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Housing Sins of Past Need to be Known, Says Scholar

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To fix education in the United States, we must first acknowledge that the U.S. government stacked the deck against African-Americans in the early 20th century with discriminatory housing practices, a scholar told a packed house at Fordham on Oct. 24.

“Schools today are segregated because their neighborhoods are racially homogenous, but neighborhoods did not get that way from private discrimination, economic characteristics, or voluntary housing choices,” said Richard Rothstein, research associate at the Economic Policy Institute.

“Residential segregation’s causes are 20th-century federal, state, and local policies explicitly designed to separate the races, and whose effects endure today.”

Rothstein delivered “The Racial Achievement Gap, Segregated Schools, and Segregated Neighborhoods: A Constitutional Insult,” to a standing-room-only gathering at the Lincoln Center campus. The Sapientia Et Doctrina lecture was part of the Graduate School of Education’s ongoing celebration of its 100th anniversary.

Sophisticated educators should to pay attention to issues that affect education in indirect ways, he said. African Americans are disproportionately affected, for instance, by mass incarceration, contingent work schedules, and overdue property tax evaluations.

His strongest critique was of racial integration, a policy that has been shown to improve the education of African Americans, but which has been resisted by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 2007 case, Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, the court ruled unconstitutional plans to make racial balance a factor in assigning students to school districts in the cities of Louisville and Seattle.

Read the full post at Fordham News.

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