Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
African American World
Find what you need on PBS and NPR
Timeline Reference Room Kids Classroom Community Resources
arts & culture
race & society
Race & Society: Debate
DebateBrain TeaserSound Off!Free Stuff

Black America Today Debate: Diversity in Schools
Hugh B. Price, National Urban League Hugh B. Price, National Urban League Robert L. Woodson, Sr. National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise Robert L. Woodson, Sr. National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise

The Harvard Civil Rights Project recently reported that though the American school system is becoming more diverse, ethnic groups remain isolated - 70 percent of African American students attend predominantly minority schools; whites on average attend schools where more than 80 percent of the student body is white. Is this a harmful situation for the future of race relations in the U.S.?

Robert Woodson's Response: Proximity to those of other races does not determine whether a person will or will not be fair-minded. I find it interesting that at the very institutions where professors decry the separation of races encourage it through black studies programs, black dorms, etc., in which the students become increasingly isolated.

Hugh Price's Rebuttal: Proximity enables people to practice and learn tolerance. I'm convinced that America has made so much progress in race relations because college campuses, public agencies, corporate workplaces and public accommodations are vastly more open and integrated than they were a generation ago. Racial tensions often arise these days in workplace settings where employees of all races who have high school degrees or less encounter one another for the first time. K-12 education in this country is very segregated. Young people emerging from high school often have had little exposure to peers of other races, much less much practice learning to work together. So I'd argue that the interracial interaction that comes with integration is educationally sound and promotes economic productivity.

Hugh Price's Response: I firmly believe that integrated education is good for African Americans and good for all Americans. The evidence substantiates this. Plus, in an increasingly diverse society, school is one of the best places where we can begin to learn to live and work together, share space and opportunity together. That's essential if our society is going to work. The reality, though, is that many school systems are demographically land-locked, if you will. Since the federal courts are less and less inclined to force busing across district boundaries, there is less political will and legal muscle to engineer integration. If the government gave low-income housing vouchers or housing tax credits that enabled them to move to other communities, chances are more children would experience integration. The difficulty of realizing school integration in this day and age is the reason for the heightened focus on making certain all children receive a first-class education wherever they go to school. For children educated in racially isolated settings, learning to live and work together may have to wait until they enter college or the workplace.

Robert Woodson's Rebuttal: I do not believe that integration of schools should be a goal in itself. Our focus must be on making certain that all children receive a first-class education.


Debate Topics Menu
Affirmative Action
Diversity in Schools
Economic Future
Faith Based Initiatives
Knowing Each Other
Leadership Models
Media Stereotypes
Political Power
Race in the 21st Century
Slavery Reparations

feedback privacy policy credits site map pledge printer friendly format email article to a friend