Abigail and Stephen Thernstom can only wonder: "Is the ghost of George Wallace running New York City's public schools?" Jonathan Kozol seems to think so. He writes in his new book, The Shame of the Nation, that in New York and other big cities one "cannot discern the slightest hint that any vestige of the legal victory embodied in Brown v. Board of Education...has survived." But as the Thernstroms explain, comparing the situation of the South circa 1963 (with its de jure segregation and "apartheid" schooling) to today's Big Apple betrays Kozol's "stunning ignorance" of the nation's racial history. Segregation - the kind found in the 60's-era South - meant that black and white students were completely and legally separated. But today, the segregation buzzword means something entirely different. Academics and popularizers often ignore the incredible cultural diversity in urban schools and consider them "segregated" if their populations are less than 50% white. Rather than focus on academic achievement, or acknowledge the mass of different ethnicities represented in urban classrooms, they are overwhelmed by myopic racial and social implications they invent. Kozol, for example, ignores high performing all-minority schools such as the KIPP Academy in his own hometown of the Bronx. Let's dispense with the racial demagoguery. The Thernstroms are right to ask, "Were the segregated schools in Mississippi a half century ago really no different?"
"Busting Busing Myths," by Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom, New York Sun, November 1, 2005