A study finding that the percentage of intensely segregated schools tripled between 1988 and 2016 is seized upon as evidence that prejudice exists (“ ‘Threatening the Future’: The High Stakes of Deepening School Segregation,” The New York Times, May 11). But before jumping to conclusions about the reasons, it’s important to take a closer look at the issue.
Reformers maintain that court rulings that released school districts from desegregation orders are responsible. There is certainly some truth to that belief. But I think it overlooks a far more important reason. Parents are concerned that their children will be hurt academically if they are forced to attend schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students who just so happen to be largely black and Hispanic. Studies have called their fears unfounded, but they persist. I don’t think it’s because of prejudice. Instead, I think it’s because of concern over the academic deficits that these students bring to class through no fault of their own.
I don’t blame parents for wanting to get the best education for their own children. In fact, ethicists have repeatedly pointed out that that duty to kin is No. 1. I’m not saying that segregated schools are not disturbing. Of course, they are. But it’s wrong to attribute sinister reasons for their choice. Let’s not forget that former President Obama sent his two daughters to a private school in Washington D.C. even though he was an outspoken supporter of school integration.
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