The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up two cases that could spell the end of official efforts to maintain racial integration in U.S. public schools.At first glance that excerpt seems as though it came from newsprint in the fifties, pre-Brown vs. Board of Education. Listening to the Laura Ingraham radio show on my way home from work a couple of days ago I heard a caller from Seattle tell of how he and his wife lived within spitting distance of the elementary school they both went to and wanted their children to attend. Because the school had already reached its white threshold, his oldest child was denied access and is being bused twenty minutes away to a school that can take her. Compare the similarities to the story of Linda Brown:
The justices said they would hear appeals from parents in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., who say it is unconstitutional for officials to consider a student's race when making school assignments. Both cities adopted voluntary integration programs in recent years that put limits on how many white or black students may be enrolled in some schools.
In Topeka, Kansas, a black third-grader named Linda Brown had to walk one mile through a railroad switchyard to get to her black elementary school, even though a white elementary school was only seven blocks away. Linda's father, Oliver Brown, tried to enroll her in the white elementary school, but the principal of the school refused.Race is important. Regular readers are aware I'm cognizant of that. But explicitly race-based policies are almost always toxic (prisons excepted). Better to create standards that roughly proxy for it but allow for the numerous exceptions that are bound to exist. The societal regression is stunning.
The issue of race as a determining factor in education was most recently tackled by the Court in Grutter v. Bolinger et al, where now-retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the majority in favor of the use of "soft variables" like race in school acceptance decisions:
The policy makes clear, however, that even the highest possible score does not guarantee admission to the Law School. Id., at 113. Nor does a low score automatically disqualify an applicant. [Kafka's spinning in his grave] Ibid. Rather, the policy requires admissions officials to look beyond grades and test scores to other criteria that are important to the Law School's educational objectives. Id., at 114. So-called "'soft' variables" such as "the enthusiasm of recommenders, the quality of the undergraduate institution, the quality of the applicant's essay, and the areas and difficulty of undergraduate course selection" are all brought to bear in assessing an "applicant's likely contributions to the intellectual and social life of the institution."But she's out, and Alito and Roberts are in. The fourteenth amendment's equal protection clause will probably be the basis for an overturn if one occurs.
Considerations of legality aside, it should be overturned. Diversity makes people unhappy (For those who must live immersed in it, as opposed to promoting it theoretically or even working to impose it on others, which tends to give many supercilious intellectual-types pleasure). Broad differences lead to resentment and jealousy, and foment an 'us versus them' attitude.
During adolescence this is especially true. Kids want to fit in. Individuality really only starts seminating in high school. Being a basket case is devastating. There exists a plethora of tragic stories about misfits. Urchins seek out differences among their peers and are brutal in cruelly pointing them out.
Race is salient, and kids are not blithely unaware of it. To the contrary, political correctness has trouble saddling children. Two of my thirteen year-old brother's three best friends are Indian and the other one is Korean. They are crassly candid. Recently I listened to them talk about the end-of-the-year awards ceremony at school and how the black kids got all the attendance and sports awards and that Indians won both the spelling and geography bees. Recently one of the Indians jocularly said "You're black to me", intended as an insult. Do we want to force more of this sort of situation by fiat?
Also, what precedent will this potentially set? Will it expand to encompass the workplace? Imagine the EEOC regulating business hiring decisions this explicitly.
Paraenthetically, privatization would do a better job in minimizing racial tensions than Seattle or Louisville will. Some schools would set rigorous testing standards for acceptance, others would focus on vocational training, others still would act as babysitters for less endowed kids, and so on. Young white students at the bright schools wouldn't see as many blacks or Hispanics as they might in public school, but their brown peers would be of similar intellectual ability. The cities are actually doing the opposite, by forcing geographical dispersement, putting poorer, disadvantaged children alongside the more capable offspring of more successful parents.
A working assumption I subscribe to in thinking about social questions is that 'natural' equality is good, that inequality is bad, and that forced equality is worse. This case merits an update in that maxim. I hereby add "and that forced inequality is worse still."