Last Tuesday, Ansley Erickson, an associate professor at Columbia University’s Teachers’ College, spoke to us about a historian’s point of view of segregation trends in United States public schools. She gave us a brief overview of the legal history of segregation, from 1954’s landmark decision and “all deliberate speed” to the necessary practical decision to extend that mantra from within school districts to across different districts. One of the most interesting topics she spoke about was the difference between de facto segregation and de jure segregation. The former deals segregation that legislation did not overtly influence while the latter dealt with those that were explicitly the consequence of specific law. I don’t think theres really a difference. Here’s why:
I think the responsibility of any school anywhere should be to make its students better people by giving them the best environment in which to learn. Insofar as segregation reduces the amount of intellectual diversity in one’s learning environment, it reduces the amount that student will learn from their peers. Just as laws are justified in providing free public education for students in an attempt to cater to the notion of equal opportunity, legislation should reduce segregation by paternalistic policy means, regardless of whether or not its de facto, or de jure. It’s damaging.
We need to think more as a society about how segregation––in any form–– impedes collective social progress by simultaneously exacerbating the achievement gap and pulling down everyone’s’ academic potential by placing them in environments with a dearth of intellectual diversity from diversity of experience.