The Minority Majority
If you want to know what the United States will look like in 30 years, consider the changing complexion of its public schools. This fall, Latino, African-American and Asian students will outnumber their white K-12 peers for the first time. According to projections by the U.S. Department of Education, non-Hispanic whites will make up slightly less than 50 percent of the student body in 2014-15, and their share will continue to shrink for the foreseeable future, thanks in large part to the population growth of U.S.-born Latino and Asian children.
But students settling into new classrooms this September are unlikely to notice this enrollment milestone. That is because, despite the greater diversity of the school age population overall, individual schools and districts have become increasingly segregated by race and income. According to a report by the U.C.L.A. Civil Rights Project in 2012, three-quarters of black children and 80 percent of Latino children attend mostly non-white schools, and both groups are likely to go to schools where roughly two-thirds of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunches. On average, black and Latino students are more likely to attend under-resourced and failing schools, be taught by less experienced teachers, have fewer advanced classes and be less likely to graduate from high school.
The growth of majority-minority schools presents unique challenges. In the short term, districts will need to invest in more English as a second language programs, diversify mostly white workforces and reach out to minority parents, who often feel alienated from their children’s schools. Moving forward, the United States must continue to address the persistent geographic segregation and racial inequalities that are at the root of the academic achievement gap. Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, separate is still unequal.
Insourcing School Discipline
In an effort to combat what has been called the school-to-prison pipeline system, school districts in Los Angeles have adopted new policies that will reduce the number of students disciplined within the juvenile court system. These new policies will require school officials to deal with students who commit infractions like on-campus fighting or defacing of school property instead of giving citations and forcing students to face the juvenile court system.
Michael Nash, presiding judge over the L.A. juvenile court system, has supported the change, arguing that the system is overtaxed and only students who “really pose the greatest risk to the community” should be directed to the courts. Judge Nash went on to say that school officials must not see the court system as the main instrument for dealing with students who commit what many see as simply age-appropriate misbehavior. Many critics of the school-to-prison pipeline, like Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, have stated that this zero-tolerance system disrupts the overall purpose of the educational system and increases the chance that some students will sink deeper into the criminal justice system.
Other districts have rightly adopted similar policies in recent years, including schools in northern California and Georgia. Schools must learn to deal with students and realize, as Judge Nash says, that “the punitive approach clearly hasn’t worked.” Students are our future; our educational system must not undermine them.
Remembering James Foley
The last few moments of James Foley’s life are impossible to watch; all the moments that preceded it should be impossible to ignore. Mr. Foley became another victim of the remorseless Islamic State in a cruel execution that was seen with horror around the world in a video released on Aug. 19. The depravity of the murder was searing, but what Mr. Foley needs to be remembered and celebrated for is the faith and fearlessness that brought him to this stark appointment in the desert, not the barbarity displayed there.
Having already experienced the deprivations and terror of abduction and confinement in Libya, how, some wonder, could Mr. Foley have returned to another conflict zone and again imperil his life? It is the same reason firefighters return to burning buildings, his father, John Foley, told reporters by way of explanation. He was courageous, the family said, and compelled by the suffering, particularly of children, to endanger his life in order to reveal to the world the horror in Syria, hoping that he could make a difference toward ending it.
Sometimes “vocation” is mistakenly understood to apply only to the church’s vowed and ordained members. But Mr. Foley’s life was a constant celebration of vocation in action. He was called to tell the stories of the forgotten and the undefended in some of the most desperate circumstances around the world.
It was a vocation he embraced at great personal risk, as many of his colleagues continue to do, reporting stories from Iraq and Syria, perhaps the most dangerous places on earth for journalists today. It is to the credit of Mr. Foley and other committed journalists that these stories at and behind the conflict lines are getting out at all. It will be to the world’s shame if they are told in vain.