Segregating School Kids By Race? Not Such a Bad Idea

We all know that the time of Jim Crow laws in the Unites States was a horrible period in our history. Racial segregation policies meant that blacks drank from one fountain and whites from another and on and on. They were nothing short of despicable, an embarrassing period in our nation's history. The fights to desegregate the South -- and the schools, in particular -- were dangerous and fierce.

So, why would we ever want to go back there?

One school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania is drawing criticism and ire after their decision to segregate their school for a few minutes every day. While the knee-jerk response to the headline is one of horror, after reading a bit about it, it doesn't sound as bad as one might think.


The plan recently implemented at McCaskey East High School segregates black students from the rest of the school body and then divides them further according to gender, dividing black females and black males. The separation is brief — just six minutes each day and 20 minutes twice a month — but the controversial move is drawing some heated criticism and stirring comparisons to past “separate but equal” racial segregation schemes.

The homerooms are led by a teacher of the same gender and race and the idea is that it will help the under-performing minorities perform better.

The idea originated with Angela Tilghman, a McCaskey East instructional coach who was alarmed at the poor academic performance of the school’s black students. Only about a third of McCaskey’s African-Americans scored proficient or advanced in reading on last year’s PSSAs, compared with 60 percent of white students and 42 percent of all students. Math scores were even worse, with just 27 percent of black pupils scoring proficient or advanced.

At first glance, it seems wrong and like a giant step backwards. But if you look at the statistics, it's true that girls in all-girls schools and boys who are taught by men in primary school do better than boys taught by the opposite sex. Additionally, the same sex/race mentor idea has some validity, too.

Research shows that students with strong mentors do better in school, says a report on

If we put aside our politically correct assumptions, maybe this could work. Yes, we have long term goals and, in a perfect world, race wouldn't even be an issue. But we don't live in a perfect world. We live in this world. And right now, in this world, some of the children at McCaskey East High School are failing.

It's just an idea, an experiment that may or may not help, but they had to try something and think outside the box. There is a time for political correctness and then there is a time to put the finger in the dam and just try to stop the flooding.

It isn't ideal. But the school has to try something and should be applauded for being willing to look beyond the conventional and politically correct and for trying something that might help the actual students they have, not the students they may have in the future. It's a small part of the total school day and the idea is to encourage discussion and mentor-ship, not to separate the races.

Maybe if we all opened our minds a bit, there would be less of an uproar.

What do you think of this idea?

Image via Image Editor/Flickr

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