Why we really focus on improving black schools rather than integrating black students

At the tail end of an awesome episode of This American Life, the presenters made a point that seems both honest and poignant. Host Ira Glass is talking with reporters Chana Joffe-Walt and Nikole Hanna about public school integration and why so few school systems attempt it anymore. The episode points to overwhelming evidence that integration is more effective in raising the scores and success of black students than any other fix. Despite the evidence, administrators tend to focus on just trying to improve black schools.

Find a transcript below, but here’s the audio (offered without further editorialization):

So, the typical argument goes like this: “It’s just an issue about high poverty schools that need help and need more money and need more resources.”

By arguing it’s about resources, we white people feel better about ourselves. The truth is many of us are simply uncomfortable with the idea of integrating our kids. An uncomfortable truth.

“Yeah,” says Ira Glass. “Well, white people like the idea that it’s not a race issue.”

“Right,” says Chana Joffe-Walt. “By ‘we,’ I mean I’m talking for my people.”

Glass: “Yeah. And mine.”


Photo courtesy the Norman Rockwell museum.