I’m all for (integration), but, to put it plainly, it’s as likely to snow Hershey’s Kisses as for this to happen at scale given politics, housing patterns, city and town boundaries, and school boundaries. So doesn’t this make those pursuing other strategies to improve school quality for low-income and minority kids, you know, pragmatists? Even within jurisdictions with great racial and economic diversity (and liberal voting records) there is a lot of resistance to just changing school boundaries and enrollment patterns. Meanwhile, many schools that are integrated on paper are much less so within classrooms.
Political scientist, Patrick McGuinn, in a sympathetic article in Education Next, helps explain the belligerent culture of the contemporary "reform movement. McGuinn reports that education reform advocacy organizations (ERAOs) meet every few weeks in Washington D.C. to discuss their fight with teachers and their unions, which they dismiss as the "blob." The ERAOs refer to themselves, only half in jest, as the "Fight Club." In other words, they are so convinced of the righteousness of their cause that they embrace "brass knuckle" edu-politics, as they demonize their opponents.
So basically, for all the posturing and "civil rights issue of our time" rhetoric the "Fight Club" is fond of picking on the easier, "pragmatic" target -- working teachers and poor people.
Maybe the best model for understanding school reform is real estate politics -- urban renewal, gentrification, etc. Or maybe it is just a component of those processes. This is not a coincidence.
If we examine more carefully the interests that Obama represents; if we look at his core financial supporters; as well as his inmost circle of advisors, we’ll see that they represent the primary activists in the demolition movement and the primary real estate beneficiaries of this transformation of public housing projects into condos and townhouses: the profitable creep of the Central Business District and elite residential neighborhoods southward; and the shifting of the pile of human misery about three miles further into the South Side and the south suburbs.
Obama’s political base comes primarily from Chicago FIRE—the finance, insurance and real estate industry. And the wealthiest families—the Pritzkers, the Crowns and the Levins. But it’s more than just Chicago FIRE. Also within Obama’s inner core of support are allies from the non-profit sector: the liberal foundations, the elite universities, the non- profit community developers and the real estate reverends who produce market rate housing with tax breaks from the city and who have been known to shout from the pulpit “give us this day our Daley, Richard Daley bread.”
Aggregate them and what emerges is a constellation of interests around Obama that I call “Friendly FIRE.” Fire power disguised by the camouflage of community uplift; augmented by the authority of academia; greased by billions in foundation grants; and wired to conventional FIRE by the terms of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1995. And yet friendly FIRE is just as deadly as the conventional FIRE that comes from bankers and developers that we’re used to ducking from. It’s the whole condominium of interests whose advancement depends on the elimination of poor blacks from the community and their replacement by white people and—at least temporarily—by the black middle class—who’ve gotten subprime mortgages—in a kind of redlining in reverse. This “friendly FIRE” analysis stands in opposition to the two main themes of the McCain attack ads. Either they try to frighten people into believing that Obama is a dangerous leftist who hangs with Bill Ayers the former Weatherperson; or they assert he’s a creature of the corrupt Chicago machine.
There are a few slivers of meat floating in this beggar’s broth of charges. Yes, Obama worked with Ayers, but not the Ayers who blew up buildings; but the Ayers who was able to bring down $50 million from the Walter Annenberg foundation, leveraging it to create a $120 million a non-profit organization with Obama as its head. Annenberg was a billionaire friend of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Why would he give mega- millions to a terrorist? Perhaps because he liked Ayers’ new politics. Ayer’s initiative grew out of the backlash against the 1985 Chicago teachers’ strike; his plan promoted “the community” as a third force in education politics between the union and the city administration. Friendly FIRE wants the same kind of education reform as FIRE: the forces that brought about welfare reform have now moved onto education reform and for the same reason: crippling the power of the union will reduce teachers’ salaries, which will cut real estate taxes which will raise land values.
I'd note that I don't know if that is fair to Ayers (probably not), but it certainly reflects the "parent trigger" strategy being pushed now.
I'll give The Jose Vilson the last word:
...integration isn’t just a school of education, but a school of thought, a belief system in which we need to invest. If we don’t believe children of color can have an education that gives them as many options as the next child, then we ought to rip up the one little lesson plan on Martin Luther King Jr. for Black History Month and toss it in the recycle bin. We as a country have to care enough to integrate our schools, and thus, our collective consciousness.
There are many seemingly impossible fights to chose from once you decide you want to improve education. What defines you is which one you pick.