Education Letter to the Editor

In Pursuit of Diversity, Demographics Matter

July 31, 2007 1 min read

To the Editor:

“The challenge,” write Gary Orfield and Erica Frankenberg, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decisions barring race-conscious school assignments in Seattle and Jefferson County, Ky., is “ensuring that this reversal isn’t the last word, and that where diversity and integration are still possible, they be pursued intensely” (“The Integration Decision,” Commentary, July 18, 2007).

Alas, intense pursuit of diversity will prove frustrating. As a Houston editor recently asked me, “What are they [policymakers] going to do when there are no more white students left to bus? Houston public schools now have a 5 percent white enrollment.”

Demographics matter. In 1970, the United States was 83 percent non-Hispanic white. Today, it’s 66 percent white—and that 66 percent is deceptive. The younger the age cohort, the less white it is. Continually re-arranging schools’ enrollments for ethnic or socioeconomic balance is a losing proposition over the long haul.

Are there ways to boost learning with better prospects of success?

Schools have been—and still are—America’s great project in socialism. We permit no free-market dynamics in schooling. Schools are protected monopolies. Rigidity and inertia inevitably set in.

Perhaps this comfortable predictability, this sameness decade after decade, is a luxury (or folly, depending on one’s perspective) we can no longer afford.

Tom Shuford

Lenoir, N.C.