SCOTUS Gets It Right

The Supreme Court ruling (5-4) of June 28 did not reverse the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling of 1954, from which flowed the desegregation of public-school students and their integration in common schools; rather, it mandated that race cannot be a primary factor in assigning students to schools. Indeed, Chief Justice Roberts used the 1954 decision to anchor the current one, i.e., that the color of skin does not determine the assigning of the student any student since to do so involves discrimination on the basis of race.

Ironically, the decision applied specifically to the school systems in Seattle and Louisville, the former not under court orders before and the latter under a very strict order of District Court Judge James Gordon in 1974, which amounted to an order for the Louisville and Jefferson County schools systems to merge whether they liked it or not. The method used by the merged systems, as was the case throughout the country, was forced busing, its supposed efficacy based on the philosophy of James S. Coleman, a renowned sociologist at the University of Chicago. In later years, the orders were adjusted but forced busing was hated in communities everywhere by both black and white parents, eating up time and money that could have been better spent.

Also ironically, Coleman came to realize that he had been wrong and had the integrity to say so, such integrity costing him dearly in his academic community. This is from the University of Chicago Chronicle obituary of Coleman published 30 March 1995: Coleman's early research on schools and schooling helped shape government policy on racial integration and school busing. The best-known product of that research was "Equality of Educational Opportunity," commonly known as the Coleman Report (1966). In 1975, Coleman reported the conclusion that massive numbers of whites moved out of public schools in communities that had implemented busing programs.

During 1975, the year forced busing was introduced in Louisville, Coleman had already discovered the fallacy of forced busing; yet, the busing went forward anyway, disrupting the community and the school systems. The busing itself was unfair in that many students were required to spend almost three hours a day on getting to and from school. It was also unfair in that it mandated that blacks be bused 10 of 12 years while whites endure it for only two years of 12.

This is an excerpt by Richard Kahlenberg from The Public Interest of 22 June 2001: Forced busing did not promote the common school, he [Coleman] argued, but policy makers should provide incentives to promote integration through magnet schools, urban-suburban school transfer programs like those found in Milwaukee, and portable funding, weighted to encourage integration in all directions. Coleman finally had the right answers, but the die was cast and communities like Louisville were stuck.

The Court quite out of the ordinary was not only almost evenly divided, but was vociferously so, its members verbally slugging it out in the announcing of its decision. Forced busing and quotas have been the darlings of the liberal community for decades, notwithstanding the fact that they've been ineffective and even destructive of the educational process.

As expected, the lead editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Lexington, Ky., included the magic term "diversity." The editorialist wrote: But it certainly does nothing to help districts, like defendant Louisville, that are working hard and successfully to ensure diversity in public schools. This is sort of like the paper's insistence that "domestic partner" benefits should be extended by the University of Kentucky to homosexuals in order to get the "brightest and the best." Neither diversity nor homosexuals are necessary to the educational process. Academic excellence is what's required and neither of those entities per se have anything to offer.

The Court is right on this call, not only on the basis of the Constitution but even more demonstrably on the basis of plain, common sense. In the days since forced busing took hold, the "achievement gap" vis--vis black and white students has been huge and remains so, even to the point of structuring "special" programs to address this problem, one which "diversity" has totally failed to touch in more than a quarter-century. School-boards should be glad to be out from under this stifling quota system, not to mention both the parents and students who've had to put up with unspeakable inconveniences in mega-numbers of locations for years.