Response to Old Doc on segregated schools

Members of the Plainfield blogosphere don’t go after each other every day – it’s more like every few weeks, and it’s usually Dan Damon.

It was brought to my attention that it has happened once again – this time Harold “Old Doc” Yood coming at me for my brief write-up about a Rutgers report (see here) on segregated schools in New Jersey.

Old Doc didn’t simply give his own perspective concerning schools and integration. He didn’t write a take that contradicted the study, and my introduction of said report. Instead, he employed the tacky maneuver of quoting me before adding his response – not becoming of a solid writer.

Nonetheless, I decided to respond to his words.

Apparently, when I said that many of Plainfield’s schools would register as “apartheid” according to this study, Old Doc took that to mean that there was an internal segregation in Plainfield. He went on to tell us that in this city there is no white minority “segregating blacks and Latinos from European whites.” Does he think I didn’t know that? Apparently so, since he went on to give a brief lesson in Plainfield demographics, only demonstrating that he has no clue what the study is trying to say.

That was never my claim, nor was it the claim of the report – a study with which I clearly stated I did not totally agree. This report said that as a state New Jersey operates racially segregated schools, many of which have – much more importantly to me – very high concentrations of poverty. This is a macro state problem in New Jersey, not an internal problem of Plainfield’s, and there are a myriad of reasons why this problem is worse in New Jersey than in just about all other states, even states with far greater shares of Blacks and Latinos. I never said, nor implied that there was some sort of racist conspiracy afoot in Plainfield. It seems Old Doc has drawn his own false conclusions about my political beliefs.

Ironically, it appears to be Dr. Yood himself who believes in such a racist conspiracy. Citing the slight 51-48 Latino majority in Plainfield Schools and its 100% Black Board of Education, Dr. Yood concludes that “any local school Jim Crowism is being initiated by the still Black majority in the community.”

So is Jim Crowism of any sort being perpetuated internally in Plainfield Schools? I think not, but I’d love to hear his ideas on how this is happening. Only this time I hope he writes his own piece instead of copy and pasting and then replying to mine.

Old Doc next found it necessary to point out that while 26% of Black students in NJ are in “apartheid” schools, the other three fourths are not in segregated schools. Not true. Based on the numbers, not being apartheid (extremely segregated) does not mean lack of segregation. Intensely segregated schools have greater than 90% minority populations, and significantly more than 26% of Black students attend such schools.

Reading the study, for which my piece was only a brief introduction, would help avoid such mistakes. Dr. Yood clearly chose to write about something that he didn’t bother to spend fifteen minutes to read.

“What is not addressed and probably is not solvable by any legislation is New Jersey’s system of community based school districts,” said Old Doc. Had Dr. Yood read the report before writing about it, he’d know that it was addressed. One of these researchers’ conclusions had to do with regional schools, the political impossibility that Dr. Yood went on to cite.

I will reiterate what I said originally – that I think this report focuses too much on race and not enough on the high concentrations of poverty, particularly as we relate this to Plainfield. The goal of the Plainfield Public Schools should be to improve instruction, which would also result in people of all races who can afford to send their children elsewhere keeping them in our schools. The schools would still read as highly segregated (however, most would no longer be apartheid) according to this somewhat flawed study, but with better instruction they would be high quality schools with less concentrated poverty. That is all a local board of education can do.

That being said, as a country and state, we do have to see what having schools that are so segregated along racial lines says about opportunity, race, class, and how we live. It is significant.

2 thoughts on “Response to Old Doc on segregated schools

  1. Hi David.

    Segregation – of all kinds, not just racial – happens everywhere. We have financial laws that different sides of a bank’s operation need to be segregated. Farmers segregate livestock by species and sex. Family groups get together for events — family only invited. People segregate themselves — grouping with others whom they like, have similar beliefs, language and lifestyle.

    In the 50s people where by force segregated by race. Blacks couldn’t eat in “white” establishments, live in the same neighborhoods, go to the same schools. We all agree this was wrong.

    Right now I think we are seeing segregation by income. The middle class is being destroyed, and the gap between poverty and wealth is widening. On one level, this makes sense that it would happen. If I make 20,000 a year and another makes 2,000,000 a year — we’re going to live in different neighborhoods, shop at different stores, wear different clothes — and yes, go to different schools. Since schools are supposed to serve the neighborhood, it follows that poorer neighborhoods will have a very large percentage of students living in poverty. This is market forces at work, not some evil scheme to hold anyone down or back. If I have a middle income, there is no way I can afford to send my child to elite schools and live in very wealthy neighborhoods.

    Using the term “apartheid” (Apartheid was a system of racial segregation in South Africa enforced through legislation by the National Party (NP) governments) — is I think inflammatory and not descriptive of the reality of what is going on in New Jersey. We have a lot of VERY wealthy people who live in towns/neighborhoods most can’t afford – no matter what our race. Other states don’t have such a wide gap of wealth as NJ has.

    The question is, what is the solution? Do you force parents not comfortable with the educational environment and the means to send their children to private schools to attend a school with a poor educational track record? That’s what is happening here in Plainfield. Can you blame them?

    Being poor does not mean you have no way out, must stay in poverty. My mother’s family was very poor living in West Virginia. Every single child got a college education — they all worked through college. Not having material goods does not mean you are incapable of achieving. But, the desire and work ethic has to be there. If the parents don’t care about their children’s education and long-term future, if being in poverty is “good enough” — no amount of legislation, handouts, etc. I believe with change anything.

  2. Why is exposure to white students a more important factor in education than exposure to concentrated poverty?

    What has been the impact of new educational programs designed for minorities? Should urban districts have the right to implement the curriculum of any high performing district in the state?

    There are solutions, but racial integration is a failed strategy that distracts from other causes and options.

    Most African Americans are not even aware that the word Apartheid is currently being used by critics of Israel. As such it is inflammatory, misleading and does a disservice to the data and the need for a constructive dialog.

    As a community that needs to work together to solve the problems of public school education, we should invite the authors of the Apartheid Schools study to Plainfield, in order to discuss their research and our concerns.

    This isn’t about any of our historic baggage. Getting angry at each other isn’t going to improve the situation.

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