Friday, June 29, 2007

Brown v. Board is Dead! Long Live Brown v. Board

In the New York Times, Juan Williams talks about how many liberals and getting Brown v. Board and the Seattle/Louisville cases all wrong about integration:
In 1990, after months of interviews with Justice Thurgood Marshall, who had been the lead lawyer for the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund on the Brown case, I sat in his Supreme Court chambers with a final question. Almost 40 years later, was he satisfied with the outcome of the decision? Outside the courthouse, the failing Washington school system was hypersegregated, with more than 90 percent of its students black and Latino. Schools in the surrounding suburbs, meanwhile, were mostly white and producing some of the top students in the nation.

Had Mr. Marshall, the lawyer, made a mistake by insisting on racial integration instead of improvement in the quality of schools for black children?

His response was that seating black children next to white children in school had never been the point. It had been necessary only because all-white school boards were generously financing schools for white children while leaving black students in overcrowded, decrepit buildings with hand-me-down books and underpaid teachers. He had wanted black children to have the right to attend white schools as a point of leverage over the biased spending patterns of the segregationists who ran schools — both in the 17 states where racially separate schools were required by law and in other states where they were a matter of culture.

If black children had the right to be in schools with white children, Justice Marshall reasoned, then school board officials would have no choice but to equalize spending to protect the interests of their white children.
Brown v. Board was about resources, not diversity. In segregated schools, black children received a pittance in resources compared to white students. The fact that integration would end racial discrminiation was a side effect of what Marshall and the NAACP was seeking at that time.

Today however, the school districts with the largest black and Hispanic populations also tend to have the highest per pupil expenditures in the nation. Look at Newark and Washington, DC as two examples. Newark is spending in excess of $17,000 per student and DC is just over $15,000 or twice the national average per student. No one can legitimately argue that the goal of Brown as stated by Justice Thurgood Marshall, equalized spending, has not been achieved--in fact it has been surpassed. Additionally, as Williams pointed out:
Racial malice is no longer the primary motive in shaping inferior schools for minority children. Many failing big city schools today are operated by black superintendents and mostly black school boards.
The issue now is not a question of resources or leadership, but of quality. If money bought quality, the Newark and Washington DC schools would be leading the country.

So it is time for the United States to begin looking beyond Brown? Absolutely. Racial problems will not be sovled by talking about race, but only when we stop talking about race. Schools are inequitable now for a whole host of reasons, none of them related to racial policies. De facto segregation, as a result of community and economic conditions is the cause of schools being overwhelmingly one race or another in many cases. But what most liberals are failing to grasp is that the adherence to the Brown ruling is actually ruining public education. We have focused so long on achieving "diversity" that we have failed to address quality. A quality education is not found in a diverse classroom alone, but it is found in a classroom with clear standards, high quality teachers, caring parents and a dedicated community. If it happens to be diverse, great, if not, we should not lose sleep because some kids' classroom is 70 percent black or 25 percent black.


Unknown said...

Separate is inherently unequal..

TurbineGuy said...

"we should not lose sleep because some kids' classroom is 70 percent black or 25 percent black"

I am not so sure about that. The past few days I have been reading a lot about socioeconomic integration and it seems that their are positive effects for integration, but only if middle class students are in the majority.

Assuming race is a proxy for economic status, then black students benefit from being a minority... the smaller the minority, the bigger the benefit. Meanwhile, middle class students suffer if they are in the minority.

Of course this means that the surest way to improve achievement to limit where poor and minority families can live.

RightDemocrat said...

The fight for school vouchers, charter schools and education reform is today's civil rights struggle.

Unknown said...

But if you assume race is a proxy for socio-economic status, you set up the very categories that people claim to want an end to.

Read the concurrence of Justice Thomas in the racial classification cases from this week. Thomas notes with historic accuracy that black students can learn just as well in a nearly all black/all minority situation and indeed may perform better than in a situation of forced diversity. Want proof--look at most of the charter schools in large cities.

I agree with Right Democrat, education reform is the modern civil rights struggle, but it is not one that will be won with forced diversity or even more money. Quality is quality and you can find it in education, now we just need a way to replicate it and make sure everyone has an opportunity for a quality education.