The segrenomics of U.S. education

For children in Baltimore classrooms, 2018 opened with buildings where temperatures never topped 40 degrees. An incensed teacher wondered why persevering in abominable conditions is something “we only ask of black and brown children.”

A new book by Cornell professor Noliwe Rooks, “Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation and the End of Public Education,” traces the history of separate and unequal education in America.

White America’s reaction to the prospect of educating children of color has ranged from outright and often violent opposition to promoting weak substitutes for adequately funded, integrated schools — substitutes that fail to ensure educational equity. Throughout U.S. history, these maneuvers have presented opportunities for hoarding resources for the white and affluent and even profiting at the expense of children of color — a phenomenon Rooks calls “segrenomics.”

From the earliest days of tax-supported public education, states found ways to deny African-American communities equal educational opportunity. One method was to simply refuse to fund African-American schools.

In 1914, South Carolina spent on average $15 per pupil for white schools but fewer than $2 per pupil for black schools. Appalled at the conditions in which African-American children were forced to learn, that state’s superintendent of education remarked: “It is not a wonder that they do not learn more, but the real wonder is that they learn as much as they do.”

Read the entire Stamford Adocate peice here. 

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Scetch of Africana-American Student Photo: Paul Tong