This space explores issues in public education policy, and it advocates for a commitment to and a re-examination of the democratic purposes of schools. If there is some urgency in the message, it is due to the current reform efforts that are based on a radical re-invention of education, now spearheaded by a psychometric blitzkrieg of "metastasizing testing" aimed at dismantling a public education system that took almost 200 years to build. JH August, 2005
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Segregation is Manmade and It Can Be Unmade
Since Wall Street's grand theft of 40 percent of the nation's wealth in 2008, the federal government has passed out billions in grants to states and cities for various projects, many of them even worthy of our tax dollars. This process provided many great opportunities to incentivize policies that could alter what has become the intensification of housing and school segregation over the past 35 years. And yet there were no incentives offered, particularly in the guidance or bonus points or stipulations in Race to the Top. Instead, incentives were provided for more intensely segregated charter schools run by corporations. This madness doesn't have to continue this way.
We could do something different if the plutocrats' corporate drones could be run out of Washington.
. . . .Our contemporary income segregation becomes even more intense when we drill down from the metro to neighborhood level. Sociologists Sean Reardon and Kendra Bischoff have been doing this drilling, using Census tract data.
Back in 1970, the pair have found, 65 percent of America’s families lived in “middle-income” situations, neighborhoods where incomes range from 80 to 125 percent of the median, or most typical, income of the larger metro area. By 2008, only 43 percent of U.S. families lived in middle-income neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, over that same span, the share of families living in either poor or rich neighborhoods essentially doubled.
In 2008, note Reardon and Bischoff, nearly one in three U.S. families in metro areas “lived in neighborhoods at the extremes of the local income spectrum,” in poor neighborhoods with incomes under 67 percent of the metro median or in affluent neighborhoods with incomes above 150 percent of that median.
Today’s affluent, Reardon and Bischoff observe, actually live more segregated lives than America’s poor. These affluent have become “much less likely” to live in mixed-income neighborhoods than poor families.
Growing income inequality, the two sociologists add, is driving this increasing segregation. With the income gap between the rich and everyone else rising, mixed-income neighborhoods “have grown rarer,” affluent and poor neighborhoods “much more common.”
Average Americans, for their part, are paying a heavy price for this growing segregation. The more isolated the rich become, the more they withdraw into their own private worlds and the less interest they have in supporting public services that can benefit the wider community.
Growing inequality and income segregation impact us on a deeper level as well. The more unequal we become, notes University of Maryland political scientist Eric Uslaner, the less we feel we have “much in common” with people not like us.
Between 1968 and 2006, Uslaner’s research documents, the share of Americans who believe that “most people can be trusted” dropped from 56 to 34 percent. “Such overarching pessimism,” he observes, shreds social cohesion and invites political polarization. Finding “common ground” becomes ever more difficult.
Into this doom and gloom, Stanford historian Richard White has just brought some egalitarian sunshine. Once upon a time, White writes in a fascinating new Boston Reviewessay, most Americans lived in much more equal circumstances.
In the 1860 Illinois of Abraham Lincoln, for instance, Springfield “bricklayers, lawyers, stable owners, and managers lived in the same areas and were not much separated by wealth.”
Back then, White explains, “making it” meant earning an income able “to support a family and have enough in reserve to sustain it through hard times at an accustomed level of prosperity.”
“The idea of having enough,” adds White, “frequently trumped the ambition for endless accumulation.”
In other words, nothing in the American “character” hardwires us to chase mindlessly after grand fortune — or accept income segregation.