Monday, December 04, 2006

Court Hears Cases on Schools And Race

Court Hears Cases On Schools And Race - Washington Post

Desegregation of America's public school system, during the 1970's and 80's, was one of those promising experiments that failed so badly that few people bothered to figure out why. The court mandates were withdrawn, the buses idled, and the country quietly went back to the challenging tasks of teaching kids to read and write, in place.

So now the high court will debate the wisdom of the rare school systems, Louisville and Seattle, that continue to hold on to this updated vestige, under the diversity argument. Unfortunately, their decision, whatever it is, will be politicized, only to become fuel for continued challenge.

To be clear, desegregation did not fail because the students, or their parents, fought each other, or otherwise failed to get along. It failed because integration in the classroom did not bring about the parity of academic results its proponents promised.

The segregation that existed in neighborhoods, and still largely exist today, followed the kids off the buses and into the school buildings. Not only did the kids sit at different tables in the lunchroom, and socialize along racial lines, they split academically into advanced placement (AP), standard, and remedial study tracks. In fact, the accusation of 'acting white', in this context, is often precipitated by Black student participation in said AP classes, with a majority of White and Asian students.

While students can certainly pick up behaviors here and there from their mates, the overwhelming majority of both advancing and thwarting behaviors are the product of family, greater cultural and ethnic norms, which exert significant influence. These norms have Black kids rejecting advancing behaviors as though assimilation is being disloyal to the race.

In these days, engineering students of different races into the same school building and expecting to cure societal or group ills, while politically correct, is nothing more than a distraction. Let us hope the justices do not ignore this as they make their decision.

James C. Collier


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