May 29, 2009
It has been over 1/2 a century (55 years) since the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Brown vs. Board of Education case, desegregating American public education.
The decision came to be regarded as a landmark ruling, one which transformed the very nature of U.S. public schools.
Or did it?
There is no question but that Brown
dealt a severe blow to the common American practice of educational
apartheid, by finding the nation's public school systems, which were
unevenly divided between Black and white institutions, were separate
and unequal, and thus violative of the equal protection clause of the
14th Amendment. As such, Brown became the precedent by which all racial
segregation came to be declared unconstitutional.
But back to the public schools.
Who can doubt that millions of public school students now attend
inner-city schools that are just as segregated as they were 50 years
How can this be, we wonder?
Well, there are differences. Funding for schools is based on
property taxes, and as inner cities are sited in poor urban cores,
where taxes are lessened, there are fewer resources for such schools.
And while racial segregation is unconstitutional, class
segregation is not. This, coupled with the segregated housing customs
which still determines where people live, also determines where young
people go to school.
Just because a law changes, doesn't mean life does.
There are other reasons, as well.
Millions of whites fled to the suburbs, and many built private
schools that could legally segregate. Much of this energy went into
the voucher school movement, so that parents could siphon off public
monies to pay for private, and even religious schools.
With some major American cities facing drop-out rates of 50%,
public schools are failing in their mission of teaching and training
children to handle the glaring needs of tomorrow.
And what of No Child Left Behind? It was by any honest measure, a disaster.
The less said about it, the better.
--(c) '09 maj