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Published: Saturday, 4/17/2004

Time to change trends that have unraveled intent of Brown case

BY ROSE RUSSELL

FIFTY years after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision striking down the separate but equal policy in public education, minorities in public schools are no better off than when separate but equal was the rule.

Would it have been better to keep the separate but equal policy? Absolutely not. Only a fool would think so. Such thinking supports racial separation.

But as public schools in urban and rural settings become more pitiful compared to their suburban counterparts, it appears that the goal for schools where all children get a good education has been altogether abandoned.

In 1951 a black man, the Rev. Oliver Brown of Topeka, Kan., and several others decided they didn't want their children in the segregated schools that the law required them to attend. Mr. Brown's daughter Linda was refused admission to an all-white Topeka school. The Topeka NAACP filed the original lawsuit.

The case worked its way to the Supreme Court, and in May, 1954 the court ruled that segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

Among the measures implemented to desegregate schools was busing. Eventually, as schools became more minority, whites took flight, and with them went good teachers and other resources.

Now, it looks as though public schools are about back to where they were before Brown v. Board of Education, with mostly minority, and now poor, children in urban schools, and mostly white and better off children in suburban schools.

The picture inside public schools, though, is not exactly the same as it was before Brown. Once, black teachers had high expectations for their young charges. That doesn't seem to be the case any more. Among the often debated topics is that white teachers don't have the same expectations for or interest in minority children. Certainly that's controversial, but more minority teachers are basically interested in collecting a paycheck, building retirement, and getting back home to the 'burbs, too, I'm told.

A black public school teacher told me recently that there's less interest in educating students and a greater tendency to push children through, and that every teacher, black and white, is doing the pushing.

Maybe more black teachers feel hopeless about educating minority children, as the teacher I spoke to projected.

Still, well-to-do white children will get a good education, that's for sure. But even they will be affected if there are not enough educated and skilled workers to pay into the tax systems that benefit all elderly.

I'm not sure when the intent of Brown v. Board of Education got turned around and when segregation began to take root again.

Trend watchers continue to warn that unless all young people are properly educated and trained, everybody will suffer. Couple that forecast with the fact that the white birth rate is declining, and the outlook should prompt us to act to educate every public school child, to help us all in the long run.

This isn't a joking matter. It shouldn't be dismissed for somebody in the future to address.

We need to put in place changes that work to ensure a good public education in a desegregated system for everyone in every economic class.



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