Stancil about Segregation

Due to the increasingly polarized political climate in the United States, many scholars, politicians, and journalists have debated the topic of race relations and its effects on our population. One subtopic that has emerged is that of school segregation. In “School Segregation Is Not a Myth,” Will Stancil argues that public schools in the U.S. are becoming more and more racially segregated, causing racial minorities to be disadvantaged when they reach university or the workforce. Stancil effectively asserts this claim by providing statistics, dissecting counter-arguments, and creating extended metaphors. His attempts to appeal to logic, however, by explaining the various, complex causes of “re-segregation” interfere with the effectiveness of his argument because of their wordiness.

Stancil wrote “School Segregation Is Not a Myth” in response to what he calls a crisis within the American public-school system. He begins by presenting a short counter-argument to his thesis: school re-segregation is merely a result of an increasingly diverse U.S. population that is skewing statistical results. Following this, he provides various statistical and anecdotal evidence supporting the claim that school re-segregation is due to a myriad of other interconnected factors. Stancil concludes his essay by explaining exactly why re-segregation is harmful for students who attend segregation schools. Published in The Atlantic, a typically left-leaning magazine, the article’s target audience is most likely comprised of people who lobby for education reform, work in the education system, or subscribe to the left-winged political ideology. Because his audience is rather educated, Stancil employs techniques that appeal to logic and credibility. Also, because the purpose of the article is to convince right-winged, republican skeptics that re-segregation is a real and growing problem within our public schools, Stancil avoids attempting to appeal to his audience’s emotions.

Skeptics of racial inequality do not typically buy in to emotional appeals, but rather logic, statistics, and author credibility. The most obvious way in which Stancil appeals to his audience is through his use of statistical and anecdotal evidence. He presents data from various sources, including the National Center on Education Statistics, Vox, The News & Observer, federal research studies, and other pieces written in The Atlantic. Stancil’s use of statistics from various sources is effective for two reasons. First, he appeals to his audience’s sense of logic by presenting clear data backed by studies and research. Second, he establishes credibility for himself and his argument because he used various sources. His ability to present data that points to the same conclusion from more than one expert shows the audience that his thesis is based on widely researched facts, not just one biased set of statistics.

Stancil also provides anecdotal evidence to support the claim that re-segregation is a growing issue. For example, Stancil states that “court-ordered integration plans . . . [that] were effective at reducing segregation . . . have been terminated, and virtually no new ones have been created” (Stancil). The author also tells the story of six cities seceding from a previously merged and integrated district in Memphis, Tennessee, resulting in five new districts that were “even whiter than the original county district had been” (Stancil). These narratives effectively advance Stancil’s argument by showing the audience easy-to-understand examples of re-segregation. The anecdotal evidence is also strategically placed in the article; the narratives are a logical follow-up to the statistics presented because it gives the readers a concrete example of why the data supports the claim that schools are becoming increasingly segregated.

Stancil continues to appeal to the audience’s sense of logic through to use of analogies and extended metaphors. For example, he compares a predominately white housing subdivision surrounded by predominately non-white neighborhoods “build[ing] a large wall, hir[ing] a security guard for the entrance, and refus[ing] to sell houses to anyone new” to local governments raising “barriers to integration” (Stancil). These “metaphorical walls” include the fragmentation of districts and advocation for new charter schools, both of which create avenues for predominately white schools or school districts to exist. Because it can be confusing for readers to understand exactly how and why breaking up a school district into smaller, more isolated districts leads to less integration, Stancil excellently uses the analogy to make the connection clear.

The analogy appeals to the audience’s sense of logic by, once again, making some of the causes of re-segregation easier to understand, therefore increasing the likelihood that readers will be persuaded to believe re-segregation is not a myth. Stancil also uses an extended metaphor to explain why the causes of segregation matter. He compares landlords blaming rain for leaky roofs to scholars and political officials blaming increasing diversity for worsening segregation. Both are true to an extent, Stancil admits, but the reason segregation worsens is because of “[t]he fundamental defect in American schools – the hole in the roof” (Stancil). The effectiveness of this metaphor is achieved in the same way as the subdivision analogy; Stancil uses a comparison to make an otherwise complex concept easier for readers to understand. He also uses this metaphor to draw the logical conclusion that the re-segregation crisis will only get worse due to the long-standing segregation many schools already experience. It can also be argued that these two metaphors help Stancil establish credibility as an expert who is able to effectively convey a concept to his readers.