Segregation In Schools Today

By Lindsey Bronder

In “The Purpose of Education” (1947), Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. describes the key role of education in achieving social justice. For King, education should go beyond passing on knowledge to also helping shape the character of each student and giving them the tools to succeed in society. Just like Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones believes in the importance of education and has spoken up against racial injustice in America. As discussed in her Martin Luther King Jr. address, schools across America are increasingly becoming resegregated and unequal.

Whether intentionally or not, white parents have tended to send their children to predominantly white schools or move to a predominantly white area resulting in a separation along race lines. Many public schools are serving either a predominantly white or minority population. According to Hannah-Jones, “we put an incredible amount of resources into segregation, but almost nothing into desegregation” and that “you need to put in an equal amount to undo what you did.” As a result, there exists an inequality between schools that serve predominantly white populations and those that serve minority populations.

According to Hannah-Jones, this inequality is seen in the school to prison pipeline. The school to prison pipeline refers to the trend of tracking students out of schools and into criminal justice systems by making disciplinary issues into crimes. Schools are increasingly becoming more institutionalized with zero tolerance policies, metal detectors, and police officers stationed in hallways. She claimed that this disproportionately impacts poor and students of color, who are statistically disciplined more than their peers. In New York City, only 14% of white high school students are scanned by metal detectors while almost 50% of black students and 43% of English Language Learner students. Hannah-Jones said that this need for security reflects how teachers in classrooms seem to be in fear of their students.

As a future teacher, these trends and statistics deeply saddened and angered me. Hannah-Jones discussion renewed my passion and dedication to social justice and showed that working towards desegregation is still a very relevant and pressing issue in America. White teachers have also been found to have lower expectations of minority students. As educators, we need to recommit and work towards equity for all of our students, including having high expectations. As Catholics, we need to remember that all of our students have dignity and should be respected, not feared.

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