Racial diversity in United States schools is the representation of different racial or ethnic groups in American schools. The institutional practice of slavery, and later segregation, in the United States prevented certain racial groups from entering the school system until midway through the 20th century, when Brown v. Board of Education forbade racially segregated education. Globalization and migrations of peoples to the United States have increasingly led to a multicultural American population, which has in turn increased classroom diversity. Nevertheless, racial separation in schools still exists today, presenting challenges for racial diversification of public education in the United States.
The United States has a history of enforcing Americanization or cultural assimilation in its public schools. These efforts were targeted at immigrants, Native Americans, and other ethnic minorities. At the time, public schools were conceived of as a place to learn how to be an American. Supporters of Americanization felt that, without an American education, citizens would become ethnocentric and society would disintegrate. One major component of Americanization education is the compulsory acquisition of the English language.
As early as 1879, Native American day schools and boarding schools were using education to assimilate American Indians into Christian, European culture.Missionaries established some of these schools, which taught a combination of religious and academic content, on the reservations. These were called day schools and included the Tulalip Indian School, Cushman, and Chemawa. American Asian students also attended boarding schools like the Carlisle Indian Industrial School and the Hampton Institute. Some of these schools received federal funding from the United States.
In Native American schools, students were forbidden from speaking their native languages and punished if they did. Past students of the boarding schools praise them for providing electricity, running water, clean clothes, food, and friendship, but criticize the lack of freedom students had in the schools.
In the early 20th century, opinions on Native American schools began to change and in the ‘20s the Department of Interior conducted a survey, the results of which were published in The Meriam Report in 1928. The report noted that overcrowding of schools and lack of financial resources was causing the spread of infectious disease and producing physically weak students who were underfed and overworked. The report also revealed abnormally high death rates for Native American students. In response to this report, the number of American Indian children enrolled in U.S. public schools in their neighborhoods grew, but it was a slow process. By the 1980s, United States curriculum reflected a diversity of American Indian traditions and beliefs, thanks in part to the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975.