The short answer to the question posed in NBC’s Chicago Town Hall is: No.
The Brown decision did not truly end segregation. It did, however, certainly make some strides in state mandates. And as of today, at the bare minimum, all students, no matter their particular niche of diversity, have access to an education. A huge disparity still exists in the quality of the education to which they have access, however. One need only visit the public schools of Detroit and the public schools of Hartford, Connecticut to see that disparity.
The first day of desegregation, on Sept. 8, 1954, at Fort Myer Elementary School in Fort Myer, Va
Despite the data on the matter, a persistent mental model exists:
Well, if an African-American child lived in Hartford, he or she would not be denied access to its
public schools. Therefore, Brown has done its work. We can’t help where people choose to live.
Besides, we have magnet schools that are open to everyone.
Thus, the issue of school segregation through this discipline is a mental shrug of “Oh, well…” followed by a presupposition of a “choice” and a cursory Band-Aid of “We’re trying”. The segregation today is much more sordid than in the past because it is a silent belief and noiseless assent.
Hutchens (1999) asserts that “mental models determine how we think and act” (p.65). Unfortunately, the mental model of segregation persists in the minds of the very ones who can make a change as they fall back on the comfort of mandated legislation, arms open wide in supplication.
What else can we do?
Dr. Chandra Gill, educator, founder and CEO of Blackademically Speaking, put it best in the town hall discussion: “You know what's striking to me is the fact that Doctor King suggested you can legislate policy but you can’t legislate attitudes…why was Brown v. Board even necessary?”Why did we have to be mandated to be fair? Why did we need a government entity to require us to allow all children a quality education?
Brown has not ended and will not end--not until the mental models that require an authority to tell us what to do and what is right shift and the attitudes make a huge adjustment. This authority should already be IN us, not an external mandate OF us.
And it isn’t necessarily the loud, obnoxious, outspoken attitudes that cause the most problems. It can also be the quiet, unintentional ones.
My former school, a Title urban school, was primarily composed of minority students. However, segregation did exist in the form of “academies”. There was an “Agricultural Academy” and a “Vet Academy”, for example. African-American students did not join these programs, and the smaller percentage of white students gravitated to these academies.
However, the Chorus program was predominantly African-American as their musical selections and style was (still is) religious. To what degree does a teacher overseeing a program segregate students?
Did I unintentionally segregate students from the Theatre program, based on my curriculum and program choices? I can only hope that I didn’t, and at the time, I really didn’t pay attention. But the numbers of White students did exceed those of minority students.Thus, I can only conclude that I'm part of the problem and that I must, if I were to return, consciously make a change in my mental model: simply because someone is permitted to do something then everything's alright.
What Brown does remind me every time I’m asked to comment or reflect upon it is that every child deserves to go to a school that will provide them with the best opportunities in education.
Every child, every school, every program.
Mindy Keller-Kyriakides is the author of Transparent Teaching of Adolescents: Defining the Ideal Class for Students and Teachers. Become part of the conversation!
Holt, L. & Brooks, M. (Creators). (2010, April 28). NBC: Chicago town hall. [Video iCue]. Retrieved from: https://www.nbclearn.com
Hutchens, D. (1999). Shadows of the neanderthal. Waltham, MA: Pegasus.