According to the Cambridge Dictionary, desegregation is the act of ending segregation between races or sexes in an organization. Integration, on the other hand, refers to the process of becoming part of a group of people. It is extremely simplistic to think that the former automatically results in the latter, as these two terms are not simply synonyms but possess a much broader range of meaning.
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These terms are central when it comes to public education in the United States and their effect on students’ academic performance, being challenged ever since the ruling of one of the most famous court cases in the country, the Brown v. Board of Education (1954), in which justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional, and therefore, black children should not be banned from sharing public facilities, such as schools and buses, with white children, even though separate but equal facilities were considered equal under the law. Although playing a significant role in the civil rights movement, it is possible to argue that desegregation has not yet achieved is purpose, as achievement gap, income inequality and racial discrimination has not only continued to exist in our society but has increased significantly. Therefore, it is feasible to affirm that desegregation has not been successful, making integration a distant dream that will only become a concrete reality when the divisible color line that separates black children from white cease to exist.
The Brown v. Board of Education Case, like mentioned above, represented a decisive and extremely important milestone in the history of racial discrimination in the United States. However, existing policy shortcomings still prevent its promise of achieving full integration in public schools.
According to the Washington Post article, the gap achievement between white and black students is a constant in the United States because despite the black average achievement has increased, so has the white average achievement, preventing the gap between both to be eliminated or, at least, decreased. As stated by research from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), black fourth-graders have better average math scores than average white math scores, however, this accounts for only about 25% of white students, according to the same article. Consequently, the hope for equal qualification for the labor market remains a faraway goal. Additionally, current issues that black students face in regards to academic performance are directly linked to income inequality because of lack of resources needed to improve academic performance of those who need it the most. The per-pupil spending on black and white children are roughly the same, however, the center of the problem lies in lower social class status since children in such condition still need a lot more resources to be able to thrive and succeed in school, as children of parents with lower literacy levels hear less complex language at home and are read to less frequently (Washington Post).
Moreover, accessibility to a higher quality education is directly intertwined to affordability. Better schools are able to provide smaller class sizes and, therefore, offer students more adult attention, which boosts achievement. In addition, middle class childen received supportive adult attention both at school and at home, but lower class children end up receiving less than necessary because as school resources become more expensive, they simply can’t afford it. By the same token, supportive school services are mostly needed for children who live in segregated neighborhoods in which crime and violence are more present than in gentrified areas, so counselors and social workers becomes an essential factor to improve achievement. Services like this, however, are more expensive and, hence, further from the reach of low income families.
The process of gentrification is also relocating low income families to more distant areas, which can result not only in segregated neighborhoods but also homelessness. As long as segregated neighborhoods exist, segregated schools also will because low-income, black families can’t afford the rising cost of housing in white middle-class suburbs and opportunities are few or non-existence. The cycle, then, remains with segregated neighborhoods causing segregated schools, which, therefore, limits future work opportunities for many black students.
Health conditions, as well, can place a toll on academic performance and absenteeism. Racially isolated neighborhoods that includes fewer primary care physicians result in less preventive health care for children living in such locations. Lower achievement can be negatively impacted because of health problems such as anemia or vision problems that are not taken care of. In order to decrease the achievement gap, it is crucial that public schools to be also equipped with full-service clinics to serve disadvantaged students.
Furthermore, today more than ever, black children in the United States are more racially and socioeconomically isolated. In 1980, a typical black student attended school where 36% of fellow students were white, but in 2014, this number has decreased to 29%. Even though there has been progress since Brown in regards to desegregation, policies to integrate students has not been fully followed by many southern school districts, indicating that progress in terms of desegregation has not been fully achieved. Moreover, schools remain racially homogeneous, as black and Latino students are more likely to attend schools with low white enrollment. Minority students, therefore, continue to have educational experience that is substantially separate and unequal, as two-thirds of minority students still attend schools that are predominantly minority (Darling-Hammond). Moreover, access to educational excellence and opportunity are inextricably linked to race and poverty (US News). According to research from the Government Accountability office, schools with high percentage of poor and black or Hispanic students still offer fewer math, science and college preparation courses. In addition, the research indicated a direct link between high school poverty and worse educational outcomes.
All things considered, it is correct to affirm that, after Brown, despite its tremendous importance, our society hasn’t yet reached a place of total integration among black and white students in public schools given the fact that disparities are still existent and are especially visible in schools with large number of minority groups. The Brown v. Broad of Education has, however, created a bridge among citizens in a racially divided society, and it is imperative that the efforts that started over sixty years ago continue to be addressed and realistic policies be made to mitigate the problem before it is perpetuated.
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