The 8th of September marked the 60th birthday of Ruby Nell Bridges: in 1960, at the age of six, she famously became the first black child to desegregate an all-white school in the South of the USA. Sadly, she had to suffer a horrifying ordeal: she was harassed daily by vicious mobs, had to be escorted to and from school by federal marshals, and found herself utterly alone in her new school, because all the other children had been removed from the school by their parents due to her presence. Her family, too, suffered greatly. But she showed enormous courage and resilience in the face of this ordeal (see this moving photograph by an unknown photographer, and the iconic Norman Rockwell painting based on it), and she paved the way for other black students to attend once-segregated schools in the South.
The story of Ruby Bridges is an inspiring one; more on it here. But reflection on school segregation many decades ago (it was, in fact, sixty years ago that the US Supreme Court ruled that segregated schooling was unconstitutional) begs the question: how much have things actually improved since then?
A new study from UCLA shows that in some ways, schools in the USA are even more segregated than they were sixty years ago - especially along lines of class and economic status. (Surprisingly, though, this is no longer true of the South - it turns out the schools in New York are now the most segregated in the country).
All-white schools may have disappeared in the eyes of the law, but unfortunately, race and poverty remain deeply entrenched. Today, high-poverty, virtually-segregated black and Latino schools account for the overwhelming majority of the 1,400+ schools in the USA labeled "dropout factories" (meaning fewer than 60 percent of the students graduate).
With segregation and inequality alive and well, it’s time to think hard about ways of effecting real educational transformation...
Segregation is unfortunately still very much with us now, and a lot of it is a reflection of pretty severe and persistent discrimination and segregation in housing, because of the strong link between housing patterns and school assignments,” Parker said. “Some people think that if there is segregation in schools it’s because of people choosing where to live. That doesn’t reflect an understanding of how housing patterns in the US have evolved.