The Problem We All Live With

This American Life: PodcasT

In an acclaimed two-part This American Life: Act One of “The problem we all live with” radio documentary, also by Nikole Hannah-Jones, she reports on a school district that accidentally stumbled on an integration program in recent years. It’s the Normandy School District in Normandy, Missouri. Normandy is on the border of Ferguson, Missouri, and the district includes the high school that Michael Brown attended. It was deemed so bad that students had to be offered the option of moving to a nearby white suburban school. There are some very disturbing sections that record the reactions of a group of white parents upon learning that black students would be attending their children’s school in the fall.

In the second of the two-part series Act Two, she describes how between 1971 (the start of serious busing) and 1988 (the peak of school integration) the gap between black and white achievement was halved. She is careful to point out that this success in narrowing the gap had nothing to do with something magical about white kids, but rather it had to do with the fact that significant numbers of black children were getting access to the same buildings, teachers, curriculum and materials as white children. She argues that once the desegregation efforts stopped being enforced we quickly reverted to a situation in which schools serving almost all black students from neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty had the least qualified teachers and much worse conditions

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 2.23.48 PM