Diverse Schools Create Racial Divide

Photo by Craig Whitehead

I continue to be fascinated by this Newsweek article on kids and race.  In particular, here’'s a disturbing excerpt:

The unfortunate twist of diverse schools is that they don’t necessarily lead to more cross-race relationships. Often it’s the opposite. Duke University’s James Moody—an expert on how adolescents form and maintain social networks— analyzed data on more than 90,000 teenagers at 112 different schools from every region of the country. The students had been asked to name their five best male friends and their five best female friends. Moody matched the ethnicity of the student with the race of each named friend, then compared the number of each student’s cross-racial friendships with the school’s overall diversity.

Moody found that the more diverse the school, the more the kids self-segregate by race and ethnicity within the school, and thus the likelihood that any two kids of different races have a friendship goes down.

Moody included statistical controls for activities, sports, academic tracking, and other school-structural conditions that tend to desegregate (or segregate) students within the school. The rule still holds true: more diversity translates into more division among students. Those increased opportunities to interact are also, effectively, increased opportunities to reject each other. And that is what’s happening.

The article highlights the importance of adult/kid conversations as a way to process race and develop a more sophisticated understanding.  I love diverse schools.  Part of why I love living in Pasadena is because of the ethnic diversity.  But we can’'t assume that diversity— without conversation— will bridge the racial divide.