For millions of children across the country regardless of race or ethnicity it’s time to g back to school. But what kind of school environment will children be facing? The predominant narrative among education activists is that school segregation has gotten worse in the past several decades.
According to a recent New York Times op-ed piece, schools are more segregated now than a few years ago and there’s data to back up the claim.
But not everyone is taking the New York Time’s views as the last word. Robert VerBruggen from the National Review believes the data cited by the New York Times piece is misleading. According to VerBruggen, changing demographics makes the data misleading — and that ultimately, “we’re not going in reverse” when it comes to segregation. Other Prominent journalists, like New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait and Matt Yglesias, shared VerBruggen’s post on Twitter.
This apparent disagreement on what the data show comes from the idea that changing demographics (the U.S. becoming less white) makes it harder to integrate schools. This is an opinion that has picked up steam in recent years that has in one case prompted Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy to push for more leniency in standards set by a court-ordered desegregation case.
So why are there such different views based on the same data? On the surface, this is an argument about how we measure school segregation trends. But ultimately, it’s a disagreement over how we should be thinking about school segregation.
There is a daunting amount of data to analyze when trying to figure out which side of the argument makes more sense. Yes, we can find metrics that show school segregation isn’t getting worse; we can find metrics that show our schools are not any more segregated now than they were 30 years ago. These metrics are important, and they describe significant ways our schools are changing.
And, to be fair, VerBruggen writes in his piece that “this doesn’t mean that this country’s racial problems are over or that there’s nothing we can do to spur further integration.”
The fact remains that there is still a certain amount of segregation in our schools. The question is, is it getting better, or worse?