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the Supreme Court of the United States UNANIMOUSLY issued two important decisions about public schools.

The better known is Brown v. Board of Education, in which in his opinion Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote

to separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. . . . Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system.
Please keep reading, because this raises a current issue.

The key phrase from that opinion was this

We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.
What is important is that our current educational policies have lead to an increasing segregation of schools by race, particularly in the way we have used charter schools in many jurisdictions.

It may not be by law nowadays, but it is just as pernicious.

We see that the education of children of color seems to carry less value than that of whites.  In Chicago, a district that is not majority African-American in its student population, the vast majority of schools scheduled to be closed are African-American, and regardless of the rationale being offered for the closures it is clear the real intent is to replace them with charters from which some people find ways of making profits at the expense of the education of the children.

Worth noting is that there were five cases argued in Brown, but two separate unanimous decisions.  The District of Columbia had to be treated separately because it was not a state.   The four states were covered by the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.  But there was at the time no equal protection against federal action.   Warren creatively used the 5th Amendment's guarantee of liberty to find segregation in DC schools also unconstitutional, thereby effectively applying the notion of equal protection also against the Federal government.

It will be sad one year from now to see what increasingly seems likely - that we will have returned to a degree of segregation of American public education that we thought we had begun to overcome more than half a century ago.

It is no long de jure segregration, but we are still seeing the legal system being used to accomplish the same goal.  How sad that the 60th anniversary, when we will see such backsliding on matters of race, occurs during the Presidency of the 1st African-American in the nation's highest office.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (23+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Fri May 17, 2013 at 05:31:42 AM PDT

  •  "...with all deliberate speed" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob, Oh Mary Oh, hnichols, sturunner

    Having been born, educated, and and again living in Louisiana, I greatly appreciate your focus on this issue. Sometimes I think we have not just lost our minds but our way.

    In my first escape from Louisiana, I attended a small private college in Kentucky and was always proud of the fact that it fought for the right to teach desegregated classes--a fight it eventually lost in Berea College v. Kentucky, 211 U.S. 45 (1908). It wasn't until Brown that things began to change, if ever so slowly.

    •  phrase is from Brown II decision (6+ / 0-)

      in first Brown decision in '54 the Court did not lay out how its goal was to be achieved.  They had further arguments and in the '55 decision used the phrase you cite -  and in the South the emphasis was on "deliberate" as there continued efforts to stall, coming to a head at Central High in Little Rock in '57.

      You should be proud of attending Berea - it has an outstanding record of service, particularly to the Appalachian community.  

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Fri May 17, 2013 at 06:10:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Deliberate speed in JAX (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I moved to Jacksonville, FL in 1969 to teach at Jacksonville Univ. I supervised student teachers, among other things, and spent a lot of time in classrooms. The court ordered the Duval Co. schools (a huge district) to de-segregate. (Not integrate, the schools were segregated, with some black kids bussed across the county past other schools to an all black H.S.)

      The school board reluctantly agreed to comply and agreed to a plan. In '70-71, faculties were integrated. They had not been. Black teachers taught in black schools; white teachers in white schools. In '71-72 the schools were integrated with what opponents called "forced bussing." There were protests and a number of consequences.

      The district closed seven of the worst all black elementary schools. They were really terrible facilities. I remember one that was next door to a chicken processing factory with a nauseating stench. The assumption was that no white parents would send their kids to those schools.

      Another consequence was the proliferation of dubious quality private schools that sprang up in church basements. We called them "segregation academies."

      This all happened 18 years after Brown.

  •  Thank you Ken. (6+ / 0-)

    It saddens me to see us failing our children as a society.

    While I feel it is incredibly important to note the ways and extents to which minority children are disadvantaged - be it African American children in one town, Latino children in another, or Native American children on reservations and elsewhere...

    I'd like to add that in segregating their children in charter schools, those with the means to do so are depriving their own children of the intellectual and spiritual benefits of diversity. Just like it takes two different blueberry bushes to cross-pollinate each other, it also takes diversity in a school to give kids the best conditions for not only succeeding academically, but also becoming compassionate, questioning and responsible citizens in a pluralistic society.

    Maybe just maybe our foremothers and our forefathers came to this land in different ships. But we're all in the same boat now. - John Lewis

    by bluesheep on Fri May 17, 2013 at 06:39:50 AM PDT

  •  This is the Event That Turned Koch Bros. Into (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob, Oh Mary Oh, hnichols, sturunner, a2nite

    political activists for the super rich.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri May 17, 2013 at 06:57:41 AM PDT

  •  Nice piece, Ken (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    One quibble. We have tended to read "equal protection" as a simple equality requirement, and since the EPC only applies to the states, Warren's use of due process is seen as creative.

    But the words 'protection of law' denotes something more.  It requires states to affirmative act to protect (through law) people equally.  Generally this meant against private predations (think the Klan, or just a white man who did not fear law enforcement in his dealings with a African American).

    In early cases about the 14th Amendment, the Court wasn't always clear about where the equality it was (or was not) enforcing was found. And at times the focus was more on due process, under the idea that (some) racial classifications were arbitrary and therefore unconstitutional.  This is exactly what Warren says in Bolling.

    But over time, the idea of 'protection' got drained out of the EPC, so that it came to be simply a bar to government discrimination rather than an affirmative duty to act, which made it appear as a the main equality provision in the 14th A, making the DPC appear to be about something else.  This was obviously well under way by the 1950s, but the Court hadn't really defined much positive content for the EPC yet, so this issue which seems so obvious to us was less of an issue then.

    Point being that Bolling was on solid ground, and what the ECP requires is something more than just not intentionally discriminating (despite what the current Court thinks).

    Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

    by David Kaib on Fri May 17, 2013 at 08:12:20 AM PDT

    •  i view it as differently (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      David Kaib, hnichols, sturunner

      and I could with a bit of research cite a number of prominent legal scholars who think similarly, although I will not have time to do the research.

      Remember that the parallel due process clauses were used to selectively incorporate the protections of the Bill of Rights against federal action to be against state action as well  (although Clarence Thomas still foolishly insists the no establishment clause has not been incorporated, thereby ignoring such cases as Engel v Vitale which is explicitly base on that clause),  What Warren accomplished was effectively a reverse incorporation of the Equal Protection clause against the Federal government, on the grounds that it was inconceivable that the states would be held to a higher standard than the Federal government, given the original construction of the Bill of Rights, which held the Federal government to a higher standard.  

      I don't disagree with the notion of an affirmative responsibility, nor that the current majority on the Court seems willing to abandon that in several areas.

      Although it will be interesting to see how they handle that on matters of sexual orientation, not currently a protected class, given the previous jurisprudence of Anthony Kennedy.  Add to that Scalia's previous dissent (I think in Lawrence) that this decision meant there was no logical reason to prohibit gay marriage, and the clear concern of Roberts about the court's  - and his - standing in history and it is possible to conceive of some 6-3 or even 72- decisions in that arena.  We have only about a month left in this term and perhaps we will find out.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Fri May 17, 2013 at 08:22:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is a good point (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I should have said - my view is more heterodox.  And Warren was very clear on the idea that "it would be unthinkable that the same Constitution would impose a lesser duty on the Federal Government." Still Warren cited several cases that had held that "discrimination may be so unjustifiable as to be violative of due process." I've always found it interesting that the Court seems to take that idea for granted in Korematsu.

        I'm not willing to guess about what the SC will do on marriage equality, but I think the quick pace (relatively speaking) with which states and politicians are getting on board are making a positive ruling more likely. Hopefully there is more to come.

        Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

        by David Kaib on Fri May 17, 2013 at 08:32:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks Ken nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  Rahm Emanuel actually makes Daley Jr. (0+ / 0-)

    look good, by comparison, and Daley appointed Arne Duncan to be the Chicago schools chief! Regarding the Chicago school closings, Rahm is operating like a right-wing Republican. And why did Obama select Arne Duncan for US Education Secretary? When is comes to educational concerns, this man is completely incompetent.

    •  on Obama and Duncan (0+ / 0-)

      1.  he knew Duncan from Chicago, and remember that Rahm was also his chief of staff

      2.  O had a long connection with Dems for Education Reform

      3.  In March 2008 he committed to their agenda in return for Wall Street money for the general election.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Fri May 17, 2013 at 09:59:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, I knew about (0+ / 0-)

        the past association of Obama, Duncan and Emanuel. The question regarding Duncan was supposed to be rhetorical because of my frustration with Obama - more of a "WTF?" type comment. Not surprised - just pissed.

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