The Beginning Of The End Of An Era

On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, by a 5-4 margin, that the use of race in assigning children to specific schools in two cities – Louisville and Seattle – was unconstitutional. Four of the justices pledged their allegiance to the opinion that the Constitution is “colorblind” and, thus, there is no constitutional justification for ever classifying children on the basis of their skin color to achieve “diversity” in elementary and secondary schools. Although Justice Kennedy did not concur with the legal rationale of the four “colorblind” justices, his dissent from that perspective should not diminish the significance of the majority opinion.

By their ruling, the court majority has brought to an end the era in which the socially delicate nature of “race” has been a legitimate excuse to ignore the simple command of the Constitution for our government to treat us all as equals. These decisions also signal the virtual collapse of the view that educational quality should take a back seat to the government’s pursuit of racial integration – an effort that has failed miserably in the context of public education.

Racial integration has not only been considered socially desirable; it has been considered sound education policy since the Supreme Court of the United States decided in Brown v. Board of Education, in 1954, that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional. Since that decision, racial integration has been championed by presidents, the Congress, educational “experts,” and virtually all segments of the American public to such an extent that one dare not question its benefits lest one be called a “racist” or segregationist.

It has been conventional wisdom for decades that a correlation exists between racially integrated schools and the educational quality provided to students attending such schools. At the higher education level, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 23, 2003, that racial and ethnic “diversity” was so compelling that the use of race by universities was constitutional, despite the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and notwithstanding the command of the 1964 Civil Rights Act against discrimination on the basis of race. Underlying the Court’s decision in the Gratz and Grutter cases of 2003 was the mistaken view that “diversity” – the twin policy sister of “racial integration” – improved the quality of education for all concerned.

The attainment of “diversity” or racial integration objectives often cannot be obtained in educational settings, either at the secondary or post-secondary school levels, because of housing patterns or disparities in academic achievement based on race. Thus, schools and colleges have historically deemed it critical to use race as a means of “balancing” their student bodies. In Louisville and Seattle, black as well as white students were forced to attend schools as much as 45 miles from their homes, commuting over an hour from home to school and the same on the return trip, just so their schools could be racially “balanced.”

Not Everyone Needs College

So much has changed in America since the Brown decision that the mere suggestion the Louisville and Seattle cases set America on the path to “resegregation” must be viewed as little more than demagoguery. No one need fear any district taking action to operate separate schools for blacks and whites.

Our attention must now turn to improving neighborhood schools, providing parents with greater private choices about where to send their children to get an education, reducing the obscenely high dropout rate among black students in high school, inspiring blacks to improve their preparedness to compete for seats at more selective institutions of higher education, encouraging more blacks to pursue fields in math and science rather than black studies and education, and generally changing the culture in black communities so that education is of a higher priority.

Stepping outside the arena of education, we must also direct our attention to the generally accepted view that upon graduation from high school everyone should go to college. This is a flawed objective that is causing much harm to the American economy, primarily because it is contributing to a labor shortage and is making America more dependent on foreign labor – legal and illegal – than is healthy.

All Americans have a stake in doing these things. To the extent that we can get more blacks on the path to leading more productive lives, then to that extent do we reduce America’s reliance on foreign – legal and illegal – labor to do those jobs that we are told “no American will do” or for which there is a shortage in the supply of domestic labor because of inadequate skills.

The Louisville and Seattle cases are significant opportunities for America to return to its roots in a constitutional sense and to chart a course for itself that is educationally sound and economically more self-reliant.