Integration of America’s Public Schools

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“In schools today, we like to believe that all students are treated equally and are given the same opportunities to achieve success later in life once they have completed their required education. We put forth the idea that students will achieve success if they work hard and put in the effort to obtain it, yet there seems to be a gap between students who have a lower socioeconomic status or those who are a minority. Segregation in education is associated with greater disparities in resources and performance. Even though students of color are technically able to attend the same schools and have the benefits of white students or those who have a higher socioeconomic status; student tracking combined with a lack of consideration for resources for these minority students has kept this divide in existence. Achieving the ideal of a fully integrated and equal opportunity school system in the United States will never be an easy or simple task.

The integration of America’s public schools has been in the works since the 1930’s and was a major goal of the civil rights movement (School, 2018). The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People brought forth lawsuits that argued “separate was not equal” in terms of the quality of schools their children attended as well as the quality of teachers that were employed at these schools (School, 2018, para. 1). Many students led protests and without the assistance of adults and confronted their local school boards to demand more funding and these protests led to lawsuits. The combination of these lawsuits for the welfare of minority students in public schools resulted in the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education. In Brown v. Board of Education in Topeka the court ruled that racial segregation of children in schools was unconstitutional. This was the cornerstone of the civil rights movement and established that education and other services that were separate were not equal. The result of this case outlawed segregation in America’s public-school system in 1954 but most segregated schools did not integrate for many more years (School, 2018, para. 1).

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The act of integrating public schools may seem beneficial today but it’s initial effects on teachers, parents and students after Brown Vs. Board of Education resulted in backlash. Julia Matilda Burns a teacher, parent and school board member in Holmes County, Mississippi in 1965 described “the local white community [starting] their own private white academy, [as] a common plan to evade integration across the South” (School, 2018, para. 5). Although Brown vs. Board activated a civil rights movement that desegregated many parts of society, it was not fully successful in the integration of public schools and education (Strauss, 2014). The initial integration benefits of Brown vs. Board seem to have stalled and this has resulted in black and minority children being more racially and socioeconomically isolated today than at the time of the case (Strauss, 2014). While integrating schools by race is an important goal, the achievement gap can also be attributed to a lack of funding even today and this lack of funding seems to almost counteract the benefit of Brown vs. Board (McDaniels, 2017).

In 1954, schools for black children had detrimental resource shortages and today the same situation exists for schools in underprivileged areas and predominately black neighborhoods (Strauss, 2014). Even though this funding gap may be smaller providing equal funding for disadvantaged students and privileged students may not be enough to bridge this gap. Underprivileged black students may require more resources than middle-class white students to not only be successful in school but also to prepare for success outside of school (Strauss, 2014). Segregation inside and out of school because of the socioeconomic status of a student or their family can lead to a decrease on the development of that student’s human-capital development later in life (Bergman, 2018). One’s human-capital is measured by their collective skills, or knowledge that can be used to create economic value (Dictionary, 2018). If students from under privileged communities are already having their human-capital measured very early in life by where they are living, they are not being given the full chance of success as those students who live in more privileged communities. One solution to this issue would be to start these students out early for success by providing “high-quality early childhood programs, from birth to school entry; high-quality after-school and summer programs; full-service school health clinics; more skilled teachers; and smaller classes” according to Valerie Strauss, a reporter at The Washington Post (Strauss, 2014).

In education, the achievement gap refers to the disparity in academic performance between students from different backgrounds or different races (Ansell, 2019). Is it possible that this gap between black and white students is innate? Are black students less intelligent than white students? Could this be an explanation to their decreased success? This justification of discrimination between black and white students goes back to slavery (Booker, Color of the Mind, 2019). Blacks were meant to serve whites, so their education was not a priority and as of 1990, 65% of whites viewed blacks as less intelligent and knowledgeable than them (Booker, Color of the Mind, 2019). If we are to move forward as one nation to a more equal school system, our expectations need to be equal among all races. One example of this would be Kant’s Moral Imperative.

Immanuel Kant an influential German Philosopher, argued that the major goal of morality is rationality. Kant described this as an objective or rational that we must always follow “despite any natural desires or inclinations we may have to the contrary (Johnson, 2016).” This is better known as the golden rule and states that we should treat others the way we want to be treated. If we were to implement Kant’s moral imperative in our everyday society it would in turn have a vast effect on our school system. We would need to empathize with struggling students to make our curriculum work for their benefit instead as a sorting machine to weed out the weak. There would be less focus on test scores and more student focused instruction. This would lead to a greater morale for underprivileged students because it would give them a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that someone cares enough about them to ensure that they succeed (McKnight, 2016). This would also teach students the importance of good moral character because the schools they attend, their teachers and the rest of society would be setting the example.

Character is one of the top two goals of education and where else is a child supposed to learn good character than in a well-staffed, well-funded school? (Booker, Kant on Education, 2019). If we deprive children of this chance to gain a good moral character, then we will be doing a disservice to future generations. Students must also have instruction that integrates a schedule into their day. If there is no discipline in school, there will be no learning because students will not be able to stay focused. Students must also develop moral character before they are ready to learn (Booker, Kant on Education, 2019). According to Kant, the four main tasks of education are to develop discipline thinking, the creation of a cultivated outlook, to enhance civilization and to impart moral rectitude but often today we are more concerned with tracking our students (Booker, Kant on Education, 2019). Students are ranked as being average, normal, or below average and they are divided into classes with students of the same achievement level. Tracking also takes place in high schools to test students with achievement and IQ tests and used those scores to place students into separate curricular tracks. One track will prepare the student for college while the other may prepare the student for work. Tracking covers different curricula which means that depending on the child’s track there are lacks in certain elements of other curricula and this led to different destinations upon graduation. There are often three different types of tracks. The first one was a high track which is made up of college-preparatory AP, or honors courses, the second is a generic track served for a huge group of students in the middle, and the third is a low track, which consisted of low track which consisted of low-level academic offerings.

If we are to fully integrate our public schools, we first need to integrate society. We cannot have equality if in schools if our neighborhoods and places of business are still divided by race or socioeconomic status. There is often a disconnect between black and white students and we can link this discrepancy to race and financial status. We need to stop placing lower expectations on students who come from underprivileged communities because they might fail and need to encourage them that they will succeed. If a student has grown up in a lower socioeconomic status, they may require more funding than those students from the middle class because they have been deprived of many early childhood benefits, but their failure is not innate. Students who are robbed of the experience of a good quality education may end up staying in the cycle they are used to. We must put the education of every child first regardless of their race or economic status. It is unfair and biased to only allow students who are smart enough or rich enough to enroll in the more challenging classes or attend better funded schools. If a student wants to push themselves, the school system should be encouraging them, not limiting them based on their past class or economic history. This is an example of what is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy. The self-fulfilling prophecy is an idea that says that once an expectation is set by either society or possibly yourself, it is inevitable when what is expected finally happens. The self-fulfilling prophecy can ruin the progress of a student if they end up on the wrong path. Educators need to realize that their expectations of all that is possible and impossible for any given individual will greatly impact and change the outcomes of a child’s life (self-fulfilling, 2018). We need to put forth the idea that students will achieve success if they work hard and put in the effort to obtain it.”

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Integration of America’s Public Schools. (2021, May 27). Retrieved from