Talking ‘Bout Our Segregation

/ 23 May 2012 / jennifer

Michael Diedrich, Minnesota 2020, May 23, 2012 –

I’ve written before about the problems of segregation that often accompany school choice policies focused on learning narrowly. The charter school system in the Twin Cities is notable for the degree of segregation it contains and that many of its schools promote. As such, I’m looking forward to covering this Thursday’s forum (hosted by the Public Education Justice Alliance of Minnesota) on segregation.

The main speaker will be Myron Orfield, a professor at the University of Minnesota and one of the lead researchers at U of M’s Institute on Race and Poverty. The Institute has done a significant share of the research on contemporary school segregation, including its origins and effects. The forum will include a presentation by Professor Orfield and a subsequent discussion of the intersection between segregation and education in the Twin Cities.

For many people, it’s easy to fall into the idea that discussions of education should be colorblind. The realities of education show that such an approach isn’t actually helpful. There are real issues of race, culture, and expectations to address in our public schools. At the same time, the available information suggests that many of the well-intentioned efforts to address this via charter schools have backfired.

Of course, the school segregation of Minnesota today looks a little different than the segregation of a place like Mississippi a few decades ago. Instead of direct legislation requiring whites-only schools, we have a combination of residential segregation (driven in part by historical racism) and voluntary segregation by schools that focus on particular racial, ethnic, or cultural experiences. As it turns out, however, the new segregation is still, on the whole, damaging for students.

I’m looking forward to learning more on Thursday night, and you can expect to see a follow-up piece by me either on Friday or early next week. More information can be found at PEJAM’s web site. The forum will be held at 7 pm in Room 50 of Mondale Hall (229 19th Ave. South, Minneapolis) at the University of Minnesota Law School.