School Desegregation

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What would be a good research question with regard to school desegregation in Boston?

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To formulate a good research question, you need to, first of all, make sure that the topic is manageable. Think about the available evidence, for example, and whether or not you have the necessary time and resources to answer it. I recommend following the advice and guidelines outlined in the...

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To formulate a good research question, you need to, first of all, make sure that the topic is manageable. Think about the available evidence, for example, and whether or not you have the necessary time and resources to answer it. I recommend following the advice and guidelines outlined in the reference link.

Secondly, in terms of the content, school desegregation in Boston provides ample opportunities for meaningful research. You could focus on the impetus for school desegregation. For example, what prompted the 1965 Racial Imbalance Act? Alternatively, think about how would this Act would impact on specific schools in Boston and how the public responded to it.

Another approach might be to find some key figures in the desegregation movement and evaluate their significance and impact. You could choose from specific political figures, such as the Boston Mayor, Kevin White, or research individual teachers and political campaigners.

Above all, make sure that you are not going over old ground. Your goal is to contribute something new to the existing scholarship so that our knowledge and understanding of this period is enhanced in some way.

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Research is much more meaningful when you have some personal interest in the topic, and you have many different angles that you could take with this idea depending on where your interests lie. Here are some ideas to help you consider various angles of school desegregation in Boston:

  • What acts of violence impacted the desegregation efforts in Boston?
  • How did teenagers lead efforts to desegregate schools in Boston?
  • How did ordinary people do extraordinary things to change school cultures in Boston?
  • What were the most influential factors in ending segregation in Boston's public schools?
  • How did desegregation of schools in Boston differ from the iconic images traditionally seen in the South in places like Little Rock?
  • Leaders decided to bus students across town to try to desegregate schools in Boston. In what ways was this an effective strategy, and how did it fall short of the ultimate goal?
  • What factors made school desegregation in Boston a difficult goal to achieve?

Choosing a research question that is meaningful to you will help you arrive at at strong thesis from which you can begin building the needed support for your paper.

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The most important research area for the desegregation of Boston public schools is the period between 1974 and 1988. During this period, Boston did not have the sort of Jim Crow laws that had been so overtly discriminatory in the South, but nonetheless had de facto racial and economic segregation of public schools as a result of segregated neighborhoods. In response to a court order making segregation illegal, Boston instituted a policy of busing students to school districts outside their neighborhoods to reduce school segregation. There was a massive backlash against this policy. Although some consider that the policy succeeded in some of its objectives, over the long term racial composition of schools is still affected by many factors outside of control of school districts.

In order to research this topic, about which much has been written, one should narrow it to study a specific school or other limited topic. One possibility would be to look at the efforts to desegregate the elite public Boston Latin School and the subsequent legal challenges to racial preferences in admissions. Another well-documented case is the violence surrounding desegregation of South Boston High School. Finally, one could look at schools that were desegregated in the late twentieth century and examine the degree to which the program of desegregation succeeded or failed in terms of the degree to which schools have now been re-segregated.

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