The Supreme Court, as America found out in 1954, had the power to void Plessy vs. Ferguson and end de jure segregation in America’s schools. If only the Court, however, had the wherewithal to mandate learning.
Brown vs. Board of Education was a watershed event, but translating it into meaningful success remains a Sisyphean task.
Undermining Jim Crow by declaring that (racially) “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” should have been seen solely as a critical means to the ultimate end. But that end — fostering black student achievement as a pivot to equal opportunities — is no where in sight. It’s been a lot easier to bus, to designate magnet schools, to present choice plans, to ask for more money and to offer lame excuses.
Study after study and standardized test after standardized test remind us that a significant, black-white racial gap in learning remains intact. Frustratingly, embarrassingly intact. It is a veritable chasm that represents the prime source of racial inequality in this country.
Where and with whom children go to school are not, as we have seen, the critical determinants in educational success. Neither is poverty, per se, overriding. Or vestiges of “racism,” however defined.
It is more a matter of culture, hardly the purview of the Supreme Court.
An excellent source on this subject is “No Excuses” by Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom. The authors identify key risk factors that can limit intellectual development: “