De Facto Segregation in Alexandria, VA, Schools

(Frem (Substitute Teaching in Alexandria, Virginia) by C.F. Navarro.

The Alexandria City Public Schools were officially desegregated decades ago. Today black and white kids attend school under the same roof. Yet within the schools, segregation persist. Black and white kids tend socialize only with members of their own race. By the time they reach middle school, they eat lunch at separate tables and, though there's no noticeable animosity between them, few show any interest in crossing racial lines to make friends. Even in sports, segregation is the norm. Black kids go out almost exclusively for basketball and football, while white kids tend more toward to baseball, lacrosse and crew.

This de facto segregation in our public schools stems in large measure, not from perceived differences in skin color or culture among students, but from a class distinction inadvertently—not to say surreptitiously-- fomented by the education establishment. Not that Alexandria public school officials are bigots as such. Most are staunch liberals. Many are themselves African American. Yet the harm they do black kids under the guise of helping them would put an old-fashioned racist to shame.

The reverse discrimination was triggered in large measure by the “white flight” to private schools. Our public schools had made the mistake of construing integration as the mixing of advantaged students. mainly white, and disadvantaged students. mainly black, in the same classroom. They believed that one group would bond with and uplift the other. Well-informed parents, however, correctly saw this social engineering as a recipe for academic disaster. Though most parents were strong believers in racial equality, they drew the line where their children’s education was concerned. Many bolted for private or parochial schools, never to return. Some went so far as to sell their homes and move to another county, where the public schools were reputedly better. Many minority parents who could afford it bolted as well.

Under pressure from middle class parents who, as taxpayers, opted to stay and demand an optimum education for their children, school officials created a private school environment for them within the public school system. Most white middle-class students today are routinely classified as “talented and gifted” (the mother of all euphemisms) and placed in rigorous, no-nonsense classes. In the upper grades, T&G students enroll in advanced placement (AP) courses, earn a 3.5+ point-grade average, make the dean’s list, score high in their SATs and, when they graduate, go on to the first-rate colleges.

Black students from poor and working class families, on the other hand, had no one to deliver them from the social engineering. The bright and the not-so-bright, the hard-working and the indolent, the well-behaved and the incorregibly delinquent were all kept together in the same classes. So none could learn their full potential, and all were conveniently tagged as “needy.” Worse yet, the “neediest” of the lot, the ones who caused most trouble, were the ones bestowed the lion’s share of the schools’ resources and services. School officials had created the problem (teachers only followed orders) and now sought to correct it with even more social engineering. Instead of focusing on the able black students and creating positive role models for the rest to follow—as in the program for middle-class students, and in the real world, for that matter--educators focused on the least able. Instead of pulling them up from the top, they tried to push them up from the bottom, and by so doing kept everybody down.

Visit or, better yet, substitute teach in any Alexandria City Public School and, I surmise, most others in America, and you will be struck at once by the undue attention given to troublesome black kids at the expense of their normal peers. The worst of the troublemakers, in effect, have come to define the culture of their schools. “Dumbing down” is too mild a term for it.. Some of the schools I've subbed are more like mental health or correctional facilities than institutions of learning.

The only way to end the de facto segregation in our public schools is to give priority to the normal black kids, the vast majority. Just because they cause no trouble doesn’t mean that they can fend for themselves. Take them out of their dysfunctional classes, connect them with volunteer tutors, of which there are many in our community--retirees, Mormon missionaries--allow each student to progress according to his or her own ability, discipline and challenge them the same as their white peers, and they will integrate in short order; and when they do, many of the problems now plaguing public education will automatically disappear. As for the troublemakers, once they realize they are no longer the center of attention, some, at least, will change their ways.

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