Race and Education, 1954-2007

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Overview

With the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown decisions of 1954 and 1955, American education changed forever. But Brown was just the beginning, and Raymond Wolters contends that its best intentions have been taken to unnecessary extremes.

In this compelling study, a scholar who has long observed the traumas of school desegregation uncovers the changes and difficulties with which public education has dealt over the last fifty years—and argues that some judicial decisions were ill-advised. Dealing candidly with matters usually considered taboo in academic discourse, Wolters argues that the Supreme Court acted correctly and in accordance with public sentiment in Brown but that it later took a wrong turn by equating desegregation with integration.

Retracing the history of desegregation and integration in America’s schools, Wolters distinguishes between several Court decisions, explaining that while Brown called for desegregation by requiring that schools deal with students on a racially nondiscriminatory basis, subsequent decisions—Green, Swann, Keyes—required actual integration through racial balancing. He places these decisions in the context of educational reform in the 1950s that sought to encourage bright students through advanced placement and honors courses—courses in which African American and Hispanic students were less likely to be enrolled. Then with the racial unrest of the 1960s, the pursuit of academic excellence yielded to concerns for uplifting disadvantaged youths and ensuring the predominance of middle-class peer groups in schools.

Wolters draws on rich historical records to document the devastating consequences of requiring racial balance and sheds new light on America’s legal, social, and cultural landscapes. He reexamines the educational theories of Kenneth Clark and James Coleman, and he challenges statistics that support the results of racial balancing by describing how school desegregation and integration actually proceeded in several towns, cities, and counties.

Race and Education is a bold challenge to political correctness in education and a corrective to the now widely accepted notion that desegregation and racially balanced integration are one and the same. It is essential reading for scholars of law and education and a wake-up call for citizens concerned about the future of America’s schools.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Wolters (history, Univ. of Delaware) here continues his conservative analysis of race in public schools (see The Burden of Brown). He begins with a summary of the arguments of Brown v. Board of Education, claiming that the decision was based on biased social science and weak claims on constitutionality. But, Wolters argues, the Brown decision established only desegregation, that is, the need for race-blind school enrollment; only later did the Supreme Court require active integration using racial criteria. Wolters traces education law and achievement through the early success of desegregation, subsequent resegregation, and court-ordered integration. Most of this work is Wolters's critique of integration, including its shaky legal precedent and lack of academic or social benefits; he's adept at citing case law to make his arguments. He is less convincing with social science research, as he generally cites secondary sources and fails to tease out the complexities of the overlap among race, class, and family background (although he admits that the intersection makes correlation and causality difficult to determine). Still, this is a strong history of education law regarding race and is recommended for larger academic and law libraries.
—Erica L. Foley

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826218285
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Raymond Wolters is Thomas Muncy Keith Professor of History at the University of Delaware. His books include The Burden of Brown: Thirty Years of School Desegregation and Du Bois and His Rivals (University of Missouri Press).

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Constitutional History and Social Science 12

2 School Reform in the 1950s 44

3 Desegregation Begins 58

4 In the Deep South 88

5 Desegregation Transformed 124

6 Educational Reform in the 1960s 155

7 The Travail of Integration 188

8 Controversy over White Flight and the Effects of Racially Balanced Integration 228

9 From Brown to Green and Back 262

10 The Diversity Rationale 280

Conclusion 302

Index 307

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