Will America's Schools Ever Be Desegregated?

You may have heard that school segregation can't be changed until our neighborhood patterns of segregation are change. Learn about how efforts like magnet schools in Hartford, "controlled choice" in Champaign, Illinois, and the simple persistence of the city of Louisville, Kentucky has pushed desegregation in school despite intransigent housing patterns.

The piece also serves as a sober reminder that sometimes segregated schooling can actually lead to segregated schooling, as one study showed that the largest national increases in neighborhood segregation by income between 1990-2010 were "caused almost entirely by families with children, those seeking 'good' school districts.

Perhaps more importantly, the article gives hope, if we have the political will: "Popular dissent over desegregation, it turns out, doesn't last forever. If changes look inevitable—and can't be easily escaped by moving to the next town over or enrolling in a different school—parents generally come to accept them. This is what happened in Louisville: resistance gave way to acceptance and even vocal support."

The research on Building Understanding Across Racial Lines

A review of more than 500 studies shows that when people of different races and ethnicities get to know each other, they show more compassion and understanding for one another. This is known as “intergroup contact theory,” (people from different groups being in contact), and is considered the primary intervention for reducing racial bias and prejudice.

And it’s not just about contact, but contact under the right conditions. Four conditions the article highlights are: the support of relevant authorities, common goals, a sense of cooperation, and equal status.  These are some of the reasons why we invest in staff training, are clear about our “Commoner values”, foster cooperation in leadership challenges, and make it very clear that “status” is leveled at camp, like starting and ending on the same bus.

Can Racism Be Stopped in the Third Grade?

When is the right time to engage students on racial identity and segregation? The Fieldston school, a diverse private school in NYC, separated students into 'affinity groups' based on racial identity, and the experiment provides bold testimony to how uncomfortable it can be to start young, and how that the long-term benefit may be great. Does bringing it up so young undo the ethos of equality, or does it move us closer towards equity? 

Most kids don't form a sense of racial identity until around age 7.  By age 9, most kids still think of race in literal terms without value judgement (e.g. food, language, skin color). While cross-racial friendships flourish in elementary school, "Beginning in middle school, they define themselves through membership in groups, or cliques, learning and performing the fraught social codes that govern adult interactions around race." We know it's a life-long development, and in Oakland, we are so grateful to have the Mosaic Project working with 4th and 5th graders—and now we are excited and honored to be working with middle schoolers to stop these cycles of segregation right when it starts to happen. Let's go!

Trends in Racism, a CNN Poll

While it may be surprising to some that only 49% of those surveyed think racism is a big problem in America, the trend is critical. This video and slideshow reviews many of the major events in the past year, from Freddie Gray's death, to the mass shooting at African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, to the University of Oklahoma fraternity's heinous chant, and to President Obama saying the N-word on radio to make the point that racism is still a problem in American society. It reminded us that while publicity of certain events may cause spikes in popular opinions about racism, America has persistently struggled with racism over time. With a loud national conversation on racism, it's time to build towards a more equitable future.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.29.53 AM.png

The Problem We All Live With

In July, This American Life published a two-part series on the one thing no one talks about in public education—integration. The first episode covers the story of a school district in Normandy, Missouri (where Michael Brown attended a high school) that accidentally stumbled on an integration program, and the backlash it caused. The second episode focuses on a bold experiment for integration in Hartford, Connecticut where the district achieved diverse schools by focusing on the benefits of Magnet Schools and barely mentioning diversity at all.

We found the series incredibly inspiring. If you're thinking about coming to Camp Common Ground, we highly encourage you to listen.

The Problem We All Live With