All-Girl’s Schools, All-Boy’s Schools, All-Black Schools


Over at The Atlantic, Megan McArdle asks, “Should we encourage all-black schools?

For decades, proponents of all-girl’s education have argued that boy-free learning zones afford girls the opportunity to be who they, unencumbered by the pressures of orienting themselves in relation to their male counterparts.

Similarly, advocates of all-black schools believe that single-race learning environments could benefit black students by neutralizing the stigma of doing well in school.  McArdle summarizes the argument in favor of all-black schools thus:

[T]he phenomenon of socially punishing students who “act white”–i.e. focus on grades–is something that happens mostly in mixed-race schools, where black students are trying to maintain a distinct identity.  When all the kids are black, getting good grades is just . . . getting good grades.

Barring the potential political and legal snags that all-black charter schools would almost certainly face, the idea strikes me as a reasonable one.  

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive

    The institution that’s been most successful at educating “at-risk” black men is the military. And they didn’t do it by segregating black recruits from white recruits. They did it by segregating the recruit (black, brown, or white) from their dysfunctional home and neighborhood. There are millions of kids for whom boarding schools would be the greatest blessing of their lives. That’s the solution for the “at-risk” kids. You can’t force parent(s) to do it, but in many cases it would be the best solution.

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  2. Profile Photo Inactive

    I agree 100% with etoiledunord. We need more assimilation, not less of it.

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  3. Profile Photo Contributor

    Etoile and Ottoman –

    Do you share a similar sentiment about all-girl’s schools?  Or did you not find all-girl’s schools to be a valid comparison to all-black schools?

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  4. Profile Photo Inactive

    IMHO: There are innate cultural and biological differences (and tensions) between girls and boys. To the extent that there are similar differences between races, their significance is overrated and shouldn’t be intensified by our schools.

    That said, I’m not a big fan of same sex schools, although on this matter I get sharp disagreement from my wife.

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  5. Profile Photo Member

    I agree with Etoile and Ottoman. And the clear clue to the flaw is to consider the reaction if one proposed White-only schools so that young suburban white kids wouldn’t emulate gangsta-rappers.

    Racism is racism, even if the motivations are “honorable.”

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  6. Profile Photo Inactive

    I think the real question is: is McArdle’s premise correct? Do black kids in all-black schools (we’ve got more than a few in the public school system) really abjure the “acting white” insult for their more motivated or smarter classmates? I strongly suspect they don’t, and that, in fact, in a monoculture, the stigma and peer pressure might be more suffocating to a studious kid than one in which he could go hang out with studious kids of other races.

    That said, there’s no reason that you’d have to insist on absolute racial purity. Call it the Booker T. Washington school or what have you, make it known that its mission is primarly the education of black students, and go from there.

    Overall, it’s probably worth trying, though ultimately, it’s going to depend on the quality of instruction. You might get a couple initial models that attract the best teachers and administrators who believe in the ideal, and then when it gets widely replicated, it falls flat (perhaps further stigmatizing black academic achievement).

    Somebody ask John McWhorter what he thinks about the “acting white” premise. He’d have an opinion…

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  7. Profile Photo Member

    Alumni of single-sex schools are generally not jaded against the opposite sex by their segregated education. But it’s important to note that all such students inevitably interact with the opposite sex off campus grounds after the final bell rings nearly every day and biology drives them together. There is less assurance in the case of race. In fact, a girl might spend half the day talking about a date that night, but you won’t hear a black say “I can’t wait for my cracker time!”

    My gut reaction is that the article’s suggestion is a sacrifice of principles for the sake of grades, but I’m not sure. It seems like an unnecessary concession. The stigma against acting “white” is similar to sexual stigmas. But it’s also similar to stigmas regarding jocks, nerds, punks, preppies, rich kids, poor kids, foreigners, and so on. Surely, it’s better to teach students to distinguish between helpful and harmful peer pressures, and to rise above those which hold them back.

    In any case, a school can be unofficially black without official ethnicity requirements. Perhaps establishing cultural norms the school wishes to represent is the better way.

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  8. Profile Photo Editor

    Well, here’s the problem: if we support school choice — and I do, for the record — we’re going to have to swallow the fact that some schools are going to start up that may not be terrific examples of inclusion and integration. There will be some schools that are all black — for whatever reason. Some schools that are all female. Some schools that are designed to teach Laotians. Or whatever.

    Choice, if and when it comes, is going to bring some degree of self-selected segregation. I wonder how we’ll handle that.

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  9. Profile Photo Contributor
    Confucius, the Œcumenical Volgi: I think the real question is: is McArdle’s premise correct? Do black kids in all-black schools…really abjure the “acting white” insult for their more motivated or smarter classmates? I strongly suspect they dont

    Somebody ask John McWhorter what he thinks about the “acting white” premise. He’d have an opinion

    So glad you asked about McWhorter.  In fact, McArdle links to a recent book review written by McWhorter on exactly this topic. It’s a worthwhile read.  An excerpt:

    In 2000, in a book called Losing the Race, I argued that much of the reason for the gap between the grades and test scores of black students and white students was that black teens often equated doing well in school with “acting white.” I knew that a book which did not focus on racism’s role in this problem would attract bitter criticism. I was hardly surprised to be called a “sell-out” and “not really black” because I grew up middle class and thus had no understanding of black culture. But one of the few criticisms that I had not anticipated was that the “acting white” slam did not even exist.

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