Forum 3: A Class Divided
2010 marked the 55th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling on Brown vs. the Topeka, Kansas Board of Education, an historic case that led to the end of legalized segregation in American schools. This case found its way to the highest U.S. court after a handful of African-American families with elementary school children sued the Board of Education of the City of Topeka, Kansas for not allowing their children to attend all-white schools. It marked the beginning of the end of the so-called “separate but equal” law.
Ironically, the town of Topeka, Kansas today is a deeply divided community shaped by “voluntary segregation.” There are no longer any restrictions on where students can learn, but its neighborhoods and school systems are among the most racially separate in the country. In Kansas, for all high school students, the graduation rate is 74 percent, while the rate for Hispanic students is 46 percent. This statistic reflects a national problem. Despite government initiatives such as Head Start and No Child Left Behind, a substantial opportunity and achievement gap exists for today’s youth, with children of color behind in academic performance, educational resources (e.g. school technology, classroom size, extra-curricular opportunities and building quality) and college matriculation.
For this week’s discussion, go to A Class Divided (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/etc/view.html) and view each video segment, or read thetranscript (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/etc/script.html) and answer the following questions:
- Why are we a nation still so divided after half a century of work to break down barriers to success and narrow the opportunity and achievement gap in America?
- What was your experience when in elementary and middle/high school–did you experience cultural and racial diversity, or a school that was primarily one culture/race?
- Do our children miss anything when they don’t attend culturally diverse schools?
- Share one question with the class that this video/transcript raised for you.