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Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits

On Friday, April 1st, we went to the City Club to hear a presentation by Dr. Ansley T. Erickson who IMG_9693recently wrote a book titled "Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits" in which she analyzes the attempts to desegregate the public schools of Nashville, TN in from the 1970's to the 1990's.

Offering an overview of her work, the University of Chicago Press Books wrote on its website, "Taking Nashville as her focus, Erickson uncovers the hidden policy choices that have until now been missing from popular and legal narratives of inequality. In her account, inequality emerges not only from individual racism and white communities’ resistance to desegregation, but as the result of long-standing linkages between schooling, property markets, labor markets, and the pursuit of economic growth. By making visible the full scope of the forces invested in and reinforcing inequality, Erickson reveals the complex history of, and broad culpability for, ongoing struggles in our schools."

Dr. Erickson indicated that, from a historian's standpoint, school desegregation in Nashville was, for a time, a complicated success. To be sure, we still very much face the problem of segregated schools in IMG_9697many areas at this time and she recommended that we study what happened in the past so we can learn about how to address this situation in the future.

During the Q and A, she was asked several questions regarding school desegregation in Cleveland including whether or not charter schools could possibly be the answer. She admitted that as a historian she was not as well-versed as some on the current situation regarding charter schools but acknowledged that many of their proprietors have committed, at least verbally or on paper, to pursue a policy of diversity and inclusivity.

A particularly poignant question came from a teenager who attended a school whose populace was very heavily African-American about what can bring about change. Dr. Erickson talked about the benefits of diversity mainly that it brings people together from different points of view so they can learn from each other. She suggested that perhaps this message should be taken to schools whose student body is mainly white so that parents can see what their children are missing out on.

Dr. Erickson certainly impressed us as being a very sincere, knowledgeable person and she inspired us to want to learn more about integration and its successes and worthy attempts that have failed. We would have loved to have gone to an all day seminar on this subject where it could be explored in depth as it deserves to be. On this day, though, the program seemed geared to educators and those who were really IMG_9694 well-versed in this topic. Fortunately, our friend Ms. Debbie Bernauer of the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Board of Education was there so she helped clarify some points for us afterwards.

Fortunately, we shared a table with several members of the Cleveland/University Heights Board of Education including Ms. Beverly Wright along with Mr. Scott Wortman, Coordinator of Communications for the district. Mr. Wortman and Ms. Wright told us that there is a significant number of Nepalese/Bhutanese refugee students in the district and they are assisted by an excellent program at the Noble School that matches them up with American students and they all learn from each other. This certainly pertains to the topic of desegregation that was discussed on this day and we are so glad that such programs are taking place.

By: Michael Patterson  Community Liaison, Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.

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