Volume 3 Issue 1
Educational Access and Academic Achievement in Public Schools
Ten years after Brown v. Board of Ed, Topeka Kansas the Supreme Court passed the Civil Rights Act to further a more expeditious process of public school desegregation. Federal compensatory funds were allocated under the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to support these efforts. In 2002 changes in the ESEA legislation were made for the first time since its inception. In what was seen as "the most significant federal education policy initiative in a generation" by the States Education Commission, ESEA was revamped and is now more popularly referred to as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
…I want to center my comments primarily around two of the important figures in my life. There are many, but the two I want to talk about as a way of getting into my contribution today are two men in my family, my maternal grandfather and my own father. In fact, in many ways I embody both of them. I inherited my maternal grandfather's high metabolism and my father's height.
We have come to a critical juncture, as the fiftieth anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Educationdecision inspires our reflection and assessment of the changes in race relations in the United States. While access has improved for some individuals, we should acknowledge the continuing racial disparities in our country (e.g., ongoing racial segregation and inequality in public schools and residential spaces). The challenge we now face is figuring out how to change our personal lives and society to truly meet the expectations and ideals of Brown.
As an educator, I never questioned the power of Brown v. Board of Education as a testament to the maturation of our nation's beliefs about segregation. However, in Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform, Derrick Bell shatters the ideologies associated with the landmark case and argues that Brown offered little more than symbolic encouragement that discrimination could be overcome by litigation. Bell, currently a visiting professor of law at New York University, spent a considerable part of his career as an NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer and worked on numerous school desegregation cases. In this review, I first expound upon Bell's general argument of Brown as an unfulfilled dream for racial reform and then offer a critical look at the points that offer implications specific to educational practitioners, researchers and policymakers.
They were right, my dear, all those voices were right
And still are; this land is not the sweet home that it looks,
Nor its peace the historical calm of a site
Where something was settled once and for all…
-In Praise of Limestone, W.H. Auden, 1948
In 1954, in the Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka decision, the United States Supreme Court declared that "to separate [black children] 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." To rectify this injustice, the Supreme Court demanded that schools be desegregated "with all deliberate speed."
Vinay Harpalani, Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court rendered one of the most important legal decisions in American history. With its first opinion in the Brown v. Board of Education, the Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Earl Warren stated that racial segregation should not be allowed even if Black and White schools had equal funding, equal opportunities, and were equivalent in all other resources. The eventual result of the Brown decision was the complete breakdown of the legally mandated, or de jure segregation. It is appropriate that fifty years later, we commemorate the decision, which is aptly described by the title of Richard Kluger's (1975) famous book, Simple Justice.