write at and attend a liberal arts college. This is clearly not the case.

Separation on the basis of gender is different than separation on the basis of color. Evidence from a  New Zealand study by Richard Harker shows that gender separation can encourage growth in confidence,  aptitude, higher aspirations and engagement. My qualm with McCaskey East High is the separation of students by color.

The 1954 Supreme Court case Brown vs. Kansas Board of Education ruled that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”.

Social segregation is not related to instituted segregation. People of similar races already tend to group together and research like the  Caltech study by Fedrico Echenique states that, “Asian kids sitting together in the  cafeteria [have] a substantively unimportant relationship with academic achievement or social behavior in school or later life.”

However, by separating students in the classroom, segregation is both facilitated and legitimized.

Reasons to segregate include decreasing distractions, the sharing of a common culture and teaching at an even pace. Yet when we talk about closing the achievement gap, are we talking about race and the difference in test scores or an overall failure of the education system?

Instead of looking to identify measures to improve education for all students and reform the education system overall in a  procedure mentioned earlier, McCaskey East High  has taken an  antiquated measure of segregation to improve schools. From the past, we have learned that segregation manipulates resource allowances resulting in inferior facilities; also, differentiated materials increase racial differences in academic achievement.

It may be “separate but equal” facilities across the classrooms at McCaskey, but in the future, white students may once again have access to better facilities, turning back the clock 70 years. So we need to learn from history and entertain the idea of integration as progress, and not take steps backwards to segregated classrooms.

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