The gap in education: Diversifying schools is only the tip of the iceberg

Change needs to occur throughout the education system


(Courtesy of University of Southern California official Facebook page)

By Sonali Chigurupati, Collegian Contributor

Last week, it was revealed that actress Lori Loughlin, otherwise known as Aunt Becky from Full House, paid $500,000 to get her daughters into the University of Southern California. Ironically, one of Loughlin’s daughters, Olivia Jade Giannulli, had posted a YouTube video prior to this information getting out where she stated “[she doesn’t] really care about school.”

This hot new scandal has opened up discussions around how college admissions processes really work and if they are fair or not. At the same time, the demographics for the freshman class at New York City’s top public school were revealed and it became clearer how deep the issue of educational inequity goes. These inequities don’t only exist on a college level, they start in neighborhoods, middle schools and the overuse of test scores to compare students. The conversation about unfair college admissions has deepened into a discussion about how broken and unequal school systems benefit the most privileged members of society from a young age.

Giannulli got into USC by paying her way into a system that already benefits her, and this type of bribery has been going on forever. However, it is Affirmative Action that is at risk because certain Asian Americans are trying to deem it “unfair” in their case against Harvard University. Interestingly enough, the man behind that case isn’t Asian at all – the lawsuit is actually being run by a white man named Edward Blum who has been trying to end Affirmative Action for years.

Nevertheless, what’s really “unfair” is that access to higher education for historically oppressed communities is declining, as seen in the recent reveal that only seven of 895 students accepted to Stuyvesant High School in New York City are Black, a record low for the school. That’s less than one percent.

The problem is not Affirmative Action; the problem is segregated public schools and institutions of lower education that are creating educational gaps at very early ages. New York City public schools are considered the most segregated schools in the countryand segregation can also be seen in Boston schools and among many other cities. Although Black and Hispanic students make up 68 percent of students in the New York City public school system, they make up only nine percent of students in the specialized high school system. The lack of integration and the focus on schools that are predominantly Black and Hispanic is causing an education gap between races at a young age, which is contributing to the correlation between socioeconomic status and race in this country. Diversifying our schools is only the tip of the iceberg. The conversation about the educational gap is about segregation that still exists 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964; we need to talk about integration in our schools.

Affirmative Action should not be eradicated, it should be expanded upon. Affirmative Action is meant to correct past discriminations, but when we still measure children based on standardized testing scores, we are reinforcing discriminatory practices. Collegian columnist Bhavya Pant stated in her article “Time to Rethink Affirmative Action” that “SAT scores aren’t the only thing taken into consideration during the admissions process, but they certainly are the most reliable predictor we have.” She suggests that, because SAT scores are reliable test scores, it’s unfair that Black and Hispanic students can score a 952 and get into the same school as a white or Asian student who scored a 1014 or a 1254.

Pant disregards the fact that the SAT is an inherently racist way of measuring people against each other and with private tutoring being received from a young age, the gap in privilege is being created from early childhood. To consider SAT scores or SHSAT scores “reliable predictors” is to believe that the educational system is created for everyone. In the United States, socioeconomic status is directly tied to race. This correlation runs so deep that Black women are much more likely to die during childbirth than white women. The way institutions impact people in America, with Stuyvesant as an example, shows how race intersects class, status and privilege.

The New York City Specialized High Schools should be about leveling the playing field, closing the gap and giving affordable schooling to students who do not have access to private education. When education systems are leaving students behind and failing entire populations of people, which correlate directly to race, this reflects institutionalized racism. These aren’t minorities, these are large numbers of people who are being marginalized by an education system that was not built with them in mind. Therefore, action must be taken from a younger age. Institutions of higher education are not the only schools that should take measures to increase diversity and be reflective of populations across the United States.

Sonali Chigurupati is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]