I just finished listening to "The Problem We All Live With," which features New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones's experiences covering school reform. The bulk of the piece focuses on closings in the mostly poor, mostly black Normandy School District of St. Louis, Missouri, where Michael Brown was a student before he was shot and killed. The audio from the town hall meetings where parents air their grievances in response to the imminent transfer of black students into the affluent and majority-white schools of Francis Howell School District is particularly tough--though necessary--listening.
The central claim of the piece is that integration is the key to improving education outcomes and opportunities for black students--not Ivy-educated college grads teaching in run-down schools in the inner-city; not charter schools; not standardized tests.
Hannah-Jones, in the prologue:
I think it's important to point out that it is not that something magical happens when black kids sit in a classroom next to white kids. It's not that suddenly a switch turns on and they get intelligence, or wanting the desire to learn when they're with white kids. What integration does is it gets black kids in the same facilities as white kids. And therefore, it gets them access to the same things that those kids get-- quality teachers and quality instruction.
Integration. It worked. It works. But it's not easy.
Ta-Nehisi Coates calls it the "best piece on the workings of white supremacy this year." It really is that good. Must listen radio.