Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute was part
of a radio program that began with an interview of Secretary of
Education Duncan. Rothstein, who has written extensively about how
government policies created and preserved segregated neighborhoods,
was taken aback
by
what Duncan said. He called it “backsliding.”

Rothstein says that Duncan doesn’t understand why government must act
forcefully to promote integration.

He writes: “Integration is necessary for the success of black students, even if they never
have the opportunity to command white soldiers or hold jobs in
predominantly white enterprises. When African-American students
from impoverished families are concentrated together in racially
isolated schools, in racially isolated neighborhoods, exposed only
to other students who also come from low-income, crime-ridden
neighborhoods and from homes where parents have low educational
levels themselves, the obstacles to these students’ success are
most often overwhelming. In racially isolated schools with
concentrations of children from low-income families, students have
no models of higher academic achievement, teachers must pitch
instruction to a lower academic average, more time is spent on
discipline and less on instruction, and the curriculum is disrupted
by continual movement in and out of classrooms by children whose
housing is unstable.

“Social science research for a half century
has documented the benefits of racial integration for black student
achievement, with no corresponding harm to whites. When low income
black students attend integrated schools that are mostly populated
by middle class white students, achievement improves and the test
score gap narrows. By offering only a “diversity” rationale for
racial integration, Secretary Duncan indicated that he is either
unfamiliar with this research or chooses to ignore it.”